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Bill calls for amending R.I. constitution

The Rhode Island Senate approved two bills March 12 proposing to call the first constitutional convention the state has seen in 30 years and to create a bipartisan preparatory commission. The convention would consider a number of changes to the state’s constitution, including term limits for elected officials, enhanced government oversight and changing the procedure for redistricting in the state, the Associated Press reported.

The Senate voted unanimously to put the measure to create the convention on the ballot for voters in 2014, though the constitutional convention would likely not be formed until 2015 or 2016, the Washington Post reported.

The bills — sponsored by Sen. Paul Fogarty, D-Burrillville, Glocester, North Smithfield — were introduced in February and referred to the Senate Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs Committee. The first bill proposed putting the question of calling a constitutional convention on the ballot for the November 2014 election. The bill will next be considered by the House. If the House fails to approve the measure, Secretary of State Ralph Mollis said he would propose the measure as well, the AP reported.

The second bill before the committee proposed a bipartisan 12-member committee of four state representatives, four state senators and four members of the public. The commission would consider revisions to the state’s constitution to be considered in the constitutional convention, review the current constitution and make recommendations for what to submit to voters, according to a General Assembly press release.

If called, the convention would select one representative from each of the state’s 75 districts to participate.

The R.I. Constitution stipulates that the question of calling a constitutional convention should be put forth before the voters every 10 years, but voters turned down the measure in 2004, The Herald previously reported. The last constitutional convention, which approved eight of 16 amendments considered, was held in 1986, and Gov. Lincoln Chafee ’75 P’14 P’17 served as a delegate in his first elected position.

Several controversial topics arose during the 1986 convention, including legislation on abortion and the environment, The Herald reported at the time.

“Rhode Island in 2014 is not the same as it was in 1986. There may be issues that are important to Rhode Islanders today that weren’t as relevant a generation ago,” Fogarty said, according to the press release.

Though states periodically consider revising their state constitutions, Georgia was the last state to adopt a fully revised constitution in 1983, the Post reported.



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