A Streetcar Named Big Government

Referring to Art Norwalk’s essay from last week, Ian Donnis quotes Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza:

“I think it’s smart for the city because it’s not just about transportation, it’s about economic development. Take New York City, for example. Look at property values right by a subway line as opposed to property values in a building that’s maybe 10 or 12 blocks away. Everyone wants to be right by the subway, and in just the same way, in cities that have done a streetcar, people want to be right by and develop by the streetcar, so it’s good for economic development.”

Here’s the thing:  Lots and lots of people have wanted to live in New York City for a long, long time.  If they bid up the properties near the subway, that may indicate the value such residents place on transportation (in a city that’s famously challenging for car ownership), but it doesn’t mean they moved to the city because of the subway.  As the still-vacant I-195 land illustrates, Providence isn’t quite as active as the Big Apple.

State, city, and town governments in Rhode Island need to get back to basics:  fixing roads and lowering taxes.  Leave the economic development to the people whose livelihoods depends on it and who are willing to risk their own money for that purpose.

Happening to Follow a Checklist for Fascism

Elizabeth Price Foley highlights something that might have been easy to miss in the drama of recent racial rioting:

Al Sharpton is calling for the creation of a national police force. And it looks like President Obama is considering the option. While the federal government undoubtedly lacks a “police power” and the concomitant authority to create a national police force, it does have a “spending power,” implied from the Constitution’s enumerated power to levy taxes, and the Supreme Court has upheld the imposition of “strings,” or conditions, on the receipt of federal funds.

Sort of like Common Core or the many federal programs that have led states simply to implement federal policy, with some local latitude at the margins, such policies would effectively nationalize police forces that take the deal.

Now, I’m not saying President Obama and the Democrats are deliberately following the textbook steps for taking totalitarian control over a previously democratic country, but these are one set of steps nonetheless:

  1. Stoke divisions along national, class, religious, or racial lines.
  2. Foster an environment in which chaos and violence come to feel endemic.
  3. Propose a nationalized solution that gives control over police forces to a central authority and excuses crackdowns on people’s rights.

Powerline notes that police shootings are actually extremely rare, particularly if narrowed down to those that aren’t clearly justified, and yet, they are dominating the news to the extent that they’re sparking (or providing pretense for) riots.

Really, it’s time to wake up from the hopenchange daydreams.

Days of Independence and Dependence

On Twitter, Jessica David reminds us that today in 1766 Rhode Island led the nation in declaring independence.  Obviously, independence wasn’t the immediate consequence of that declaration; such things take time.

That makes me wonder.  What would people consider to be the date on which Rhode Island declared its turn away from representative democracy and back toward governance by the powerful? There are a lot of possibilities, and in the absence of an actual declaration, such things are incremental.

A leading contender, I’d think, would have to be the date on which the state officially declared the possibility of public-sector unionization.  Other possibilities, like implementing an income tax, for example, corroded our ability to live independently of the government, but public-sector unionization allowed for an organized force to counter the will of the people.  Worse, that organized force (ultimately funded by the people) is able to organize not only for its side of the negotiating table, but also to affect elections — thereby not only electing the people with whom they’d be negotiating, but also giving them a role in the broader political landscape, affecting every aspect of our lives.

Writing specifically about police unions, Ross Douthat mentions an example in California in which “the correctional officers union first lobbied for a prison-building spree and then, well-entrenched, exercised veto power over criminal justice reform.”  But the public policy problem goes much deeper, with unions able to affect any public policy that might conceivably serve them (from abortion to welfare to war) and also to use their members’ money to advocate for positions that leadership wants for ideological reasons (like same-sex marriage).

I’m open to suggestions, though, that other landmarks might have represented a more significant or fundamental “declaration of dependence.”

Coming up in Committee: Twenty-Eight Sets of Bills Being Heard by the RI General Assembly, May 5 – May 7

1. H5819: 1) Outlaws stop-and-frisk police procedures by extending the current requirement that motor vehicle stops be predicated on “reasonable suspicion or probable cause of criminal activity” to pedestrians, 2) requires that, whenever possible, motor vehicle stops be recorded (but not making the recordings part of the public record), and 3) mandates that the department of transportation gather data on whether “racial disparities in traffic stops exist”. (H Judiciary; Tue, May 5)

2A. S0739: 1) Requires that the local share of funding for school districts and charter schools (i.e. the non-state aid share) of be provided by the “the local district from local resources”, 2) freezes the number of students used for the state education “funding formula” calculation for public charter schools at their 2015 values and 3) requires the town/city council or school committee of every community to be served by a mayoral academy to give its approval before a charter school can increase its enrollment. (S Education; Wed, May 6) This looks to be the major anti-education-reform bill for this session, but also pay attention to some of the “smaller” ones in section 2B of the main post.

