Rhode Island Covid-19 Help

Rhode Island COVID-19 Crisis: 30 Public Policy Solutions to Restore Financial and Health Security

In these trying times, with over one-hundred thousand Rhode Islanders recently laid-off, and unemployment rates that could soon reach 30%, common-sense public state-based policy can help mitigate the destructive economic impact of the Rhode Island Covid-19 crisis … and can help restore a sense of normalcy and financial security.

See the list below for the Center’s policy suggestions.

In response to this health crisis that is impacting our lives in so many ways, our state government’s actions to shut down commerce across many industries is inevitably having a crushing impact on small businesses, jobs, and family budgets… creating anxiety and fears among our populace.

On top of the major disruptions to our daily lives, our individual and societal peace of mind has deteriorated, with many Rhode Islanders concerned not just about their health, but also worried about their financial well-being. 

However, leading national voices from across the political spectrum – The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Governor of New York, and the President of the United States – have raised awareness about the need to restore economic activity as part of our nation’s recovery from the coronavirus crisis. 

As the federal government considers various assistance programs, it is vital that Rhode Island’s political leaders also play a positive role in restoring prosperity. It is a historical fact that economic depressions kill people, too… we must not let our Ocean State’s circumstances come to that.

Governor Raimondo has asked the business community for more time and patience as our state’s health care system is strengthened, before the “temporary,” yet major, restrictions on the private sector are lifted. 

The public policy solutions recommended in this paper include a number of smaller, “temporary” solutions that can be implemented – beginning now, while the larger state mandates remain in place – and that should remain in place until our state’s economy is fully recovered.

While the governor asks for the public’s trust, state leaders, likewise, must place trust in the power of the American people – business innovation and individual consumerism, guided by the free-market system – to be the driving force in lifting Rhode Island out of this severe economic crisis.

Specifically, the General Assembly must find a way to convene and govern –  and to consider emergency rescue legislation that balances the need to address the state’s budget with the need to bolster the budgets of families and businesses.

Rhode Island COVID-19 Recovery by #GovernmentDistancing. To aid in Rhode Island’s economic survival and eventual recovery – and to restore confidence about our future among the populace – the Center suggests that there are many ways our state government can take important and symbolic actions in alleviating some of these concerns about our individual and overall financial security. 

The common-sense ‘crisis recovery’ policy ideas recommended in this paper are designed to free-up individuals and employers in the private sector to be able to speed back to the peak employment and income-levels that we saw before the COVID-19 crisis. These solutions are especially beneficial to a state economy that is suffering catastrophic job losses as we have seen in Rhode Island.

Many states across America are aggressively taking or considering similar steps, and Rhode Island must not lag behind. By temporarily suspending certain taxes and regulations that hold back economic growth, by practicing what we call “government distancing,” political leaders can separate unnecessary government burdens from those suffering the most distress … and help clear the way for rapid economic recovery.

In late March, our Center published 10 initial pro-active policy recommendations. The Center continues to add to its list of policies, and we’re now up to 30. The newest suggestions are in bold, and policies that have been implemented are italicized. Explanations of the policies follow the list.

Business operations

  • Eliminate any state or local inspections required before re-opening a business that was temporarily closed due to COVID-19.
  • Allow businesses to fully expense capital investments in machinery and equipment.
  • Extended deadlines for commerce-related licensing.
  • Temporarily extending the deadlines for businesses to remit collected sales taxes to the state.
  • Temporary suspension of the corporate minimum tax.

Consumer assistance

  • Repeal bans on single-use plastic bags.
  • Repeal the ban on flavored vaping products.
  • Temporarily suspending Internet sales taxes.
  • To allow alcoholic beverages to leave restaurants when sold with a food take-out order.

Regulatory reform & occupational licensing

  • Relax all state and local regulations, including zoning, that would interfere with the ability to operate businesses out of the home.
  • Institute temporary “reciprocal” occupational licensing.
  • Eliminate sales and hotel taxes on people who offer short-term rentals.

Labor

  • Implement a three-month moratorium on the deduction of government union dues, leaving more money in the pockets of state and local employees.
  • Temporarily suspend prevailing wage laws.
  • Temporarily reducing Rhode Island’s minimum wage to the federal level of $7.25 per hour (with a temporary increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Civic

  • Develop a forum for public education, debate, and study of the state and federal constitutions and the response of our state and local governments to the COVID-19 crisis, perhaps as a precursor to a state Constitutional Convention.
  • Temporarily limit legal liability for volunteers and charitable organizations.

