Brown Daily Herald – 11.5.14

Newport Rejects Measure to Add Casino Table Games

State voters approve funds for academic, cultural, environmental and transportation pursuits

By
Contributing Writer

Brown Daily Herald – November 5, 2014

Elsewhere on the ballot, Rhode Island voters rejected Question 3, voting against holding a state constitutional convention by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent. The proposition is required by state law to be on the ballot once every 10 years but has not passed since 1984.

“When it goes through the regular checks and balances of the General Assembly, I believe (the people) have a fairer shot,” said Jennifer Norris, campaign manager for Citizens for Responsible Government, which opposed the measure. “It slows the process down, but I think, in some cases, that’s for good. It’s our constitution and it shouldn’t be something that’s rushed.”

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The Ballot Measure That Could Roll Back LGBT Rights

The Ballot Measure That Could Roll Back LGBT Rights

by Ken Fish, Gay Activist since 1969

Options Magazine, October 31, 2014

This past August marked the one-year anniversary of Marriage Equality here in Rhode Island. Countless volunteers dedicated endless hours of their time to making same-sex marriage a reality in our state. Thousands of phone calls. Thousands of signatures. Thousands of doors knocked. This was a success story that took decades to unfold, and RI’s LGBTQ community, along with their allies, deserve our gratitude for never giving up on righting a tremendous wrong.

With such a success, one would think that the battle is over. Unfortunately, that may not be the case. Question 3 on the November ballot will ask voters whether or not we should convene a Constitutional Convention (Con Con), an assembly of elected delegates whose purpose is to propose to the voters of Rhode Island amendments or edits to our state constitution. Once convened, the delegates set their own agenda, and it is impossible to predict which issues they would consider. Those who have fought so hard to have their rights recognized could find their rights, once again, in jeopardy. We are all aware that human rights should never be placed on a ballot, yet that is exactly what could happen if Question 3 is passed. It is imperative that we reject Question 3.

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Pablo Rodriguez

Pablo Rodriguez: How dare Constitution supporters question opponents’ motives?

Published: November 01, 2014 – Providence Journal

In his Oct. 29 Commentary piece (“Insiders maneuver against Rhode Island”), Timothy Murphy characterized civil and reproductive rights organizations opposed to a Constitutional Convention in this fashion: “To preserve the status quo they have to keep a foot on our necks, scaremongering about civil rights, abortion, or other diversions to trick us into voting against holding a citizens convention to restructure our government, to divert our attention from the facts — that our opportunities are limited, our state is being held back, and it is their fault”

This characterization is offensive and an insult to those of us who have put our life at risk in defense of reproductive and civil rights. It is shameful that Judge Robert Flanders, Gary Sasse and Phil West, leaders of RenewRI, would sign on to such a vitriolic message against Planned Parenthood, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the American Civil Liberties Union, Rhode Island National Organization for Women and many more of the 59 organization that compose our coalition.

You can disagree without being disagreeable, and the only foot here is the one in Tim Murphy’s mouth.

Pablo Rodriguez, M.D.

Warwick

The writer is former Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of Rhode Island and spokesperson for Citizens for Responsible Government, a group opposed to a citizens’ Constitutional Convention. (more…)

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Conley’s History Wrong

Conley’s History Wrong on Con-Con, Civil Rights

By J. Rhodes on October 31, 2014

Those advocating for a Constitutional Convention who are saying that there is no threat to human and civil rights ignore our history. The pledges of these reformers ring hollow to those involved in the fight to protect women’s reproductive health care decisions. By dismissing this concern, “So much for conventions as threats to civil rights” (Patrick Conley “History shows: Don’t fear Convention”, October 31), Conley forgets what dedicated advocates for women’s equity never can.

The 1986 Convention proposed two amendments to the electorate that treat women as though they are incompetent to make medical decisions without the interference of the state. The “fetal personhood” amendment was rejected by the public, a story told as a testament to the wisdom of RI voters. The second and more insidious amendment was packaged as expanding free speech rights, yet included this line now in our Constitution: “Nothing in this section shall be construed to grant or secure any right relating to abortion or the funding thereof.” This is why women’s health advocates are concerned. The 1986 convention took away rights recognized as protected by the US Constitution.

This is not “political paranoia or constitutional constipation” as Conley would lead you to believe. Organizations such as the ACLU, RI National Organization of Women, the RI Chapter of the National Association of Social Workers and Planned Parenthood are hardly the political insiders concerned about losing influence in the General Assembly. If we want to reform our system of government, let’s do it in a way that does not pose a risk to people’s rights.

