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Legislative Alert

 

When is a law not a law? 

When a deal can be made to change it. That's precisely what has happened with the pension reform law of 2011.  The judiciary branch of government was not able to "encourage" the state and the public unions to reach a deal last year so presiding judge (Taft-Carter) imported another judge (former Judge Williams) and asked him to come up with a deal.  This process has been anything but transparent and many people, on both sides of the issue, are very upset about it.

 

OSTPA joins RI Taxpayers in their Call To Action regarding the pension settlement. The only problem is Governor Raimondo and Treasurer Magaziner both approve of the settlement agreement. And it seems Speaker Mattiello and Senate President Paiva Weed support it also. So where is the taxpayer to turn?  All three branches of government are working against the taxpayer. We urge you to write to Speaker Matteillo, Senate President Paiva Weed and Governor Raimondo and let them know that a deal to increase the unfunded pension liability by more than a quarter of a billion dollars is unacceptable. And, importantly, the re-amortization of that amount is unacceptable today, just like it was when then-treasurer Raimondo said it was unacceptableRe-amortization only pushes more cost down to our children - truly a travesty of justice. 

 

The question you must ask yourself is how long are we going to sit by and allow the government - all three branches - to serve a select few, those in public unions, and ignore the average taxpayer?  You can see it with legislation like H 5473 and S 533 which would virtually eliminate the ability of local elected officials to manage their municipalities' fire departments.  Public union fire fighters want to dictate the shift schedule and platoon structure through the collective bargaining agreement which means management control would be in the hands of the public union leadership, a topsy-turvy world. This legislation is sponsored by Representatives Carnevale, Johnston, Hull, Almeida and McKiernan (virtually all of whom are police or fire public union members) and Senators Lombardi, Jabour, Doyle, Archambault and Ciccone (ardent public union supporters). Other perennial legislation like binding arbitration and perpetual contracts would remove management authority from elected

officials as well. That is why OSTPA and other taxpayer organizations have fought binding arbitration and perpetual contracts each and every year they come up for a hearing.

 

OSTPA believes, just as the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity does, that this pension settlement does much the same thing.  It basically left the question unanswered as to whether the General Assembly can legislate and manage the affairs of government when it comes to public union employee benefits. As a taxpayer, this should have you very worried because when our elected officials no longer have the ability to manage the state's finances, it's your wallet that continues to empty to pay for these benefits.  Remember, these pensions are benefits that the average taxpayer does not enjoy themselves, yet they are expected to pay for a select few to enjoy pension benefits despite the lack of affordability.  

 

And for those who don't believe that a pension system can fail, it is interesting to note that, according to Steve Melanga, senior editor of City Journal, in Arizona, the head of the state's largest public union has asked the legislature to push for a CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT allowing the kind of money-saving changes that the court had previously shot down. The head of the Arizona union is clearly looking out for the best interests of his rank and file members. He knows the grim reality. He is trying to preserve the pension fund for future retirees. Any lessons to be learned here?

 

And How About the Lessons From 38 Studios? 

We still do not have any resolution as to how 38 Studios was allowed to happen - an apparent insider deal that cost RI Taxpayers over a hundred million dollars, and yet we are moving on to the next insider deal


The Pawtucket Red Sox team is looking for money from you and me to subsidize their move to Providence. While Representative Morgan has introduced legislation to place any subsidization on the ballot for a vote, Mr. Skeffington has made that a moot point as he stated that he needs to fish or cut bait by the end of June. That doesn't leave our General Assembly or our Governor or the Mayor of Providence with much time to review the financial models the Triple AAA ball team will provide to support their request for a handout. Today is as good a day as any to email the Governor, the Speaker, the Senate President and the Mayor of Providence and tell them you do not want taxpayer money subsidizing what most experts claim is a lose-lose proposal. You would prefer to invest that money in and utilize that land for creating real jobs on our newly minted I 195 stretch of land. (Note: you can read our article in Golocal Prov on the Red Sox move)   

 

If You Can't Come Up With Revenue the Traditional Way, Just Create New Sources.

