Last month, my organization released its 2019 Freedom Index and Legislator Scorecard for the General Assembly.
Sadly, with only 12 of 113 lawmakers scoring above zero, the members of the political class failed to fulfill their promises to help everyday Rhode Islanders. Worse, the 2019 legislative session was an unadulterated assault on individual and economic rights, the totality of which I have not seen before.
Private property rights were corroded through an expanded eminent domain law, which gives local governments unprecedented power to trespass upon and seize private property.
Rights of freedom of association were trampled upon by a new state “individual mandate” — a penalty tax for those who do not buy the specific health insurance that the government wants you to buy, even though the federal government repealed its version of this tax in 2017.
The rights of public employees were abraded. A new law forces non-union members to utilize and pay for union officials in a grievance. The landmark 2018 U.S. Supreme Court Janus decision ruled it a First Amendment violation if workers are forced to pay a union… but Rhode Island lawmakers and union bosses don’t care.
The rights of the unborn were eviscerated via our state’s new unrestricted abortion law. The right to life of a nine-month baby in the womb can now be snuffed-out if the mother claims emotional anguish. Further, if a loved child is killed in the womb by an attack on the mother, the assailant cannot be charged with manslaughter or murder because the baby’s legal status as a human being was also expunged by this brutal anytime-anywhere abortion law.
The health and economic rights of patients recovering from major medical procedures were infringed upon via a counterproductive new tax on legal opioid prescriptions. Such a meaningless knee-jerk reaction to a real problem will do nothing to stop the illegal abuse of opioids, and will only increase out-of-pocket and insurance costs.
The health and privacy rights of adults were violated via enactment of a new law that forces medical providers to hand over your personal medical data to the state, without your permission, so that big brother can monitor whether or not you are undertaking the procedures that the government wants you to take.
All of us suffered a loss of economic freedom after I raised awareness about a state law that required a sales-tax rate cut once Rhode Island started collecting sales taxes on Internet purchases. Lawmakers not only ignored the law, but had the gall to repeal it, while simultaneously increasing the range of e-products that would be subject to the Internet tax.
How much more can we take? Nationally, the economy, jobs creation, and incomes are growing. Yet Rhode Island remains stagnant, continually ranking in the bottom 10 on far too many national economic indexes.
Why? The more freedoms we have, the more prosperity we will enjoy. The constitutional government of our great nation was formed to preserve our freedoms. But in the Ocean State, we reduce freedoms… and we suffer the consequences.
The progressive left and special-interest insiders have greatly diminished our liberties so they can advance their narrow and self-serving agendas. In catering almost exclusively to influential cronies, Rhode Island politicians have lost the trust of We, the People, who are also losing hope for our state.
Because voters have not held lawmakers accountable, Rhode Island has become a less hospitable place to raise a family or build a career. And because our state is not keeping pace with the rest of the country when it comes to jobs and population growth, we are likely to lose a prized U.S. congressional seat following the 2020 census.
A state constitutional convention — a true People’s Convention — may be the only way for concerned and vigilant citizens to regain our rightful voices.