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Vaping Shows How Quickly They’ll Take Away Rights

Note this, from Guy Bentley on Reason:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has finally identified a primary suspect in the wave of vaping-related lung illnesses and deaths.

Examining lung tissue samples of patients hospitalized with vaping-related illnesses, 100 percent tested positive for vitamin e acetate, often used to cut marijuana oils. This was not a surprise to those who have been arguing that the cause of these illnesses is not the commercial e-cigarette market, but the illicit market for THC vapes.

Now recall that Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo moved quickly to hurt Rhode Island businesses by unilaterally banning a legal product that even then looked likely not to be the culprit.

Yes, we’re decades into a campaign by government to create a superstitious dread of nicotine products, but still… part of me can’t help but feel like every incident like this is a test to see how willingly Americans will give up their rights and their freedom.  The results of this test were not encouraging, at least in Southern New England.

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Out-Progressiving Raimondo’s Progressives

The Providence Journal has an op-ed from me today, about progressive Democrat state Senator Samuel Bell’s freedom to use irresponsible rhetoric as leverage against the progressives in the administration of progressive Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo:

At the end of the day, Bell is just objecting to Raimondo’s efforts to buy off companies so that they’ll tolerate our horrible business climate, which he is free to do because his economic ideas are fantasy.

Gina Raimondo, Stefan Pryor and Bruce Katz are progressives who are responsible for implementing the central planning policies that progressives demand. Samuel Bell is a progressive with no real responsibility who is therefore free to be more irresponsible in his demands.

If it weren’t so harmful to our state, this would all be a laugh riot.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: A Creature of Their Own Making

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for November 25, included talk about:

  • Insider Alves and the radical caucus
  • The union view of employer responsibility
  • Gaspee versus campaign finance laws
  • Paint on the statute becoming blood on government’s hands
  • Blood on the police officer’s hand gets a slap on the wrist

Open post for full audio.

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What Organized Labor Thinks of Workers

To understand Rhode Island politics, one must understand the activities of organized labor (that is, unions), and to understand their activities, one must understand their attitude.  (By the way, one should also know that reporters for the state’s major daily newspaper, the Providence Journal, are unionized under the AFL-CIO.)

This is from a Providence Journal article by Katherine Gregg about a press conference promoting legislation from Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo that would impose a new tax on large companies whose employees are on Medicaid:

“There is a loophole in the Rhode Island health-care system allowing certain large corporations to avoid their responsibility to provide adequate coverage to their workers. Instead they shift employee health-care costs to the state budget from their own balance sheet,” said George Nee, president of the RI AFL-CIO.

Whoa, whoa, whoa.  Hold on there, a second.  When did it become my employer’s responsibility to take care of my health?  Put from a perspective that sees workers as adults capable of making their own decisions, when did it become the case that when we choose for whom we want to work, we’re picking the people who will take care of us?

We’re not wards of our employers.  They aren’t our parents; they aren’t our masters.  That’s a huge stolen base in our rights and our autonomy.

Why would labor organizations — who claim to be all about the rights and humanity of workers — see us as something like children who need to be cared for?  Because they have a worldview that breaks us all into classes of people, in this case workers and management, and they want workers to feel like they are something more like servants under the protective thumb of a master so that they, the unions, can edge into the relationship promising that only they have the strength to go up against the master.

Once they do that, it ceases to be your job, for which your employer pays you an agreed upon rate, with agreed upon benefits.  It becomes the union’s job, which you get to fill for the moment, as a nameless servant of the boss and a client of the union.  One uses you for labor, and the other uses you for leverage.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Hints of a Constitutional Crisis

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for November 18, included talk about:

  • Raimondo fundraising as governance
  • The governor sues the General Assembly
  • Municipalities sue the state government
  • Protestors’ liberal-meeting interruptions
  • Cranston seeks investigation of another department

Open post for full audio.

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Rhode Island’s Very Own Green New Deal

How much more money can Rhode Island’s political class take from your pocket using green energy as an excuse?

