Governor signs bill to allow classified state employees to run for state elective office
Rep. Grace Diaz, left, and Sen. John Burke, right, look on as Gov. Daniel McKee signs their bill. At center is James Cenerini, Legislative and Political Action Coordinator of the Rhode Island Council AFL-CIO.
STATE HOUSE — Gov. Daniel McKee has signed legislation introduced by Rep. Grace Diaz (D-Dist. 11, Providence) and Sen. John Burke (D-Dist. 9 West Warwick) that allows classified state employees to run for state elective office.
The law (2022-H 7213A, 2022-S 2215A), which the governor signed in a ceremony Friday, allows 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 also provides that if the employee is elected, they must resign their position prior to assuming or holding elective office.
“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.”
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.
“This is simple legislation to make sure we treat all state employees fairly,” said Senator Burke. “As long as it doesn’t violate the federal Hatch Act, which limits the political activities of certain state employees, then there is no need to unfairly single out classified employees who choose to run for office, as long as they relinquish those positions upon being elected.”