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Politics This Week with John DePetro: The Governor’s Court

My weekly call-in on John DePetro’s WNRI 1380 AM/95.1 FM show, for November 30, included talk about:

  • The Pause arrives
  • The Queen’s bid for a higher court
  • McKee’s bid for the Queen’s attention
  • The General Assembly as courtiers
  • Is the jester in the Britt trial still relevant?

I’ll be on again Monday, November 30, at 12:00 p.m. on WNRI 1380 AM and I-95.1 FM.

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UPDATED: Rhode Island Hospitalizations – Still Less than Half the Peak

Eight days ago, this is where Rhode Island stood with hospitalizations, the original and only goal of the lockdown. Now Rhode Island is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases. Good time to update, especially with a press conference by Governor Raimondo coming up shortly.

At 168 “Currently Hospitalized”, we are still less than half the peak in late April of 377. And Rhode Island hospitalizations were not overwhelmed even at this peak. In fact, the Governor Raimondo herself stated mid-April that the need for hospital beds would peak in late April or early May and that Rhode Island was not going to see a worst case scenario. She was correct on both points. Nor has Rhode Island come close to the peak for hospitalizations

Yet despite achieving this goal, Governor Raimondo, with the express consent by inaction of Speaker Mattiello and Senate President Ruggerio, has inexplicably not lifted the onerous and damaging lockdown of Rhode Island.

Moreover, as we are now seeing in Europe, lockdowns do not work to stop the disease.

Yes, we need to be vigilant. Vulnerable populations must continue to take steps to protect them and we all need to be thoughtful of our interactions with them. But let’s also not overreact.

By continuing to impose what has now been demonstrated to be an ineffectual (yet highly damaging) measure to suppress spread when the singular goal of the measure was achieved six months ago, our state leaders are flexing power in a way that is completely detached from facts, science and data. This is, accordingly, an an abuse of power and an overreaction, the result of which, intended or not, is to punish Rhode Islanders in the short and long term for something that is beyond our control.

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More Information about Ineffectuality of Shutdown: Over 75% of RI COVID Deaths Are Occurring in Nursing Homes

WPRI Channel 12’s Eli Sherman and Walt Buteau reported on April 17 that 80% of COVID-19 deaths in Rhode Island have occurred in nursing homes. (All deaths from a pandemic are awful but somehow a nursing home setting is especially horrifying both because of the vulnerability of the residents and the perception, normally correct, that nursing homes are safe places.)

This disturbing pattern continues with the most recent COVID mortalities announced by the state yesterday: 10 of 13 were nursing home residents.

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Chris Maxwell: Allow All Businesses to Re-Open Immediately Under “Manufacturers’ Pledge Model”

“Non-essential” businesses in Rhode Island remain shut down by order of Governor Gina Raimondo even as unemployment filings shoot up and COVID-19 projections drop markedly. While much of trucking has not been directly impacted by the shutdown order, as an industry that interacts with all businesses in Rhode Island – manufacturing, farms, restaurants, small shops, big box stores – trucking has a unique position and voice as Rhode Island looks to re-open.

The governor has said that she doesn’t know what regulations will be issued to allow businesses to re-open. But this is quickly and easily fulfilled: the state simply need to tell all businesses to follow the manufacturers’ lead and take the same pledge that was exclusively afforded to this sector several weeks ago.

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COVID-19: A Plan To Restore Financial Security to RI

In these trying times, with well over fifty thousand Rhode Islanders recently laid-off, common-sense public state-based policy can help mitigate the destructive economic impact of the Rhode Island COVID-19 crisis … and can help restore a sense of normalcy and financial security.

We need your help to tell lawmakers you want them to take action.

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Time for Government to Pop the Superficial and Focus on What’s Important

Being in the car less, recently, I’ve fallen behind on podcast listening, so the episode of Changing Gears to which I listened while working out last night was a few weeks old.  The guys were explaining the various reasons (having to do with materials, labor, and politics) that Rhode Island’s roads don’t last.

Not long afterwards, I was back at the computer and thinking (again) how far Internet technology has come in the past year… when the power went out.  All the Zooming, podcasting, on-demand streaming, and other innovations that this viral crisis has made so critical to basic life fell of the table of social organization in an instant.  On a clear night, the flow of electricity just stopped.

Growing up, I don’t remember ever losing power when the weather didn’t provide an obvious explanation, and it seems to be becoming more common in recent years.  Every time it happens, I can hear a few more generators running, as my neighborhood adapts to this new reality over time.