Jamie Rhodes of Warwick, is also the Rhode Island Policy Director for Planned Parenthood of Southern New England.

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Conley no stranger to sleight of hand

Conley No Stranger to Con Con ‘Sleight of Hand’

By Hillary Davis on October 31, 2014

There is no greater irony than Patrick Conley claiming that opposition to a Constitutional Convention is rooted in “political paranoia,” (“History shows there is no need to fear Constitutional Convention,” October 31, 2014) while extolling the purity of the Constitutional Convention process. By Mr. Conley’s own confession, it was only through “sleight of hand” – his own – that “the most significant substantive alteration ever made in the state constitution” occurred.

In his book, “Rhode Island in Rhetoric and Reflection,” Mr. Conley notes that the 1973 Constitutional Convention was to be limited to “the consideration of certain definite topics.” Feeling he knew better than the people who made the rules, Mr. Conley determined the convention should, in fact, force the electorate to decide every ten years whether or not a convention should be held. Because this was not on the list of approved topics, Mr. Conley stretched the rules of the convention in defining his amendment – claiming it was a revision of election law – placed a misleading title on his document, and bypassed the agreed-upon rules of the Convention. Yet, Mr. Conley promises us that this cannot happen again, with much more dire results for civil rights and civil liberties. (more…)

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’86 Con Con Delegate Roberto Gonzalez Warns Against Question 3

’86 Con Con Delegate Roberto Gonzalez Warns Against Question 3

By Jenny Norris for RIFuture – October 31, 2014

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LETTER: RI must vote ‘no’ on Question No. 3

LETTER: RI must vote ‘no’ on Question No. 3

Kate Brewster, Wakefield – Letter to the Editor – IndependentRI.com

October 30, 2014

Grover Norquist’s recent visit to the Ocean State should raise red flags for Rhode Islanders who care about our ability to fund schools, public safety and other services that businesses and residents rely on. Norquist came all the way from Washington, D.C., because he would like to change our state’s constitution to impose an agenda that would cripple Rhode Island’s ability to provide for its citizens and create an economy that works for everyone.

The only people who would benefit are Norquist’s wealthy backers, who want to make Rhode Island the guinea pig in their radical experiment to drastically reduce public services.

 Norquist supports a constitutional convention as a forum for achieving his oft-stated goal to “shrink government down to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.” To prevent this from happening, Rhode Islanders should reject Question No. 3 in November.

If Rhode Island is to turn its economy around, we need to have enough resources to invest in state-of-the-art schools, safe roads and bridges, public safety and affordable health care. Now is not the time to put stringent limits on what we can and can’t do to respond to pressing needs.

The average Rhode Islander who is struggling to pay the mortgage, afford child care so they can get to work or put their kids through college does not have the time or the resources to fight professional lobbyists like Norquist and his wealthy national backers. If they succeed in forcing a constitutional convention, they’ll use their money to change the rules of the game, making it tougher for hard-working Rhode Islanders to have a say about what happens in our state.

Rhode Islanders can prevent Norquist from pushing his bad ideas into our state Constitution by rejecting Question No. 3 in November. A constitutional convention could have disastrous results, leaving Rhode Islanders who have set down roots, worked hard, raised kids and built a community to pick up the pieces after Norquist is gone.

Rhode Island has real problems – high unemployment, stagnant wages and crumbling roads and bridges. A constitutional convention is not the forum to develop thoughtful solutions and deal with the issues that really matter – jobs, education and economic security. We need to send a signal that our constitution and our rights are not for sale.

Kate Brewster

Wakefield

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LETTER: Now isn’t the time to risk our future

LETTER: Now isn’t the time to risk our future

Stephen R. Dahl, Kingston – Letter to the Editor – IndependentRI.com

October 30, 2014

Based on his Independent View (“Trust the voters, vote ‘yes’ on Question 3,” South County Independent, Oct. 23, 2014) I question Robert G. Flanders Jr.’s thinking.

Yes, back in the good old days, before we had our precedent-blind, John Roberts-led Supreme Court, a Constitutional Convention for Rhode Island might have made sense.

Flanders espouses Progressive ideals. We both agree with Theodore Roosevelt’s statement, made in 1909: “Self-government can never be bestowed by outsiders upon any people. It must be achieved by the people themselves.”

