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LEGISLATIVE ALERT

 

“Food for thought”, as if these ideas had not been conceived prior to March 2014, prior to when business people with a countrywide perspective spoke to the General Assembly’s House at an economic workshop this past week.

 

John Kennedy, a senior Vice President at CVS provided the Assembly with the four factors they consider when thinking about expanding in a new state, all of which RI has not been able to tackle.

  1. Fiscal stability (which he said includes employment, long-term budget projections and housing price trends). 
  2. The cost of doing business (which includes the regulatory environment, the totality of the tax burden and the cost of energy). 
  3. The quality of the work force.
  4. The available infrastructure. 

He summed it up with a statement that “people just aren’t thinking about RI”. That’s the reality, not just some naysayers harping on the negative.  This harsh perspective on reality is clearly for good reason given RI’s position in each and every one of those areas listed. 

 

Another speaker, urban affairs analyst and entrepreneur, Aaron Renn, suggested specifics like:

  • eliminating the minimum corporate tax,
  • waiving all permit fees for new businesses during their first year,
  • eliminating the requirement that employers offer TDI,
  • reform our unemployment insurance program that has been called the most expensive in the country,
  • review regulations where the state is clearly an outlier,
  • rethink Deepwater Wind.

 

“Food for thought” was Speaker Fox’ response, in spite of the fact that these are the issues that have been discussed ad infinitum. The time for elected officials to take action and develop a holistic, all encompassing, visionary approach to address all of these issues is long past due, as we all know. 

 

Too many years.

The infrastructure issue has been on the table for years now, but resulted in an undeniably unfair tax on a few people in the Sakonnet area to pay for the state’s entire cost of infrastructure repair and maintenance.  

 

The total tax structure of RI, including the corporate minimum business tax, has also been on the table for years now.  To the credit of the General Assembly, they did pass a bill that gave the illusion of lowering personal income tax rates, although ultimately, with the removal of significant allowable deductions, the tax rate actually increased.  Of course, since then, many bills have been introduced to raise the rate back to 10% (without the benefit of replacing those deductions). 

 

The cost of energy has been a topic of heated debate for years, however, “green energy” bills that raise the cost of energy continue to appear and some, like Deep Water, have passed.  Representatives Naughton, sponsor and Marcello, Minority Leader Newberry and Coderre are co-sponsors of House Bill  7791  that requires these types of high cost, green energy contracts to be reviewed biannually to determine the ongoing cost/benefit to RI ratepayers. Kudos to Representative Naughton for sponsoring this smart bill!  

 

Nibbles have been taken at the apple of regulatory reform, but has it really produced any improved results for the cost of doing business in RI?  We think not. Gubernatorial candidate Ken Block has been very clear about the cost of the expensive and broken systems of TDI and unemployment for years now. 

 

Representative Morgan continues to introduce legislation that attempts to reign in the cost of unemployment benefits, but to no avail.  

 

Then there is the issue of “budget projections”.  Year after year, our lawmakers continue to pass budgets that include a billion dollars in deficits in the 4 years beyond the current one (and inherently, most likely beyond that). 

 

Where's the countrywide perspective?

In the most recent special election, a firefighter from Woonsocket was elected to the House of Representatives to replace an outgoing representative. Where are the business people with a country wide perspective?  Picture, if you will, a RI General Assembly with a significant number of members who have had the responsibility of strategically thinking and planning for the future of a national (or even global) enterprise. That perspective might do away with the cumbersome and negative legislation like the ones that are being heard next week. Bills up for hearing next week represent  more give aways and expanded power for public unions (see our GoLocalProv article on the accountability of members of the General Assembly) in an economy that really has no future until these issues become the basis for action rather than just “food for thought”. 

 

                   Legislative Hearings 3/11/14 - 3/13/14

 

TUE, MAR 11      

House Labor                         Chairwoman Williams  

Room 205, Rise (4:30)

 

H 7464/7465   Allows for evergreen (or perpetual) contracts with police, fire, teachers and municipal workers.

Sponsors: Carnevale, Johnston, Hull, Almeida, Guthrie, O’Brien, DeSimone,

Palumbo

 

H 7467   Allows arbitration for police and fire retirees where none previously existed..

Sponsors: Carnevale, Johnston, Hull, Almeida, Lima

 

H 7695  Increases the minimum wage to $9.25

Sponsors: Dickinson

 

 

Senate Finance                   Chairman DaPonte    

Room 211, Rise (4:30)

 

H 7345  Amended, passed and sent to Senate Finance. Allows municipal governments to bond for projects that utilize the state’s road and bridge revolving fund, without referendum. .

Sponsors: Melo, Amore, Kazarian, O’Neill, Hearn

 

S 2399  Allows municipal governments to bond for projects that utilize the state’s road and bridge revolving fund, without referendum, limited to 5% of the municipal’s budget.

Sponsors: DaPonte, Goodwin, Nesselbush, Satchell, Bates

 

 

WED, MAR 12

House Judiciary                   Chairwoman Ajello 

Room 205, Rise (4:30)

 

H 7461  Allows Automated License Readers anywhere in the state.

Sponsors: Valencia,Handy,Ajello,Walsh,Tanzi

 

Senate Labor                        Chairman Fogarty    

Room 212, Rise (4:30)

 

S 2290  Requires that state projects over $1 million must utilize apprentices for 15% of total labor.

Sponsors: Miller, Gallo, Doyle, Jabour, Satchell

 

Senate Environment and Agriculture      Chairwoman Sosnowski 

Room 313, 3:00 pm

 

S 2690   “Distributed Generation Growth Program”.  A 27 page bill that proposes to increase the cost of energy with a “tariff-based” renewable energy distributed generation financing program. 

Sponsors: Sosnowski,Walaska,Conley,Cool Rumsey,Bates

 

THU, MAR 13

House Small Business                   Chairwoman Serpa 

Room 101, Rise (4:30)

 

H 7520   Requires economic impact statement on all new regulations for business.

Sponsors:Edwards, Canario, Phillips, Williams, Ackerman

 

House Municipal Government      Chairman DeSimone 

Room 203, Rise (4:30)

 

H 7633   Extends public labor contracts from 3 years to 5 years if a municipality has a locally administered plan in “critical status”.

Sponsors:Serpa

 

UP FOR A FULL VOTE IN THE SENATE         WED, MAR 12

S 2537/S 2538                    Constitutional Convention

 

 

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