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Let’s Not Be Fooled Again by the Big-Government Pitch

It became a joke among those of us on the political right that every failure of the economy to surge during the Obama years happened “unexpectedly,” at least in the eyes of the mainstream media.  Now we have President Trump, and economic growth has improved, and here come headlines like, “Is the global economic expansion party over?,” which the Providence Journal gives to a Washington Post article by Heather Long.

Long lists a number of areas about which people should be justifiably concerned, but one can’t help but feel that the Post was disappointed that Trump wasn’t sufficiently rebuked by the global elite at Davos and is searching for something critical to say.

All that said, it’s hard to argue with this:

No one knows exactly what the next crisis will be. The best defense is to make the necessary tweaks to government programs and spending now, top business leaders and experts say. This is especially true for the United States as it goes up against China in the battle for global supremacy.

Of course, what the big-government types mean by that is to cut short the policies that are leading to expansion (decreased regulation, lower taxes, and generally more emphasis on the private sector than government) in favor of more reliance on government spending and power.  And of course, they hope that people won’t understand that this is the fault of government intervention and mismanagement, not neglect:

“You must have good infrastructure. Our infrastructure has fallen from first or second in the world to the teens. And our education has gone from No. 1 or 2 in the world to 27th or 28th,” [Blackstone chief executive Steve] Schwarzman said.

Conspicuously, Schwarzman’s Blackstone has been relevant to discussions about government-directed investment in projects around Rhode Island.  So, government undermines U.S. infrastructure and education by redirecting those investments to special interests, and now special interests are (we can infer) arguing that more money ought to flow into those two areas.

Let’s not be fooled again.

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The Mixed Up Economics of Government Economic Development

Not to overuse the word, but let’s just say that I’m cynical about the newly proclaimed interest in development around the proposed PawSox stadium in Pawtucket:

Pawtucket leaders Wednesday used the interest in developing Tidewater and inquiries from an unnamed hotel developer to build near a new stadium in support of their push for a state-backed financing deal for the proposed $83-million downtown ballpark.

But cynicism aside, Rhode Islanders should take Mayor Donald Grebien’s explanation of the economics as a warning sign about government officials’ understanding:

“The Ballpark at Slater Mill is the catalyst that Pawtucket, the Blackstone Valley and Rhode Island need to continue to move forward,” said Mayor Donald R. Grebien. “Pawtucket is a business-friendly city and investors and developers are already expressing support for the ballpark project. However, the private sector cannot wait forever. They will look elsewhere to invest. That is why it is so critical that the General Assembly act prudently and expeditiously to enact the enabling legislation and move our great state forward.”

Anybody who’s ever negotiated the price of a car should know that you never buy under time pressure.  In this case, Grebien’s attempt at pressure undermines his larger argument.

If the stadium really generates economic value then the private sector really will wait or come back.  On the other hand, if these two particular prospects (one anonymous) are critical to the venture, then taxpayers should take that as a warning.  After all, the whole deal relies on ancillary development to pay the debt.  If the “private sector” isn’t clamoring for spots, the deal is too risky.

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Nursing Education Center and Rhode-Island-Style Innovation

Take a moment to consider the import of this paragraph, from Ted Nesi’s report of the opening of a new combination URI/RIC nursing center and Brown University administrative center in Providence:

“This was a power plant across the street from the vibrant Jewelry District,” [Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo] said. “The economy is changing, and we’re not standing still. We’re changing with it. The New York Times just called this area, quote, ‘a busy hive of invention and collaboration.’ And so we’re changing the narrative of our whole state.”

In the past… the private market made Rhode Island a hub for a particular industry.  Now… the government collects $85 million from productive areas of the state’s economy to renovate a building vacated as the economic tide went out from the Ocean State and use it for bells and whistles at government-run universities and a wealthy tax-exempt non-profit.

