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Observations of Needed Change in Education

Like it or not, the notion of competition is creeping in on Rhode Island public schools. Rhode Islanders should be wary of approaches that drive alternatives out of business without securing real improvements.

Rhode Island Fix a Philosophical Shift; Contra Renn, Part 6 of 6

Ultimately (part 6 of 6) Aaron Renn has to explain why a small group of decision makers have a better chance of success than Rhode Islanders acting on their own initiative.

Rhode Island Fix a Philosophical Shift; Contra Renn, Part 5 of 6

Part 5 of a response to Aaron Renn: What kills the entrepreneurial spirit in Rhode Island?

Rhode Island Fix a Philosophical Shift; Contra Renn, Part 4 of 6

Aaron Renn’s prescriptions for RI. Part 4: Who is the “you” who puts us to use?

Rhode Island Fix a Philosophical Shift; Contra Renn, Part 3 of 6

Countering Aaron Renn’s central planning in Rhode Island. Part 3: What’s unemployment insurance have to do with the price of gasoline in Seekonk?

Rhode Island Fix a Philosophical Shift; Contra Renn, Part 2 of 6

Skepticism about Aaron Renn’s suggestions for Rhode Island. Part 2: shedding pounds by changing location or voting differently.

Rhode Island Fix a Philosophical Shift; Contra Renn, Part 1 of 6

Rhode Islanders’ excitement with the fact that Aaron Renn suggests considering reality when setting public policy should be tempered by skepticism about his suggestions. Part 1: innovations and bandwagons.

Government, Academics, and Journalists… RI’s Lead Weight

A Providence Journal article extolling the virtues of lead-paint regulations fails to acknowledge a downside or provide context for the harm it seeks to alleviate.

Arthur Norwalk: No Stops for Voter Approval on Providence Streetcar

The proposed Providence Streetcar (a proposal that never seems to go away) is a case study in the problematic funding, planning, and daydreaming that characterizes government projects in Rhode Island.

Coming up in Committee: Ten Sets of Bills Being Heard by RI Senate Committees, Today, June 19


1. H7096/S2738: Teachers who receive a “highly effective” evaluation “shall, subsequent to such evaluation, be evaluated not more than once every four years thereafter”; teachers who receive an “effective” evaluation “shall, subsequent to such evaluation, be evaluated not more than once every three (3) years thereafter”. (S Education; Thu, Jun 19) Amongst other problems with this bill, it seems that a single evaluation of effective or better could limit a teacher to a 3 or 4 year evaluation cycle for the remainder of their career in the Rhode Island public school system.

2A. S2332: The Central Falls bankruptcy settlement initially cut a number of pensions to 55% of their original amount, though the state authorized “transition” funds, to set a floor of 75% for five years. This bill extends that floor so that for 2016, “no retiree shall receive less than” 75.6% of their pre-bankruptcy pension amount, and raises the floor over time so that it is 100% of the pre-bankruptcy amount in 20 years. Unlike a similar bill that was submitted to the House, this bill does not expressly make the state responsible for the pension. (S Finance; Thu, Jun 19) So where will the money for the difference between the 55% and the rising floor come from? The bill doesn’t say.

8. S2726: Anyone have an idea about what changing the definition of an employee from someone “employed” by an employer, to someone “suffered or permitted to work” by an employer will do? (S Labor; Thu, Jun 19)

10. S2398: The calamari bill. (S Special Legislation and Veterans’ Affairs; Thu, Jun 19)

No House Committee activity had been posted by the General Assembly, at the time of this blog-post

Rhode Island Policy: Single Payer Healthcare and Rationing

Legislation to create a “health care authority,” complete with a commissioner with no other duties, is an attempt to crack the door for government-run health care.

Coming up in Committee: Twenty-Three Sets of Bills Being Heard by the RI General Assembly, Today, June 18


1. H8343: Amends the budget, to create some kind of carve-out for a particular “healthcare corporation” or set of corporations in this year’s budget. (H Finance; Wed, Jun 18) Initially submitted yesterday, this is the same process that was used to renege on the original language concerning bridge tolls in last year’s budget.

2. S2565: Imposes an additional $46 fee for a marriage license, $44 of which is to be provided to the Rhode Island Coalition against Domestic Violence to fund domestic violence prevention programs. (S Judiciary; Wed, Jun 18) The Department of Justice reports that “intimate partner violence” rates for married women are significantly lower than are the rates for never married or divorced/widowed women, yet a bunch of RI legislators think it’s a good idea to make couples who are taking basic steps towards responsible commitment pay for the bad acts of everyone. This bill really creates the impression that our state’s dour progressives don’t like marriage very much.

3. S2014: Requires teachers to be notified of layoffs due to “fiscal exigency or program reorganization” by June 1. (Currently, layoff notices of any kind must be sent by March 1). (S Labor; Wed, Jun 18)

4. H7819: 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. (H Finance; Wed, Jun 18)

Coming up in Committee: Four Sets of Bills Being Heard by the RI General Assembly, Today, June 17


1. 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”. (S Judiciary; Tue, Jun 17)

2. S3056: Makes authorization of casino gaming Newport Grand contingent upon the approval of the constitutional amendment that requires any changes in location of existing gaming facilities to be approved by local voters. (S Finance; Tue, Jun 17)

3. H7681: Prohibits the use of hand-held cell phones while driving commercial motor vehicles. (S Judiciary; Tue, Jun 17)

4. H7771/S2229: Pin-pricking Rhode Island with the needle: Allows the town of Richmond to set a maximum $10 fee to operate a business there. (H Municipal Government; Tue, Jun 17)

Ranking Indeterminate: H8206: Requires continuity in the unemployment insurance rate paid by a business going through bankruptcy, in cases where “there is common ownership, management or control” amongst the pre- and post-bankruptcy employers.

