Center Receives Farm Bureau Award For Anti-RhodeMap RI Work

Center Feted for Raising Awareness about
HUD & Federal Intrusion

November 19, 2015, Alpine Country Club in Cranston, RI

The RI Center for Freedom for Prosperity Accepts the RI Farm Bureau’s 2015 Navigator Award

The award recognized the Center “for being the faithful and undaunting watchdog and protector of freedom and prosperity granted to all Rhode Islanders,” in raising awareness about the federal HUD agenda implemented in RI called RhodeMap RI, which could threaten the property rights and values of farmers throughout the state, as well as other private property owners.

In accepting the award on behalf of the Center’s board and staff, CEO Mike Stenhouse thanked the Bureau for standing with other concerned citizens against the intrusive federal power and land grab by HUD. Stenhouse drew parallels to a topic raised earlier in the evening by a speaker from the American Farm Bureau, about how the federal EPA has similarly been seeking to control more and more local land through its controversial, so-called Clean Water Act, which would further restrict land use for many farmers.

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Stenhouse added that private property ownership and rights to develop land are fundamental precepts of America’s free-enterprise system, and that the Center would continue to fight against federal and state mandates that would restrict those freedoms.

Also receiving Navigator awards were: Representative Patricia Morgan (R, D26) for her work in fighting proposed tolls, which would directly impact farm trucks; and Senator Susan Sosnowski (D, D38) for her legislative support of farmer’s issues.

The RI Farm Bureau is the voice of thousands of Rhode Island farmers when it comes to dealing with issues that impact the agriculture industry.

“NO” HPV MANDATE PRESS CONFERENCE & RALLY – Tonight – NEW 1-PAGER

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 17, 2015

Multiple Speakers to Address Numerous Concerns Over Mandate
RI ACLU Statement; RI DOH Backing Away from School Exclusion Penalty
Center Publishes New 1-Page Summary Sheet

Cumberland, RI – A large crowd is anticipated to attend a press conference and protest rally – calling on Governor Raimondo to halt the State’s mandate of the controversial HPV vaccine for all 7th graders – that will be held this evening at the

Cumberland public library by the nonpartisan Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, in association with Rhode Islanders Against Mandated HPV Vaccinations, a parents group which has attracted over 2300 members in the past two weeks.

NO HPV VACCINE MANDATEAmong those expected to speak at the event are concerned parents, physicians, legal experts, and families that claim to have suffered adverse side-effects from the vaccine. Numerous concerns about the mandate will be covered by the speakers ranging from public health policy, parental rights, medical research and side-effects, government transparency, and ethics, to constitutional questions. These concerns have been summarized in an HPV one-pager published today by the Center.

Further, with IndependentRI.com reporting that the Department Of Health has backtracked on enforcing the school exclusion penalty, the Center also calls on the DOH to officially recommend ending its controversial mandate, which was implemented without rigorous public debate and without direct legislative oversight.

“A mandate is useless if there is no longer any penalty or enforcement mechanism,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “Let’s end the charade and end this unpopular mandate once and for all.” In a statement to the Center, the RI -ACLU argues that the school exclusion penalty is “extremely severe” and “unfitting and disproportionate.”

The event will be held prior to the last of five pre-scheduled public forums orchestrated by the RI Department of Health.

The Center strongly recommends that any parent uncomfortable with this vaccine for their children should claim a ‘religious medical exemption’, which can be executed via a simple form that can be downloaded from the health.ri.gov website.

The Center’s home page for the HPV issue is RIFreedom.org/HPV.
The parents group website is VaccineChoiceRI.com.