Honestly, I don’t want to sound that cynical, but come on.  Now throw this into the mix:

The developer of South Street Landing was CV Properties LLC, a Boston-based firm led by Dick Galvin. Earlier this year, real-estate company Ventas Inc. paid nearly $130 million to buy the facility and a new 750-space parking garage being constructed next door from Blackstone Group LP. Ventas is the parent company of Wexford Science + Technology LLC, the developer building a high-profile innovation campus on the vacant 195 land in the same part of the city.

As I mentioned when I detailed the suspicious interconnections of the bigger Wexford deal, Ventas CEO Debra Cafaro and her husband are substantial Raimondo donors, located in the governor’s notable fundraising hot spot of Chicago.

Yeah, for the general public, renovated buildings make for nicer scenery than abandoned ones, but that doesn’t mean we should accept the surface story every time politicians proclaim the advance of public-sector-focused crony deals.  Somebody’s got to lose out, and we can be reasonably certain that it’s us.

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Observations of Political Scene on Out-of-State Raimondo Fundraising

Let’s dispense with the minor observation of today’s Political Scene in the Providence Journal:

Rhode Islanders contributed [to Gina Raimondo’s campaign fund] more than any other geographic group — a total of $440,557 between Jan. 1 and June 30 to Raimondo’s anticipated bid for reelection, according to her most recent filings with the state Board of Elections. She banked another $23,025 from Rhode Island-based PACs, such as the RI Laborers PAC and the Hospital Association of Rhode Island.

Isn’t this kind of expected?  In fact, isn’t the more-newsworthy point something that Katherine Gregg never mentions: namely, that Raimondo has received roughly 60% of her donations, this year, from people out of state?  I can’t help but feel that if Raimondo were a Republican the Providence Journal’s question would be the same as mine:  Whom is this woman serving?  A big majority of Raimondo’s political income, so to speak, comes from people out of state.  How central can the state’s interests actually be to her?

The more-intriguing observation (which may help to answer the first) comes from this:

Also among Raimondo’s first-quarter contributors is Peter G. Peterson, a one-time U.S. Commerce secretary and CEO of prominent companies including Lehman Brothers before founding the private equity firm Blackstone Group, which he grew “into a global leader in alternative investments,″ according to his online biography.

This may be mostly a story about how small the world of investment elites actually is, but as I’ve detailed before, Blackstone purchased the parent company of Wexford — of I-195-subsidy fame — in 2015 and spun off the Wexford component in 2016.  It would go beyond the scope of my resources to investigate the amount of profit these transactions created and sort out the timing of Raimondo’s Commerce RI dealings with Wexford, but it’s telling nonetheless.

Regardless of the specifics, one could easily summarize that the governor Rhode Island receives a substantial majority of her political donations from people outside of the state that she governs, and some not-insignificant number of her donors are conspicuously connected to deals that she makes as the governor.  These associations sure ought to raise more questions than those posed by a weekly political-interest column.

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The Backbone That Jumps from Body to Body

Let’s question a bit of common wisdom in big-government circles, shall we?  This is from an article in the Worcester Telegram about Woonsocket Glass Fabricators — a Woonsocket, Rhode Island, company that Northbridge, Massachusetts, lured away from the city whose name it bears:

Small businesses are the backbone of the economy as well as communities.

That was the message conveyed on Thursday during a celebration marking Woonsocket Glass Fabricators’ new 33,000-square-foot production center and showroom at 369 Douglas Road in Whitinsville.

Founded in 1946, the company outgrew its space in Rhode Island and, after an extensive search, decided to relocate in Massachusetts, according to president and chief executive officer Chip Rogers. He said he received nothing but support from Northbridge officials and the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Massachusetts provided a $5 million taxpayer-backed bond and $375,000 in additional tax credits, which makes one wonder: What sort of “backbone” can be lured out of its body with easy money?  Once again, the point of this worldview seems to be that government is the backbone of the economy and the community.

Supporters of this sort of government-picks-the-winners crony capitalism would take this story as an opportunity to say, “See, this is why Rhode Island has to be able to compete in handing out taxpayer dollars.”  How Rhode Island could possibly compete with nearby states that have more people, more money, and stronger economies is never explained.

