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                           Legislative Alert 
 
With the mantra ”jobs and the economy” what was one of the first pieces of legislation passed by the new leadership in the House?  It was a bill that ignored the will of the residents of Coventry which required that fire districts be included in the state’s "fiscal overseer" statute (H7944/S2778).  
 
The Battle for the Residents of Coventry is Over.
When the good people of Coventry pulled together and developed a detailed plan to take back control of a piece of their government and then brought their case to the General Assembly, they were basically told to sit down and man up. In other words, the response that they received translated to this: the status quo must be maintained and Coventry residents will pay for that status quo. Governor Chafee quickly signed the bill into law this week (a day after it was transmitted from the General Assembly. At the time of this writing the General Assembly’s web-site was not updated to reflect this). 
 
That bill allowed the state to co-opt the finances of fire districts, vis a vis a fiscal overseer.  In the face of a plan, developed by residents, to change the structure of their own fire district, reduce the cost significantly and maintain the same level of service, our leadership, including Speaker Mattiello, Senate President Paiva Weed, and Governor Chafee, proceeded to defy logic.  In the same breath that the Governor spoke of the ‘Fiscal Stability Act’ he stated that with the new law, there is likely to be increased taxes and reduced services for Coventry residents.  Yet, that was the same rationale used against the Coventry residents’ plan!  What?! 
 
So let’s see. All 3 elected leaders want to include fire districts under the ‘Fiscal Stability Act’ so they can increase taxes and reduce services but with no authority to amend or repeal the contracts that contain a significant portion of the cost drivers. Seems counterintuitive, but that is the logic of RI’s elected officials - save the public unions at all costs.  Hopefully, Coventry residents will replace their elected officials who dismissed their voices next November and elect those who will listen to the people and honor their demands over the public unions’ demands. 
 
The Battle for the Residents of the East Bay Continues.......
The East Bay delegation presented their bill (S 2335) in the Senate Finance committee two months ago. That same bill will be up for consideration in committee on Tuesday of this week. The legislation provides for funding of RI’s road and bridge maintenance and removes the toll from the Sakonnet Bridge, where it never should have been in the first place (see the description below). Notably, the Finance Chairman’s name is on the bill. The companion bill (H 7432) was heard two months ago and remains in Never, Never Land as of today.  
 
Repeal of the Master Lever, hopeful, but not there yet.
On a separate note, it was an historic moment for the bill to Repeal the Master Lever (H 8072).  According to Operation Clean Government and gubernatorial candidate, Ken Block, it was 51 years in the making. While it has passed the full House, it remains stuck in Never, Never Land on the Senate side.  Senate President Paiva Weed has been loath to let this bill come to a vote in the past. Will she feel the pressure to have this bill sent to the full Senate? Perhaps we might convince her. PLEASE let Senate President Paiva Weed  and Chairman McCaffrey know that you want the bill to come to a full vote in the Senate. Fifty one years is more than enough time to study the legislation!  RI needs good government now!  Vote S 2091 out of committee and allow a full vote in the Senate!
 
A Bad Precedent Unfolding.
Representatives Silva, Corvese, Guthrie, McLaughlin and Casey want RI taxpayers to bail out bankrupt municipal pension plans. So not only will you foot the bill for your city or town’s better funded pension plan, but you will also pay for municipalities that provided those generous public union pensions but can’t pay the bill. Legislation will be heard this week that would set a precedent in RI for bailing out bankrupt pension plans. At the very end of the bill, it clearly and boldly proclaims that “The state is liable to the retirement system for the cost of funding a retirement system for the existing retirees of the city of Central Falls who are members of the system”.  This is a change from the previous’ years bill. (H 6217/S742) which stated that the city of Central Falls would be liable to the retirement system for the funding of the pension system. This is a very dangerous precedent.  Think about poorly funded pension systems in Providence, East Providence, Woonsocket, West Warwick, Cranston, etc.  Let Chairman Gallison know that as a RI taxpayer, you do not want to foot the bill for the bankrupt pension plan of Central Falls, nor for any other cities‘ bankrupt plan for that matter.     
 
What’s Coming up this Week?
The perennial attempt to provide more benefits to illegal aliens, H 7437 is on the docket.  Let Chairman Gallison know that you do not approve of your tax dollars benefiting illegal aliens. However, the perennial bill that attempts to mitigate the financial havoc wreaked on the RI economy by the unfettered influx of illegal aliens will be heard once again this session.  We urge you to let Chairman McCaffrey know that RI needs E-Verify and vote S 2030 out of committee this year.
 
