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Commerce’s Out-of-State Candidate

Today’s Providence Journal Political Scene reports the large fundraising take of recently declared Rhode Island Senate candidate Nick Autiello.  He’s currently making $80,000 (not including benefits) working for the quasi-public Commerce Corp. and says he’ll give that up if he’s elected to the seat currently held by Democrat Paul Jabour.

The first question is why somebody would find a senate seat that valuable.  Since I can’t answer that, the next question is where his fundraising money is coming from.  At over $50,000 in a few months for the 27-year-old, his campaign touts this as the biggest fundraising haul of any first-time candidate’s first quarter… ever.

Not mentioned, though, is that the state’s campaign finance database shows more than 94% of that money coming from donors with out-of-state addresses.  Between his Commerce connection and the out-of-state domination of his fundraising, Autiello’s may be the most-Rhode Island story of the Raimondo Era thus far.

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Fake Claims From The Progressive Land Of Make-Believe

The legislative onslaught from the left has begun. As the poster child of their desire for government-control over the lives of residents and businesses, Rhode Island’s progressive-Democrats announced they will introduce legislation this week to establish an estimated $13.2 billion single-payer health insurance system.

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The Journalist-to-Government Revolving Door

Just out from the Rhode Island Senate is a press release announcing the hiring of Providence Journal reporter Kate Bramson as the chamber’s new $121,340 director of the Senate Policy Office:

Ms. Bramson was chosen from a field of 40 applicants. “Although many highly qualified individuals applied – and we are grateful to all of them – Kate was exceptional. My team and I were remarkably impressed with her deep knowledge on a wide range of issues. I have been interviewed by Kate in the past, and I always respected her thorough knowledge of the topic she was covering. My admiration grew through the interview process for this position. She is exceptionally well-versed in many areas, and particularly economic development. Kate offered the kind of analysis and insights that will serve the Senate well as we work to make our state a better place to live and work. She will be joining an outstanding staff in our Senate Policy Office.”

Every time a local journalist steps up to government (the direction it must be in pay, anyway), I’ve noted the dangerous precedent, and this is a big one.  Can people really trust journalists’ objectivity when being hired for highly contested and highly remunerated government jobs has become a regular part of their career path?

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RI Senate PawSox Memo Shows the Constitutional Scam

Read this part of Ted Nesi’s summary of a legal opinion from the Rhode Island Senate on the possibility of a public referendum on the PawSox and then let it sink in:

In a memo to Senate President Dominick Ruggerio dated Tuesday and obtained by Eyewitness News, Ruggerio’s chief legal counsel Richard Sahagian cited case law dating back to 1937 that he said reinforces a provision in the state constitution saying only the General Assembly has “the power to make and declare laws.”

“As in Rhode Island, courts across the country have also found that the power to make and declare laws is vested exclusively in the legislative body subject to those powers explicitly reserved to the people in each state’s constitution,” Sahagian wrote.

“The Rhode Island Constitution explicitly enumerates which measures must go on the ballot for voter approval. This is not one of those instances,” he continued. “As a result of the above analysis, the legislature cannot delegate this power by referring the matter to the voters for their approval.”

Since we’re talking about the Rhode Island Constitution, here’s Section 16 of Article VI, which is the article granting the General Assembly any power at all:

The general assembly shall have no powers, without the express consent of the people, to incur state debts to an amount exceeding fifty thousand dollars, except in time of war, or in case of insurrection or invasion; nor shall it in any case, without such consent, pledge the faith of the state for the payment of the obligations of others. This section shall not beconstrued to refer to any money that may be deposited with the state by the government of the United States

The General Assembly gets around this limitation of its power by creating so-called quasi-public agencies that technically are separate legal entities and then promising that they’ll pay the debt of these agencies year to year, which technically doesn’t “pledge the full faith and credit” of the state.  The end result is that investors get a higher rate of return because there’s technically a risk that the state won’t pay, even as the government has every incentive to treat the debt as fully binding because otherwise the scam would fall apart because investors won’t believe the winks and nods that the politicians are giving.

But think about how brazen the Senate’s legal opinion is, here.  The politicians are trying to put together a deal that creates one of these phony “moral obligations” to cover debt for a building project (that helps the Senate President’s labor union), even though the Constitution requires voter approval, and the legislators lawyers (whose salaries the people pay) are claiming that the people can’t have a say because our Constitution gives the legislature power to make law.

How about this:  Give the people a vote to express their opinion, and then lawmakers will follow that vote, even if technically they aren’t bound by it. Better yet, do nothing until Rhode Islanders wise up and vote you all out of office.

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If the Process Is Open, Why Are They on a Side?

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Politically Correct Anti-Tobacco Regs: How Many People Might Die Because They Were Denied a Less Harmful Choice?