Budget

  • Implement a state Savings Reward Programs to reward state employees for saving taxpayer money through innovative or reengineered government processes.
  • Freeze all government hiring, even in cases of retirement and resignation, reallocating employees where they are most needed.
  • Eliminate all government positions that were vacant for at least six months prior to the COVID-19 shut-down.
  • Freeze all taxes, state and municipal, at current levels.

Infrastructure (Legacy and Future-Ready)

  • Adopt “dig once” and “one-touch make ready” policies. Implementing policies that increase cooperation between Internet service providers (ISPs) and state and local construction planners would enable the Ocean State to expand broadband communications more cheaply and quickly.

Education

  • Begin the process of comparing and analyzing districts’ effectiveness in implementing remote learning in (in and out of Rhode Island) for the development of best practices and other lessons learned.
  • Review state and local budgets to determine what money has been saved by closing school buildings and limiting services in order to create a fund to assist families with education-related expenditures.

Healthcare

  • Expand access to telemedicine services.
  • End surprise billing for patients.
  • Expanded scope-of-practice allowances.
  • Remove insurance laws that discourage the sale of short-term health insurance plans.
  • Waive regulation to allow medical professionals licensed in other states to practice in RI.
  • Repeal certificate of need laws.

Explanations

Already in Rhode Island, one of the Center’s early common-sense recommendations has been enacted:

  • To allow alcoholic beverages to leave restaurants when sold with a food take-out order. This will help many restaurants to maintain cash flow and better serve their customers.

For small businesses and their employees, it will be important to get as many people back to work at their normal shifts as soon as possible. However, the ramp-up to normal business conditions, and the associated revenues, may not be as fast the shut-down was. Therefore, as a short-term measure, the Center suggests:

  • Eliminate any state or local inspections required before re-opening a business that was temporarily closed due to COVID-19. Whether the inspection would have been due or overdue anyway or is related to the pandemic, Rhode Island needs its existing businesses to get up to speed, while adapting to new realities, as quickly as possible. Red tape does not make the cut.
  • Allow businesses to fully expense capital investments in machinery and equipment as they seek to rebuild, providing them with potentially critical 2020 tax relief.
  • Extended deadlines for commerce-related licensing by the Department of Business Regulation and other state agencies that have a hand in stringing red tape for businesses would help ensure existing small businesses remain legally operational.
  • Temporarily extending the deadlines for businesses to remit collected sales taxes to the state. This option would give many businesses additional near-term cash flow when it comes to compensating their employees, paying their rent, or covering other vital overhead expenses.
  • Temporary suspension of the corporate minimum tax, which imposes one more burden on individual looking to start a new business, or maintain their existing small business – for instance, as sole proprietors or limited partnerships – even if the businesses loses money.

Rhode Island consumers have been cooped up inside, often without their regular income. The state should help our families be as active as possible while giving businesses the benefit of their commerce:

  • Repeal bans on single-use plastic bags and other items. The COVID-19 virus and other germs can live on re-usable bags for many days, Rhode Island should repeal all state and municipal bans on single-use plastic bags, straws, and other items. (Maine, New York, and New Hampshire have taken action to roll back similar laws.)
  • Repeal the ban on flavored vaping products to restore choice to Rhode Island adults and to help this industry hire back the workers it was forced to lay-off in 2019.
  • Temporarily suspending Internet Sales Taxes. In March of 2029, the Center published a policy brief with a policy idea that would provide a financial incentive for Ocean Staters to work, shop, and eat at home as much as possible, as the government has either mandated or recommended. To encourage online commerce as a form of social-distancing, the Center recommended this policy. Consideration should be given as to whether this suspension should only apply to in-state purchases and deliveries.
  • To allow alcoholic beverages to leave restaurants when sold with a food take-out order. This will help many restaurants to maintain cash flow and better serve their customers.

