The Rhode Island Center For Freedom & Prosperity

Center Announces Election of Dr. Stephen Skoly as Chairman

Dr. Skoly, well-known state advocate, assumes Chairmanship

Providence, RI — The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity announced today that Dr. Stephen Skoly was selected in July by its Board of Directors to become Chairman of the organization following the resignation of its former Chairman, Mike Riley, who stepped-down to pursue his candidacy for state Treasurer.

Skoly, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon, is well known among many lawmakers for his research and testimony over the years on many legislative issues, especially pertaining to healthcare policy. Skoly joined the Center’s board in late 2017.

“For years I have been impressed with the great work of the Center. I value the importance of this organization in providing an alternative voice to the entrenched status quo. I look forward to growing the Center to become an even more influential organization in our state,” said Skoly, who also produces independent films and documentaries, some of which are currently available on Netflix. “Rhode Island is positioned historically and geographically to produce far better outcomes for our residents than we are currently experiencing. As recent federal reforms have proven, if more families are to lead more independent and prosperous lives, the Center’s free-enterprise policy ideas must receive more serious attention from lawmakers.”

Skoly has also pledged to help lead the Center’s goal to raise awareness among public employees about their restored First-Amendment rights following the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ‘Janus’ decision in June. “Public employees deserve to know their rights; and we have already seen that unions and their government allies will not adequately inform them,” added Skoly.

Skoly’s production company was responsible for creating the popular “Sea Rhode Island” video ad, created at a fraction of the cost, as an alternative to the State’s “Cooler-Warmer” debacle.

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity has submitted a public comment on the proposed change to prevent portions of Medicaid payments to third parties for benefits. This change would have dramatic results on the home care unionization rule.

Center Submits Public Comment On Rule Change To Protect The Home Care Industry From Attempted Unionization

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity has submitted a public comment on the proposed rule that would remove a state’s ability to reassign portions of Medicaid payments to third parties for benefits such as health insurance, skills training, and other benefits customary for employees. 

From: “no-reply@regulations.gov” <no-reply@regulations.gov>
To: mstenhouse@rifreedom.org
Sent: 8/6/2018 12:24:20 PM
Subject: Your Comment Submitted on Regulations.gov (ID: CMS-2018-0090-0001)

Regulations LogoYour comment was submitted successfully!

Comment Tracking Number: 1k2-94p4-ty5d

Agency: Centers for Medicare Medicaid Services (CMS)

Document Type: Rulemaking
Title: Medicaid Program: Reassignment of Medicaid Provider Claims: CMS-2413-P
Document ID: CMS-2018-0090-0001

Comment:
The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, a 501-C-3 public policy think tank in Rhode Island, respectfully submits comment in support of the proposed rule that would remove the regulatory text at 42 CFR 447.10(g)(4) that allows a state to reassign portions of a provider’s payment to third parties for benefits such as health insurance, skills training, and other benefits customary for employees.

Our comment uses as an example a real-life scenario made possible by 2018 Rhode Island legislation that was signed into law earlier this year … allowing for attempted unionization of the home care industry. This private industry in our state, which now successfully provides vital services, could be decimated.

This proposed Medicaid Provider Reassignment Regulation Proposed Rule, would mean that the government can no longer aid unions in their attempt to skim dues from precious Medicaid dollars, intended for the care of our loved ones.


In Rhode Island, about 7500 or so private home care workers are already represented by about 45 private-employer agencies as well as by a statewide association, the RI Partnership for Homecare. These service providers do not consider themselves to be government workers and most of these workers do NOT want to become a quasi-government employee.