3. S0210: Exempts “any income from social security benefits” and “up to twenty-five thousand dollars of income received from public and private pensions, interest income, 401K plans and individual retirement accounts” from the state income tax. (S Finance; Tue, May 5)

4A. S0541: Authorizes the Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority to issue $65M in bonds, without voter approval, resulting in $152M in debt to paid out over 30 years, “for the purpose of providing funds to finance the renovation, renewal, repair, rehabilitation, retrofitting, upgrading and improvement of the Pell Bridge, the Jamestown Verrazzano Bridge, the Sakonnet River Bridge, Mount Hope Bridge, and other projects authorized under the Act, replacement of the components thereof, working capital, capitalized interest, a debt service reserve and the costs of issuing and insuring the Bonds”. The bonds don’t need voter approval, because the resolution says “that the Bonds will not constitute indebtedness of the State or any of its subdivisions or a debt for which the full faith and credit of the State or any of its subdivisions is pledged”. (S Finance; Tue, May 5)

5. S0433: Prohibits non-compete agreements for licensed physicians. (S Judiciary; Tue, May 5)

No Superhero to Save Businesses Killed by Minimum Wages

If you harbor any support for minimum wage laws — or, especially, “living wage” laws — Ian Tuttle’s profile of a San Francisco comic book shop is must reading:

“I’m hearing from a lot of customers, ‘I voted for that, and I didn’t realize it would affect you.’” So says Brian Hibbs, owner and operator of Comix Experience, an iconic comic-book and graphic-novel shop on San Francisco’s Divisadero Street, of the city’s new minimum-wage law….

… Hibbs says that the $15-an-hour minimum wage will require a staggering $80,000 in extra revenue annually. “I was appalled!” he says. “My jaw dropped. Eighty-thousand a year! I didn’t know that. I thought we were talking a small amount of money, something I could absorb.”

I don’t know how a small-business owner could have not done the quick math of what a $15 minimum wage would cost him.  Whatever the case, now Hibbs is in the position of trying to think of new add-ons to his business model that will bridge the gap.  A small local bookstore that was going to have to close down was saved, temporarily, by crowd-funding — essentially charitable gifts to cover the additional expenses.

Hibbs notes that only so many businesses can get away with charging a “keep us open” fee before customers are tapped out.  His solution has been to put together a graphic novel club that provides at least some semblance of additional service for the money given, but if it’s enough to bring in another $80,000 in revenue per year, it’s difficult to understand why the store and its customers hadn’t figured that out already.  In other words, it looks like a pretense for charity.

The comic-store owner says he’s a progressive, but even so, he’s inclined to wonder:

“Why,” he asks, “can’t two consenting people make arrangements for less than x dollars per hour?”

One suspects that he’s missing the key aspect of progressivism.  Promising minimum wages allows politicians to buy votes, selling a pledge to make people’s bosses pay them more.  Supporting minimum wages allows voters to capture charitable endorphins on the cheap, by forcing others to pay the bill.

There’s no rational compromise, because the point is for people facing no or minimal consequences to tell other people what to do, and the consequences require some understanding of logic and economics.  Consider: If Hibbs’s new innovation turns out to be a profit center, he might credit the minimum wage law with forcing him to innovate, but the next business down the block might not have the advantages of an artistic and cliquey industry.  One hopes Hibbs and his customers would still be realizing the damage they’ve done to real people’s lives with their votes, but it’s unlikely.

Riots, Regimentation and Rhetoric

I am afraid that the third paragraph from the bottom of Wednesday’s E.J. Dionne column on the riots in Baltimore all-too-accurately reflects the state of elite thinking in America, and not in a good way…

[William Julius Wilson] offered a central truth: “Regular employment provides the anchor for the spatial and temporal aspects of daily life. It determines where you are going to be and when you are going to be there. In the absence of regular employment, life, including family life, becomes less coherent.”

