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House Corporations Bills for Tuesday, January 27 Still Worth Watching Even if Postponed

1A. H5099: Limits electric rate increases that can be approved by the public utilities commission to “no greater than five and 5 one-half percent (5.5%) or the percentage increase in the Consumer Price Index…unless the increase shall have been previously approved by affirmative action of the general assembly”. The issue of the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of price controls aside, it is a very basic violation of the principle of separation of powers for the General Assembly to make itself into a standalone board-of-appeals for other state agencies. A basic check on the power of the legislature is that it is not allowed to ignore the requirement (with a few expressed exemptions like proposing constitutional amendments) that its actions be submitted to the governor for approval or veto.

1B. H5079: Phases-in a requirement that, by 2035, 40% of the electricity sold at retail by large electric distribution entities be obtained from “eligible renewable energy resources”. The bill states that delays in the implementation schedule due to inadequate supply may not be for more than 3 years. Is this either technically or economically feasible?

1C. H5131: Prohibits electric distribution companies from charging “an interconnecting renewable energy customer for any upgrades to its electric power system that can and should be funded through rates assessed pursuant to its electric infrastructure, safety and reliability provision and plan, including specifically any maintenance, repair or upgrade of any component of the electric power system that has been deferred for more than thirty years.”

1D. H5175: Requires all public utilities in Rhode Island to “maintain a customer service operation physically located within the state which is reasonably staffed to meet the expectations of the public”. (H Corporations; Tue, Jan 27 postponed)

Coming Up in Committee Eventually: Six Sets of Bills to be Heard by the RI General Assembly, January 27 – January 29, Weather Permitting

2. H5077: Charges the RI Board of Education with establishing “state-wide goals that are school specific for increasing the number of graduates who 10 earn certificates and degrees at both two and four year post-secondary public institutions of higher education” and requires the Board to develop and make available data on “college access and completion data…that includes data on students’ educational experiences and outcomes from early childhood through higher education in Rhode Island public institutions of higher education and into the workforce”. The bill then lists four specific metrics related to post-secondary enrollment, and also includes a reporting requirement on “excess credits” defined as “credits which the student earned and which were not required for the degree or certificate”. (H Health, Education and Welfare; Wed, Jan 28)

3. H5074: Raises the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour starting in January 2016 (up from $9.00 per hour currently). (H Labor; Wed, Jan 28)

Coming up in Committee: Five Bills to be Heard by the RI General Assembly, January 20 – January 22

1. H5054: Creates a Joint Committee of the Repealer within the legislature, composed of six members from both houses, to “compile suggestions for repeal of statutes, regulations, and executive orders received from citizens, businesses, and government agencies”. (H Judiciary; Tue, Jan 20)

2. H5051: “Neither the state of Rhode Island, nor its political subdivisions, shall engage in surveillance on any public ways of the state or its political subdivisions”. The bill then adds a list of six exceptions, the first of which is that the prohibition doesn’t apply where surveillance “is specifically authorized by statute”. (H Judiciary; Tue, Jan 20)

Dangerous Complacency at Rhode Island League of Cities & Towns Towards RhodeMap RI?

A friend forwarded me an interesting and alarming e-mail thread with regard to RhodeMap RI. Below is the text of two of the e-mails, which went out this afternoon, followed by the author and his title. On Thursday morning, the State Planning Council will vote on a proposed Economic Development Plan which largely incorporates the […]

Jorge Elorza and an Incomplete Pantheist God

Last week, Bishop Thomas Tobin of the Diocese of Providence, asked…

So, can anyone help determine: Is Jorge Elorza an atheist or not? It would be good to know before Election Day.
It is possible to anlayze Professor Elorza’s law-review article using the categories of conventional theology and find a place for — and some flaws with — the idea of the “memist” God that is the primary subject of his theological speculations on the nature of God.

(Hint: Re-read the title for an executive summary of the answer).

Latest on the Central Coventry Fire District Includes Threat by Governor’s Lawyers to Personally Sue Fire Board For Standing Up For Democracy

At the height of election fever, let’s not lose track of the latest developments in the disturbing situation involving the Central Coventry Fire District.

The following report, on “Central Coventry Citizens Taskforce for Fire Protection” letterhead and inclusive of two contact names and phone numbers, was sent out via e-mail this afternoon. It appears that at the Monday meeting and in other venues, Governor Chafee has had no compunction in carrying out the almost certainly unconstitutional order of the General Assembly to the taxpayers of the Central Coventry Fire District: – an order that could well come to every fire district in the state: No voting; just shut up and pay.

Gina’s Quantum Position on Raising Taxes; Or, “Dual Nature” Doesn’t Just Describe Matter and Light

On Thursday, Gina Raimondo, democrat candidate for governor, held a press conference during which she accepted the endorsement of Planned Parenthood and expressed a desire to lift the ban in Rhode Island law on partial birth abortion. (Yes, to confirm, contrary to what she lied … er, broadly implied at the press conference, Allan Fung does not wish to change the parameters of Rhode Island’s abortion law, she does.)

This has created some controversy, as well it should, especially on the radio and social media.

On his radio show this morning on WPRO, John Loughlin took a bigger picture perspective to make the case that one of the mistakes candidate Raimondo made at her press conference Thursday was the strategic one of getting off message.

That’s probably true. But there are a couple of additional factors that come into play. Firstly, the General Treasurer is probably pleased to get her candidacy any kind of publicity, even if it doesn’t adhere to her campaign script. (Tomorrow’s episode: “Will She Take Communion???”, co-starring a vociferous cast of advocates, some in the ranks of the press, standing by to canonize her if the Catholic Church moves to bar her from communion.)