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Legislature responds to Common Cause crit on the pension process

November 8, 2011

Common Cause of Rhode Island earlier this week criticized lawmakers for discussing the pension bill in closed caucuses, among other things. In response, legislative spokesman Larry Berman and Greg Pare offer this defense of the pension consideration process:

As promised by the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate, the pension reform process has been open and transparent.  All 29 hours of public testimony, in addition to dozens of hours of information offered at other joint Finance Committee briefings, as well as other meetings featuring General Treasurer Raimondo and national experts, have been carried live and have been repeated numerous times on Capitol TV.  All of the video testimony, as well as PowerPoint materials and other documentation, are available on a separate website — www.pensionreformri.com — that the General Assembly has established. Also on the website is a place where the public can offer comments directly to the Assembly members.

Regarding the amended bill: Wednesday’s meeting is an additional step in the pension process to add transparency.  The committees are having an extra meeting to publicly unveil the amended bill (Sub A) and discuss and explain its details. This meeting is separate and apart from the hearing when it will be considered.  The committees will then have an additional meeting on a separate day to vote. It is the intention to have the proposed SubA posted online prior to the meeting where it is voted on. 

Once the committee considers the bill, there will be an additional 7 days prior to the floor vote.  The 7-day wait period is the same as the state budget and exceeds the House and Senate “wait” times for the requirement of every other bill we vote on. 

The fact of the additional Wednesday meeting for the staff to explain the bill, along with a separate meeting for consideration and a 7-day waiting period, coupled with the amount of public testimony and the website containing all the proposals, materials and videos, gives the public ample opportunity to be fully aware of all the bill’s details. 

Regarding floor amendments, no one in leadership or the committee chairs have had any drafted as of this writing.   If a member has had a floor amendment drafted and wants to give it to the press at this time, we encourage them to do so, just as we have encouraged our members to get the proposals to Legislative Counsel in a timely manner for them to be vetted.

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