Regulatory Reform & Occupational Licensing. For entrepreneurs or individuals looking to start a new career, or to engage in the “gig” economy, and to encourage them to re-enter the workforce as quickly as possible, it is vital that our Ocean State be a welcoming state in support of their desire to engage in meaningful work:

  • Relax all state and local regulations, including zoning, that would interfere with the ability to operate businesses out of the home. Even in the best of times, we are skeptical about the justification for imposing restrictions on people who are trying to advance our economy, improve our society, and support their families. In a time of economic crisis, our tolerance for restrictions should go way down.
  • Institute temporary “reciprocal” occupational licensing, so that licensed professionals in another state, who may be moving to our state to help with the crisis or to establish a new career, can immediately and legally work in their licensed field of expertise.
  • Eliminate sales and hotel taxes on people who offer short-term rentals, independently or through online services like AirBnB. This will encourage home-owners to develop new revenue streams for their households and will make our Ocean State a less expensive tourism destination for many during the vitally important upcoming summer season.

Labor Reforms. To decrease pressure on municipal and state budgets and to lessen the urge to increase taxes on Covid-19 devastated families and businesses:

  • Implement a three-month moratorium on the deduction of government union dues, leaving more money in the pockets of state and local employees. However important labor unions were in helping workers gain some of the benefit of economic booms in the last century, they represent another layer of bureaucracy in our economy. At the same time, the public sector has to share some of the burden of the oncoming recession. At a minimum, removing the government’s implicit subsidy of automatic dues deduction would allow state and local employees to make their own decisions about how their income can best be utilized during these unprecedented times.
  • Temporarily suspend prevailing wage laws that artificially drive up the cost of contracted services by state and local governments by requiring open-shop vendors to pay labor rates significantly higher than they normally would.
  • Temporarily reducing Rhode Island’s minimum wage to the federal level of $7.25 per hour. Our state’s hourly wage mandate of $10.50 is scheduled to rise to $11.50 on October 1st. By providing employers with more flexibility in hiring back their workforce, more Rhode Islanders can more quickly be put on the road to economic recovery. Consideration should be given to limiting this wage-suspension to apply only to newly created or revived positions.
    • Additionally, with government assuming further responsibility for aiding low-income families as we recover from this crises, the state should temporarily increase the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

The experience of the pandemic, and officials’ response to it, have put a spotlight on just how profound the decisions are that our society must make. Therefore, the state should encourage increased civic participation and development of voluntary civic organizations so neighbors can help their neighbors through these difficult times.

  • Develop a forum for public education, debate, and study of the state and federal constitutions and the response of our state and local governments to the COVID-19 crisis, perhaps as a precursor to a state Constitutional Convention. An educated population with a direct line for debate that will actually make a difference in how our state is governed will give Rhode Islanders an opportunity to determine the direction of their own state, articulating the assumptions under which our government was set up and determining which may no longer apply or have fallen by the wayside.
  • Temporarily limit legal liability for volunteers and charitable organizations that may wish to provide a helping hand during this crisis.

Regarding the 2021 budget process, and given the unpredictability of how quickly our state economy and government tax receipts will recover, it is vital that government live within its means, without placing additional burdens on an already distressed private sector. As New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, recently stated … his state government is not going to be able to deliver all of the services and programs it did before the crisis, and can only begin to do as actual government “receipts” dictate.

  • Implement a state Savings Reward Programs to reward state employees for saving taxpayer money through innovative or reengineered government processes. We know our state government is filled with smart, dedicated people, and they are in the best position to see how things can be changed for the better. Unfortunately, our system as it stands creates incentive to resist change, not advocate for it. This incentive structure must be reversed.
  • Freeze all government hiring, even in cases of retirement and resignation, reallocating employees where they are most needed. The governor has already prepared Rhode Islanders for difficult decisions in the coming months and years. One broad decision that can be made now is to reduce the size of the government that taxpayers must support.
  • Eliminate all government positions that were vacant for at least six months prior to the COVID-19 shut-down. If Rhode Island was getting along without certain government positions in good times, we cannot afford them during bad times. For those tasks that are more necessary in a crisis than they were before, existing personnel should be repurposed.
  • Freeze all taxes, state and municipal, at current levels to ensure that families and businesses, who have faced major income cut-backs of their own, are not forced to shoulder the burden of non-essential government spending.

For people to be able to get back to work and to create an economy that will be more resilient the next time there is a crisis, Rhode Island needs to improve its infrastructure, both in the old sense of roads and bridges and in the emerging sense of digital connectivity.

  • Adopt “dig once” and “one-touch make ready” policies. Implementing policies that increase cooperation between Internet service providers (ISPs) and state and local construction planners would enable the Ocean State to expand broadband communications more cheaply and quickly. The Ocean State has no resources to spare. As we spend money repairing and modernizing our roads, we cannot afford to miss the opportunity to advance the infrastructure of the future in a way that can adapt to changing technology.

