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Analysis

Late Additions to the Week’s General Assembly Committee Calendars


A number of major bills in the policy areas of education, state “planning”, and illegal immigration were added to this week’s General Assembly committee calendars at the start of the week…

S0607: From the official description: “This act would provide parents of K-12 students in Rhode Island with an opportunity to enroll their child in an educational program of their choosing, either via open enrollment in a traditional public school in their own district or any other public school district, or by receiving a scholarship, with designated public monies to follow the student to a participating private school or private curriculum program selected by the parent”. Scholarships can be up to $6000 and are income adjusted. (S Education; Wed, May 20)

H5644/H6041/H6042: Allows cities and towns to decline to “comply with any provision” related to local planning laws or with “the state guide plan relating to affordable housing programs” by filing a notice with the chief state planner. (H Finance; Thu, May 21)

Other bills on state “planning” below the fold

S0391: “The division of motor vehicles is authorized to issue driving privilege licenses and driving privilege permits to any applicant who meets the licensure requirements of this chapter but is unable to establish legal presence in the United States”. The bill then lists an extensive set of documents, two of which must be provided to establish eligibility for a “driving privilege license”. (S Judiciary; Thu, May 21)

Other bills on illegal immigration below the fold


Coming up in Committee: Thirteen Sets of Bills Being Heard by the RI General Assembly, May 19 – May 21


1. H5553/H5793: Repeals the sections of the law allowing “deferred deposit” loans to be made. (H Finance; Wed, May 20) According to the official description, this bill disallows pay-day lenders in Rhode Island.

2. S0574: Allows anyone who has been convicted of a crime and sentenced “to file a petition with the superior court requesting the forensic DNA testing of any evidence that is in the possession or control of the prosecution, law enforcement, laboratory, or court”; currently this law only applies to individuals who are imprisoned. (H Judiciary; Tue, May 19)

3. On Tuesday, May 19, the House Finance Committee will hear the department budget for the single largest major division in the state budget, $2.4B for the Executive Office Of Health and Human Services. (H Finance; Tue, May 19)

4. S0044: Provides a $13.97-per-hour subsidy (to be adjusted for inflation going forward) to “direct support professionals employed by private development disability organizations”. (S Finance; Tue, May 19) 1) It’s not clear from the bill whether this is an entirely new subsidy, or directly legislating something that’s annually done by the department of behavioral healthcare, developmental disabilities and hospitals. 2) As written, this seems to make state government partially responsible for paying the wages/salaries of every direct support professional employed by a private development disability organization in the state of Rhode Island; 3) Under some interpretations of current RI law, doesn’t this potentially become a “contract” that can never be changed?

5. Bud. Art. 14 sec.1: Blocks the legally mandated transfer of excess general revenue to the pension system, if the director of the office of management and budget determines there is a projected deficit for the current fiscal year. (S Finance; Tue, May 19)


The House Finance Agenda for Wednesday, May 13, Posted with Minimum Notice


Some important bills for a Wednesday House Finance Committee meeting were posted on Monday afternoon, i.e. with about as little notice as is legally required:

The most important of the bills concern moral obligation bonds:

  • H5443: Restrictions on the issuing of moral obligation bonds, requiring them to be put to the voters for approval, unless 1) they will be entirely funded by the Federal government, 2) they are issued after the General Assembly has adjourned, and “the governor certifies that action is necessary, because of events occurring after the general assembly has adjourned, to protect the physical integrity of an essential public facility, to ensure the continued delivery of essential public services, or to maintain the credit worthiness of the state in the financial markets” or 3) they fall under the “borrowing in anticipation of receipts” process described in Article VI section 17 of the state constitution.
  • H5566: An almost total ban on the issuing of moral obligation bonds, unless they will be entirely funded by the federal government, or fall under the “borrowing in anticipation of receipts” process described in Article VI section 17 of the state constitution. This bill also repeals the bonding and long-term debt issuing authority not requiring specific General Assembly action that has been granted to a large number of Rhode Island quasi-public agencies; that authority is formally, at least, left in place in H5443.

A few more bills are described, below the fold.


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Research

The Math Works for School Choice, in Rhode Island

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s new school choice economic model projects statewide savings and can help educate the public.


March 2015 Employment: Returning to Increases… and Skepticism

Just like last year, March employment data is showing huge improvement in Rhode Island. Just like last year, it’s likely to be revised downward, and other factors suggest a continuing decline.


February 2015 Employment: Seeming Up While Still Down

February’s employment data begins to raise the question of whether Rhode Island will ever actually grow its labor force. The decreasing unemployment rate may be an indication that people are rapidly giving up on the Ocean State.


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Opinion

James Cournoyer: Please Allow Municipalities to Have the Flexibility of a Three Platoon Firefighting System

[James Cournoyer sent the following e-mail to members of the General Assembly. It is published here with permission. Additional background on this subject is available here.]

Dear members of the General Assembly,

Please reject House Bill H-5473 and Senate Bill S-0533, which seeks to make fire-fighter Platoon Structures / Shift Schedules subject to Collective Bargaining, and therefore potentially subject to the decisions of unelected and unaccountable arbitrators.

These bills serve only to further erode essential Management Rights and the ability of municipalities to exercise home rule.

Employees are already afforded an abundance of work-place and employment protections via the myriad of state and federal labor laws and regulations that currently exist.


Sheehan’s Taxation Without Representation and Woulda, Coulda, Never Did on All-Day K

Commentary from state senator and history teacher James Sheehan points to a skewed understanding of representation and the government’s tendency to siphon money away from the public good.


A Note on How We Sink

From bedtime stories, to same-sex marriage, to sketches of Muhammad, evidence abounds to show how a society can lose its balance and fall into tyranny.


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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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