Category Archives: State Assembly

In case you missed it, and so you don’t

In case you missed it, we had a quick response to the recent ProJo article on the Jack McConnell nomination to the U.S. District Court. These all follow our PR on the subject issued the day before.

The Journal reported that Senator Whitehouse defended answers to the Judiciary Committee by U.S. District Court nominee Jack McConnell as “accurate in every respect.” We beg to differ, as did Senator Grassley, the ranking Republican (“Senate panel endorses McConnell for R.I. judgeship, ”April, 1).

McConnell said, “My law firm entered into an agreement with the State of Rhode Island that set forth the attorney fees as 16 2/3% of any recovery obtained as a result of the litigation.” In fact, the contract says: “In the event the litigation is resolved, by settlement or judgment, … the parties hereto agree to seek . . . compensation.”

The fee agreement is triggered not by “any recovery” but by “settlement or judgment,” neither of which occurred in the DuPont Deal by the testimony of both Dupont and then Rhode Island Atty. Gen. Patrick Lynch. In the event of “in-kind” payments we would not be obligated to pay a fee.

Continue reading HERE.

And so you don’t miss it, I’ll be on Channel 10 news this evening (6:00) interviewed by Bill Rappleye on the recently reported raises given out at the State House.

It is difficult to say exactly which 10 second quote will be taken from the 10 minute interview, but here’s the point I made, I don’t begrudge anyone making money from hard work, but it is understandable why people are outraged by these raises as we suffer in an economy where benefits are being cut and people are leaving our state because of the onerous taxes (see our Leaving RI study for documentation of this fact).  Handing out raises to anyone in government in this environment is offensive. But I think the ire is misguided when you consider the fact that teachers in Rhode Island who happen to be in the first 10 years of employment get close to a 9% raise NOT because of their job performance, but simply because they were employed another year.  Those and other exorbitant contractual raises based solely on seniority that apply to everyone are the real budget deficit driver.

Of course, if more government services were provided by private entities, who have “competition” to ensure compensation is judiciously allocated, then all these problems would go away, now, wouldn’t they…

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Good News! RI Doesn’t get $108 Million

The Providence Business News reported today that RI will not be receiving the $108 million from Medicaid it was expecting.  This is good news for a few reasons.

Firstly, Rhode Island wasn’t the only state to lose Medicaid funds – the total amount taken off the table was $16 billion. That’s $16b less in spending – which is good news #1.

Secondly, the  RI General Assembly put a provision in the budget that allows the governor to unilaterally cut spending to make up for the lost funds.  This will put significant pressure to look for spending cuts – good news #2.

Lastly, and most important – the loss of these funds will enable RI to make important changes in Medicaid eligibility. Here’s why: The Obama Administration made these additional Medicaid funds available, starting last year, on the condition that states would not change benefit eligibility requirements.  Now if the bonus FMAP disappears effective Dec. 31, 2010, states will have nothing to gain and lots to lose by failing to tighten eligibility rules.  They’ll still be constrained by federal law but they won’t lose money by implementing allowable changes.  Rather they’ll reduce their costs and create stronger incentives for responsible LTC planning.

What do I mean by tightening eligibility rules?  We wrote extensively on this subject in our study Doing Long Term Care RIght where we identified millions of dollars that are being used to provide tax-funded benefits for not only the middle class, but the affluent as well.  As an example, there are people with severe disabilities receiving Medicaid (tax funded) healthcare right now that have million dollar trust funds.  Why are people struggling to get by forced to pay for healthcare for someone with such wealth? How does this happen? Because the current eligibility guidelines do not count money in trust funds when calculating one’s ability to pay. These are the kinds of changes we can now make – good news #3.

Please read the report for details.

Unions Step in Way of Budget Savings

In the private sector, the idea that employees might have to contribute to the cost of their health insurance is pretty commonplace. But in the public sector—oh the horror! Indeed, once he found out it, AFL-CIO President George Nee decried the change as “a totally unacceptable intrusion into collective bargaining” and promised he would be “aggressively lobbying every member of the House” to block the plan. There, in a nutshell is the union mentality: common-sense health care policy and budget savings don’t mean anything if they infringe upon the sacred inviolability of collective bargaining! For some more reaction to this, read this Providence Journal story. And below, is a press release from the Rhode Island GOP with some choice words for Nee.

