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COVID-19: A Plan To Restore Financial Security to RI

In these trying times, with well over fifty thousand Rhode Islanders recently laid-off, common-sense public state-based policy can help mitigate the destructive economic impact of the Rhode Island COVID-19 crisis … and can help restore a sense of normalcy and financial security.

We need your help to tell lawmakers you want them to take action.

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McNamara’s Bid to Make Others Pay for His Heroism

The legislative proposal by Warwick/Cranston Democrat state representative Joseph McNamara has made the news rounds, but it deserves a stronger point to be made.  The press release says he’s “drafting new legislation that would help businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis by guaranteeing that business interruption insurance would cover their losses regardless of policy language.”

It’s kind of a dishonest move.  Insurance companies charge their clients rates based on the risk involved in their policies.  These charges go toward a fund to cover the estimated payouts based on the risk for each thing that’s insured.  There is competition in insurance just as there is in every other private-sector market, so companies can’t charge fees that are so high they’re disconnected from this relationship to payouts.

If the General Assembly and governor pass a law that requires insurance companies to pay for events that were deliberately left out of the calculation of risk, the insurance companies will have to find that money somewhere.  One way or another, that means distributing the cost among other clients.  The complications of reinsurance (insurance for unexpected insurance payouts), do not change this fundamental fact; they just mean the spread is broader.

If government officials want to insure Rhode Island businesses against a loss during a crisis, they should do it the more-honest way of using government funds.  The legislature and governor should make the statement that this is a worthwhile priority and will therefore either displace lesser priorities or require tax increases.

Of course, cost comes at a political price, which politicians prefer to avoid.  Thus, these sorts of mandates that make other people pay for government policies (aka hidden taxes) ensure that the McNamaras of the state can pat themselves on the back for giving away money while hiding the fact that it has to come from somebody.

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Public Policy Solutions To Restore Rhode Island’s Financial Security in COVID-19 Crisis

If we rely on American innovation in the private sector, our state can weather this horrible COVID-19 crisis! Our Center has ten proactive policy ideas that can help Ocean State businesses and families survive the crisis, while also paving the way to recovery. And, we need your help to tell lawmakers you want them to take action.

State lawmakers must find a way to get back in the saddle, demonstrate calm and deliberate leadership, and consider emergency legislation to help our citizens and businesses lead the way back. We’re recommending:

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Government-Distancing Can Help Keep Rhode Islanders Safe And At Work

We see the federal government considering bold ways to keep businesses running and money in people’s pockets. Here in Rhode Island, we’re calling on lawmakers to provide online sales tax relief to residents concerned about their physical and financial health.

Our state must do its part… The government-distancing we are recommending can help people remain at home and practice healthy social-distancing. Every sales tax dollar saved might be vitally important to families who are suffering a loss of income during these trying times.

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Politics This Week with John DePetro: They Value What They Promote

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for March 9, included talk about:

  • Unionist Pat Crowley’s promotion.
  • More grand jurying around the speaker.
  • Gina and her endorsements.
  • Minimum wage.
  • Anti-Second Amendment tax honesty.

I’ll be on again Monday, March 16, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Reduce Roadblocks Prohibiting Meaningful Work

In 2018, our Center published one of our most comprehensive policy briefs, The Right To Earn, which highlighted Rhode Island’s bottom-10 standing when it comes to over-regulation and the need for across the board occupational licensing reform. The Ocean State has also recently been ranked as having the worst state business climate in all of America.

Since then, we have been encouraged that reforms continue to move forward based on our report on the heavy burdens of “occupation licensing” laws in the state.

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The 2020 Rhode Island General Assembly Bill Tracker – A Handy Way to Track the G.A.

Are state lawmakers helping to make Rhode Island a better or worse place to raise a family and build a career?

With Rhode Island already ranking a dismal 47th on the Jobs & Opportunity Index and with the worst business climate in America, the Center tracks critical pieces for legislation making their way through the Rhode Island General Assembly and what they will do to your freedom.

