2008-11-26 / Front Page

Long reflects on history in politics

By Eileen M. Daly

Long-time Republican Representative Bruce Long is leaving office this January after 28 years of service in the General Assembly.

Long first ran for office in 1978 at the age of 27. At that time, he ran for a position on the school committee and was defeated. According to Long, Stephen Erickson, who Long knew from their middle school years together and who is now a Rhode Island District Court Associate Judge, encouraged him to continue in politics. "Steve won the race for the state senate in 1978 by just two votes. He encouraged me to run for state representative in 1980 and helped me to manage my campaign. He was really my first mentor," Long said. Long was elected to the house in 1980 in one of two upset elections. "June Gibbs was defeated in her bid for re-election to the council and I won the election for state representative," Long said. Long then went on to win his next 14 elec- tions. In 2005, he was recognized as the longest serving member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives.

"I was always interested in public service," Long said, though he admits that "back then I didn't know a whole lot about the process." What he did know was that he wanted to have a role in protecting businesses. "I did know that government can help businesses to flourish while providing regulatory safeguards. I wanted to be involved in seeing that this happened," Long said.

Throughout his years of service, Long said he primarily focused on insuring that government supported businesses, that government was accessible and transparent to the people, and that he was responsible to his constituents and addressed their concerns. "Almost every issue that I was involved in was brought to me by one of my constituents," Long said. "For instance, in my second year of representing Jamestown, a local resident approached me about her concerns regarding overdevelopment in Jamestown Shores. I listened to her concerns, became informed about the issue and then spoke out against overdevelopment."

One of the greatest changes Long observed during his many years in politics was the progressive openness of government. "Prior to 1981, the leadership didn't even allow the press on the floor. Also, thirty years ago there was no guarantee that a bill would be heard unless the leadership wanted it heard. Now, there is a lot more public access to government and the rules require that if a bill's sponsor requests an up and down vote, the committee has to at least hear the bill. This gives the public a chance to see where each representative stands on controversial bills," Long said.

One issue that is currently facing legislators, that Long wishes he could have been around to see resolved, concerns Senator Bill Irons challenge of the Ethics Committee. According to Long, Senator Irons was charged with abuse of power by the Ethics Committee due to his chairing committees entrusted to make decisions that affected insurance agencies while simultaneously being employed by those same agencies. Irons, according to Long, challenged the Ethics Committee in court, stating that it was not within the committee's power to charge him and was, in fact, a violation of his constitutional right to free speech and debate as a lawmaker. Long said that the Rhode Island Superior Court sided with Irons and that the case is now going to be heard by the Rhode Island Supreme Court. "If the Supreme Court also sides with Irons, then I think legislation ought to be introduced to close this loophole in order to make sure that abuses of power are not tolerated," Long said. He still hopes to see this resolved, though he acknowledged that he would not be in office by then.

As for future plans, Long will say only that he plans to spend time with his family, tend to his business, and wait to see what the future holds. "All of my life, whenever things seemed to be negative, they almost always turned out to be positive," Long said. "I am very happily married and I'll now have more time to spend with my wife and family," he added. On the subject of any future run for political office, Long was non-committal. "I've been getting some calls," was all he would say about it for now.

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