That is the mantra of the Governor in her effort to find ways to close the budget deficits - a new state-wide property tax on top of your local property tax.  Although she admits that the amount is relatively small, you and I know this is just the camel's nose under the tent. She, or the next governor, or the General Assembly, will be back for more once this floodgate is opened.  Look at the backlash the General Assembly experienced when it tried to develop a new source of revenue - the Sakonnet Toll. The Governor saw that too many people were affected and the push back was too intense, even for our determined General Assembly. Starting small and slow is always the best way.  Please link to our article on why 'taxing the rich' is not such a great idea and, in most instances, backfires.

 

What's Coming Up This Week In the General Assembly

 

More on RhodeMap RI from the Division of Planning. 

For those of you following the controversial Regional Plan for Sustainable Development (RhodeMap RI), laughably referred to by the Division of Planning as an Economic Development Plan, you can learn more on Thursday in Room 101 around 4:30 pm.  Kevin Flynn, Associate Director of the Division of Planning, will present to the General Assembly and talk about the plan's development, implementation and effect on local comprehensive plans. Please make every effort to attend and see how the Division of Planning spins the Plan's ties to federal money and maybe even his politifact half truth when stating that there is "nothing in the RhodeMap RI plan that takes away local government, zoning control." Even Politifact caught that lie.

 

RI Taxpayer - the Beast of Burden. 

While the Washington Times notes that "states are doing a slow walk back from renewable energy mandates" as you can see from the Thursday hearings below, RI continues to double down on subsidizing more and more renewable energy programs, in spite of the fact that it costs the RI citizen money. Whether it is through National Grid legislative mandates increasing our electricity rates or through legislated tax credits on sales tax and personal income tax, it all costs you money to subsidize these programs.  And to what end?  Can RI make any difference in the stratosphere when it comes to carbon emissions?  As we have said in the past, we are no larger than a spec in the atmosphere covering the earth.  Why does RI have to be first in something for which only costs us jobs?  OSTPA proposes that until RI ranks in the middle, at 25th in most state surveys, our elected officials put a moratorium on green energy mandates that are already in place as well as on any new proposed legislation.  Can anyone argue that isn't a reasonable request from the governed to the elected officials?

  

H 5988 by Representative O'Grady, changes the definition of eligibility for health care insurance.  "Resident".  Does that mean illegal aliens are eligible simply by residing in the state?  We urge you to attend the hearing for this bill on Tuesday, April 7th and ask this question.

 

For Every Action There Is An Equal and Opposite Reaction. 

It's Newton's Third Law of Motion.  And when the General Assembly members consider legislation, we hope they consider this prime example of where RI taxpayers stand.  A RI gentleman took the time to write an editorial in a local paper to explain to our elected leaders why he is leaving RI. As so many have stated when testifying at the State House why they find it very difficult to live in RI, this man explained that while he loves the history, beautiful waterfront and restaurants of this great state, they do not outweigh the financial burden, the corrupt government and one of the most expensive school systems that produces an inadequate education for our children. We all know people who have made this choice. When will our elected leaders stop doing more of the same and start breaking out of the mold?

 

Remember, We Can Walk and Chew Gum at the Same Time. 

Tuesday is pretty full with hearings in House Judiciary on many issues, the most important of which is the Ethics Reform bill, H 5374. RI citizens voted for Ethics Reform many years ago, but a subsequent court ruling (another judiciary odd result) determined the original amendment was not clear enough when a former General Assembly member was being prosecuted under this amendment, hmmm. Be sure to email Judiciary Chair Keable and more importantly email Speaker Mattiello and President Paiva Weed and let them know you believe in their ability to perform more than one task at the same time.  Ethics Reform is critical to getting RI on the road to recovery. Recovery won't begin until the corruption cloud appears to be moving on.

 

The Biggest Burden of All - Healthcare and Its Subsidization.