Better something that is less harmful than more harmful. But to some, innovative new products that reduce health risks – should be banned. In the tobacco and nicotine industry, the politically-correct anti-tobacco movement is advocating for the suppression of individual rights and elimination of less harmful choices, via restrictions and outright bans on products that could improve public health.

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Regunberg’s Drug Innovation Disincentive Act

Barely out of the gate in the new legislative session, progressive Democrat Representative Aaron Regunberg of Providence is proving exactly how dangerous he is to the health and well-being of Rhode Islanders:

The bill (2018-H 7042), which Representative Regunberg introduced Jan. 3, would establish a board of pharmacy to examine how prescription drug manufactures set the price for certain prescriptions, and give it the authority to set a maximum allowable price to protect the Rhode Island consumers.

The price-fixing scheme would give nine unelected board members, most of them pharmacists with a financial interest in the industry, deep access to the private information of drug companies and the power to set prices for drugs — particularly those that are among the most innovative and life changing — below the level that companies believe necessary to make it worthwhile to develop more.

There is no reason to expect pharmacists to understand every aspect of drugs’ production and sale generally, let alone the internal operations of a particular company.  If companies are forced to justify pricing decisions to Rhode Island’s socialist-nine board members and beg their indulgence, the potential for corruption is immense.  If the members are cycled out every three-year term, then they’ll lack a long-term perspective, but if they’re kept on the board for much longer, they’ll become less accountable.

The minimum price for a drug in the state will always be zero… in the sense of being unavailable.

Given the critical nature of its products, our health care market does need controls against price gouging, but we should go the route of reform and competition, not the philosophy that has brought Venezuelans into the gutter.  Reform patent laws, giving generic drug manufacturers more opportunity.  Take the thumb off of insurance companies so they’ll have more leverage against drug companies.  Take the restrictions off of health care providers and consumers so they’ll have leverage to shop around for drugs, insurers, and types of treatments.

Above all, Regunberg’s bill illustrates how close we are to the end game of government control, and that’s an extremely unhealthy place to be.

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Challenging The Progressive-Left

At the Center, we know that the high levels of taxation and over-regulation forced upon the people by an ever-growing state government is the main culprit in causing Rhode Island’s weak and stagnant performance. Look at it this way, heavy handed action by a state government that primarily seeks to perpetuate itself, actually works against the best-interests of the very people it is supposed to be serving.

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Rhode Island In 47th Place On The Jobs & Opportunity Index

Happy New Year! In 2018, Rhode Islanders want to achieve their hopes and dreams of better life for their families. In order for the Ocean State to prosper, we need an economic climate that rewards hard work, encourages small-business growth, and creates quality jobs. In this regard, the traditionally cited monthly unemployment rate is often used by state lawmakers as a benchmark to evaluate the results of their policy initiatives. However, this rate represents only a very narrow look at the employment health of a state and can often paint an incomplete, or even inaccurate, snapshot of the broader economic picture.

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General Assembly and Projo Editors Show Nurses Who Owns Them

Don’t miss Jennifer Bogdan’s article in the Providence Journal, about the hassles that the State of Rhode Island created for nurses in the state by failing to pass legislation to remain in the interstate Nurse Licensure Compact, which allowed nurses in any of the 25 participating states to carry use licenses across borders.

…  a bill was never even introduced in last year’s General Assembly thanks in part to strong resistance from nurses unions that argue the compact has deprived Rhode Island nurses from opportunities to work here.

The situation has left local nurses who pick up out-of-state work scrambling to quickly acquire other state’s licenses. Meanwhile, out-of-state nurses currently working in Rhode Island under the compact are flocking to the Department of Health with their $139 applications for Rhode Island licenses in tow.

Donna Policastro, executive director of the Rhode Island State Nurses Association, which supports the compact, said she’s been fielding calls from concerned nurses who’ve learned about the change. In one case, a nurse is working from home advising for a national company in 16 states. The woman now needs 16 additional licenses.

The Projo’s editors did Bogdan a huge disservice by recasting her article — completely inverting both the angle of the story and the significance of recent events — with the headline, “Unions: Compact deprives R.I. nurses of work.”  The bias of the headline writer is apparently so deep that he or she created the false impression that there is currently a compact in effect in the state.  The headline should have been something like, “Nurses scramble for licenses after state quits compact.”

More important, though, is the lesson on our relationship with our government.  Think of it:  These folks, mainly women, have to beg the General Assembly to keep their jobs possible every year, and this year, the unions managed to brush them aside to ensure more-total ownership of our lives in the Ocean State.

None of this should be acceptable, across the board.

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Is Reality Setting in for the Governor?

