RI general assembly


In the famous words of Yogi Berra, `it ain’t over till its over.’ RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay explains why that’s the case with the latest twist in Rhode Island’s public employee pension settlement.

In many a long legal  battle, a settlement reached out of court marks the end of a contentious lawsuit. The opposing parties shake hands and sometimes share an odd drop. Then they put the dispute behind them.

In most protracted court battles, a settlement reached after tortuous year-long negotiations marks the end of a lawsuit and allows the parties to move forward. Often the lawyers celebrate and perhaps even share an odd drop together.

That wasn’t the case Friday. The  proposed legal settlement between the state and the unions that represent public school teachers and state employees and retirees is just the beginning of a cumbersome ratification process that is sure to become ensnared in what is shaping up as a contentious political campaign season in Rhode Island.

What everyone in the Rhode Island political swirl should understand about the state pension overhaul settlement details that are due for release tomorrow: This is very likely to be only the beginning of a protracted process.

One thing we know for sure. Even if it is fair and reasonable, not everyone is going to like it. Some unionized state employees and teachers will not be satisfied with anything less than a full restoration of the pension benefits that were sliced dramatically in the 2011 special General Assembly pension session.

In the run up to a Super Bowl between two teams from states that have legalized marijuana, thus giving whole new meaning to the term Bud Bowl, pollsters are taking the pulse of public opinion on  the issue in other states.

Today, Public Policy Polling released a public opinion survey that shows 53 percent of Rhode Island voters support changing the state’s laws to sell, regulate and tax pot in a manner similar to alcohol.

One of the biggest nostrums these days from conservatives and some elements of the business community is that our governments, at both the state and national levels, should cut down on regulation and oversight of business.

While it makes sense to streamline regulations that hamper small business, in particular, it is also instructive to parse our history for instances where lax regulation caused pain for our people and our economy.

Buried deep in Governor Chafee’s budget is a provision that would save Rhode Islanders several million dollars annually by ending corporate welfare for the beleaguered newspaper industry.

Currently there are more than 250 requirements for legal notices and advertisements to be published in newspapers. These are the agate type legal ads for such things as foreclosures, tax liens, bankruptcy proceedings, public board meetings and the like.

Governor Lincoln Chafee has delivered his final state budget proposal and given his final State of the State speech. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay parses Chafee’s Last Hurrah.

The cliché says: show me your budget and I’ll figure out your priorities. When it comes to Gov. Chafee’s final budget, that may be a trite description, but it’s true.

Don Boorman / RIPR

From the Vatican to the White House and the Rhode Island Statehouse, the talk these days is about poverty. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay on what our small state can do to alleviate this scourge.

The Gospels tell us that the poor shall always be with us. Pope Francis has dedicated the early months of his papacy to highlighting the need to help the poor and plane the rough edges from unfettered capitalism.


Rhode Island’s General Assembly convenes a new session Tuesday. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay explains why this year’s legislature may sound a lot like last year’s.

By now, most of us have cleared our heads of those New Year’s  hangovers. That’s not the case for Rhode Island’s 113 lawmakers.

The 2014 Assembly that convenes tomorrow will resemble nothing so much as the …2013 Assembly. The reason for this is all too evident:  As has too often been the case, the Smith Hill Crowd decided not to decide some big, prickly issues last session.

So you think you have a dysfunctional family and are dreading the holidays. Well, the odds are very good that your kin are not as divided as that of Rep. Charlene Lima, a Democrat who represents parts of Cranston and Providence.

Lima is married to a former Democratic state representative, Frank Fiorenzano, a notorious  Providence pol who was convicted in the 1990s of obtaining money under false pretenses after he bilked Statehouse employees and other politicians out of thousands of dollars in a doomed Ponzi-type scheme.

If you are a aficionado of wine and works of art, you’ll be pleased that beginning Sunday you’ll get a sales tax break.  This means that if you purchase win and spirits from a Rhode Island liquor store, you will not have to pay the state’s 7 percent sales tax.

And if you buy original works of art or limited edition art works anywhere in the Ocean State, the 7 percent sales tax is waived.

These tax breaks are the result of action taken by the 2013 General Assembly and signed into law by Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

It seems sometimes like every Rhode Island business and political leader points to the better economy in Massachusetts. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay looked across the state border and finds more myth than reality.

While the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity is blasting the RI Labor Relations Board decision to move ahead with a vote on unionizing state-subsidized child care workers, it is difficult to question the labor panel’s reasoning.

Some history here:  Mike Stenhouse, ceo of the conservative Freedom & Prosperity group, asked the labor board to delay a vote until the U.S. Supreme Court decides a challenge to a somewhat similar union quest   in Illinois.

The state Ethics Commission on Tuesday decided to investigate a complaint filed against House Speaker Gordon Fox. The question is whether Fox needed to disclose legal work done for the City of Providence.

Jason Gramitt, a staff attorney for the Ethics Commission, calls the step taken by the commission "preliminary. The commission only looks at the complaint and decides whether or not it should authorize an investigation, and so that's all they've done. They didn't offer any opinion as to whether the complaint is a good complaint or a bad complaint."

The ancient cliché is that nothing in life is certain except death and taxes. RIPR political analyst Scott MacKay on why it’s time for Rhode Island lawmakers to make a serious study of our state’s tax structure.

With Rhode Island’s economic recovery still trailing our New England neighbors, there is no better time for the General Assembly to launch a measured study of the way we levy the taxes that pay for roads, schools and social services.