House passes Diaz bill that would allow classified state employees to run for state elective office
STATE HOUSE — The House of Representatives today approved legislation introduced by Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence) that would allow classified state employees to run for state elective office.
The bill (2022-H 7213A) would allow a classified employee to seek the nomination of or to be a candidate for elective state office, provided that position is not fully funded by federal loan or grant money.
“It is profoundly unfair that classified employees are banned from running for state office while unclassified and non-classified employees are not,” said Representative Diaz. “A secretary, clerk or cook should have just as much right to run as a college professor. The law as it stands now is not only unfair, but it’s classist and potentially racist, since people of color are more likely to hold classified positions.”
The act would also provide that if the employee is elected, they must resign their position prior to assuming or holding elective office. Both the American Civil Liberties Union and Rhode Island Council 94, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, testified in favor of the bill.
“An unclassified employee, such as a department director, or a non-classified employee, such as a college professor, can run for office without having to quit their jobs in order to run,” said Representative Diaz, who had to resign from her state job when she first ran for state representative in 2004. “It’s time we afford the same consideration to classified employees as well, especially since they’re the ones who can ill afford to quit their jobs. If they lose, there’s no guarantee they’ll get their old jobs back.”
A cosponsor of the bill, Rep. Thomas E. Noret (D-Dist. 25, Coventry, West Warwick), who had a similar experience when he first ran for state representative in 2018, said, “I retired from law enforcement in 2012 then became a tax investigator for the state. When I declared my candidacy, I was told by the tax administrator that I was committing a misdemeanor. When I realized I was violating the law, I immediately resigned from my position. The average person deserves the right to run for public office without having to quit their job and lose their income.”
The measure now moves to the Senate, where similar legislation (2022-S 2215) has been introduced by Sen. John Burke (D-Dist. 9 West Warwick).