The Rhode Island Partnership for Home Care, which oversees most of these private agencies, believes that government-run home care would destabilize the industry.
It is also morally unjust that federal dollars, earmarked for home care services, could have dues automatically siphoned-off by state government unions from workers’ paychecks, then transferred to the unions, with some of the funds ending-up in the political campaign coffers of SEIU. If the proposed rule is enacted, it would be just and proper that 100% of the allocated federal funding for home care services should first go to the workers; and it would then be up to the unions to collect dues – on their own – from those who freely choose to join.Earlier this summer, after a major push by SEIU and other progressive activists, legislation that had been on the back burner was rammed through Rhode Island’s General Assembly and signed by the Governor. This new law could transfer control of the home care services industry from the private sector to the government and its union allies. This proposed rule, by removing the government as its potential partner, would create less of an incentive for SEIU to attempt to unionize this industry.At the same time, the burden on state taxpayers would rise, as the government would surely provide frivolous and unnecessary benefits to allow unions to offer a more compelling reason to unionize.

The new law in Rhode Island seeks to lure home care workers, most of whom are now employed under a successfully operating private ‘agency’ system, to register with the government, becoming quasi-public employees, with their names and other personal information then to be turned over to SEIU labor bosses for the purposes of unionization efforts. A very similar approach was taken in 2013 to unionize the home child care industry; since then, union negotiated – and taxpayer funded – costs to support this industry have since risen dramatically.

This new Rhode Island law is a blatant money and power grab by unions that would crush a smoothly performing private agency system that is providing high quality home care to elderly, Medicaid, and other patients; and essentially turn over control of this industry to overly politicized and incompetent government bureaucrats. The training standards and strict oversight now required of nursing and other home care professionals would be greatly diminished.

Implementation of this proposed federal rule would remove the likelihood that government could insert itself between patients and their home care service providers.

The Center also points out how implementation of this proposed rule would create additional synergy with the direction that the nation is now heading, following landmark Janus decision, which would end the forced unionization and fee payments by public employees. As our country moves towards more freedom and less governmental control over our lives, Americans are experiencing renewed levels of prosperity. Enactment of this rule would maintain this momentum by keeping our state’s home care industry smoothly running under private management and away from the inefficiencies of the political elite and their special-interest allies.

The until-recently unimaginable 4+% growth in national GDP report today should provide a beacon and a wake-up call to voters and to all Rhode Island candidates for office this fall.

Center Challenges Gubernatorial Candidates Following Dynamic 4.1% U.S. GDP Report

Conservative Polices Produce Rapid Economic Growth

Will politicians recognize and learn lessons from federal reforms?

Providence, RI – The until-recently unimaginable 4+% growth in national GDP report today should provide a beacon and a wake-up call to voters and to all candidates for office this fall, according to the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity.

“For eight years, progressive-left politicians have told us that the ‘new normal’ for economic growth would be limited to the 2% range,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “And for years, our Center and other free-market advocates argued that major tax and regulatory reductions would reverse this course and lead to rapid economic growth; meaning more money and prosperity for families. After today’s 4.1% GDP growth report, there can no longer be any doubt that we were right.”

The Center has repeatedly challenged state lawmakers to #WalkAway from the leftist polices that have kept our Ocean State in the bottom-six on many broad national indexes, including the CNBC business climate, the Family Prosperity Index, and the Jobs & Opportunity Index.

Over the past 18 months, the optimism and growth resulting from the implementation of pro-business and conservative policies at the federal level stand in stark contrast to the stagnation we experienced from liberal and progressive policies: Unemployment rates among virtually all demographic groups are at or near all time lows; personal incomes are rising; and manufacturing jobs that the the left told us were extinct are roaring back by the hundreds of thousands.

We can amplify these results in Rhode Island if we adopt similar polices. However, the Center is concerned that no gubernatorial candidate is providing the bold vision and leadership to achieve this goal. Instead, some candidates offer timid prescriptions, while others seek to take our state backward with failed progressive-socialist schemes.

The Center also challenges voters to demand that candidates clearly articulate their core philosophies: “Are they in favor of rowing our state’s boat with the successful national tide … or against it? Are they for more freedom & unbounded opportunity for prosperity … or are they for more government-control and limited expectations,” suggested Stenhouse.

