To the Editor:
My name is Nathan McGuire, and for the past two months I have worked under the mentorship of State Senator James Sheehan for my Senior Exhibition Project at Toll Gate High School.
One need not look far to see that some elected officials at the Rhode Island State House have neglected the fact that they are elected, in fact sworn to represent the interests of the citizens who have entrusted them. Granted, there are a number of hard-working politicians who work on our behalf, but the question remains—how do we ensure that all state officials are working ethically for us? Furthermore, how do we make certain that our elected officials are working exclusively for our interests and not for those of the hundreds of lobbyists who roam the State House halls? Becoming educated is crucial in answering these questions.
Thus, in order to become educated and to ensure our interests are faithfully represented, we must utilize government resources that offer valuable information to the public, the first of which is the General Assembly’s website, www.rilin.state.ri.us. Here, one can find contact information for all state senators and representatives, committee schedules, texts of proposed bills and current laws. Citizens that are well informed and able to communicate with their elected officials are vital to the success of our Republic.
Perhaps the most valuable resource available for citizens is the state of Rhode Island Board of Elections’ website, www.elections.state.ri.us, which offers material about elections, voting and campaign finances. Campaign finance reports offer information about who donates to a particular candidate’s campaign, as well as how that candidate spends his or her campaign money. An analysis of a politician’s contributions and expenditures shows which interests support a candidate and to which interests that candidate may become beholden.
Equipped with the knowledge from these resources, one can become more involved in the legislative process. Every citizen of Rhode Island has the right to peaceably assemble at the State House and petition the government for a redress of grievances. In order to do so, citizens should attend committee meetings at the State House and offer testimony on proposed legislation.
As mandated by state law, all committee meetings are open to the public, and all members of the public are allowed to speak at the meetings. More often than not, though, lobbyists pack the committee rooms and testify on behalf of their clients. Therefore, it is important that we, as citizens, also pack the committee rooms with our bodies and our voices to offer testimony on proposed bills. We need to lobby for ourselves and for our interests. For the sake of our posterity, it is imperative that we work to preserve our most natural right of liberty.
In the words of Thomas Jefferson, “Educate and inform the whole mass of people … They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.”
I implore you to use the resources herein to become informed, assert your rights under our Constitution, and hereby guard your freedom.