WHAT: Press Conference & Protest Rally Against Mandated HPV Vaccine

WHEN: Monday, August 17; 5:40 pm rally; 6:10 pm press conference

WHERE: Cumberland Public Library, back entrance by Hayden Meeting Center; 1464 Diamond Hill Road, Cumberland, RI 02864

WHO: In addition to Stenhouse from the Center, statements are expected to be made at the event by:
Shawna Lawton and Aimee Gardiner; parent advocates from RIers Against Mandated HPV Vaccine
Dr. Mark Brady and Dr. Christopher Black; physicians
Justin Price; House of Representatives, RI-D39
Giovanni Cicione; lawyer for Stephen Hopkins Center for Civil Rights

Media Contacts:
Mike Stenhouse, CEO, RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity
401.429.6115 | info@rifreedom.org

Shawna Lawton: RIers Against Mandated HPV Vaccinations
401.339.9226 | sllawton40@gmail.com

About the Center
The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is Rhode Island’s premiere free-enterprise research and advocacy organization. The mission of the 501-C-3 nonprofit organization is to return government to the people by opposing special-interest politics and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives by restoring economic competitiveness, increasing educational opportunities, and protecting individual freedoms.

Rhode Island ACLU Offers Statement on HPV

ACLU Statement on HPV:

“The ACLU of Rhode Island recognizes the Department of Health’s legitimate interest in promoting the HPV vaccine for both boys and girls. We also appreciate that there are some illnesses that warrant imposition of mandatory vaccinations in order to protect children attending school. However, excluding middle and high school students from school for being unvaccinated against HPV strikes us as an unfitting and disproportionate remedy.

Exclusion from school is an extremely severe penalty that should be used only when truly necessary, and not as a stick to promote more generalized public health goals.  We believe the state’s efforts would be much better spent on educating parents and students on the importance of the HPV vaccine rather than using a punitive approach that deprives children of a public education. Rhode Island’s record, prior to implementation of this mandate, of leading the nation in HPV vaccination rates supports this notion.

Encouraging preventive measures to protect children’s health is extremely important, but so is a child’s right to an education. In light of the concerns that have been expressed regarding the requirement, we encourage the Department of Health to formally clarify that school districts should not exclude children from school solely because they do not receive the HPV vaccine, and that the law’s “religious” exemption broadly encompasses objections of conscience as well.”

Hillary Davis
Policy Associate
ACLU of Rhode Island
128 Dorrance Street, Suite 220
Providence, RI 02903
P – (401) 831-7171
F – (401) 831-7175
www.riaclu.org

MEDIA RELASE: Governor’s Response Not Sufficient to Quell Growing Controversy to HPV Vaccine Mandate; Public Hearings Begin Tonight

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 5, 2015

Grassroots Opposition Grows to Controversial HPV Vaccine Mandate
Governor Called Upon to Take More Informed Position

Providence, RI — The perfunctory response by Governor Raimondo’s office in supporting the controversial HPV mandate imposed last year on Rhode Island families is not sufficient to address the many questions and growing public opposition to the edict by the state’s Department of Health, according to the nonpartisan Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, which calls upon the Governor to take a more studied look at the issue.

“The Governor does not have any political capital invested in this bureaucratic mandate, as it was implement by the prior administration under a prior health director,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “She should be able to take a step back and take a thorough and objective in evaluating this very controversial government action.”

With the mandate scheduled to be implemented next month as a requirement to attend school for all 7th grade boys and girls, and with a series of public forums orchestrated by the Department of Health beginning this evening in Barrington, the Center urges all concerned parents and middle-schoolers to attend one of the forums and voice their opinions.

The Center expects to announce later this week plans for a press conference and opposition rally. Potential participants include parental opposition groups, concerned physicians, state legislators, professed victims of the vaccine, former state health department officials, and other good government groups.

There are a number of legitimate questions and facts that could cause the Governor to be concerned about continued support of this forced immunization:

  • Voters and parents are outraged. A Facebook group has exploded from just a few hundred members to almost two thousand in less than a week since this controversy became public.
  • A parental rights infringement. Parents are outraged that the government is forcing itself into the middle of their relationship with their children and their doctors.
  • Not a public health or school issue. The HPV virus is not communicable in a classroom or other public environment and is transmitted via sexual activity. HPV is a private, family issue that should be handled by parents, not the state government.
  • A special-interest handout? Big money from Merck, the pharmaceutical giant pushing the Gardasil vaccine, has been prevalent at both the national CDC level and in lobbying activities and a vendor relationship in the Ocean State. Such payouts raise serious questions about the validity of the CDC claims.
  • Medical questions: a local physicians group that contacted the Center questions the effectiveness of the vaccine and whether or not its documented side effects are more dangerous to children than the disease itself … and is preparing to cite its research.
  • Lack of governmental transparency. The Center questions how such a controversial public policy can be implemented without any legitimate legislative or public debate and will push for legislation to amend this process.