While the world has been substantially shut down, I’ve also been catching up on reading legislation that managed to receive floor votes.  Here’s one to ban disposable plastic shopping bags, and I note the news today that San Francisco has now banned reusable shopping bags to prevent spread of COVID-19.  Another bill that didn’t manage to get a vote in the innocent days before the pandemic (House, Senate) would have criminalized the intentional release of balloons into the air.

Yes, while a virus was spreading around the planet bringing death and economic ruin, Rhode Island legislators were pondering a bill titled “Relating to Health and Safety – Balloons.”

Whether we’re talking about the roads or the power grid or the budgetary desperation we’re hearing from our elected officials, the message ought to be clear:  Rhode Island has to get back to basics.  Stop worrying about balloons.  Stop micromanaging the economy.  Stop confiscating tax money from people in order to fund superfluous things or pet projects.

This crisis is illustrating the necessity of government for a variety of functions, but it is also proving the need for government to do those critical things well.  And that means focusing on them, including a halt to the drain of taxpayer money to things that just shouldn’t be priorities.  Both basic government functions and private-sector activity are more important.

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McNamara’s Bid to Make Others Pay for His Heroism

The legislative proposal by Warwick/Cranston Democrat state representative Joseph McNamara has made the news rounds, but it deserves a stronger point to be made.  The press release says he’s “drafting new legislation that would help businesses hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis by guaranteeing that business interruption insurance would cover their losses regardless of policy language.”

It’s kind of a dishonest move.  Insurance companies charge their clients rates based on the risk involved in their policies.  These charges go toward a fund to cover the estimated payouts based on the risk for each thing that’s insured.  There is competition in insurance just as there is in every other private-sector market, so companies can’t charge fees that are so high they’re disconnected from this relationship to payouts.

If the General Assembly and governor pass a law that requires insurance companies to pay for events that were deliberately left out of the calculation of risk, the insurance companies will have to find that money somewhere.  One way or another, that means distributing the cost among other clients.  The complications of reinsurance (insurance for unexpected insurance payouts), do not change this fundamental fact; they just mean the spread is broader.

If government officials want to insure Rhode Island businesses against a loss during a crisis, they should do it the more-honest way of using government funds.  The legislature and governor should make the statement that this is a worthwhile priority and will therefore either displace lesser priorities or require tax increases.

Of course, cost comes at a political price, which politicians prefer to avoid.  Thus, these sorts of mandates that make other people pay for government policies (aka hidden taxes) ensure that the McNamaras of the state can pat themselves on the back for giving away money while hiding the fact that it has to come from somebody.

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Public Policy Solutions To Restore Rhode Island’s Financial Security in COVID-19 Crisis

If we rely on American innovation in the private sector, our state can weather this horrible COVID-19 crisis! Our Center has ten proactive policy ideas that can help Ocean State businesses and families survive the crisis, while also paving the way to recovery. And, we need your help to tell lawmakers you want them to take action.

State lawmakers must find a way to get back in the saddle, demonstrate calm and deliberate leadership, and consider emergency legislation to help our citizens and businesses lead the way back. We’re recommending:

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Reduce Roadblocks Prohibiting Meaningful Work

In 2018, our Center published one of our most comprehensive policy briefs, The Right To Earn, which highlighted Rhode Island’s bottom-10 standing when it comes to over-regulation and the need for across the board occupational licensing reform. The Ocean State has also recently been ranked as having the worst state business climate in all of America.

Since then, we have been encouraged that reforms continue to move forward based on our report on the heavy burdens of “occupation licensing” laws in the state.

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The 2020 Rhode Island General Assembly Bill Tracker – A Handy Way to Track the G.A.

Are state lawmakers helping to make Rhode Island a better or worse place to raise a family and build a career?

With Rhode Island already ranking a dismal 47th on the Jobs & Opportunity Index and with the worst business climate in America, the Center tracks critical pieces for legislation making their way through the Rhode Island General Assembly and what they will do to your freedom.

We evaluate bills in terms of their likely effect on the free market, the size and scope of government, the balance of residents’ interests against those of public employees and beneficiaries, and the constitutional structure of a divided government with limited power over the people whom it represents.

It is the core tenet of the Center that with greater freedom comes greater prosperity, or conversely, as is the case in the Ocean State, that a continued loss of freedom leads to the type of economic stagnation that Rhode Islanders have suffered from over the past decade.

