07/02/13 – House and Senate Floors Sakonnet River Bridge Toll Surprise

Its being a surprise, my not being onsite, and my not expecting there to be quite as lengthy or dramatic a discussion, I livetweeted, rather than liveblogged, last night’s General Assembly activities, utilizing the Capitol TV live streams. Herewith, the tweets I would have blogged, in a format that might be self-deprecatingly characterized as “livebleeting.”

4:20 p.m.
What? Tolls back on with the Sakonnet? Why haven’t East Bay legislators been calling in the troops? (Guess they got their budget…)

4:24 p.m.
Patrick Laverty tweets: Apparently this is why Chafee hadn’t signed the budget. Maybe a veto unless they put the tolls back?

4:25 p.m.
Bill Rappleye tweets: @profwschiller gets tolls in place before federal cutoff… Bridge completion… Raise them later

4:29 p.m.
Rhode Islanders need to learn soon that they can have no faith in their government or trust in them or the process they have set up.

4:31 p.m.
Well if Rep. Edwards is uneasy, he’s not letting his constituents know what’s going on, that I’ve seen.

4:38 p.m.
Discussing a bill to force Rhode Islanders to participate in a paid-time-off program through mandatory disability insurance: Did Rep. Handy just suggest that workers who stay home are more productive than those who work with life on their minds?

4:42 p.m.
Somebody explain to the legislators that people are struggling because there’s no opportunity, because they’re killing the economy!

4:52 p.m.
You know, somebody should start a company to sell this insurance stuff that the General Assembly keeps putting in law. Might be profitable.

5:04 p.m.
Rep. Ferri, who likes the program, should get insurance for his employees.

5:16 p.m.
Ian Donnis’s tweet adding to his list of “Foxisms” the phrase “People are picking me apart like a Thanksgiving goose” makes me wonder: Can you put lipstick on a goose?

6:11 p.m.
Any minute, I’ll get the “red alert” emails that I’m sure East Bay reps told the local anti-toll advocates has to go out like now.

6:23 p.m.
Ian Donnis tweets that Rep. Edwards says he accepts rationale that start of toll is needed to preserve possible future toll on Sakonnet; says he doesn’t feel misled. Doesn’t the situation of a surprise last-minute change of plans on the tolls call for something more than being “extremely disappointed”?

6:31 p.m.
Another dangerous idea appears in Ted Nesi’s tweet that House Corporations just added vote on bill to create “benefit corporations.”

6:32 p.m.
The economy is still bad, in RI. People are still struggling and suffering. Couldn’t it have at least been an economically neutral session?

6:32 p.m.
Ted Nesi tweets: Rep Edwards expects 10-cent toll on Sakonnet River Bridge starting Aug. 15 under bill coming tonight, he just told @wpri12’s Todd Wallace.

6:35 p.m.
Mark the time at 20 min from my sarcastic tweet about a stop-the-tolls red alert email to the arrival of a stop-the-tolls red alert email

6:35 p.m.
Ian Donnis tweets: the head of RIDOT warned reps pre budget vote that eliminating toll could preclude future tolls

[At this point, I summarized the history of the toll legislation, on which I’ve already posted.]

7:28 p.m.
Hey, Newport: New toll legislation lets them raise the toll on your bridge. Enjoy!

7:51 p.m.
The 10-cent-maximum language doesn’t differentiate tolls. Might be 10-cent plus $1.50 billing fee for those without a transponder. Who knows…

8:08 p.m.
Toll bill is up in the House Finance Committee

8:12 p.m.
House fiscal staff is explaining that once the bridge is complete, you cannot toll it. [So stop construction until February.]

8:15 p.m.
Shouts from the audience wanting to testify. Rep. Naughton, acting as chairwoman, says, nope. (Just this moment or this hearing?)

8:17 p.m.
Naughton ignoring calls from the audience. (Hey peasant, keep it down!)

8:18 p.m.
Saying “no” loudly doesn’t get you off the hook Rep. Gallison.