Unfortunately, this kind of thinking, where the idea that people who agree upon some bigger meanings in life can work together to build something is replaced by an idea that people cannot find meaning until they’ve first been regimented, seems to have become the dominant philosophy of a wide swath of a “respectable” political elite who, for various reasons, are unable to articulate anything beyond a few economic platitudes when discussing what a society should aspire to (e.g. “Let’s get Rhode Island back to work“), and who assume everything else takes care of itself, if government can be made to function as the comprehensive human-resources bureaucracy for everyone.

Or am I reading to much into E.J. Dionne seeing something profound in William Julius Wilson’s statement above?

The Ballad of Sucker Brook

I love little details interwoven with political issues that give the sense of life imitating Mark Twain or William Faulkner.  Kevin O’Connor’s provided a great example in a Fall River Herald story about the brook that runs through the area that Twin River is considering for a casino in Tiverton.

For one thing, he found the explanation for the name “Sucker Brook” as being a misspelling or evolution of Succor Brook, but the political history is one of those gems that surfaces in areas that have been inhabited since before the time of digital technology, mass communication, and rapid transportation:

Sucker Brook, once called Succor Brook, runs north from Stafford Pond in Tiverton to the South Watuppa Pond in Fall River. No one quite knows who owns Stafford Pond. South Watuppa Pond is owned by the Watuppa Water Board, which is controlled by the city.

But while the ownership of Stafford Pond is in question — that question is wrapped up in land grants issued by the Pilgrims of the Plymouth Colony in the 1600s — the ownership of the water coming from the pond is not in question. That is Fall River’s water.

The whole article’s an interesting read.

Electing a New Electorate

In the popular imagination, political coups involve military action, long knives in the night, or some other form of violence, but the Obama Administration and the Democrat Party are arguably working to do the same thing by flooding the electorate with ineligible voters:

Non-citizens are voting in American elections, and the federal government refuses to do anything to stop it.

Worse, the current administration seems to be doing everything they can to prevent the states from trying to stop it. First, they sued states that asked people to present ID before voting. Now, the administration will not let states even ask people to establish they are citizens when they register to vote. …

… Noncitizens are offered the voter registration forms all over the country and are filling them out, and they are being added to the rollsregardless of which [citizenship] box they check.

Add it to the growing evidence of dawning fascism.

Race Riots Aren’t the Only Evidence that Big-Government Progressivism Doesn’t Work

With race riots in Baltimore shocking the nation, streamed in full color and graphic video across the Internet and social media, discussion has turned to the causes.

Speaking two days after the riots began, President Obama blamed the failure of a Republican Congress to pass his agenda.  Writing on National Review, Kevin Williamson focuses on the progressive Democrats who’ve tended to dominate cities that are wracked with such uprisings.  “They are incompetent, they are corrupt, and they are breathtakingly arrogant.”

Boiled down to core beliefs, there are two mutually exclusive political hypotheses on the table.  Either a centralized government can implement programs to raise up struggling communities, or centralizing government creates a font of money and power that will attract the sorts of people who use — prey on — those communities.  Both cannot be true.

My article on WatchDog Arena, this week, looks at Rhode Island’s rank of 42nd among states when it comes to return on taxpayer investment in government, according to WalletHub.

Put in Williamson’s terms, poor infrastructure maintenance shows incompetence, green energy boondoggles (not to mention regular arrests of legislators, including the last speaker of the Rhode Island House) show corruption, and the regulatory overreach shows a “breathtaking arrogance” about insiders’ ability to control an entire society.

If only because it shares New England’s typical lack of racial diversity, Rhode Island is not likely to face race riots anytime soon.  (Rhode Island is 7.5% black, to Maryland’s 30.1%; Providence is 16% black, to Baltimore’s 63.7%.)  That may only mean that the consequences of one-party rule dominated by a big-government progressive philosophy will come in another form.

When people are being pushed into difficult situations by a government that doesn’t serve their needs, and over which they feel they have no control, they can respond in different ways.  In Baltimore, large protests of people with few options are turning into riots.  In Rhode Island, people with more options are leaving.

The difference may only be a matter of time, though, as the state attracts people who think they need government services, even as those who pay for them exit.  Americans from all states should work to ensure that the experiments performed on collapsing and riotous cities don’t have to be tested across the country.

