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Legislative Alert

 

Opening new doors for taxation. 

That's what the new state property tax does.  And it dovetails right into the Regional Plan for Sustainable Development known as RhodeMap RIDoes anyone really believe that this tax will only be on second homes over $1 million for very long?  Once this door is open, you know the state will run through to see what it can find.  Little by little the state property tax will be assessed on more and more homes and for reasons that are as egregious as looking for ways to fill a bloated, unbalanced budget to solidifying state authority over local control. Before you know what happened, you will be left with little recourse and less money in your pocket.

 

Saying One Thing, Meaning Another.

Think about what the Governor said in her address.  She said her budget included no broad-based taxes, yet she proposed to tax health insurance premiums for individuals and small businesses whether they use the exchange or not.  There is no denying that the spirit of her budget is increased taxes. Couple this with opening the door to a new state property tax and we say, 'Yes, Virginia, this is what a budget looks like with broad-based taxing authority."

 

The budget deficits of $1 billion leave her with no option but to find 'creative' ways and 'recycled' methods of taxing anything that the legislature will allow if she is unwilling (which she appears to be) to truly cut the cost of RI government.  There are only two ways to close that gap - increased taxes or reductions in spending.  The Governor has made it clear what her choice is.  What will the Speaker's choice be?

 

There Are Consequences.

OSTPA wrote an article this week about the explosion in the cost of Medicaid, the cost to maintain the Health Insurance Exchange, the lack of reductions in the uncompensated hospital costs and the expectation of higher welfare costs with the new dependency portal that creates a superhighway to immediate access to all welfare programs. 

 

And of course, the medical system is only the most recent cost driver of state government deficits. This is on top of the long standing reports of fraud and abuse in our current welfare systems, the cost of illegal immigration and the cost of state government employees, which the Governor made reference to in her budget.  And we are only 3 months into the reign of our newly elected officials.

 

Take Action Now.

We urge you to take a few minutes to write to Governor Raimondo and ask her the following 10 questions:

 

1.     Why are you not dusting off Ken Block's report on Fraud, Waste and Abuse in RI's welfare systems?

2.    Why are you not addressing the cost of state government employee's beyond the pittance of the $22 million you expect to save from the ever-elusive "efficiency gains"?

3.    And, if you have asked the municipalities to find "efficiency gains" in their local cost of government, why have you not supported WatchdogRI's data analysis as a starting point for discussion to reduce the obscenely high cost of fire service in our state?

4.    Why are you penalizing RI taxpayers, who have done what has been demanded of them through Obamacare, by adding insult to injury and taxing them to support the Exchange even if they are not using it?

5.    Why are you not outwardly supporting the use of E Verify to stem the unfettered tide of illegal immigration into our state?

6.    Why are you proposing to double down on illegal immigration with support for drivers' licenses when New Mexico's first Latina Governor has called for repeal of their drivers' license law?

7.    Why are you opening the door for a new state property tax that is clearly

designed to create new options to tax RI citizens when you said yourself it is a small amount?

8.    Why are you not addressing the structural deficits and allowing for a 5 year

projection of $1 billion just like the most recent governors and the General

Assembly have done? 

9.    Why are you declaring to businesses and families that RI is not open for

business by failing to remove onerous fees and taxes on businesses?

10. Why are you forcing RI citizens to make a choice between the state they love and the ability to earn a living, pay their bills and have a little left over for

educating their kids and maybe save for retirement?

 

Then cut and paste your questions and email Speaker Mattiello and Senate President Paiva Weed.  Ask them if they will have the political courage to address all ten of the issues above when they present the amended budget.

 

And Lest We Forget…

Remember, RhodeMap RI still sits as law of the land. This injustice has not come to the General Assembly table yet.  While numerous bills have been introduced to opt out in some form or another or require GA approval of the state guide plan and any amendments, RI taxpayers are far from seeing the dismantling of this assault on our basic rights. 

