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Legislative Alert
Two pillars down, two to go.
If the workforce is one of the pillars important for businesses to locate or expand in RI, why are elected leaders taking a jackhammer to education?
The full House voted this week to forgo the unnecessary task of ensuring an effective teacher in every classroom but rather to continue pumping out 'unemployable high school graduates' with the passage of H 7096, a bill that severely reduces the frequency of teacher evaluations.
Race to the Top or Running in Circles?
So now we know for sure. The new Speaker of the House has drawn a line in the sand.  Rather than supporting Commissioner Gist's hard work for 5 years to improve RI's education system, rather than supporting the idea of student centered learning as opposed to adult job protection, and rather than consider that the $75 million Race to the Top money may be at stake, Speaker Mattiello has succumbed to the will of the public unions. The adults in the equation have been protected.  After all, how many of you working professionals have an annual review to receive feedback about your job performance?  Presumably all of you.  If the Speaker has his way, which, given history, it would seem Senate President Paiva Weed would be very amenable to protecting public union employees, then 95% of RI's teachers will only be evaluated every 3 or 4 years.
Florida schools are required to provide annual, comprehensive teacher evaluations based on a law passed in support of Race to the Top. Massachusetts requires evaluations every two years for their top performing teachers. Why is it that RI elected leaders, most of whom are not immersed in the education conversation daily, have decided that 5 years of work with unions, teachers, principals and school committees should be flushed away in one fell swoop?
National child advocacy groups, like The Education Trust, have expressed opposition to this very bill, our own local advocacy group, RI-CAN has opposed this bill, the RI Association of School Committees has opposed this bill and of course, the Commissioner of Education has opposed this bill (by the way, where is the Governor on this?  Will he veto the bill when it gets to his desk?). So how can the General Assembly, on a 69 to 3 vote pass such deplorable legislation?  They gutted the most important reform in education that ensured a quality teacher for every classroom.  Representatives Giarrusso, Hearn and Morgan were the only ones to stand up and say we need to transform RI's education system.
Where was the RIFTHP (AKA AFT - the other teachers' union in RI)? We recall them touting their own great professional evaluation system in the last number of years. Did any legislator recall this and ask them to comment? Would it have been in the better interest of students and teachers to pow-wow with the Board of Education? Like the change made last year to collapse the Board of Governors and the Board of Regents into the Board of Education, it seems the question regarding teacher evaluations needed more input from those involved and more time for debate.
Just "another" hearing scheduled at the last minute.
Not posted until two days after our Alert was distributed last week, there was a Senate hearing on Thursday for Ethics reform, bill S 2824. This bill was passed out of committee, which, as you are aware, is highly unusual.  Why would they leave the Master Lever in further study land and yet pass an Ethics bill? Hmmm. This bill is not the same as the bill heard in the House, H 7593.  It doesn't provide the Ethics Commission with the all important 'jurisdiction over the General Assembly'.  It does allow for members to "argue the case all over again" through the courts and it would not be effective for acts occurring before Jan 8, 2015.  Hmm, again.  Does this bill even have any teeth? Is it just a decoy to make us think the Senate is doing something about Ethics Reform since it won't do anything about the Master Lever?
"Tear down this wall".
The Rally for Repeal of the Master Lever, held in the Rotunda of the State House last Thursday, included some well known speakers, all calling for the Senate President to allow the bill to come to a vote, you know, as if we had a democratic system. Over 150 voices called up from the Rotunda to the 3rd floor and demanded a vote. There are only a few short weeks left until the end of the session.  We encourage you to encourage Senate President Paiva Weed to "tear down this wall", as RI Taxpayers Association Chairman, Harry Staley wrote in last week's Projo. 
Knocking the pillars over.
