The 38 Studios Misfire


Putting together the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s 38 Studios scorecard, the peculiarity of the whole matter reared its head.  Most folks who’ve watched the controversy closely know that the Economic Development Corp.’s (EDC) loan guarantee program first arose in a supplemental budget, but the details aren’t widely understood.  Here are some findings that don’t entirely jibe with the common recollection:

  • The increase of the $50 million program to $125 million — to surreptitiously cover the 38 Studios bonds — was not slipped in as a floor amendment during the infamous floor session at which Republican Representative Robert Watson of East Greenwich stood as the lone “nay” vote when the bill came back around a second time.  It was part of article 7 in the SubA bill (2010 7105) that the House Finance Committee sent to the floor with the supplemental budget.
  • More representatives voted against the program in the supplemental on April 13, 2010, than as a separate bill, although all but one apparently changed their views when the bill came up again:
    • Rod Driver
    • Larry Ehrhardt
    • Robert Jacquard
    • Charlene Lima
    • Brian Newberry
    • Robert Watson
  • Cranston Democrat Lima even put in an amendment that would have required disclosure of any elected officials who contacted the EDC on behalf of any company seeking to participate in the program, and 25 representatives voted for it (which is a relatively large vote for an insurgent amendment).
  • The Senate actually did pass the supplemental budget, on April 14, but oddly didn’t transmit it to the governor.

The immediate question that the Center had to consider for its scorecard was whether to count these votes.  Ultimately, we decided not to do so because, in the weird circumstances, it never became law.  Even if, for example, Lima’s floor amendment had passed, it wouldn’t have been part of the law because she didn’t resubmit it to the version of the statute that made it into law.

Had we counted the supplemental, some legislators would have edged a grade up or down, but no incumbents.  Moreover, in the discussion over the years, the public has generally considered the 38 Studios controversy as having begun with the freestanding bill that actually made it to the governor’s desk.

Reviewing the history, though, does make one wonder who knew what, back then, and why an issue that did spark some push-back in April seemed to zip right through when it came around again in May.

  • Guest

    I call Russell Jackson the “common denominator”
    -Testified against Larry Ehrhardts proposed amendment that would’ve capped the amount of money a single company could get.
    -Sponsored DeepWater Wind legislation to override PUC/making the project happen
    -Has connection to Sheldon Whitehouse and Kilmartin via law partner O’Neill #59/house whip at the time/also a sponsor DWW legislation
    These are some of the people involved:
    Russell Jackson
    Gordon Fox

  • Brian C. Newberry

    One answer to your questions is that the Senate passed the supplemental budget that year but it was not identical to what the House had passed. There was a huge fight between House and Senate Democrats over what to do about pensions – to reamortize or not reamortize. The Senate altered that article of the budget, passed it, and sent it back to the House – essentially a declaration of war by the Senate against the House unrelated to the soon to be 38 Studios fiasco. In the end no supplemental budget ever passed that year – or to be more accurate, an article of the eventual “normal” budget passed in June dealt with whatever had to be dealt with as is the usual case.
    It’s been a long time now, but when the “38 Studios” bill came back as a stand alone in May, I do not recall it even being mentioned that it had been part of the supplemental budget back in April. Not to say it wasn’t, but I don’t think that was in anyone’s mind other than the leadership and I do not recall it coming up. I do know that I was *this close* to joining Watson and voting no on it and although I do not recall specifically why I didn’t it irks me to this day because it goes against my usual philosophy. It is the one vote I regret making in 8 years. But I agree with you that not including the votes from April 13 in your scorecard was the correct choice.