Content Types

Analysis

Getting Specific on Election Law and Carnevale

Although Rep. John Carnevale’s case is an extreme one, his eligibility to register to vote in Providence hinges on his “intention,” and we shouldn’t give government agents and judges authority over that.


A Different (Old) Approach to Living Wages

Reconciling libertarian and Catholic views of work and labor might bring us to a better perspective on wages and employment.


You Deserve Better Than a Losing Team

Lawmakers must understand that the people of Rhode Island are demanding that we move in a different direction. As the General Assembly session comes to a close, we have seen another year where the insiders ignore the voice of the people and continue to further their own special interest laden agenda. The big spending in the state budget must end, the backroom deals must end, and the public corruption must end if we are ever to see our state become prosperous again. Rhode Island families are being harmed by the lack of opportunity created by the elitists and the failed public policy culture.

What does the average family have to cheer about in this budget? The few provisions that offer minor relief to some are overwhelmingly outweighed by the huge special interest and corporate welfare spending. Things do not have to be this way.


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Research

May 2016 Employment: Stagnation Becoming Undeniable

With Rhode Island’s employment on the downside of stagnation, jobs disappearing, and other states’ pulling away, it’s only a matter of time until it’s absolutely impossible for politicians to find positive spin.


April 2016 Employment: The Rut of April Mud

Whatever politicians may say, Rhode Island’s employment situation is stuck, which means losing ground against its Southern New England neighbors and the country as a whole.


March 2016 Employment: On the Plus Side of Stagnation

Rhode Island’s employment results were generally positive, for March, but the context of other states and of long-term trends advises caution before proclaiming a break of the Ocean State’s stagnation fever.


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Opinion

What If Rhode Islanders Really Had a Say on Budgets, Like Tiverton?

In this video, I wonder what would happen if the people of the Ocean State had a say in the budgeting process. In Tiverton, electors in town have the ability to submit budgets directly to voters. For the third year in a row, a budget that I submitted for the financial town referendum to set Tiverton’s upcoming budget won a strong majority of votes. That makes three years with tax increases under 1%.

By design, Rhode Island politicians at the state level leave the public no time to digest the budget and express their preferences to their representatives, and most of their representatives have no intention of bucking legislative leaders anyway.

Imagine, though, if Rhode Islanders really did have a say, like we do in Tiverton. What do you suppose the result would be?

Watch this new video to learn more now.


Going to the Heart of Costly Renewable Energy


In this podcast excerpt, I discuss with the Heartland Institute’s Donald Kendal and John Nothdurft the findings of the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s new report on renewable energy that confirms a very poor cost-benefit return to Rhode Islanders of renewable energy. (Listen to the full podcast of our conversation here.)

Because 98% of Rhode Island’s energy is generated by natural gas, our state already has a comparatively small carbon footprint. Further reducing it to hit purely arbitrary renewable production targets would cost state ratepayers and taxpayers $141–190 million per year in production expenses alone – four to five times the EPA’s recommended cost standard.

Rhode Islanders also cannot afford the cost to the state economy in the form of lower employment levels or in the $670–893 million per year extracted in unnecessarily higher electricity rate payments by private sector businesses and families. When will the status quo learn?

Based on these findings, the Center has strongly recommended that lawmakers reject all proposed new energy mandates and, instead, repeal those that are currently written into law. The EPA’s own cost standard highlighted in the Center renewable energy report demonstrates that state officials can set aside all renewable energy mandates with a clear conscience.


What’s Really In Your Best Interests? CEO Stenhouse on the 2017 RI Budget

In this episode of “What’s Really In Your Best Interests?”, I talk about the 2017 RI Budget. There are better solutions than big spending in the RI State Budget. It is time to end the insider culture where the little guy is hurt. Only when the total relief package is bigger than new spending can we claim that Rhode Island is heading in the right direction.
The Ocean State must stop supporting special-interest spending policies. Instead, we must demand broad-based tax and regulatory cuts that benefit all. While we recognize the reductions in retiree income taxes, the corporate minimum tax, and trucker registration and beach parking fees, the Center notes that these cuts are themselves narrowly targeted and are more than offset by the increases in corporate welfare, new Uber and marijuana taxes, pre-K funding, and new special-interest bond initiatives.

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Investigative Report

Article 18: Another Insider “Deepwater” Scam in the Making? (Corrected)

Despite disturbing new revelations and renewed public criticism about insider legislative grants, cronyism appears to be alive and well at the Rhode Island State House. And once again, Ocean State families and businesses would be asked to foot the bill.

In the budget that got voted out of the Finance Committee early Wednesday morning, alert observers spotted and brought to the attention of the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity as well as the Ocean State Current on Friday an extensive revision to Article 18.

They are correct to loudly ring warning bells about it. If it stays in, state electric ratepayers are in for even higher electric rates than they currently pay.


Cooler & Warmer Time Line and the Commerce Corp.’s Promotional Focus

The Commerce Corp. is being vague about the time line of the development of the failed “Cooler & Warmer” brand, which raises questions about what it’s hiding and whom it’s promoting.


Was Final RhodeWorks Vote Scheduled Before the Bill Was Submitted?

Correspondence related to the removal of the toll gantries on the Sakonnet River Bridge on Super Bowl Sunday suggests that the date was no surprise, that the state paid a premium for the timing, and that government officials had the schedule for RhodeWorks legislation planned out well in advance.