The alternative, of course, would be to reduce taxes and eliminate regulatory burdens to make the Ocean State more attractive on its own merits, without the handouts.  But that wouldn’t leave as much room for politicians’ ego trips and corruption.

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Decorating the Governor’s Office with Red Flags

This paragraph from Ted Nesi’s weekend column, Saturday, deserves reading and clipping for future reference:

Tapping unusual funding sources to pay for public initiatives has become a hallmark of Gina Raimondo’s political career since she took office five years ago, and this was the week it backfired on her rather spectacularly. Raimondo has always had an easy time harnessing cash, as was widely noted as far back as 2010, when she set a blistering fundraising pace in a sleepy campaign for treasurer. Then in 2011 she courted controversy by encouraging anonymous donors – later revealed to include the hedge-fund billionaire John Arnold and his wife – to drum up support for her pension overhaul through EngageRI. Soon after she became governor, Brown created a new policy shop to advise her office, funded with nearly $3 million from Arnold. Then there was the Brookings study, commissioned by Raimondo to guide public policy but paid for by private donors (including Rhode Island native Mark Gallogly, whose old firm, Blackstone, just bought Wexford Science + Technology). And now there’s the contretemps over tapping the RIC and URI foundations to pay for, respectively, a chief innovation officer and a trip to Davos. In each case, Raimondo allies say she’s saving taxpayers money while doing things that are good for Rhode Island. But continuing to go the non-traditional route will also continue to raise questions about whether Raimondo’s methods skirt normal rules and accountability.

“Always had an easy time harnessing cash.” That’s something to watch in and out of government. In the ’80s, the design-the-world Greenhouse Compact failed when a required bond gave the people a vote, so now we get Raimondo funding her economic development schemes through a fancy debt refinancing deal and seeking to fund transportation infrastructure through a revenue bond based on tolls.

There was a time when even progressives and journalists were suspicious of the alchemy of creating money from air. Now, we get Rhode Island’s useless, navel-gazing, and corrupt Ethics Commission blithely noting that the chief innovation officer Raimondo hired through the private nonprofit Rhode Island College Foundation isn’t subject to its review because he doesn’t actually work for the state. Nesi hedges too much, because it’s absolutely clear that “Raimondo’s methods skirt normal rules and accountability.”

Remember, too, in this context, that certain legislators — notably Democrat House Whip John “Jay” Edwards and Republican House Minority Leader Brian Newberry — apparently believe the real threat to representative democracy in Rhode Island isn’t a governor who can bring a cauldron to a boil and produce a shadow government with private money, but regular Rhode Islanders who put down $100 over the course of a year to push back on the special interests that dominate local government.

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Charters as a Step to True Government Monopoly

For a year or more, my fellow conservatives have looked at me a bit funny when I’ve suggested that maybe we shouldn’t see charter schools as part of our school choice movement.  If you look past intentions and the first-order effects of charter school proliferation and take into account other forces in public education, observing what’s actually happening, you can easily foresee a future in which we discover that charter schools were simply a stepping stone to a total government monopoly of education, rather than just the near-monopoly that we have now.

First, we find it is impossible to break the insider-labor-union grip that’s preventing public schools from fulfilling their mission.  Second, charter schools act as a school choice opportunity with full public school–level funding (which is much higher than most private school options in the state).  Third, non-elite private schools go out of business because they can’t compete with charters’ free-to-parents price point.  Fourth, once charters have killed the private school market in the state, the insider-labor-union forces flex their muscles and absorb the charters back into the education blob.

A Linda Borg article in today’s Providence Journal suggests that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence — the state’s single largest operator of private schools, most of them in the affordable range — sees the threat of step 3 and isn’t interested in playing along.  The diocese has opted not to extend a lease with Blackstone Valley Prep, the largest network of charter schools.