We encourage you to follow along with us as we track the 2020 General Assembly session. Click on the link here to see our 2020 Bill Tracker.

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Casimiro and Vella-Wilkinson on Pending Legislation

Guests: Julie Casimiro, State Representative, H-D 31, rep-Casimiro@rilegislature.gov
Camille Vella-Wilkinson, State Representative, H-D 21, rep-vella-wilkinson@rilegislature.gov
Host: Richard August
Topic: Vaping and other pending legislation
Host: Richard August Time: 60 minutes
Representatives Casimiro and Vella-Wilkinson discuss a broad range of pending legislation and other matters, which have their concern. Topics include vaping legislation; a veteran joint oversight committee; pharmacist having birth control prescription authority; reproductive health; firearm legislation; climate control; out of school time learning; early parole for young rehabilitated offenders; military sexual assault trauma; and more. Other matters include the need for a constitutional convention; line item veto; minimum wage; and candidate endorsements.

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Q & A On TCI, The Transportation & Climate Initiative

Q. What is TCI?

The Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI) is a multi-state regional agreement designed to drive up the price of motor fuel (gasoline and on-road diesel). As a regressive tax, the TCI Gas Tax will disproportionately harm low-income families, especially those who live some distance from commercial centers or their workplace.

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The Political Class Plans To Harm Rhode Island In 2020

The more freedoms we have, the more prosperity we will enjoy. The constitutional government of our great nation was formed to preserve our freedoms. But in the Ocean State, we reduce freedoms … and we suffer the consequences.

As the 2020 General Assembly Session begins, and we are once again looking at even more of status quo (or worse) based on the policy agenda from the political class, when will Rhode Islanders say enough is enough?

Instead of focusing on the real issues harming the business climate of our state… the insiders are looking to restrict the rights of citizens by stopping the use of plastic straws and bags. Give me a break.

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TCI Gas Tax Unnecessary; RI Already Won the War on Carbon

As you probably know, Governor Gina Raimondo is proposing that Rhode Island sign on to TCI (Transportation and Climate Initiative), a regional carbon cap-and-tax program on transportation that would involve, among other things, Rhode Islanders paying an additional tax on gas and diesel of seventeen – twenty four cents+ per gallon. A couple of Justin Katz’ excellent posts about TCI are here and here

Let’s discuss the stated purpose of TCI. According to the governor, it is to save the planet by getting Rhode Islanders to give up their cars. This is not an exaggeration; below is what the governor says about TCI in this December interview with WPRI’s Kim Kalunian (starting at minute 03:15).

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Opioid Solutions When the Government Refuses to Address Problems

In his recent essay on this site, Dr. Stephen Skoly described the consequences of legislation seeking to regulate prescription opioids, but he stopped short of broad conclusions about the politics involved.  As it happens, one such conclusion fit in well with the other topics that John DePetro and I discussed on December 30.

We can, of course, debate whether a new $5 million fee for opioid manufacturers and wholesalers is actually about solving a social problem, rather than finding a new source of revenue.  But taking the politicians at their word for their motivation, one can at least say that such policies infantilize the people, as if our legislators and governor are the only adults in the state and therefore must protect patients from their irresponsible selves and from greedy doctors.

Something milder and, in its way, worse is probably going on, as well.  The theme that John and I happened upon in our segment was that government officials in Rhode Island shy away from addressing actual problems.  They look for all sorts of ways to get at them without actually naming and attacking the root causes.

When it comes to a failing education system, they seek work-arounds and small tweaks like, like shifting authority toward principals, rather than draw attention to the labor-union structure that makes the system all about the remuneration of adults rather than the education of children.  When it comes to teenage fights at a mall, the focus goes to things like community programs to give kids something to do, rather than unraveling the progressive assumptions that lead to gang-friendly policing and suspension-unfriendly school regulations (not to mention identity-group entitlement).

Just so, going after fentanyl and heroin on the criminal market would manifest in urban areas and among minorities.  Many people in those communities would be grateful for the improved environment, but the enforcement and incarceration statistics would look bad and draw the attention of groups like the ACLU.  So instead, government tries to find a solution from the other side, making things more difficult (literally more painful) for law-abiding citizens, in the hopes that they can limit the market for the drugs and make the dealers go away for lack of profit.

If that approach also produces a $5 million fee for government, so much the better.