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Serving One Another Through Innovation

There are bills being considered by the RI General Assembly, H8044 &S2864, which may kill the efficient transportation network services like Uber & lyft in the Ocean State.

In this video, I give commentary on testimony given by Rhode Islander to the RI State Senate on the role of Uber in his life. Nick Zammarelli, a blind Coventry school teacher, testified to RI State Senators: “As a totally blind school teacher, prior to Uber’s arrival in Rhode Island, I had to think about how got from point A to point B every single day. ”

Watch my commentary on the compelling testimony now. For my money, the most important part of the testimony had nothing to do with Uber, per se. It had everything to do with innovation and everything to do with the way in which Rhode Island government prevents us from finding the most effective ways to serve one another. Why do we tolerate elected officials to kill the innovation that will help the disadvantage among us?

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The Panopticon State Moving Forward with Prescriptions

For the 2013 Freedom Index, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity highlighted legislation that was ultimately signed into law “to create a state-controlled electronic prescription database storing all information related to electronically distributed medical prescriptions.”  We gave it a -2, and naturally the General Assembly passed it and Governor Lincoln Chafee signed it into law:

  • S0647, sponsored by Democrat Senator Donna Nesselbush (Pawtucket, North Providence)
  • H5756, sponsored by Democrat Representative Joseph McNamara (Warwick, Cranston)

Well, surprise, surprise, legislators are in the process of expanding the reach of this database in newly invasive and frightening ways, and naturally the Senate passed the legislation last night, with only Republican Elaine Morgan (Charlestown, Exeter, Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich) voting “nay.”  This legislation will “empower the state Dept. of Health to combine its drug prescription database with any other source of data to analyze the behavior and personal connections of patients and pharmacists, under the pretense of finding abuse”:

  • S2946, sponsored by Democrat Louis DiPalma (Little Compton, Middletown, Newport, Tiverton)

Add this database to the information that will be produced by gantry-based tolling systems and license-plate readers looking for the uninsured, and then mix in the comprehensive data to be collected by the Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP) and that which is already collected for taxation and other economic activity, and everybody in Rhode Island will have a frighteningly complete digital profile accessible to unaccountable bureaucrats, following the lead of a gang of elected officials best known for violating ethics rules and being investigated by the feds.

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Good Grief – No Grants or Any Other Tax Dollars Should Go to Lobbying

Good article in today’s Providence Journal by Patrick Anderson, headlined: “Do R.I. General Assembly grants funnel back into lobbying?”

The answer, in many cases, is “yes, they do”. And for those recipient organizations who use this defense of the dollars they receive from Smith Hill:

Many said they use only non-grant funds to lobby.

Bosh. If your organization does ANY lobbying, grant dollars free up other dollars in your budgets to be used to lobby.

Often, the goal of lobbying is for policies that are antithetical to the best interest of the taxpayer. Accordingly, it is grotesque that tax dollars, whether via grants or any other source, would go to an organization that lobbies any arm of the government of Rhode Island.

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Now They’re Coming After Uber

… by they, of course, we mean a few highly misguided legislators at the General Assembly. From the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s weekly blast about good and bad bills at the General Assembly.

By adding unreasonable burdens, H8044, sponsored by House Majority Whip Rep. Jay Edwards (D, Portsmouth), would impose heavy regulations and fees for transportation network companies (like Uber), including (among other things) $150 fees for each driver, unusual insurance regulations, bans against cash use, bans on driver gun licensing, and disability mandates.

In other words, Rep. Edwards wants to do instantly what the Rhode Island General Assembly usually does more gradually and unobtrusively, which is to regulate a business out of existence. (Okay, slight exaggeration. But not much.)

Is this to protect the taxicab industry? If so, here’s an idea. Rather than regulate Uber and Lyft, DEregulate taxicabs. Does RI charge a taxicab medallion fee on the state or local level? Stop charging it. (Cue the gasps of horror from revenue hungry officials.)

