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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Newport County has Coffee with Legislators

Representative Linda Finn, who represents parts of Middletown and Portsmouth, helped the LWV of Newport County attract a standing-room only crowd at its "Coffee with Your Legislators" event on March 23. Rep. Finn has proposed legislation that would require registration of guns in Rhode Island. The Newport Rifle Club had sent an email blast to its members about the meeting; the house was full.

We had designed the event to cover as many topics as possible. The good planning paid off, and as moderator I only had to explain that there would be no signs and no applause or shouting out when others were speaking. Everyone was pretty well behaved.

Gun control was only one of the topics, however.

The legislators—Senators Paiva-Weed, Ottiano, and DiPalma and Representative Abney, Finn, Martin, Canario, Edwards—answered questions on the master lever, ethics, marriage equality, taxation of veterans benefits, and agriculture. Senator Ottiano was among those who had participated in the all-nighter at the State House on marriage equality. Representatives Martin and Canario both serve on the house judiciary committee. On April 12, Representative Martin was one of the members  who had voted the ethics bill out of committee (the vote was 8-0). The next day Rep. Edith Ajello, chair of the judiciary committee, declared the vote null and void. Read more about the whole brouhaha, which resulted in  Rep. Canario replacing J.Patrick O'Neill on the committee, in the ProJo  -->http://news.providencejournal.com/breaking-news/2013/03/former-challenger-binder-appalled-by-foxs-torpedo-of-ethics-billready.html. The paper also editorialized about the situation in today's (March 27) paper (http://digital.olivesoftware.com/Olive/ODE/ProJo/), "Fox's ethics-bill bomb," suggesting that the speaker should get the bill back on the floor for a vote. Common Cause RI has set up a Web site www.ethicsheldhostage.com that shows a ticking clock counting the time since the bill was sent back to the Judiciary committee. Read more about the issue in the most recent issue of the LWVRI Voter.

President of the Senate Paiva Weed was not enthusiastic about doing away with the master lever. She said that the main argument she had heard against it was that it was confusing and people did not know what they were doing when they voted using the master lever. She thought that voters do know what they are doing and that the criticism was insulting to the voters.

One might consider, however, that 44 voters chose the Moderate Party via the master lever in the 2012 election in Jamestown. However, there were no Moderate Party candidates running in Jamestown. Read more about the Master Lever at MasterLever.org.

Overall, the event was a great success. After the Q&A many the of the legislators stayed to take additional questions. Thanks to the Potter League for letting us use its facilities.
Patty MacLeish
LWV Newport County

From Left: Reps. Canario, Martin, Finn, and Edwards (standing) with LWV moderator Patty MacLeish


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