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1/9/2014 Rep. Lombardi wants voters to decide on longer terms, term limits for legislators
Also calls for 6-month ban on lobbyist contributions

STATE HOUSE – Twelve consecutive years of serving in the House of Representatives or Senate would be the limit for legislators if a ballot referendum proposed by Rep. John J. Lombardi goes before voters and is adopted.

Representative Lombardi (D-Dist. 8, Providence) has again introduced legislation that would place before voters at the next general election – this year – a proposal to amend the state constitution to change legislators’ terms and lengths of service. The proposal calls for legislators, who currently serve two-year terms, to be elected to four-years terms, for a maximum of three consecutive terms. If approved by voters, the change would take effect with the 2016 election.

The legislatures of 15 states currently have term limits for their members, with most setting eight years as the limit while four allow a total of 12 years in office.

“I think legislators serving two-year terms can spend a good deal of that time, especially during their second year, running for re-election rather than concentrating on the people’s business,” said Representative Lombardi. “I believe four-year terms would ensure that legislators spend the majority of their time in office working to effect good government and improve the lives of the state’s citizens.”

Representative Lombardi said he believes a three-term limit – 12 years – “should be an adequate amount of time for a legislator to work on and accomplish the goals he or she wanted to address when first running for a legislative seat. Being a public servant does not mean being a permanent officeholder. I believe the citizens benefit from a more consistent turnover of individuals bringing more new, fresh ideas to the legislative process, from the rank and file members right up through leadership.”

The Lombardi resolution calling for the ballot question (2014-H7024) has been referred to the House Committee on Judiciary. Co-sponsors include Rep. J. Patrick O’Neill (D-Dist. 59, Pawtucket), Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton), Rep. Doreen Marie Costa (R-Dist. 31, North Kingstown, Exeter) and Rep. Antonio Giarrusso (R-Dist. 30, East Geenwich, West Greenwich).

Once in office, legislators rely on a number of people – including lobbyists – to conduct their business and make informed decisions on legislative matters.

“Lobbyists are storehouses of important information that legislators need as they consider and act on various pieces of legislation,” said Representative Lombardi. “Providing that information, working for or against certain bills, is a lobbyist’s job and a part of the political process. What I don’t think is appropriate is for lobbyists to use money to try to sway legislator opinions.”

Representative Lombardi has introduced legislation that would bar lobbyists from making any political contribution to members of the General Assembly between January 1 and July 1 of every calendar year – the six months that the legislature is normally in session.

“Buying a ticket to a legislator’s fundraiser may be done with the best intentions, but perceptions are important and there should never be the impression that a political contribution is a means to a special favor or special treatment,” said Representative Lombardi. “Approval of my legislation will still leave six months of the year when individual and groups can make political contributions, but not during the six months of the year when the legislature is in session and while work is being done on bills and the budget.”

The bill (2014-H7022) has been referred to the House Committee on Judiciary. Co-sponsors include Representatives O’Neill, Canario, Cost and Giarrusso.

For more information, contact:
Randall T. Szyba, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-2457