House Economic Development Bills and the General Assembly Freedom Index

In light of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s release of its 2013 General Assembly Freedom Index Snapshot the day after the Rhode Island House of Representatives passed its leadership’s economic development package, a note joining the two may edify the public.

In short, we believe that the six bills that passed the House (now to proceed to the Senate) will have an overall negative effect on Rhode Island’s economic and civic well-being. The three negative bills are:

  • 6063-SubA: to create an Executive Office of Economic Development to oversee multiple state governments, including Business Regulation, Labor and Training, and others, and coordinate all government activities affecting the state’s economy. The office would be run by a new Secretary of Economic Development appointed by the governor.
  • 6071: to change the Economic Development Corp. into the Commerce Corp. and increase its reporting requirements to the General Assembly. The legislation would also add a layer of supervision, with a new Secretary of Commerce appointed by the governor having final authority and a chief operating officer running the day-to-day operations.
  • 6068-SubA: to create a “Rapid Rhody lending program” within the proposed commerce corporation to offer fast financing to small businesses that have been operating in the state for a year and promise to remain for another two years.

All of these bills would consolidate economic authority — increasing power to dictate the direction of the state’s economic activity — within the hands of a small group of largely unelected government officials. The third of the bills would do so by providing taxpayer resources to government agents to hand out to select businesses, which would both socialize the risk of those businesses’ not succeeding and interfere with the market forces that allow an economy to move its resources where they can do the most good.

The three other bills in the package, we view as likely to be inconsequential:

  • 6069-SubA: to require each new gubernatorial administration to create an Economic Development Planning Council with at least 15 members chosen from inside and outside of government to plan economic policy for the state.
  • 6070-SubAaa: to create a Council of Economic Advisors with nine members appointed by the governor to advise him or her on matters related to economic policy and to publish reports and analysis.
  • 6067: to create a state business development center within the proposed commerce corporation that would “provide a concierge-level of call service” to walk businesses through government requirements and possibly offer business-to-business services.

A handful of legislators did vote against some of these six bills, and it did have an effect on their rankings, with the top and bottom 10 now as follows:

House
Top 10 Bottom 10
1 Chippendale -19.4 75 Edwards -83.1
2 Trillo -29.0 74 Williams -80.7
3 Newberry -29.0 73 Valencia -80.7
4 Costa -41.9 72 Slater -80.7
5 Giarrusso -41.9 71 Silva -80.7
6 O’Neill -42.7 70 Shekarchi -80.7
7 Dickinson -47.6 69 Serpa -80.7
8 Morgan -50.0 68 Palangio -80.7
9 San Bento -52.4 67 O’Grady -80.7
10 Nunes -54.8 66 Messier -80.7

 

For bill tracking and descriptions, see Rhode Island Votes.

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