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Legislative Alert

 

Fire Protection, RhodeMap RI & Socialized Healthcare - It's A Busy Week!

 

You Pay For It: On Monday, WatchdogRI will be holding a press conference to highlight the problems with municipal public sector union pension systems. In the press conference tomorrow, Ken Block will spotlight the cost of fire fighter pensions and the abuses that occur within that system, focusing on what is commonly referred to as pension spiking, highlighting the Town of Johnston's pension plan. Not only are pension benefits a significant cost driver of fire protection, they are a significant cost driver for all public union employee costs. The press conference will be held at Taco Industries in Cranston at 10:00 AM.

 

Double the Cost!

WatchdogRI's first project focused on the total cost of fire service in RI. That analysis indicated that while RI municipalities spend over $300 million a year on fire service, it represents double the amount that comparable areas in the country spend. That's right.  RI taxpayers are paying twice what other similar counties in other states the size of metro RI pay, for a number of reasons. This is simply not sustainable. 

 

Representing Taxpayers Until They Don't.

One factor, among many, driving the cost of fire includes the work schedule. In a recent case brought by the Town of North Kingstown, after years of negotiation and arbitration, the court decision came down on the side of municipal fiscal authority residing with the elected officials. As a result, fire fighter unions have pushed for legislation to reverse that decision by changing the law. Bill H 5473 would specifically mandate that local municipalities negotiate work schedules through the collective bargaining process and make them arbitrable, removing the authority of local elected officials to make fiscal decisions in the best interest of taxpayers. This legislation is sponsored by Representatives and public union members Carnevale, Johnston, Hull and Almeida and freshman Representative McKiernan.  

 

Representative McKiernan's campaign website says that: 

 

"We need to move past the days of unwise government policy that doesn't account for the local economy. Our state government has imposed policy that makes us less competitive, driving beneficial economic activity to other states.  We cannot afford government policy that poisons the climate for business and imposes unfair burdens on the working middle class."  

 

So why is Representative McKiernan sponsoring legislation that would impose unfair burdens on the working middle class, not just in his own City of

Providence, but across the state? 

 

Working For the Taxpayer.

North Kingstown Town Councilwoman Carol Hueston wrote a "must read" editorial this weekend on the issue of preserving management rights and collective bargaining on behalf of taxpayers. She focused on the changes to the work schedules for their fire department, the change that the court upheld.

 

The change that North Kingstown instituted, which, by the way, is the way most of the country schedules their fire fighters, saved the town taxpayers 30%, or about $2.2 million a year. Her concern, like ours, is the legislation that has been unabashedly proposed to supersede the court decision.

 

If you are a firm believer in local fiscal authority, it is incumbent upon you to email the House sponsors listed above and let them know that you expect your local elected officials to have the fiscal authority to manage their city or town in the best interest of taxpayers and that bill H 5473 is a travesty. Then email Senators Lombardi, Jabour, Doyle, Archambault and Ciccone, sponsors of the companion bill S 533, and tell them the same thing. Of course, the first email should be sent to Speaker Mattiello.

 

Timing Is Everything: Bullying 'Sparks' Trouble.

This past week, Warwick's fire fighter union has been in the news with its bullying tactics against one of its citizens who wanted to speak freely at a city council meeting about public pensions. Bob Cushman, a board member of OSTPA and a Warwick taxpayer, has been working for years to bring the unsustainable public pension issue to light in his city. Much to the chagrin of the elected leaders in Warwick, he won't be silenced. He has invested numerous hours of his personal time and energy, on behalf of all Warwick taxpayers, to fight a difficult battle against a public sector union system whose bullying tactics are well known. 

 

While everyone knows of anecdotal cases of bullying, none was more infamous than the National Education Association of RI's Leidecker case. A public union official, convicted of cyberstalking, was soon thereafter promoted within his union organization. Job well done! It didn't end there. A colleague of his, Mr. Rainone, purportedly threatened former Representative Jon Brien with bodily harm following that same court hearing.  All in a day's work. In an ironic twist, Leidecker's charges were later dismissed on constitutional grounds of free speech.  So cyberstalking and threatening represent free speech, but when bullying someone who is trying to speak freely, as Cushman did, the union takes another position. They go after his employer.

