The week of March 23rd will mark the vote for a new Speaker of the House of Representatives along with votes for members of the leadership team. OSTPA hopes that the new Speaker moves this state forward with a real plan for economic improvement, a plan to support the education reform efforts and a plan to create a government in which Rhode Islanders can believe in and prosper.
In the meantime the beat goes on during committee hearings and you should be a part of it all! Read on...
With the recent events unfolding at RI's State House, it is unclear who will be at the helm for the remainder of the 2014 session. Gordon Fox has resigned as Speaker of the House and Majority Leader Nick Matiello is confident that he has the votes to succeed Fox as Speaker.
But there are others as well, Representative Mike Marcello is also confident that he has the votes to win and Representative J. Patrick O’Neil has been quoted as stating that he is putting together “a solid team”. It is expected that there will be a House vote this Tuesday. Representative Fox will remain through the balance of his term and has stated that he will not seek reelection.
Regardless of whom the new leadership team may be, OSTPA continues to demand that this legislature put forth a vision for the state's economic future and not allow it to continue to painfully limp along. It is imperative that good government bills make their way through the two chambers and reach the Governor's desk, specifically the Ethics Bill and the bill to Repeal the Master Lever. There are also laws that recently took effect and should not be tinkered with like pension reform and Voter ID. RI's plan for improving education should be codified, not dismantled.
Kicking an economy when its down.
While the Senate was busy last week passing a bill (S 2290) to increase the cost of public works projects by forcing both the state and municipal governments to pay for apprentices in the amount of 10% of the total labor, the Senate Environment Committee was listening to a bill that proposes to make sweeping policy changes relating to renewable energy, Senator Sosnowski's S 2690 , adding significant costs to already high electric bills. The companion bill, H 7727, sponsored by Representative Ruggiero, will be heard this Thursday in the House.
A few weeks ago, at the House Economic Workshop, guest speaker John Kennedy from CVS noted that the high cost of energy is crushing the state's chances to attract new business. Legislation like S 2690 and H 7904, another sweeping renewable energy bill, are frightening because they appear to be incredibly expensive and far reaching, with no accompanying analysis of the economic impact to the state. There are models out there that attempt to estimate the damage legislation like this can wreak on an economy. Without that type of analysis, it only signals to companies that RI lawmakers ignore the needs of business and therefore our sign at the border that says "Businesses Keep Out" shines brighter than ever. The RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity is one of those organizations which has modeled the impact of renewable mandates that exist in RI's current law and it is not a pretty sight. Please write to the sponsors, Senators Sosnowski, Walaska, Conley, Cool Rumsey and Bates and Representatives Ruggiero, Handy, Marshall and Finn and ask them for their perspective on the cost/benefit to a little speck like RI expending all of those resources to "go green" against the back drop of nations like China, India and the rest of the US itself. You can read OSTPA's perspective on RI's move to green energy in our March 20 GoLocal Prov article.
In addition to the push for sweeping renewable energy legislation, efforts to undo the reform implemented by RI's Department of Education continue to plague the political landscape.This week, the repeated drone to delay, postpone, or bar a bare minimum standard for graduation (remember, our education commissioner is only asking for partially proficient) threatens RI's education reform. As RI citizens, we can't ever forget that the RI Manufacturers Association stated that our state's graduates are unemployable. Those are harsh words, but a reality we all needed to hear. Now it is time to bring forth legislation that codifies the commissioner's efforts, not legislation that takes RI back in time and puts us on a path to the status quo.
On the upside, a bad bill has been withdrawn.
Fortunately, Representative Shekarchi has withdrawn his bill to destroy business in RI, H 7055. His bill would have removed the basic tenet of a free market economy - employment at will (see GoLocal Prov article). Please write to Representative Shekarchi and thank him for withdrawing this jobs killer.
Representative Nunes provides the antidote.
This week, while the House bill to increase the cost of public works contracts will be heard in the Labor Committee, Representative Nunes' antidote will also be heard. H 7697 will no longer mandate the use of apprentices in contracts, but will require that the state inform bidders that apprentices may be utilized on contracts over $10 million.
As an aside, OSTPA would like to point out the irony of Representative Dickinson's bill H 7615. It would make it a felony to provide false information to a General Assembly representative and will be heard in committee this week.
LEGISLATIVE HEARINGS 3/25/14 - 3/27/14
TUE, MAR 25
Room 205, Rise (4:30)
H 7697 No longer mandates the use of apprentices in public works contracts. At $10 million the bidders must be notified that they may utilize apprentices. This bill is the antidote to H 7623 and S 2290 below that are quickly moving through the General Assembly.
Sponsors: Nunes, Marcello, Hearn and Jacquard
H 7623 Companion to S 2290 A, this bill would require the state and municipal governments to mandate at least 15% of the labor hours be performed by apprentices adding significantly to the cost of public works projects. This bill was introduced just this past week and is already scheduled for a hearing. Companion bill S 2290, amended down to 10% of the labor hours, has already sailed through the Senate, passing just last week.
Sponsors: Carnevale, DeSimone, Hull, Bennett and Guthrie
Room 313, Rise (4:30)
S 2594 Creates a new "crimes against the public trust" law to include bribery, selling political endorsements, etc.
Sponsors: Lombardi, DiPalma, Jabour, Conley and Lombardo
WED, MAR 26
Room 313, Rise (4:30)
S 2059 Delays standardized testing as a requirement for graduation.
Sponsors: Satchell, Metts, Sheehan, Pichardo and Miller
S 2135 Delays implementation of standardized testing.
Sponsors: Satchell, Cool Rumsey, Conley, Metts and Goldin
S 2185 Prohibits standardized testing as a requirement for graduation.
Sponsors: Metts, Crowley, Pichardo, Jabour and Satchell
THU, MAR 27
Room 135, Rise (4:30)
H 7727 A 27 page bill that creates a tariff-based, renewable energy program that would mandate a permanent 15 - 20 year tariff, which means the higher cost of renewables would be locked into your electricity bill for that period, on top of the additional cost that DeepWater Wind will add to your bill in the near future.
Sponsors: Ruggiero, Handy, Marshall, Finn
Up for a Full Vote in the House:
WED, MAR 26
H 7633 Sub A Extends public contracts from 3 to 5 years when municipality's local pension is in critical status and in need of a funding improvement plan.
Transmitted to Governor, Awaiting his signature:
H 7345 Sub A, allows municipalities to by pass local voters when issuing a bond for work to be financed through the recently creating Road and Bridge Revolving Fund.