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RI voters may have chance to close ethics loophole

April 3, 2012
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PROVIDENCE, R.I.—Rhode Island voters may be asked this fall to close an ethics loophole that shields most state legislative activities from state ethics scrutiny.

The House Judiciary Committee plans to review a proposed Constitutional amendment on Tuesday that would restore the state Ethics Commission's power to investigate lawmakers for their votes.

In 2009 the state Supreme Court ruled that lawmakers were immune to ethics complaints prompted by their votes or comments during legislative discussions.

The ruling cited constitutional language protecting lawmakers from retaliation for their votes.

Ethics watchdogs say the loophole allows lawmakers to vote or sponsor bills to advance their own interests.

Efforts to put the amendment before voters have failed the past two years.

If supported by lawmakers this year, the proposed amendment would go on the fall ballot.

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