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Monday’s Providence Journal Political Scene contains an interesting moment regarding vague legislation (since withdrawn) to give the state government authority to go into all public and private schools in the state and test them against an official measure of tolerance: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

The video following the text on this WPRI story features me arguing that the governor’s executive order making gun confiscation a higher priority for law enforcement doesn’t adequately respect the rights of the gun owner.  One can tell that it was written entirely by gun-control advocates.  The person under investigation, while law enforcement must “follow up” with him or her at least once, has no advocate in the process.  Moreover, the Working Group for Gun Safety has no requirement that any members be supporters of gun rights or even private-sector gun experts.  “Gun violence prevention advocates” and “affected families and youth” get a nod, though.

As a distinct matter separate from the wisdom of the “red flag” policy that Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo promoted, however, the process and presentation raise important questions about the governor’s priorities.

First is the fact that the public was told on Friday that the governor would sign some broadly defined “red flag” legislation on Monday, which she did at a staged media event in Warwick.  Then, we all waited around to discover what, specifically, she had done after she had already done it.  No public input; Raimondo formulates a policy behind closed doors and assumes it is perfect.

That was followed by, second, the fact that the language of the executive order was not available anywhere, as far as I could tell, including on the governor’s executive order page, which at the time hadn’t been updated since 2015, and on the page for the related press release.  The executive order page was updated before the close of business, yesterday, after I’d complained about the omission on social media, but as of this writing (the following morning), the tab at the top of the list still says “2015.”

In other words, with all the public relations personnel that Governor Raimondo is infamous for having hired, nobody bothered to make this executive order available upon release — let alone beforehand, available for public comment.  That suggests that the important thing, to the governor, isn’t the policy, but the PR, and that isn’t how law ought to be formulated, especially when restricting Constitutional rights.

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A “Red Flag” in Our Trust of the Judiciary

Have we completely lost our understanding of why the founders of our nation attempted to design a system of government that didn’t rely on the good will and unassailable wisdom of the human beings who wield government’s incredible power?  One can only conclude that we have when reading proposed legislation sponsored by Democrat Representative Dennis Canario (Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton).

The “red flag” bill would allow law enforcement personnel, including the AG’s office, or a household or family member of a gun owner to petition the court to have a person’s guns removed and to block him or her from buying new ones.

A single judge then decides the matter, with limited information and with no outside check (like a psychiatrist) required.  All of this potentially happens without the knowledge of the person whose rights are under attack.

With regard to our Constitutional rights, the step of taking somebody’s weapons should be the end of a process, not the first step.  In the immediacy of an actual incident “get the guns out of there” might be a reasonable first action, but not as a general rule, as this legislation makes it.

The point about trusting judges is equally important.  We have judges because sometimes it comes down to somebody having to decide something, not because we think that people who take that position are somehow wiser or more objective.  It should be that somebody has to decide, not that we want to let somebody decide.

Even with things far less consequential than Constitutional rights, we recognize the importance of protections.  In the Olympics, events that require subjective review have multiple judges, from multiple countries.  We only use umpires or referees when we’re applying a clear rule to a set of circumstances.

This legislation comes nowhere near a clear standard.  It merely offers some suggestions about what a judge should consider, and with no consequence for frivolous petitions.*  Moreover, it transforms the concept of a “red flag,” which should mean enhanced scrutiny, into a regime of confiscation.

In short, it’s the sort of tyranny that inspired our forefathers to explicitly write down certain of our rights and the boundaries of government.

* The legislation does include language making it a misdemeanor to file petitions “knowing the information in such petition to be
materially false, or with intent to harass the respondent.” The bar to prove intent in either case could be high, however, especially if the petition comes from law enforcement. Moreover, if law enforcement files the petition in good faith based on false information, the language in the bill would not appear to cover that lie. (Although, it’s possible that other laws would come into play.

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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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Cicilline Reinforces the Suspicions That Elected Trump

In the Bonus Q&A of a recent Rhode Island Public Radio Political Roundtable, Democrat Congressman David Cicilline responded to a question by RIPR commentator Scott MacKay in a way that affirms the suspicions that many of us have had about the thinking of federal politicians, especially on immigration and especially among Democrats.  MacKay asked, “Would you be willing to appropriate federal money to build Trump’s wall in exchange for taking care of the Dreamers?”  Cicilline responded as follows (emphasis added):

You know, the proposal that Senator Schumer put before the president, that he has now withdrawn is something that I think it would be challenging for most Democrats to support. I support border security. I think that will obviously mean repairing some of the existing wall, maybe building some fences. It ought to be done in a smart, efficient, effective way. The president’s own chief of staff said a wall is not the way to secure our border. So, it’s probably not the best way to go forward.

Although, Louis Gutierrez said the other day: We ought to vote for the wall, take care of the Dreamers and then when we get back into the majority, in November, we can repeal the wall. That’s not a bad strategy.

As the recent cliché goes, this is why we got Trump.  Part of the reason that immigration has become such a challenging issue is that the political Right has known for decades, now, that any deal must implement the stronger security that they seek before any of the laxity that the political Left wants can be done.  That’s because we know that any sort of amnesty or relief will be done immediately, and then the federal government will never get around to implementing greater security.  All that sequence does is send the message worldwide that the U.S. will ultimately bend its rules for people who can get here while leaving open the gaps to enter the country.

