Governor Linc Chafee supports table games at a casino in Newport, he said Tuesday while in the City-by-the-Sea.
But the law that put the question on this year’s ballot violates Rhode Island’s Constitution by granting regulatory power to the General Assembly, he said in a signing statement earlier this year.
“…the Act contains an unconstitutional intrusion into the power of the executive to which I must object,” he wrote. “Requiring the Division of Lotteries to obtain regulation approval from a committee made up entirely of legislators is a violation of the separation of powers doctrine.”
The intrusion, said Chafee’s legal counsel Claire Richards, amounts to one sentence on page 13 of a 17 page bill. Here’s the bill and here’s the offending sentence:
“The amended master contract shall also provide that, following completion of the investment requirement, NGJA or its successor shall maintain Newport Grand in a first class manner pursuant to regulations adopted by the division and approved by the permanent joint committee on state lottery.”
Richards said she’s confident the legislature will remove the offending language next session. “We have plenty of time to fix this. If not the next governor will have to decide if they think that section is void. We would give it no legal weight. In other words, we would not do it.”
No comment from House and Senate spokesmen.
But John Marion, of Common Cause RI, agrees it’s a separation of powers problem.
“The casino legislation clearly violates the Separation of Powers that we fought so hard to put into the Rhode Island Constitution,” he said in an email. “The legislature clearly does not accept the new order ten years after voters amended the Constitution. On top of violating SOP the legislation creates a rather contorted referendum process that has been the subject of a lawsuit. It is too bad that Governor Chafee didn’t see fit to veto the defective legislation.”