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I - XV

 Rhode island Constitution



of the

State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations 




Section 1. Constitution supreme law of the state. -- This Constitution shall be the supreme law of the state, and any law inconsistent therewith shall be void. The general assembly shall pass all laws necessary to carry this Constitution into effect.
Section 2. Power vested in general assembly -- Concurrence of houses required to enact laws -- Style of laws. -- The legislative power, under this Constitution, shall be vested in two houses, the one to be called the senate, the other the house of representatives; and both together the general assembly. The concurrence of the two houses shall be necessary to the enactment of laws. The style of their laws shall be, It is enacted by the general assembly as follows:
Section 3. Sessions of general assembly -- Compensation of general assembly members and officers. -- There shall be a session of the general assembly at Providence commencing on the first Tuesday of January in each year. Commencing in January 1995, senators and representatives shall be compensated at an annual rate of ten thousand dollars ($10,000). Commencing in 1996, the rate of compensation shall be adjusted annually to reflect changes in the cost of living, as determined by the United States government during a twelve (12) month period ending in the immediately preceding year. Commencing in 2003, the president of the senate and the speaker of the house shall be compensated at an annual rate of double that of other senators and representatives.
Senators and representatives shall receive the same health insurance benefits as full-time state employees.
Senators and representatives shall be reimbursed for traveling expenses in going to and from the general assembly at the same mileage paid to state workers as of the 31st day of December in the year preceding each session.
No senator or representative shall be eligible for any pension on account of service in the general assembly after 1994; provided, however, that those senators and representatives first elected before 1994 who elect to receive compensation for legislative service in 1995 and thereafter, at the rate of five dollars ($5.00) for every day of actual attendance and eight cents (.08) per mile for traveling expenses in going to and returning from the general assembly, for a maximum of sixty (60) days in any calendar year, shall be eligible for a pension on account of service in the general assembly after 1994. The amount of such pension shall be based upon the pension program in effect for legislators on January 1, 1994.
The general assembly shall regulate the compensation of the governor and of all other officers, subject to limitations contained in the Constitution.
Section 4. Restriction on general assembly members' activities as counsel. -- No member of the general assembly shall take any fee, or be of counsel in any case pending before either house of the general assembly, under penalty of forfeiture of seat, upon proof thereof to the satisfaction of the house in which the member sits.
Section 5. Immunities of general assembly members. -- The persons of all members of the general assembly shall be exempt from arrest and their estates from attachment in any civil action, during the session of the general assembly, and two days before the commencement and two days after the termination thereof, and all process served contrary hereto shall be void. For any speech in debate in either house, no member shall be questioned in any other place.
Section 6. Election and qualification of general assembly members -- Quorum and organization of houses. -- Each house shall be the judge of the elections and qualifications of its members; and a majority shall constitute a quorum to do business; but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and may compel the attendance of absent members in such manner, and under such penalties, as may be prescribed by such house or by law. The organization of the two houses may be regulated by law, subject to the limitations contained in this Constitution.
Section 7. Rules of houses -- Contempt. -- Each house may determine its rules of proceeding, punish contempts, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member; but not a second time for the same cause.
Section 8. House journals. -- Each house shall keep a journal of its proceedings. The yeas and nays of the members of either house shall, at the desire of one-fifth of those present, be entered on the journal.
Section 9. Adjournment of houses. -- Neither house shall, during a session, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more that two days, nor to any other place than that in which it may be sitting.
Section 10. Continuation of previous powers. [Repealed.]
Section 11. Vote required to pass local or private appropriations. -- The assent of two-thirds of the members elected to each house of the general assembly shall be required to every bill appropriating the public money or property for local or private purposes.
Section 12. Property valuations for tax assessments. -- The general assembly shall, from time to time, provide for making new valuations of property, for the assessment of taxes, in such manner as it may deem best.
Section 13. Continuance in office until successors qualify. -- The general assembly may provide by law for the continuance in office of any officers of election or appointment, until other persons are qualified to take their places.
Section 14. General corporation laws. -- The general assembly may provide by general law for the creation and control of corporations; provided, however, that no corporation shall be created with the power to exercise the right of eminent domain, or to acquire franchises in the streets and highways of towns and cities, except by special act of the general assembly upon a petition for the same, the pendency whereof shall be notified as may be required by law.
Section 15. Lotteries. -- All lotteries shall be prohibited in the state except lotteries operated by the state and except those previously permitted by the general assembly prior to the adoption of this section, and all shall be subject to the prescription and regulation of the general assembly.
