R.I. Senate passes bill on U.S. Senate vacancies

By Katherine Gregg
Published March 25th 2009 in The Providence Journal
PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The Rhode Island Senate has now approved its version of a bill to strip the governor of his power to appoint a replacement for a U.S. Senator who dies or leaves office for any other reason in mid-term, and require special elections instead.

The bill cleared the Senate today on a 33-to-1 vote, with Coventry Republican Leo Blais the single nay vote, and now moves to the House, which has already passed its own version of the bill.

To become law, at least one of the two bills would have to clear both chambers.

The chief Senate sponsor, Providence Democrat Paul V. Jabour, has denied that the bill is politically motivated, saying it has little to do with limiting gubernatorial power. Instead, he said, the bill would require that a special election be held, unless the vacancy occurs after July 1 of an election year, in which case the vacancy would be filled during the regular election cycle.

Known in political circles as the Blagojevich bill, the proposal seeks to remedy the problems that took place when former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich allegedly tried to sell the Senate seat vacated by newly elected President Barack Obama.

Similar proposals have cropped up in other states.

A spokeswoman for Governor Carcieri has said the Republican doesn't believe the bill is necessary.