Despite the objections of politicians who want the support of progressives and the money of abortionists, H5343 is either unbelievably radical or all-too-believably incompetent in its drafting.
In keeping with my post, yesterday, about the government’s impositions on people who dare to work with others’ hair without a license, Jeff Jacoby highlights, in his Boston Globe column, an exchange between Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders and hair salon owner LaRonda Hunter during the senator’s debate last week with his Republican peer Senator Ted Cruz.
Ms. Hunter wanted to know how she’s supposed to grow her business when the government imposes thresholds for benefits, like health care, that don’t work within her profit margin. Jacoby:
The exchange could not have been more enlightening. For entrepreneurs like Hunter, a mandate to supply health insurance triggers inescapable, and unignorable, consequences. For Sanders and other defenders of Obamacare, those consequences are irrelevant. They believe in the employer mandate — a belief impervious to facts on the ground.
Lawmakers so often enact far-reaching rules with worthy intentions, but little awareness of how much harm government burdens can cause.
Jacoby goes on to note this classic anecdote about liberal Democrat Senator George McGovern:
After a long career in Congress, former senator George McGovern tried his hand at running a business — a small hotel in Connecticut. “In retrospect,” McGovern wrote after the inn went bankrupt, “I wish I had known more about the hazards and difficulties of such a business. . . . I also wish that during the years I was in public office, I had had this firsthand experience about the difficulties business people face every day.”
Think of all the idiotic (yes, idiotic) legislation being submitted by the likes of the General Assembly’s quintessentially inexperienced Ivy League legislator Aaron Regunberg. Voters must become the adults in the process, because too many of the politicians and their special-interest-or-ideologue supporters are not capable of playing the role.
Although some of us on the right find their viewpoints intellectually incoherent, progressives do have consistent guildelines that can help one to predict what their opinions will be on particular issues. On matters of biology and sexuality, the guideline appears to be that any movement away from the attitudes and lifestyles that facilitated human society’s advancement through to the 1960s is good. Consider legislation that Steve Ahlquist promotes on RI Future:
House Bill 5277, which if passed would prohibit “conversion therapy” by licensed health care professionals with respect to children under 18 years of age was popularly supported at the House Health Education and Welfare Committee meeting Wednesday evening. Conversion therapy as defined in the bill includes any practice that “seeks or purports to impose change of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, practices which attempt or purport to change behavioral expression of an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity or attempt or purport to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex.”
So, to review: Progressive legislators have submitted an extremely broad and radical bill that would prevent just about any government interference when women want to kill their babies in the womb. The Department of Education has issued regulations authorizing schools to guide students along the path of changing their genders, even if it means deceiving their parents.
And yet, progressives want to forbid people who wish to reduce or eliminate their same-sex attractions from working with professionals who might be able to help them do that. This is pure ideology, like a fundamentalist dogma with no tolerance for individual choices that stray from the accepted beliefs.
Not to play Internet psychotherapist, but one gets the impression that people who’ve made radical lifestyle choices want to use the law to prevent others from choosing differently if their doing so might imply that the radical choice is wrong. As for the progressive movement, as a movement, undermining the social structures and freedoms that empower individuals in the context of their families leaves a hurting population ripe for progressive rule.
Legislation explicitly designed to “penalize and reward” corporations relies on misconstrued research and ought to concern voters about the competence of their choices.
Well, well, well. According to Amanda Milkovits, shootings are down in Providence:
The number of shootings has decreased over the last five years, and with 68 victims last year, is reaching the level of nearly a decade ago. There were 11 homicides in 2016, which is tied with 2006 for the lowest number of homicides in about three decades, according to statistics from the Providence police.
Last year, there were no gang-related homicides – a first in recent memory. That is significant, as one gang killing can often lead to retaliation.
Clearly, therefore, violating Rhode Islanders’ Second Amendment rights with new gun control measures is unnecessary. That’s especially true given that violent crime is up at the same time, per WPRI’s Dan McGowan. Looks to me like law-abiding citizens could probably use more guns to protect themselves from thugs.
New national research shows that Rhode Island ranked just 48th on the 2016 Family Prosperity Index (FPI). In December 2016, our Center in conjunction with our national partner, the American Conservative Union, issued a 52-page RI Family Prosperity report that highlighted contributing factors to our state’s poor rankings across 57 indexes. Among other discussions, the report suggests that Rhode Island has room to modernize and improve its criminal justice system. Reforms put forth as part of the state’s JRI, and by other organizations can help provide more opportunity for upward mobility and prosperity for Ocean State families.
