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.