With families’ learning the ins and outs of “distance learning,” our community has a new level of hands-on experience with education. We must take this opportunity to ensure that our struggling education system reforms to create an informed, job-ready, and resilient population.

  • Begin the process of comparing and analyzing districts’ effectiveness in implementing remote learning in (in and out of Rhode Island) for the development of best practices and other lessons learned. It is not to early to start gathering information from the districts and analyzing it to understand what has worked and what hasn’t.
  • Review state and local budgets to determine what money has been saved by closing school buildings and limiting services in order to create a fund to assist families with education-related expenditures. Our emergency response in education has, on the one hand, created a large network of school and administrative buildings that are not being operated for use and, on the other hand, shifted a substantial amount of the burden for education onto families, themselves. Our state should work to move resources from where they are not being used to where they can make the difference between keeping up and falling behind.

On the health insurance front, many people who have lost their jobs may also have lost their private health care coverage. Currently, Rhode Island’s onerous insurance regulations makes it impossible for provider to offer “short term” insurance plans, either forcing newly uninsured people into much more expensive government-improved plans, onto Medicaid, or to risk living without insurance (and subsequently being penalizing with a fee.)

To help individuals who may be in employment transition during this crisis, Rhode Island should:

  • Expand access to tele-medicine services by having RI file an 1135 waiver with the federal Center for Medicaid & Medicare Services (CMS) to allow Medicaid patients the same access to tele-health services as Medicare recipients
    • Repeal any existing regulations restricting access to tele-health services
  • End surprise billing for patients by enacting a Georgia-type reform that prohibits medical providers from using third-party collection agencies to collect medical debt that was not informed up-front to patients
  • Expand scope-of-practice allowances for nurses, pharmacists, medical technicians, medical students, and childcare providers … such that they can perform necessary medical testing or care in their field of expertise or for which they may have received training [FL]
  • Remove insurance laws that discourage the sale of short-term health insurance plans, so that patients can be offered lower-cost insurance options from a broader array of providers.

Other health related policy ideas include:

  • Waive regulation to allow medical professionals licensed in other states to be licensed to practice or conduct tele-health services in Rhode Island as was done in Missouri.
  • Repeal Certificate of Need laws that restrict healthcare providers from acquiring advanced technologies, such as medical imaging devices. Such protectionist-driven laws must not become a barrier to Rhode Islanders receiving the the quality care they deserve.
RI 2019 budget

Governor’s 2019-20 Budget: The Rhode to Serfdom

Providence, RI — Instead of seeking to shape Rhode Island’s future with the proven ideals of a free-society, Governor Raimondo’s proposed 2019-2020 budget is a stunning departure from America’s core values and, instead, would put our state on a “Rhode to Serfdom,” according to the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity.

With the Ocean State doomed to lose a US Congressional seat because of its hostile tax, educational, and business environment, which chases away wealth, families, and businesses, the policies presented in the Governor’s budget would make matters far worse.

“Just yesterday, I attended a thoughtful lecture by the chief economist for JP Morgan Chase at an event hosted by the RI Society of CPAs. His message was that economic growth is the best path to achieve prosperity and to manage deficits … not raising taxes and not necessarily cutting spending,” commented Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “However, this Governor’s regressive budget points us 180 degrees in the opposite direction and would stifle any opportunity for growth. Ocean Staters are clearly being forced down a Rhode to serfdom.”

With new government-imposed health insurance mandates that will further burden already distressed families as well as employers who are already suffering from one of the worst business climates in the nation, and along with a bevy of new taxes and fees that will further restrain economic growth, the proposed budget takes a giant step backwards towards a centrally-planned society, where government controls more and more aspects of our lives. The entire country is thriving, economically, from reduced government intrusion into our lives, but these progressive-left policies would increase dependency on government.

The proposed Medicaid tax on businesses and the individual mandate are particularly egregious. Each would serve as yet another reason for large employers and families to stay away from Rhode Island. It is oppressive that the government would seek to punish employers for not compensating their workers how the government wants them to; or to punish individuals not being able to afford the high-cost insurance resulting from the government created Obamacare mandates.

“For the better part of a decade, the State has encouraged and bragged about the number of people enrolled in Medicaid with taxpayer funded ads, and now she wants to make businesses pay for it,” cynically question the Center’s research director, Justin Katz.