Let a new form of commercial transportation lead the way to a new way of treating business here in Rhode Island, rather than allowing bad old government ways to damage a new industry.

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“Field of Trains” Redux: Why Would We Spend Millions for 89 Riders Net Per Day?

The Wickford Junction is an unmitigated disaster. So, of course, it makes sense (???) to strive to repeat it in Pawtucket.

Rhode Island has taken its biggest step yet toward building a new train station to serve Pawtucket and Central Falls, requesting $14.5 million from the federal government to cover about a third of the project’s cost.

But a new train station in Pawtucket would net only eighty nine new riders per day, with hundreds more poached from the South Attleboro and Providence stops. By the way, it isn’t just federal dollars that would be involved.

Separately on Tuesday, the House Finance Committee is scheduled to take up a bill sponsored by Rep. Carlos Tobon, D-Pawtucket, that would appropriate $10 million to help underwrite the cost of the Pawtucket train station. Tobon proposed a similar bill pegged at $20 million last year.

RIDOT is currently looking to fill a $126,648 – $140,920 position of “Administrator, Office of Transit, New Starts, Operations and Transportation Alternatives“. It looks from the job description that this proposed new train station would fall under the purview of this position. Is this taxpayer-funded job the sort of “opportunity to transform the area and provide much needed economic opportunity for local residents” that RIDOT Director Peter Alviti is referencing when he tries to justify this completely unneeded project?

This is serious derangement. The “If You Build It, They Will Come” approach to expensive public transit projects didn’t work in Wickford. We know NOW it won’t work in Pawtucket, either. So why are our elected officials working to repeat Wickford’s costly mistake in Pawtucket?

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What’s Really In Your Best Interests? John Marion of Common Cause RI on the Ethics Commission

This week on “What’s Really In Your Best Interests?” I sit down with John Marion of Common Cause RI to discuss the Ethics Commission. We talk about the growing coalition to restore the Ethics Commission in Rhode Island. The resolution being proposed will put forward a change to the RI Constitution to be approved by voters. With recent examples of bad behavior by the RI General Assembly, Rhode Islanders should ask themselves if a restored ethics commission is really in their best interests.

The Clean RI coalition is composed of almost two-dozen groups. This resolution does, in fact, restore the full jurisdiction of the ethics commission despite the speech and debate clause. Common Cause argues that the controversial moratorium should be set aside and placed into a separate statute. This is an important piece of the puzzle of good government in the Ocean State. We encourage you to speak out on the issues affecting your family in Rhode Island.

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Pass the Line Item Veto Now for Future Governors

Great job by everyone who turned out for yesterday’s very well attended hearing on the line item veto. Nice work by Ken Block raising public awareness of this good government measure that definitely needs to come to Rhode Island.

While the current Governor has said there was no line item in the most recent budget that she would have vetoed, this should be a tool in the belt of future governors, who might have higher standards, both for him/herself and for the legislature, than Governor Raimondo about all of the spending that goes into the state budget.

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Consolidation Must Be Done With Good Data & Open Eyes

While a proposal to consolidate dispatcher services on the city and town level would seem at first blush to be a good idea,

Mayors from six cities were joined by Lieutenant Gov. Dan McKee and several public safety officials at the State House Monday to call on cities and towns to bring dispatch services into the 21st century.

a statement by the author of this bill, Senator Louis DiPalma, is concerning.

“We believe this will save tax dollars,” DiPalma said in part.

“We believe” consolidation here will save money? Shouldn’t someone have done a little analyzing and come up with some figures before proceeding along this track?

As I said, it may well be a good idea. But the concerns voiced by some, articulated especially well by Justin Katz here and elsewhere, about consolidation and regionalization must be born well in mind. They will certainly not be assuaged if some of our officials embark on the voyage (… in an election year – not that I’m implying anything) without any numbers to back their proposal.

