RhodeMapRI is back! Once again the social equity extremists are trying to prohibit the free-choice and rights of property owners to make business decisions that are in their own best interests. This time with bills H7528 & S2301 the so-called Fair Housing Practices act.

Progressive BAD BILLS of the Week: H7528 / S2301 So-called Fair Housing Practices

RhodeMapRI is Back!

Once again the social equity extremists are back, those who believe that their views of society should prohibit the free-choice and rights of property owners to make business decisions that are in their own best interests. Once again, RhodeMap Rhode Island and HUD (the federal department of Housing and Urban Development), and its local surrogate, the RI Housing authority, are at it again.

Co-sponsored by multiple progressives House bill #7258 and Senate bill #2301, these so-called Fair Housing Practices which mirrors leftist-inspired legislation introduced in other states, have already been heard in the House and Senate Judiciary Committees this year. The legislation claims it seeks to end discriminatory housing practices by certain landlords. In the progressives’ social-equity land of make believe, any Section-8 lessee applicant (those whose rents are subsidized by the federal government) who are not accepted as a tenant, must have been discriminated against.

According to their progressive fantasyland logic, since people receiving Section-8 vouchers are typically low-income; and because many low-income individuals and families are minorities, then saying ‘no’ to a Section-8 applicant must be because of racism, and therefore must be discriminatory. The actual effect of this legislation, which seeks to extend government control into even more aspects of our personal and business lives, would be to subject landlords to lawsuits or other penalties by automatically assuming that discrimination was the motivating factor.

According to federal guidelines, acceptance of Section-8 vouchers are supposed be voluntary. Yet these Fair Housing Practices would impose a defacto state mandate on landlords to accept any Section-8 application they receive. Even if the landlord makes a legitimate and nondiscriminatory business decision otherwise, they would be at legal risk of being prosecuted for discriminatory actions … or, for being a racist.

We can all agree that any such genuine discrimination is wrong, but there already exists multiple state and federal laws that protect against discrimination. Additionally, there are multiple other reasons for making alternative business decisions.

This legislation is a back-door RhodeMap RI type scheme to advance a social equity agenda that will only tear at the fabric of our society … by making innocent private property owners appear to be bigots.

Based on conversations with landlords and with home and facility based child-care business owners I know, there is a major, legitimate, and non-racial reason why some business prefer not to accept clients subsidized by public money and all the red-tape they would have to go through. In this case, once a landlord accepts a federally subsidized Section-8 tenant, that business is now subject to a whole new array of mandates, red tape, and risks that otherwise, it would not have to worry about.

Under this legislative mandate, landlords would be subject to unfair rules by HUD, which we know from the RhodeMap RI debate years ago, does not care about private property rights. HUD has corrupted its mission of putting low-income people into appropriate housing to the point where it routinely tramples on the rights of other private property owners.

Landlords would be forced to endure annual state inspections, they otherwise would not be subject to, and could even be at potential criminal risk if they did not appropriately “police” their own tenants and report to the state any potential violations Section-8 eligibility guidelines.

This legislation, avidly supported by Rhode Island Housing is a clear extension of the HUD and RhodeMap RI anti property-owner agenda.

Consider that this legislation automatically presumes that our neighborhood brothers and sisters are guilty of discrimination. Our Center recently hosted a luncheon where the nationally acclaimed Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, spoke of the “solidarity of brotherhood”, where we should work together to help “start up” the lives of those in our community. But how can it possibly be “solidarity” to automatically and divisively claim that legitimate business decisions by business owners in our community are based on bigotry?

Private business owners should be free to make the business decisions that they feel are best for them. Just because some on the progressive-left see inequities in every aspect of our society, does not mean that government should be stepping-in to tell people how to run their businesses.

Already suffering from one of the most hostile business and legal climates in the country, and with a known affordable housing shortage, Rhode Island would become an even more dangerous place to operate as a landlord. Small ‘rental property’ business owners could be forced to spend money unnecessarily to become lawyered-up like a major corporation if they were to be sued … an expense and time most cannot possibly afford. In other states where similar legislation has already been enacted, property owners are indeed being sued, and they are routinely losing in court battles, even though they may have committed no wrong.

