I’ve long objected to the Rhode Island General Assembly’s seeing itself as a sort of corporate board for the lives of all Rhode Islanders. In a related way, I’ve argued that groups like chambers of commerce are no longer acting as advocacy groups for the interests of private people or organizations, but rather are satellites of government that maintain their relevance to the extent that they can act as government’s liaisons to businesses.
Something in Patrick Anderson’s Providence Journal article about legislation to forbid all Rhode Island businesses from automatically reducing employee pay for just about any reason — from in-company fines to compensation for broken merchandise — sets off alarm bells. The legislation is objectionable enough; it isn’t government’s role to set narrow, specific terms under which people can interact for business purposes. (Labor unions back the bill, naturally, because it makes it harder for non-union organizations to compete.)
But meddling in Rhode Islanders’ lives is simply par for the course for our politicians. This is the part that really caught my attention:
Gov. Gina Raimondo’s state Department of Labor and Training supports the bill and worked to find language acceptable to workers, the Rhode Island Hospital Association and Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, according to a letter from DLT Assistant Director Matthew Weldon.
Weldon said the current bill language, tweaked from prior year versions, was “mutually acceptable and delivers what we believe to be a clear and enforceable amendment.”
“Mutually acceptable” to whom? Are we now to behave as if the Rhode Island Hospital Association and Northern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce are satisfactory stand-ins for every business in the state? And are we supposed to believe that the fact that nobody showed up to testify for the legislation proves that there’s no opposition? Think of the implications of that.
Taxes and regulations already make Rhode Island a difficult place in which to operate a company or make a living (unless you’re tied in with government, somehow). Does every business owner, of companies large and small, have to devote resources to constant vigilance and influence-buying lest our supposed political representatives “negotiate” their rights away?