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Voters to decide if lawmakers should face ethics scrutiny

Rhode Island voters will decide in November whether to give an ethics commission power to investigate lawmakers for alleged conflicts of interest and sanction them when they act improperly.

The Rhode Island Ethics Commission once had oversight over state lawmakers, but lost it in a 2009 court ruling.

The ethics ballot measure, Question 2, asks voters to approve a constitutional amendment restoring the commission's oversight.

Supporters, such as Common Cause Rhode Island, say it will deter unethical behavior and force lawmakers to disclose potential conflicts.

It has no organized opposition, but some critics say it raises free speech concerns. The state chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union says it gives an unelected agency too much authority to decide what legislators can debate and vote on.

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