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LWVRI Legislative Update: Three Bills of Great Importance.
Ethics. The League of Women Voters of RI is testifying before the RI Senate Judiciary Committee today , February 23, on two bills being introduced to re-establish the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission over the RI Legislature. The League has urged the passage of a bill to place the Legislature under the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission ever since 2009, when the Supreme Court ruled that lawmakers were immune to ethics complaints prompted by their votes or comment during legislative discussions. That ruling essentially allows lawmakers to vote on or sponsor bills that advance their own interests. The ability of RI to attract businesses is weakened by not having the legislature under the jurisdiction of the Ethics Commission.
The League of Women Voters supports S2060 rather than S2427. We believe S2060 is in the best interests of the people of Rhode Island, and the voters should have a chance to vote on this important amendment that would restore the power of the state Ethics Commission over the legislature. S2427 would allow a legislator the right to a trial de novo if he or she disputed the findings of the Ethics Commission, presenting the potential for lengthy and expensive litigation.
Timely notification of public meetings. Today the League will also testify in support of S 2309, which would exclude weekends and state holidays from the calculation of the 48 hour public notice requirement for a meeting of a public body. It is in the public interest to know about public meetings as far ahead of time as possible. This bill is especially important for Monday evening meetings which currently can be posted after 5 p.m. on Friday, but it also applies to meetings held on Tuesdays.
Rights of pregnant women. On February 25, the Senate Health and Human Services will be hearing a bill, S 2052, which would prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to pregnant women. The League will also testify in support of this bill.The League is tracking legislation as it is introduced so that we can testify on bills on which we have positions. Previously this year we have testified in support of placing the Board of Elections under the Administrative Procedures Act, on counting prisoners as residing in their home districts rather than in the prison district for purposes of the census, and in support of the electronic registration of voters.