Until they get tangled up in them, most people probably pay little attention to the metastasizing regulations that governments impose on us. Spread across society, regulations tend to avoid focusing so much pain as to spark broad, targeted resistance, whereas special interests, including established businesses with incentive to create barriers to entry for competition, have great incentive to keep the ratchet turning. Moreover, most people don’t see the direct link between regulation and mounting costs in the prices of goods and services and opportunities they personally never realize. That’s why common sense rules of thumbs like this, described by the Wall Street Journal editorial board, are important:
President Trump signed an executive order Monday that will require federal agencies to eliminate two existing regulations for every new one created, fulfilling another signature campaign trail promise.
The president signed the order from the Oval Office minutes after emerging from a roundtable with small business owners, who surrounded the Resolute desk as Trump praised the rule.
The executive order would also forbid estimated costs of regulations from going up.
We need this sort of policy on steroids in Rhode Island. Maybe a dozen regulations killed for every one introduced.
If you’re interested in the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s increased emphasis on family well-being and the implications for criminal justice reform, CEO Mike Stenhouse laid it out the other day on Matt Allen’s WPRO radio show.
Rachel McGuire is correct when she writes:
The answer is obvious: We shouldn’t deny any parent – or any child – the benefits of school choice. That’s what National School Choice Week is all about. As we gather this week (through Jan. 28), let us reaffirm the value that comes with opportunity and pledge to continue our work to extend that value to every child in Rhode Island.
Stop by the State House this afternoon to see what school choice is already available in Rhode Island and to hear how more could benefit the state. This is an issue that should cross ideological and partisan lines. Indeed, it’s only not obvious because the special interests that benefit from the status quo are so well funded (at taxpayer expense).
It isn’t true that Raimondo’s corporate crony tax credit programs mainly use new taxes from the companies that get them, even the Qualified Jobs handout.
The Wall Street Journal’s Kirsten Grind raises a red flag over another mortgage-related investment scheme:
About $3.4 billion has been lent so far for residential projects, and industry executives predict the total will double within the next year. That would likely rank PACE loans as the fastest-growing type of financing in the U.S.
As the loans spread, so do problems that echo the subprime mortgage crisis. Plumbers and repairmen essentially function as loan brokers but have scant training and oversight. They often pitch PACE loans to help land contracting jobs and earn referral fees from lenders, according to loan documents and more than two dozen borrowers, industry executives and employees.
The referring contractor gets a cut. The municipality gets a cut. And taxpayers will wind up on the hook if things go wrong.
In case you’re wondering, yes, Rhode Island has this. Democrat Governor Lincoln Chafee signed the legislation into law in 2013, after Democrat Art Handy (Cranston) passed H6019 and a gang of Democrat state senators led by William Conley (East Providence, Pawtucket) passed S0900. The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity did include this legislation in the 2013 iteration of the Freedom Index.
It’s that time of year, again, for charitable-sounding legislation to enter the scene and ensure that government controls every aspect of our lives and interactions.
It may be music to Big Government ears to declare welfare programs as economic development empowering entrepreneurs, but it’s just spin.
Hugh Hewitt makes a great point that conservatives like me sometimes need to hear:
It would be fair to announce the end of the mortgage-interest deduction in 30 years. It would be fair to phrase out the deductibility of state taxes by, say, 2050. But not overnight. Not unless you want to give the gavel back to Nancy Pelosi.
Purists have great arguments against “market distortions” in the tax code—in theory. But Americans don’t live in theory. They live in homes they bought at a value based on the existing deduction, in states whose taxes were partly offset through the federal code. Change those rules and what’s left of the GOP in high-tax states will be gone.
While those on the Left would like to treat this sort of consideration as justification for keeping government programs going forever, those on the Right do have to acknowledge that people make decisions based on bad government policy, and it can be overly harsh to the point of injustice to drop onto their heads the roofs that they’ve built over the policy framework.
Unfortunately, as with everything else, we can expect that reasonable concessions from conservatives will not be reciprocated. For example, with the beginning of this century, special interests pushing bonds and Tiverton’s Town Council doubled the tax levy in Tiverton in less than a decade, to the point that house buyers who shop based on the monthly payment on a 30-year mortgage payment would have to pay around 15% less for a house in Tiverton than in Westport, Massachusetts, next door.
Those who bought in Tiverton before this punishment was dished out have been unfairly penalized, and many have been responding by cutting their losses and leaving town, not just because of the cost, but also because of the injustice.
The “Fair Shot Agenda” of progressive Democrats in Rhode Island is morally indistinguishable from a mob deciding to give somebody permission to steal somebody else’s money.
