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STATEMENT: Center Opposes Push to Deregulate Abortion Industry; Decries Attacks on Catholic Church

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 21, 2017

Deregulation of Abortion Industry Debate Should Not Include Criticism of the Catholic Church

Providence, RI — The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity opposes the efforts by some lawmakers to deregulate the abortion industry as a preemptive step against unsubstantiated concerns about the Trump presidency. The Center also calls for a retraction of attacks against the Catholic Church and for a respectful public debate. Consistent with its current family prosperity initiative, the Center opposes any policy that promotes radical individualism at the expense of societal values.

“It is a setback for democracy and it could risk the safety of women if any type of abortion procedure can be performed at any time, on almost anyone, under potentially unregulated and unsafe conditions, without honest and rigorous public debate,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “It is ironic and disturbing that many of the same lawmakers that have voted to systematically over-regulate legitimate businesses and industries out of existence in our state, are the same lawmakers who want this controversial industry to be given a free-pass to grow uncontrolled.”

In its current form, House bill H5343 could readily be interpreted to prohibit the State of Rhode Island from exercising reasonable oversight over abortion practices.The Center suggests this radical approach does not represent the mainstream thinking of Rhode Islanders. The Center maintains that the public generally opposes gruesome “partial birth” and other late-term abortions; opposes state taxpayer funding of abortions to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers; and opposes women in vulnerable circumstances from submitting to an abortion without informed consent … all of which could become rampant in Rhode Island if the proposed legislation were to become law.

The Center also decries the attacks by Representatives McNamara, Bennett, and Shanley against the Catholic Church and RI Right To Life by implying that they are spreading misinformation. Open and honest debate about such an emotional topic, especially by organizations with long-standing and principled histories with the issue, should be encouraged by all parties,without the need to cast aspersions.

“Certainly Rhode Islanders would not want a butcher like Kermit Gosnell to be able to act with impunity in our state,” added Stenhouse. In 2013 Gosnell, a Pennsylvania abortionist, was convicted of murdering three infants who were born alive during attempted abortion procedures, and was also convicted of 21 felony counts of illegal late-term abortions and 211 counts of violating the 24-hour informed consent law. “If the bill is not intended to allow certain procedures under certain circumstances, then the bill should explicitly state those exceptions.”

A detailed discussion of the potential pitfalls of the proposed legislation by Justin Katz, the Center’s research director, can be found on the Center’s journalism and blog site, The Ocean State Current.

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Stenhouse Testimony on Justice Reinvestment Initiative Bills

The PDF below is the written testimony submitted on January 31, 2017 to the House Judiciary Committee by the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse, with regard to the House package of bills recommended by the state’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI).

The testimony follows the prior day’s release of the Center’s Right on Crime policy brief, which discusses the impetus behind these bills, as well as other criminal justice reform issues.

PDF of Stenhouse Testimony

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Policy Brief: RI’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative is step towards being Right on Crime

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 30, 2017

Right and Left Agree That pro-Family Considerations are the “Right” way to “Reinvest” in Criminal Justice
House Leaders Encouraged to Give Serious Consideration to JRI Package of Legislation

fpi_ri-logoProvidence, RI — With related House Judiciary Committee hearings scheduled for Tuesday, and in line with the pro-family objectives of its new Family Prosperity Initiative, the center-right Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity today published a policy brief that supports the State’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) that is being advance by many on the left.

In order to give certain ex-offenders a better chance to achieve a productive life for themselves and their families, the policy brief – Right on Crime – lays out multiple reform ideas that can modernize and strengthen the Ocean State’s criminal justice system so as the lessen the harmful consequences of over-incarceration on society.

Ranking a dismal 48th in overall family prosperity, Rhode Island’s probation and parole rate is fourth highest in the nation, which many believe leads to a high rate of recidivism.

Consistent with the conservative “Right on Crime” movement that is taking hold in red and blue states across the nation, the reforms recommended in the Center’s brief address many issues that have long concerned liberals and that have proven to be destructive to Rhode Island families, including:

  • Poor & minorities disproportionately incarcerated
  • Critical family members embroiled in the criminal justice system
  • No default criminal-justice provision
  • Children of incarcerated parents trapped in cycle of crime and poverty
  • Over-burdened probation system

As discussed in the Right on Crime brief, an attempt to address many of these issues was included in a package of legislation known as the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) during the 2016 session of the Rhode Island General Assembly and reintroduced this year. The bipartisan JRI package of bills, many of which are reviewed in the brief, unanimously passed the state’s Senate both in committee and on the floor in 2016. However, for unknown reasons, the legislative session ended without the bills’ making it to committee hearings in the House of Representatives, despite broad bipartisan support for the initiative as well as from parole officers, criminal defense attorneys (both public and private), civil rights advocates, and community leaders. The state’s Senate Judiciary Committee heard the 2017 version of these bills earlier this month.