Our state would suffer greatly if this unintended consequences of this legislation might drive some landlords out of business, or out of state, and lead to fewer available housing units.

Once again, we ask lawmakers to consider the real-world impacts of such presumptive and intrusive legislation, and to understand that the left’s land of make believe scenario.

Building off the successful “Justice Reinvestment” reforms that were enacted in by Rhode Island lawmakers in 2017, the state’s asset forfeiture laws should next come under scrutiny, as they can often lead to the unfettered government seizure of cars, cash, and other private property.

Asset Forfeiture Reform in Rhode Island: Summary of 2018 Legislation – H7640 and S2681

Building off the successful “Justice Reinvestment” reforms that were enacted in by Rhode Island lawmakers in 2017, the state’s asset forfeiture laws should next come under scrutiny, as they can often lead to the unfettered government seizure of cars, cash, and other private property. While many policymakers might assume that such laws are directed at criminals, in reality, simply being accused of a crime or violating a regulation may be sufficient for the state to take your property.

Rhode Island was recently graded at a D- in a national report by the Institute for Justice for its weak civil forfeiture laws, which, nationally, have led to some of the most egregious infringements of private property rights in the U.S. today. In the past 12 years, over $17 million of private property has been seized in our state.

While the original good intent of forfeiture laws cannot be disputed — removing the illegal gains, resources, and instruments of those committing crimes from their reach — decades of experience has made obvious the need for statutory reforms, long overdue if Rhode Island is to keep pace with criminal justice reforms being made in other states across America.

Current Law: Rhode Island law sets a very low bar on the front-end by allowing the government to seize property on the mere basis of criminal suspicion and for non-criminal regulatory violations. If you don’t hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit to reclaim your own property, you soon lose it. On the back-end, Rhode Island also sets a very high bar for innocent property owners to reclaim what is rightfully theirs. Further, state law allows the government agency that seized your property to keep the majority of it as a means to supplement their own budgets, creating a perverse incentive to violate due process and property rights.

In its January 2018 report, Right To Earn a Living, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity advocated that civil asset forfeiture reforms would improve the State’s poorly ranked business climate, by raising the bar for asset forfeiture from businesses and individuals as well as to adopt better forfeiture administration. The Hopkins Center has researched best practices in the other states that have adopted reforms, and drafted language new criminal forfeiture law that every Rhode Island legislator could support.

Also supported by business groups, the RI ACLU, the RI Families Coalition, and civil society leaders, the bi-partisan legislation (H7640 & S2681) represents a total rewrite of existing statutes and which includes the following key features:

  1. Raised the bar for seizures: Avoids government taking for civil violations and from non-defendant property owners and co-owners, while also building-in legal protections before the state seizes property.
  2. Lowered the bar for due process: Provides less-burdensome, prompt, and streamlined legal procedures for innocent property owners to reclaim seized assets.
  3. Increased transparency: Greater transparency around forfeiture actions so that public officials and citizens have the data to provide appropriate oversight. The 4-pages of new reporting provisions include keeping track of and reporting how much the government seizes, whether property owners are ever convicted of a crime, and how much money comes in from those seizures, as opposed to the 4-lines of reporting in current law.
  4. Enhanced administration: Improves administration of forfeiture programs in order to increase the credibility of law enforcement as they conduct permitted seizures; including prohibition of sale of assets for any person’s gain and a streamlined process for returning property.
  5. Budget accountability: Unelected bureaucrats in state and local agencies should not be empowered to manage profits from asset forfeitures or be free from public accountability. Legitimately seized moneys go to the state’s general fund where duly elected officials decide if and how to redistribute them.

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is the Ocean State’s leading voice against the wreckage caused by our state’s progressive agenda.

As the state’s leading research organization, advancing family and business friendly values… the mission of our Center is to make Rhode Island a better place to call home – to raise a family and to build a career.

While progressives value government-centric, taxpayer-funded dependency… our Center believes in the value of hard work and the free-enterprise system.

We understand that in order for more Rhode Island families to have a better quality of life, that more and better businesses are needed to create more and better jobs.

Your donation will help us fight the union-progressive movement and, instead, advocate for pro-family, pro-business policies and values.