The Center’s home page for this issue is RIFreedom.org/HPV. The Center strongly recommends that any parent uncomfortable with this vaccine for their children should claim a ‘religious medical exemption’, which can be executed via a simple form that can be downloaded from the health.ri.gov website.

Media Contact:
Mike Stenhouse, CEO
401.429.6115 | info@rifreedom.org

About the Center
The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is Rhode Island’s premiere free-enterprise research and advocacy organization. The mission of the 501-C-3 nonprofit organization is to return government to the people by opposing special-interest politics and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives by restoring economic competitiveness, increasing educational opportunities, and protecting individual freedoms.

BREAKING: New Federal HUD Rule Validates Center’s RhodeMapRI Claims

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 10, 2015

As Forewarned, HUD Finalizes Rule in Effort to Desegregate Local Neighborhoods via Plans like RhodeMap RI
State Planning Officials Denied True Agenda and Federal Connection

Providence, RI — Following weeks of speculation in national news stories, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) this week has finalized a new housing rule that confirms the federal connection and hidden agenda of the controversial RhodeMapRI plan, as forewarned almost 9 months ago by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity

“Despite denials by officials from the RI Division of Planning, it is now fully apparent that RhodeMap RI is nothing more than a Trojan Horse to implement a federal agenda,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “RhodeMap RI is a social-engineering tool of the federal government that will supersede the sovereignty of municipalities and will infringe upon the rights of private property owners … all in the name of the HUD’s warped vision of how to achieve social equity.”

Rhode Island administration officials have continually denied any connection with this federal agenda, yet recent developments belie their claim. The stealth advancement of the true agenda behind the RhodeMap RI plan, as the Center has maintained from day one, was further validated at a recent forum conducted by the nationally renowned Brookings Institution, a major supporter of the Obama administration’s anti-suburban ‘regionalist’ policies. In a video of the event, one supporter of the new HUD rule stated in effect, that keeping the purpose of the rule “obscure” may be the best political strategy to “get it through” (1:23:43 mark). Similarly, the Center has suggested that this type of intentional deception is how RhodeMap RI was able to become an official part of the state guide plan without any approval of the RI General Assembly.

This revelation is important, as two critical pieces of related legislation are now in legislative limbo due to the abrupt closure of the 2015 legislative session:

House bill H6107-A, which stealthily passed the House Finance Committee in an eleventh hour suspended-rules maneuver, would provide RhodeMap RI proponents with a vital tool to advance its agenda … namely, to expand a dual-tiered property tax system that would likely raise property taxes on single-family homeowners; but could also reduce overall revenues to municipalities by dramatically reducing property taxes on a multitude of loosely defined affordable housing units. Potentially unconstitutional in Rhode Island, a similar policy in the town of Barrington is being challenged in a citizen-initiated lawsuit now in the state’s Superior Court.

Conversely, House bill H6040-A, which passed the entire House, would restore some measure of sovereignty to municipal governments by allowing them to opt out of some of the more burdensome housing mandates of the RhodeMap RI plan.

Neither bill had the chance to be officially considered in the Senate.

Rhode Islanders are encouraged to contact their legislators to reduce the negative impact of RhodeMap RI via an easy-to-use online tool at The Gaspee Project, a partner organization.

The Center has published multiple reports and related analysis pieces on RhodeMap RI, which can be viewed at RIFreedom.org/PropertyRights.

Media Contact:
Mike Stenhouse, CEO
401.429.6115 | info@rifreedom.org

About the Center
The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is Rhode Island’s premiere free-enterprise think tank. The mission of the 501c3 nonprofit organization is to return government to the people by opposing special-interest politics and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives by restoring economic competitiveness, increasing educational opportunities, and protecting individual freedoms.