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Mike Stenhouse, Ray Rickman, David Safavian, Senator McCaffrey, Grant Collins

As an example of this cross-philosophical public policy cooperation, at the January 17th Family Prosperity Leadership Forum, which attracted almost 100 civic and political leaders from across the state and nation, the Center, along with local and national civil rights and political leaders from the left and right, stood together to support the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which would would improve the state’s over-burdened probation and overall criminal justice system.

The proposed JRI legislation could help break the cycle of incarceration, which makes it difficult for ex-offenders to improve their quality of life. Senate Judiciary Chairman Michael McCaffrey spoke words of praise (click for video) for those on all sides of the philosophical spectrum who are supporting this vital initiative.


About the Family Prosperity Index: In December, along with its national partner, The American Conservative Union Foundation, the Center unveiled an in-depth analysis of factors contributing to the Ocean State’s unacceptable ranking on the Family Prosperity Index (FPI). The Rhode Island Family Prosperity report highlights Rhode Island’s poor scores on a number of factors, including family self-sufficiency, family structure, fertility, and illicit drug use, compounded by its significant out-migration rate, as the determinant factors in the state’s overall FPI rank of 48th in the nation.

The FPI provides the credible data that state policymakers, civic and religious leaders, think tanks and activists need in order to develop and advocate effectively for policies that improve the prosperity of families and the communities where they live.

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Right on Crime: Increasing Family Prosperity via Criminal Justice Reform

by Justin Katz and Matthew Henry Young

A Pressing Need for Reform

Many families seeking upward mobility and prosperity must first break the cycle of incarceration — a cycle that makes it nearly impossible for those caught up in it, ex-offenders in particular, to achieve productive lives for themselves and their families.

New national research shows that Rhode Island ranked just 48th on the 2016 Family Prosperity Index (FPI) as well as just 48th on the Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI). In December 2016, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, in conjunction with its national partner, the American Conservative Union, issued a 52-page RI Family Prosperity report that highlighted contributing factors to our state’s poor rankings across 57 indexes.

Among other things, the report suggests that Rhode Island has room to modernize and improve its criminal justice system. Reforms put forth as part of the state’s Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) and by other organizations can lessen the harmful consequences of over-incarceration for Ocean State families:

  • S0005: to request that the state government continue to seek ways to help Rhode Islanders return to productive activity after having been convicted of crimes
  • S0006 & H5065: to add dedicated funding to an intervention program for domestic abusers, to make supervision more effective and humane through increased training and assessment, with more emphasis on government-driven manipulation toward “pro-social behaviors”
  • S0007 & H5063: to increase and expand the reimbursements for which victims of crime are reimbursed by the state, for example reimbursing families for funeral expenses of deceased victims and expanding the time to report crimes.
  • S0008 & H5117: to modify the rules related to probation and violations thereof by, for example, allowing a punishment of only time served in cases of technical violations of probation and giving judges more flexibility when sentencing for guilty or nolo contender pleas
  • S0009 & H5128: to expand the ability of the parole board to take into account parolees’ circumstances and behavior before incarcerating them for violations (with flexibility in the duration) and to expand the impact statements required for corrections legislation
  • S0010 & H5064: to allow the state judiciary to create a diversion program, enabling defendants to make restitution in ways other than prison terms, to give judges flexibility in handling the sanctions for complaints, and to expand programs for pre-trial risk screening
  • S0011 & H5115: to remove fines over $1,000 as an automatic trigger for designation as a felony ease automatic designations of misdemeanors and petty misdemeanors, with specific exceptions/differences for assault and larceny

Rhode Island’s dismal overall circumstances will only be improved if policymakers and civil society leaders are willing to join together to pursue needed reforms, one issue at time, as highlighted in the state’s FPI report. The status quo has obviously not been working for Ocean State families.

Outdated and overly harsh policies have done little to help Rhode Islanders and their families when it comes to criminal justice. Our policies have long-term consequences that ripple throughout time and adversely affect children and families… generation after generation.

