BEST & WORST BILLS of 2016: Big Brother Prescription Bill Among Worst

June 1, 2016

Bill Continues Disturbing Trend of State Collection of Personal and Private Information of RI Residents

Providence, RI — Big-brother intrusion into the private medical records of Rhode Islanders would be advanced by a bill that has already passed the Senate. The bill is ranked as one of the worst bills of the 2016 session by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, which today updated its list of the BEST and WORST bills of the 2016 General Assembly session.
Under the guise of seeking-out potential controlled-substance abuse, S2946A, sponsored by Senator Louis DiPalma (D, Middletown), would authorize the state Department of Health to compile and combine its database of drug prescription patients with other databases, including out of state sources, so that it can analyze the behavior and personal connections of patients and pharmacists.
Considering that two other bills (H7321 and S2231) would monitor where and when Rhode Islanders drive (a contemplated use of the trucker toll gantries), it is a growing and disturbing trend that the Rhode Island government is pro-actively seeking to collect such personal and private information about its residents … creating an almost unlimited potential for abuse.
At a higher level, once again General Assembly lawmakers in 2016 are on track to continue a multi-year, negative trend of public policy that will reduce economic justice for Rhode Islanders. This according to the 2016 General Assembly Freedom Index, an interactive, live tool published by the nonpartisan Center.
Also of note, 14 individual lawmakers currently have scores above zero, while in 2015 not a single Representative or Senator earned a positive score.
Lawmakers and the public are encouraged to visit the Legislation tab on the 2016 Freedom Index to determine the bill rankings for the majority of bills that have been rated, but not yet voted on. The “Summary” tab displays individual lawmaker scores.
Summary: As of May 27, of the 352 bills that have qualified for the index:
  • 256 bills are rated negatively, with only 93 bills receiving a positive score, and 3 yet to receive a rating
  • The negative bills would total a (-398) cumulative score, if all were to be voted on, while the positive bills would produce a +131 score, resulting in a net (-267)overall General Assembly rating
  • Led by Senator John Pagliarini (R, Portsmouth) just 14 of 113 lawmakers can currently boast a positive individual score, consisting of 1 Democrat, 12 Republicans, and 1 Independent; with 3 in the Senate and 11 in the House
Although not all 2016 bills have received final ratings, it is clear that the few positive pieces of legislation are massively outweighed by the much greater number of negative bills, resulting in a net negative impact, as has occurred in all prior years evaluated. The Center notes that not all bills have received final reviews and that the public should check back regularly for updated bill ratings and legislator rankings.
Additional resources are available on the main RI Freedom Index page, including a number of online and interactive tools and information for users, with links to scores from prior years:

Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), April 2016: Slight Improvement, but Slipping Versus Neighbors

Click Here For The .PDF
 (See the full list of state rankings!)

Although the narrow official unemployment rate that Rhode Island politicians prefer to tout puts the state at 35th in the nation, up from 36th, the broader Jobs & Opportunity (JOI) ranking of Rhode Island remained unchanged at 48 among states. With eight of its 13 datapoints’ being updated, including quarterly alternate measures of unemployment, the index did see improvement on the Job Opportunity factor for April, largely because of a reduction of the number of Rhode Islanders at the edges of the labor force, including long-term unemployed, marginally attached, and involuntary part-time.

However, with employment in the Ocean State largely stagnant for the past year, this result may very well be an indicator of the final exit of people who’ve decided that they just can’t make RI work for them. Improvements in the two welfare metrics that were updated, Medicaid and SNAP, could also be otherwise positive developments indicating a trend that is arguably negative. (Note that these metrics lag by three and two months, respectively.)

As one would expect from an index with so many values, changes from month to month are not dramatic, as seen in the first chart, which shows the six New England states in the national race. Even so, Connecticut slipped a rank, to 34, and Vermont advanced one, to 20. New Hampshire held its place at the lead of the nation; Maine kept 22nd; and Massachusetts remained at 37.


Overall, the gap between Rhode Island’s JOI score and the New England average grew in April (see the second chart). That result contrasts with the unemployment rate, with which Rhode Island gained ground within New England (third chart), illustrating the problem with using that common metric as an indicator of economic health.