I’ve been meaning to suggest that this doesn’t look like such a great idea:
[Democrat Speaker of the House from Cranston Nicholas] Mattiello says the state’s recent increase in revenue will help.“Our revenues are on the rise,” he said. “They’re $40 or $50 million ahead of our projections just last year. The first year I was elected our revenues were dropping like a lead ball, hundreds of millions of dollars almost overnight, and now we’re getting that revenue back. So it’s that revenue that we get back that we’re going to dedicate to our taxpayers.”
I get that the car tax is an emotional issue for some people, although it has seemed to come under fire mostly for the unfairness of assessments. But tax policy should not be determined by emotion.
Other taxes have a more negative effect on jobs and the economy. That means not only that the state would be better off applying its tax-cutting motivation to other taxes, but also that replacing the car tax with other revenue, as Mattiello suggests above, is by itself a job-killing reform.
Additionally, shifting more decisions about tax revenue and the spending thereof to state government reduces the independence of local government, and to the contrary, that’s something of which we need more.
Abby Schachter raises a warning flag on the presumption of government agencies to tell parents how to raise their children:
The fact that legislation is necessary to correct the imbalance between parents’ rights and the separate, independent rights of their minor children is one of the defining characteristics of our current age, one in which the government at all levels has become involved in the private lives of families, dictating child-rearing standards and penalizing parents who do not follow the rules. This condition of overbearing state interference in the lives of families is pervasive, though not coordinated…
“Not coordinated” in the sense that there is no secret council with a defined plan to absolve parents of the rights and responsibilities of parenthood and transfer them to the government. However, one would have to deny the link between big-government philosophy and a definable set of beliefs associated with progressivism not to acknowledge an implicit coordination.
Look, this is one of those areas in which the degrees to which interference is permissible and the boundaries at which such interference ought to be allowed through government, through social institutions, or merely through personal social pressure ought to be available for debate, but such decisions, being so personal and intrinsic to the perpetuation of families’ belief systems, ought to be made at the most local level possible.
My opinion is that government oversteps its boundaries when it mandates behaviors beyond immediate harm and with less than near-certain risk. As for voluntary association with moral institutions, like churches, they ought to be nearly as free as individual families are.
Colorado’s contrast with Washington, which also legalized recreational marijuana in 2012, gives further indication that Rhode Island should not rush into drug legalization just yet.
Regulation of campaign materials is self evidently an abridgment of speech and therefore makes our entire electoral system illegitimate.
The Rhode Island Democrat Party and other left-wingers have been trying to make a big deal out of the fact that conservatives aren’t entirely sitting on their hands during this election cycle:
On Thursday, former Democratic party chairman William Lynch, now senior adviser, issued a news release calling on voters to “reject special interest money” from “outside right-wing organizations” trying to influence the election.
He pointed to $90,294 in combined independent expenditures from the Roosevelt Society, led by former Republican Providence mayoral candidate Daniel Harrop, and the Gaspee Project, founded by activist Mike Stenhouse, and suggested they were being secretly funded by the trucking industry.
That’s two organizations spending on a range of candidates and issues. A GoLocalProv article out today actually puts the groups’ combined spending at $60,850, but either way, the idea that this represents some invasion of voter sanctity by self-interested parties is absurd. Just look through the bigger spenders on GoLocal’s list:
- $335,000 from the URI Foundation and URI Alumni Association to push voters to put taxpayers in $72,937,126 of debt (principal and interest) for spending on URI programs
- $175,000 from two individuals directly involved in ProvPort to push voters to put taxpayers in $112,210,962 of debt to expand their port and do work at the one in Quonset
- $100,000 from United Way, as mentioned on this site yesterday, to push voters to put taxpayers in $80,150,687 of debt to fund the local affordable housing industry
- $1,700,000 from Twin River to promote state and local ballot questions to allow a new casino in Tiverton
- $146,500 from Alan Hassenfeld, partly to push for passage of ethics reform, but more to back candidates who’ll work to infringe on Rhode Islanders’s Second Amendment rights
- And rounding out GoLocal’s top 10 list is Planned Parenthood, with $25,712 to promote politicians who’ll fight to continue allowing the killing of babies before every inch of them is clear of their mothers’ bodies
Anybody who’s concerned about the use of government to take away people’s property and rights should be much more concerned about money for debt and left-wing policies. Voters should also be concerned about a party and ideology that tries to make it seem scandalous that those who disagree with them have the audacity to participate in the political process. They’d rather be able to take your property and your rights without any opposition.
