In an opinion column, entitled “Time to reform the JCLS is now” published this week in the Cranston Herald, Warwick Beacon and Johnston Sunrise, R.I. Republican National Committeeman Steven Frias argues for fundamentally reforming the Joint Committee on Legislative Services (JCLS), the State House’s most powerful committee.

Here are some excerpts:

Until the late 1950s, the General Assembly employed only part-time committee clerks, doorkeepers and pages. Its budget for 1959 was only $189,371.

Over the years, the General Assembly’s budget grew rapidly, faster than the rate of inflation and faster than the stock market, as more patronage jobs were doled out, and more money was spent on food, liquor and travel. As the General Assembly’s budget regularly increased, scandals periodically erupted.

Fundamentally reforming the JCLS begins with the JCLS holding regular public meetings and voting on legislative spending, contracts, staff, and salaries. Next, to reduce the Speaker’s control over the JCLS, the Senate should have equal representation on the JCLS, which was what the 1958 study commission originally recommended. Also, to reduce patronage hiring, the JCLS should have equal representation from both parties, which was also recommended by the 1958 study commission. Lastly, to reduce the General Assembly’s cost, the JCLS should order a performance audit of the General Assembly and set a goal of bringing the General Assembly’s budget down to the level of states like New Hampshire, where its state legislature operates at less than half the cost of Rhode Island.


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