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RHODEMAP-RI DEM FORUM TONIGHT: ‘Make Believe’ Economics Behind State’s Farmland Acquisition Scheme

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 7, 2016
State Farmland-Grab Program Lacks Economic Basis

Could lead to reduced farmland values across the state

Providence, RI — The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity will officially object the RI DEM proposed rules – that will allow the government’s environmental agency to acquire private farmland and resell it at a loss to others who will obey the state’s agenda – when its CEO speaks tonight at a public comment forum at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography.

With multiple concerns about property rights and local governmental sovereignty being infringed upon by this state program that was designed to advance a federal agenda, the Center’s comments, to be delivered by Mike Stenhouse, will focus on the economic non-sustainability of the proposed program, at the 5:30pm DEM meeting.

With government increasingly influencing and controlling the means of production through myriad tax-credit, loan, and direct subsidy schemes in a multitude of industries, this DEM farmland acquisition scheme, which will actually acquire and resell private property, is not based on any legitimate economic analysis – or any economic consideration at all – that the Center is aware of. Despite the fact that the state’s own Commerce Corporate demanded a ‘RhodeMapRI’ mandate be inserted into the DEM plan, no economic justification was provided.

“If the state of Rhode Island is truly concerned about preserving farmland and agricultural farming, it should develop policies that will make it easier and more profitable for every farmer by reducing excessive taxation and regulatory mandates,” suggested Stenhouse. “There are free-market alternatives that should be considered, as opposed to this obvious lurch towards centralized-planning and further government intervention in the private sector.”

Stenhouse, who earned an Economics degree from Harvard University, will make a number of economic observations as objections to a plan that he will say is based on ‘make believe economics’ and that could lead to adverse consequences for the state’s farmers and taxpayers.

The Center will release a more complete version of its economic analysis tomorrow, following the meeting.

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10 Multi-partisan Policy Principles to Improve on RI’s 48th Ranking in Family Prosperity

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 6, 2016
Multi-partisan Policy Recommendations to Improve Family Prosperity and Upward Mobility

Offers public policy ideas for 2016 State candidates to consider

Providence, RI — With statewide elections in just two months, voters must consider whether a turnover in elected officials is necessary to to see a turnover in public policies that may actually improve their families’ prosperity.

Ranking just 48th on the national Family Prosperity Index (FPI) published earlier this year, the broadest available measure of family well-being, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity (Center) today published a summary of the state’s rankings in dozens of FPI categories along with a set of policy principles that lawmakers are encouraged to consider.

“What if we were to realize that the status quo public policy approach, as well-intended as it may be, in reality, has had the unintended consequence of reducing the overall prosperity of our Rhode Island families,” suggested Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO.”The FPI research clearly demonstrates that cultural, social, and demographic factors must also be considered, in addition to economic factors, when formulating effective public policy.”

The Center maintains that a new public policy approach – an approach that considers the whole person, not just his/her material needs – and that takes the best ideas from across the political spectrum – is required to improve the lives of Ocean State families and individual taxpayers.

The two page policy brief provides a color coded summary of the Ocean State’s rankings. As part of its 48th place ranking among all states, Rhode Island: ranked in the bottom-third in 5 of the 6 major categories, and 18 of the 30 sub-categories; ranked in the middle-third in 1 of 6 major categories and 8 sub-categories; and in the top-third in zero major categories and just 4 sub-categories. The state’s worst rankings are in the major category of Family Demographics, where it ranks red in all 5 sub-categories.

To directly address these problems the Center has developed 10 guiding policy principles that candidates should debate this fall and that lawmakers should consider in the 2017 session. “The solution for our families is not about corporate welfare to targeted ‘advanced industries,’ but rather broad-based policies that enhance opportunity for every family and business,” continued Stenhouse.

In this regard, the Center’s ten policy principles include ideas from the playbooks of both the right and the left. “A new spirit of across-the-aisle and civic cooperation is required if our state government is to effectively serve its constituents. Additionally, community, religious and business leaders also have a very important role to play as public policy cannot address many of the problems Rhode Island must overcome if our families are to improve their chances of upward mobility,” concluded Stenhouse.

Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), July 2016: Ocean State Up a Step (For Now)

The notable development with the July Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) is that Rhode Island edged past New York to claim the rank of 47 out of 50 states in the nation. Eight of 13 datapoints were new this month. The Ocean State even managed to narrow its gap with the New England and U.S. averages slightly. Although, the state remained in last place in the region by a significant margin.