Charter supporters claim there’s no evidence that they’re poaching students from private schools, despite the striking parallel of the numbers, but they ignore the complexity of human decisions.  As contrary evidence, Blackstone Valley director of external affairs Jennifer LoPiccolo notes that “the vast majority of their students are enrolled in kindergarten, not the later grades” (in Borg’s paraphrase), so kids leaving Catholic schools can’t be transferring.  But take a bunch of kindergarten kids out of a private school, and its tuition has to go up, pushing parents out.  Some of their children will win the charter-school lottery, but most will simply lose their choice and return to district public schools.  When the Catholic school ultimately closes its doors, that scenario plays out across its entire student body.

From a small-government, free-market perspective, one would have difficulty coming up with a better example of government’s using its ability to regulate, legislate, and direct near-limitless public resources to its preferred providers (mainly its own) than charter schools.  Still, somehow, I’ve already had heated arguments about, for example, H7067, which would remove the unfunded mandate that local property taxpayers must provide big funding to charter schools.  In my assessment, that would be a good, positive change consistent with conservative principles.  Local taxpayers have next to zero input when it comes to charter schools, so they should have some say about whether or to what extent they want to fund them.

Whatever one’s political persuasion, Rhode Islanders need to give some fresh consideration to charters.

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Keep the Education Scandal on Your Radar

As we pay justified attention to attempts to infringe on our property rights and to take our money to pay for a government healthcare system, let’s not lose track of the travesty that is our education system.

Specifically, I have in mind Linda Borg’s recent Providence Journal article:

About 98 percent of Rhode Island’s teachers in their latest evaluation were rated as effective or highly effective by their principals, a number at odds with student performance in a number of districts. …

“If everyone here was at 98 percent, Rhode Island would be leading the nation” in student achievement, “not Massachusetts,” said Tim Duffy, executive director of the Rhode Island Association of School Committees.

Let’s put it plainly: The evaluations are a fraud designed to ensure that government schools and their employees have no real accountability. A few data points in the article reinforce this aggressive conclusion:

“Central Falls and West Warwick have high percentages of teacher effectiveness but student performances that lag behind state averages.”
“The Blackstone Valley Prep charter schools in northern Rhode Island report less than a third of their teachers are highly effective yet they show the most growth in student achievement.”
In last year’s edition of the review, a survey reported the embarrassing findings that fewer than half of teachers thought the evaluations were measuring anything, and two-thirds of principals admitted rating teachers too high.
So according to the evaluations, schools that are performing poorly (or even more poorly than the rest of Rhode Island’s government schools) ought to be doing well, and schools that are performing relatively well ought to be doing poorly. And if evidence emerges that the evaluation system is being gamed, well, they just stop asking the questions that had the embarrassing results.

The conclusion, here, is that government cannot evaluate itself, mostly because it doesn’t have any make-or-break incentive to improve. In education, it’s a veritable monopoly that has a huge amount of emotional leverage and political power to continue taking more and more resources on the premise of solving problems that are never fundamentally addressed.

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Coming up in Committee: Twenty-Seven Sets of Bills Being Heard by the RI General Assembly, May 13 – May 15


1A. On Tuesday, May 13, SJ Advisors presents their report on payment of the 38 Studios moral obligation bonds to the House Finance Committee.

1B. S2694: “…neither the general assembly nor any governmental or quasi-governmental entity created by it shall issue any bonds, commonly called ‘moral obligation’ bonds in excess of fifty thousand dollars…” (S Finance; Tue, May 13) While the purpose of this bill makes sense, “moral obligation” bonds were themselves created to make a practice clearly prohibited (issuing bonds without voter approval) appear to be legal by renaming it. How would a law like this guarantee that a future legislature wouldn’t get around it, simply by coming up with yet another name for issuing debt without voter consent?