Earlier this year, CVS representative John Kennedy noted the four pillars that businesses consider when determining where to locate or expand their companies. He specifically noted the high cost of energy as part and parcel to the pillar of a state's cost of doing business. Senator Sosnowski and Representative Ruggiero have completely ignored the warning about the high cost of energy and continue to pursue legislation that will push energy costs higher and higher in RI so that we will never be able to compete in the marketplace for businesses looking to relocate.  H 7727 and S 2690 - bills that force National Grid to charge customer higher rates for electricity - will be heard for the SECOND time this coming week. Please let Senate President Paiva Weed and House Speaker Mattiello know that RI cannot afford to pay the higher electrical rates provided for in H 7727 and S 2690.  At a time when RI is ranked lower than most states in everything, consideration of this legislation could not be more absurd. (see our GoLocal Article on Green Energy)
Money for the Superman Building (Have you heard about the unfolding saga of 38 Studios?)
On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee will hear S 2898, a bill that requires RI taxpayers to pay $39 million toward the renovation of the Superman building.  Are you game?  The bill's sponsors, Senators Miller, Ruggerio and Pichardo think you are. Write to Chairman DaPonte and let him know this is not something for which you are willing to risk tax dollars. The pain of 38 Studios is just too fresh. 
The political football.
That transportation/infrastructure bill continues to be a political football, while the people and businesses that it impacts remain uncertain of their future.
S 2335Sub A was removed from the Senate agenda for a second time last week. For the third time, it is scheduled for a full vote on Wednesday, June 4th. Will they vote or just punt? 
The usual assault on the taxpayer.
On Thursday, there will be a repeated assault on taxpayers with Senate legislation looking to increase daycare subsidies in the state. Leading the charge is Senator Crowley. RI currently subsidizes daycare to the tune of $50 million a year. Back in late April, the House was assaulted with the same legislation. Last year, the General Assembly passed a law allowing the SEIU to unionize private daycare workers. That will increase the cost of daycare even before we get to the group of bills, listed below, to be heard on Thursday, which will increase daycare subsidies. Write to Chairman DaPonte and let him know enough is enough with the handouts.
SIDE BAR:  The full House will vote on proposing a Constitutional Convention on Wednesday, June 4.
               Legislative Hearings  6/3/14 - 6/5/14
Senate Finance
Senate Lounge, 3:00 pm          Chairman DaPonte   
S 2898  Creates a public/private relationship with the developers of the Superman Building by providing $39 million over 4 years through an "historic redevelopment program and revolving fund".
Sponsors: Miller, Ruggerio and Pichardo
Senate Labor Committee
Room 212, Rise (4:30)               Chairman Fogarty    
S 2249  Increases minimum wage to $10 by January 2016 and adjusted for CPI after that.
Sponsors: Lynch, Miller, Metts, Pearson and Satchell 
Senate Environment and Agriculture        Chairwoman Sosnowski 
Room 211, Rise (4:30)
S 2690  Distributed Generation Program (to be heard for the second time). Mandates higher electricity charges to customers.
Sponsors: Sosnowski, Walaska, Conley, Cool Rumsey and Bates
House Labor Committee            Chairman Shekarchi    
Room 203, Rise (4:30)
H 7392  Removes the requirement for competitive, sealed bidding in some instances.    
Sponsors: Edwards, Almeida and Blazejewski
House Environment and Natural Resources        Chairman Handy   
Room 205, Rise (4:30)
H 7727  Distributed Generation Growth Program (to be heard for the second time).  Mandates higher electricity charges to customers.
Sponsors: Ruggiero, Handy, Marshall and Finn
Senate Finance              Chairman DaPonte      
Room 211, 3:00 pm
S 2323  Increases the pool of people eligible to receive daycare assistance by raising the threshold.
Sponsors: Crowley, Goldin, Cool Rumsey, Nesselbush and Sosnowski
S 2493  Increases the pool of people eligible to receive daycare assistance by raising the threshold.
Sponsors: Crowley, Cool Rumsey, Goldin, Metts and Pichardo


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