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Courts seen settling R.I. lawmaker issue

PROVIDENCE -- The courts will probably be asked to decide whether lawmakers should serve on a handful of disputed state boards and commissions, including the powerful Lottery Commission, Senate President Joseph D. Montalbano said.

Montalbano, a North Providence Democrat, said he would like to see legislation governing a reorganization of such panels approved by the end of January. He said that the deadline would probably require leaving out a handful of boards on which there have been disagreements.

Voters last month approved a constitutional change removing lawmakers and their appointees from dozens of state boards and commissions. Most of those appointments would go to Governor Don Carcieri, a Republican.

House leaders have said the Lottery Commission is exempt. House Speaker William Murphy's spokesman said Friday that the West Warwick Democrat has not decided whether to seek a court opinion. Representative Elaine A. Coderre, Democrat of Pawtucket, chairwoman of a House panel on separation of powers, also would like to see legislation approved by the end of January.

She said the courts might be asked to decide whether committees that deal with constitutional authority granted to lawmakers, such as the Lottery Commission and the Coastal Resources Management Council, are exempt. Carcieri's office told WPRI-TV the governor believes lawmakers should be removed from those panels. Montalbano said he'll seek a state Supreme Court opinion about the Judicial Nominating Commission.

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