Please make a generous, tax-deductible gift to support our Center today!

Hateful progressive intolerance

STATEMENT on Church Protest: Progressive Hateful Intolerance of Speech is Divisive to Society

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 20, 2018

Protest at Church Latest in String of Intolerance; Fuels Hate and Divides Communities

“Solidarity of Brotherhood” Approach Recommended

Providence, RI — Having recently hosted a luncheon where the unifying theme presented in the keynote address was that of the “solidarity of brotherhood,” the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity decries the intolerance recently exhibited by the progressive-left against those they disagree with.

Hateful progressive intolerance

The hate-filled protest by progressive activists Thursday evening at a Providence church is the latest in a string of at least five known incidents where mainstream conservative views have been attacked by extremists from the left, who represent a minority view.

On April 10, Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, provided an inspirational speech at the Center’s leadership luncheon. With “life entrepreneurship” as his central theme, Brooks encouraged the bipartisan group of lawmakers and civic leaders in the audience to advance a “start up your life” attitude; that by supporting the unique abilities – and weaknesses – of each person, society can benefit from such solidarity.

“Conversely, the hate from the progressive-left, and which is cheered-on by the media, is corrosive to society. Thankfully the Providence police were on site last night to quell hostilities,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “In keeping with Arthur Brooks’ message, and in what our Center is attempting to accomplish with its RI Families Coalition, civil society leaders must call for an end to these reflexive and combative over-reactions, and instead advocate for a more reflective and collaborative approach. Open and respectful debate is the cornerstone of our great American democracy.”

In just the past few months, in addition to the church protest, two meetings of the state’s leading millennial organization, the RI chapter of America’s Future Foundation, a student Resident Assistant at Providence College, and committee testimony by Stenhouse, have been disrupted or threatened by progressive extremists.

The RI Family Prosperity Initiative, the latest initiative of the Center, demonstrates strong familial and societal cultural unity are inextricably intertwined with economic prosperity.

Arthur Brooks Inspires Audience at Center’s Leadership Luncheon

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 11, 2018

One of America’s Leading Conservative Thinkers, Arthur Brooks, Inspires Over 60 Local Leaders

Speaks of “Life Entrepreneurs” with a “Start Up Lives” Culture

Providence, RI — In front of over 60 political, business, civil society, and veteran leaders, Arthur Brooks, the President of the American Enterprise Institute, provided an inspirational speech at a leadership luncheon hosted by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity.

With “life entrepreneurship” as his central theme, Brooks encouraged the lawmakers and civic leaders in the audience to advance a “start up your life” attitude among the people of Rhode Island. That by taking the risk of investing love, time, and commitment to the important people and self-improvement opportunities in one’s life, that this “start up your life” attitude will bring happiness, prosperity, and overall returns on that investment many times over.

“The feedback from the bipartisan attendees, whether liberal or conservative, was overwhelmingly positive,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “As only Arthur Brooks can do, he challenged us intellectually to consider the kind of moral, family, and work culture we want to have in our state.”

Brooks’ powerful message supports the RI Family Prosperity Initiative that the Center has recently focused on … that strong familial and societal cultural factors are inextricably intertwined with economic prosperity.

Photos from the event, and a brief biography of Brooks can be viewed here.

Progressive lawmakers are once again seeking to hand out “free stuff”, this time to wealthy-out of staters, in a misguided attempt to bribe them to move to Rhode Island. The legislation, House bill H8018 is an extension of the state’s failed corporate welfare strategy.

Progressive Land of Make Believe Bad Bill of the Week: $10K Pays The Way (H8018)

Progressive lawmakers are once again seeking to hand out “free stuff”, this time to wealthy-out of staters, in a misguided attempt to bribe them to move to Rhode Island. The legislation, House bill H8018, has been named the “Progressive Land of Make Believe Bad Bill of the Week” by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, and is an individual-level extension of the state’s failed corporate welfare strategy.

