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General Assembly Leaders Favor Increase in Ethics Commission Budget and Staff (posted Janaury 17, 2004)

Senate President Joseph Montalbano and House Speaker William Murphy said they favor an increase in the budget and staffing of the Rhode Island Ethics Commission. Appearing together on the WPRI-TV show "Newsmakers" with Jack White and Mike Mello, both leaders indicated they would support a budget boost in order to help the commission do a better job enforcing ethics within the state's political system.

However, both men also expressed doubts about Governor Don Carcieri's recent call to establish a commission to investigate reasons behind corruption in Rhode Island and to give that commission subpoena power. Speaker Murphy said he was "all for getting to the root of the problem", but that the governor's proposal "may not be the right one....I did not like the comment that this is a system that breeds corruption."

For his part, newly-chosen President Montalbano said "maybe some laws need to be changed." He said he planned "an informational caucus" in which lawyers for the Ethics Commission would "educate people on the law."

Speaker Murphy predicted that this year, the House would pass a smoking ban for public establishments, including restaurants. Last year, a smoking ban passed the Senate, but was not approved by the House. Murphy criticized Governor Carcieri's call to end state subsidies for dog kennel owners at Lincoln Park. "The issue of the dogs is political....I would hate to turn the golden goose (of dog racing) into a lame duck," he said.

Both leaders indicated they thought their respective chambers would place the possibility of a gambling casino on the ballot for voter approval. Montalbano said his impression of the Senate is that it would "prefer to have the people decide that on the ballot." Murphy echoed this view, saying "the people have a right to decide it."

Neither man, though, favors civil union legislation for gay couples. Speaker Murphy said, "I do not support civil unions" and President Montalbano noted that "I personally don't support something like marriage (for gays)."
Copyright 2000Karen Martin Media Services