All updated metrics improved for Rhode Island. Employment was up 1,428 from the previously recorded number, labor force up 1,721, and RI-based jobs up 2,500. (Note that employment numbers are subject to heavy revision.) Medicaid enrollment decreased by 2,129, while TANF decreased by 805. Also updated, this month, were the alternative measures of unemployment calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, now covering the second quarter of 2016. Long-term unemployment was down 1,200, marginally attached Rhode Islanders down 700, and people involuntarily part-time employed (rather than full time) decreased 2,400.

The first chart shows the six New England states in the national race. Rhode Island was the only state to see an increase in actual overall JOI score, although New Hampshire did advance to 3rd place in the country, as North Dakota slipped. Connecticut fell three spaces, to 36th, but Maine, Vermont, and Massachusetts held their spots at 17th, 19th, and 37th, respectively.

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The second chart shows the gap between Rhode Island and New England and the United States. By contrast, Rhode Island’s gap increased on unemployment rate, holding steady while the New England and U.S. rates dropped a little (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 moved forward five slots to 38th place.
  • 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 still ranks 46th, with no data points updated.
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Scorecard of Lawmakers’ 38 Studios Voting Record Since 2010

Despite johnny-come-lately calls from many lawmakers for the release of documents from the government’s 38 Studios Investigation, 81 of the 113 sitting General Assembly lawmakers graded an “F” on their related voting records. This according to a special edition 38 Studios Legislator Scorecard published today by the  nonpartisan RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, which documented and scored legislative votes on 15 related bills, amendments, and budgets since 2010.

“The public is outraged that there has been zero accountability on this issue,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “Where the state government has failed to provide any transparency by releasing the 38 Studios documents, our Center is offering its own version of transparency by publishing this scorecard.”

While most 38 Studios votes have occurred in the House, and while many lawmakers have not served long enough to vote on all related bills over the 7-session period, each of the 178 Representatives and Senators who made a 38 Studios specific vote or who voted on a budget that included a 38 Studios bond payment was rated on the scorecard.

THE 19 WORST: With an opportunity to score between (-29) and +29, the worst pro 38 Studios/anti-taxpayer offenders among those with maximum opportunity to vote on such bills, were Representatives Corvese, DeSimone, Diaz, Edwards, Fellela, Handy, Jacquard, Kennedy, Malik, Mattiello, McNamara, Melo, Naughton, Ruggiero, Serpa, Slater, Ucci, Williams, and Winfield – each of whom graded an “F” and scored a negative (-25) or (-24).

THE 3 BEST: With a similar opportunity to score between (-26) and +26, the best anti 38 Studios/pro taxpayer advocates were Representatives Chippendale, Giarusso, and Morgan – each of whom graded an “A+” and scored a positive +24.

Overall, of the 178 lawmakers, 132 graded an F, 10 a D, 8 a C, 6 a B, and 14 an A. Five Senators did register a score, but did not receive a letter grade, because they took no specific 38 Studio related vote, even if they voted on one or more related state budgets or were absent for the initial loan guarantee program vote. Similarly, three 2010 Representatives did not receive a grade, as their only score was based on a single bill that they were not present to vote on.

“Many people might consider it extremely hypocritical for any lawmaker who rated an F or D on this scorecard for their past record to now jump on the band-wagon by calling for the Attorney General or Governor to release the documents,” suggested Stenhouse. “As we approach the November elections, we’re providing voters with the voting records of their elected officials so they can decide whether or not to hold them accountable.”

The full 38 Studios scorecard for all lawmwakers, the scoring and grading methodology, a description of the bills in question, and the bill-by-bill voting record can be reviewed by clicking here.

Center supports Representatives’ call for DEM to reschedule ‘redistribution of land’ meeting

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 17, 2016
Center supports Representatives’ call for DEM to reschedule “redistribution of land” workshop
Calls for rigorous public debate on proposed new regulations that could lead to potential ’eminent domain’ abuse.

Providence, RI — As it has forewarned for years about the potential for eminent-domain abuse in its multi-year battle against the RhodeMapRI agenda, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity (Center) applauds the call yesterday by Representative Sherry Roberts for the DEM or the Governor to cancel the DEM workshop planned for this evening to review new “Farmland Acquisition” rules.

“We commend Representative Roberts and her colleague in the House Minority Caucus who took heed of our Center’s alert earlier this week and are taking action to protect farmers,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “It is an unethical ploy that the public meeting to review these new anti-farmer regulations was scheduled at the exact same time when most farmers would be busy participating in the Washington County Fair. This government-by-stealth approach is not an exercise in good government.”

