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2/1/2017 Rep. Phillips legislation would create governor/lieutenant governor ticket, four-year terms for legislators
STATE HOUSE — Rep. Robert D. Phillips (D-Dist. 51, Woonsocket, Cumberland) has introduced two joint resolutions that call for a referendum amending the state constitution to change the way some officials are elected.

The first resolution (2017-H 5181) would ask voters if they want to amend the constitution to have the governor and lieutenant governor run jointly, so voters would cast one vote for both offices, much the same way the president and vice president are elected on a single ticket. In the case of party primaries, candidates for the office of governor may choose to run without a lieutenant governor candidate. The first such election would take place in 2022.

“If the governor and lieutenant governor were elected together as running mates, it would have three benefits,” explained Representative Phillips. “First, it would ensure that the individuals in the top two executive positions see eye to eye on policy issues. Second, it would tend to encourage a greater participation by the lieutenant governor in the workings of the executive branch. And third, it would mean a smoother transition in the unfortunate event that the lieutenant governor is called upon to fill the governorship.”

Of the 45 states that elect lieutenant governors, 25 do so on a single ticket.

“In most states, the lieutenant governor has some sort of constitutional function,” said Representative Phillips. “In most states, they preside over the Senate. In others the lieutenant governor has an executive function. For instance, in Alaska, Hawaii and Utah, they serve as secretary of state. In New Jersey, the governor has to appoint the lieutenant governor to a cabinet-level position. This amendment would encourage the governor to give the lieutenant governor more executive duties.”

The resolution, which is cosponsored by Representatives Joseph J. Solomon Jr. (D-Dist. 22, Warwick), Evan Shanley (D-Dist. 24, Warwick), Raymond A. Hull (D-Dist. 6 Providence, North Providence) and Christopher R. Blazejewski (D-Dist. 2, Providence), has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

The second resolution (2017-H 5267) would create staggered four-year terms for members of the General Assembly. Starting in 2020, legislators from even-numbered districts would be elected every four years. Starting in 2022, legislators from odd-numbered districts would be elected every four years.

“Originally, members of the General Assembly were elected to one-year terms,” said Representative Phillips. “But as the duties of the legislature started to grow and the scope of state government started to evolve, it was determined that one year just wasn’t enough to accomplish a legislative agenda. Now, two years are no longer enough. When you have to reconcile the interests of 113 different lawmakers, the deliberations can take time. Four-year terms would not only provide legislative stability in policymaking, it would also take away the temptation of rushing things through because of the pressure of a looming election cycle.”

Elsewhere, 38 states have four-year terms in at least one legislative chamber.

The resolution, which is cosponsored by Representatives Michael A. Morin (D-Dist. 49, Woonsocket), Stephen M. Casey (D-Dist. 50, Woonsocket), Raymond H. Johnston Jr. (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket) and Jean Philippe Barros (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket), has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.


For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401)222-1922