The Ocean State has already signed on to the Transport and Climate Initiative, a cabal of Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states designed to foster a radical change (for the worse) to our economic well-being through costly green energy policies.

Indeed, this very well could be Rhode Island own version of the “Green New Deal,” driving costs higher and higher.

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The Outside Cash the Governor Needs to Govern

Sometimes a politician answers a question in such a way as to put her political activities (and those of other politicians) in a different light.  Such was the case when reporter Tim White asked Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo on WPRI’s Newsmakers program about her continued fundraising, despite being term limited as governor:

I’ll have a legislative agenda that I’d like to get passed.  All the legislators are on the ballot next year, and I may decide to support or oppose legislators that I think are doing the right thing or holding Rhode Island back.  So, you know, there are plenty of reasons to need a campaign account just to govern.

According to WPRI’s Ted Nesi, Raimondo raised $66,000 in the third quarter of the year, giving her $726,000 to expend as she “governs.”

Put this way, doesn’t something seem… well… off about this arrangement?  The governor of the state is collecting money from private interests in order to bully other elected officials into doing what she wants, as if the governor is also the director of an insider PAC.  A few thousand dollars is a pretty substantial campaign in local legislative races, so a governor with three quarters of a million dollars in the bank and nothing else to spend it on could be a worrying wildcard.

To be sure, we should be skeptical of efforts to restrict political activity through regulation.  The powerful will always find ways around the regulations, at least to a greater extent than the powerless can.

That said, it’s worth being aware that this is going on and maintaining a general sense of aversion to it.  What the governor of the state is saying is that she’s going to use money given to her by special interests across the country to reach into your local legislative races to influence who represents you in the General Assembly.

Something doesn’t seem right about that.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Connecting Political Dots

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for November 11, included talk about:

  • The problem of public sector pensions
  • The value of the Fung brand for the Mrs.
  • Mayor Pete’s no-media, no-controversy event
  • Nanny Bloomberg and Gina’s RFP
  • No warning on the homeless transplants

Open post for full audio.

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Rhode Island Became A Less Hospitable Place To Raise A Family In 2019

Recently, our Center released our 2019 Freedom Index and Legislator Scorecard for the Rhode Island 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 citizens. Worse, the 2019 legislative session was an unadulterated assault on individual and economic rights, the totality of which I have not seen before.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: The Essence of RI Corruption

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for November 4, included talk about:

  • Jeff Britt in court (with Nicholas Mattiello looming)
  • Brett Smiley in the news (with Gina Raimondo bumbling into ever-bigger controversy)
  • The Board of Elections in the market for a lease (with Stephen Erickson running interference)
  • Senate President Dominick Ruggerio in a symbolic role (with the RI system setting the standard for corruption)

Open post for full audio.

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Twin River and Raimondo, an Unhealthy Relationship, to Say the Least

What is going on in the governor’s office that Gina Raimondo is picking petulant political fights with the state’s casino contractor?

The appropriate statement through all of this should have been easy.  Something like this:  “I am not aware of any threats’ being made, but of course that would be completely inappropriate.  So, I’ll be speaking with my staff and reaching out to our friends in Twin River to make sure nothing like that was done and to resolve any misunderstandings there may have been.”

Instead, she makes a blanket denial and casts shade on the company, answering a question from Steve Klamkin of WPRO as to who made the threat:

“Absolutely no one,″ Raimondo said. “That’s clearly baseless and untrue. We have been nothing but professional with Twin River at every step.”

“I am so disappointed in Twin River. In addition to the way they are behaving through this process, you know what they did in breaching the regulatory agreement with the state is very serious and I am concerned,″ she said of the debt limit dispute, which arose from Twin River’s out- of-state expansion moves, which Crisafulli contends it kept the state apprised at every step.

“I am concerned,″ Raimondo said. “Their revenues are down. They are doing layoffs. they are breaking the regulatory agreement and it is our job to protect taxpayers and to hold Twin River accountable. And that’s what we are going to do.

