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LEGISLATIVE ALERT
 
Whose government is it anyway?
Not yours.  Last year, when Representative O’Neill tried to force a vote for the Ethics bill by following procedure, he was not only shot down, but taken to the woodpile and flogged. Then Speaker Fox exhibited the usual ‘smackdown’ for representatives that don’t follow his dictates by having Chairwoman Ajello reverse the call for a vote (how that is within the rules we have no idea) and the Ethics bill was officially deemed dead. It didn’t matter that support from the people who represent RI want Ethics reform.
 
Last week, a similar event occurred in the Senate when Senator Hodgson called for a vote for repeal of the Master Lever. Again, the call for a vote, along with its second by Senator Raptakis, was a ‘smackdown’. All in the face of overwhelming support for removing a process that disenfranchises many voters which negates their vote for candidates with no party affiliation. Hard evidence has been produced in the past about the negative effect the Master Lever has on elections. Business as usual.
 
Do public unions rule all 3 branches of government?
Now turn to the will of the people to govern themselves. In a recent hearing regarding the bankrupt Coventry Fire District, the people had spoken. The residents of the failed Fire District came together and created their vision, along with help from experts, for governing their own Fire District. Firefighter unions had none of it, claiming they were watching out for ‘public safety’, except for Coventry resident, Irma Aldridge testifying at the hearing. She stated that when she spoke in support of a new vision at a Fire District meeting, she heard in the background “you better hope you don’t need a rescue, you better hope your house doesn’t catch fire” (minute 95:40).  Apparently, some are more entitled to emergency protection than others. Representative Morgan explained that the town of Bristol had effectively established a similar governing structure to the one the people of Coventry proposed, allowing them to reign in the cost of fire and emergency services. That structure included removing those in charge of bankrupting the Fire District to begin with.  It seemed to make sense.  However, watching Senator Ruggerio’s bill, that would allow a fiscal overseer for the current fire district, (S 2778)  move quickly through the Senate, with a full Senate vote coming up this week, may mean that the will of the people will be denied. Speaker Matiello’s companion bill (H 7944) was originally held for further study but is now scheduled for consideration this week (generally means no more testimony). A fiscal overseer would be an attempt to salvage the bankrupt fire district, most likely leaving all the same players in tact along with the same basic structure and the unaffordable and unsustainable collective bargaining agreement.  At this juncture it is important to remember, Senator Ruggerio is administrator for the New England Laborers’ union. He voted for Teachers’ Binding Arbitration (S 794 Sub A) in 2011, a very controversial labor-friendly bill.  If this fiscal overseer bill wins support in both chambers, the public labor unions win again over the taxpayer and the taxpayers will see substantial tax increases and supplemental taxes passed on as the “solution” to fixing this problem.
 
What about the will of the people to maintain the pension reform of 2011?  
The courts are now involved in overturning even their original decision that if the mediated pension settlement wasn’t approved by all unions, it was time for court. Not so said Judge Taft Carter, its just time to go back to mediation. Now, both the public and the unions had declared that they wanted their day in court to make a final determination on the legality of pension reform. It wasn’t going to happen here in RI if the courts, Governor Chafee and Treasurer Raimondo had their way. Again, the will of the people had been dismissed. This after a USA Today article reported that public pensions are likely to achieve 4% returns or worse, as opposed to RI’s current estimate of 7.5%. Fortunately, the parties could not come to an agreement and the case will proceed to court.  A win win for the will of the public union employees and the taxpayers of RI.
 
By the way.....
Did we mention that S 2290 (as amended), a bill to increase the cost of public works contracts, for city or state government, including quasi governmental agencies, was passed by the full Senate? This legislation mandates the use of apprenticeships at a specified level, providing more jobs for the union. That would mean increased costs for government and therefore increased taxes for Rhode Islanders.
 
Catch me if you can.  I’m one step ahead of you.
And then there were the typical late postings for important hearings. As mundane and trite as it sounds, process is critical to good government.  Every RI citizen should take offense when the opportunity to voice your opinion on new legislation is squashed.  Last week in the Senate, it was Repeal of VoterID (S 2641, sponsor Senator Goldin), Electronic Voter Registration (S 2676 sponsor Goldin) and Early In Person Voting (S 2237 sponsor Lynch) - all 3 pieces of legislation scheduled only 2 days before the actual hearing on Thursday. The week before it was Ethics Reform (S 2034 sponsor O’Neill ) and (S 2824 sponsor Sheehan). While 48 hours’ notice is allowed under current rules,  it would appear that the benefit of not providing enough notice of a hearing inures to the benefit of those who don’t want the citizens of RI appearing to voice opposition to the desires of leadership.
 
So whose government do you think it is?  
 
RI’s price tag for Superman Building is $39 million, really?
Senator Miller’s bill, S 2898 was introduced in the Senate last week. This piece of legislation would allow the state to take on the risk of developing a commercial enterprise to the tune of $39 million.  After the 38Studios ongoing debacle, haven’t the sponsors of this bill - Senators Miller, Ruggerio and Pichardo  learned their lesson about venturing into the private investment sector, where the state has no business being?  Please email them and let them know your position on RI taking on more private venture risk.  If it were a viable project, private firms would be putting their own money up without the need for state funds.  Does this sound familiar?
 
                 Legislative Hearings  4/15/14 - 4/17/14
 
TUE, APR 15 (TAX DAY)
 
House Finance                  Chairman Gallison  
Room 35, Rise (4:30)
 
H 7807   Increases the estate tax exemption to $2 million, with no tie to the CPI, but it does fix the threshold issue.
Sponsor: Marcello
 
H 7809   Increases the estate tax exemption to $2 million and includes graduated tax rates above $2 million.  It fixes the threshold issue, but is not tied to the CPI.
Sponsor: Marcello
 
H 7944   Does an end run around the will of the residents of Coventry by allowing fire districts to fall under the fiscal overseer/budget commission.
Sponsor: Mattiello
 
Senate Judiciary                    Chairman McCaffrey   
Room 313, Rise (4:30)
 
S 2281  Creates a joint committee of the repealer to suggest repeal of statutes, regulations and executive orders received from citizens, businesses and government agencies.
Sponsors: Lynch, Archambault and Lombardi
 
WED, APR 16
 
House Finance                 Chairman Gallison  
Room 35, Rise (4:30)
 
H 7121  Creates an office of inspector general to help prevent and detect fraud, waste and abuse.
Sponsors: Valencia, Ajello, Marcello, Blazejewski and Walsh
 
H 7208  Requires fiscal notes accompany legislation and be given to committee members 3 days in advance of the hearing.
Sponsors: Newberry, Giarrusso, Costa, Chippendale and Trillo
 
H 7417  Amends the sweeping pension reform of 2011 and mandates a cost of living adjustment be provided to retirees receiving $90,000 or less.
Sponsors: McLaughlin, Hull, Dickinson and Messier
 
H 7728  Mandates a zero-based budgeting process.
Sponsors: Newberry, Chippendale, Giarrusso and Morgan
 
THU, APR 17
 
House Finance                      Chairman Gallison  
Room 35, Rise (4:30) 
 
H 7212  Mandates that mayoral academy teachers be moved to the state pension system.
Sponsors: Fellela, Messier, Guthrie and Carnevale
 
Please be aware that the legislature will not be in session next week, April 21 - April 25, therefore OSTPA will not distribute an Alert next Sunday night.  Our Alert will resume Sunday, April 27
 

 

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