“If we have to pay families, students, and businesses to move to or remain in Rhode Island, to survive our state’s oppressive tax and regulatory climate, then something is very wrong,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “Worse than the obvious face-value inanity of the bill, the ignorant belief of how an economy and family dynamics actually work is what is most troubling. The legislation openly acknowledges the negative economy in our state, yet, as with other progressive policies, it tries to band-aid the symptom rather than cure the core illness. ”

Dubbed by the Center as the #10kPaysTheWay Act, the legislation, sponsored by Representative Carlos Tobon, a progressive-Democrat from Pawtucket, pretends that taxpayer funded government hand-outs would be incentive-enough for upper-middle income people to relocate their lives to the Ocean State. It is the false premise of the progressive ideology that more government dependency is what people want; in this case, in desperate hope of increasing our state’s population so as to avoid losing one of its two U.S House of Representative seats after the 2020 national census is tabulated.

While it is unclear how much of a population increase Rhode Island might need to preclude losing a Congressional seat, the legislation seeks to pay up to 30,000 new families. The cost to state taxpayers for this program, estimated at $300 Million, at the proposed handout rate of $10,000 per family … but only to wealthier families that make over $100,000 per year.

There are so many make-believe assumptions underlying this bill that do not exist in the real world, that it is difficult to know where to begin to enumerate them:

  • Families have left Rhode Island not because of deficient government programs, but because of sub-standard job and educational opportunities. Until we can break away from the self-imposed budgetary constraints and special interest influences that impede reforms in our state, Rhode Island’s bottom-10 business climate and family prosperity rankings, will continue to make Rhode Island a relatively inhospitable place to build a career and raise a family.
  • This regressive ‘wealthy-welfare’ scheme is unfair.  Not only would all current Rhode Island residents, including low-income families, be taxed more so that wealthy out-of-state families can be given our money, but those in-state families that have worked hard to become successful will receive nothing. This is similar to how existing Ocean State businesses have to pay for corporate tax credit handouts to other companies, often their own competitors.
  • People not want to be dependent on government. Current and would-be Rhode Islanders want to live productive, soul-fulfilling, self-sufficient, and prosperous lives … even though progressives like to pretend this that more government programs define success.
  • A government hand-out is not enough to overcome the “long-term and short-term negative economic trends” that the legislation itself admits are currently plaguing our state. Already damaged by too many current job-killing progressive policies, more progressive policies cannot possibly make our state more attractive to families and entrepreneurs.
  • Rhode Island’s population would not likely increase. As with most tax schemes, progressives pretend that there will be no adverse economic impact or other unintended consequence to their simple-minded and purely emotional-based policies. In the real world, tax policy drives behavior. In this case, the increased taxes that will be heaped on every family and business will cause even more people to flee our state.
  • Most importantly, progressives pretend that the obvious solution to Rhode Island’s economic and population stagnation is not staring them directly in the face. Proving that the theoretical benefits of the tax and regulatory reductions that our Center have espoused since its inception in 2011, and which is the foundation of conservative economic policy, the recently implemented federal tax and regulatory reductions have led to unprecedented economic optimism and renewed economic growth across America.

Similarly, if Rhode Island were to abandon its government-centric corporate-welfare and wealthy-welfare agenda, and instead start working on creating a reality-based and improved economic climate, where businesses and families can thrive on their own and without costly government assistance, the Ocean State might soon be able to regain the Congressional seat that progressive policies have likely already doomed us to lose.

In February 2018, Rhode Island’s ranking on the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) moved not at all, remaining 47th. Although six of the seven datapoints that changed for this iteration were positive, they were apparently driven by national trends that affected other states, as well.

Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), February 2018 Slow and Steady Stays in Place

As 2018 got its footing in February, Rhode Island’s ranking on the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) moved not at all, remaining 47th. Although six of the seven datapoints that changed for this iteration were positive, they were apparently driven by national trends that affected other states, as well. Rhode Island’s relative position therefore stayed the same.

Employment was up from the first-reported number for January, by 528, while labor force was up 738. RI-based jobs increased by 1,200. SNAP (food stamps) also improved, with a reduction of 4,288 enrollees, although complications with the state’s Unified Health Infrastructure Project (UHIP) may be affecting this datapoint for technical reasons unrelated to the economy.

Total personal income in Rhode Island (including various forms of investment) increased 1.95%, or $852 million. However, total state and local taxation increased 2.11%, or $69 million.