Equally disturbing, the budget contains no meaningful remedies to the many problems that plague our state, such as high taxes across the board, high energy and healthcare costs, and onerous regulatory burdens on job-producers.

“On top of her irresponsible new spending proposals, clearly designed to benefit special-interest unions, the reliance on SIN taxes to pay for these schemes will tear at the cultural fabric of our society,” continued Stenhouse. “The continued attacks against legal firearms owners and smokers, along with the unsustainable increase in overall government spending, with its immoral budget scoops, also points Rhode Island back towards a totalitarian form of government that I thought we were done with in America.”

For these reasons and more, Rhode Island suffers from an epidemic of people and businesses fleeing our state. “Maybe it’s time to build our own wall to keep people in,” joked Stenhouse earlier in the week.

The Center again calls on General Assembly leaders to reduce the state’s sales tax, citing existing law that requires such a rate-reduction if certain “internet” taxes are enacted. With the multitude of new sales taxes imposed in recent budgets, the Center maintains that we have essentially reached that legal threshold.

RI General Assembly Freedom Index

Download: Freedom Index 2012 Scorecard; legislator votes, bill explanations, and rankings ; Click here for the Media Release

Radio:  Stenhouse discusses Index on Dan Yorke radio show ; and on the Helen Glover show (@ the 13:00 minute mark)

The first-annual General Assembly Freedom Index by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity scores Ocean State lawmakers on their level of support for principles of freedom as proven by their votes on the floors of the House and Senate.

The index examines legislators’ votes in terms of their likely effect on the free market, the size and scope of government, the balance of residents’ interests against those of public employees and beneficiaries, and the constitutional structure of a divided government with limited power over the people whom it represents. The Center reviewed every bill that received a roll-call vote by the full membership of either chamber and selected 96 that fit its understanding of these criteria. (Companion bills only count once.)

The resulting scores give a detailed sense of each legislator’s priorities beyond a few high-profile issues.

The Center further divided the bills into five categories:

  • Tax & budget:  bills that affect the tax structure in Rhode Island and/or that relate to government expenditures, just driving or relieving the pressure on taxation
  • Regulatory environment: bills that make it more or less difficult to live and do business in the state by imposing regulations
  • Constitutional government: bills that affect the structure of the government, as well as the scope of government in its authority over residents’ lives
  • Public sector labor: bills related to the relationship between its employees and itself and the electorate
  • Education reform: bills that advance or impede the reform of the state’s public education system, in terms of both cost and quality

Most legislation has implications for more than one of these categories.  For the purposes of this index, we applied our subjective sense of the area of core effect and sorted the bills accordingly.  If, for example, a bill having to do with education seemed to us intended to secure the role of public employees, we classified that bill as Public Sector Labor, not Education Reform.

Download: Freedom Index 2012 Scorecardlegislator votes, bill explanations, and rankings

2012 Freedom Index Findings

Ninety-six (96) different pieces of legislation (counting companion bills once) were evaluated.  The Center judged 70 of them as having a negative effect on freedom.

The average legislator index score of -25.4 indicates that the General Assembly moved Rhode Island in the wrong direction, and that Rhode Islanders are less free than they were in 2011. This index underscores our Center’s view that the 2012 RI General Assembly did not positively address the dire business climate of our state.

Top and Bottom 10

House Senate
Top 10 Bottom 10 Top 10 Bottom 10
1 Costa 59.2 113 Bennett -46.0 1 Kettle 15.5 113 Tassoni -44.8
2 Gordon 58.7 112 Fox -45.3 2 Shibley 14.0 112 Lanzi -44.8
3 Newberry 42.0 111 Ajello -45.3 3 Moura 8.6 111 DaPonte -43.1
4 Chippendale 41.7 110 McNamara -45.3 4 Hodgson 5.2 110 Miller -42.0
5 Watson 33.5 109 Valencia -45.3 5 Maher 4.1 109 Lynch -42.0
6 Trillo 28.8 108 Blazejewski -45.3 6 Algiere -7.8 108 Perry -41.6
7 Morgan 15.3 107 Cimini -45.3 7 Pinga -12.1 107 Ruggerio -41.4
8 Ehrhardt 15.1 106 Silva -45.3 8 Bates -14.7 106 Goodwin -41.4
9 Reilly 13.2 105 Mattiello -44.6 9 Ottiano -17.0 105 McCaffrey -41.4
10 Palumbo 0.5 104 Ucci -44.6 10 Cote -17.7 104 Fogarty -41.4