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JOBS & OPPORTUNITY INDEX – RI’s 48th Place Rank not Affected by Job Losses

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 26, 2017

Despite Disappointing December Jobs & Employment Losses, Rhode Island Does Not Fall in JOI metric – Remains 3rd Worst in Country
Most 2016 Gains Erased

Providence, RI — Despite December data that showed large losses in both jobs and employment, Rhode Island’s 48th rank remained unchanged on a broader measure of overall employment opportunity. This according to the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, which noted that the massive exit of 2,200 people from the state’s labor force, which illogically lead to an improved unemployment rate, is actually a negative factor that helped keep the Ocean State stuck at third-worst nationally in the Center’s December Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI).

The state’s weak JOI score (which slightly improved in December to 17.9 on a scale of 0-100 from its November score of 17.6) parallel findings from another national study, the Family Prosperity Index (FPI), where Rhode Island ranks 43rd overall in “economics” and 44th and last in New England in “entrepreneurship”, which can be largely attributed to an overly burdensome governmental regulatory and tax regime.

Rhode Island’s poor JOI and FPI rankings are personified by Robert Martinez, a US Navy veteran, who fought a losing battle against oppressive local government regulations and a statewide hostile business climate that has derailed his dream of forging a better quality of life for himself by developing a successful mobile food vendor business.

“Last month’s job losses are extremely concerning. The notion that a falling unemployment rate is indicative of improved job prospects and financial security once again can be shown to be an unreliable metric,” commented Justin Katz, research director for the Center. “Meaningful long-term work and high-paying jobs that are vital to individual dignity and family self-sufficiency are not in high supply in Rhode Island as compared with other states.”

A more detailed analysis of the December data, specifically on employment and jobs, can be found on The Ocean State Current, the Center’s journalism and blog website.

The unexpected job and labor force losses erased most of any gains the state saw in 2016.

Of the three factors that make up JOI, the Ocean State ranks:
  • 39th on the Job Outlook Factor (measuring optimism that adequate work is available): no change from last month
  • 39th on the Freedom Factor (measuring the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): no change from last month
  • 46th Prosperity Factor (measuring the financial motivation of income versus taxes): improved by one spot from last month

The Center’s monthly JOI report is based on state and local tax collection data from a a variety of federal agencies including the U.S. Census and on income data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA).
Rhode Island has not gained ground on the national JOI metric, remaining – as it has for years – in the bottom five among all states. JOI is a broader and more accurate measure of employment and well-being than the traditionally cited and highly narrow unemployment rate, which has fluctuated more dramatically in recent years for Rhode Island, but which is not an accurate barometer of economic growth or family prosperity.

Supporting the findings of the JOI metric, Rhode Island also ranks 48th in the Family Prosperity Index, the broadest national measure of family well-being.
For the JOI homepage, click here

For a description of JOI and its three sub-factors, click here.

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Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), December 2016: RI Holds Steady Despite Jobs Hit

The preliminary yearend Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) report from the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity shows the Ocean State holding on to 48th place in the country despite a hit to its jobs and employment numbers. In part, this result derived from improved income numbers, which lag by a quarter and may moderate when the full year is included in a final result for 2016.

Eight of the 13 datapoints used for the index have been newly updated. Employment was down 803 from the previously recorded number, while labor force fell 2,199 and RI-based jobs slipped by 600. (Note that these are calculated with pre-revision data for the prior month.) Medicaid enrollment numbers, now available through November, increased by 5,157, perhaps resulting from UHIP and HealthSource RI’s open enrollment period. Within the index that increase was offset by a 2,608 reduction in SNAP enrollment and a 199 reduction in TANF. (Note that these results predate UHIP, which may drive them up when fully functional.) Meanwhile, annualized state and local tax collections were up by $24 million, but personal income was up $802 million.

The first chart below shows Rhode Island still in the last position in New England. As the only two New England states to move in the rankings, Maine and Connecticut managed to increase their distance from Vermont and Massachusetts, respectively. New Hampshire remained 1st in the nation, with Maine a distant second, at 19th, now two places ahead of Vermont, at 21st. Connecticut moved up two to 32nd, outpacing Massachusetts, at 35th.

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The second chart shows the gap between Rhode Island and New England and the United States on JOI. The Ocean State lost ground against both averages. Rhode Island also lost ground with growing gaps on the unemployment rate (third chart).