On Tuesday, there will be a hearing for H 5598, Representative Morgan's bill to allow individual small employers to obtain rates as a group, hopefully reducing the cost of health insurance for these small companies.  Support her bill with an email to Chairman Kennedy

 

We want to take this time to juxtapose another bill that, although is not up for a hearing, has recently been highlighted by RI Future as the way to go. H 5387, proposed by uber-liberals Regunberg, Tanzi, and Handy, as well as Maldonado and Amore, looks to create a single payer health care system for all Rhode Islanders - socialized medicine. Given the state of the State of RI, how would you like your healthcare managed by RI government?  How would you like the RI government to control the cost of your health care coverage?  That is what RI Future and the sponsors of this legislation are looking to do.  We will let you know when that hearing is scheduled so you can voice your opinion about socialized healthcare in RI, particularly to the Governor since she has appointed someone to be Director of Healthsource RI who fully supported a single payer system when working closely with Vermont Governor Shumlin. Raimondo's press release stated that Anya Rader Wallack has the "right mix of policy expertise, management skill and innovative thinking".  That innovative thinking includes socialized healthcare. Vermont's Governor only scrapped the idea of socialized healthcare when he saw how large the tax increases needed to be to finance it. We have seen, with Raimondo's proposed premium tax to cover the cost of the Health Insurance Exchange and the lack of any substantive reform to prevent fraud, waste and abuse in the Medicaid system, that the issue of increasing taxes to cover healthcare subsidization is not of concern to our new Governor, nor, apparently to our General Assembly leadership.

 

Legislative Hearings 4/7/15 - 4/9/15

 

TUE APR 7 

 

House Judiciary             Chairman Keable     

Room 101, rise (4:30pm)

 

H 5374 Places a question to the people, through referendum, do we properly allowing the Ethics Commission jurisdiction over General Assembly members as was originally intended when the law was previously passed.

Sponsors: Marcello, Hearn, Ajello, Handy and Costantino

 

H 5306 Establishes a code of conduct for state and local elected public officials, employees, and candidates enforced by RI ethics commission.

Sponsors: McLaughlin and Messier

 

H 5952 Loosens the provisional ballot requirements making fraudulent voting easier.

Sponsors: Tanzi, Carson, Ruggiero, Hearn and Marcello

 

H 5662 Places a question to the people, through referendum, confirming the standing of each individual taxpayer to contest the legality of any governmental expenditure or tax in the appropriate forum.

Sponsors: Filippi, Roberts, Costa and Chippendale

 

H 5663 Eliminates a number of exceptions to the "revolving-door rule" of our politicians.

Sponsors: Filippi, Nardolillo, Price, Chippendale and Giarrusso

 

H 5789 Requires that candidates and PACs file a copy of the campaign account bank statement. Unfortunately, this statement will not be considered a public record, there is no requirement for the state to review this statement, and there is no requirement that the campaign account be audited or that the statement come directly from the bank rather than pass through the hands of the candidate.

Sponsors: DeSimone, Craven, Ruggiero, Abney and Hearn

 

H 5840 Requires that a separate campaign account be maintained for campaign funds.

Sponsors: Craven, Marshall, Morin, Keable and Tobon

  

House Corporations                  Chairman Kennedy 

Room 203, rise (4:30pm)

 

H 5988 Changes the definition of eligibility for health insurance under Obamacare.

Sponsor: O'Grady

 

H 5598 Requires small employer insurance providers to allow small employers to form a group and obtain health insurance at group rates.

Sponsors: Morgan, Chippendale, Price, Filippi and Lancia

 

H 5903 Provides for government interference in a market place by mandating a cap on top administrative salaries.

Sponsors: Palangio, Regunberg, Almeida, Ajello and Hull

 

Senate Finance                  Chairman DaPonte  

Room 211, 2:30 pm

 

S 546 Repeals the $500 minimum business tax.

Sponsors: McCaffrey, Conley, Lombardi and Walaska

 

Senate Judiciary                     Chairman McCaffrey    

Room 313, rise (4:30pm)

 

S 681 Requires candidates to maintain a separate account if they receive over $1,000 and submit to random audits.

