Common Cause Rhode Island says state Rep. Lisa Baldelli-Hunt should withdraw her sponsorship of a bill to crack down on potential competitors to her brother’s check-cashing company after WPRI.com revealed the business pays rent to her.
“Recent media attention around your sponsorship of this legislation raises questions about the potential for a financial conflict of interest that cannot be answered before tomorrow’s hearing, and therefore we believe the best course of action is to withdraw the bill,” John Marion, Common Cause’s executive director, wrote Tuesday in a letter to Baldelli-Hunt [pdf].
Marion noted that a 2009 Rhode Island Supreme Court decision removed the Ethics Commission’s jurisdiction over lawmakers’ official duties, “and until that jurisdiction is restored we believe that members of the General Assembly should take a wide course of recusal.”
The House Corporations Committee is scheduled to take up the check-cashing bill this afternoon. A copy of Marion’s letter was also delivered to House Speaker Gordon Fox. Baldelli-Hunt, D-Woonsocket, scoffed at the idea that there could be a conflict of interest with the legislation last month.
“If I for one minute thought that I was doing something wrong, why would I put this [bill] in?” Baldelli-Hunt said. “Why wouldn’t I give it to somebody else? That happens all the time – you know, ‘You want to put this bill in?’”
The lead co-sponsors of Baldelli-Hunt’s bill are Reps. John Carnevale, D-Providence; Leo Medina, D-Providence; Rene Menard, D-Woonsocket; and Jon Brien, D-Woonsocket. Carnevale and Medina were two of the state lawmakers who faced criminal charges last year.
• Related: Baldelli-Hunt gets paid rent by brother’s firm her bill could help (March 7)