We evaluate bills in terms of their likely effect on the free market, the size and scope of government, the balance of residents’ interests against those of public employees and beneficiaries, and the constitutional structure of a divided government with limited power over the people whom it represents.

It is the core tenet of the Center that with greater freedom comes greater prosperity, or conversely, as is the case in the Ocean State, that a continued loss of freedom leads to the type of economic stagnation that Rhode Islanders have suffered from over the past decade.

We encourage you to follow along with us as we track the 2020 General Assembly session. Click on the link here to see our 2020 Bill Tracker.

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The Census’s Opportunity for Redistricting

Guest: John Marion, Executive Director, Common Cause RI, www.commoncauseri.org
Host: Richard August Time: 30 minutes
Mr. Marion is the executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island a non-partisan organization promoting clean, open and accountable government. He discusses the importance of the upcoming census and its impact on redrawing the state’s House and Senate districts. This has given rise to a movement called RedrawRI a campaign to reform how RI legislative districts are drawn. It calls for an impartial citizens’ commission to redistrict the state.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Is Political Change Circling the Speaker?

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for February 24, included talk about:

  • Barbara Ann Fenton-Fung files to take the speaker’s district away from him.
  • The media does (and doesn’t) cover the day of key grand jury testimony.
  • Blake Filippi expands his JCLS lawsuit (and maybe the chance for real change).
  • The Jobs & Opportunity Index shows continuing stagnation in RI.
  • The rise of Bernie Sanders makes things potentially uncomfortable for RI Democrats.

I’ll be on again Monday, March 2, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Center’s School Choice Message Sprouts Roots

Recently, two prominent Rhode Island politicians have publicly supported our Center’s long-time policy idea – even echoing our own language – to advance educational freedom for Providence families and all parents across our state.

For years, behind the scenes, I have been advising politicians and candidates – Democrats, Republicans, and independents – on the benefits of educational scholarship accounts (ESAs).

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Casimiro and Vella-Wilkinson on Pending Legislation

Guests: Julie Casimiro, State Representative, H-D 31, rep-Casimiro@rilegislature.gov
Camille Vella-Wilkinson, State Representative, H-D 21, rep-vella-wilkinson@rilegislature.gov
Host: Richard August
Topic: Vaping and other pending legislation
Host: Richard August Time: 60 minutes
Representatives Casimiro and Vella-Wilkinson discuss a broad range of pending legislation and other matters, which have their concern. Topics include vaping legislation; a veteran joint oversight committee; pharmacist having birth control prescription authority; reproductive health; firearm legislation; climate control; out of school time learning; early parole for young rehabilitated offenders; military sexual assault trauma; and more. Other matters include the need for a constitutional convention; line item veto; minimum wage; and candidate endorsements.

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The Independent Man Needs YOU: Consider This Call To Civic Action

Is it time for you to get involved… to save our state? If we are ever going to change the policies that are driving away families and crippling businesses, the sad truth, my friend, is that we are going to have to change the players.

Rhode Island’s political class is so beholden to so many special interest groups and agendas, that they are paralyzed when it comes to considering common-sense, pro-growth policy reforms.

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Corruption as a Means of Survival and as a Weapon

As the subpoenas fly and the investigation continues into the unseemly air surrounding the Convention Center Authority and House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s call for an audit, we’re stuck in a moment of intense interest but little information.  That gives us a chance to look for broader lessons.

One recurring theme with Mattiello is that his “friends” and allies keep popping up in a conspicuously connected way.  So, the former Authority employee whose suspension allegedly sparked the audit as payback, James Demers, is often called “a Mattiello friend.”  The head of the Joint Committee for Legislative Services (JCLS) who has been subpoenaed is “Mattiello friend” Frank Montanaro, Jr.  And when the offices of JCLS were suddenly cleaned out, ostensibly to address a mold problem, a company called Single Source, owned by Mattiello associate Jack Pomeranz, did the work.