Statement: SCOTUS Decision, Massive Rate Hike Should Doom HealthSource RI

STATEMENT
June 26, 2015
FY2016 Should be Last Year of Continued Taxpayer and Ratepayer Subsidies for Failed Boondoggle
Exchange Can be More Efficiently Operated by the Federal Government

Providence, RI — Based on yesterday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and with statewide health insurance premiums once again set to sky-rocket, the nonpartisan Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity suggests that FY2016 should be the last year that Rhode Island taxpayers and ratepayers should be burdened with subsidizing HealthSource RI.

The Supreme Court ruling, which preserved federal insurance subsidies across the nation, effectively removed one of the major arguments of proponents seeking to keep the state exchange funded by Rhode Islanders. Further, based on today’s Providence Journal story that insurance rates could rise by as much as 18% next year, HealthSource RI has obviously failed in its promise to control rate increases.

“There is no longer any legitimate reason for Rhode Islanders to continue to pay for this self-created boondoggle,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “It’s time to renew the discussion about sending our exchange to the federal government, where efficiencies of scale can allow it to be operated at a significantly lower cost than we can run it on our own in Rhode Island. And now we can do so without any fear of anyone losing their subsidy.”

Rhode Island is one of just 15 states that fully-funds and operates its own insurance exchange. As the Center has documented over recent years, the Ocean State does not have a large enough tax base or insurance base to justify the related high costs.

Media Contact:
Mike Stenhouse, CEO
401.429.6115 | info@rifreedom.org

About the Center
The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is Rhode Island’s premiere free-enterprise think tank. The mission of the 501c3 nonprofit organization is to return government to the people by opposing special-interest politics and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives by restoring economic competitiveness, increasing educational opportunities, and protecting individual freedoms.

2015 Legislator Scorecard Update; Only 12 Legislators with Positive Scores

Freedom Index “Live” Update
Only 12 lawmakers earn positive scores; Overall GA Index at (-56)

 

Providence, RI — As 2015 bills receive floor votes, an updated interactive scorecard of legislator voting records can be viewed live online, published by the nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity. The near real-time RI Freedom Index – Live rates individual pieces of legislation, according to whether or not they preserve or infringe upon the freedoms of Rhode Islanders, then scores General Assembly legislators based on how they voted for each bill.

While not all 2015 bills have been evaluated, to date 176 bills have preliminarily been rated as qualifying for the Freedom Index scorecard; 101 with a negative rating, 71 with a positive rating and 4 yet to be rated, with an aggregate General Assembly negative rating of (-56) (up from (-58) last week), meaning once again, lawmakers are on a path to do more harm than good when it comes to legislation that preserves the freedom and, therefore, the prosperity of our state’s residents.

Out of 113 state legislators, only 12 earned a positive score, all in the House (9 Republican, 3 Democrat). For each vote, every legislator has the chance to earn a positive score. To date, the 176 rated bills have generated 31 actual floor votes.

With the online tool, voters can monitor the scorecards – as votes occur – for all legislators, and can sort and filter by party, district, bill category, and legislator score. The tool also includes separate interactive district maps for the House and Senate.

For more information about current and prior year Freedom Index posts, please visit RIFreedom.org/FreedomIndex.

About the Center
The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is Rhode Island’s premiere free-enterprise think tank. The mission of the 501c3 nonprofit organization is to return government to the people by opposing special-interest politics and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives by restoring economic competitiveness, increasing educational opportunities, and protecting individual freedoms.

STATEMENT: Two Reasons Why Trucker Toll Plan is Misguided

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 2, 2015
Trucking Toll Proposal Demonstrates Lack of Discipline;
Disguises Spending on non-Essential Projects
Spending Priorities Must be Set; Strip Out RhodeMap RI type Mass Transit Plans
It was a lack of fiscal discipline that allowed the Ocean State’s bridge and road conditions to become degraded in the first place, therefore renewed spending priorities must be a major part of the solution. This according to the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, nonpartisan public policy think tank.