The first chart shows Rhode Island still in the last position in New England, 47th in the country. Regional leader New Hampshire is still in 2nd place, nationally, behind Wyoming, and Maine held its 18th position. Vermont regained the spot it lost last month, returning to 20th. Massachusetts held on to its position of 33rd, while Connecticut’s descent paused at 43rd.

The second chart shows the gap between RI and New England and the United States on JOI. In both cases, the Ocean State closed the gap a little. On the official unemployment rate, RI again lost ground against both regions.

Results for the three underlying JOI factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (optimism that adequate work is available): RI held on to 18th.
  • Freedom Factor (the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI remained 41st.
  • Prosperity Factor (the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI remained 47th.

Ocular Telemedicine Ban: Progressive Bad Bill of the Week

In blocking technological innovation, by seeking a virtual ban on the emerging and promising “ocular tele-medicine” industry, Senate bill S2404 and its House companion, H7608, have been dubbed the Progressive Land of Make Believe Bad Bills of the Week.

One reason why Rhode Island has such a dismal business climate and reputation is precisely bills like these that stifle innovation and increase costs on patients, all because existing national and local optometry associations and practitioners are asking for protectionist policies that block competition.

Perhaps even worse, Senate committee chairman, Joshua Miller, who oversaw the hearing on the legislation, said he would “dismiss” the testimony of the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse. It is a common tactic of progressives like the Honorable Senator Miller to seek to shut down open and honest debate, because they believe their views, and only their views, deserve discussion.

See Stenhouse’s video commentary here.

See the video of Stenhouse’s actual committee testimony  – and multiple interruptions – here.

Read the GoLocalProv article, where even Common Cause RI criticizes the Senator for his intolerance.

Red below for Stenhouse’s 2017 OpEd on the issue …

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2017 OpEd: Rhode Island Should Encourage Eye Care Innovation, Not Protectionism

Every Rhode Island family should have multiple choices to select the affordable, high-quality health care that’s best for them. And as new federal healthcare laws are debated in Washington, D.C., Rhode Island needs to have its own debate about insurance mandates and other protectionist policies.

In the case of eye care, Rhode Islanders often pay above market rates for glasses and contact lenses. However, new technology has the power to change this inefficiency by lowering prices and increasing convenience for consumers – that is, unless new protectionist legislation is passed into law.

Optometrists are unique in that they are some of the only medical professionals that sell what they prescribe. Oftentimes, they conveniently forget to provide copies of vision prescriptions to patients, or they advise them to purchases lenses directly from eye care offices at inflated prices. The prescriptions that optometrists write are often brand specific – usually for Johnson & Johnson’s Acuvue lenses. The reason is simple: Johnson & Johnson produces over 40 percent of the world’s contacts, and as a way of furthering a monopoly, they give eye care professionals kickbacks on every sale made within their offices.

Federal legislation has attempted to bandage the problem by making it illegal for eye doctors to hold back prescriptions, but, as we all know, there is only so much that government enforcement can do to stop cronyism.

Fortunately, the free market has recently developed a new solution whereby optometrists’ office visits can often be bypassed. New technology accurately allows consumers to measure their prescription strength from the comfort of their own homes, a process known as “ocular telemedicine,” via their smartphones or computers, whereby they can take an eye-test approved by a board-certified ophthalmologist.

Patients can then use that e-prescription to purchase lenses or glasses wherever they choose, typically at much lower prices. With this technology, healthy adults only need to visit a brick-and-mortar eye doctor once every two years for a full eye health exam (as recommended by the American Optometric Association) instead of every time a lens refill is needed, or for specific eye problems.

Although this innovation is saving consumers time and money, it is causing quite an uproar in the optometry industry. Like the hair-styling and cosmetology protectionists who are trying to block natural hair-braiders like Jocelyn DeCouto from practicing their harmless trade, the vision industry is hoping to see through a usage ban on this new technology.

Washington lobbying groups like the American Optometric Association (AOA) are pressuring state legislatures to introduce bills that will ban most uses for ocular telemedicine. On the national level alone, this group is spending nearly $2 million a year in lobbying.