Center Warns of Litigation in Effort to Unionize Home Care Professionals

Government and Unions Must Comply with New Legal Realities

As nation moves toward freedom, Rhode Island seeks to increase government control over our lives

Political Money & Power Grab by Unions Would Threaten Patient Safety

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 26, 2018

Providence, RI – The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity warns SEIU and the state government that it could face legal peril if they do not fully comply with the new federal restrictions expected to be in place this fall, as it pertains to the attempted unionization of the home care industry.

“The landmark Janus decision by the US Supreme Court, combined with the expected implementation of the Medicaid Provider Reassignment Regulation Proposed Rule by the federal government, means public employees can no longer be forced to support the political agenda of their designated union. It also means the government can no longer aid unions in their attempt to skim dues from precious Medicaid dollars, intended for the care of our loved ones.” explained Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center.

Stenhouse, earlier this month, attended a national symposium in Washington, DC, where it was highlighted that many legal organizations are actively looking for precedent-setting lawsuit cases if unions or their government allies do not comply with the new restrictions on how government unions may collect dues.

Outrageously, in the past and for now, federal dollars earmarked for home care services, could have dues automatically siphoned-off by the state government unions from workers’ paychecks, then transferred to the unions, with some of the funds ending-up in the political campaign coffers of SEIU. If the proposed rule is enacted, 100% of the allocated home care funding must first go to the workers; and it would then be up to the unions to collect dues – on their own – from those who freely choose to join.

“It’s a whole new ballgame,” continued Stenhouse. “And history has demonstrated in other states, unions and their bought-and-owned politician friends, will seek to bend the rules to their advantage. However, many of us are now on watch, and doing so could lead to serious legal ramifications.”

Earlier this summer, after a major push by SEIU and other progressive activists, legislation  was rammed through the General Assembly and signed by the Governor, that would transfer control of the home care services industry from the private sector to the government and its union allies.

The legislation would seek to lure home care workers, most of whom are now employed under a successfully operating private ‘agency’ system, to register with the government, becoming quasi-public employees, with their names and other personal information then to be turned over to SEIU labor bosses for the purposes of unionization efforts. A very similar approach was taken in 2013 to unionize the home child care industry; since then, union negotiated – and taxpayer funded – costs to support this industry have risen dramatically.

The Rhode Island Partnership for Home Care, which oversees most of these private agencies, believes that government-run home care would destabilize the industry.

“This is a blatant money and power grab by unions that would crush a smoothly performing private agency system that is providing high quality home care to elderly, Medicaid, and other patients; and essentially turn over control of this industry to overly politicized and incompetent government bureaucrats,”said Stenhouse in June. “The training standards and strict oversight now required of nursing and other home care professionals would be greatly diminished. Why would we want to put government in between patients and their home care service providers?”

The Center also pointed out the incongruity of this legislation and the direction that the nation is heading, following landmark Janus decision, which would end the forced unionization and fee payments of public employees. “Once again, while America is moving towards more freedom and less governmental control over our lives, Rhode Island wants to move in the opposite direction, consolidating centralized-control and planning under the political elite and their special-interest allies,” concluded Stenhouse.

Jobs & Opportunity Index June 2018

Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), June 2018: Employment Without Profit

Rhode Island’s 47th place ranking on the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) remains intact. However, of the seven (of 12) datapoints that were updated for the June report, only the three related to Bureau of Labor Statistics jobs and employment research were positive. Additionally, SNAP (foodstamp) data remains unchanged for Rhode Island because of “system reporting issues” since January 2017.

On the positive side, employment was up from the first-reported number for May by 1,631, while labor force was up 860. The larger growth of employment than labor force translated into a drop of the unemployment rate to 4.3%. RI-based jobs increased by 2,100.

On the negative side, Medicaid enrollment increased 956. Annualized personal income (including investments) fell $307 million, while state and local taxes increased $53 million. Rhode Islnad was one of only four states to see personal income actually fall with the latest report.

