| | Advanced Search

 

Gronkowski “Good to Go” Week 1—Rob Gronkowski told reporters at Gillette Stadium that…

Russell Moore: Experience Makes Caprio a No-Brainer for Treasurer—Let's face it: politics is strange business.

Smart Benefits: Two Regs Issued on Contraceptive Coverage—Two regulations on contraceptive coverage were recently issued…

Peace Flag Project to Host Rhode Island Month of Peace in September—The Peace Flag Project will host over 30…

Don’t Miss: Fall Newport Secret Garden Tours—The Benefactors of the Arts will present a…

Fall Activities for the Whole Family—Mark your calendars for the best activities of…

Skywatching: Seagrave Memorial Observatory Centennial (1914-2014)—Skyscrapers, Inc., the Amateur Astronomical Society of Rhode…

Friday Financial Five - August 29, 2014—The Tax Foundation has put together a helpful…

RI Resource Recovery Collected 6K Pounds of Clothes—RI Resource Recovery has received more than 6,000…

5 Live Music Musts - August 29, 2014—We’ve got Rhythm and Roots and a whole…

 
 

Don Roach: 5 Reasons Why… Oh Who Cares?! 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

 

As a writer, they often tell you to headline columns with “5 reasons why Bob will beat Jill in this year’s town council race.” The thinking goes that we’re a society that wants to consume information quickly and easily. Heaven forbid we have to read through a non-bulleted column. If you came to this column looking for me to provide you with five reasons to do this or that, I’m sorry to let you down.

No, I need you to give me a moment to lament the passing of the Rhode Island voter.

Ok, I’m done, can someone pass the cheese?

Seriously, last week I urged you all to sign the petition I created on change.org – which had a misspelling for a few hours, incidentally – that would “encourage” the Senate Judiciary to reverse course in their dealing with the Master Lever. As you know, they held the bill for further study as they had done the year before.

My hope was that we could create a groundswell of support for the bill. Sure, it’s not economic improvement or reducing our taxes, but it is something that I hope most of us can agree needs to go. I set my goal last week to reach 5,000 signatures. As of Tuesday, we had amassed, and I use that word loosely, approximately 100 signatures.

For those of you scoring at home, that’s about 2 percent of our goal. To say it even more clearly, Easter Sunday I posted a picture of myself and my sons which received 92 likes within a few hours while the petition had a very difficult time breaking 100 for almost a week. To say that it’s disheartening would be an understatement.

When we fail to act as a group, we encourage our General Assembly members to continue to ignore our concerns and worry only about whatever special interest group that helped get them elected. It’s like something I tell my sisters – a man will take as much as he can until you say no. I’m not saying all men are dogs, what I am saying that a guy will see what he can get away with until he can’t get away with it anymore. It could be anything from leaving the toothpaste open to trying to juggle multiple women at one time.

General Assembly people, in my opinion, are similar in that they’ll do as much as they can get away with until we vote them out. It seems people don’t care enough about the master lever to try to get the Assembly to act.

Oh well, thank you to everyone who signed the petition. For those that didn’t sign the petition, I lied, I’ll give you five reasons why our General Assembly continues to do whatever it wants without accountability:

  • You.
  • You.
  • You.
  • You.
  • Wave to the person staring at you in the mirror.

 

Harsh? Yes. But I’m trying any and everything to shake up the status quo and get us off our fannies to start demanding more from our legislators. I haven’t found the answer yet, but I continue to search. Feel free to send me an e-mail with your five ways to shake up the General Assembly.

At this point, I’m open to anything.

Don can be reached at don@donroach.org . Don is also on twitter at @donroach34.

 

Related Slideshow: The Ten Biggest Issues Facing the RI General Assembly in 2014

Prev Next

#1

The Budget

The latest report by the House Finance Committee illustrates that Rhode Island will start the next fiscal year, which starts in July 2014, with an estimated deficit of $149 million. The report shows the FY 2014 Budget contains numerous overspending problems—meaning that the General Assembly will have to cut costs somewhere.

So where will the cuts come from? Lawmakers will have to examine the state's costliest programs. According to the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council, the most expensive government programs in Rhode Island are Elementary and Secondary Education, Public Welfare, Pensions, Higher Education, and Interest on Debt. Click here to view a comprehensive list of the state's costliest government programs.