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Liveblog

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Longer Twitter

Government Contracts to Infringe on Rights

Here’s an interesting bill — H7736 — on the Freedom Index (having passed both chambers) that raises some interesting political questions.  Basically, it forbids state and local government agencies from contracting with any company that is engaged in a boycott, unless the contract is very small or the company is much cheaper than competing bids.

Inasmuch as boycotting is more a thing for progressives than conservatives, particularly corporate boycotting, my gut reaction isn’t entirely negative.  I mean, boycotting Israel or North Carolina for political reasons doesn’t tend to endear a company to me and, in fact, tends to encourage me to direct my business elsewhere.

Even if every corporate boycott were a creature of the Left, though, such legislation gets dangerously close to using government’s economic clout to infringe on the speech and association rights of the individuals who band together for corporate purposes.  As government expands into more and more activities, increasing its role in our society, it approaches the point at which being blocked from government contracts would be a killer in more and more industries.

According to the Family Prosperity Index, using a metric that the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity also uses for its competitiveness report card, Rhode Island ranks near the back of the pack when it comes to the private sector’s portion of the economy.  That means companies can be locked out of a disproportionately large part of our local economy if they don’t wrap themselves in these sorts of strings, just like the federal government’s increasing role in funding the states has given it power in direct contravention of our Constitution.


Raimondo Vetoes Reasonable Compromise with Wartime Rationale

Early on in this session, asked for an opinion on a bill that would allow the Dept. of Motor Vehicles (i.e., the executive branch, i.e., the governor) to enter reciprocity agreements with other countries with respect to driver’s licenses, I suggested that it contained a loophole for executive granting of licenses to illegal immigrants so big that a truck could drive through it, with room for a toll gantry.  The final version of the legislation, which passed the General Assembly, answered that concern to a high degree.

Well, surprise, surprise, Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo vetoed it, with a strange rationale:

In a veto letter signed late Wednesday night, Raimondo said she supports the reciprocity aspects of the bill that would have potentially allowed someone with a foreign driver’s license and an active visa or green card to get a Rhode Island license without taking a test. But she took issue with a section that would have narrowed existing standards — requiring those drivers to submit additional documents before their foreign licenses could be recognized in Rhode Island. …

“The additional application and certification requirements of this bill are at odds with the [Geneva Convention’s] purpose of simplifying and unifying driving regulations on an international level. As such, these restrictions limit rights granted by the Convention and thereby violate the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution,” Raimondo wrote.

I’m no expert on the Geneva Conventions, and the governor’s veto message doesn’t appear to be online, so I don’t know if she provided some additional legal explanation.  However, the Geneva Conventions are mainly addressed to war-time matters.  A 2009 booklet for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators gives the impression that what’s really at issue is a United Nations Convention on Road Traffic, to which the United States agreed in Geneva in 1949.  There, one finds the “establishing uniform rules” language, but also that the convention doesn’t have any mandates for foreigners in a country for more than a year, and it also refers to international driver permits (IDPs), which could easily be interpreted to be the foreign nation’s way of validating the person’s driver’s license as required in the bill.

Who would have thought that this issue would be so complicated, both politically and legally?  If the legislation comes up again next year, it’ll be worth a deeper dive, but at the moment it seems to me that either the governor’s goal is to secure the loophole mentioned above or the legislation isn’t needed in the first place, because anybody with a license and an IDP can drive here for up to a year, anyway.


IRS Scandal and Fragile Commitment to Rights

Reading Eliana Johnson’s NRO article, “New Documents Suggest IRS’s Lerner Likely Broke the Law,” it occurs to me just how fragile our rights are.  Ten years ago, I would have thought this sort of thing would be a cause of universal outrage, across the political spectrum.  The American Left and news media haven’t proven to have as much integrity as I’d thought, back then:

It is likely the largest unauthorized disclosure of tax-return information in history: the transfer of some 1.25 million pages of confidential tax returns from the IRS to the Department of Justice in October of 2010. And it was almost certainly illegal.

The documents, which consisted chiefly of non-profit tax returns, were transferred to the DOJ’s criminal division from the IRS at the request of Lois Lerner, who wanted to get the information to the DOJ in advance of a meeting where she and several of the attorneys in the public integrity section of the department’s criminal division discussed their concerns about the increasing political activity of non-profit groups.

Speaking with people, in a social setting, who are likely to find their way to voting for Hillary Clinton, I’ve wondered if it’s all a function of long-term narrative propaganda and raw audacity.  That is to say that the Left has spent decades making themselves the heroes and their opposition the villains in every story, such that a sufficient number of people would be inclined to interpret real transgressions as well-meaning indiscretions or overzealous errors.

With that sense established, an incentive begins to form to be audacious in the lies.  Get people invested in the interpretation that Hillary Clinton and President Obama were working from faulty intelligence when they lied about the nature of the Benghazi attack and that Clinton’s private server was mainly used for sharing recipes with friends and the like.  Purposefully slip the admission of illegal activity from the IRS into an obscure Q&A session.

The initial benefit of the doubt given on the basis of decades of propaganda then gains the general sense that the culprits wouldn’t have gotten away with it for so long if it were really bad.  But the prerequisite is, again, that the American Left and its partisans in the media really don’t believe the things they claim to believe about rights.


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Interviews & Profiles

Arthur Christopher Schaper: Cicilline’s “Grand Theft Auto” Sanctuary City

Arthur Christopher Schaper asks illegal immigration expert Jessica Vaughn about the consequences of sanctuary city policies under former Providence Mayor David Cicilline.


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.


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