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Results for the three underlying JOI factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (measuring optimism that adequate work is available): RI remained at 39th.
  • Freedom Factor (measuring the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI remained at 39th.
  • Prosperity Factor (measuring the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI moved up one to 46th.
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Initial Reaction to Governor’s Proposed Budget

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

January 19, 2017

Lack of Vision and Bold Action – Stunning

Providence, RI — The Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse, provides initial reaction to the Governor’s proposed 2018 budget:

“When our state ranks 48th in family prosperity and dead last in business climate, a ‘no broad-based tax increase’ strategy simply is not good enough. We just lost 1000 jobs! The new mandates, increased minimum wage, and new penalties on businesses only rub salt in the wound. More taxes and more special handout spending policies are exactly the wrong approach; especially corporate tax credits, which do nothing to help the average family and business. Where is the bold action? The lack of leadership and vision and the acceptance of our dismal status quo is stunning.”

A more detailed statement from the Center will be issued tomorrow.

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Center’s Family Prosperity Forum Suggests Stark Contrast to Governor’s State of the State Message; Statement on Free Tuition

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

January 18, 2017

Pro-Family, Pro-Business Focus Recommended vs Governor’s Centrally-planned Mandate & Corporate Subsidy Approach
Left and Right Come Together to Support Justice Reinvestment Initiative

Center Proposes Alternative to Free Tuition Plan

Providence, RI — The overwhelming sentiment from the local and national policy experts, from both the left and right, who participated in Tuesday’s Family Prosperity Leadership Forum at Bryant University was that Rhode Island families should be the focus of public policy; in stark contrast to the corporate tax-credit policies that have been the center-piece of the Raimondo administration’s economic development agenda.

fpi_ri-logoThere was apparent unanimity in the belief that the state’s current corporate welfare strategy would not provide any relief to most distressed families and small businesses.

“When considering our Ocean State’s 48th ranking in overall family prosperity and 50th business climate ranking, it was clear to all attendees that a new policy direction is required,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “Instead of greater tax burdens on families and increased mandates on small businesses, broad-based relief that opens the door for more and better businesses to create more and better jobs is what we need if we want a better quality of life for Rhode Island families.”

The forum, sponsored by the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity and the American Conservative Union Foundation, and hosted by the Hassenfeld Institutue for Public Leadership, attracted almost 100 civic and political leaders from across the state and nation.

The forum featured a salient moment, when the Center, along with civil rights and political leaders from the left and right, stood together to support the Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI), which would would modernize the state’s over-burdened probation system. The proposed JRI legislation could help break the cycle of incarceration, which makes it difficult for ex-offenders to live a productive life for themselves and their families. Senate Judiciary Chairman Michael McCaffrey spoke words of praise for those on all sides of the philosophical spectrum who are supporting this vital initiative.

Free Tuition Alternative: Unrelated to the forum, and with regard to the Governor’s proposed “free tuition” plan, the Center suggests that instead of raising $30-40 million in new revenues to pay for expanded K-14 government funded education, that the state should focus on getting K-12 education right by re-purposing $30-$40 million in existing state education funds to empower families with expanded school choices via Educational Scholarship Accounts, as the Center has proposed for the past two years.


About the Family Prosperity Index: In December, along with its national partner, The American Conservative Union Foundation, the Center unveiled an in-depth analysis of factors contributing to the Ocean State’s unacceptable ranking on the Family Prosperity Index (FPI). The Rhode Island Family Prosperity report highlights Rhode Island’s poor scores on a number of factors, including family self-sufficiency, family structure, fertility, and illicit drug use, compounded by its significant out-migration rate, as the determinant factors in the state’s overall FPI rank of 48th in the nation.

The FPI provides the credible data that state policymakers, civic and religious leaders, think tanks and activists need in order to develop and advocate effectively for policies that improve the prosperity of families and the communities where they live.

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Center to Recognize MLK Day by Supporting Civil Rights “Justice Reinvestment” Legislation at Family Prosperity Leadership Forum

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 16, 2017
The Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI) Seeks to Lessen the

Harmful Impact of Over-Incarceration on Families 
Democrat Senate Leadership to be Recognized for their Work at Tuesday’s “Family Prosperity Leadership Forum” at Bryant University

Providence, RI — As the nation celebrates Martin Luther King Day, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity will recognize the struggle for civil rights by announcing its backing of a state Senate package of bills, designed to lessen the harmful impact of over-incarceration on Rhode Island families and communities, particularly those of color.

At its Family Prosperity Leadership Forum, to be held Tuesday, January 17, in conjunction with the Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership at Bryant University, the Center will join with civil rights leaders to endorse six bills under the “Justice Reinvestment Initiative (JRI)” banner that passed the Senate in 2016 but were held back in the House.