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Gender Gap as Excuse to Take Over Private Companies

Another example of legislation that proves legislators’ abhorrent understanding of government’s role in our lives is the deceptively named “Fair Pay Act.”  In the Senate, it’s S2635, and in the House, it’s H7694, which is (it’s depressing to note) cosponsored by Republican Doreen Costa (Exeter, North Kingstown).

Not satisfied with the law already on the books to forbid discrimination in employees’ pay based on sex, the legislation attempts to make the factors by which an employer can explain differences between individuals’ pay more rigid when appearing before government officials concerning a complaint.  In essence, every business in the state would practically be forced to have a detailed catalog of adjustments for employees’ pay.

So, whereas before an employer could argue that a particular man had an edge in “seniority, experience, training, skill, or ability” over a female colleague, the law would require the company to have “a seniority system.”  Other systems that employers would have to have in place are “a merit system,” “a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production,” and some way to demonstrate that some other “bona fide factor” exists.

Somehow, employers would have to be able to define every difference in the qualities that their employees have according to some sort of “system.”  That things just seem to go better when John (or Jane, for that matter) is doing them would be insufficient.

The “bona fide factor” exemption is where things become truly objectionable, with this:

This defense shall not apply if the employee demonstrates that an alternative business practice exists that would serve the same business purpose without producing the wage differential.

Think about what this means.  Based on the nature of the business, the company’s business model, and just the way that the people who own, work for, and patronize the company operate, the organization does something in a particular way.  If this particular way of doing business happens to favor the unique qualities of a man in the organization over a particular woman, the woman can go to a faux judge in the Department of Labor and Training and get him or her to force the company to change the way it does business.

Companies could no longer just experiment and find ways to do things that seem to work in the most efficient way possible for that company.  Rather, at the urging of a disgruntled employee, a bureaucrat in a state agency could insist that the business must try some other possible approach.  The only burden to prove that it might work is the subjective judgment of the bureaucrat, and the process to undo the change would, it appears, be for the employer to do a careful study to prove that the second option is not working as well and to return to the bureaucracy to make that case.

Who really owns the business? This is completely out of keeping with the principles of our country.  Indeed, it’s the sort of thinking that drains economies and pushes civilizations to collapse.

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Line Item Veto Coming Up at the G.A.?

Former RI Supreme Court Justice Robert Flanders had an excellent op-ed in yesterday’s ProJo in support of bringing the line item veto to Rhode Island. No need to fear that we would be breaking any new ground; it’s been well tested in forty four other states.

Governors in most states have employed the line–item veto as an effective tool in balancing state budgets and in checking ill-conceived spending measures. In these states, the line-item veto has not siphoned off any substantial power from the legislature to the governor, but rather it has served as an important, if not essential, tool to manage budgets that may tend in part to ignore the future adverse consequences of certain proposed expenditures in favor of more immediate spending pressures.

Referencing it on his Facebook page, Ken Block says

I anticipate a hearing either this week or next. We will need you to show up at the state house when the bill is heard.

Meanwhile, feel free to lobby our elected officials here about bringing this good-government measure to Rhode Island.

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For Formation as Adults, Avoid Connecticut Higher Ed

My entire life, the mainstream message has been that conservative Republicans, particularly the Christians among them, are so uptight and scared of sex that they want to “put the government in our bedrooms.”  I don’t know if that was always and everywhere baloney, or if the sorts of people who used to gravitate toward that political position because it empowered them to be busybodies are simply now gravitating to the progressive Democrat side.  Or maybe the loose family policies and social aesthetics that progressives have preferred since the ’60s have created so much cultural insecurity that progressives now feel they must patch the holes they’ve put in Western civilization’s zeppelin.

Whatever the case, legislation that passed the Connecticut House last week is wrong in a variety ways and, if it makes its way into law, should signal to parents and students the world ’round that Connecticut colleges are not the place to go in order to find formation as a young adult:

“It clarifies that a yes-means-yes policy will be the policy for the state of Connecticut for all public and private colleges,” said Rep. Gregory Haddad, D-Mansfield, who serves on the legislature’s Higher Education Committee and who introduced the bill. “The presence of ‘yes’ is required rather than just the lack of ‘no’ ” in determining consensual sexual activity.