The lesson applies more broadly, too.  We know from experience, and now from Cicilline’s own words, that his party nationally is not interested in fair negotiation and good faith negotiations.  They have political objectives, and any promises, rules, and a sense of shared nationality are nothing in the face of those goals.

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Pushing for Occupational Licensing

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has today released a media and information page and an initial brief supporting reform of occupational licensing laws and other regulations.  From the second link:

Rhode Islanders Dream, Too. The right to earn a living in the profession of one’s choice without government interference is fundamental to each person’s freedom to fulfill his or her individual dreams and goals. In making Rhode Island a less friendly place to call home for Americans looking to fulfill a lifelong dream, to raise a family, and to build a career, our state government restricts that right by forcing too many of its residents to seek its permission and to overcome burdensome and costly barriers before engaging in meaningful work.

In a comprehensive national analysis of occupational licensing barriers for low-to-middle-income workers and aspiring entrepreneurs, a 2017 Institute for Justice report ranked Rhode Island among the 10 most widely and onerously licensed states. Already suffering bottom 10 rankings on the Family Prosperity Index (FPI), overall business climate, and on Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), Rhode Islanders should be provided with every opportunity to engage in gainful work.

Unfortunately, Rhode Island is becoming less of a “home of the free” and more of a “land that requires permission.” For many, the costly fees and training mandates that are irrationally and unfairly imposed on certain occupations presents an insurmountable barrier to engaging in a new profession. As one factor in its bottom 10 FPI ranking, the lack of opportunity to engage in prosperous work has forced tens of thousands of Rhode Islanders to move out of state, bringing with them billions of dollars of income earning potential.

Rhode Island’s dismal business climate, because of excessively high levels of taxation and regulation, keeps our state uncompetitive on a regional and national basis. Especially hard hit are low-income occupations for which earning a primary or secondary income is vital to family self-sufficiency.

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Their Constitution Is Their Ideology

Pro-abortion extremists in the General Assembly are back with their push to cut all traces of Rhode Island law, most of which is currently superseded by federal law, that in any way limits access to abortions or affirms the biological fact that unborn children are, in fact, human beings.  One provision would eliminate the statute against the barbaric procedure of partial-birth abortion, wherein the abortionist brings the baby almost fully into the air and then kills him or her before final delivery.  (The method of killing can involve crushing the baby’s skull and sucking his or her brains out.)

But rather than inflame passions with accurate descriptions of abortion, I’ll focus, here, on a peculiar rhetorical trick of the activists:

“We have anti-choice leaders in both chambers of Congress, and a Supreme Court whose balance could help the other two branches destroy the protections provided by Roe v. Wade. Unless we erase these unconstitutional laws, it is feasible that the women of Rhode Island could be knocked back a half-century to the days of secret, dangerous back-room abortions,″ [Providence progressive Democrat Representative Edith] Ajello said last week after introducing the bill.

“Our state has lacked the political will to repeal these unconstitutional laws, and that inaction is now putting the health and rights of Rhode Island women at genuine risk,″ added the lead Senate sponsor, [Providence progressive Democrat Senator] Gayle Goldin, in a news release last week. “Women deserve better from the leaders of our state.”

Clearly “unconstitutional” is a very important talking point to these activists.  The peculiarity is that if the Supreme Court were to reverse the precedent of prior activist courts, these state laws would no longer be unconstitutional.  That is, in addition to their belief that one human being has the authority arbitrarily to declare whether another human being has any rights at all, they also hold that constitutionality is ultimately defined by conformance with their own ideology, rather than agreed-upon words and legal processes.

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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 Appearance of a Crime Wave

Obviously, it’s still too early to assert correlation, but given how crazy I think parts of Providence’s “Community Safety Act” are, leading me to call it the “Gangland Security Act,” I wanted to note Dan McGowan’s WPRI coverage of a related controversy:

Providence Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare said Thursday he sees “absolutely no correlation” between several recent shootings and the new police reform ordinance that took effect Jan. 1.

Pare was responding to a post on the Providence police union’s Facebook page that claimed violence “seems to have escalated” since the Providence Community-Police Relations Act (PCPRA) became law at the beginning of the year.

Unfortunately, it takes a while for data to accumulate sufficiently to assert a trend, but it’s worth keeping an eye on the possibility.  And of course, having a string of progressive mayors would seem likely to open several streams of causation for an increase in crime, so the Gangland Security Act may not necessarily be the greatest contributor.

I’ve made some changes in the way I gather my daily news, so that might account for this impression, but in general, it has seemed as if more crime stories have been coming out of Providence lately.  I’ve certainly started seeing posts here and there around the Internet with people asking if it’s safe to go into Rhode Island’s capital.  For now, they’ve seemed to be tongue in cheek, but impressions affect people’s behavior.

As the number of crime stories climbs and people begin talking about what seems to be an increase, with the police union chiming in with an explanation, actual data may come to matter less than the talk around the state.

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