8:19 p.m.
Committee approves.

8:21 p.m.
All I can say is: Learn the lesson Rhode Island. You’re running out of time.

8:23 p.m.
Aaron Frechette tweets: Disgusting contempt for the public and reps. Paraphrase: No time for questions, no answers. They said we have to vote. Do it.

8:28 p.m.
Watching these proceedings, it occurs to me that, when “compassion” means forcing people to pay into time-off insurance they don’t want, you’re starting with a low bar.

8:28 p.m.
Will Richmond tweets: It looks like the R.I. General Assembly is giving a lesson on poor government this evening. Lack of toll debate, late changes shameful.

8:33 p.m.
John DePetro tweets: Imagine being a new business trying to deal with ri general assembly? Their word is worthless.

8:38 p.m.
Eh. By next week, we’ll all go back to believing they’ll never beat us again. It’s just that they get stressed out at work…

8:47 p.m.
This is the likely reaction of how many? MT @WilliamRicci: When I watch RI General Assembly, I only become more convinced I made the right decision to leave.

8:51 p.m.
John Robitaille tweets: NH 1M people & $5B bdgt. RI 1M people & $8.2B bdgt. We have a spending problem. The plan: toll the bridge + unionize babysitters. Really?

9:22 p.m.
4 of the 7 bills just added to House agenda are negative on RICF&P watch list: ow.ly/mBIJz

9:43 p.m.
They’re talking about the “benefit corporation” bill.  This language sticks out to me: “the benefit director shall not be personally liable for an act or omission unless it constitutes self-dealing, willful misconduct, or violation.” Once these corporations are in place, you’ll start to see the legislature manipulating the marketplace to give them an advantage, in general and with respect to government contracts.

9:44 p.m.
Rep. Joe Trillo calls it “an oxymoron corporation” (acts like non-profit for a profit).

9:51 p.m.
They’re now moving to the toll bill.  Rep. Karen MacBeth asks how they can amend a law that isn’t law, yet. Also, , they did not suspend rule 7d and this bill was not submitted yesterday.

9:51 p.m.
House Speaker Gordon Fox replies: Hey, whatever. (I’m paraphrasing.)

9:52 p.m.
East Bay reps should cry “fraud” and storm out.

9:54 p.m.
Boy, that toll delay feint to pass the budget was sneaky, sneaky, wasn’t it?

9:56 p.m.
Tiverton Rep. John Edwards is speaking. A shorter paraphrase of his opening statement might be: “I’m rising in opposition, because I have to do so to save face in front of my constituents.”

9:57 p.m.
This is not Rep. Edwards’s best performance. Call for RITBA oversight. How about threats to leadership, rep?

9:59 p.m.
Trillo: “I never thought we would do a repeat of the deception process that we did the last time.”

10:00 p.m.
Ian Donnis tweets: Well, John Loughlin says tolls are a @projo style pay wall around Aquidneck Island

10:01 p.m.
Canario asks & has my question answered: apparently the plan to let drivers pay once each way per day is no longer in effect. Not much of a reduction, then, for many of us.

10:03 p.m.
The East Bay reps were much more animated and red-faced when they knew they were going to win… curious.

10:04 p.m.
East Bay Rep. Dennis Canario: “That faith [in state government] isn’t there anymore” for him. Tepid. Tepid. Wottaya gonna do about it?

10:06 p.m.
Aquidneck Island Rep. Linda Dill Finn asks (paraphrasing): Hey, why didn’t we ask for an extension on the toll option when we talked delay? To ask is to answer.

10:07 p.m.
Rep. Scott Guthrie: “52 of you voted to not toll that bridge. You’re going to be asked to change that vote tonight.”

10:09 p.m.
Rep. Guthrie: “These are people. This is an entire half of the state, for God’s sake.”

10:10 p.m.
Rep. Guthrie: “All we’re doing is playing games.” Also (I’d say): nailing coffin of any trust in state government.

10:12 p.m.
This session proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that there JUST ARE NO RULES in RI government.