“Whether it is criminal justice reform, taxation, or education, if we are to improve our state’s dismal 48th place ranking in overall family prosperity, we must make helping families the focus of our public policy and private advocacy,” said Mike Stenhouse, Chief Executive Officer of the  Center. “At our Tuesday forum, we will recognize the leadership of Senate President Paiva-Weed and Senate Judiciary Chairman McCaffrey on this issue and we fully endorse passage of these bills in 2017.”

The legislation would modernize the state’s over-burdened probation system, which disproportionately impacts black families. The JRI legislation could help break the cycle of incarceration which makes it difficult for ex-offenders to live a productive life for themselves and their families.

Civil society leaders in the business, religious, community, and nonprofit sectors are encouraged to attend the leadership forum. Pre-registration is required at www.RIFamilies.org

In December, along with its national partner, The American Conservative Union Foundation, the Center unveiled an in-depth analysis of factors contributing to the Ocean State’s unacceptable ranking on the Family Prosperity Index (FPI). The Rhode Island Family Prosperity report  highlights Rhode Island’s poor scores on a number of factors, including family self-sufficiency, family structure, fertility, and illicit drug use, compounded by its significant out-migration rate, as the determinant factors in the state’s overall FPI rank of 48th in the nation.

The FPI provides the credible data that state policymakers, civic and religious leaders, think tanks and activists need in order to develop and advocate effectively for policies that improve the prosperity of families and the communities where they live.

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LEADERSHIP FORUM: National Experts & Local Leaders to Discuss State’s 48th Ranking in Family Prosperity Report

Media Advisory: January 11, 2017

Rhode Island Center For Freedom & Prosperity and ACU Foundation to Sponsor Rhode Island Family Prosperity Leadership Forum

BACKGROUND: Rhode Island ranked 48th in the nation on the 2016 Family Prosperity Index. Local and national experts will convene to discuss the factors that led to this ranking as well as ideas for political, religious, and civic leaders in the state to consider as they work to expand prosperity across the Ocean State.

Pre-registration and full participant bios and other details can be viewed here: http://www.rifamilies.org/family_prosperity_forum

WHAT: Family Prosperity Leadership Forum: From Family Disintegration to Family Prosperity – Turning the Tide in the Ocean State

WHEN: January 17, 2017; Lunch 12:00 pm Forum: 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm

WHERE: Bryant University, Bello Center Grand Hall
1150 Douglas Pike, Smithfield, RI 02917

HOST: Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership

SPONSORS: The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity;
American Conservative Union Foundation (ACUF)

INVITEES: Community, Religious, Business & Political Leaders
(Pre-Registration Required)

WHO: National & Local Civic & Policy Experts

National Presenters:
Grant Collins: Sr. VP, FedCap; ex US Dep’t of Health & Human Services
Nick Eberstadt, Ph.D.: Political economist at American Enterprise Institute
Angela Flood: Communications and policy advisor, ACUF
Thomas Hoenig, Ph.D.: Vice Chairman, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC)
J. Scott Moody: Economist; Director Family Prosperity Initiative
David Safavian: Deputy Director for ACUF Criminal Justice Reform
Daniel Schneider: Executive Director ACUF
Wendy Warcholik, Ph.D.: Economist; Director Family Prosperity Initiative

Local Participants:
Ray Rickman: President, Rickman Group, former State Representative
Gary Sasse: Director, Hassenfeld Institute for Public Leadership; Founder, RIPEC
Mike Stenhouse: CEO, RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity

WHY: The Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity, along with its national partner, The American Conservative Union Foundation, today announced that they will conduct a public forum to analyze factors contributing to the Ocean State’s dismal 48th national rank on the Family Prosperity Index (FPI) as highlighted in their December release of the Rhode Island Family Prosperity report. The report highlights Rhode Island’s poor scores across a broad spectrum of measures of well-being, including family self-sufficiency, family structure, fertility, and illicit drug use, compounded by its significant out-migration rate.

fpi_ri-logoThe Family Prosperity Index was created by the ACUF as new tool that does what no resource has done before – demonstrate quantitatively the undeniable link between economic and social policy in determining family prosperity. In so doing, the Index provides a road map for finding real solutions to the cultural and financial problems that keep families – and the nation – from flourishing.

A more holistic measure than the one-dimensional unemployment rate or GDP, which only considers economic data, the FPI makes it possible to measure U.S. progress every year and rate states against each other according to how well they are providing an environment for families to flourish.

Rhode Island is just the second state in the nation to roll-out a detailed state-specific FPI report.