Demonstrators call for veto-override session

Katherine Gregg // Published December 3, 2008 in The Providence Journal

PROVIDENCE - Advocates for a passle of vetoed bills gathered outside the State House today to urge legislators - again - to return before the year is out for a veto over-ride session.

"We can't wait two more years for a new governor,'' Rachel Miller, director of the advocacy group Jobs With Justice, told her close to 20 fellow demonstrators.

At this point, the Democratic leaders of the state's part-time General Assembly have shown no interest in returning before the new session begins in January.

From a political point of view, they would have a hard time explaining why they convened a special session to vote on vetoed bills allowing, for example, the pre-registration of 16 year-olds to vote, without taking any action on the state's economic crisis and looming $357 million current-year deficit.

At this point, the lawmakers say they are waiting for Republican Governor Carcieri to come up with a financial recovery plan; his advisors say they are still weeks away from that point.

But Miller and others insisted that several of the vetoed bills would help "ease the crisis'' by reducing, for example, the number of people in prison for alleged parole violations for which they were ultimately acquitted, and also by making it easier for people to get jobs by ridding them of their criminal records.

More specifically, they urged an override of Carcieri's veto of a bill that would have automatically "quashed and destroyed'' the record of anyone given a suspended sentence for an admitted crime, at the end of the five-year suspension period.

Moments before Carcieri's Yukon XL drove by with the governor inside, Matt Sledge of the advocacy group FairVote RI said the pre-registration bill for 16-year-olds is a "great way to get young people excited about democracy and [we] don't understand why the governor doesn't understand this.''

Another of the vetoed bills would have provided the state's major power supplier, National Grid, a financial bonus for entering into long-term contracts to buy alternative energy, such as wind and solar power, despite acknowledgments the move might raise electricity bills.

When he vetoed that bill, Carcieri said it would have allowed utilities to "reap substantial bonuses," would have provided business for out-of-state developers and required the use of energy from "extravagantly overpriced generation technologies to take more of what is left of ratepayers' money.''

But spokesmen for Environment RI and the Conservation Law Foundation disagreed again today, calling the vetoed bill a "critically important'' piece in the drive to "boost development of new wind, solar and renewable energy projects.''

There was no immediate response from Senate leaders to the renewed call by the advocates for a special session, but House Speaker William J. Murphy issued this statement: "At this point in time, we do not plan to come back into session.''