Perhaps it’s just the moment and the particular set of issues raised, but a quick-hit Providence Journal interview with Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo feels like a bit of a change in tone, from backing away from legalizing pot to holding back on school construction bonds.

A couple of points are worth teasing out:

“Look,” Raimondo said Tuesday, “I think it would be really sad if we lost the PawSox to Worcester …. But no, I am not going to get into a bidding war. We can’t afford a bidding war. We have a deal on the table now. I would say: Go ahead and pass that deal.”

“I am not going to get bid up, and pay more than we can afford, so we don’t lose it to Charlie Baker,” she said.

This is particularly nice to see.  Rhode Island has lost thousands of residents in recent decades because the state didn’t want, essentially, to bid for them to stay by making it easier to make it in Rhode Island.  Why should a minor league baseball team get better treatment?

Raimondo said her budget proposal will honor the next promised $25-million cut in local car taxes, part of a multi-year phaseout plan lawmakers approved earlier this year.

This is interesting.  Last week on the radio, John DePetro and I had some fun speculating that Democrat Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello of Cranston was sending signals to Raimondo.  First, he was seen chatting with her potential Democrat primary foe, Lincoln Chafee, and then his shadow could be seen around the edges of Joe Trillo’s bizarre declaration of his intent to stage a third-party campaign that would almost certainly split the vote against Raimondo.

Holding to the car tax elimination, which the speaker championed, could be a sign that the messages have been received and an agreement struck.

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Money-Grabbing State Officials Seek To Tax Everything That Moves

Yet again, Rhode Island has been saddled with a bottom-10 ranking: This time for its heavy-handed occupational licensing regulatory regime, which effectively denies many people the right to earn a living. In Washington, the Trump administration is returning to a “light-touch” regulatory strategy, a strategy that our state would be wise to follow.

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PawSox: Suddenly a Legislative Hot Potato?

Kathy Gregg is reporting in today’s Providence Journal that

[Senate President Dominick] Ruggerio said the Senate Finance Committee will unveil a revised version of the PawSox financing bill next week, and then vote to “hold it for further study,” so the public can see it, discuss it and debate it before the General Assembly convenes for its 2018 session on Jan. 2.

Yesterday on the WPRO airwaves, Dan Yorke, an open supporter of the state’s financial participation in a new stadium for the PawSox, noted that he had been aware since last week that this would happen. More interestingly, he reported that members of the House have been urging their colleagues in the Senate “do not send us this bill”.

Interesting. Are some in the House seeing the folly, financial or political or both, of the state getting involved in a sport when far more important matters have been budgetarily neglected or outright cut? For example – and feel free to add to this list of unwise legislative priorities – of course, excessively generous state pensions had to be cut, though bringing the fund from 49% funded to only 56% funded was in no way worthy of the fawning national media coverage showered on the governor for this “feat”. But bigger picture, should public pensions take a secondary position to a very seasonal “economic development” (please, no snickers) sports project?

And as was demonstrated by both the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity and the Republican Policy Group, headed by Minority Leader Patricia Morgan, the money to repair Rhode Island’s as roads and bridges could easily have been found in the budget. But Governor Raimondo pretended otherwise and the legislature unwisely followed her lead in passing a highly destructive and inefficient toll plan (the implementation of which is not going swimmingly). Really? Our roads and bridges are less important than the state participating in the frivolity of a sport?

What does it say about Rhode Island’s priorities if the state participates in the PawSox stadium? That needs to be the point that House members and leaders mull over as they consider the PawSox request and the Senate’s bill. Possibly, it is the basis of the quiet push-back, referenced by Yorke, that the Senate is getting from the House and that has hopefully turned the PawSox stadium into a political hot potato.

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Chris Maxwell: RIDOT’s Inadequate Environmental Assessment Intended to Accelerate Toll Bait Lawsuit

[Below are the prepared comments of Chris Maxwell, President of the Rhode Island Trucking Association, for the RIDOT toll gantry workshop Tuesday evening. The video of Chris’ actual comments, abbreviated due to time constraints, can be viewed here. For the sake of the news outlet that erroneously reported that public comment Tuesday night was mostly a re-hash of old objections and omitted all on-topic comments from their story, Ocean State Current has bolded all of Chris’ comments that pertain to the Environmental Assessment that was the subject of Tuesday’s workshop.]

Good evening. My name is Chris Maxwell and I represent the Rhode Island Trucking Association and all local trucking companies adversely affected by truck-only tolls.

Our opposition to this plan from its introduction in the spring of 2015 is well-documented. And despite the justified rancour that still exists, our industry’s willingness to contribute to infrastructure improvement remains steadfast – even beyond our existing contributions which are considerable.

In 2016, the trucking industry in Rhode Island paid roughly $70 million in federal and state roadway taxes.

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