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Will RI Push the ACLU into Conservatives’ Ditch?

I’ve been finding the news cycles discouraging lately, even frightening.  We’re fallen creatures, so even a casual familiarity with history will show that the madness isn’t anything new or different.  What’s discouraging at this moment is the acceleration of the movement to undermine the principles of freedom and (at least) aspiration to consider things logically and with mutual respect.

Even things that ought to be encouraging have the feel of futility.  It feels, for example, like a sign of how far things have gone that I’m agreeing so much with the Rhode Island ACLU more often, and not because I’m changing my worldview.  The latest area of agreement comes with the organization’s statement of concern about proposed “red flag” legislation proposing to empower law enforcement personnel and a single judge to predict that a person is likely enough to do harm that he or she loses his Second Amendment rights (emphasis added):

The heart of the legislation’s ERPO process requires speculation – on the part of both the petitioner and judges – about an individual’s risk of possible violence. But, the ACLU analysis notes: “Psychiatry and the medical sciences have not succeeded in this realm, and there is no basis for believing courts will do any better. The result will likely be a significant impact on the rights of many innocent individuals in the hope of preventing a tragedy.”The ACLU’s analysis concludes:“People who are not alleged to have committed a crime should not be subject to severe deprivations of liberty interests, and deprivations for lengthy periods of time, in the absence of a clear, compelling and immediate showing of need. As well-intentioned as this legislation is, its breadth and its lenient standards for both applying for and granting an ERPO are cause for great concern.

We’ll see how this plays out.  The RI ACLU was correct, as well, to express concern with the lurching of the Rhode Island Senate to expel an elected member and leave his district without representation on the strength of allegations.  Republican Senator Nicholas Kettle’s resignation saved Senate leaders from having to follow through on their threats — and saved the ACLU from having to judge the process one way or another — but there’s no similar out in this case.

The question for legislators and for the rest of us is whether Rhode Island is now a state in which the ACLU can fall outside of the boundaries of acceptable opinion on the conservative side of the spectrum.

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The Establishment of Religion in the State House

Monday’s Providence Journal Political Scene contains an interesting moment regarding vague legislation (since withdrawn) to give the state government authority to go into all public and private schools in the state and test them against an official measure of tolerance:

Diaz told Political Scene she was stunned by the criticism. She said the bill evolved out of a conversation she had with the Providence school superintendent. She said it reflects her beliefs as a Christian woman about how children should be treated, and it matches legislation she successfully sponsored a few years ago for children in the care of the state’s Department of Children, Youth & Families.

Wait, what?  I thought progressives were opposed to politicians’ legislating their religious beliefs.  What happened to that separation of church and state?

The obvious reality is that “separation” talk is just partisan baloney.  Any particular progressive may simply be a hypocrite, but as a general proposition, its adherents understand that individual people are able to pass through the proverbial wall.  As long as a church hierarchy isn’t actually running the government, there’s nothing wrong with legislating one’s morality.

Progressives actually surpass most conservatives in wanting to impose their beliefs on others through the force of government.  Oh, they’ve got a number of self-deceptive gimmicks that allow them to feel otherwise — the assertion of their beliefs as objective fact, for example — but they see the law as the sine qua non of “who we are as a community,” and that means it must reflect their beliefs. It’s only your beliefs, if you disagree, that simply aren’t allowed… because those are the objective rules.

In a meaningful coincidence (or, as I’d tend to believe, a divine hint), the same Political Scene includes a run-down of the number of times either chamber of the General Assembly has even considered removing members.  Even the Dorr Rebellion — an armed insurrection — was not sufficient for legislators actually to seek expulsion, yet as of this writing, all that recently resigned Senator Nicholas Kettle faces are unproven allegations.

But Kettle is a political minority (a Republican), and even if he’s done nothing criminal, he appears to be an infidel against the #MeToo dogma, so his sacrifice serves as a useful message to everybody else that the progressive god will strike down those who are guilty even when the laws of men do not apply.

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At Least There’s an (Improbable) Correction for Senate Process Abuse

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Rhode Island Senate Leaders Declare Representative Democracy Dead in Rhode Island

To the Rhode Island Senate’s shame, it has filed legislation for what is likely the first-ever expulsion of a state senator, and it was done, as the bill states, based on some now-resolved campaign finance problems, “unwanted media coverage,” and some allegations and criminal charges for which Coventry Republican Senator Nicholas Kettle has not yet gone to trial.

As argued in this space, yesterday, whatever one thinks of Kettle’s moral standing to claim continuing political support, this extreme measure by the Senate goes beyond attacking his rights to attacking the rights of Rhode Island voters.  It isn’t up to voters to find a candidate whom the insiders in the State House can accept; it’s up to the legislators to accept whomever the voters send.

The fact that the lead sponsor of the bill is Democrat Senate President Dominick Ruggerio — who was himself arrested in 2012 and brought “unwanted media coverage” to the chamber — puts an exclamation point on the political nature of this move.  The involvement of Senate Majority Leader Dennis Algiere does not alleviate this problem, especially after recent revelations that he played a role attempting to broker peace at an initially secret meeting between Ruggerio and Democrat Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello.

Moreover, the fact that the legislation includes detailed documentation of the allegations, as attachments or evidence, suggests that there’s more going on here than a desire to resolve a legislative problem.  I’ve never seen external documents appended as part of a bill before, and I’ve read thousands of bills in the past few years.

One needn’t come to the defense of Senator Kettle or his alleged actions to suggest that this is a step too far and moves Rhode Island governance to another level of intrinsic corruption.  If Kettle is no longer acceptable to his constituents, then they should remove him.  The other politicians in the state Senate shouldn’t take it upon themselves to ensure that a district goes without representation for an entire legislative session.  Discomfort with the subject matter of the allegations shouldn’t lead Rhode Islanders to give over their basic rights as voters to a small group of political elites.

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Political Incentives for the Opposition as for the News Media

A few weeks ago, Rhode Islanders were reacting to the rapid-fire news of two Providence Journal reporters’ transition to jobs in government offices on which they’d recently written stories.  Shortly thereafter, the announcement came that former Republican state Senator John Pagliarini had taken a job as the Senate parliamentarian, and Rhode Island Public Radio reporter Ian Donnis asked state GOP Chairman Brandon Bell whether this was a matter of concern as well.  I never saw Bell’s response, but mine was:  of course.

An item in today’s Providence Journal Political Scene fleshes out why I’d say that:

Until recently, [Pagliarini] had kept the door open to a potential GOP run for a range of political offices from mayor to lieutenant governor. Now? “I have no aspirations to run for political office as of today,″ he told Political Scene about a week ago. He has also resigned as the state GOP’s general counsel.

And there you go. As with the reporters, the problem isn’t so much the appearance that the government is buying out the potent soldiers of the opposition, but that the prospect of a $54,259 part-time gig makes clear who has the career prospects on offer for anybody who might consider the possibility of raising the sorts of objections that might offend the powerful.

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Imaginary Discrimination Bill is “Progressive Land of Make Believe Bad Bill of the Week”

This week’s bad bill is a thorny issue, but one that highlights yet another danger of the progressive-left’s agenda to control our lives via a government driven by political correctness. In our American society, this means a direct threat to free speech and free thought.

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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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