Dozens of individuals and political committees, among them some sitting office holders, owe millions of dollars to the state Board of Elections for failing to file on time campaign finance reports, or not filing the reports at all, with little consequences. Gov. Gina Raimondo is once again championing legislation that would change that, while also calling upon the state legislature to put the line item veto question on the November ballot.

Both, she says, are issues of trust.

“Rhode Islanders deserve a government they can trust,” the governor said in advance of a hearing last week before the Senate’s Judiciary Committee. “To grow our economy, businesses need the same thing. Rhode Islanders and our businesses have strong ethical foundations. My proposals make certain that the people running for office follow the strongest ethical standards, too.”

According to a March report by the Board of Elections, the board is owed more than $3.6 million in fines and interest from dozens of individuals and political committees. The list has often included several current office holders.

State Board of Elections officials have said that the board’s only recourse has been civil courts, and judges routinely significantly reduce the size of fines and interest. There are no criminal penalties for failing to file, board officials said, and individuals are not barred from running for election.

Gov. Raimondo has proposed legislation that would bar candidates with unpaid fines to the Board of Elections from appearing on the ballot and would also require random audits of campaign finances. The governor has proposed the legislation in the past. Cranston Mayor Alan Fung, a Republican candidate for governor, has also said he would propose similar legislation.

Line Item Veto

Rhode Island is only one of six states without a line-item veto. The others are Indiana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Vermont.

Line-item veto gives the governor the power to veto parts of a budget proposal, passed by the General Assembly, rather than having the power to only approve or reject the budget in its entirety.

By sending a portion or portions of the budget back to the General Assembly, proponents believe it provides greater transparency and more debate over items within the budget. The General Assembly has the power to override the governor’s veto.

The proposed legislation would put the issue to voters in November.

In her state of the state address in January, Gov. Raimondo called on legislators to “keep going with bold reforms. Let’s send a clear and loud signal that we are willing to move beyond the old way of doing things.” She called upon legislators “to put line-item veto on the ballot in November and let Rhode Islanders decide. It’s time. Forty-four other states, including Massachusetts, already have it, and they use it to eliminate waste and give taxpayers confidence in their government. Rhode Islanders deserve the same thing.”

Raimondo has consistently advocated for line item vote. Fung has also said he supports it.

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Ryan M. Belmore

Ryan M. Belmore is the Owner & Publisher of What's Up Newp. Ryan is a member of Local Independent Online News (LION) Publishers and serves on the Board of Directors for Fort Adams Trust and Lucy's Hearth. Send questions, tips, and story ideas to Ryan@whatsupnewp.com.