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    Rhode Island Issues

    The Legislature at Work

    • New Legislator Questions Rubber-Stamping of 150 Bills
      (the Providence-Journal Bulletin, March 19, 1987). PROVIDENCE - Freshman Rep. Rodney Driver did the unusual yesterday.

    • Unwritten Rules at the Assembly
      (The Narragansett Times, July 31, 1991). Rhode Islanders who have watched sessions of the legislature on cable TV may have wondered why bills which come to the House floor almost always pass - usually unanimously and without amendment.

    • This Ain't Civics Class
      (From Rod Driver's Legislative Report, 1991-92). In high school one learns how a legislature works: A bill introduced in the House is sent to a committee for study. If the committee approves, it then sends the bill-possibly with amendments-to the full House for further examination, discussion and a vote. Any bill passing all this scrutiny goes to the Senate where the process is repeated. If passed by both the House and Senate, the bill goes to the governor for his signature. A similar process starts in the Senate for Senate bills. If you watch the General Assembly on cable TV, you'll "see" this happening. Forget it! That's not what's happening.

    • NOTA Bill Gets Cold Shoulder
      (The Warwick Beacon, March 10, 1993). A bill to give voters the option of voting for "none of the above" got a cool reception in a committee of the R.I. House of Representatives.

    • The More Things Change...
      (The Providence Journal-Bulletin, September 19, 1995). IN THE "GOOD OLD DAYS" (1991 and earlier), the long and complicated bill called the state budget was rubber-stamped by the Rhode Island House in one session. Revisions mysteriously appeared at the last minute and were accepted if the leaders wanted them. (Proposed amendments that were not approved by the leaders were dead on arrival.) The Senate and the governor then promptly added their approvals.

    • General Assembly: Deliberative, My Eye!
      (The Providence Sunday Journal, April 19, 1998). The Rhode Island General Assembly recently killed voter initiative again. The explanation as to why voter initiative is a "dangerous idea" became familiar to me during the Constitutional Convention of 1986. We were told that bills need to be carefully analyzed by a "deliberative body" before they become law. You cannot trust the public to familiarize itself with complex issues and vote intelligently.

    • Fixing the Legislative Downsizing Mess
      (The Providence Journal, March 28, 2000). DOWNSIZING the Rhode Island General Assembly seemed like such a good idea in July 1994 that both the House and Senate approved it -- unanimously! But as the effective dates draw nearer, it has occurred to some incumbents that downsizing could result in their being ex-incumbents after 2002. So they want to rescind the plan.

    • In the legislature, forward to the past
      (the Providence Journal, August 5, 2001). ANYONE WHO SERVED in the Rhode Island General Assembly 10 years ago should have felt right at home with this year's proceedings. Bills unwanted by legislative leaders died without even a vote in committee. Other bills, favored by the leaders, appeared to come from nowhere on the last day of the session, bypassed the committees and sailed through the House and Senate to become law.

    • The good guys ambushed again
      (the Providence Journal, April 26, 2002). LAST JUNE 28, leaders of the Rhode Island House devised a tricky maneuver to kill a bill by Rep. Nicholas Gorham (R.-Coventry) to begin the process of letting Rhode Islanders vote on "separation of powers." The trickery worked so nicely then that the leaders decided to try it again this month, on April 10, to kill a similar Gorham bill.

    • 12 more years of one-man rule
      (the Providence Journal, Nov. 27, 2004). WE'D LIKE to think of the Rhode Island General Assembly as a "deliberative body," composed of representatives and senators from across the state. But it isn't. The speaker of the House of Representatives controls the Assembly's multimillion-dollar budget. The speaker determines each year who gets $27 million in "legislative grants." And the speaker has almost complete control over the daily legislation.

    • Lackies of leaders
      (the Providence Journal, July 28, 2008). THE PUBLIC has a low opinion of the Rhode Island General Assembly and particularly its leadership. But we generally assume that our own representative is not the problem. So we re-elect incumbents -- or promote them to higher office -- without looking at their records.


    Credit Union Collapse

    • The Beginning of the End for RISDIC
      (Transcript from a videotape of the Rhode Island House, April 12, 1988) One of the biggest financial disasters every to hit the state of Rhode Island was the collapse of the credit-union system in 1991. Apart from the damage to depositors separated from their funds, the collapse precipitated a massive bail-out by the taxpayers through an increase in the sales tax. This, in turn, had and continues to have a negative impact on Rhode Island businesses.

    • The Rules of the Game: Play Dumb
      (The Providence Sunday Journal, December 29, 1991). This was the year the insiders were caught at their own game. The year the banking crisis pulled the cover off a political system that routinely, often unconsciously, indulged special interests -- regardless of the ultimate cost.

    Trouble in the Courts

    • Don't Succumb to 'Learned Helplessness'
      (The Providence Journal, April 14, 2000). AFTER REPEATED DEFEATS, a subject in a psychological experiment may just stop trying, concluding that nothing he or she does can make a difference. Ten years ago Martin Seligman published his studies and introduced the term "learned helplessness" to describe the condition.

    Contact Information

    Rod Driver
    P.O. Box 156, W. Kingston, RI 02892
    Telephone: (401) 539-7985
    E-mail: rod@roddriver.com

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