Prev Next

#2

Bankrupt Communities

The state may be two years removed from Central Falls filing for bankruptcy, but 2014 could be the year that other financially strapped Rhode Island communities follow suit—most notably Woonsocket and West Warwick.

With bankruptcy on the table in both 2012 and 2013, this year poses more financial uncertainty for the cash-strapped city of Woonsocket. Earlier this year, the city's bond rating was downgraded due to the city's numerous financial issues—including a growing deficit, increasing unfunded pension liability, and a severe cash crunch.

Similarly, the embattled town of West Warwick faces a variety of financial questions in 2014. With its pension fund set to run out by 2017, the town must address its unfunded liabilities this year if it hopes to regain financial stability. That, coupled with an increasing school department deficit, make West Warwick a contender for bankruptcy.

Look for Woonsocket and West Warwick's elected state officials to address their respective cities' financial issues in the upcoming legislative session.

Prev Next

#3

Sales Tax

With the Special Joint Legislative Commission to Study the Sales Tax Repeal set to report their findings to the General Assembly in February, the possibility of sales tax repeal in Rhode Island could become a reality in 2014.

"Our sales tax is killing small businesses, especially those in border communities," said Rep. Jan P. Malik (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren), the commission's chair. "How can Rhode Island continue to compete at 7 percent, with Massachusetts already lower than us and considering reducing its sales tax even farther? How can Rhode Island restaurants compete at 8 percent? They can’t. We need to find a way to fix this, and a serious discussion of our sales tax is a discussion we need to have, now, before more small stores close their doors."

In addition to Malik, proponents of sales tax elimination include the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity and Forbes Magazine.

Prev Next

#4

EDC Reorganization to Commerce Corporation

On January 1, 2014, the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation will be replaced with the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation—a move which has the potential to impact to adversely affect recipients of federal funding contracts made possible currently through the EDC.

This could include the state's Broadband Initiative, Brownfields program, and other contracts made through the EDC. As a result, recipients will now be required to re-apply for federal funding as of January 1st.

The massive overhaul of the EDC was prompted by the 38 Studios debacle, which is projected to cost Rhode Island taxpayers $102 million. 38 Studios, the now defunct video game company, filed bankruptcy in May 2012 just months after securing a $75 million loan from the EDC.

Prev Next

#5

Marijuana Legalization

With the state's marijuana decriminalization law going into effect this past April, Rhode Island may be a candidate for marijuana legalization in 2014.

Legislation to legalize marijuana has been introduced in each of the last three years, but has never been voted on. Earlier this year, Rep. Edith Ajello (D-Dist. 3, Providence), who is chair of the Judiciary Committee, introduced the bill in the House. Roughly half of the Judiciary Committee supports the measure.

The bill also has the support of the Marijuana Policy Project, an organization focusing on drug policy reform, which hopes to legalize marijuana in ten states, including Rhode Island.

Approximately 52 percent of Rhode Island voters support legalizing marijuana for recreational use, according to a Public Policy Polling survey conducted in January.

Marijuana is currently legal in Colorado and Washington.

Prev Next

#6

Constitutional Convention

Come November 2014, Rhode Island voters will likely be asked whether they wish to convene a constitutional convention, which involves individuals gathering for the purpose of writing a new constitution or revising the existing one.

Every 10 years, Rhode Island voters are asked whether they wish to amend or revise the constitution. Voters rejected this opportunity in 1994 and 2004. Although rare, Rhode Islanders can vote to hold a constitutional convention and in effect, take control over the state government.

If approved, a special election is held to elect 75 delegates, who then convene to propose amendments to the Rhode Island Constitution. These amendments are then voted on in the next general election.

The likelihood of this occurring highly depends on if the General Assembly does its job to ensure residents that the state is heading in the right direction financially and structurally.

Rhode Island’s last constitutional convention took place in 1986. It proposed 14 amendments—eight of which were adopted by voters.

Prev Next

#7

Education Board Structure

Less than a year after the General Assembly created the 11-member Rhode Island Board of Education to replace the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education and the Board of Governors for Higher Education, there are multiple questions surrounding the structure of this newly consolidated agency.

Although lawmakers voted to merge the state's two education boards in June, the Board of Education now wants to split its agency to create two separate councils—one with the statutory authority over kindergarten to grade 12 and another governing higher education.