Is Anyone Truly Shocked by George Nee’s Quid Pro Quo Offer to Chairman Costantino over Supplemental Budget?

Warwick – RI Republican Party Chairman Giovanni D. Cicione today reacted to a statement attributed by the Providence Journal to AFL-CIO President George Nee in response to a provision in the General Assembly’s supplemental budget plan to require public employees to contribute to the cost of their taxpayer funded health insurance coverage.

As reported by the Providence Journal, Nee threatened to spend his time “aggressively lobbying every member of the House” and also stated, “This is an election year” and “It could be a factor in how endorsements are made.”

“There are only two ways to interpret George Nee’s comments on the issue of public employee contributions to health care coverage costs,” remarked Cicione. “Either George Nee was offering to trade union endorsements for changes to the proposed budget or he was threatening to use the union endorsement process against any official who refused to buckle. Now we know who the AFL-CIO will endorse for Mayor of Providence and Speaker of the House,” speculated Cicione. “The evidence that union bosses pull the strings in the General Assembly could not be any clearer,” concluded the Republican Party Chairman. Continue reading

Even Apathetic Voters are Angry

In yet another must-read column, Ed Achorn reports on some new numbers from a Brown University poll that show just how unhappy Rhode Islanders are with the state of affairs here as well as in Washington:

Some 94 percent of voters say Rhody’s economy is “not so good” or “poor.”

Only 12 percent have “a great deal” or “a good amount” of confidence that state officials will make the right decisions for Rhode Island’s future.

In this heavily Democratic jurisdiction, 73 percent of voters say they have “just some” or no confidence that Democratic legislators will make the right decisions for the state. Think about that. …

Rhode Island voters are not all that impressed with their representatives in Washington, either.

The $787 billion stimulus bill that cost every man, woman and child in America $2,600, plus interest — rammed through with the help of all four members of the state’s all-Democratic congressional delegation — gets flunking grades. Some 74 percent of Rhode Island voters said it has had no effect on their personal financial situation, while another 12 percent said it hurt. Only 8 percent said it helped. …

And, while Democrat-controlled Washington has focused obsessively on a radical overhaul of health care since President Obama’s inauguration, only 20 percent rate that as the most important issue they want Mr. Obama and Congress to address. More than 54 percent say that jobs, the economy and unemployment should be the top priority.

The ‘Scourge of Text Messaging’

As the Legislature winds up its whirlwind, two-day legislative session, lawmakers continue to ignore the elephant in the room: the sinking economy and rising state budget deficits.

Here is what House Majority Leader Gordon Fox had to say on this, according to The Providence Journal:

“We’re addressing real societal needs in these two days, so I don’t want the word to go out that they’re here and they’re doing nothing,” Fox said. The Assembly, he continued, is addressing issues for “people who need services, or the people who are concerned with indoor prostitution, [as well as] the scourge of text messaging. Those are real issues. They don’t go away.”

The “scourge of text messaging”?

The House yesterday also tackled such burning issues as expunging “plantations” from the state name,  allowing mixed-martial arts matches, and approving special New England Patriots license plates.

Hurried Legislative Session Hampers Transparency

There is transparency in theory, and then there is transparency in practice. The high-speed legislative session this week might pass the transparency test in the first sense, but certainly not the latter. In a mere two-day span, the Rhode Assembly is scheduled to take up 196  legislative proposals. In order to ram through this much legislation in such short order, the Legislature has suspended rules that require 48-hour notice for hearings and votes, according to The Providence Journal. So, while all the bills are posted online here and here, few people, if any, have had time to read and digest them all. Not surprisingly, the first day of voting was a frantic, discombobulated scene. Read The Providence Journal description here.

RI Assembly Agenda: Texting, Plantations, and Saltwater Fishing

While the recession rages on in Rhode Island, the state Assembly seems more concerned with things like texting while driving, regulating saltwater fishing, and erasing plantations from the official state name, according to this round-up by The Providence Journal blog. Talk about playing the fiddle while Rome burns.

While the above list may be grabbing all the attention, there actually is a lot on the agenda. A committee-by-committee list of proposed bills is available here. Also, don’t forget to check out the RI Votes section of our Transparency Train for more information.