2. S2345: Writes into law in-state tuition at RI public colleges and universities for students, including illegal aliens (but not non-immigrant aliens) who graduated from a Rhode Island high school that they spent three years at, including illegal aliens who have applied for citizenship, provided that the Federal government has provides a pathway to citizenship as part of an amnesty law. (S Finance; Tue, May 13)

3. S2332: Establishes a floor for the Central Falls pension settlement such that, for 2016, “no retiree shall receive less than” 75.6% of their pre-bankruptcy pension amount, and raising that floor to 100% over the following 20 years. (The bankruptcy settlement initially cut a number of pensions to 55% of their original amount, though the state authorized “transition” funds to raise that to 75% for five years). Unlike the version submitted to the House, this bill does not expressly make the state responsible for the pension. (S Finance; Thu, May 15) So where will the difference between the 55% and the rising scale that starts at 75% come from? The bill doesn’t say.

4. S2074: Sets the threshold for the RI estate tax at $2M (annually adjusting it upwards for inflation) and assesses the tax only on the amount over the threshold. (S Finance; Tue, May 13)

5. S2077/S2148: Bases car-tax assessments on trade-in instead of retail value. (S Finance; Tue, May 13)

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Big Government Is a Business Model, Not a Political Philosophy

The other day, I suggested to somebody that, from a certain perspective, charter schools (and mayoral academies) are like the government’s way of cutting into the private school market.  Funded like public schools, charters are an alternative for which parents don’t have to pay if they’re lucky enough to make it through the lottery. It’s likely, therefore, that they don’t poach students just from regular district public schools, but also from local private schools, particularly the lower-cost parochial schools.

So, it was utterly without surprise that I noted this passage in a Providence Journal article today about a hard-squeezed middle-class Rhode Island family:

Danielle herself is tiring. Awake at 6:30 a.m., an hour after Josh left for work, she managed the boys’ morning routine and drove Cade at 7:30 a.m. to Blackstone Valley Prep, with his brothers riding along. Ditto the return trip, when Blackstone Valley let out at 4:15 p.m.

Of course, given that the thrust of the article is how little financial space a working family in Rhode Island has, the Maziarzes are fortunate that taxpayers are funding schools to compete in the alternative space.  They mightn’t be able to afford even low-cost private schools, or they might have to find even more ways to squeeze their budget.

This is the circumstance of young families in Rhode Island, and it’s a good indication of why they’re leaving.  In another state, with lower costs and more opportunities, the family might have no trouble covering private school tuition… or even trusting their local public schools for their educational needs.

Instead, we patch a broken system with some schools that evade some of the more egregious of the government-imposed burdens.  The danger is that the tear will spread.  One conceivable future may find all private schools that aren’t targeted at the most elite of families going out of business because fewer families have enough disposable income and because the government is aggressively moving into their market space.

Then the interests that have shown such dedication to destroying Rhode Island will move in to kill or undermine the charters, leaving us back where we started, but without even an option for which a hard-working family can scrimp and save for an alternative.

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Coming up in Committee: Thirty Sets of Bills Being Heard by the RI General Assembly, April 15 – April 17


1A. S2511: Mandates that all Rhode Islanders “obtain and maintain creditable coverage pursuant to the provisions of the Affordable Care Act enacted by the Congress of the United States”. (S Health and Human Services; Tue, Apr 15) There doesn’t appear to be an exemption for (Federal) executive-branch waivers in this bill.

1B. S2533: Creates a panel operated under the leadership of the healthcare commissioner (“referred to herein this chapter as ‘the authority'”) charged with creating a plan for making “HealthSourceRI the sole hub for securing insurance or health services coverage for all Rhode Island residents”, aggregating all medical funding for health insurance and/or health care services through HealthSourceRI, establishing “global spending targets” for the provision of healthcare, and developing a plan to pay for it all that includes a payroll tax. (S Health and Human Services; Tue, Apr 15)

2. H7285: Repeals the section of the law allowing “deferred deposit” loans, i.e. “pay-day” loans, also repealing the provisions in the law that allow check-cashing businesses to automatically operate as pay-day lenders. (H Finance; Wed, Apr 16) According to the official description, this is a complete repeal of pay-day lending.

