Content Types

Analysis

Amazon: Failure to Lure or RI Out of the Question?

Nobody’s mentioned it, but the decision of Amazon.com to place a major distribution center in Fall River (rather than Rhode Island) may be a ripple of consequence from the General Assembly’s 2009 attempt to grab money from the company’s sales.


Coming up in Committee: Thirty-Five Sets of Bills Being Heard by the RI General Assembly, March 24 – March 26


1. H5621: Resolution calling for a Constitutional Convention to propose amendments to the Federal Constitution (requiring 2/3 of state legislatures to agree), with the initial scope of the Convention limited to narrowing First Amendment protections for political speech. (H Judiciary; Wed, Mar 25) Also, the article of describing the proposed make-up of the convention is grammatically awkward: “That this House hereby respectfully requests that the delegates to said convention be comprised equally of individuals currently elected to state and local office, or be selected by election, in each Congressional district for the purpose of serving as delegates”. Formally that could say we either get a split between state and local officials or a special election. Is that what’s meant?

2. Series of anti-Uber bills, H5808 prohibits non-taxicab rides from being arranged less than 2 hours in advance. H5809 requires non-taxicabs used for transporting passengers to obtain a “vehicle identification device” from the state. H5811 subjects “public motor vehicles” to the Public Utilities Commission. (H Corporations; Tue, Mar 24) A government that wants to tell people they can’t schedule rides with one another less than two hours in advance needs some deeper thought on the fundamental limits it should be allowed to place on its citizens, just because an activity is considered “commercial”.

3. S0488: Moratorium on opening new “licensed home care, home nursing care, inpatient hospice care, and outpatient hospice care agencies” in Rhode Island, and creates a “home healthcare system planning task force” that will lift the moratorium at some time in the future. Also, S0486 gives the Department of health new powers for shutting down unlicensed home healthcare agencies. (S Health and Human Services; Thu, Mar 26)

4. H5455: Anti patent trolling legislation. (H Judiciary; Tue, Mar 24) This seems to be as good a place as any for actual bi-partisan agreement in Rhode Island.


Some of the Larger, Seriously Ill-Advised Items In the Governor’s (What Kind of) “Jobs Budget”

During the days following its release, reporters, analysts and observers worked to unpack the budget that Governor Raimondo sent to the General Assembly — and found some unpleasant items therein. Here is a bullet list of some of the bigger ones.

Proposed Statewide Property Tax

… aka, the Taylor Swift tax.

Justin got clarification from Governor Raimondo’s office that the INTENT is not to include apartment buildings as properties to be taxed. This conforms to Governor Raimondo’s attempt to sell this tax as having only a narrow list of targeted properties. (So, gosh, don’t worry about it. And, anyways, we only want to tax those icky rich people.)

Intent, however, is completely secondary. If this tax passes into law, the door will be opened wide for future – and current! – governors and General Assemblies to tax apartment buildings (of all classes and sizes); commercial buildings; second homes of less than one million dollars; PRIMARY homes of more than one million dollars; primary homes of $750,000 – $1,000,000; et empty state cetera. The critical issue is not that the initial list of targeted properties is short. It’s that the list comes to exist at all. To subject just one property classification to a new, statewide tax would set the precedent to subject virtually all real estate in Rhode Island to a statewide property tax via an easy tweak of the targeted property list.

In a perfect bit of timing, RIPEC released an analysis right before the governor released her budget of just how much Rhode Islanders are already taxed. By one measure, Rhode Island already has the fourth highest property taxes in the country. The governor is seriously proposing to raise that ranking? In fact, the one thing above all that our elected officials should not do is exacerbate this burden.

Further, there’s the matter of Rhode Island’s already undesirable reputation as a high tax state. On Twitter, Gary Sasse correctly asks,

When Tax Foundation.et. al.rank tax climate will new statewide property tax impact rankings w resulting reputation risks?

Further to “reputation risks”, WPRO’s Gene Valicenti pointed out Friday morning that the governor’s mere proposal has made the national news via the AP’s feed. This is exactly the kind of publicity that Rhode Island needs to avoid, not curry.

Governor Raimondo’s Proposed Statewide Property Tax Redefines Ownership of Real Estate as a Privilege

This one was a great catch by Justin.


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Research

January 2015 Employment: Still Not a Recovery Story

The unemployment rate in Rhode Island disguises disturbing trends in Rhode Island’s employment condition.


Employment Revision: 3,729 RI Workers Disappear

Revisions to Rhode Island’s employment data didn’t affect the top-line unemployment rate, but employment decreased, and the Ocean State’s standing relative to other states generally worsened.


December 2014 Employment: Stagnation, but the Calculated Rate Looks Nice

Rhode Island’s unemployment rate may have “improved” below the 7% milestone, but the underlying data continues to give cause for alarm.


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Opinion

Governor Raimondo’s “Blank Check”

How could a proposed new statewide property tax that’s been given a nickname homage to a part-time-resident pop star not have a parody song?


Edwards Dances Around the Fact That I’m Right

Rep. Edwards does the politician’s trick of talking all around the fact that a critic is telling the truth.


Monday’s Community Outreach Forum on Policing, Part 1


My two biggest takeaways from Monday night’s forum on policing, at the South Providence Recreation Center, with Chiefs Hugh Clements (Providence Police Department) and Steven O’Donnell (Rhode Island State Police):

1. If good policing is built on strong communities, while the pathway to strong communities is cleared by good policing, there is a real chicken-or-egg issue with finding a solution.

2. A basic concept that our government and society seems to be losing needs a restoration, the idea that the top elected official of a city, town or state police force is the leader of the police force, not just ceremonially, but in a true operational sense.


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Investigative Report

Home-Alone Minor Films House Judiciary Chairman Forcibly Opening Apartment Entry Door

Representative Cale Keable, a landlord with properties in Mapleville, is seen in an online video forcibly opening an entry door, despite the request of the tenant’s minor son for him to return when his mother is home.


UPDATED: Gruber’s Brief Dealings with HealthSource RI

A contract and correspondence with MIT Professor Jonathan Gruber show that HealthSource RI cut his project short and used earlier estimates that he had called “rough.”


Tori Richards: Is Orwell’s 1984 Coming to Rhode Island?

RhodeMap RI puts the Ocean State on a path to lost control and lost freedoms, but some legislators are moving to stop it.


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Liveblog

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Interviews & Profiles

10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 46 (Congressional Debates)

Rob Paquin and Bob Plain discuss the candidates for U.S. Congress from Rhode Island (mostly by way of the issues).


10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 45 (Secretary of State Debate)

Rob Paquin and Bob Plain discuss a debate between candidates for RI Secretary of State and related topics.


10 News Conference Wingmen, Episode 44 (Lieutenant Governor Race & Constitutional Convention)

Justin and Bob Plain discuss the campaign for lieutenant governor and the possibility of a constitutional convention, and (in text) Justin corrects an assertion of Bob’s.


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