The proposed trucker toll represents the typical status quo method of taking the easy approach of tapping some group to pay for costly government programs, instead of taking the more responsible path of prioritizing spending over other elements of the budget.

Also, as part of that discipline, the state should only spend money on essential repairs and upgrades, and not on new, non-essential mass transit projects that could cost billions in extra public funding.

“Clearly, something has to be done to ensure we have a safe infrastructure. And we must seek to find that money in our existing budget,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “Mass transit is not a pressing need. We urge legislative leaders to strip out all non-essential spending from this effort.”

Governor Raimondo has hinted, but provided few details, that some of her infrastructure program would include major mass transit programs, which arguably are not necessary. Heavy taxpayer investment in mass transit is one component of the unproven ‘sustainable development’ philosophy, which was the basis for the controversial RhodeMap RI plan. “Often, major mass transit programs turn into bloated government boondoggles; clearly something Rhode Islanders cannot afford right now,” concluded Stenhouse.

Media Contact:
Mike Stenhouse, CEO
About the Center
The nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is Rhode Island’s premiere free-enterprise think tank. The mission of the 501c3 nonprofit organization is to return government to the people by opposing special-interest politics and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives by restoring economic competitiveness, increasing educational opportunities, and protecting individual freedoms.

Center Issues Statement on Governor’s Proposed Healthcare Tax

Summary: Explanations by the Raimondo administration about the Governor’s proposed surcharge on health insurance premiums appear to be misleading. The truth about the new tax expose four major concerns about how it is NOT comparable to the would-be federal exchange tax.
 
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 17, 2015
Truth about the proposed HealthSource RI Tax
Is Not Commensurate in Scope to Federal Exchange Tax:
Tax Base, Tax Levy, Tax Certainty, and Next Steps are Considerably Different

Providence, RI — Explanations by the Raimondo administration about the Governor’s proposed surcharge on health insurance premiums appear to be misleading. Designed to raise money to partially fund continued state operation of the controversial HealthSource RI exchange, the tax is being positioned by administration officials as comparable to the fees that would be charged if the exchange were to be returned to the federal government.

However, as broached in a recent post in The Ocean State Current, there are a number of major differences between the federal tax and Governor Raimondo’s proposed tax:
First, who gets taxed? Under a federally run exchange, only those who purchase a policy through the exchange, or who purchase an identical policy outside of the exchange, would be taxed. But, as the Center has been projecting for years, because of Rhode Island’s small size and low enrollment numbers, not enough revenue can be raised without charging exorbitant per policy fees.
Under Raimondo’s plan to pay for HealthSource RI’s high projected costs, there would be an assessment on ALL individual and small business policies in the state, whether purchased inside or outside of the exchange.
Also of note, vocal special interest groups, such large corporations and union shops, would appear to be exempt from the tax; yet another special interest handout?
Second, how much tax? Under the federal plan, it was estimated that the 3.5% federal rate assessment based on the 30,000 or so who are currently purchasing insurance through the exchange, would result in about $5-6 million in fees. The Governor’s tax is projected to raise an ‘initial’ $6.2 million in half a year, or about $12 million in annual revenues, making it at least twice as expensive for Ocean State policyholders as the federal option.
Additionally, the proposed 3.8% and 1% tax on individuals and small employers, respectively, is significantly higher than similar 1.35% and 2.5%-3% taxes in Connecticut and Massachusetts, which can afford the lower rates, as they can be spread across a significantly higher number of policy holders.
Third, a fixed tax rate? Use of the term ‘initial premium assessment’ indicates a potential slippery slope. In fact, if HealthSource RI’s expenses rise, or when federal funds disappear, the health and human services secretary is empowered to raise rates for this tax in future years, while the federal plan is statutorily fixed.
Fourth, a stepping stone to state control? Maintaining the exchange under state operation also maintains the threat of further state control over Rhode Island’s healthcare industry, with separate legislation in 2014 (H7819) and 2015 (H5387) already seeking to give government unprecedented new powers. A single-payer system, such as that advocated for by the new HealthSource RI Director, has long been a goal of progressive lawmakers. Under a federal exchange, this threat is virtually eliminated