While not much has happened this week in the General Assembly due to Mother Nature, there are still many galvanizing issues that require your attention.
RI's Education System is at Risk.
✓ The funding formula for education comes under attack every year and is under attack this year.
✓ The issue of school choice is fought vehemently by the public unions in the face of mounting evidence that it works.
✓ Education Reform that Commissioner Gist has worked on for years was gutted last session by the General Assembly in the face of Massachusetts' success with the same reforms.
✓ The organizational structure of the Education Board was jerry-rigged a few sessions ago, and
✓ Now the new Governor appears happy to see Commissioner Gist off to another land.
What's worse is that prominent organizations have categorically denounced RI's education system as it continues to produce unemployable graduates.
✓ The RI Manufacturer's Association stated it clearly.
✓ A top official at Electric Boat (the Quonset anchor) basically reiterated those same comments.
✓ The VP of CVS stated that an educated workforce was one of the four pillars of providing a business friendly environment and that same company put its money where its mouth was when they made the decision to locate a new digital technology development center in
Massachusetts instead of right here at home.
Who will Carry the Ball?
Have we reached the intersection where public demand for improved education meets the political will of legislative leaders? Will our General Assembly, our new Governor and our pro-education reform Lieutenant Governor join forces for real education reform?
The Council on Elementary and Secondary Education wrote to the governor and explained that there are 12,000 applicants for 1,200 spots in charter schools. That's 10 times the number of spots available and yet they expect there will be significant pressure from school committees opposing expansion of school choice for parents and their kids.
Legislative efforts to shut-down school choice are already in the hopper with bill H 5160, introduced this session by Representative Serpa, a former teacher, along with Representatives Phillips (whose wife is a teacher), and Casey, a public union fire fighter in Woonsocket. Rep. O'Grady is also a co-sponsor. He is the Chairman of the Commission to study the school funding formula with an obvious eye toward cutting off revenue for public charter schools.Their bill would require that school committees and councils approve a charter school.
This is akin to the fox guarding the henhouse! This bill carries with it the foregone conclusion that public charter schools would be dead on arrival.
Will Speaker Mattiello and Governor Raimondo heed the warnings from businesses that we need better educated graduates? Will the two of them commit to passing legislation and setting policy based on the state's needs rather than on protecting the adults in the equation? Will Lt. Governor McKee carry this ball forward?
RI needs to stop operating in a vacuum. There are plenty of states that have succeeded in implementing education reform measures. Massachusetts began 20 years ago. They are light years ahead of us.
RHODEMAP RI, the Regional Plan for Sustainable Development, Should Not Exist.
The RI Commerce Corporation (aka Commerce RI), formerly known as the Economic Development Corporation, has a budget of $4 million.That should be more than enough to gather economists and local business people together to develop a real economic development plan, one where the drafters actually consider economic metrics. That plan – yet to be developed – is the plan that needs to be vetted by elected all officials and the public.
If a majority ultimately approve, then it must be adopted by the General Assembly and the Governor.The Division of Planning, with no economists on board, should not be the lead in developing an economic development plan.
The General Assembly Wants to Add to Cost of Energy, and then Mandate a Cap for National Grid Rates. How Does that Work?
The issue of the high cost of energy will not have an easy solution.The General Assembly has passed so much legislation that adds to the cost of energy, it will be very difficult to unwind. But there are representatives who want to tackle the issue.
Questions jump to the forefront:
✓ How much can RI afford all in the name of proclaiming that we are first in renewable energy?
✓ What good is being first in something if it decimates your economy?
✓ Where is the perspective in this debate?
✓ Have we reached the point yet where the public will demand that financial analyses be the basis of reviewing our state's energy policy? or,
✓ Will we simply continue to accept the assumption that a state of 1,500 square miles can have any impact on global carbon emissions?
This all comes at a significant cost and that cost benefit analysis must be made.
It is ironic that there are bills to cap any rate increases from National Grid, but last week there was a hearing to mandate more costs for ratepayers from National Grid through renewable energy!
The GA needs to understand that you can't have it both ways - mandates for more renewables that come at a higher price and mandates to keep utility prices down. It just does not work.
Elbowing Out the Little Guy.
Have you seen the Providence Journal article that reports Chafee's laundry list of things the new governor might want to look into?
Things like protests over bidding for state contracts. And in spite of that, the General Assembly wants to limit the number of bidders by mandating certain contracts include only bids from companies that have a qualified apprenticeship program, knocking many out that do not have that kind of program.
In the "Legislative Hearings" section below we have listed a commission that is looking to limit competition on public works projects since legislation they have introduced in the past has not been approved. Not to be left behind, there's the perennial bill, H 5150 introduced this session, requiring contractors to list their subcontractors in the bidding process.
These are egregious examples of the efforts being made to create additional requirements meant to make the process more difficult for the little guy; and more expensive for you.
Your Tax Dollars to Support Illegal Aliens Introduced within the First 4 Weeks.
And, if you have followed OSTPA, you know about the perennial legislation providing more and more benefits for illegal aliens in RI.The bill (S 53) to allow drivers' licenses, sponsored by Senator Ciccone, has already been introduced, as has Rep. Diaz' bill (H 5228) to allow in-state tuition to illegal aliens. A recent article in Fox News reports that Vermont's new law is attracting illegals from outside the state. A report from watchdog.org found that illegal immigrants were paying $2,000 in New York City for help obtaining a Vermont license.
Can RI really afford more illegal immigration in this state?
On the upside, there is a hearing this week for the Joint Resolution reaffirming the friendship between the State of RI and Taiwan.
LEGISLATIVE HEARINGS 2/3/15 - 2/5/15
THU. FEB 5 Chairman Shekarchi
Room 205, 3:30 pm
H 5074 Increase minimum wage for fourth time to $10.10.
Sponsors: Bennett, McNamara, Lima, Hull, McLaughlin
H 5222 Extending the reporting date of the commission charged with seeing if it's a good idea to eliminate a number of contractors bidding for state jobs because they don't have an apprenticeship program. Adds 2 new members appointed by Speaker and 1 new member appointed by Minority Leader. The attempt to shut-out competition should be rejected in its entirety.
Sponsors: Shekarchi, Ucci
House Municipal Government Chairman Craven
Room 203, Rise (4:30 pm)
H 5044 A bill to mandate that municipalities exempt new construction, residential development from property taxes until sold and for no more than 2 years. What do you think?
Sponsors: Edwards, Nunes, Marshall, Newberry, Filippi
H 5173 A bill to mandate that municipalities exempt new construction, commercial development from property taxes until sold and for no more than 2 years. What do you think?
Sponsors: Shekarchi, Edwards, Solomon, Casey, Trillo