An argument sometimes advanced by people seeking to justify Buddy Cianci’s activities comes to mind:  In a corrupt environment, those in power have a reason to cultivate a network of people they can trust… which starts to look like corruption.  A line exists somewhere between filling offices with people who’ll help you deal with the corrupt system and giving out patronage jobs to friends who bring nothing to the table.  The point at which an official crosses that line is not always clear, and it can move depending on the individuals and the circumstances.  We’re talking something more like a battlefield, where natural and strategic considerations may suggest rough boundaries, than a football field, where the lines are so clear that a toe can make a difference.

Of course, because the line is not clear, allegations of corruption can become a weapon even when not justified.  We have some experience with that in Tiverton.  When reform-minded residents (including this writer) claimed a majority of the council, cries of (and lies about) corruption became commonplace.  There was never any evidence, but the accusation was thrown around on social media and even statewide TV.  The slender hooks were that the council hired a solicitor whom we knew would not undermine us, but just explain the law, and appointed a resident with a different view than the establishment to the library board.

At the same time that we keep an eye out for corruption and hold officials accountable, we do need to be careful about being misled by accusations about it.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: The Corrupt RI Filter

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for February 3, included talk about:

  • Raimondo’s anti-Trump special-interest PAC.
  • Will the new Providence superintendent earn his pay?
  • Everybody could be right, but is wrong, on the Convention Center.
  • RI gambling giants’ form a super-crony organization.

I’ll be on again Monday, February 10, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Convention Center Controversy: Heads They Win, Tails You Lose

If you’ve been around government and politics in Rhode Island for a while, you probably know people who’ve been audited at conspicuous times… like after having spoken up publicly about some issue.  This may be part of the reason ripples of excitement have followed indications that Democrat Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello of Cranston might be caught red-handed flipping the switch on the familiar weapon.

Particularly intriguing is the way those ripples have caused turmoil among people and entities that tend to unite around good-government issues.  Thus, as Mattiello claims to be targeting the Convention Center Authority with an audit to fix what former Republican House Minority Leader and gubernatorial candidate Patricia Morgan calls “a poorly run, incompetently managed building [that] works as a favor factory,” we get current House Minority Leader Blake Filippi filing a lawsuit claiming that Mattiello abused his influence over the Joint Committee on Legislative Services (JCLS) to order the audit, followed by the Providence Journal editorial board, led by Ed Achorn, belittling the Republican’s suit as “partisan animosity.”

If the good guys are tripping over each other, the bad guys have wind at their backs.  The Convention Center has rejected the audit and called for an investigation of Mattiello by the State Police, which has lost some of its objective luster in recent years for seeming to align too eagerly with Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo, who has (1) given indications that she sees Mattiello as an obstacle and (2) proven her intent to use political means to advance her agenda through the legislature (including, for example, raising campaign funds to go after legislators at the ballot box).

Interested observers face that old puzzle about whether the enemy of your enemy is your friend.  Do good government forces benefit by helping a progressive governor knock out the more-conservative speaker, or by turning a blind eye to what might be raw corruption on his part?

Why everybody can’t be right?  Yes, the Convention Center should be audited.  Yes, the whole JCLS should meet and take action in a transparent fashion.  Yes, it’s worth having some agency look into whether use of the legislature’s auditing power is being abused. Yes, we should be suspicious that a politicized State Police might serve the governor’s political interest.

This is how divided government is supposed to work, making it in everybody’s interest to seek leverage against the others.  The problem is that state government in RI is so one-sided that it’s always “heads they win, tails you lose.”

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Why Can’t Everybody Be Right?

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for January 27, included talk about:

  • The Convention Center, the Speaker, the Republicans, and the Projo
  • Sickness in the Warwick teacher contract
  • Making the yellow shirts count
  • (Slim) hope as a new face enters the Providence school scene

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I’ll be on again Monday, February 3, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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We’re Backing The TCI Gas Tax Proponents Into a Corner

It is not by accident that the proposed Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI) is losing support among many of the states it has targeted… to the point where some proponents are considering a Plan-B.