These discouraging results, however, were not enough to bring down any sub-index rankings, and the Freedom Factor went up (see below).

The first chart shows RI still in the last position in New England, 47th on the in the country on the Jobs & Opportunity Index June 2018. New Hampshire still leads the region, but fell to 3rd place, nationally, with Utah joining Wyoming in the top 2. Every other New England state held steady, with Maine at 15th, Vermont at 21st, Massachusetts at 34th, and Connecticut at 37th.

Jobs & Opportunity Index June 2018

The second chart shows the gap between RI and New England and the United States on JOI. The third chart shows the gaps in the official unemployment rate. In all cases, the Ocean State lost ground.

Jobs & Opportunity Index June 2018

Results for the three underlying JOI factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (optimism that adequate work is available): RI remained 22nd.
  • Freedom Factor (the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI improved one place,
    to 41st.
  • Prosperity Factor (the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI remained 47th.

Click here for the corresponding employment post on the Ocean State Current.

The Janus case could provide right-to-work protection for all public employees in the country. Right-to-work means a union cannot get a worker fired for not paying dues or fees.

STATEMENT: Center Applauds SCOTUS Ruling on Janus case; Public Education to Benefit

More Worker Freedom From Janus Case Will Lead to Reduction in Union Power

Public Education Should be Greatest Beneficiary of Janus Case

Providence, RI — According to the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, today’s landmark decision in the Janus case, which grants workplace freedom to public employees, means that public unions will have significantly less power and money to block legislation and influence elections. “The greatest public benefit will be improvement in public education,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “Many education reforms that would improve schools in disadvantaged communities are prevented by union collective bargaining agreements. If unions are no longer able to force teachers who disagree with them to fund their bargaining positions, unions will have less power to impose ineffective policies into contracts.”

#WorkerFreedom

The Center opposes legislation that would lead to the unionization of the home care industry. If enacted, the safety of patients would be put at risk, while Rhode Island families and businesses would be forced to pay higher taxes to support exorbitant union demands.

Center Opposes Legislation to Force Unionization of Home Care Professionals

Political Money & Power Grab by Unions Would Threaten Patient Safety

Citizens concerned about the care of their loved ones can contact their lawmakers online

Forced SEIU unionization would fly in the face of expected U.S. Supreme Court ruling

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 19, 2018

Providence, RI – The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity opposes legislation that would lead to the unionization of the home care industry, against the will of the nurse assistants and other professionals currently providing services to home-based patients. If enacted, the safety of patients would be put at risk, while Rhode Island families and businesses would be forced to pay higher taxes to support exorbitant union demands.

Outrageously, some of these higher taxes, intended for home care services, would be siphoned-off by unions, and will end-up in the political campaign coffers of SEIU.

According to the Center’s sources, H7803 may soon be resurrected from its “held for further study” status and will be re-considered following a major push by SEIU and other progressive activists who are seeking to give government control over the home care services industry. S2734 Sub-A was passed by the entire Senate in late May.

The legislation would force all home care workers, most of whom are employed under a successfully operating private ‘agency’ system, to register with the government, becoming quasi-public employees, with their names and other personal information then to be turned over to SEIU labor bosses for the purposes of unionization efforts. A very similar approach was taken in 2013 to unionize the home child care industry; since then, union negotiated – and taxpayer funded – costs to support this industry have risen dramatically.

Concerned citizens are requested to support an online ‘contact your lawmaker’ drive against the legislation, spurred by the Rhode Island Partnership for Home Care, which believes that government-run home care would destabilize the industry.

“This is a blatant money and power grab by unions that would crush a smoothly performing private agency system that is providing high quality home care to elderly, Medicaid, and other patients; and essentially turn over control of this industry to overly politicized and incompetent government bureaucrats,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “The training standards and strict oversight now required of nursing and other home care professionals would be greatly diminished. Why would we want to put government in between patients and their home care service providers?”