In banning a technology that can provide affordable, high quality eye care for Rhode Islanders – particularly for poor and rural residents – these two bills are an assault on the free market, innovation, and common sense.

Thankfully, this type of legislation has fared poorly in other states. In the past year, similar protectionist bills that kill competition and cost eye care customers more time and money have been shot down across America; New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez issued a veto as did then-Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley, who stated the bill, “uses health practice mandates to stifle competition for the benefit of a single industry … putting us on the leading edge of protectionism, not innovation.”

Rhode Island lawmakers need to see through the optometry cartel’s attempts to kill innovation and competition. At-home vision testing technology can empower Rhode Island families and individuals to get the prescription vision-aids they need at lower cost and with more ease than ever before.

 

Once again unions are pushing for legislation that would give them even more leverage when it comes to negotiating Collective Bargaining Agreements for government workers. House bills 7198, 7633, and 7634 would grant all or some public employee unions underhanded perpetual contracts.

Progressive Land of Make Believe Bad Bill of the Week: Perpetual Contracts

They’re back!

Once again unions are pushing for legislation that would give them even more leverage when it comes to negotiating Collective Bargaining Agreements for government workers.

House bills 7198, 7633, and 7634 would grant all or some public employee unions an unfair advantage by keeping in place all existing collective bargaining provisions until a new contract has been agreed to by the parties – we call these “perpetual contracts” … and thus these three bills qualify as our “Progressive Land of Make Believe Bad Bills of the Week”.

In recent years, government worker unions and progressives have banded together to promote a centralized-government-control and high tax political environment. These bills exemplify this relatively new union-progressive partnership.

In living in this fantasy world of perpetual contracts, unions would never have to bargain in good faith, even in the worst of possible economic times, as they would be able to just sit back and continue to reap in their overly-generous benefits. In other words, your local taxes could never ever go down.

But wasn’t this issue decided last year? Yes it was. Despite the opposition from dozens of mayors and town leaders, the union-controlled House and Senate passed perpetual contract legislation in 2017. Thankfully, Governor Raimondo, who understands the real world when it comes to this issue, seemingly put the issue to rest by vetoing the perpetual contracts legislation.

But, the Rhode Island perpetual contracts legislation is back again this year! Why? What has changed?

In my opinion, unions are increasingly worried about how they will preserve their power, if the US Supreme Court rules against them in the Mark Janus case, which was heard by the Supremes in late February. In the expected June decision, the Supreme Court could grant government employees – such as teachers, police, and firefighters – the freedom to choose whether or not they can be compelled to join a union or pay union fees. Right now, public employee unions enjoy a negotiating monopoly and can force workers to financially support the unions’ political agenda.

Conventional wisdom believes the Supreme Court will rule against the union position. But what does this have to do with perpetual contracts? As it turns out … a lot.

Under one speculated Supreme Court ruling scenario, designed to lessen the financial impact on unions, forced dues and fees might be allowed to continue for those government workers under an existing collective bargaining contract. And that such employees could only opt-out once those existing contracts expire. But if contracts are “perpetual” – and would never therefore expire – then employees would never have the chance to opt out.

This means unions could continue to force people to have dues and fees automatically deducted from their paychecks.

This is a brilliant, yet devious maneuver. And this is how unions and their political cronies in statehouses across the country work: Finding every possible way to continue to extract money from taxpayers – and their own members – so that their financial and political power can be maintained.

As taxpayers and voters, everyone of us should be outraged that unions, and their legislative friends, conspire to devise such underhanded ways to pre-emptively evade what might be a landmark Supreme Court decision.

In our state’s progressive land of make believe, there is little doubt that the House and Senate, spurred by the desperation of public employee unions, will once again pass and send “perpetual contracts” legislation to the Governor’s desk.

It’s an election year, and the political pressure on her will be enormous, but once again, we must hope that the Governor, rooted in reality, will not be fooled or persuaded by this overt money grab by unions.

To find the balance between protecting civil rights and the public when it comes to solving the puzzle of how to prevent mass shootings or excessive gun control, we advises a multi-level solution--- including a cultural discussion of the breakdown of the family.