A concrete example of a situation in which the state Ethics Commission should have some authority over legislators might give anybody on the fence on ballot question #2 a nudge. By way of a reminder, owing to a court case, the commission is not permitted to investigate allegations that legislators have conflicts of interest. Senators and representatives can vote for legislation that will profit them directly, and the Ethics Commission has no authority even to investigate. Ballot question #2 would repair that check against corruption.
Consider Democrat Representative Cale Keable (Burrillville, Glocester). According to his official biography, Keable is employed by Providence legal firm Partridge Snow & Hahn, where he works in civil litigation, especially “real estate, construction disputes and environmental litigation.” According to the state transparency site, Partridge Snow & Hahn has received more than half a million dollars of business from the state government of Rhode Island over the past few years, most of it specifically from the Department of Transportation, for which the firm has handled “infrastructure – engineering” matters and “agency bonds.”
And yet, Keable voted for the DOT’s RhodeWorks toll-and-borrow plan.
Given its often-disappointing approach, the Ethics Commission might not find that to be a problem, even were it fully empowered to investigate. It’s conceivable that Keable will receive direct benefit in his role at Partridge Snow & Hahn from RhodeWorks (say, by handling litigation arising from the road reconfiguration). Or, on the other end of the spectrum, his role in the firm may be completely disconnected from anything having to do with its government contracts (as disconnected as it’s possible to be within a single company, that is).
In other words, the Ethics Commission might look into the matter and conclude that Keable’s vote did not represent a conflict of interest under the code of ethics. But right now, the commission can’t even look into it, leaving Rhode Islanders with no reason to do anything but assume the worst about their legislators.
In April, I noted my wife’s ticket in Massachusetts for holding her cell phone in her hand in order to better follow audio GPS directions. Surprisingly, although we requested a court date to contest the ticket, we haven’t heard anything yet. Meanwhile, judges in Rhode Island are coming to conclusions unhelpful to our cause:
In a decision that has drawn criticism from some in the defense community, a three-magistrate panel upheld a finding that an East Providence man violated a state law banning text messaging while driving when a state trooper spotted him using his GPS.
If upheld, the tribunal’s reading of the law would make Rhode Island the only state in the nation to ban any manipulation of a cell phone by drivers, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures. However, talking on a cellphone — an activity that many other states prohibit unless a hands-free device is used — is still allowed.
In Rhode Island, naturally, the problem is compounded by bad drafting of the law, with a definition of “text messaging” as “the process by which users send, read, or receive messages on a wireless handset, including, but not limited to, text messages, instant messages, electronic messages, or e-mails, in order to communicate with any person or device.” Where the judge’s decision is specious lies in the fact that GPS already exists, so legislators could reasonably have been expected to put it on the list of examples. “Not limited to,” in this reading, would be a phrase intending to cover some innovation in technology or obscure messaging application that might arise to skirt the law.
Sadly, this is how law gets made, and it probably has been. The difference was that the law attempted to do much less in the past, leaving people less susceptible to being caught in such interpretations.
Here’s an interesting commentary by National Education Association Rhode Island honcho Robert Walsh on the proposed constitutional amendment in Rhode Island to give the Ethics Commission authority over the General Assembly, as highlighted on Twitter by local progressive Sam Bell:
… ever since the Ethics Commission tried to stop any Union MEMBER for voting on any issue related to unions the potential for mischief was clear. An unelected 4th branch of government that makes regulations, enforces them, hears violations, and renders judgement? A constitutional abomination.
My gut inclination is to agree with Walsh on the Ethics Commission. My own disenchantment came when the commission ruled, essentially, that government employment can never be considered a corruptible activity itself. If a town solicitor, for example, plays both sides of a trial when a business associate or family member is brought up on some sort of violation before the city or town that he or she serves, then that’s corrupt, but if the business associate is another government employee abusing his or her position, then that’s perfectly fine.
But the peculiarity comes in the fact that government of the progressive, union-dominated type that Walsh prefers is practically built upon unelected agencies making regulations, enforcing them, hearing them as judges, and imposing consequences. The Dept. of Education does this. The Labor Relations Board does, too, as does the Department of Labor and Training and probably every single agency, in its own capacity. This isn’t a problem for progressives; it’s the plan.
That leads me to suspect that Walsh’s real problem with the Ethics Commission is that its makeup and structure may allow it to make decisions from time to time in ways that go against the system that RI insiders prefer. That’s almost enough to make me a modestly enthusiastic, rather than tepid, supporter of the amendment.