3. H7944: Adds fire districts to the “fiscal stabilization law”, the law that allows the state to displace the elected local governments of financially distressed communities and supersede them with budget commissions and receivers. (H Finance; Tue, Apr 15) The Senate version will be heard on the floor on the same day; it looks like a budget commission, at least, for Central Coventry is coming soon.

4. H7067: Prohibits building schools anywhere in Rhode Island on the sites of former mines, but really intended to prevent construction of the new Blackstone Prep elementary school. This bill is listed under the “scheduled for consideration” portion of the agenda, which means it is very likely to be voted on, though it’s possible that an amended version will be introduced. (H Education and Welfare; Wed, Apr 16)

5. On Tuesday, April 15 the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear this year’s raft of gun-control bills. Here’s a link to the entire agenda, plus there are two gun-related bills from an earlier hearing that day, S2719 and S2720. The two most important bills in this set are:

  • S2814: Reduces the right-bear arms in Rhode Island, to a government-granted privilege, by changing the “shall issue” process by which municipalities grant concealed carry firearms permits to a “may issue” criteria.
  • S2774: Provides for information related to mental-health related involuntarily commitments to be added to the National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) database used for conducting firearms purchase background checks.
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Coming up in Committee: Twenty-Four Sets of Bills Plus One Ceremonial Resolution Being Heard by the RI General Assembly, April 8 – April 10


1. S2091: Repeal of the master-lever, i.e. the option of using a single mark to vote for all of the candidates from one party (while ignoring non-partisan races, and creating general confusion in elect more-than-one races), from RI General election ballots (S Judiciary; Tue, Apr 8)

2A. H7944/S2778: Adds fire districts to the “fiscal stabilization law”, the law that allows the state to displace the elected local governments of financially distressed communities and supersede them with budget commissions and receivers. (H Finance; Tue, Apr 8 & S Finance; Tue, Apr 8) This is pretty obviously directed at the Central Coventry Fire district. It’s a single-sponsor bill — but the single sponsor is Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello, though it had submitted by then-Rep Mattiello before all heck broke loose at the statehouse. Also worth noting is the simultaneous-hearing fast-track the bill appears to be on.

2B. H7943: Replaces the town/city council president on a budget commission of a town/city that’s under one, with a member chosen by a vote of the town/city council. (H Municipal Government; Thu, Apr 10) This bill could also be described as “replaces Albert Brien on the Woonsocket Budget Commission with someone yet to be determined (at least as far as the public knows)”. People have a better case for taking to the streets shouting “It’s a coup! It’s a coup!” in response to this bill (though it would still be a stretch) than they do in response to Gordon Fox’s resignation.

3A. H7939: Provides for information related to mental-health related involuntarily commitments to be added to the National Instant Criminal Background Check (NICS) database used for conducting firearms purchase background checks. The records sent to database will be from cases where there has been a demonstration of “clear and convincing evidence that the subject of the hearing is in need of care and treatment in a facility, and…continued unsupervised presence in the community would, by reason of mental disability, create a likelihood of serious harm”. (H Judiciary; Tue, Apr 8)

3B. H7587: Changes firearms permitting by local law enforcement agencies from a “shall issue” process, to a “may issue” process requiring an applicant to show a “good reason to fear an injury to his or her person or property” or another “proper showing of need”. (H Judiciary; Tue, Apr 8) As noted previously on this blog, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently ruled that issuing permits allowing the carrying of firearms off of private private on an exclusively “may issue” basis is violates the Constitutional right to bear arms.