Center Cautions Against Gun Control Focus of Pending Legislative Hearings

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 6, 2018

Center Recommends Comprehensive vs Narrow Approach to Mass Shootings Puzzle

Cultural Implications of the Breakdown of the Family Must Be Part of the Conversation

Providence, RI — In seeking to find a balance between protecting civil rights and protecting the public when it comes to solving the puzzle of how to prevent mass shootings, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity advises that such a multi-level problem requires a multi-level solution, including a cultural discussion of the breakdown of the family.
“It is obvious that the slate of bills to be heard today are largely intended to restrict the capacity of – and access to – certain firearms,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “If we are truly interested in protecting the lives of students, rather than advancing an extreme political agenda, such a focus on guns will not solve the puzzle.”
While the it supports common-sense reforms as well as the underlying concept of proposed new “red flag laws” in Rhode Island, the Center is concerned that civil rights protections may be far too lax and that the bar for the seizure of private property are being set too low, and that cultural considerations are being ignored.
Any new law must set a high enough bar to justify the nullification or restriction of an enumerated constitutional right. “The clear agenda of the progressive-left is for firearms to be regulated as much as possible and confiscated from as many people as possible. This approach will solve little, and they should be called out for seeking exploit recent tragedies to advance their extreme political agenda.”
The Center suggests that a rigorous and comprehensive public debate ensue. It recommends a multi-phase approach that includes:
  • Securing school buildings and classrooms.External and internal physical security should be funded, potentially by public and private dollars, as well as armed personnel, whether professional law enforcement professional or teachers who volunteer. To lessen the burden on tax-payers, the Center recommends consideration a tax-credit program for corporations or individuals that wish to donate money or security devices to public and private schools.
  • Family Prosperity Angle: One clear takeaway from national Family Prosperity Index is that family stability impacts economic and criminal outcomes. What must be openly debated is how the social and cultural implications of a lack of family structure and paternal influence, may lead too many unstable young men free to roam in our society. As a society, how the family unit has become so marginalized, and how we medically or psychologically care for troubled young people, must be re-analyzed.
  • Limiting Access to Firearms for Unfit citizens. Many individuals who suffer from mental illness or who have a criminal background should be permanently or temporarily stripped of their right to legally own a firearm. “Red flag” laws can help to address one aspect of this issue, so long as fair due-process provisions are co-established. Transparency and penalty provisions should be strengthened to discourage individuals from presenting false or overtly frivolous evidence during the process of filing of the petition.
  • Intensified background-check process. A more thorough background-check and permitting process should be conducted when purchasing certain firearms by certain people. Some police reports that do not result in an arrest or conviction should be flagged to appear on such background checks. Similarly, government agencies must be made to share related information with each other.
  • Medical “red flag” Process. Mental health professionals should also be able to “red flag” patients, for background-check purposes only, who are deemed to be a potential risk to themselves or to society, without fear of violating doctor-patient confidentiality laws. State and federal governments should also consider if the re-institutionalization of certain mentally ill patients should be revisited.
  • “Green Light” provision for law enforcement. Law enforcement officials should be afforded greater latitude to preemptively investigate, question, and potentially detain individuals who have threatened to perpetuate public harm, without fear of civil rights violations.
  • Restriction of certain firearms accessories. Devices such as “bump-stocks”, or other devices that gratuitously increase the firing capacity of any firearm, should be  banned.
  • Media Lionization of Murderers. While no new law is suggested, public pressure should encourage media outlets to voluntarily agree not to inadvertently glorify mass murderers by pasting their name and image all over their news feeds.
The Janus case could provide right-to-work protection for all public employees in the country. Right-to-work means a union cannot get a worker fired for not paying dues or fees.

Janus Public Policy Backgrounder

Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31

Mackinac Center for Public Policy Backgrounder

F. Vincent Vernuccio and Patrick Wright

WHAT IS THE JANUS CASE?

Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31 is a case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court filed by Mark Janus and two other Illinois state workers. If the justices rule in favor of Janus, the decision could:

  • Provide right-to-work protection for all public employees in the country. Right-to-work means a union cannot get a worker fired for not paying dues or fees.

BACKGROUND

All workers, whether they are in a right-to-work state or not, have the right to leave their union.

