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Side of the Rhode: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in RI Politics?

Friday, June 28, 2013


Rep. Karen MacBeth gets props for forcing men at the top of the House leadership to follow their own pension reform law.

Every Friday, Dan Lawlor breaks down who's rising and who's falling in the world of Rhode Island politics. Check out who made the lists this week.

Who's Hot

Representatives Lisa Tomasso and Karen MacBeth: These two female representatives led the charge to force the men at the top of House leadership to follow their own pension reform law, and invest more funds into the state's pension system. It's not every day Speaker Fox loses a vote, particularly one on the floor, which lead to a nearly $13 million re-write of the budget. Good job standing up for common sense!

Farm Fresh RI: This dynamic organization, which promotes a community eating healthy, local food, received a $100,000 loan to expand its Market Mobile program, an online ordering system connecting large consumers like hospitals, schools, and restaurants with farmers across the state. Sounds tasty.

Piano Player: During the House budget dinner recess on Tuesday, somebody knew how to play the state house piano beautifully. Kudos to the phantom pianist.

Representative Jay O'Grady: As Lincoln/Pawtucket Democrat O'Grady said, "You think this budget is bad, just wait until next year." Speaking out, along with several representatives from conservative Trillo to progressive Tanzi, O'Grady criticized scatter shot approaches to developing the state which leave too many people out of the picture. Which reminds me...

Representative Mike Chippendale: The Foster Republican argued the key to success in any organization is "strategic and long term goals"–"starting and stopping does not help things." He warned that the state was in "constant doldrums" because "we don't give anything time to work."

Gina Raimondo: The General Treasurer can point to a new reform beyond her love it or hate it pension work. This funding mechanism, worked out with Speaker Fox, should open up a small amount of revenue for infrastructure.

Left-Right Coalitions: The conservatives and the progressives should work together more often. This past week, on the floor of the House, actual debate took place, and the Speaker's team was forced to re-write his budget based on opposition and feedback from the floor. Such public debates, and the changes debates produce, happen far too rarely in this state's government.


Who's Not

Debating after Midnight: Is it really necessary to make decisions on an $8 billion dollar budget after midnight? Open up the budget process next year so our public debate is not full of leadership men in suits walking around and whispering unknowns into the ears of legislators in sweltering heat after midnight. Break the budget into parts, and set a schedule over several days.

Angel Taveras: The Mayor should ask why members of his appointed school board don't show up to their own meetings! School Board President Keith Oliveira recently chastised several committee members for missing meetings, recently preventing a quorum. Between NECAP, the Birch crisis, and the falling auditorium roof at Hope High School, there is plenty to discuss and improve.

Joseph Montalbano: The former Senate President is now a Superior Court Judge. Isn't there supposed to be a separation between the judicial and legislative branches?

Cities in Distress: As the General Assembly debates the state's budget, people in West Warwick and Woonsocket are struggling with foreclosures, debt liabilities, store vacancies, and homelessness. Each town is on the edge financially. West Warwick's Phenix Village and Woonsocket's French Quarter need some love and some problem-solving–hopefully the restored historic tax credit program will be an incentive for development in these former factory towns.

Gordon Fox: The track skipped a beat. First, Fox and Paiva Weed were found to privately have assured major bond holders that the state would back the 38 Studios loans. Second, Speaker Fox was forced to revise his team's original budget based on public opposition from a majority of rank-and-file legislators. His updated budget passed, but barely. Are there any rising speakers waiting in the wings?

Edith Ajello: The progressive champion, and House Judiciary Chairperson, once again disappointed the good government team, and called for a new vote for a previously failed bill to create a "magistrate emeritus" license plate - really? Just like Ethics Reform passed the Judiciary Committee, before it failed, we had a special license plate bill fail, before it passed.

Jan Malik: One small business certainly made out well this budget season. Switching from advocating no sales tax for all, Malik appears to be fine with no sales tax for him. As part of a pilot program, resulting in a projected revenue loss of $1.2 million, liquor stores will no longer charge sales tax on wine and spirits. What makes it necessary to eliminate the sales tax on wine and spirits over any other industry?


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