“So we sat down with them. We are trying to help them. We were collaborative. We came up with a settlement They are going to make millions of dollars of investments into Twin River, thankfully. It’s about time. Anyone who has been to Twin River knows it could use a bit of a facelift.”

So, what comes of this?  Twin River President Marc Crisafulli decides to stop playing coy and comes right out and names Raimondo Chief of Staff Brett Smiley, which politics watchers will likely find credible.  Not only that, but Crisafulli gives additional details, such as that Smiley called his cell phone three times one afternoon after Twin River decided to vocally oppose the IGT deal.  The contrast makes Raimondo’s denial look like a knowing lie.

If nothing else, this is an indication that Raimondo is not a very good executive.  But Rhode Islanders already knew that.  This episode adds a little more evidence that she’s actually not a very good politician, either.

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Political Monday with John DePetro: Cracks in the Wall of Corruption

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for October 21, included talk about a political operative’s indictment, other political operatives’ hemp biz, Block’s complaint against government operatives, Wyatt protesters, and an unpopular governor.

Open post for full audio.

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The Familiar Names When Money’s on the Table

The lottery company seeking a 20-year, no-bid contract from the state of Rhode Island has acknowledged its failure to report $776,000 in lobbying expenditures over the course of three months, according to Katherine Gregg in the Providence Journal.  Some of the names involved are very interesting — which may explain some of the reluctance to report them:

In an updated lobbyist-disclosure report filed Wednesday in response to Journal inquiries, IGT disclosed a total of $776,000 in payments to its media strategist and spokesman Bill Fischer’s company, True North Communications; the Providence public relations and media placement company (NAIL), where Gov. Gina Raimondo’s former communications director, Mike Raia, now works; Signature Printing; Big Tony’s Pizza. The total includes $15,000 a month in both August and September to the only named news outlet in IGT’s report, GoLocal 24 LLC.

Raia, remember, was a Raimondo staffer who left her administration-campaign network earlier this year in order to take the small step into a private company that has been working with her office.  Now we find that company involved in the giant financial transaction for which Raia’s former boss has been inappropriately advocating.  Add this to the connection with former IGT Chairman Donald Sweitzer, who has been working with Raimondo in the Democratic Governor’s Association.

Whatever the specifics of the deal, Rhode Islanders can’t have confidence that the governor is acting entirely without self-interest.  It should go out to bid in a conspicuously transparent process.

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Annette Lloyd: Crushed Freedom Inspires Another Escape Plan

Rhode Island’s ban on flavored vaping shows a mentality that Rhode Islanders increasingly want to escape.

I’m constantly confused by politicians who think that their election also comes with honorary degrees in medicine, education, commerce, and the like… that upon their election, they have a right to appoint themselves as doctor, teacher, etc., to their constituents. Most of our elected officials are purely bought and sold tools of one lobby or another. They know no more than you or me.

Informed adults don’t need this kind of micro-supervision. Vaping has allowed me to get away from cigarettes, and I imagine the hundreds of thousands or millions of vapers in New England resent having their legal sources of vaping suddenly cut off with no compelling research into the public health effects of the habit.

This ban is a terrible trend by our governor. What she isn’t considering are the local small businesses she is destroying. There are plenty of online sources (for now) which will take more money out of RI. And, even more crucially, those who use vaping as a safer alternative to smoking will be forced to return to tobacco products. Maybe Governor Raimondo has missed the tax dollars from each pack of cigarettes purchased in RI.

The messages she is sending, of government overreach and a total lack of consideration of the ramifications of her edict, are yet another nail in this beautiful state’s casket. The R and I are, increasingly, standing for Really Idiotic.

Once our son is done with high school and Boy Scouts, we are fleeing. In search of freedom and some self-respect.

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Is Government Over-Reacting With Vape Bans?

Are the decisions by the governors of Rhode Island and Massachusetts to halt the sale of vaping products (which will destroy jobs and small businesses) fueled by solid research or inspired by politically-correct activism?