The Center also points out the incongruity of this legislation and the direction that the nation may soon be taking, following next week’s expected U.S. Supreme Court decision in the landmark Janus case, which would end the forced unionization and fee payments of public employees. “Once again, while America is moving towards more freedom and less governmental control over our lives, Rhode Island wants to move in the opposite direction, consolidating centralized-control and planning under the political elite and their special-interest allies,” warned Stenhouse.

Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), May 2018: What There Is Is Positive

Although Rhode Island remained in 47th place on the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), the four (of 12) datapoints that were updated for the May report were positive. Unfortunately, one datapoint was not updated for Rhode Island even though it was updated for every other state. The latest SNAP (foodstamp) table from the federal Food and Nutrition Service added a new footnote highlighting that “system reporting issues” have meant no new RI numbers since January 2017.

Turning to the numbers that are available: Employment was up from the first-reported number for April, by 1,489, while labor force was up 1,117. RI-based jobs increased, as well, by 1,000. Medicaid enrollment improved from the previously reported number, with a decrease of 1,281.

The first chart right shows RI still in the last position in New England, 47th in the country. Regional leader New Hampshire is still in 2nd place, nationally, behind Wyoming. Maine made progress toward the nation’s top 10, up two steps to 15th, while Vermont remained in 21st place. Massachusetts managed to return to the 34th slot that it had lost last month. Meanwhile, Connecticut held on to 37th.

Rhode Island remained in 47th place on the Jobs & Opportunity Index May 2018. Unfortunately, one datapoint was not updated for Rhode Island even though it was updated for every other state. The latest SNAP (foodstamp) table added a new footnote highlighting that “system reporting issues” have meant no new RI numbers.

The second chart shows the gap between RI and New England and the United States on Jobs & Opportunity Index May 2018. In both cases, the Ocean State gained a little ground. The same was true of the official unemployment rate, shown in the third chart.

Rhode Island remained in 47th place on the Jobs & Opportunity Index May 2018. Unfortunately, one datapoint was not updated for Rhode Island even though it was updated for every other state. The latest SNAP (foodstamp) table added a new footnote highlighting that “system reporting issues” have meant no new RI numbers.

Rhode Island remained in 47th place on the Jobs & Opportunity Index May 2018. Unfortunately, one datapoint was not updated for Rhode Island even though it was updated for every other state. The latest SNAP (foodstamp) table added a new footnote highlighting that “system reporting issues” have meant no new RI numbers.

Results for the three underlying Jobs & Opportunity Index May 2018 factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (optimism that adequate work is available): RI improved one place, to 22nd.
  • Freedom Factor (the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI remained 42nd.
  • Prosperity Factor (the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI remained 47th.

Click here for the corresponding employment post on the Ocean State Current.

Rhode Island lawmakers - female and male - experienced first-hand the safety and fun of natural hair braiding at a cultural exhibition yesterday at the State House.

Center Calls on Senate to Act after House Unanimously Passes Hair-Braider Freedom Bill

Will Senate Continue to Block This No-Brainer Legislation?

Second year in-a-row Legislation receives unanimous House vote!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 15, 2018

Providence, RI – For the second straight year, the Senate is on the spot to act on hair-braider freedom legislation passed unanimously by the House. In 2017, they failed. The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity calls on the Senate to remove the unfair regulations that prevent low-income families from legally earning additional income – or a living – through the practice of the safe craft of natural hair-braiding.

In a 69-0 vote yesterday, H7565 was passed in the House. An identical bill appears again to be stalled in the Senate. The legislation would exempt natural hair-braiders from the onerous cosmetology licensing mandates that demand thousands of hours of unrelated training and tens of thousands of dollars worth of irrelevant classes.

It is unknown why the Senate is blocking such common-sense legislation, especially given that many other states have recently removed similar protectionist and burdensome measures.