Despite policies that have caused the Ocean State to suffer with the 50th ranked business climate, the 48th rank on the Family Prosperity Index, and the 48th rank on the Center’s Jobs & Opportunity Index, our new 2016 “Sheeple” Index demonstrates that there is scant dissent among Rhode Island lawmakers who vote for such policies. The 2016 “Sheeple” Index is a collaboration between WatchdogRI.org and our Center. In a healthy democracy, there should be a rigorous debate of diverse policies. Sadly, and conversely in Rhode Island, it seems that when leadership authorizes bills to move forward, legislators feel compelled to automatically support them.
An alarming number of lawmakers vote in lock-step with leadership here in the Ocean State.
Year in and year out, we watch bills pass the General Assembly with little or no opposition, raising the unavoidable conclusions that (1) the General Assembly is a corrupt enterprise, and (2) our elected senators and representatives don’t really get the role that they and government generally should be playing in our society. (That’s a purposefully inflammatory construction; one could say they just have different political philosophies, which is ultimately mere semantic spin.)
A study published yesterday by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity in cooperation with WatchDog RI found a shocking lack of divergence from the preferences of the senate and house leaders. As the following charts show, only 5% of senators and 11% of representatives voted with the leaders of their chambers less than 75% of the time. (The list of legislation reviewed removes resolutions and marriage solemnization bills.)
Even limiting the bills just to those on which there was at least enough controversy for one legislator to vote against the Senate president or House speaker (or miss the vote), 78% of senators and 68% of representatives voted with leadership on at least three out of every four votes.
Given the condition of our state, there are really only two possibilities, here: Either our elected legislators waste our time fiddling with legislation that is so benign that it generates no substantial disagreement or opposition, or they aren’t representing the people of Rhode Island, with all of our diverse interests and perspectives, but rather a narrow band of special interests who can be corralled into agreement on bills that help them while harming the rest of us.
It is a result of the failed status quo of increased government intervention in our personal and business lives that the Ocean State ranks so poorly on so many national indexes. It is not acceptable that we rank 50th with the worst business climate in the nation, 48th on the national Family Prosperity Index, and 47th on the Center’s Jobs & Opportunity Index. It is up to voters to review all the data, and decide whether or not to hold lawmakers accountable for their voting records this November. This trend is exemplified by continued deeply negative overall General Assembly scores on our 2016 Freedom Index.
Loaded with information that will be useful to voters this fall, the Freedom Index is part of our larger transparency initiative. The index examines legislators’ votes in terms of their likely effect on the freedom in the Ocean State.
Even when the actions of other people have no immediate affect on us, their being permitted to take them does affect us, as does the process by which we change what we allow and don’t allow.
Throughout law and regulation, one can spot a creeping attempt to enshrine the worldview of the Left and restrict the ability of those with traditional values to affect the culture; here’s an example.
With the general election now the next big event (if the primaries in Rhode Island can even be said to be a big event), I took a look at the bonds that will be on the November ballot. In total, we’ve got $227.5 million (nearly a quarter-billion dollars) in new debt that Rhode Islanders will likely approve, not including the tens of millions more that municipalities are surely seeking.
That’s crazy. Government bonds are one area of democratic action that make me mildly sympathetic to progressive inclinations to limit the franchise to those with some basic knowledge. They’re also a reason I wonder if progressives might be incorrect to assume a more-educated electorate would tend in their direction. What might voters do differently if they understood that debt isn’t just free money to spend on feel-good projects?
Making matters worse, these bonds aren’t just desperate attempts to gain money to build things for which the state should have budgeted with regular revenue; some of them are clearly policy issues. How many voters, I wonder, would really want to supply the state government with borrowed money to buy up even more property in the state?
Would voters really fall for these schemes if they took the time to consider just how much of it will (or at least can) become subsidies for private businesses — from the URI “innovation campuses” to help private businesses use public-university research to come up with new products and services for a profit to the government purchase and discounted resale of farmland to improvement of ports that benefit a limited number of businesses at public expense? All of these things benefit narrow groups at the expense of everybody else.
Even more concerning is that, when you add them all together, the picture becomes one not of a few included groups siphoning off public resources, but a comprehensive system that ultimately excludes those who don’t receive some sort of public aid. If you’re an ordinary Rhode Islander who wants to know who those excluded parties are, take a look at your latest selfie.
Apparently every hyper-informed person in every ideological group believes that the public would agree with his or her beliefs if only people were better educated, but I can’t help but think that my ideological group is correct in that belief. As the saying goes, everybody’s conservative when it comes to the things he or she knows best. I simply don’t believe that people who’d been shown the corrupt, incestuous connections building into a web that ensnares our freedom and opportunity would continue to support such things… or the politicians and organizations who work so hard to make them a reality.
Three Brown faculty members traffic in questionable statistics in an apparent push to end the deadly scourge of days that are “merely warm.”