SCOTUS, SSM, and Baltimore’s Mother of the Year

More people are beginning to wake up to the reality — which, let’s be honest, was always obvious for those willing to look — that same-sex marriage is not some a step toward a libertarian live-and-let-live ideal.  The refrain used to be “how will their marriage affect you.”  That’s now changed to “it’s certainly going to be an issue.”  From the related Supreme Court hearing:

JUSTICE ALITO: Well, in the Bob Jones case, the Court held that a college was not entitled to tax­ exempt status if it opposed interracial marriage or interracial dating. So would the same apply to a university or a college if it opposed same­-sex marriage?

GENERAL VERRILLI: You know, I ­­ I don’t think I can answer that question without knowing more specifics, but it’s certainly going to be an issue. I ­­ I don’t deny that. I don’t deny that, Justice Alito. It is ­­ it is going to be an issue.

Colleges.  Private schools.  Other charitable organizations.  Private businesses.  “It’s going to be an issue.”

I grabbed the above transcript from an article by David French, who recently issued a mea culpa for having fallen for the line that SSM “changes nothing.”  (The phrase is from something French wrote in 2004 taking the pro-SSM side.)

Again, this shift in message was always obvious; I’ve been pointing it out for almost fifteen years.  Unfortunately, this particular “it’s going to be an issue” isn’t even the biggest problem.  As I’ve also been saying for almost fifteen years, the most profound consequence of the radical change is that our society will have given up its best tool for enshrining the cultural message that the couples who create children should work together to raise them.

That principle was already under assault, but it will be entirely untenable now.  And anybody who wants an image of what that will mean needs only look to Baltimore, where a lone, apparently single, mother has become something of a sensation — a standout parent — for braving a riot to drag home her teenage son, a full head taller than her, so she could ensure that he wasn’t helping to burn down his own city while risking arrest, injury, or even death.

A Fishy, Misnamed State Bank

The more I read about this “Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank” being proposed by Governor Gina Raimondo and General Treasurer Seth Magaziner, the worse the idea sounds:

As they envision it, $22 million or so in state tax dollars, left-over federal stimulus dollars and bond proceeds would be funneled to the cities and towns for energy-cutting projects, such as these, through the renamed Rhode Island Clean Water Finance Agency, created in 1990 to provide loans for improvements to sewage and drinking water systems.

So, this will be new municipal debt without, it seems, voter approval.

… the legislation would also salt away an unspecified amount of state money away in “one or more” loan-loss reserve funds to encourage private banks to lend money to private homeowners and businesses for similar kinds of energy-saving building upgrades. The legislation does not say how much.

So, the public would absorb the risk for projects financed by private companies for private entities and individuals.

When asked why National Grid was among those backing legislation that could cut into its revenues by reducing energy use, company vice president Michael Ryan said the answer lies in an earlier “decoupling” law guaranteeing National Grid a “bump” in its rates if usage drops, as a result of energy-efficiency efforts.

So, it won’t actually save Rhode Island money on energy; it’ll simply shift the burden from government agencies and private entities that are able to get the loans onto those who are not.

The answer from treasury staff to many of those questions [about limits to the funds and processes for claiming losses] was this: the “operational details” are not spelled out in the latest, 80-page version of the bill. According to Rogers, details such as these — along with the mechanism for repayment of the loans — would be spelled out, at a future date in “rules and regulations.”

So, the make-or-break details will be out of legislators’ hands.

Robert Boisselle, the lobbyist for the Associated Builders and Contractors of Rhode Island, was among those raising red flags about references in the legislation to “Project Labor Agreements.” Boisselle said such agreements (“illegal in 22 states”) effectively bar non-union shops — with 80 percent of the state’s laborers — from bidding.

So, the prices will be driven up in order to make sure that the money goes directly to union members (and thus filtered back into advocacy and donations for Democrats).

If the whole thing seems risky and even fishy, keep looking, a reader tells me via email.  In an op-ed supporting the bank, Magaziner cites the Connecticut Green Bank as a model.  Look into the Connecticut Green Bank, and you find this:

[Coalition for Green Capital (CGC)] leaders Reed Hundt, and Ken Berlin were involved with the establishment of Connecticut’s green bank from start to finish and remain closely involved with the banks operations.

