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Spotlight on Spending Illuminates Priorities

A new report from the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity should convince Rhode Islanders that government officials’ priorities are what they fund, and there’s plenty of room to adjust those priorities.

Leaving the Door Open for the Exhilarating Right Choice

Rhode Islanders who want their state to turn around from the back of the national pack and forge a more hopeful future should give the new Speaker of the House space to prove their expectations wrong.

The Mattiello Speakership; Past, Present and Future

Past: It was difficult to look at the (unsuccessful) Marcello coalition and believe they were offering reform, as much as they were offering a refashioned oligarchy to replace the old one.

Present: Here are three specific proposals for rules reform, consistent with Speaker Mattiello’s call for a House of Representatives that is truly run by its members:

  • A prohibition on members being removed from a committee, without their consent, after they’ve received their initial committee assignment from the Speaker (this is so non-radical a proposal, the Rhode Island Senate already does it).
  • Creation of a clear procedure — that everybody understands exists — for rank-and-file members to use to recall bills “held for further study” and place them on committee agendas for up-or-down votes.
  • Tidying-up the discharge petition procedure for freeing bills from committee, removing the current rule preventing their use until 50 days into the session, and removing any ambiguity about the “only one petition to be presented for a public bill or resolution during the course of a session” clause in the rules meaning one petition per bill, as opposed to one petition per year.

Future: Trying to downplay the serious differences and avoid explaining the errors of progressivism and the excesses of unionism in order to ease the process of political coalition building isn’t likely to stop the progressives from immediately coming after Speaker Mattiello, or the unions from shifting their support elsewhere, if they don’t get their top agenda items. With the help of some standard-issue Rhode Island political inertia, the new Speaker may be able to maintain the coalition he has assembled for a time, but to prevent it from being whittled away, he will need to resolutely work at convincing a broad swath of Rhode Islanders about why his version of “jobs and the economy” is superior to competing versions which have strong constituencies amongst activists in the Democratic party.

UPDATED: That’s Not What I Said, and That’s (Probably) Not What’s Going On

A statement on NBC 10 Wingmen about Providence hotels was not what it’s been stated to be, and a look at the other side of the labor dispute suggests that the controversy may not be what it’s been stated to be, either.

The Difference Between Feigning and Being Superior

Voters of the United States should learn a lesson about leadership and leverage from President Obama’s utter impotence in the face of Vladamir Putin.

Rhode Island Senators Legislating a Path to Spiritual Purification

The legal regime making its way into Rhode Island and American law is indicative of a new secular religion being established under the government.

Watching the President from the Other Side

Many among the conservative commentariate have quickly gotten past their brief flirtation with “I told you so” and are moving toward a tone of slow, aching disconcertment.

Mike Puyana: Politicians Look to Lay Blame; Should Look to Freedom

The Rhode Island Tea Party says freedom is the cure for the illness that the Ocean State’s leaders have brought upon the state.

Koch, Democrats, and the Reality Looking Glass

As progressives in the Democrat Party and the media vilify the Koch Brothers, it’s difficult not to question which side really corrupts the political system.

Akash Chougule: CBO in February, Confounding Liberals and Vindicating Conservatives

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) spent February releasing research findings that showed the flaws of progressive policies.

Newsflash: Poll Shows Rhode Island Voters Don’t Like Other Guys’ Politicians

The poll results put out by the Hassenfeld Institute at Bryant University are unsurprising and really don’t tell us anything new.

If You’re Going to Bribe State or Local Officials, Make Sure You Have a Solid Retainer Arrangement

Former Central Falls mayor Charles Moreau is about to be set free “after serving half his two-year sentence” on corruption charges (background available from Michelle Smith of the Associated Press, here), as a result of a First Circuit Court of Appeals opinion from June of last year. Two key factors made the decision in USA vs. Fernandez directly relevant to the Moreau case.

1. Moreau was apparently convicted of accepting not a “bribe” but a “gratuity”. What’s the difference? The First Circuit quotes a 1999 Supreme Court opinion to explain…

[F]or bribery there must be a quid pro quo — a specific intent to give or receive something of value in exchange for an official act. An illegal gratuity, on the other hand, may constitute merely a reward for some future act that the public official will take (and may already have determined to take), or for a past act that he has already taken.

2. The court then notes the structure of Federal statute…

§ 201(b) targets (primarily) federal officials, while § 666 targets non-federal officials who happen to have a connection to federal funds. It is reasonable to assume that the federal government viewed corrupt federal officials involved in the receipt of bribes as more culpable.

…where § 201(b) makes “bribes” and “gratuities” illegal, while § 666 (yes, that’s really the number) makes only “bribes” illegal.

According to Ms. Smith’s report, with the gratuity conviction no longer valid in the First Circuit because Moreau was a local and not a Federal official, Moreau and the prosecutors have made a deal where he will plead guilty to a bribery charge, in return for a sentence of time served.

If you need one sentence to explain to your friends and neighbors the law that led to this outcome, this should do: While it’s illegal to engage in a la carte bribery of state or local officials in the US, you’re OK under Federal law if you’re able to buy them off on a retainer basis.

Journalism in Defense of the Status Quo

To the Providence Journal, the only thing anybody needs to know about the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is that we can’t disprove allegations that we’re just a phony front group for the forces of evil.

Ninth Circuit Says You Don’t Have to Explain Your Reason for Wanting to Exercise the Right to Bear Arms

The Ninth Circuit says that California’s requirement that “good cause” be shown in order to obtain a concealed carry firearms permit is unconstitutional. Rhode Island law requires “a proper showing of need”, when trying to obtain a concealed carry permit from the Attorney General.

Rejected alternate title: “It’s Not a Right, if it Depends on Some Guy in Sarasota”.

Akash Chougule: School Choice Can Bridge the Gap

One policy that would serve President Obama’s objective of reducing income inequality is school choice.

The “Business Voice” on Legislative Commissions

The Providence Chamber of Commerce joins those who think of government revenue first.

Why the “Skills Gap” Talk Is Offensive

The government’s constant drum beat that it needs more resources and authority to shape the lives of its people is nakedly offensive.

Changing the terms of debate doesn’t seem possible… until it seems inevitable

Libertarians and moderates who don’t think the Left’s strategy with same-sex marriage is transferable to economic issues should consider Rolling Stone and Shakespeare.