While we recognize that this may be a sensitive topic to some people, there are many pro-liberty arguments that can be made on why these vape bans are wrong. It is deeply concerning that Governor Raimondo used her office to unilaterally ban a class of products.

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Ocean State Exodus: We Are Losing Productive People

No single indicator should be of more importance to lawmakers and civic leaders than whether or not our state is retaining and attracting talented and productive people.

The opportunity for prosperity is a primary factor in the migration of families from state to state. In this regard, our Ocean State is more than just losing the race. Far too many Rhode Islanders are fleeing our state, leaving a swath of empty chairs at our family dinner tables.

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Governor Signs Executive Order to Increase Smoking

The appropriate response to Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s executive order banning certain forms of vaping in the state is to challenge her authority to do so.  If we accept the principle that the governor can simply ban products she doesn’t like, we’ll soon find our governors believing they can simply ban anything.

What makes the governor’s action doubly objectionable, however, is its complete reliance on fact-free emotion:

In response to the growing public health crisis of e-cigarette use among young people in Rhode Island, Governor Gina M. Raimondo today signed an Executive Order directing the Department of Health to establish emergency regulations prohibiting the sale of flavored e-cigarettes. The Executive Order also puts in place a number of other measures designed to the curb the initiation of e-cigarette use by young people.

As far as I can tell (and the press release doesn’t provide anything additional), the only “crisis” is that people are doing the thing that the governor wants to ban.  Indeed, the governor is banning “flavored e-cigarettes,” while the only actual “crisis” has been illness nationwide, mostly having to do with people vaping THC (the marijuana chemical).

For vaping generally, it isn’t even clear that it has had a net negative effect.  The governor’s press release may insist that decreases in teen smoking are “thanks to decades of public health education and advocacy,” but the numbers for smoking and vaping suggest that there’s more to the question.  This is from a post in this space in January 2018:

… According to the federal Department of Health & Human Services, “from 2011 to 2015, the percentage of 12th-grade students who had ever used an e-cigarette increased from 4.7 to 16 percent.” But over that same period of time, the percentage of seniors who said the same about actual cigarettes decreased from 10.3% to 5.5%. Smokeless tobacco (like snuff and chewing tobacco) is down from 8.3% to 6.1%. (These groups aren’t exclusive, meaning that there’s some overlap between them.)

As of 2014, more students had used an e-cigarette than an actual cigarette. The question that the advocates and (in turn) the journalists miss is this: If the alternative to e-cigarettes is not nothing, but smoking or chewing tobacco, isn’t this outcome positive?

If, as looks plausible, the availability of vaping has reduced smoking, one foreseeable consequence of banning vaping will be an increase in teen smoking.  The fact that this possibility doesn’t come up in government statements or coverage thereof suggests that the whole thing is just a moral panic stoked for political reasons.

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Education Freedom: Our Children Need Opportunity Today

Everybody agrees that educating our youth is a moral obligation, and a vital basis for renewed economic growth.

Yet, very few in our political class have the courage to stand up to the special interests who want to maintain a government-run school monopoly. Look at the broken Providence School system. Parents need answers for their children today, not reforms that may help students five or even ten years down the road. Educational freedom is the answer.

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School Choice = Expanding Educational Freedom

Educational Freedom changes lives. How many Rhode Island families have been forced to move away? How many other American families have chosen not to make our state their home? Rhode Island students and families suffer, because of a lack educational opportunity and economic prosperity. The die has now been cast: School choice is all about expanding educational freedom for families.

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Bright Today Educational Freedom Scholarships To Counter Collective Bargaining Inequities

At a cost of approximately $888 per year for each of Rhode Island’s one-million or so residents, a typical family of four is paying over $3500 annually to support the extravagant compensation programs for government workers, while the basic needs of their own families are being ignored by politicians.

Beyond these extreme financial costs, there may be an even more corrosive impact from this kind of political cronyism.

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