Internet searches for former FCC Chairman Hundt, now an investment advisor, turn up a lot of overlap with Magaziner’s father, Ira.  More notably, his name turns up in campaign finance reports, with $2,000 in donations to the RI Democratic State Committee in October and $1,000 to Gina Raimondo, last June.

On the other hand, some of us might not need to do that level of digging.  It’s enough to know that we have the worst roads and bridges in the country and the people in charge of the state government want a state “infrastructure” bank that helps governments pay to replace their windows.

When Religion/Ideology Can and Can’t Coincide with Innovation

The topic of the interaction of religion and innovation, which I mentioned the other day, is a rich one worthy of elaboration.  For the moment, I’ll add just one dynamic, related to the fact that the United States is the only country in the box for “high belief, high innovation” on the chart I cited last time.

Some resistance to experimentation is healthy in a society.  Like rules of ethics, it ensures that the community is helped, not harmed, by the wild actions of a few.  (It’s safe to suggest that this understanding is strong in East Asian countries, despite their non-religiosity.)

It’s a balance, though.  On the other side of the scale is the danger that a few powerful religious leaders, or those otherwise defined by ethics, will limit innovation at the borders of their own imaginations (and their own personal interests).  That harms the community, too.

The key to the balance is a pluralistic society that handles most social interactions socially, not through its political system.  In the ideal, each side makes its case to the community, and in the end, all interests are likely to come into balance.

Ideals rarely exist, of course, but it’s very important, at this time in history, for Americans to take an honest look at which side of the culture war and the partisan battle comes closer to the ideal.  It couldn’t be clearer that the progressives, Leftists, and liberals (mainly Democrats) will accept less dissent and insist on the most strict adherence to their beliefs.  They work to silence disagreement.  They don’t see the fight as a tug of war, but as an ideological struggle to the death.  Pick an issue, from same-sex marriage to climate change.

Hitting the gas pedal while using both hands to restrain a would-be driver only works as long as the road is straight, but it never is.  The progressive demand for centralized planning and concentrated power only appears sane as long as scientific, economic, and social reality are in line with the Left’s political demands.  Even if that happens to be the case at a particular time on a particular issue (which is less frequent than progressives want us to believe), it won’t be for long.  When the luck of the moment passes, progressives are as harmful to social advancement as the most ardent theocracy.

Helping the Public to Start Waking Up

A new state representative from Cranston, Robert Lancia, has begun his work trying to inform the public:

Back in 1992 the General Assembly, due to the banking crisis, began to end the practice of using restricted receipt accounts. Restricted receipt accounts were created to put collected money into specified accounts for specific purposes.

For example, user fees were implemented at state beaches; $1 for state residents and $4 for non-state residents “to be dedicated to development and renovation of recreation projects and for additional acquisition of recreation areas.” Essentially, the money was to be used for a “state beach, park, and recreation development fund.” We paid those beach fees back then, and even higher fees now, because we were told the money went to promote recreational areas.  Now your beach fees can go to any program within the state budget. Did you know that?

Here’s another limited transparency issue.  Look at your next landline or cell phone bill, notice the $1 assessed on each bill for 911.

In 2014, over $15 million was collected for 911 services. Of that amount collected, only a little over five million dollars ($5,400,000) was used for that purpose. In 2000, the General Assembly changed the law redirecting these previously restricted revenues into “the state general fund.”  Did you know that?

And on it goes.  We’re all busy in our lives, and it’s easy to forget each affront as they pile upon each other.  It’s worth reading reminders.

Cicilline’s Bid to Facilitate Fascism

Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline (who, let’s not forget, helped draw Providence to the precipice as mayor) wants to give his fellow members of the acronym group of sexual preference special rights at the national level:

Cicilline said he plans to introduce a comprehensive anti-discrimination bill later this spring that would address the gaps in current law. The resolution is a first step, he said, and it currently has over 100 sponsors, though a Republican-controlled Congress could prevent the proposed bill from becoming legislation.

As a political matter, there’s a gaping hole in the logic behind the legislation.  If “the overwhelming majority of Americans oppos[e] discrimination against LGBT people,” as Janson Wu, executive director for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, says, then why do they need special protections?  There should only be a small minority discriminating, right?  It’s flatly impossible, at this point, to pretend that this supposed bogeyman is powerful on the order of the lingering institutional racism that existed after Western Civilization ended the ancient practice of slavery, thereby necessitating government to take a side in social disputes.

