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If enacted, the Bright Today Scholarship and Open Enrollment Act of 2015 would become the most innovative and universal school choice program in America! Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) are the way of the future.[button url=”http://rifreedom.org/?p=13364″ target=”_blank” size=”medium”] Read the ESA policy brief here [/button]
The San Francisco Bay area regional authority, similar to the “Urban Redevelopment Authority” that the controversial RhodeMap RI plan would create, plans to demolish 169,000 single-family homes, despite the outrage and objections of residents.[button url=”http://rifreedom.org/?p=13267″ target=”_blank” size=”medium”] Read the full post here [/button]
2014 Freedom Index Findings
Ninety-nine (99) different pieces of legislation (counting companion bills once) were evaluated. The Center judged 76 of them as having a negative effect on freedom.
The average legislator index score of -49.4 indicates that the General Assembly moved Rhode Island in the wrong direction, and that Rhode Islanders are less free than they were in 2013. That result does represent a modest improvement from -56.6 the previous year. (The lowest possible score is -100.) However, it’s important to remember that it’s only an improvement in that the General Assembly is harming Rhode Island at a slightly slower rate. Actual improvement has yet to be made.
This index underscores our Center’s view that the RI General Assembly continues not to positively address the dire business climate of our state and that a Constitutional Convention may be the only way to move the Ocean State toward growth and an improved standard of living.
Other findings include:
- Average House index of -51.0 (up from -58.6)
- Average Senate index of -46.7 (up from -52.4)
- Average House Democrat index of -53.8 (up from -63.1)
- Average House Republican index of -19.1 (down from -7.1)
- Average Senate Democrat index of -48.5 (up from -56.1)
- Average Senate Republican index of -38.0 (down from -33.2)
- Average Regulatory Environment index of -47.1 (up from -67.5)
- Average Tax & Budget index of -56.4 (down from -37.2)
- Average Constitutional Government index of -4.8 (up from -61.6)
- Average Public Sector Labor index of -69.5 (down from -44.0)
- Average Education Reform index of -23.1 (up from -86.4)
The second-annual General Assembly Freedom Index by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity scores Ocean State lawmakers on their level of support for principles of freedom as proven by their votes on the floors of the House and Senate. In response to IRS proposals that would limit the activities of non-profit groups like our Center, the Center released its initial version with legislators names redacted, identifying them only by chamber, party, and district (Read related commentary here). The full, non-redacted version is now released.
The index examines legislators’ votes in terms of their likely effect on the free market, the size and scope of government, the balance of residents’ interests against those of public employees and beneficiaries, and the constitutional structure of a divided government with limited power over the people whom it represents. The Center reviewed every bill that received a roll-call vote by the full membership of either chamber and selected 96 that fit its understanding of these criteria. (Companion bills only count once.)
The resulting scores give a detailed sense of each legislator’s priorities beyond a few high-profile issues.
The Center further divided the bills into five categories:
- Tax & budget: bills that affect the tax structure in Rhode Island and/or that relate to government expenditures, just driving or relieving the pressure on taxation
- Regulatory environment: bills that make it more or less difficult to live and do business in the state by imposing regulations
- Constitutional government: bills that affect the structure of the government, as well as the scope of government in its authority over residents’ lives
- Public sector labor: bills related to the relationship between its employees and itself and the electorate
- Education reform: bills that advance or impede the reform of the state’s public education system, in terms of both cost and quality
Most legislation has implications for more than one of these categories. For the purposes of this index, we applied our subjective sense of the area of core effect and sorted the bills accordingly. If, for example, a bill having to do with education seemed to us intended to secure the role of public employees, we classified that bill as Public Sector Labor, not Education Reform.
2013 Freedom Index Findings
One hundred and sixteen (116) different pieces of legislation (counting companion bills once) were evaluated. The Center judged 93 of them as having a negative effect on freedom.
The average legislator index score of -56.6 indicates that the General Assembly moved Rhode Island in the wrong direction, and that Rhode Islanders are less free than they were in 2012. What’s more, that result is down from -25.4 the previous year. (The lowest possible score is -100.) In other words, legislators aren’t even trending in the direction of the right direction. This index underscores our Center’s view that the RI General Assembly continues not to positively address the dire business climate of our state.