But tragically, government by the people themselves is exactly what we do not have now. Instead, we have the perversion of democracy brought about by two of the Roberts Court majority’s decisions.

In 2010, Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission opened the floodgates of undisclosed political spending – calling it free speech – for corporations, associations and unions to give unlimited amounts of money to support their political objectives. In his dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens said the Supreme Court’s ruling “threatens to undermine the integrity of elected institutions across the nation. The path it has taken to reach its outcome will, I fear, do damage to the institution…A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold.”

In 2014, McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission also removed all limitations of spending for billionaires, overturning protections passed after the Watergate scandal to limit spending through the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974. Dissenting justices argued the decision “creates a loophole that will allow a single individual to contribute millions of dollars to a political party or a candidate’s campaign. Taken together [with Citizens United v. FEC], today’s decision eviscerates our nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve.”

This is not the time, nor the place, to have a Constitutional Convention. The game is rigged. When is the time? The day after we amend our nation’s constitution by eradicating Citizens United and McCutcheon, whereby we restore legitimacy to our governance by removing the undisclosed money which punctures the very heart of our great republic, leaving voters feeling disenfranchised by powerful interest groups and individuals. Why should Rhode Islanders pay the $2 million it will cost, by very conservative estimates, to hold the convention? Let us fight the real fight and not the shadows. Ask yourself two questions: Should money decide elections, and should our state’s governing laws favor powerful interests? Vote no on Question No. 3.

Stephen R. Dahl

Kingston (more…)

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Should Rhode Island Have Another Constitutional Convention?

Should Rhode Island Have Another Constitutional Convention?

BY | OCTOBER 27, 2014 – Governing

Voters in Rhode Island will decide whether to bypass the legislature and hold another state constitutional convention. Critics worry it would only serve special interests and threaten people’s rights.

If a constitutional convention is approved, a separate election would be held for 75 convention delegates to represent each of the state’s districts, and just about anyone could run. AP/Megan Bigelow

But critics warn a constitutional convention will merely be a way for special interest groups to push their agendas. If voters approve a convention, the state would have a separate election next year to choose 75 convention delegates to represent each of the state’s districts. Just about anyone could run and critics say that opens the door to extreme ideas because the delegates don’t have to worry about accountability and reelection. Tom Izzo, a delegate in the state’s 1986 convention, told Rhode Island’s NPR affiliate that’s exactly what happened 30 years ago. “Folks who ran as delegates had agendas that they wanted to bring forward,” he said. “All those other special interest groups will put candidates out there. And where you have a very limited time to vet those candidates you don’t really know.”

Civil rights groups and civil liberties unions often oppose con-cons because they say the conventions threaten long-fought-for rights of minority groups. They point to three amendments that came out of the 1986 convention: one, an anti-abortion amendment was not subsequently approved by the state’s voters. But two other amendments, one that denied bail for certain drug crimes and another that expanded the number of people who couldn’t vote because of a criminal record, were approved by voters (along with six other amendments addressing legislative ethics, re-codifying the constitution and supporting libraries.) Jim Vincent, president of the Providence NAACP, said the last convention’s amendments had a significant adverse impact on racial minorities. And even though the amendment limiting voting rights was repealed in the 2000s, political divisiveness has worsened. “Since 1986, the politics over hot-button social issues and campaign spending has only gotten uglier,” Vincent wrote this month in an op-ed for the Providence Journal. “There is no limit on the amount of money that outside special interests can spend to persuade delegates to support constitutional amendments and to get those amendments approved.”

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Lila Sapinsley Commentary

Lila Sapinsley: Don’t duplicate the R.I. General Assembly

Lila Sapinsley – Providence Journal Commentary – October 25, 2014

In an Oct. 5 Commentary piece (“We have a rare opportunity to fix R.I.”), Ken Block, the defeated Republican candidate for governor, writes that a Constitutional Convention will not continue politics as usual in Rhode Island. Once again, Block is wrong.

I believe my experience as both a legislator for over a decade and as a delegate to the last Constitutional Convention (1986) gives me a unique perspective on Question 3, which asks the voters if they want a Constitutional Convention. I urge you to vote “no.”

I cannot support a Constitutional Convention because it is foolhardy to expect that delegates who are not politically or financially connected to the existing parties or interest groups will be elected. While I sincerely believe in a people’s convention, it would have to be one in which the people can become involved in their government either by serving themselves or by electing delegates who are accountable to them alone.

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