What Cicilline and his comrades want, one suspects, is actually to facilitate the fascistic behavior that has begun in order to wipe out anybody who expresses reservations about undermining cultural institutions, like marriage, that have formed the foundation of our society.  Skim through the news on any given day:

  • A pair of gay businessmen who hosted an event for Republican Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz were forced to offer a groveling apology (contradicting their stated belief that “an open dialogue with those who have differing political opinions is a part of what this country was founded on”).
  • A couple operating a small bakery in Oregon to support their three children faced a life-altering fine of $135,000 for declining to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage ceremony. (The complaining lesbian couple, by the way, has the impossibly perfect name of “Bowman-Cryer,” considering that they are leveraging their tears to shoot deadly legal arrows at the family.)  Making matters worse, GoFundMe pulled the plug on a national campaign to support the family against the ridiculous penalty when a local competitor of the bakery complained.  Presumably, the competitor would have been happy to bake the disputed cake, illustrating how little sacrifice is needed to allow our neighbors to have different beliefs.

The national anti-discrimination legislation that Cicilline wants is simply an attempt to make it illegal to act on beliefs that differ from his and make it more difficult for people who share those beliefs to help each other.  Just as redefining marriage (mostly through the judiciary) is removing the ability of religious people and organizations to uphold their beliefs about the institution, making “discrimination” illegal will give opposing activists the ability to use government to target them.  It’s an attempt to bring the point of a gun to the culture war.

Journalistic Privileges Require Speaking Truth to Power

Elizabeth Price Foley is following a thread of the Democrat-driven Wisconsin invasions of conservatives’ homes that winds into the local news media, and it raises an interesting question of journalistic privileges and civic structure:

So the question remains:  Who tipped off Stein (a political reporter) about the Archer raid?  Stein denies that his source was a prosecutor or law enforcement officer, and it’s theoretically possible (though somewhat farfetched) that one of Archer’s groggy neighbors just happened to know Stein’s home or cell phone number and called him in the middle of the night to tip him off.

The John Doe investigation has been plagued by selective leaks all along, is an ongoing problem, and is almost invariably favorable to the prosecutors. All of this strongly indicates that the source of these leaks is an insider in the John Doe investigation.  While Stein appears to claim a reporters’ privilege to protect his source regarding the Archer raid, Wisconsin does not have a reporters’ shield statute, its courts have recognized only a qualified privilege pursuant to its state constitutional equivalent of the First Amendment.  So in theory, the identity of Stein’s source could be revealed under the right circumstances.

Whether there exists a legal route to address the political corruption of journalism is an important question, but those who ply the trade should also concern themselves with deeper consideration of the sources of their presumed privileges.  Their support is ultimately social, and it can rapidly disappear if they’re no longer acting as a public protection against tyrannical government.

In Wisconsin, journalists appear to have been part of the overtly fascist attempts to silence and punish political opposition.  In the Obama Era the news media’s sycophancy has woven from the adulation and failure to vet the unknown candidate through to the disgusting juxtaposition of an opulent White House Correspondents’ Dinner with riots in Baltimore.

It’s certainly been seeming that the news media is, on the whole, a partisan enterprise that has stoked racial and other divisions.  Put plainly: If you’re not protecting the people from an overreaching government, and if you’re not fostering a society-wide mutual understanding that allows our civic society to function, you forfeit your presumption of privilege.

Rhode Island’s Tyranny That You Can Only Leave

Rep. Patricia Morgan (R, West Warwick) had an important commentary in yesterday’s Providence Journal:

Many residents of Coventry are deeply concerned about the high cost of fire services and the inadequate response of state receiver Mark Pfeiffer to this problem. Last week, at a hastily assembled meeting called to inform taxpayers of their preordained fate, Pfeiffer responded to those concerns with a dismissive remark: “Everyone is entitled to their opinion.”

How could he be so indifferent? Well, the state Fiscal Stability Act, expanded last year to cover fire districts, has given him sole power and control; the only opinion he is required to consider is his own.

The implications of the citizens’ struggles in the small Central Coventry Fire District should be chilling to any Rhode Islander who believes in the words “government of the people, by the people and for the people.” Please pay attention to this if you are concerned about Rhode Island’s high taxes, insider deals that benefit the few and an economy that continues to shed jobs as companies leave for friendlier environments. The Fiscal Stability Act has thwarted governance for the common good. In its place is rule by one man and his special-interest backers.