Sponsors: McCaffrey, Paiva Weed, Ruggerio, Goodwin, Sheehan

 

APR 8, WED

 

House Judiciary         Chairman Keable     

Room 205 , rise (4:30pm)

 

H 5459 Opposes further implementation, in the form of a resolution, of the federal Real ID Act. This Act includes the requirement that all states include a feature in the drivers' license, by January 2016, that will allow the federal government and other states to gather information on the license holder.  This license with a Real ID feature is the only way (other than a passport) an individual can board a plane.

Sponsors: BIPARTISAN Roberts, Nunes, Azzinaro, Abney and Filippi

 

H 5451 Subjects board of elections to the provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act.

Sponsors: BIPARTISAN Tobon, Barros, Abney, Coughlin and Filippi

 

House Health, Education and Welfare             Chairman McNamara    

Room House Lounge, rise (4:30pm)

 

H 5894 Mandates that some free market principles be taught in school.  Requires that RIDE develop curricula material on financial literacy, i.e. how money works in the world, how someone earns it, how to invest, how to donate, and how to manage it.

Sponsors: Trillo, Filippi, Nardolillo and Chippendale

 

H 5576 Requires a photo ID accompany the use of a welfare card (EBT) and also provides for retailer penalties in the absence of compliance to the new law.

Sponsors: Morgan, Roberts, Filippi, Lancia and Giarrusso

 

House Corporations                Chairman Kennedy   

Room 101, rise (4:30pm)

 

H 5904  Provides more mandates to increase the cost of energy for you and me.

Sponsors: Handy, Ruggiero, Carson, Gallison and McKeirnan

 

Senate Labor                          Chairman Fogarty   

Room Senate Lounge, rise (4:30pm)     

  

S 194 Increases the minimum wage for the fourth year in a row from $9.00 to $10.10, an 11% increase, after a 12% increase last year.

Sponsors:  Lynch, Pichardo, Miller, Goodwin and Ruggerio

 

S 272 Increases the minimum wage (for the fourth year in a row) by the CPI from the current $9.00  an hour, but caps any increase to no more than $.50 an hour each year.

Sponsors: Raptakis, McCaffrey, Ciccone, Lombardi and Archambault

 

Senate Housing and Municipal Government            Chairman Pichardo   

Room 211, rise (4:30 pm)

 

S 558 Mandates that municipalities implement a moratorium on impact fees for a certain time.

Sponsors: McCaffrey, Lynch, Walaska and Ciccone

 

S 560 Removes authority of municipality to determine the cost of construction fees.

Sponsors: McCaffrey, Lynch, Walaska, Ciccone

 

APR 9, THU

 

House Oversight

Room 101, rise (4:30pm)

 

RhodeMap RI presentation:   Kevin Flynn, Division of Planning

 

Senate Finance                  Chairman DaPonte    

Room 211, 2:30 pm

 

S 158 Provides more incentives for renewable energy projects through tax credits, this one is the alternative fuel infrastructure incentive.  You and I will pay for it. 

Sponsors: Miller, Felag, Walaska and Sosnowski

 

S 159 Provides more incentives for renewable energy projects through tax credits, this one exempts qualified electric plug-in drive vehicles from excise tax. You and I will pay for it.

Sponsors: Miller, Felag, Walaska and Sosnowski

 

S 160 Provides more incentives for renewable energy projects through tax credits, this one creates a personal income tax credit for residential renewable energy systems. You and I will pay for it.

Sponsors: Miller, Felag, Sosnowski, Goldin and Walaska

 

House Municipal Government                 Chairman Craven     

Room House Lounge, rise (4:30pm)

 

H 5982 Adds a number of items to be subject to tangible tax.  Increases the tax burden on small businesses at a time when the mantra is reducing the burden on small businesses.

Sponsor: Slater

 

House Labor                              Chairman Shekarchi         

Room 203, 3:30pm

 

H 5956 Makes it unlawful for a public body to consider whether a contractor's workforce is union or non union when selecting a bidder.

Sponsor: Nunes and Jacquard

 

 

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