Rod Driver

From The Providence Sunday Journal, April 19, 1998

General Assembly: Deliberative, My Eye!


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.

Then during the next eight years, as a member of the General Assembly; I watched in dismay as my fellow legislators approved thousands of bills that they had neither read nor understood. Sometimes, 100 bills passed in one day. Instead of reading the bills, most members simply voted with the leadership. A "short 1ist" of bad bills passed during those eight years might include the special pension bills, the costly early-retirement schemes, a bill that brought down the credit unions, the "wheelchair tax" on nursing-home residents, a bill creating a traffic court with 12-year tenure for its administrator and bills instituting new forms of gambling in Rhode Island right after overwhelming rejection by the voters in l990.

How, with voter initiative, would the voters of Rhode Island be likely to do more damage than the General Assembly?