Apparently in keeping with the politicians’ rhetoric, the article goes on to cite bogus sexual assault statistics.  Using false information and propaganda is hardly a new development among those who want to control our lives for us.

But to the manifest wrongness of the legislation:  The state government of Connecticut is presuming to dictate policy for the operation of every college and university, whether public or private.  I’d be interested to know what the progressives think is the difference between the two types of organization, because they don’t tend to respect distinctions.  Indeed, it’s beginning to seem that progressives think of private organizations, including businesses, as slightly less heavily controlled charter schools.

That attitude makes sense, of course, from people who insist that young adults are still “children” for health care purposes well into their 20s and who believe it’s the duty of the government to protect those grown children from uncomfortable incidents of intimacy.  Those of us who are actually grown up, however, should reject this assertion of authority.

Laws against actual criminal behavior are appropriate, to be sure, with standards of evidence and adjudication, but this new assault from the would-be nannies goes well beyond that, into a realm that is best handled at the level of the individual, the social group, and (where consumers desire it) the individual institution.  Given their power as consumers, then, young adults who believe that they can and should make their own way in the world — and parents hoping to foster that sense — should apparently look elsewhere than Connecticut for higher education.

Who knows how much the creepy overseers will slip into your bedroom and your life?

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Cote & Reilly Call for G.A., Not RIDOT, to Set Tolls & Gantry Locations

Senator Marc Cote and Representative Daniel Reilly make a sound separation-of powers case for this in Monday’s GoLocalProv.

One of the most important checks involves the legislative branch’s ability to keep the executive branch from spending too much money. …

Essentially, DOT is being allowed to set a tax rate, collect the taxes and spend the proceeds, all without any input from any other branch of government. We see this provision as a violation of the principles of checks and balances and an infringement upon the principle of separation of powers.

The assignment to RIDOT of toll rate authority is clearly in violation of the separation of powers section of the Rhode Island Constitution. Members of the General Assembly must stand up and be counted. Do they stand with and for the state Constitution and the residents of the state? Or do they side with unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats against the people?

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If Progressives Had Perspective on the “Living Wage”

Maybe it’s an act, but sometimes it’s almost comical how little progressives understand economics and how unable they are to think of other people as, well, people trying to make the best decisions they can under the circumstances.  Oh, they say they have empathy for this group or that, but anybody who responds to actual incentives in the real world slips immediately into the bad-guy-who-gets-no-empathy column if they conflict with progressive fantasy.  Consider:

States and cities whose lawmakers proudly passed “living wage” laws are finding it difficult to make sure employers actually pay their workers accordingly.

Here’s a thought: Maybe the employers are finding it difficult to pay their employees at the level “lawmakers” decide suits their own ignorant vanity.

And many workers — especially those in precarious situations — fear they’ll be fired if they speak up.

And maybe those “firings” wouldn’t be retaliation so much as the simple calculation that government has forced on the employers.  See, wages before the increase were the rate that employers’ ability to pay matched employees willingness to work.  Progressives dehumanize workers by insisting that they can’t actually be making rational decisions to work for what they accept, and they devalue work by assuming it gives those who do it well no leverage — that they’re at the mercy of their employers.

If one imagines these interactions from a more empathetic point of view, the scenario can be one in which employers tell their employees the honest truth that meeting the arbitrary demands of government officials will put them out of business or at least force them to lay off employees’ coworkers and insist on more work from those who remain, leading the workers to voluntarily stick to the pay that they were already willing to accept.

How instances of that positive scenario balance out against instances of the evil-people scenario that progressives prefer is almost immaterial.  Politicians who pass these dumb laws are forbidding adults from making such decisions.

