PROVIDENCE – The Rhode Island General Assembly complied with the state’s Open Meetings law 96 percent of the time in 2012, according to Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis’ Access 2012 report.
The annual report from the Secretary of State’s office, released Friday, monitors the General Assembly’s compliance with the state’s Open Meeting law, which requires most governmental bodies to post meeting notices and agendas at least 48 hours in advance.
According to the release, the General Assembly is exempt from the law, but the House and Senate issue meeting notices in accordance with their own rules.
“Accountability is a crucial gauge of government’s willingness to keep the public informed about its work,” said Mollis in prepared remarks.
Overall, the R.I. Senate had a compliance rating of 97 percent in 2012 and the House had a compliance rating of 94 percent. Among some of the Assembly’s “more prominent committees,” the House Finance committee complied 94 percent of the time and the Senate Judiciary committee had a 97 percent compliance rate.
Similar to previous years, the majority of compliance violations were committed in the last days of the session. According to the report, 15 of the 19 total violations occurred during the 48 hours before the General Assembly recessed on June 13.
“The legislature’s capacity to give the public at least 48 hours notice as the session winds down is constrained by the compressed time frame for consideration and the volume of bills that must be addressed,” said Mollis.
Since the first Access report was issued in 1997, the Secretary of State’s office has focused on two categories of compliance: Letters of the Law and Spirit of the Law. Letters of the Law refers to technical compliance with the state’s Open Meetings law, while Spirit of the Law attempts to gauge the intent of the General Assembly.
The GA’s overall compliance rate was 96 percent and covered a total of 438 legislative meetings in 2012. The report ranked the Spirit of Law compliance at 100 percent, meaning that even when not compliant, the General Assembly was not willfully attempting to mislead the public.