10:16 p.m.
So why have non-East Bay reps Guthrie, Trillo, & Costa been the most heated in opposition to toll maneuver?

10:16 p.m.
Pawtucket Rep. Patrick O’Neill: “One of the only things that you have in this world is your word.”

10:18 p.m.
Well, now we know how the General Assembly is going to sink lower than the 38 Studios brouhaha.

10:19 p.m.
Fox: “We all know the history.” O’Neill stands up: “I don’t think you have the guts to” rule me out of order. He does.

10:21 p.m.
What’s the quorum number for the RI House? The East Bay reps should organize a walk-out of enough members.

10:29 p.m.
Rep. Spencer Dickinson “doesn’t buy” all of the rationale for the process, here.

10:30 p.m.
Rep. Fox tells MacBeth that “this is not an amendment to the budget.”

10:31 p.m.
Speaker Fox is being pretty reckless with his bully pulpit, tonight.

10:31 p.m.
Who has standing to sue the legislature for violating the state constitution, I wonder?

10:33 p.m.
Patrick Sweeney answers my question: That’s one for Pat Conley/Judge Flanders

10:35 p.m.
Rep. Deborah Fellela corrects Dickinson that the Tappan Zee bridge north of New York City is only “fie dollars” (sic) and it’s only tolled one way.

10:40 p.m.
Anyone else get the impression that Canario just got up to change his earlier vote, but felt like he had to say something about the toll?

10:41 p.m.
Guthrie: “I’m having a hard time agreeing to anything that’s being put before us” because nothing is being done above board.

10:42 p.m.
Majority Leader Nicholas Mattiello is having a grand old time using points of order to take umbrage to accusations about poor behavior.

10:44 p.m.
Rep. Mattiello: “We’re reinforcing something we did.” [That’s chutzpa.]  “We’re supporting what we did.”

10:44 p.m.
Even as one of Rhode Island’s leading cynics, I’m stunned by the dishonesty.

10:50 p.m.
An obscure Grant Lee Buffalo song comes to mind: “We hunger for a bit of faith to replace the fear/We water like a dead bouquet, does no good does it dear?” youtu.be/ILpq6LDrUWQ

10:51 p.m.
How did Rep. Marshall turn this into a 4th of July speech? Then: “of which all of us have dealt with as much as you”

10:52 p.m.
Marshall: “The 700 hundred plus bridges that we are deficient upon”… wonder what he’s hinting at.

10:53 p.m.
Trillo moves to recommit. Objection… (from whom)?

10:54 p.m.
Trillo to Canario: “Don’t bring your faith in this room. It doesn’t belong here.”

10:54 p.m.
Trillo: We’re chopping Tiverton out of our state. [Massachusetts calling…]

10:58 p.m.
Apparently, the House pages have been handing out pieces of cake to the representatives.  Rep. MacBeth stands to express offense at this, in light of the subject on the table and the concerned East Bay residents in the gallery.  MacBeth versus Fox in the battle over cake; Fox ends by cutting off her microphone and shouting, “Eat your cake!” (Any feminists in the House?)

11:00 p.m.
Steph DeSilva tweets: Okay the cake thing is making me a little embarrassed in front of other states on twitter…

11:02 p.m.
Mattiello insisting that this is just an enhancement of article 5. Paying attention East Bay? Where are your reps standing up and calling BS?

11:04 p.m.
Flash poll: So, where does the RI General Assembly stand relative to the IRS in your opinion?

11:06 p.m.
Rep. Edwards stands to offer a low-key objection to Mattiello’s characterization of things. Did somebody nudge Edwards and say, “they’re twittering about you”?

11:07 p.m.
Passes: 40-25

11:08 p.m.
Shouts from gallery: “Shame on you!” Well, put. What a farce of representative democracy. There are no rights if there are no rules.  At least Mattiello looks a little sheepish on camera.