In non-right-to-work states like Rhode Island, however, employees can only opt out of paying the political portion of their dues, and many unions require them to submit paperwork to this effect annually. These workers are called “agency fee payers.”

Unions charge agency fee payers close to the same amount they charge regular members for dues. In California, for example, teachers are required to pay around 70 percent of their dues as agency fees, and in other states this amount can be even higher.

For most labor unions in Rhode Island, the amount of agency fees is left to each union and employer to negotiate, but they are often equal to dues. The exception to this contract-by-contract flexibility is for employees of the state, who are required by law to pay agency fees equal to dues even if they do not join their respective unions (RIGL 36-11-2). Rhode Island is one of only three states in the country that requires agency fees for state employees.

The right not to pay for a union’s political agenda through dues comes from the Abood v. Detroit Board of Education case, where the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public sector workers have a First Amendment right not to be forced to pay for union politics. Private sector workers are granted the same right through a different court decision.


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Many states give government unions a monopoly over representation. The Abood case allowed unions to force all workers covered by the collective bargaining agreement to pay for the expenses incurred for representation, regardless of whether the employee wanted such representation or not. The argument in Abood was that, if workers were given a choice, an insufficient number of them would offer financial support to the union, making it difficult for the union to bargain effectively on their behalf.

As of 2018, workers in 27 states can exercise right-to-work rights and are not forced to pay dues or fees to the union organized in their workplace. In right-to-work states, however, only about 20 percent of unionized workers exercise these rights, meaning that unions in these states still have the financial support of about 80 percent of workers, on average. This suggests that the fears that rationalized the Abood decision were likely overstated.

Similar Rhode Island Case

In the Ocean State, five police officers in the town of Westerly sued the city over a requirement that they pay almost 15% of their salaries to the local union. The Stephen Hopkins Center for Civil Rights, a Rhode Island–based nonprofit legal entity, litigated this case to defend non-union reserve police officers from being forced to contribute $5.00 of their $35.00 hourly pay to the union local.

Hopkins Center chairman Giovanni Cicione writes: “This was foisted on them without their consent, and these good public servants, many of whom are part-timers and retirees, are being forced to subsidize an organization they do not support and from which they receive no benefits.”

MAIN ARGUMENTS OF JANUS

Mark Janus and the other plaintiffs are asking the Supreme Court to overturn the Abood decision. They argue collective bargaining in the public sector is inherently political, and government unions devote more resources to their political agendas than just the small portion of dues that goes to directly support political candidates or causes.

On its Web page for a similar case covering teachers, the Center for Individual Rights explains, “Whether the union is negotiating for specific class sizes or pressing a local government to spend tax dollars on teacher pensions rather than on building parks, the union’s negotiating positions embody political choices that are often controversial.” Therefore, the plaintiffs say that by being forced to fund collective bargaining, they are being forced to fund political activity they might not necessarily agree with.

MAIN POINTS

  • Government workers would still be able to remain in their unions, and those unions would still be able to collectively bargain. Janus would simply give workers a choice and prevent them from being fired for not paying a union.
  • Giving workers a choice can make unions stronger. Unions would need to prove their worth to their membership, giving members better representation and more-responsive leadership.
  • All collective bargaining by government unions is inherently political. Workers have a First Amendment right not to be forced to pay for political spending they disagree with. Therefore, workers should not be forced to support government unions.
  • Unions should not have the power to get workers fired for exercising their First Amendment rights.
  • While the case would essentially mean right-to-work for public employees across the country, practically it would only apply to the 22 states in which government workers are not already right-to-work and paying agency fees.
  • Only about 20 percent of workers in right-to-work states exercise their rights, so the practical effect of the case will likely only affect about 20 percent of government workers in the 22 states that do not already provide these rights to workers.

KEY DATES

February 26, 2018 — The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the Friedrichs case

End of June 2018 — Likely decision by the court

About the Authors

F. Vincent Vernuccio is Director of Labor Policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.
Patrick Wright is the Mackinac Center’s Vice President for Legal Affairs Affairs and authored the Center’s two briefs in the Friedrichs case.
The Mackinac Center is located in Midland,
Michigan.