 

Here is a recent update from the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity on what is happening in other parts of the country as it relates to our Regional Plan for Sustainable Development, the same type of plan from which RhodeMap RI has been created.  After reading this article, and the commentary we link to in the opening paragraph of this Alert, you will not only be concerned for your rights as a Rhode Island taxpayer but for the future generations of Rhode Island as well.

 

What's going on legislatively? The Good, Bad and Ugly

On Wednesday, March 25, the Senate will hold hearings in Labor that push for more benefits for policemen, more power through collective bargaining and more control over the negotiating process.  Most importantly, S 533 is an attempt to remove even more authority from cities and towns.  This bill would include platoon structure and work schedules in the collective bargaining agreement.  That would be a travesty and would eliminate any ability for a town to manage the cost of fire service. 

 

In case you haven't seen it, see WatchdogRI's website for information on RI's high cost of fire service.  You can read your municipalities' fire service contract and see what is already in there.

 

H 5200, a bill to remove personnel decisions from the budget commission was heard this past Thursday. You didn't see it in our Legislative Alert because it wasn't scheduled until Tuesday. Yes, that is allowed. Only 48 hours for posting is required, but does it seem right that people who want to testify on a bill have such short notice to try and get to a hearing, held at 4:30 in the afternoon? 

 

And while the bill was, of course held for further study, we would like to explain that our position on this bill is, if you are going to insist on having a budget commission rather than just allowing the municipality to go bankrupt, what good is it if it has no authority over controlling costs?  It is interesting to note that the sponsors of the bill are Representatives Phillips (wife is a teacher), Morin (a Woonsocket firefighter), Casey (a Woonsocket firefighter), Melo and Abney

 

Some of these same sponsors, however, also sponsored H 5259,  a bill requiring that the budget commission adhere to the full requirements of the open meetings law, with which we agree. There should be transparency, unlike the "settlement" talks that are transpiring right now in the pension litigation.  We are the taxpayers who will be footing the bill. It is our right to know.

 

It took the media to shed light on some of the details because they were not forthcoming from the governor's office. Don't let the irony of this get lost. Of course, rank and file members of the public sector union(s) had to receive the details of the settlement yet, the taxpayers who might foot the cost of the settlement agreement for 'our' employees are the last to know?

 

Fortunately, the Finance committee postponed Representative Fellela's bill (which includes 3 other public union members besides herself- Representatives Carnevale, Johnston, and Hull). H 5204, attempts to undermine the cost structure of mayoral academies by mandating that teachers in those schools be part of the state's retirement system. Talk about the left hand and the right hand out of synch! We worry over the pension lawsuit while some legislators work hard to add to the costs of an unsustainable model – otherwise known as a defined benefit plan!  (This was another bill that was only scheduled the Tuesday before so we were not able to alert you last Sunday).

 

Of course, Representative Giarrusso's E Verify, bill H 5589, was held for further study because 6 years is just not long enough to study the issue.

 

With all of the attention on fire districts, we want to highlight that Senator Pearson's bill, S 177, a bill that would mandate that the election of the Cumberland Fire Committee members (new governing body of the consolidated fire district) would be governed by state law (which on the face seems reasonable) and mandate that members could not hold any other public office, was passed out of the Senate Judiciary committee, placed on the Senate calendar and then  "held on the Senate desk". Why not apply this to all new

governing bodies of consolidated fire districts?

 

The full Senate passed a resolution, S 415, to create a study commission to look at the gas tax and determine if elimination is possible.

 

LEGISLATIVE HEARINGS MAR 24 - MAR 26

 

TUE, MAR 24

 

House Judiciary                                           Chairman Keable  

Room 101, Rise (4:30pm)

H 5247 Tort Reform - no joint liability unless at least 51% liable in tort for the injury.  

Sponsors: Morgan, Chippendale, Giarrusso, Nardolillo, Roberts

 

H 5248 Tort Reform - tortfeasor's share of a judgment be borne by all parties to the action in accordance with their pro rata share of culpability when one tortfeasor unable to satisfy their share.