Unlike in 2017, however, there is a Senate companion bill this year, S2323, sponsored by Senator Dawn Euer, who is actively working to overcome the inexplicable hold-up in her chamber. In May, many Senators enjoyed a free and fun natural hair-braid outside their chamber on RI Freedom Braiders Lobbying Day.

“We thank the House for recognizing the obvious and we appreciate the work that Senator Euer continues to invest in attempting to move this no-brainer legislation in the Senate,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “The March Senate Commerce Committee hearing produced no credible opposition to the legislation, but did bring out many current cosmetologists who want to selfishly protect their industry from new competition.”

Despite a large and unexpected revenue windfall and clear policy lesson, resulting from the recent federal tax and regulatory cuts, Rhode Island's political leaders appear to have wasted an opportunity for reform and, instead, are seeking to maintain the status quo in the FY2019 Budget.

FY2019 Budget Graded a “D-” by the Center; a “Wasted Opportunity”

Federal Tax Cut Windfall “Wasted” in Maintaining Status Quo

Lack of job-producing reforms demonstrates lack of vision for a better future for Rhode Islanders!

Providence, RI – Despite a large and unexpected revenue windfall and clear policy lesson, resulting from the recent federal tax and regulatory cuts, Rhode Island’s political leaders appear to have wasted an opportunity for reform and, instead, are seeking to maintain the status quo in the FY2019 Budget.

In lieu of returning tens of millions of windfall revenues to tax-paying families and businesses, the General Assembly’s proposed FY-2019 budget, released late Friday, actually increases spending and does nothing to improve the Ocean State’s dismal business climate. Given that even recent years’ budgets have attempted some minor tax relief, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity has graded the budget as a ‘D-minus’, the same grade it issued last year.

“The lack of vision, in failing to recognize this opportunity to improve our state’s competitive landscape, is disappointing,” exclaimed the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse. “The money to cut taxes was there. Unfortunately, it will be wasted and spent, rather than reinvested in the people of Rhode Island so they can achieve a brighter future.”

Currently, Rhode Island ranks in the bottom-10 on three broad national indexes; overall business climate, the Family Prosperity Index (FPI), and the Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI).

No pro-growth programs. According to the Center’s analysis there are no new, meaningful job-producing or pro-family tax reforms in the proposed budget.

Some transfer or neutral items. The continued phase-out of the hated car-tax for local taxpayers leads directly to offsetting higher tax burdens for families and businesses statewide. The elimination of the governor’s proposed cigarette tax hike, as well as most of her proposed agency “scoops”, are welcomed, but do not lead to any net economic benefit.

Multiple economy-busting items dominate the budget. While there are no major leaps backward, such as single-payer health insurance or a statewide carbon tax, the few positive or neutral items in the budget are more than offset by the many and more substantially negative items, including:

  • Increased budget spending rate of 3.8% ($317 million) is far greater than the rate of inflation and population growth would otherwise suggest.
  • Broadening of the sales tax into new business sectors. Last year it was Amazon and other Internet providers; this year it’s software as a service (SAS) and armored car services – each worsens RI’s overall business climate.
  • $250 million school infrastructure bond – another bailout for municipalities. Once again the state will increase its already high debt burden to provide money to municipal school districts, which themselves have been negligent in managing the already high tax revenues they collect from local taxpayers, by failing to have adequately maintained school buildings.
  • Corporate welfare spending is maintained. Money spent on corporate tax-credit incentives could be re-purposed to reduce corporate taxes, creating a more level playing field.
  • Raises to state government workers, politically motivated in an election year, far exceeds inflation trend (7.5% compensation increase over next 3 years vs 3.5% inflation over past 3 years).
  • Sin taxes becoming more prevalent. Projected sports gambling revenues, as well as dramatically increased medical marijuana dispensary fees, will make it more difficult in the future for the state to reverse policies that incentivize potentially unhealthy social behaviors.