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Coming up in Committee: Nineteen Sets of Bills Being Heard by the Rhode Island General Assembly, March 11 – March 13


1. On Tuesday, March 11 the House Judiciary Committee will hear a series of bills related to the issue of abortion:

  • H7222: Prohibits state and local governments from interfering with “a woman’s personal decision” about becoming pregnant, having an abortion “prior to fetal viability”, or an abortion in the third trimester of a pregnancy “to protect the life or health of the woman”.
  • H7223: Repeals the requirement of spousal notification of an abortion, currently in RI law.
  • H7303: Requires that an obstetric ultrasound be performed on a pregnant woman before she can give informed consent for an abortion.
  • H7330: Non-binding resolution stating that the House of Representatives “recognizes that the existence of a fetal heartbeat is evidence of the existence of human life”.
  • H7383: Bans abortions for sex-selection, with a provision that “nothing in this chapter shall be construed to proscribe the performance of an abortion because the unborn child has a genetic disorder which is sex-linked”.
  • H7403: Prohibits health insurance purchased from the Rhode Island health benefits exchange with state or Federal funds from covering “induced abortions, except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term or where the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest”.
  • H7472: Adds an exception to the Medicaid/RIte Start ban on abortion coverage, allowing coverage in cases of “pregnancies resulting from rape or incest”.
  • H7779: Repeals the prohibition on “health insurance contracts, plans, or policies” offering coverage for abortions except by “optional rider” with a separate premium.
  • H7854: More specifically defines prohibited partial-birth abortion procedures.
  • H7890: Provides funding of abortions through “public assistance” programs administered and/or financed by the RI department of human services.

2. Non-expiring contracts for municipal employees. H7464 says local contracts with police officers and firefighters would not expire “until such time as a successor agreement has been reached between the parties or an interest arbitration award has been rendered”; H7465 says municipal contracts with teachers and other municipal employees would not expire “until such time as a successor agreement has been reached between the parties”. (H Labor; Tue, Mar 11)

3. H7467: Allows retired police officers and firefighters to go to arbitration, to seek enforcement of the contract that was in place at the time they retired. (H Labor; Tue, Mar 11)

4. H7345: Allows cities and towns to issue bonds for an amounts up to 5% of their budgets to obtain loans from the “municipal road and bridge revolving fund administered by the Rhode Island clean water finance agency” without obtaining the approval of their electors, amended to allow this in calendar year 2014 only. (S2399 is the unamended version, which presumably will be amended during the committee hearing). (S Finance; Tue, Mar 11)

5. On Tuesday, March 11 the Senate Finance Committee will hear the HealthSource RI budget, i.e. the budget for Rhode Island’s state-funded Obamacare exchange (see p. 65 here). Also, on Wednesday, March 12 the House Finance Committee will hold its hearing on the departmental budget of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, which is the single largest major category in the state budget (about $2 billion, including state and Federal funds).

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Coming up in Committee: Twenty Sets of Bills Being Heard by the Rhode Island General Assembly, February 4 – February 6


1. Two minimum wage bills; H7056 provides a one-time raise in the minimum wage to $9 per-hour, and H7194 sets the minimum wage at $9 per hour for 2015, $10 per hour for 2016 and automatically adjusts it upward for inflation after that. (H Labor; Tue, Feb 4)

2. H7050/S2008: A “person, corporation, or other entity who has resolved” 38 Studios project claims “is not liable for claims for contribution or equitable indemnity regarding matters addressed in the settlement”. (H Judiciary; Tue, Feb 4) Passed unanimously by the Senate, this bill’s fast-tracking continues.

3. H7067: An attempt by legislators to prevent expansion of the Blackstone Prep Mayoral Academy, by not allowing schools to be built on the sites of former mines, even if the building site meets every other building code and engineering regulation in the state of Rhode Island, and with no provisions for variances, clean-up or appeals. (H Health, Education and Welfare; Wed, Feb 5) This bill is also an end-run by legislators around the principle that their job is to pass laws for the benefit of all and not to punish specific organizations.

4. Bud. Art. 12, sec. 1: Persons who have “neglected or refused to file a tax return(s) and/or to pay any tax administered by the tax administrator” will not be allowed to register or transfer registrations of motor vehicles. (H Finance; Wed, Feb 5)

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The Roosevelt Society 10/2/2013 with Deborah Gist


Here are eight takeaways from last evening’s Roosevelt Society forum with Rhode Island Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist…

8. Finally, Commissioner Gist offered that students don’t necessarily like an easy teacher, despite what the conventional wisdom might be…

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