Rhode Island's Nov. 2014 Referendum to Call a Constitutional Convention

An Information Clearinghouse

Constitutional conventions. — The general assembly, by a vote of a majority of the members elected to each house, may at any general election submit the question, “Shall there be a convention to amend or revise the constitution?” to the qualified electors of the state. If the question be not submitted to the people at some time during any period of ten years, the secretary of state shall submit it at the next general election following said period. Prior to a vote by the qualified electors on the holding of a convention, the general assembly, or the governor if the general assembly fails to act, shall provide for a bi-partisan preparatory commission to assemble information on constitutional questions for the electors. If a majority of the electors voting at such election on said question shall vote to hold a convention, the general assembly at its next session shall provide by law for the election of delegates to such convention. The number of delegates shall be equal to the number of members of the house of representatives and shall be apportioned in the same manner as the members of the house of representatives. No revision or amendment of this constitution agreed upon by such convention shall take effect until the same has been submitted to the electors and approved by a majority of those voting thereon.

Rhode Island's Constitution, Article XIV, Section 2

Government Milestones

November 4, 2014.  The referendum on whether to convene a constitutional convention loses by 163,749 (55.1%) to 133,445 (44.9%); the absentee ballot total was 6,724 (50.1%) to 6,684 (49.9%).  Data is from the Rhode Island Board of Elections as of November 6, 2014; final certified results likely to vary.  Voter turnout was 40.1%, down from 45.2% in 2010.  See J.H. Snider’s blog post post-mortem.

October 30, 2014.  Rhode Island Board of Elections hearing concerning allegations of campaign finance violations by Coalition for Responsible Government.  See J.H. Snider and Beverly Clay’s blog post on the complaint that led to the hearing.

Rhode Island's last constitutional convention in 1986

Rhode Island’s last constitutional convention in 1986

October 1, 2014.  Secretary of State announces release of the 2014 Voter Information Handbook.

September 3, 2014.  Release of the Bi-Partisan Preparatory Commission Report.

August 26, 2014.  Fifth and final meeting of the Bi-partisan Preparatory Commission.  See RhodeIslandConCon.info’s blog post and the interview with Commissioner Steve Frias about the meeting.

August 25, 2014.  Secretary of State’s Voter Information Handbook deadline for the Bi-partisan Preparatory Commission Report

August 21, 2014.  Fourth meeting and third public hearing of the Bi-partisan Preparatory Commission.

August 19, 2014.  Third meeting and second public hearing of the Bi-partisan Preparatory Commission.

August, 7, 2014.  Second meeting and first public hearing of the Bi-partisan Preparatory Commission.  See J.H. Snider’s blog posts on the report and meeting, including links to the webcast and written testimony.

July 31, 2014.  First meeting of the Bi-partisan Preparatory Commission to Assemble Information on Constitutional Convention Questions in Preparation for a Vote by the Qualified Electors on the Holding of a Constitutional Convention in Accordance with Article XIV,  Section 2 of the Rhode Island Constitution.  Covered in J.H. Snider’s blog post.

July 30, 2014.  Bi-partisan Preparatory Commission was to report its findings to the public by this date (the deadline was not met).

July 29, 2014.  The Rhode Island General Assembly posts on its website the names of the remaining two Bi-Partisan Preparatory Commission members and posts public notice of its July 31, 2014 first public meeting.  The law dictates that 48 hours notice is necessary before holding such a public meeting.

July 24, 2014.  The Rhode Island General Assembly posts on its website the first 10 of 12 members appointed to the Bi-Partisan Preparatory Commission.

July 10, 2014.  Campaign finance reports due to the Rhode Island Board of Elections.  According to the filings, the no campaign has raised $59,000 and the yes campaign $0 as of July 10, 2014.  On July 19, 2014, the Providence Journal reported on the Board of Elections filing.

June 30, 2014.  Joint Resolution 8061 signed by the Governor.

June 23, 2014.  Joint Resolution 2537 signed by the Governor.

June 11, 2014.  Joint Resolutions 25388060 and 8061 passed by the General Assembly.

June 18, 2014.  Joint Resolutions 2538 and 8060 signed by the Governor.

April 29, 2014.  Hearing to consider proposed constitutional amendments that could serve as the basis of the Preparatory Commission.

April 16, 2014. Joint Resolution 8061 (creating a bipartisan preparatory commission) introduced in the Rhode Island House.

February 27, 2014.  Joint Resolutions 2537  (creating a bipartisan preparatory commission) and 2538 (placing the constitutional convention referendum on the ballot) introduced in the Rhode Island Senate.

Launch of the Yes and No Coalitions

August 20, 2014.  Launch of Renew RI, which seeks to “encourages citizens of our state to study the issues involved so they can make an informed decision on [the constitutional convention referendum] when they cast their votes on Nov. 4. ”

April 30, 2014.  Launch of Citizens for Responsible Government, which describes itself as “a diverse and growing coalition of Rhode Islanders and Rhode Island organizations who are opposed to a Constitutional Convention.”

J.H. Snider profiles the two coalitions in his September 7, 2014 blog post: Citizens for Responsible Government vs. RenewRI

Highlights

(As of October 18, 2014, this section will no longer be maintained.  Use the menu system for the latest news, op-eds, etc.)