Local Impact: Cranston.

Missed One: Undoing Follow-the-Student in the Funding Formula, to Punish Charter Schools


H7808: Converts Rhode Island’s current education “funding formula” away from a follow-the-student basis, into a politically-rigged formula intended to punish schools for not being managed by traditional district-level bureaucracies. (H Finance; Mon, Jun 16)

Coming up in Committee: Thirty-Four Sets of Bills Being Heard by the RI General Assembly, Today, June 16


1. H8326/S2824: Sort of restores the jurisdiction of the Ethics commission over state legislators, but allows a trial in the regular courts for “any person against whom the commission finds a violation of the code of ethics” (in all cases, not just legislators). (H Judiciary; Mon, Jun, 16)

2. S3103: “In the general election to be held on November 4, 2014, in order to avoid a multiple page statewide ballot, given the number of public questions to be submitted to the electors at such general election, the secretary of state may prepare the ballot in such manner that the statewide public questions involving the issuance of bonds or other evidence of indebtedness, or other long-term financial obligation shall appear on the ballot with only a caption and the amount of financial obligation to be incurred, but without the clear and concise statement of each question, as otherwise required”. (S Judiciary; Mon, Jun, 16)

3. H8006: The annual extension of eligibility of anyone already named by the judicial nominating commission for appointment to a judgeship for another year. (H Judiciary; Mon, Jun, 16)

4. 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; S2249 provides a one-time raise in the minimum wage to $9 per-hour. (H Labor; Mon, Jun, 16)

5. S2853: Eliminates the the tax on ride-sharing services (such as Uber) by exempting rides that are “prearranged, and for which the rate is disclosed to the passenger in advance through a software application” from the public motor-vehicle tax. (S Commerce; Mon, Jun, 16)

Budget Growth and Household Income

Working with the federal government, the state government of Rhode Island has managed to keep its budget growing more quickly than inflation. The people of Rhode Island, however, have not been so lucky.

What the Republican Establishment Needs to Take Away From Eric Cantor’s Loss


GOP voters are much less likely than Democratic party voters (or Democratic party elites, for that matter) to reject economics. They thus realize that the intra-coalition deal where the establishment gets an immigration amnesty and lower wages for everyone, while the rest of the GOP gets to listen to the establishment elite posture ineffectively on other issues but never actually achieve anything, isn’t a good one.

If Wall Street/Chamber of Commerce types are interested in helping to build a stronger Republican party at the national level, their path forward is this: Invest some energy into an issue or two other than amnesty.

Sgouros’s Convenient, Inappropriate Spin on Pensions

Tom Sgouros’s soothing words about the pre-reform state pension fund should be dismissed… especially by those whose retirements rely on the numbers’ working out in the long term.

Coming up in Committee: Thirty-One Sets of Bills Being Heard by the RI General Assembly, June 10 – June 11 (But No Thursday Senate Calendars Have Been Posted Yet)


1A. H7248: “The [Economic Development Corporation or its successor], the state and any subdivisions of the state shall not make payment on the moral obligation bonds related to 38 Studios”. (H Finance; Tue, Jun 10)

1B. H7295: creates a commission “consisting of nine (9) citizens of the state for the purpose of conducting an inquiry into the creation and administration of loan guarantee programs funded or managed by the state of Rhode Island, its municipalities, or quasi-public agencies thereof; and the failure of entities of government which might have prevented the loss of taxpayer dollars related thereto” not just to investigate 38 Studios, but also the recreational building authority, the CAPCO steel company, the role state officials may have played in the administration of the various loan guarantee programs, and transactions at the economic development corporation which may have resulted from improper and/or insider influence and/or information. (H Finance; Tue, Jun 10) It’s never too late to give the public reliable, factual knowledge about how well (or not) its government is working.

2. 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. 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”. (S Judiciary; Tue, Jun 10)

3. S3080: The annual blanket-extension of eligibility for appointment to a judgeship for another year. (S Judiciary; Tue, Jun 10)

4. H8294 makes authorization of casino gaming Newport Grand contingent upon the approval of the constitutional amendment that requires any changes in location of existing gaming facilities to be approved by local voters. (H Judiciary; Tue, Jun 10); S3013: “Twin River may extend interest-free, unsecured credit to its patrons for the sole purpose of such patrons making wagers at table games and/or video lottery terminals at the Twin River facility”; the bill also establishes rules for such extensions of credit. (S Finance; Tue, Jun 10); S3014 adds “the real property of any person having debts secured by casino-issued lines of credit” to the list of property “exempt from attachment on any warrant of distress or on any other writ”. (S Finance; Tue, Jun 10)

5. On Tuesday, June 10 the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its confirmation hearing on Richard Licht’s appointment to the Superior Court as an Associate Justice.

HealthSource: Something They’d Never Do with Their Own Money

A 2009 report by a state government work group warned that a health benefits exchange structured like HealthSource RI would not work, which sheds new light on early estimates that consultants and state government officials projected when seeking federal taxpayer dollars.