Other findings include;
- Average House index of -58.6 (down from -24.1)
- Average Senate index of -52.4 (down from -27.9)
- Average House Democrat index of -63.1 (down from -32.2)
- Average House Republican index of -7.1 (down from 28.8)
- Average Senate Democrat index of -56.1 (down from -36.3)
- Average Senate Republican index of -33.2 (down from 1)
- Average Regulatory Environment index of -67.5 (down from -49.0)
- Average Tax & Budget index of -37.2 (down from -26.0)
- Average Constitutional Government index of -61.6 (down from -9.1)
- Average Public Sector Labor index of -44.0 (down from 16.7)
- Average Education Reform index of -86.4 (there were no bills in this category last year)
The Center selected legislative bills for inclusion in the Freedom Index if they were deemed to have an effect on free-market, small-government, or constitutional principles, with each bill assigned a positive or negative weighting based on the criteria listed below. Weighted points for each bill were given to each legislator based on his or her roll-call vote on it.
Each legislator’s final Freedom Index was calculated as his or her score’s percentage of the total possible points. A positive score indicates a 2013 voting record that generally protected individual and economic freedoms, while a negative score reflects the opposite.
Disclaimer: It should be noted that the total Freedom Index score generated for each legislator is a direct reflection of the perspective of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity when it comes to the weighting of each bill. The Freedom Index is not an absolute measure of a legislator’s merit and does not constitute any endorsement or individual criticism. The Freedom Index is a tool designed for general research and for accountability, giving voters some quantitative metrics for their own assessments as to their elected legislators’ performance.
1) Determine weighting: Each selected bill received a weight ranging from +3 to -3, as determined by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity. Negative weights indicate legislation that creates or expands an agency, government program/function, or tax; creates new regulatory burdens; is hostile to constitutional principles; or otherwise conflicts with the principles that guide the Center. Positive factors were assigned to bills in line with those principles. Companion bills in the House and Senate were weighted identically. To determine the weightings, the Center requested reviews of all chosen legislation from a half dozen engaged Rhode Islanders with similar principles and combined the range of results for a final weighting.
2) Determine vote: Each legislator received a +1 or -1 vote factor, depending on whether he or she voted FOR or AGAINST a particular bill, respectively. If a legislator did not vote on a bill, he or she received a +0.25 if the bill passed or a -0.25 if the bill failed. Legislators who abstained from voting received a +0.75 or a -0.75 vote factor depending on if the bill passed or failed.
3) Calculate weighted vote: Multiplying the weighting factor and the vote factor produced a weighted vote score for each legislator for each bill.
4) Calculate the legislator score: The cumulative score for all bills for each legislator determined that legislator’s overall score.
5) Calculate Freedom Index: Dividing each legislator’s total score by the maximum possible for the appropriate chamber provided his or her Freedom Index, or a percentage of the best possible score he or she could have achieved. In 2012, the “perfect” scores are 143 for the House and 133 for the Senate.
For example, consider a bill that would increase the regulatory burden significantly in Rhode Island and that the Center therefore weighted as a -2. Legislator A voted for the bill. His or her weighted vote would be calculated as follows: -2 x 1 = -2. Conversely, the weighted vote for Legislator B, who voted against the bill, would be: -2 x -1 = 2.
If Legislator A, in the House chamber, earned a total legislator score of -33, his or her Freedom Index would be calculated as: -33 ÷ 143 x 100 = -23.1. If Legislator B in the Senate had a total score of +23, his or her Freedom Index would be calculated as: 23 ÷ 133 x 100 = 17.3.
To rank the legislators, the Center sorted them by their Freedom Index scores and then, in the cases of ties, by their scores in each category, in the following order: Regulatory Environment, Tax & Budget, Constitutional Government, Public Sector Labor, and Education Reform. When legislators’ results were still identical, the Center adjusted them in order of their apparent stature and power within their chambers.
