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A Blatant, Corrupt Power Grab by Rhode Island’s Governor

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Governor of Rhode Island Dan McKee discusses a new program. (WPRI/via YouTube) After it looked like the legislature was finally about to reclaim its authority, Governor McKee plunged the state back into unilateral rule.

For all the wrong reasons earlier this summer, the Rhode Island General Assembly finally did the right thing in restoring a proper balance of powers. But just weeks later, the governor double-crossed lawmakers with an audacious, and likely illegal, power play.

Now some lawmakers are speaking out against their own party’s governor and asking leadership to intervene against his latest gambit.

In a state where COVID-19 case and fatality rates have persistently ranked among the worst in the nation — and where economic recovery is among America’s weakest — Rhode Island’s General Assembly, in June, finally felt compelled to step in and exert its legal authority to put an end to the emergency powers of the sitting executive. But little did most realize that the governor had a major trick up his sleeve.

After former governor Gina Raimondo seized unilateral control over the state’s pandemic response by issuing and extending states-of-emergency and executive orders — later to be continued by current Governor Dan McKee — the do-nothing General Assembly sat idly by and failed to engage while Rhode Islanders suffered.

The unexpected June legislative action was not inspired by the executive branch’s failed attempts to balance health and economic outcomes. Nor was it about putting a stop to some of the abusive and unconstitutional executive orders.

Not surprisingly, the issue that shocked legislators into action was money. When the executive branch suggested it had authority — under its ongoing emergency powers — to spend the billion-plus dollars in federal pandemic-relief aid headed to Rhode Island, this proved a bridge too far for legislative leaders. The fight was on — albeit secretly.

For 15 months, the General Assembly ignored the tyranny of the executive branch, which failed to act with “strict regard to the rights of the people,” as the law requires. Legislation submitted in early 2021 to

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