Section 16. Borrowing power of general assembly. -- The general assembly shall have no powers, without the express consent of the people, to incur state debts to an amount exceeding fifty thousand dollars, except in time of war, or in case of insurrection or invasion; nor shall it in any case, without such consent, pledge the faith of the state for the payment of the obligations of others. This section shall not be construed to refer to any money that may be deposited with the state by the government of the United States.
Section 17. Borrowing in anticipation of receipts. -- Notwithstanding the provisions of section 16 of this article the general assembly may provide by law for the state to borrow in any fiscal year, in anticipation of receipts from taxes, sums of money not exceeding twenty percent of the receipts from taxes during the next prior fiscal year, and, in anticipation of receipts from other sources, additional sums of money, not exceeding ten percent of the receipts from such other sources during the said next prior fiscal year; provided, that the aggregate of all such borrowings shall not exceed a sum equal to thirty percent of the actual receipts from taxes during the said next prior fiscal year. Any money so borrowed in anticipation of such receipts shall be repaid within the fiscal year of the state in which such borrowings take place. No money shall be so borrowed in anticipation of such receipts in any fiscal year until all money so borrowed in all previous fiscal years shall have been repaid.
Section 18. Redevelopment powers. -- The clearance, replanning, redevelopment, rehabilitation and improvement of blighted and substandard areas shall be a public use and purpose for which the power of eminent domain may be exercised, tax moneys and other public funds expended and public credit pledged. The general assembly may authorize cities, towns, or local redevelopment agencies to undertake and carry out projects approved by the local legislative body for such uses and purposes including the acquisition in such areas of such properties as the local legislative body may deem necessary or proper to effectuate any of the purposes of this article, although temporarily not required for such purposes, and the sale or other disposition of any such properties to private persons for private uses or to public bodies for public uses.
Section 19. Taking of property for highways, streets, places, parks or parkways. -- The general assembly may authorize the acquiring or taking in fee by the state, or by any cities or towns, of more land and property than is needed for actual construction in the establishing, laying out, widening, extending or relocating of public highways, streets, places, parks or parkways; provided, however, that the additional land and property so authorized to be acquired or taken shall be no more in extent than would be sufficient to form suitable building sites abutting on such public highway, street, place, park or parkway. After so much of the land and property has been appropriated for such public highway, street, place, park or parkway as is needed therefor, the remainder may be held and improved for any public purpose or purposes, or may be sold or leased for value with or without suitable restrictions, and in case of any such sale or lease, the person or persons from whom such remainder was taken shall have the first right to purchase or lease the same upon such terms as the state or city or town is willing to sell or lease the same.
Section 20. Local off-street parking facilities. -- The general assembly may authorize cities and towns to acquire property by eminent domain, or otherwise for the establishment and construction of off-street parking facilities and to maintain and operate or lease the same. Without limiting the generalities of the foregoing, any of the powers or authorities consistent with the provisions of this article for the provision of off-street parking now vested in public bodies by law, shall continue in existence and may be exercised by said public bodies, except as such powers and authorities may be modified, or repealed by the general assembly.
Section 21. Emergency powers in case of enemy attack. -- The general assembly, in order to insure continuity of state and local governmental operations, including the judicial functions, in periods of emergency resulting from disasters caused by enemy attack, shall have the power and the immediate duty to provide for prompt and temporary succession to the powers and duties of public offices, of whatever nature and whether filled by election or appointment, the incumbents of which may become unavailable for carrying on the powers and duties of such offices, to enact legislation permitting the convening of the general assembly at any place within or without the State of Rhode Island, and to adopt such other measures as may be necessary and proper for insuring the continuity of governmental operations during the period of said emergency. Any law enacted under this section shall apply to all cities and towns regardless of their form of charter. During said period of emergency the general assembly shall have the power to incur state debts exceeding the limitation set forth in sections 16 and 17 of this article. The powers granted and the laws enacted under this section shall not be effective after two years following the inception of an enemy attack.
Section 22. Restriction of gambling. -- No act expanding the types of gambling which are permitted within the state or within any city or town therein or expanding the municipalities in which a particular form of gambling is authorized shall take effect until it has been approved by the majority of those electors voting in a statewide referendum and by the majority of those electors voting in a referendum in the municipality in which the proposed gambling would be allowed.
The secretary of state shall certify the results of the statewide referendum and the local board of canvassers of the city or town where the gambling is to be allowed shall certify the results of the local referendum to the secretary of state.