So, progressives double down on stupid:

“It’s pretty shocking how common the violations are,” said Donna Levitt, director of the labor enforcement office in San Francisco, which began ramping up to $15 an hour last year. …

The new laws are meaningless without proactive enforcement, labor advocates say, citing research that shows roughly one in four businesses nationwide already cheat their workers out of minimum wages.

What comes to mind is the IRS practice of aiding and abetting illegal immigrants who are committing fraud with Social Security numbers because, “It’s in everybody’s interest to have them pay the taxes they owe.”  So, why isn’t it in everybody’s interest to let people work for what they’re willing to work for?

The government would rather make it more difficult for people to come to voluntary agreements that ensure that they have some income.  That way, the taxes of those who actually keep their jobs can be used to make politicians and bureaucrats feel good about themselves, again, when they hand out welfare benefits.

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RhodeWorks Roll-Out Gives Illustration of Redistribution

Even as the conversation around repairing Rhode Island’s infrastructure shifts from fixing 152 bridges (and overpasses) around the state to re-imagining the 6/10 connector, it appears that the first toll gantry may be in the process of erection… down in the southern part of the state.  As previously noted, the Rhode Island Dept. of Transportation is in the process of moving the gantries that formerly cast their ominous shadow over the Sakonnet River Bridge to some stretch of RhodeWorks-tolled highway.

The most likely spot, according to a source, is the bridge near exit 4 on Rt. 95, which goes over the enticingly named Nooseneck Hill Road (Rt. 3) down in the Exeter-Richmond area.  That location was among those listed as probable targets during the legislative debate, with a projected toll of $3.  That would also help explain, for another thing, the appearance of this electrical box down there:

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We can speculate as to why the state would want to rush forward with a single toll gantry before a more-final tolling-and-borrowing plan has been solidified.  The most compelling suggestion I’ve heard has been that the Raimondo administration is already preparing plans for additional borrowing through a revenue bond, which would be premised on the toll revenue and would not, therefore, require voter approval.  The sooner any potential lawsuits can be provoked and resolved, the sooner the state can issue (arguably unconstitutional) debt without paying a premium to cover the risk associated with possible litigation.

Whatever the case, though, Rhode Islanders shouldn’t miss the opportunity for a lesson, here.  RhodeWorks came into being as a statewide solution.  It looks like the great majority of the money is earmarked for a very specific location with very limited, regional impact in the Providence area.  Meanwhile, the first revenue-grab will be in a more-rural area in the southern part of the state.

Isn’t that just the way it goes?  Click on the House and Senate tabs of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Freedom Index, and you’ll see maps of the districts.  South of the prospective toll location, one has large districts and a total of around six to ten elected representatives and senators.   Meanwhile, the Providence area is a dense cluster of small districts with a great deal of representation.

Not only is RhodeWorks an exercise in redistributing money from taxpayers and drivers to labor unions and Wall Street investors, but the program also redistributes from the less-well-represented suburbs to the heavily-represented urbans.

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Two Quick Hits on RI Policy: RhodeWorks and Municipal Debt

I see everybody’s wondering how the we-must-borrow-money-and-impose-tolls-because-bridges-all-over-the-state-are-about-to-fall-down RhodeWorks program became a let’s-spend-a-lot-of-money-to-put-a-tunnel-under-nothing-on-the-6/10-connector bait and switch.

While having these discussions, I encourage everybody not to forget the map that Governor Gina Raimondo and the Dept. of Transportation produced showing all of the bridges around the state that would be repaired with the new program if legislators would just pass the bill.  Take careful notice of the legend.  It shows 224 structurally deficient bridges, with 152 marked as “RhodeWorks Bridges,” meaning they’d be fixed, and 7 marked as 6/10 Interchange Bridges.  This shows both that RIDOT sold RhodeWorks as a statewide program and that the agency was likely preparing for a pivot to just the 6/10 already last June.

While I’m writing about being wary of legislation, I thought I’d mention H7551, which is scheduled for a vote in the Rhode Island House, this afternoon.  Basically, it would give every school department in the state a window for the rest of the fiscal year (i.e., before July 1) during which to borrow as much money as they want in order to capture state building grants… without voter approval, naturally.