In determining each bill’s weighting, the following questions were considered:
- Does the bill create or eliminate an agency, program, or function of government?
- Does it give the government new or expanded power to prohibit or restrict activities in the free market? Examples may include licensure and other restrictions on legal business practices.
- Is it unconstitutional or does it do violence to our concepts of federalism or separation of powers? Does it restrict property, speech, gun, or other constitutionally recognized rights or freedoms? Conversely, does it restore balance between the state and federal government, resume state authority over an issue under the 10th Amendment, or remove restrictions on constitutionally protected rights?
Other considerations were also brought into question:
- Does the bill redistribute wealth or use tax policy or other incentives to reward specific interest groups with special favors or perks? Conversely, does it eliminate special favors and perks in the tax code or public policy?
- Does it perform a function that can and should be performed by the private sector or restore functions to the private sector?
- Does it grow or shrink the regulatory scope of an agency?
- Does it directly or indirectly create/reduce taxes, fees, or other assessments?
- Does it increase or decrease control of the private sector through rules, regulation, or statute?
- Does it increase or decrease long-term debt or override or restore statutory or constitutional protections against long-term debt?
- Does it give or reduce special benefits for government employees or politicians?
- Does it promote government transparency and openness or does it restrict access to information that should be in the public domain?
It should be noted that the complexity not only of the law but of political theory in general can make assessments of the sort described above subjective and very difficult. People reviewing the index should consider the results to be the best judgment of the Center, given our collected experience and expertise.
Each legislator received a +1 or -1 vote factor, depending on whether he or she voted FOR or AGAINST a particular bill, respectively. If a legislator did not vote on a bill, he or she received a +0.25 if the bill passed or a -0.25 if the bill failed. Legislators who abstained from voting received a +0.75 or a -0.75 vote factor depending on if the bill passed or failed.
OVER $220 MILLION IN WASTEFUL SPENDING detailed.
When the political class says it can’t be done … this is how to pay for tax and other reforms![button url=”http://www.rifreedom.org/?p=10402″ target=”_self” size=”medium” style=”royalblue” ]Spotlight on $pending report[/button]
Media Release: July 31, 2013
Providence, RI — In celebrating “Friedman Legacy Day 2013”, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity will award prizes today to Tiffany Rezendes and Bryan Morillo, the top two essayists in a private essay contest it conducted with the youth-run empowerment organization, People United For Change, based in the Wiggins Village section of Providence.
Friedman Legacy Day is an annual celebration of the life and work of Milton Friedman, a Nobel Prize winning economist and one of the early pioneers of school choice in America. Today would have been Friedman’s 101st birthday.
Essayists were asked to write about how school choice has, or may have, made a difference in their lives or in someone they know. Both winners attended Providence district schools and each will receive an IPad donated by a Board member of the Center.
“A major assertion of Milton Friedman was echoed as a common theme in the personal essays we received; namely, that poor families are most affected by a lack of school choice,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO of the Center. “He believed that residents of low-income neighborhoods, more than any other population, are disadvantaged as to the quality of schooling they can get for their children.”
Rezendes, 20, wrote about how one of her closest friends dropped out of high school due to a lack of a challenging curriculum in her Providence school, with no option to choose a school that was better suited to her interests, and how “she just gave up once she found out she wasn’t accepted into Classical because all her hopes of having a great education had to be lowered to settle for a below average school experience.”
Morillo, 17, discussed how lack of choice in schools “condemned the students of providence (sic) to an attitude of ‘sit at home and collect a check’ … ” because of a curriculum that left many “unprepared for the real world”, and “making it easy to simply go through the motions …”
People United for Change is a youth-run organization based at Wiggins Village in Providence, focused on empowering people to bring about positive and meaningful change, through unity, to the city of Providence and the state of Rhode Island.
ABOUT the Contest
The School Choice Essay Contest asked students to write about how school choice could have positively affected their life, or someone close to them. Essays were scored from 1-10 in each of four categories: emotional appeal, realism, defense of school choice, and quality of writing. Each of the five judges read and scored each essay.