On the heels of a lawsuit filed against the RI Office of the Attorney General to release documents related to its attempts to criminalize political dissent against the President’s radical climate change agenda, the Center supports the Representatives’ call for a halt to this DEM initiative that would also advance the same climate change or sustainable development agenda.

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Brookings Land Acquisition Recommendation

Part of the RhodeMapRI strategy and consistent with the 2016 Brookings Institution plan for Rhode Island, “the DEM agenda apparently seeks to set the regulations for how it can be authorized to seize farmland from its private owners and redistribute it to others who will develop the land the way the government wants,” continued Stenhouse. “This land grab plan is ripe for abuse, and serious questions must be addressed. This process has to be slowed down to allow for a legitimate public debate that includes all interested parties.”

The Center is alarmed that the “State Farmland Acquisition Advisory Council” appears to be transitioning to become a broker of private property. Further, the Center demands that the DEM clarify in detail how it will interpret and implement its vague standard for seizing private property; currently stated as – “a reasonable probability … (of) farmland in danger of converting out of agriculture”. Such statewide authority could be a back-door to eminent domain abuse and could infringe on what would traditionally be local zoning decisions.

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Who Voted FOR & AGAINST A 38 Studios Special Investigation

At their July 29, 2016 press conference, the RI Attorney General and the State Police did not release the names of those officials who may have acted in an unethical political manner in the 38 Studios debacle, nor did they release related documents.

Now, many politicians are calling for the release of the documents. Yet, just six weeks earlier, many of these same lawmakers VOTED AGAINST legislation to initiate a special independent 38 Studios investigation.

On June 15, 2016, Representative Patricia Morgan (R-Coventry, West Warwick) submitted the following amendment to the RI state budget in order to fund a special prosecutor. You can see below who voted FOR or AGAINST finding the truth about the 38 Studios scandal:

 

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RI Energy Mandates Will Continue to Harm State Economy, Perpetuates Cronyism

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MEDIA RELEASE

June 13, 2016

RI Families Once Again Left Out of State Budget

RI Renewable Energy Mandates Create Poor Cost-Benefit Value. Families and businesses to lose again.
Local Wind Developer to Receive Unprecedented Crony Hand-out off Backs of Average Rhode Islander? 

Providence, RI — Investing in state mandates for renewable energy, currently and potentially on the books in Rhode Island, will provide an extremely poor return for Ocean State taxpayers and ratepayers, and may only serve to perpetuate a culture of crony corporatism. This according to the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, which today released a comprehensive report analyzing the cost-benefit of meeting such mandates in future years.

The report, Renewable Energy in Rhode Island, is based on detailed research by a national energy expert, Dr. Timothy J. Considine. Subtitled Big Cost, Little Difference, the report’s major findings, if Rhode Island were to ramp up its renewable energy production to meet existing mandates, include:

  • Rhode Island has a relatively low carbon footprint, as 98% of its energy generation is based on natural gas production
  • Major investment will be required to achieve a minor abatement in that carbon footprint, if the state is to meet its existing (and potentially increased) renewable energy mandates. This poor cost-benefit ratio is well below EPA recommended standards
  •  An artificial rise of 13-18% in electricity rates, leading six to eight hundred million dollars extracted from the private sector because of government mandated higher energy costs, are some the anticipated consequences of maintaining the state’s dubious energy policies
  • Four to six thousand jobs could be lost overall as a result of these consequences, despite the few hundred ‘green’ jobs created, which will place further downward pressure on the state’s already dismal 48th ranking on the national Jobs and Opportunity Index

The report also details a number of bills, whose fate is yet to be decided in this legislative session, that would advance or extend renewable energy mandates, potentially exacerbating the negative economic impacts cited in the report.

Additionally, of relevant concern to the ongoing controversy of legislative grants and cronyism in the state, is an Article 18 provision in the proposed 2017 budget, that would give millions of dollars in subsidies to an insider wind energy developer who has made significant campaign donations to state political leaders. The Providence Journal today published an article on this potential ‘pay-to-play’ scandal, which National Grid claims would make Rhode Island the only state in the nation to hand-out subsidies of this nature

“Our state’s self-destructive energy policies represent an extraordinarily poor value for ratepayers, taxpayers and for our state’s economy,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “To make matters worse, like so many other big-government programs, insider developers are poised to profit off the backs of the average family and small business owner.”