How easily promises are broken and protections against government excess are swept away.

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Best/Worst List Highlights Insanity of Bill That Would Jack RI’s Already High Energy Costs

As part of its informative Best and Worst Bills of 2016, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity highlights this especially egregious bill.

Despite Rhode Island having some of the highest energy rates in the nation, a bill that would impose a new fee on carbon-based energy, resulting in even higher energy costs for most families and businesses, ranks among the worst bills yet to be voted on according to the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, which today updated its list of the BEST and WORST bills of the 2016 General Assembly session.

Most of us, including myself, will greet with champagne and hearty applause the invention/discovery of a cheap, widely available, reliable, sustainable, “green” energy source, if and when this ever happens. Meanwhile, the sole effect of taxing (let’s call it what it is) politically incorrect fuel sources will be to needlessly make it even more expensive for individuals to live in RI and businesses to operate here.

(By the way, check out how your own legislators are doing so far this session on the Center’s 2016 RI Freedom Index.)

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So Why Is Rhode Island’s Governor Not Pushing For the Line Item Veto?

In an op-ed in today’s Providence Journal, Ken Block does a very good job making the case for the line-item veto.

A line-item veto provides greater budget transparency by allowing a governor to strike out pieces of the budget, forcing the legislature to hold an override vote for each struck item. With the line-item veto, a more nuanced debate can be had in the legislature regarding the merits of each struck item, making it very difficult to override vetoes of particularly bad parts of the budget.

It sure seems like a no-brainer for Rhode Island to join forty four other states and give the line-item veto to its governor. Why is Governor Raimondo, who is unquestionably a numbers person and, accordingly, must see the value of this tool, not rallying public support or lobbying legislators to implement the line-item veto in Rhode Island?

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Hospital Mandate as Proof RI Government Is Off the Rails

In a state in which at least one hospital is losing $3 million every month and is facing bankruptcy, some legislators have the jaw-dropping gall to introduce legislation (H7863 and S2695) that would set maximum numbers of patients who can be assigned to each nurse, with very specific differences depending on the patients’ condition.

Folks, we have to begin taking the warning that such legislation provides.  On a case-by-case basis, these thousands of bills every year may seem inconsequential; they might even meet the standard of representatives and senators who believe they should pass any bill for which they can’t see the downside.  “That sounds like a good idea” is a fine standard while sitting around chatting at a family gathering, but when it comes to actually passing laws, that standard is dangerous.

It is not the government’s role to be a corporate board for all aspects of the economy or the society.  It is not the government’s role to put strict limits on our behavior, our interactions, and our commerce in the name of protecting us from all harm or risk.

We’re coming to a real and final tipping point.  If Rhode Islanders don’t begin insisting that elected and appointed officials are not parents for every adult, child, and pet in the state, we’re going to find ourselves losing all of the services and opportunities that the little tyrants think they control.

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Check Out Your Legislator’s Ranking on the Freedom Scorecard

Don’t miss the R.I. Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s “Freedom Index & Legislator Scorecard“.

From the Center’s statement earlier this week:

Lawmakers and the public are encouraged to visit the “Legislation” tab on the 2016 Freedom Index to determine the bill rankings for the majority of bills that have been rated, but not yet voted on. The “Summary” tab displays individual lawmaker scores.

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An Obvious Solution to an Energy/Environment Problem

Uh-oh. Alex Kuffner reports in yesterday’s Providence Journal that there’s a legal stumbling block… sort of… for the proposed energy plant in Burrillville:

A Brown University professor who helped craft a key state law on climate change is arguing that the construction of a new natural gas-fired power plant in Burrillville would make it impossible for Rhode Island to meet the law’s targets for reducing carbon emissions in coming decades.

