Raptakis Chooses Secretary of State
Rhode Island Senator Leonidas Raptakis (D, Coventry, East Greenwich, Warwick, West Warwick), who has been open about his intention to run for statewide office, has chosen the Secretary of State position as his target:
As a State Senator, I have worked to effectively represent the interests of my constituents. I have successfully fought for passage of legislation, worked to bring important issues to the forefront of the public debate, and pushed to make the operations of the General Assembly more transparent. And as a small business owner, I think I have brought an important perspective to the legislature.
In recent weeks, I have talked about my interest in running for statewide office. I believe that in this time of crisis, Rhode Island needs active, engaged leadership to make sure that state government is operating in the most efficient, open and accountable manner possible.
After speaking with my family, friends and many supporters, I have decided to run for the office of Secretary of State. I believe the responsibilities of that office will allow me to put my background and experience to work in the most effective manner possible for the people of Rhode Island.
We need a Secretary of State who is a watchdog for the people of Rhode Island. We need a Secretary of State who is committed to promoting public access to the decision-making process, not simply by making legislative information easily available but by fighting to make sure the public has full access to legislative meetings and the votes taken in those meetings. And we need a Secretary of State who will finally help to reduce the red tape facing small businesses and make sure that state agencies are sharing information rather than demanding excess paperwork from businesses seeking licenses and permits.
Rhode Islanders have seen what happens when we have a state government which is operated in a manner which puts the interests of the decision-makers ahead of the public interest…when the work of government is conducted behind closed doors and the rest of us are forced to deal with the consequences. Over the last few months, we have been dealing with record unemployment, countless foreclosures, a dismal business climate, and chronic budget deficits. This is what happens when decisions are left in the hands of the few and the public is largely shut out of the decision-making process.
We recently saw a special session of the General Assembly which took up some 200 pieces of legislation in just two days. To do this, the General Assembly suspended their own rules of operation and ignored the state’s Open Meetings Law. Why? Was it done to benefit the people of Rhode Island? No. It was done strictly for the benefit of legislative leaders who wanted to control the outcome…to get their people in for two days, cast their votes and send them home without any questions or debates to delay the outcome. That is shameful.
In that same session, a bill was taken up unexpectedly which would have allowed for the speedier expungement of criminal records. This legislation was opposed by the Attorney General, yet it was brought back to life after being left to die in committee during the regular session with next to no notice to the state’s chief law enforcement officer. That is shameful and another example of a broken system.
When things like this can happen in our legislative process, we have a fundamental problem. And it is no accident that these things are happening when our state is in a crisis situation, with so many challenges facing us. There is a phrase in information technology—”garbage in, garbage out”. It means that if you feed bad data into a computer, you are going to get bad results. If we have a legislative process where decisions are made in violation of the Open Meetings Law and the legislature’s own rules of conduct, we are going to have bad public policy outcomes.
As Secretary of State, I am going to be a watchdog for our citizens. I will push the General Assembly to follow their own rules and to follow the Open Meetings Law which local Town Councils and School Committees are required to follow. I will call them out when they don’t follow the rules. And if that doesn’t change their behavior, I will take them to court. And if that doesn’t work, I will work to put a constitutional question on the ballot to make sure that the people making the laws of our state are required to respect the law themselves.
Rhode Island government is in crisis. We need a tangible change in the way we run things. We need to make government accountable and make sure our citizens are engaged in the decision-making process. The Secretary of State’s office must be the cornerstone for making that change…for promoting open government which is responsible for meeting the needs of our citizens and accountable for acting in their best interest.
I look forward to taking my message to the people of Rhode Island in the months ahead and earning their support in my campaign to be a Secretary of State who fights for the interests of our citizens and serves as their advocate in working to make state government open, honest, and effective.
In initially creating this post, I cited Sen. Raptakis’s inclusion on our Legislative Stooge list. That inclusion has turned out to be the result of an error on my part. I apologize to the Senator and to readers.