There are a number of bills that, if implemented, would benefit the RI economy. Please review those below and let each chairman know your position, especially the no-brainer bills that address fraud, waste and abuse in our welfare system - H 7372,H 7941, and S 2346 and the bill that creates an Inspector General to prevent and detect fraud waste and abuse - S 2346.  RI can no longer tolerate fraud, waste and abuse. 
 
                 Legislative Hearings    5/6/14 - 5/8/14
 
TUE, MAY 6 
 
Senate Finance          Chairman DaPonte          
Room 211, 3:00 pm
 
S 2335  Allocates, over 5 years, 1.5% of general fund to transportation and infrastructure fund.  Allocates an additional .5% from the RI capital plan fund to RIPTA.  Allocates $45 million from motor fuel tax for debt service. Assesses a 5% additional tax on all fees collected by the DMV.  Allows, carte blanch, general obligation bonds be utilized for any shortfalls in infrastructure fund. If and when passed, allocates .125% of internet sales tax to infrastructure fund.  Eliminates the RI Turnpike and Bridge Authority and moves it under the RI Department of Transportation - renamed RI Turnpike and Bridge Division.
Sponsors: DiPalma, Felag, Ottiano, Miller and DaPonte
 
House Finance                   Chairman Gallison    
Room 35, Rise (4:30)
 
H 7437  Provides in state tuition for illegal aliens and out-of-state children graduating from private high schools in RI. (postponed from Apr 30)
Sponsors: Diaz, Slater, Williams, Ferri and Almeida
 
Senate Judiciary                   Chairman McCaffrey    
Room 313, Rise (4:30)
 
S 2030  Requires that companies utilize E-Verify for new employees to determine citizenship status.
Sponsors: Cote, Picard, Sheehan, Felag and Lombardo
 
House Judiciary            Chairman Keable  
Room 101, Rise (4:30)
 
H 7372  Prohibits the use and acceptance of welfare funds for alcohol, tobacco, lottery, etc.  Includes fines and a fraud hotline and requires application to federal government for authority to investigate and enforce.
Sponsors: Kennedy, San Bento, Winfield, E Coderre and Corvese
 
H 7941  Prohibits the use and acceptance of welfare funds for alcohol, tobacco, lottery, etc.  Includes fines. 
Sponsors: Corvese, Azzinaro, Malik, Ucci and McLaughlin
 
WED, MAY 7
 
House Finance          Chairman Gallison     
Room 35, 2:00 pm
 
H 7436  Limits authority of fiscal overseer to financial matters only and leaves elected officials in place to enact non financial related ordinance.
Sponsor: Silva
 
House Finance         Chairman Gallison    
Room 35, Rise (4:30)
 
H 7208   Requires fiscal notes accompany legislation at least 3 days prior to the hearing of that bill. (postponed from Apr 15)
Sponsors: Newberry, Giarrusso, Costa, Chippendale and Trillo
 
H 7728  Mandates zero based budgeting for state government.(postponed from Apr 15)
Sponsors: Newberry, Chippendale, Giarrusso and Morgan
 
H 7776  Mandates that RI taxpayers pay for the bankrupt Central Falls pension system.  This sets a very DANGEROUS PRECEDENT.
Sponsors: Silva, Corvese, Guthrie, McLaughlin and Casey
 
H 8033  Reduces sales tax to 6% for all purchases with the exception of meals, beverages, hotels and lodging.
Sponsors: Malik, Hull, Morgan, McNamara and Morin
 
H 8039  Reduces the sales tax from 7% to 3%.
Sponsors: Malik, Hull, Messier, Shekarchi and McNamara
 
House Judiciary              Chairman Keable        
Room 205, Rise (4:30)
Note that the companion bills were passed in the Senate (S 2537 and S 2538).
 
H 8060  Constitutional Convention
Sponsors: Keable, Silva and Newberry
 
H 8061  Constitutional Convention
Sponsors: Keable, Silva, Newberry and Marcello
 
THU, MAY 8
 
Senate Finance       Chairman DaPonte    
Room 211, 3:00 pm
 
S 2346  Creates an office of the Inspector General to help prevent and detect fraud, waste and abuse.
Sponsors: Cool Rumsey, Satchell, Archambault, Conley and Goldin
 
*************
Note - Full vote on the Senate Floor this week:
The full Senate will vote this Tuesday on the Joint Committee of the Repealer bill (S 2281).  This bill would help remove the regulatory burdens currently weighing down small businesses in this state. 
 
The full Senate will vote this Wednesday on S 2059 sub A, a bill to postpone the implementation of utilizing standardized testing as a graduation requirement, relegating many of our students to graduating with a meaningless high school diploma. 
 

 

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