AG-to-be Kilmartin suggests full-time legislature

Attorney General-elect Peter Kilmartin was a guest at this morning’s taping of WPRI 12’s “Newsmakers” with Tim White, WRNI’s Ian Donnis and yours truly. I brought up Kilmartin’s proposal during the campaign for Rhode Island to hold a constitutional convention in 2012, and asked why he thought that would be a good idea.

“I believe government and the constitution is a living, breathing document,” Kilmartin replied. “And to grow as a living document – just like all of us as living beings, we need to grow, we need to change, we need to adapt. And there is nothing wrong with having a convention to look at the constitution of the State of Rhode Island.”

Pressed on a specific constitutional change he would want examined by the convention, Kilmartin – who has been a state representative since 1991 – mentioned turning the General Assembly into a full-time legislative body.

“Now I know the general public would probably vote that down [but] I really think it needs a good vetting,” he said. “I know the hours [lawmakers work] – they always say it’s a part-time legislature, but I know the hours I put in, and believe me, they weren’t part-time. Those folks work very hard.”

Rhode Island’s last constitutional convention took place in 1986, when one of its marquee changes was the establishment of the now-neutered Ethics Commission.

The state constitution requires that every 10 years voters get asked whether they want to hold a constitutional convention, although the General Assembly can try to call one without waiting a decade. The last time voters got asked was in 2004, when they rejected it 48%-52%. So that means the question has to be put on the ballot again by 2014.

Tim led off the show by asking Kilmartin about illegal immigration – specifically, his take on Gov. Don Carcieri’s 2008 executive order and his support for the federal Secure Communities program. I wrote up his comments for a new story – here’s an excerpt:

Attorney General-elect Peter Kilmartin said Friday he opposes Gov.-elect Lincoln Chafee’s plan to rescind outgoing Gov. Don Carcieri’s controversial March 2008 executive order on illegal immigration.

“I think it should be maintained – there’s no harm in it,” he said during a taping of WPRI 12’s “Newsmakers.” “It makes a statement that law enforcement is to participate and work with other agencies.” …

Kilmartin also said his decision to join a controversial federal program that checks the immigration status of people who get arrested “is not much different than what occurs now.”

Kilmartin also played to the crowd by telling the three of us he supports a state shield law for reporters. Ian Donnis has more about that on WRNI’s website.

The entire half-hour episode of “Newsmakers” with Kilmartin – plus Gary Sasse and Common Cause’s John Marion talking about their Citizens for an Accountable Legislature project – will be posted online later today and will air on TV at 5:30 a.m. Sunday on both WPRI 12 and Fox Providence. (Yep, football is still taking our regular time slot – set your DVRs.)

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