This is the march of tyranny.  The notion of the state’s taking dictatorial control over subsidiary governments arose because of a fiscal emergency and the fear that a municipal bankruptcy would affect the state’s credit rating.  It was a thin pretense, but it had a certain defined purpose.

Let’s not forget that the purpose quickly expanded:

Frank Flynn, president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers, which represents Central Falls, said he had appealed to Governor Chafee.

“We haven’t met with the receiver, but we have spoken to the staff of the governor and we told them it was our intention to go to court and get a temporary restraining order,” Flynn said. “The governor’s office, through the receiver, asserted his authority to intervene.” …

Receiver Robert G. Flanders Jr., who is overseeing the bankruptcy filing of the state’s smallest and poorest city, notified Gallo Friday afternoon that her authority to negotiate with the union was being revoked. He also revoked her plan to unilaterally impose new terms on the school district’s 330 teachers on Sept. 1.

The Central Coventry Fire District didn’t stumble into a financial crisis.  Taxpayers, there, repeatedly declared that they weren’t going to pay exorbitant costs.  Now, the state has stepped in to undo those votes, mainly on behalf of the labor union that drove the district to those lengths in the first place.

It’s getting more and more difficult to believe that Rhode Island is a representative democracy.  At some point, it’ll become a Constitutional issue.  In the meantime, the people running and ruining Rhode Island leave increasingly few options but to leave the state, which guarantees more taxpayer fights, as the burden falls more narrowly.

Coming up in Committee: Twenty-Four Sets of Bills Being Heard by the RI General Assembly, April 28 – April 30

1. S0795: Resolution calling for a Constitutional Convention to propose amendments to the Federal Constitution (requiring 2/3 of state legislatures to agree), with an initial scope of narrowing First Amendment protections for political speech. (S Special Legislation and Veterans Affairs; Wed, Apr 29) Half of convention would be drawn exclusively from individuals “currently elected to state and local office” — so this would basically be a convention skewed towards political incumbents, for the purpose of restricting political speech. What could possibly go wrong?

2A. S0382: Government takeover of the siting and management of health provider networks in Rhode Island, giving the state health commissioner authority in such areas as hours of operation, staffing placement, criteria for evaluating doctor performance, approval of contract terms between health insurers and providers, etc. (S Health and Human Services; Tue, Apr 28)

2B. S0619: Charges the state health commissioner with “monitoring a transition away” from the use of private health insurance for primary care medicine and replacing it with a single-payer system. (S Health and Human Services; Tue, Apr 28)

2C. Bud. Art. 5: Some seemingly rigid medicaid price controls, e.g. “for the twelve (12) month period beginning July 1, 2015, Medicaid fee-for-service outpatient rates shall not exceed ninety-five percent (95.0%) of the rates in effect as of July 1, 2014. Also, amongst other items, Bud. Art. 4 sets a limit of $136.8 million to be paid out in “disproportionate share hospital payments” under the “uncompensated care” section of the law. (H Finance; Thu, Apr 30)

2D and 3A. Bud. Art. 28: Allows the secretary of Health and Human Services to directly impose taxes on the sale of small employer and individual health plans without General Assembly approval, with revenues earmarked for the Rhode Island health benefits exchange. (H Finance; Wed, Apr 29)

3B. H6095: Establishes a “Sustainable packaging advisory council…as a public body corporate and politic, constituting an instrument of the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation and exercising essential governmental functions”, and grants the council power to assess taxes on the owners of businesses with gross sales of more than $1M that sell products or materials in RI that result in waste packaging — “whether or not the producer is located in the state”(!). (H Environment and Natural Resources; Thu, Apr 30)

4. H6080: Creates a statewide individual retirement account program, that RI workers will be automatically enrolled into (and have at least 3% of their paychecks put into) unless they specifically opt-out. (H Labor; Thu, Apr 30)

5. S0816: Prohibits the “state guide plan” from establishing any affordable housing provisions beyond those already set in state law, and removes federal government officials from eligibility to serve on the state planning council. S0818 exempts municipal plans from having to comply with the state guide plan. S0819 requires that the state guide plan be approved by the General Assembly. S0820 allows cities and towns to opt-out of the affordable housing programs contained in the state guide plan. (S Housing and Municipal Government; Wed, Apr 29)