Sponsors: Morgan, Chippendale, Giarrusso, Nardolillo, Roberts

 

 

Senate Judiciary                                          Chairman McCaffrey  

Room 313, Rise (4:30pm)

S 179 Prohibits law enforcement from using drones without a proper warrant.

Sponsors: Kettle, Archambault, Morgan

 

Senate Commerce                                       Chairman Picard   

Room 212, Rise (4:30pm)

S 199 Provides for more giveaways through home energy assistance.

Sponsors: Miller, Sosnowski, Metts, Pichardo, Goodwin

 

WED, MAR 25

Senate Labor                                                Chairman Fogarty  

Room 212, Rise (4:30pm)

S 531 Allows for perpetual (evergreen) contracts for police and fire.

Sponsor: Archambault

 

S 533  Increases the scope of collective bargaining for firefighters by including platoon structure and shift schedules in the collective bargaining agreement.  It removes the ability of a city or town to manage fire service.

Sponsors: Lombardi,Jabour,Doyle,Archambault,Ciccone

 

S 643  Adds to the cost of benefits for disabled firefighters receiving free education for family members. It allows totally and permanently disabled to be defined as no longer able to perform as a police officer rather than no longer able to be fully and gainfully employed.

Sponsor: Archambault

 

S 645  Prohibits the state and municipalities from issuing specs for public works projects to mandate labor union workforce.

Sponsors: Lombardo, Cote

 

House Finance                                Chairman Gallison  

Room 35, Rise (4:30pm)

H 5567 Create municipal performance management program, funded by the DOA, to improve services in the government sector.

Sponsors: Morgan,Giarrusso,Filippi,Roberts,Lancia

 

H 5711 Requires a division of planning checklist for environmental and energy issues that all state construction projects must consider and address if project exceeds $2.5 million.

Sponsors: Handy, Naughton, Azzinaro, Williams, and Lima 

 

H 5749 Implements provisions of the Lean government initiative to eliminate waste and inefficiency in state government.

Sponsors: Solomon, Serpa, Shekarchi, Blazejewski, Marshall

 

House Judiciary                                 Chairman Keable   

Room 205, Rise (4:30pm)

H 5372 Makes extensive changes to the election laws, including the definition of what a vote is.

Sponsors: Ajello, Blazejewski, O'Grady, Filippi, Handy

 

H 5622  Electronic voter registration system. We need to do a better job of cleaning up voter lists that contain dead people before we go with electronic registration.

Sponsors: Marcello, Tanzi, Regunberg, Hearn

 

H 5952 Provisional ballot changes - allows voter to use a provisional ballot without obtaining a temporary registration certificate.

Sponsors: Tanzi,Carson,Ruggiero,Hearn,Marcello

 

H 5950  Loosening security over mail ballots.

Sponsors: Keable, Johnston, Solomon, Blazejewski

 

H 5840  Requires separate campaign account and PAC account.

Sponsors: Craven, Marshall, Morin, Keable, Tobon

 

H 5614  Commission to study ballot integrity and security.

Sponsors: Bipartisan - Newberry, Casey, Marcello, Reilly, Edwards

 

H 5462  Provides for run off elections when no majority vote obtained.

Sponsors: Bipartisan - Filippi, Blazejewski, Lancia, Nardolillo, Chippendale

 

H 5860  Prohibits GA members from holding other municipal offices.

Sponsors: Costantino, Marshall, Casey

 

THU, MAR 26

House Municipal Government                  Chairman Craven  

Room 101, Rise (4:30pm)

 

H 5532  Create a commission to study the potential for consolidating services of municipal government.

Sponsors: Costantino,Marshall,Lima,Winfield,Hull

 

House Labor                                     Chairman Shekarchi  

Room 203, 3:30 pm, continue at the Rise

 

H 5937  Authorizes DOL to recover overpayments made due to fraud committed by a claimant.

Sponsors: Canario,Edwards,Gallison,Ruggiero,Shekarchi

 

 

    The bills we alert you to are part of the OSTPA Legislative Agenda.

    Read our Legislative Agenda here:

 

OSTPA 2015 AGENDA

 

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