Results for the three underlying JOI factors were:

  • The Job Outlook Factor (measuring people’s optimism that adequate work is available): RI moved up five steps to 43rd.
  • The Freedom Factor (measuring the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI still ranks 39th, with reductions in welfare rolls being canceled out by lost jobs based in the state.
  • The Prosperity Factor (measuring the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI still ranks 46th, because no underlying data has been updated.

[Click here for a printable PDF.]

Debate Shut Down? Center Blasts House Committee for Passing Flawed Bill that Creates Rigged Housing Commission


April 29, 2016

Enhancements to H7989 Rejected. Misleading and Provocative Language Would Create Affordable Housing Commission Rigged with Biased Members
Hypocrisy from Speaker’s Office Ensures that RhodeMap RI Moves Onward

Providence, RI — It is the mission of the Center to engage in a rigorous and honest debate about important policy issues. Conversely, at least one bill sponsor and her Committee partisans disagree; instead preferring a rigged, one-sided debate, in a demonstrably hypocritical process.

Despite a prior appeal from the Chairman and a motion from other committee members, the House Committee on Municipal Government disregarded fairness and passed a bill that would shut down open and legitimate debate on an issue of great interest to many Rhode Islanders. This after rejecting improvements to the bill as formally suggested by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity.

H7989A, which will soon move receive a full House vote, would create a commission unfairly stacked with affordable housing advocates and without any legitimate representation of property owners, taxpayers or good government groups. Following its testimony on the original bill earlier in the month, the Center was asked by the Chairman, Rep. Robert Craven (D, N. Kingston), to work with the bill sponsor, Rep. Shelby Maldonado (D, Central Falls), to work out an arrangement whereby the nonprofit Center would be allowed to appoint at least one additional commission member. Maldonado rejected the concept, instead choosing to keep alternative voices off of the commission, which might disrupt the commission from reaching its pre-determined conclusions.

Also, despite passionate appeals and a motion from Rep. Blake Filippi (I, New Shoreham) and Rep. Justin Price (R, Exter) for the Center to be able to designate a commission member, the Chairman allowed the Democrat-controlled committee nonetheless to rubber-stamp Maldonado’s bill.

Hypocrisy? Even the legal council for the Speaker’s office was consulted in a ploy to put down the motion. However, both his and the Chairman’s claims that amending the bill in any substantial way, ostensibly by designating the Center to appoint an additional commission member, then immediately voting on bill, might violate the state’s Open Meetings Act. Incredibly, just moments later, the committee passed a sub-A version of the bill that indeed added a new commission member who had the favor of the bill sponsor.

The bill is flawed not only in that it creates an unfair commission membership, but it is also based on a misleading premise, while making unsupported racial implications.

Also rejected by Maldonado, was language suggested by the Center to correct the bill’s inaccurate and inflammatory language. The bill states that multiple localities are not meeting and have disregarded their required “state-mandated” affordable housing “thresholds”. as the Center pointed out in its testimony, no such mandates exist in state law.

The bill language further cites that “institutional” and “discriminatory actions” that limit home ownership must be addressed. The Center called on the sponsor to provide direct evidence of such provocative accusations, or withdraw the language. This appeal was also rejected.

The Center does not oppose the commission concept and welcomes the opportunity for a public debate. However, it is the Center’s position that it is necessary to have a fairly constructed commission that will explore all sides of this controversial topic; and, by virtue of the high level of research and public awareness it has raised on this issue, that the Center has earned a spot on the commission.

The Center maintains that the commission must be designed to properly debate the Brookings Institution, RhodeMap RI, and the federal government’s HUD agendas, as they relate to this topic, which the commission is obviously designed to advance. The Center also believes that the commission’s formation should be premised on accurate and tempered language.

Ironically, the committee’s actions occurred less than one week after Rob Astorino, Executive for Westchester County (NY), the poster-child for HUD infringement on local sovereignty, spoke of HUD’s heavy-handed tactics at a fundraising event for Center in the Chairman’s own district in North Kingstown.

Media Release-ALEC: Governor’s “RI Innovates” Plan by Brookings To Suffer Similar Failure as NY?