11:09 p.m.
Some of the sentiments in my twitter feed:
I am increasingly hard-pressed to understand how Rhode Island is considered a real state.
LET THEM EAT CAKE proclaims Speaker Gordon Fox. Shall the RI State House leadership 2013 forever be held in a state of shame. Insanity.

11:13 p.m.
Hold it! RI Senate bringing toll bill straight to the floor.
Spokesman tells me President Paiva Weed will “come down off the rostrum and address the issue.”

11:18 p.m.
Now in the Senate: Why didn’t anybody object to immediate consideration (without hearing) of the toll bill in the RI Senate?

11:21 p.m.
RepublicanRI tweets: I would like to thank the Democrats for tonight’s show in the House. I have just been contacted by someone who wants to run against them.

11:22 p.m.
Senate Finance Chairman Daniel DaPonte doesn’t know the bill he’s presenting. There’s no delay on possible Newport Bridge toll increases, as he says there is.

11:25 p.m.
Sen. Dawson Hodgson points out that there’s no limit on the tolls, once the moratoriums end.

11:27 p.m.
East Bay Sen. Walter Felag flips a dime. “Before you know it, we’re being taxed to death.” [Yeah, like starting 20 years ago.]

11:31 p.m.
Portsmouth Sen. Christopher Ottiano can’t imagine “at this hour” anybody will be swayed, so he’ll be brief. (Why not kill clock & make experience painful as possible? Why not point out that there was no hearing in the Senate?)

11:32 p.m.
Sen. DiPalma also “disappointed.” (Hey, folks, how about some OUTRAGE!)

11:33 p.m.
Sen. Louis DiPalma sees a bright spot in the bridge legislation amendment, namely that the commission that their creating will look at all bridges, not just those around the island. (But wasn’t the purpose of the commission to find an alternative to tolls? Why is it now the whole-state bridge commission?)

11:35 p.m.
The East Bay Senators are pulling off their performance even worse than the East Bay Representatives.

11:36 p.m.
Senate Majority Leader Dominic Ruggerio supports the tolls. “I think 10 cents is something that we have to put as a toll” “a small price to pay”

11:37 p.m.
Ruggerio: “I don’t think 10 cents one way or the other is going to affect anybody’s life.”

11:38 p.m.
Senate President Teresa Paiva Weed (D, Newport) “It’s difficult for me to rise on this issue.” She’s giving a Sakonnet River Bridge history lesson to argue that it’s an emblem of what happens without maintenance. (Umm… weren’t there taxes for that?)

11:40 p.m.
Paiva Weed: They’re going to look at user fees… [but that’s ON TOP OF the taxes we’re already paying]

11:41 p.m.
Paiva Weed, talking about the bonds on the Newport Bridge, that require them to be able to raise the tolls over there: “These aren’t moral obligation bonds; these are real bonds.”

11:44 p.m.
Breaking: Serious discussion to fund infrastructure probably going to follow this year’s serious discussion of economic development. (hehe)

11:44 p.m.
TPW is a yes on the tolls (along with Rep. Martin, also from Newport)

11:45 p.m.
TPW: “It might mean that we put a new toll on the Mount Hope Bridge.”

11:46 p.m.
Passes. 29-8

11:48 p.m.
Bottom line: There is no real representative democracy in Rhode Island. Wholesale change is needed, but the incumbents are locked in.

11:50 p.m.
Sen. Hodgson doesn’t respond to my tweeted question why there were no objections to immediate consideration.

11:49 p.m.
Former Portsmouth representative Dan Reilly tweets: Absolute disaster in the General Assembly tonight. The budget passed with a razor-thin margin…what did east bay get in return???

11:53 p.m.
So, on budget night, I had some self-doubt, wondering whether I’ve become to cynical. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

11:53 p.m.
Ted Nesi tweets: Felag, Bristol Dem whose constituents just got hit with toll, didn’t sound too upset; he jokes offscreen, “I’ll need a grief counselor!”

12:06 a.m.
Kevin McGreevy tweets: The longer the GA stays in session, the worse things get.


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