 

Of course, you can't forget what has been going on in the Coventry fire districts. While North Kingstown has a municipal fire department, under the control of the town council and manager, Coventry has 4 distinct fire districts, separate and apart from the town.  And it has produced disastrous results.  Coventry has been in the news for two years now as one of the districts, after years of back and forth with the courts and state instituted budget commissions, has finally gone bankrupt, primarily as a result of fire pension issues. Representative Morgan has been a champion for the taxpayer through it all, working very hard to help the taxpayers create a valid proposal for restructuring, only to be shot down by the General Assembly.  But she has helped the taxpayers get a taxpayer minded board elected to gain control of the bankrupt fire district. The other representatives in that town, Tomasso and Guthrie (former fire fighter), who were not taxpayer minded when it came to the fire districts, were not re-elected in 2014. Representative Morgan was.

 

Anyone who takes it upon themselves to be a champion for the taxpayer in the face of such aggression should be recognized and we are happy to thank Bob Cushman, the North Kingstown Town Council, Representative Morgan and the new Coventry fire district board members for their fortitude.

 

Where Will The Sox Hang Out?

If it's funded by the taxpayer, the answer should be not in RI. And that's not just our opinion. It seems like there is a groundswell of people moving against this taxpayer boondoggle. In opposition to the taxpayer subsidized PawSox move, 'The Coalition', an online talk radio station, has organized a phone/email flash mob. They have assigned different days to call/email the Governor (Wednesdays between 2:00 - 3:30) and Providence Mayor Elorza (Thursdays between 2:00 - 3:30). While they have suggested you email each of the House Finance Committee Members, we suggest that instead, you email House Speaker Mattiello every morning or evening like clockwork because we all know, he will be making the decision.

 

Team owners sent a letter to Governor Raimondo on Saturday expressing interest in the possibility of purchasing the land to build their stadium rather than their initial offer to pay one dollar a year for prime real estate. OSTPA says that is the first of many steps that must be taken before  their offer is considered viable. The next step includes paying property taxes to Providence. Then, the request for taxpayer subsidies to the tune of $120 million must be withdrawn in its entirety.

 

In the meantime, a rally has been organized in oppostion to building the ballpark in Providence on Monday at 4 PM, at 555 Valley Street, also known as 315 Iron Horse Way in Providence, where the team's owners will be meeting with board members of the I-195 Commission.

 

Back In Session Next Week – Could Have Major Fallout for You.

The Senate will be hearing two very important bills this week - one bill, sponsored by Senator Goldin, will socialize healthcare in RI and a handful of bills, sponsored by Senator Cote to effectively nullify RhodeMap RI – that's the good news.

 

Angst Over RhodeMap RI: Federal Law & Strict Requirements for AFFH (Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing) OR Local Zoning?

The Senate will be hearing bills that allow for opting out of land use provisions contained in the State Guide Plan. This is probably one of the most important bills this year if you value your right to own a single family home, if you want your city or town to retain the authority to make decisions about zoning and if you simply do not want the federal government telling you and your municipality how to manage growth.

 

A set of bills will be heard in Senate Housing and Municipal Government on Wednesday, April 29th at the rise (approximately 4:30) in Room 313. The most important of these bills is S 820, the bill that will allow a city or town to simply opt-out of land use provisions contained in the State Guide Plan. 

 

We urge you to attend if you do not want the State of RI mandating that you follow federal rules when it comes to determining your local zoning

 

You can simply write your name and your position – "PRO" –  on the issue on the sign up sheets that will be made available in Room 313.  If you are comfortable testifying, please make every effort to do so.

 

Let RI Manage Your Healthcare?

"If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor".  Remember, that's what President Obama told us when he pushed through Obamacare. Well, imagine what happens to your doctor with socialized medicine?  Tuesday, Senate Health and Human Services Chairman Miller, bar owner and operator, will be listening to Senator Goldin explain her bill to socialize healthcare in RI.  Please attend and voice your opinion on socializing medicine in the state.  Also, email Chairman Miller and Senate President Paiva Weed to let them know your concerns.  

 

 

Note: A bill to legalize all marijuana in the state, H 5777, will be heard on Wednesday, April 29 in House Judiciary, Room 101 at the rise (4:30). While OSTPA does not generally take a position on legislation outside of those that impact RI from either a fiscal or a good government stand point, it is important to note that we believe the legalization of marijuana is a desperate attempt to balance a budget, nothing more. We thought you should know about an important cultural shift under consideration on Capitol Hill.