Last week, I traveled to Boston to meet with other organizations from east coast states who oppose TCI, a regional compact targeting 12 states and Washington DC that seeks to impose a 5 to 17 cent per gallon tax on gasoline and diesel fuel, with the intent of forcing Rhode Island to drive less often and into more costly and less convenient electric vehicles and public transportation options.

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The Miracle of Good-Government Policy in RI

In intellectual discussion at the intersection of religion and science, participants sometimes propose to define miracles as extremely improbable events that happen at a significant time, such that the significance itself appears to have influenced the outcome.  If, for example, there is some infinitesimal chance that an incurable disease will just go away and does after the patient prays at some holy shrine, then that might meet the definition of “miracle.”

In a somewhat crass way, this definition came to mind while reading about the state legislature’s audit of the RI Convention Center following the center’s investigation of the speaker’s friend:

“The JCLS has an obligation to meet and determine exactly why an audit was ordered of the Convention Center after Mr. Demers got in trouble at his job,” [RIGOP Chairwoman Susan] Cienki said. “The public deserves to know if government resources are being used by Speaker Mattiello to satisfy a petty personal grudge. If the JCLS won’t meet and explain what is going on, then perhaps the attorney general should investigate.”

Mattiello’s spokesperson, Larry Berman, pushed back at Cienki by pointing out that House Republicans, notably former Minority Leader Patricia Morgan, have been calling for better oversight of the Convention Center’s finances for years. He sent Target 12 multiple press releases and news reports in which Morgan laid out her criticisms.

One gets the sense that this has become the way that Republican, conservative, or just good-government policies find their way miraculously into state law and activity.  It is improbable that a Republican’s call to audit a government agency will be heeded in Rhode Island… except at that significant moment when it serves the interest of some powerful interest for ulterior reasons.

Makes one wonder if there’s a list of policy proposals out there awaiting some direct pay-off before they are implemented, with the fact that somebody (or some party) suggested them used as cover.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Budgets and Politics

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for January 20, included talk about:

  • The governor’s budget (and popularity)
  • The speaker’s interest in the Convention Center
  • The women’s march
  • Big money state jobs, especially corrections

I’ll be on again Monday, January 27, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Doubting the People in Charge

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for January 13, included talk about:

  • A union president accuses race heretics
  • OPEB swamping Providence and Warwick
  • Fear about “red flag” laws
  • The legislative session starts
  • RI losing claim to a Congressional seat,
  • The rolling fundraising party of the State House

Open post for full audio.

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The Political Class Plans To Harm Rhode Island In 2020

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.

As the 2020 General Assembly Session begins, and we are once again looking at even more of status quo (or worse) based on the policy agenda from the political class, when will Rhode Islanders say enough is enough?

Instead of focusing on the real issues harming the business climate of our state… the insiders are looking to restrict the rights of citizens by stopping the use of plastic straws and bags. Give me a break.

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TCI Gas Tax Unnecessary; RI Already Won the War on Carbon

As you probably know, Governor Gina Raimondo is proposing that Rhode Island sign on to TCI (Transportation and Climate Initiative), a regional carbon cap-and-tax program on transportation that would involve, among other things, Rhode Islanders paying an additional tax on gas and diesel of seventeen – twenty four cents+ per gallon. A couple of Justin Katz’ excellent posts about TCI are here and here

Let’s discuss the stated purpose of TCI. According to the governor, it is to save the planet by getting Rhode Islanders to give up their cars. This is not an exaggeration; below is what the governor says about TCI in this December interview with WPRI’s Kim Kalunian (starting at minute 03:15).

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Bad Positions for Political Actors

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for January 6, included talk about:

  • RI Congressmen’s bad alignment with the enemy
  • Projo points to key issues for the legislature
  • Linc finds another party to run with
  • RI pols try to get out of the way of the Census

Open post for full audio.