The Board of Education will present its proposal to the General Assembly during its next legislative session and lawmakers will once again determine how the agency should be structured.

The Board of Education currently governs all public education in Rhode Island.

Prev Next

#8

Sakonnet Bridge Tolls

Rhode Island may have implemented tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge this past year, but they could be gone by 2014.

On January 15, the East Bay Bridge Commission—which was established to allow lawmakers and officials investigate various funding plans, potentially eliminating the need for tolls on the Sakonnet River Bridge—will report its findings to the General Assembly. The General Assembly is then required to vote on the issue by April 1.

The commission was established in July following the General Assembly's approval of the 10-cent toll.

Prev Next

#9

Superman Building

Located on Westminster Street in Downtown Providence, the former Bank of America Building (commonly referred to as the Superman Building) may be the tallest building in the state, but as of right now, it's just a vacant piece of property.

The building's current owner, High Rock Westminster LLC, was most recently looking for a total of $75 million to rehabilitate the skyscraper—$39 million of which would come from the state.

With the sting of the 38 Studios deal still fresh in the minds of lawmakers, a $39 million tax credit appears unlikely.

The question of what will become of the Superman Building remains to be seen. 

Prev Next

#10

Master Lever

Championed by Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Block (while head of the RI Moderate Party), the movement to eliminate the Master Level, which allows voters to vote for all candidates of one political party with a stroke of the pen, is poised to heat up in 2014.

Despite Block's strong push to repeal the 1939 law, the measure did not get a vote in the General Assembly last session.

In October, Block told GoLocal that he believes that House Speaker Gordon Fox is responsible for the General Assembly not voting on the proposal.

“Despite the support of a majority of 42 state Representatives, thousands of emails from concerned RI voters and unanimous testimony of more than 100 people who came to the State House in person to testify that the Master Lever had to go, the Speaker personally killed the bill in the most unaccountable way possible—he did not allow the House Judiciary Committee to vote on the bill,” Block told GoLocal.

Speaker Fox has stated on multiple occasions that he believes the Master Level is a legitimate tool that many voters use.

 
 

Related Articles

 

Enjoy this post? Share it with others.

Comments:

#1 replace everyone
#2 replace everyone
#3 replace everyone
#4 replace everyone
#5 replace everyone

Comment #1 by LENNY BRUCE on 2014 04 23

Jojo, since everyone is a Democrat, replacing them would mean voting Republican.

So let's keep the master lever and use it to vote straight Republican.

Comment #2 by James Berling on 2014 04 23

Don - I'm always one for goals but the percentage of success should be based on the number of hits the referring web article received. Care to offer any stats as to how many people viewed your original article, referring us to the change.org petition? BTW - Mr. Berling seems to have missed the point regarding the problems of the Master Lever.

Comment #3 by Rich B on 2014 04 23

Was thinking of more the independent conservative types, republican or independent NO RINO'S NO PROGRESSIVES NO UBER LIBS NO EXTREME LEFTY'S OR RIGHTY'S JUST PEOPLE WHO THINK CLEARLY.

Comment #4 by LENNY BRUCE on 2014 04 23

Rich - I don't have access to post stats unfortunately, but last week's article fared no better or worse than my normal ones after I asked those that do. I do have a Facebook page with only 77 followers so FB isn't where my readers are. There were a couple of retweets and a few e-mails.

But, there's definitely enough reach that this could have gone "viral" as it were. I posted to my personal FB page where I have over 1,100 friends though I'd say at the most 30% of them are in Rhode Island.

I am just thinking people don't care.

Comment #5 by Donn Roach on 2014 04 23

Don, keep the faith. We need you communicating and acting. We need all of us doing the same.

Comment #6 by Art West on 2014 04 23

Clear thinking is the goal, but minds get fuzzy when the lobbist boys and girls start waving green things around.

Comment #7 by G Godot on 2014 04 26

Don Roach - Where did you post this? I would've signed this type of petition in a heartbeat.

Some of us out here work at jobs other than watching politics and writing opinions or even being near a computer. We appreciate the work that is done to inform us of current events. Of course that also means I'm not online everyday and sometimes only a couple of times during the week. I don't facebook or tweet. Therefore it would be necessary to have the information well in advance and more than once.

Sorry I missed the article and the petition.

Comment #8 by Wuggly Ump on 2014 04 28




Write your comment...

You must be logged in to post comments.