 

 

LEGISLATIVE HEARINGS 

 

The House will continue to listen to the various Articles in the Governor's proposed Budget and will be updated on the E-permitting project that promises to reduce the regulatory burden in this state. No testimony will be taken, but you can come observe. 

 

TUE, APR 28

 

Senate Health and Human Services            Chairman Miller   

Senate Lounge, rise (4:30)

 

S 619 Creates socialized healthcare in RI with a single payer system, specifically for primary and preventative healthcare services (for now).

Sponsor: Goldin

 

S 786 Proposes to mandate health coverage for all individual 'residents' in the state. This potentially paves the way to provide taxpayer subsidized healthcare for illegal immigrants through the state health insurance exchange.

Sponsors: Sosnowski, Miller, Crowley, Sheehan, and Ottiano

 

House Finance               Chairman Gallison  

Room 35, rise (4:30)

 

BUDGET ARTICLES H 5900

 

Art. 8 Relating to Municipalities

Art. 9 Relating to School Building Authority Capital Fund

Art. 24 Relating to Infrastructure Bank

Art. 1 Sec 15 Clean Water Finance Agency Fund Transfer

Art. 1 Sec 17 RIHEBC Fund Transfer

 

WED, APR 29

 

Senate Housing and Municipal Government    Chairman Pichardo  

Room 313, rise (4:30) 

 

Following is the package of bills meant to roll-back the legal impact that RhodeMap RI has on cities and towns.

 

S 820 Allows municipalities the choice to opt out of land use provisions in the State Guide Plan, effectively mitigating the "angst" for those municipalities that see the HUD portion of RhodeMap RI as detrimental to their city or town. 

Sponsors: Cote, Picard, Raptakis, Fogarty and Lombardo

 

S 816 Prohibits affordable housing programs with requirements that exceed those set forth in RI law from being included in the State Guide Plan.

Sponsors: Cote, Picard, Raptakis, Fogarty, Lombardo

 

S 818 Repeals the provisions and references to compliance with the State Guide Plan relative to local comprehensive planning for land use.

Sponsors: Cote, Picard, Raptakis, Fogarty, Lombardo

 

S 819 Requires that the State Guide Plan and any amendments be approved by the General Assembly, a body of elected, not appointed, officials.

Sponsors: Cote, Picard, Raptakis, Fogarty and Lombardo

  

House Finance          Chairman Gallison  

Room 35, rise (4:30)

 

BUDGET ARTICLE H 5900

 

Art. 28 Health Reform Assessment

NEW ARTICLE    DLT Job Development Fund

 

Joint Hearing of Senate Government Oversight and Senate Commerce

Room Senate Lounge, 3:00 - 4:00

 

Status Update - Enhancement of RI's E-Permitting Project

 

Senate Finance          Chairman DaPonte  

Room 211, 2:30

 

S 474 Proposes that a bankrupt city be exempted from reimbursing the state for its costs incurred.

Sponsor: Crowley

 

THU, APR 30

 

House Labor                Chairman Shekarchi     

Room 203, 3:30

 

H 6049 Teacher's Tenure. Proposes that the full board need not be present to hear details of a case in order to arrive at an important decision.

Sponsors: Ruggiero, Hearn, McNamara, Shekarchi and Hull

 

H 5196 Permits drug and alcohol testing of employees of state and municipal agencies who operate state or municipally owned vehicles. 

Sponsors: Morgan, Giarrusso, Chippendale, Price and Nardolillo

 

House Finance              Chairman Gallison    

Room 35, rise (4:30)

 

Budget Article H 5900 

 

Art. 3  Relating to Licensing of Hospital Facilities

Art. 4  Relating to Uncompensated Care

Art. 5  Relating to Medical Assistance

  

Senate Health and Human Services    Chairman Miller   

Room Senate Lounge, rise (4:30)

 

S 233 Proposes to allow part time professors to obtain medical benefits of state employees.

Sponsors: Miller, Goldin, Sosnowski, Sheehan and Metts

 

 

If you have found our Weekly Legislative Alerts informative & the website a good source of information, please consider a donation to help us maintain these tools.  RI citizens have very little access to the candid information the OSTPA provides & even less access to a platform that connects the dots from the legislators, to the legislation, to the resulting impact on the RI economy

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