In written testimony that is set to be filed with the state Energy Facility Siting Board on Thursday, J. Timmons Roberts, a professor of environmental studies and sociology, says that building the 900-megawatt Clear River Energy Center conflicts with the Resilient Rhode Island Act, the 2014 law that set a non-mandatory goal of eventually reducing state greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

If this is a problem, the solution is obvious:  Kick anybody who voted for this ridiculous legislation out of office and repeal it.  To check who voted “yea” and “nay,” refer to H7904 (item 27) on this House journal and S2952 (item 8) in this Senate journal.

Truly, no word is better than “decadence” to describe the folly of legislators in an economically failing state thinking up ways to make life and business more expensive, here.

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Empowering Schools to Stay in the Status Quo Fold

It looks like RI education commissioner Ken Wagner is getting another bite at the apple for public promotion of his “empowerment school” idea, which I addressed back in January.  Dan McGowan’s got a handy question-and-answer-style review, but Linda Borg’s promotional article  is notable for the refreshing honesty that it includes from Wagner:

“Quality charter schools make the whole system stronger,” Wagner said. “But we absolutely need a strategy to reduce the demand for charter schools. We must … strengthen our neighborhood schools so they can compete.”

In combination with new restrictions making their way through the pipeline — especially legislation that would give local governments more say in whether to accept new or expanded charters serving students from their towns — one could surmise that the effort is not so much to improve district schools to make them competitive in a growing landscape of actual school choice, but to reroute that demand back toward an in-district, more-union-friendly variation on charter schools.

I’ve argued, before, that taxpayers are absolutely justified in demanding more say when it comes to the big invoices that charter schools are permitted to send to them for payment and that charters have become a method of disrupting the private-school market.  That said, these “empowerment schools” have the feel of going in the wrong direction, particularly to the extent that teachers unions and other insiders get on board with the idea.

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Laws Are for the People, Not Their Betters in Government

During yesterday’s discussion on the Rhode Island House floor of H7147, the bill’s primary sponsor, Democrat John “Jay” Edwards (Tiverton, Portsmouth) presented it as a matter of fairness.  Those poor, put-upon elected officials have to provide some degree of transparency into their finances, while local grassroots groups that (very suspiciously) oppose many of the things those politicians want to do to their towns get away with spending money to voice their opinions on local issues without having to provide the politicians’ friends with ammunition for whisper-and-intimidation campaigns.

I’ll leave it for later to go into detail about Edwards’s dishonesty during his State House performance, yesterday.  For the moment, I’ll simply note the audacity of this line of argument coming from a supporter of imprisoned former Speaker of the House Gordon Fox and move on to a national issue that gives some sense of the contempt that Americans should have when government officials chastise the People to be more transparent:

The Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group’s Ethan Barton reports that lobbyist, Michael J. Brady, asked in a private email for a little favor of EPA General Counsel Joe Goffman, his insider friend at EPA: “Joe, would you please send this email to Gina for me? I would have sent it to her directly with a cc to you but I don’t have a private email address for her and would prefer to not use an office email address.” (Emphasis added) Brady represents a number of green energy groups that want to support EPA’s Cross-State Pollution Rule. Goffman

The casual tone of the email exchange shows “that it is a regular practice of senior officials of this EPA to use private e-mail accounts and other ‘off-book’ techniques to craft rules with ‘green’ activists with clear financial and political interests is now clear beyond a reasonable doubt,” said Chris Horner, the man who exposed former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s “Richard Windsor” email moniker.

As I said, this is a national matter, but there can be little doubt that it’s an issue at the state level, too.  For example, we’d have had no idea that George Nee — a big-time labor figure who sits on multiple government boards at the state level — used his Yahoo email account to lobby for a union-friend’s daughter to get a 38 Studios job if those emails hadn’t been part of the giant scandal of the company’s bankruptcy that lead to lawsuits and legal disclosures.

It’s increasingly clear that people in government don’t see themselves as our representatives, but as our aristocracy, with free license to seek out ways to make it impossible for us to operate without their permission.