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The Corrupt 38 Studios Story: Center Renews Call For An Independent Investigation


What the hell is going on in our state? As Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have been claiming for a long time, the system is rigged.

In a lawsuit just this week, the RI OAG was petitioned to release documents they have been hiding related to their collusion to shut down national climate change debate … and now today we find out that he has created a legal shield to hide the identity of those involved in the 38 Studios debacle.

After a 4 year investigation, the public knows nothing more about the corrupt 38 Studios story. For years it has been the position of the Center that the political implications were equally, if not MORE IMPORTANT than any potential criminal implications.

It is an outrageous turn of events that the rigged system that favors insiders will not release the names of those officials who acted in an unethical political manner.

Even though there are no criminal charges, this does not give the ruling elite the right to cover-up the identity of those officials who knew ahead of time, and deny the public their right to hold them politically accountable.

Today, as the many good government groups called for a year ago, I renew our call for the Governor to make good on her campaign promise to initiate an independent investigation .. not with a criminal objective, but with a political ethics objective.

With the new House Oversight chair also doing the bidding of political insiders in stating that she will not further pursue the 38 Studios charges, the public has the right to know the full 38 Studios story.

Look what happened to Rep. Carnevale when his residency lies were exposed. Those who lied to the Rhode Island people and to lawmakers in 2010 similarly need to be held accountable.

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Center Claims 38 Studios Political Whitewash as Outrageous; Renews Call for Independent Investigation

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 29, 2016
Center Demands Release of Names. Lack of Criminal Accountability Should Not Mean Lack of Political Accountability for “officials who knew”.

Providence, RI —  The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity decried the unwillingness of the Rhode Island State Police and the Office of Attorney General to release the names of those “officials who knew” ahead of time that the money designated by the General Assembly was earmarked for the fateful 38 Studios scheme.

The Center renews the call it and other good government groups made last year for the Governor to conduct an independent investigation.

The Center for years has maintained that the true accountability for the 38 Studios scandal was likely to be more of a political nature than of a criminal nature. The political cover-up seen today should not be accepted because there were no criminal charges.

While the Center trusts the judgment of the State Police and the AG not to recommend or file criminal charges, it is “outrageous that they would participate in a political whitewash by not releasing the names of those officials,” argued Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “The larger lesson of this debacle, which our Center has also consistently maintained, is that insider corporate welfare deals such as 38 Studios -deals perpetuated even more vigorously on a smaller level by the current administration – are not a legitimate approach to economic development. It is now time for the Governor to make good on her promise to initiate an independent investigation – a political investigation.”

The Center also questions whether all 38 Studios investigations and questioning occurred via the secret grand jury deliberations; whether or not any other information was independently obtained; whether the grand jury was part of the original plan to give legal cover to unethically involved politicians; and whether the technicality of keeping the case open is just a furtherance of that legal cover.

Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), June 2016: Movement in the New England Neighborhood

For the June Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), nine out of 13 datapoints had new numbers, leading to some more-significant changes than usual… although not in Rhode Island, which remains stagnant. Even where the Ocean State’s underlying results were positive, its position relative to the rest of the country worsened, leaving no change in its rankings, including its 48th overall position. For comparison, the state’s unemployment rate slipped one rank, to 37th.

The three monthly employment datapoints saw improvement, with employment up 369, labor force up 791, and RI-based jobs up 1,700. However, these still appear to be oscillating around stagnation. Medicaid enrollment increased by 2,043 from the prior period, while SNAP decreased by 794 and TANF by 677. Rhode Islanders’ personal income increased $751 million in the first quarter of 2016 over the prior quarter, but state and local taxes increased $61 million over the same period, representing an increase in the percentage of income absorbed by government.

The first chart shows the six New England states in the national race. Maine and Vermont both managed increases in overall JOI score, with a reduction in state and local taxes moving Maine to the second slot in New England, or 17th place nationally, to Vermont’s 19th. New Hampshire slipped to 4th place nationally on the strength of an increase in state and local taxes (which may have been a change in property tax reporting more than actual collections). Connecticut moved up to 33rd, and Massachusetts stayed in its slot at 37th.

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Overall, the gap between Rhode Island’s JOI score and the New England and national averages decreased in June. When it comes to the unemployment rate, Rhode Island gained ground with both (third chart).

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Results for the three underlying JOI factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (measuring optimism adequate work is available): RI remained at 43rd.
  • Freedom Factor (measuring the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI still ranks 39th.
  • Prosperity Factor (measuring the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI still ranks 46th.

[Click here for a printable PDF, with a table of all states’ results.]