The Block Island Times

Senate passes bills increasing CRMC accountability

Mar 01, 2013

STATE HOUSE – The Senate on Thursday, Feb. 28, approved two related pieces of legislation sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski that would change the composition of the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) to comply with the separation of powers Constitutional amendment and create a permanent joint legislative committee to oversee the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and the CRMC.

The Senate, which passed the separation of powers bill (2013-S 0122) in a 32 to 0 vote, has supported restructuring the CRMC to comply with the separation of powers amendment for several years. The chamber also approved the legislation (2013-S 0120) for a Permanent Legislative Joint Committee on Coastal Resources with a vote of 34 to 0.

“It is important to have a permanent entity in place to oversee the best interests of the coastal communities and resources long after my colleagues and I are gone from this chamber,” Senator Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham) said in a press release. “Furthermore, the separation of powers Constitutional amendment is crucial to continue the CRMC’s mission in the most transparent manner possible.”

If approved in the House, the first bill would change the membership of the CRMC from 16 to 12 members and allow municipal appointed members who no longer hold their elected or appointed positions to continue to serve on the CRMC. It would also increase the governor’s appointments from the general public from three to seven and remove language stating that members of the General Assembly must serve on the panel. While it may seem like a small change, Senator Sosnowski said it is important that CRMC conform to the separation of powers amendment voters approved in 2004, providing balance to the governor’s appointments with the requirement that the Senate approve his or her nominations.

The second bill establishes the Permanent Joint Committee on Coastal Resources, which would provide oversight of the CRMC and the Department of Environmental Management in all matters relating to the use, conservation, regulation and management of the Rhode Island’s coastal resources.

Rep. Donna Walsh sponsored companion legislation to both bills (2013-H 53562013-H 5378) in the House. They have been referred to the House Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.

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