Dr. Angela Dills, PhD – Economics Professor, Providence College. Doctor Dills has championed school choice for several years through research and speaking.
Matthew Fabisch – Attorney, Stephen Hopkins Center for Civil Rights. Matt has worked extensively on the legality and principles surrounding school choice.
Creusa Michelazzo – Providence-based small business owner. Macremi specializes in PR, production, and community/business development.
Akash Chougule – Outreach Coordinator, RI Center for Freedom. Akash conducts the Center’s youth outreach to state and national liberty organizations.
Tyler Tassinari – Student, Arizona State University and Center Intern. Tyler is spending his summer doing school choice research for the Center.
The State of Rhode Island has developed a new spin on the idea of “laundering” money, as part of the cycle of taxpayer dollars that end up in the pockets of the special few, according to a follow-up post today on The Ocean State Current, the journalism wing of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity.
According to the post by Justin Katz, some unionized laundry workers at the Eleanor Slater Hospital, and throughout the Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals (BHDDH), routinely double or even triple their salaries to take home over $123,000 per year, due to suspiciously high overtime payments.
The post follows an investigative article published yesterday in The Ocean State Current about six-figure overtime payments to government employed nurses and psychiatrists.
These new laundry worker revelations depict the waste and abuse in the laundering scheme where local and national taxpayer dollars are recycled first through the government via collection of taxes, then, in the Eleanor Slater case, sent to state-run facilities in the form of excessive Medicaid payments, with the money then further cycled directly into the pockets of privileged union employees – in this case, to laundry workers via exorbitant overtime payments.
Result: our hard-earned taxpayer dollars legally recycled to lavishly benefit government workers.
The data for The Current’s article and post was collected by the Center, as part of its transparency effort.For more information about salary and overtime payments made to other state employees, please visit our popular transparency website, www.RIOpenGov.org.
ELIMINATE THE STATE SALES TAX TO CREATE JOBS: The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity proposes the elimination of Rhode Island’s sales tax as a means of high-impact economic development. Our RI-STAMP economic model suggests that the loss in state revenue would not be as large as static projections might suggest and would be well worth the boon to Rhode Islanders across the state.
Related Links: 2012 Report Card
It isn’t surprising that a year of no bold legislative or executive action to free the Rhode Island economy or education system from its shackles, or to lighten the heavy hand of government, was a year of no significant improvement in the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s annual Report Card on RI Competitiveness.
- Download two-page Report Card PDF handout version, here (right click to save as a PDF)
- Download three-page Repoft Card PDF with data source links
What changes the Ocean State saw in the report card’s ten major categories came in large part due to changes of the subcategories, a technical change in the Center’s methodology, and tiny shifts that were able to cross a line into a new letter grade. In 2012, Rhode Island had five grades of F, two of D-, two of D, and one of D+. In 2013, the tally is three of F, four of D-, one of D, and two of D+. (One of the lost Fs was purely a change in the method of ranking states.)
The sheer number of below-average grades does much to explain Rhode Island’s continuing economic decline and population exodus.
“For all the talk last year about the positive legislative steps we supposedly took, the state’s dismal grade point average has barely moved”, said the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse. “We’ve all seen the depressing headlines, but when compiled into a single report, the report card shows how poor public policy is strangling economic opportunities for families in our state.”
The report card organizes 53 national rankings into the following major categories:
- Tax Burden (D-)
- Business Climate (F)
- Spending & Debt (D-)
- Employment & Income (D-)
- K-12 Education (D+)
- Energy (D+)
- Infrastructure (F)
- Public Sector (D)
- Health Care (D-)
- Living & Retiring in RI (F)
Whether the decision is thoroughly researched or simply based on impressions, these are the categories on which the Ocean State is judged when businesses and individuals make important decisions about their lives and their economic well-being. Having the information all in one place may be discouraging, but it gives those with a vested interest in the health of the State of Rhode Island clear guidelines for what problems must be addressed.
- Download two-page Report Card PDF handout version, here (right click to save as a PDF)
- Download three-page Repoft Card PDF with data source links