October 17, 2014

Op-ed in GoLocalProv by J.H. Snider satirizing the debate about the constitutional convention referendum currently taking place in Rhode Island.

ProvidenceJournalFrontPageThumbnail--PNGOctober 16, 2014

Op-ed in the Warwick Beacon by  Robert O. Flanders arguing that state constitutional conventions have served to enhance rather than diminish the people’s rights.

October 5, 2014

Op-ed in the Providence Journal by  Ken Block arguing that a state constitutional convention represents a rare opportunity to fix Rhode Island’s broken system of government.

October 3, 2014

Op-ed in the Providence Journal by  Steve Brown arguing that a state constitutional convention would be dominated by special interests and is, in any case, unnecessary.

September 29, 2014

Op-ed in the Providence Journal by George Nee arguing that a state constitutional convention would hurt Rhode Island unions.

September 28, 2014

Op-ed in the Providence Journal by Philip West arguing for a state constitutional agenda based on democratic reforms that the General Assembly wouldn’t otherwise pass.

September 25, 2014

Op-ed in the Providence Journal by J.H. Snider and Beverly Clay critiquing the description  of Question #3 in the 2014 Voter Information Handbook.

September 16, 2014

Op-ed in the Providence Journal by Jack Partridge, delegate to Rhode Island’s 1973 constitutional convention and former chair of Common Cause Rhode Island, providing an account of the discrepancy between the intent of the Framers of the Bi-partisan Preparatory provision in Rhode Island’s Constitution and its implementation in 2014 by Rhode Island’s legislature.

August 18, 2014

Op-ed in the Providence Journal by Pablo Rodriquez arguing that the General Assembly is a better institutional vehicle for democratic reform because of the high cost of a state constitutional convention and the risk that it would be corrupted and serve to restrict social rights such as a woman’s right to choose.

August 14, 2014

Op-ed in the Providence Journal by Mike Stenhouse observing that anything passed by a state constitutional convention must be approved by voters and arguing that the people are not the enemy.

August 7, 2014

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity issues a blueprint for how the constitutional convention process should work and what issues a constitutional convention could address.

August 2, 2014

Op-ed in the Providence Journal by J.H. Snider and Beverly Clay reviewing the history of Rhode Island’s bi-partisan preparatory commissions and arguing for a better method of information the public about issues a state constitutional convention could address.

July 7, 2014

Op-ed in GoLocal Prov by Moore, Russell arguing for a Rhode Island state constitutional convention by describing the opposition, its arguments, and the types of issues a constitutional convention could address.

June 13, 2014

Op-ed in the Providence Journal by J.H. Snider and Beverly Clay reviewing the history of Rhode Island’s constitutional convention campaign finance disclosure and making the case for better disclosure.

June 12, 2014

RhodeIslandConCon.info compiles a documentary history of Rhode Island’s 1994 and 2004 state constitutional convention referendums.

June 4, 2014

Op-ed in the Providence Journal by Timothy Murphy, a Brown University Professor, arguing that a constitutional convention is the only likely mechanism by which Rhode Island’s General Assembly will become subject to meaningful ethics reform because the General Assembly has consistently refused to pass such reform itself.

May 22, 2014

Op-ed in the Providence Journal by Jack Partridge, delegate to Rhode Island’s 1973 constitutional convention and former chair of Common Cause Rhode Island, providing a first hand account of Rhode Island’s successful 1973 constitutional convention and arguing that fears of a future convention don’t gibe with that experience.

April 25, 2014

RhodeIslandConCon.info launches FAQ to address questions about state constitutional conventions.

March 29, 2014

Event at the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership, Bryant University, “A Constitutional Convention for Rhode Island?,” 8:30 am to 1:00 pm.  J.H. Snider reviews the conference, including providing conference links.

March 21, 2014

Op-ed in the Providence Journal by J.H. Snider and Sage Snider providing a historical, political, and democratic functional analysis of Rhode Island’s November 4, 2014 referendum to convene a constitutional convention.

March 20, 2014

Launch of RhodeIslandConCon.info.

January 31, 2013

Public Policy Polling releases a public opinion survey concerning propositions on the November 2014 ballot.  The question on the upcoming constitutional convention referendum finds 40% in favor, 25% opposed, and 35% undecided.

Count down to polls closing

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RhodeIslandConCon.info’s Blog

Citizens for Responsible Government vs. RenewRI

On November 4, 2014, Rhode Islanders will vote on a referendum for or against convening a state constitutional convention.  On April 30, 2014, Citizens For Responsible Government was publicly launched to support a no vote.  On August 20, 2014, RenewRI was publicly...

Bi-Partisan Preparatory Commission’s Third & Fourth Meetings

On August 19 and August 21 the Bi-Partisan Preparatory Commission wrapped up its public testimony with its 2nd and 3rd public hearings.  The Commission has scheduled a meeting next Tuesday at 3:30 pm to discuss its draft report.  No public comment will be allowed. A...

Bi-Partisan Preparatory Commission’s Second Meeting

The Bi-Partisan Preparatory Commission met on August 7.  It made two important announcements before beginning with public testimony.  The first was that the Commission’s report would be published by August 25.  This date was premised on the need to get the...