 

General Assembly Freedom Index 2012 by Party

 

Other findings include;

  • Average House index of -24.1
  • Average Senate index of -27.9
  • Average Democrat index of -33.5
  • Average Republican index of 16.5
  • Average Regulatory Environment index of -49.0
  • Average Tax & Budget index of -26.0
  • Average Constitutional Government index of -9.1
  • Average Public Sector Labor index of 16.7
  • No bills directly related to Education Reform were scored in this index

 

General Assembly Freedom Index 2012 and Category by Chamber and Party

 

Tax & Budget Category, Top and Bottom 10

House Senate
Top 10 Bottom 10 Top 10 Bottom 10
1 Newberry 68.8 75 Silva -67.2 1 Kettle 44.8 38 Pichardo -59.5
2 Chippendale 68.8 74 Bennett -62.5 2 Shibley 44.8 37 Lynch -54.3
3 Watson 68.0 73 Fox -62.5 3 Hodgson 44.8 36 Crowley -54.3
4 Trillo 67.2 72 Ajello -62.5 4 Moura 31.0 35 Tassoni -51.7
5 Costa 66.4 71 McNamara -62.5 5 Maher 24.1 34 Lanzi -51.7
6 Gordon 66.4 70 Valencia -62.5 6 Algiere 17.2 33 DaPonte -51.7
7 DaSilva 54.7 69 Blazejewski -62.5 7 Felag 10.3 32 Miller -51.7
8 Morgan 43.8 68 Cimini -62.5 8 Pinga 10.3 31 Perry -51.7
9 Reilly 43.8 67 Mattiello -62.5 9 Bates 10.3 30 Ruggerio -51.7
10 Lima 43.8 66 Ucci -62.5 10 Ottiano 10.3 29 Goodwin -51.7

 

Regulatory Environment Category, Top and Bottom 10

House Senate
Top 10 Bottom 10 Top 10 Bottom 10
1 Gordon 66.9 75 Mattiello -66.9 1 Hodgson -18.0 38 Miller -76.3
2 Costa 55.2 74 Tarro -66.9 2 Kettle -23.1 37 Tassoni -74.4
3 Watson 52.2 73 Naughton -66.9 3 Shibley  -23.1 36 Lanzi -74.4
4 Chippendale 27.2 72 Corvese -66.9 4 Moura   -23.1 35 Lynch -74.4
5 Newberry 23.5 71 Bennett -64.7 5 Maher -31.4 34 Perry -74.4
6 Trillo 17.6 70 Fox -64.7 6 Bates -33.3 33 Ruggerio -74.4
7 Ehrhardt  15.4 69 Ajello -64.7 7 Algiere  -35.9 32 Goodwin -74.4
8 Reilly 0.0 68 McNamara -64.7 8 Pinga -41.7 31 McCaffrey -74.4
9 Morgan -7.4 67 Valencia -64.7 9 Lombardo -43.0 30 Fogarty -74.4
10 MacBeth   -7.4 66 Blazejewski -64.7 10 Cote -43.6 29 Sosnowski -74.4

 

Constitutional Government Category, Top and Bottom 10

House Senate
Top 10 Bottom 10 Top 10 Bottom 10
1 Costa 61.2 75 Hearn -31.0 1 Kettle 29.7 38 DaPonte -29.1
2 Gordon 38.8 74 Jacquard -25.0 2 Shibley 24.3 37 Perry -19.6
3 Chippendale 36.2 73 MacBeth -22.4 3 Moura 18.9 36 Tassoni -18.9
4 Newberry 32.8 72 Bennett -19.8 4 Maher 18.9 35 Lanzi -18.9
5 Morgan 12.9 71 Hull -19.0 5 Pinga 6.1 34 Miller -18.9
6 Palumbo 6.0 70 Fox -17.2 6 Cote 6.1 33 Lynch -18.9
7 Flaherty 6.0 69 Ajello -17.2 7 Sheehan -2.0 32 Ruggerio -18.9
8 DeSimone 5.2 68 McNamara -17.2 8 Ottiano -4.1 31 Goodwin -18.9
9 Trillo 4.3 67 Valencia -17.2 9 Hodgson -8.1 30 McCaffrey -18.9
10 Schadone 3.5 66 Blazejewski -17.2 10 Algiere -8.1 29 Fogarty -18.9
(Note: Insufficient votes were cast in the Education Reform and Public Sector Labor categories for meaningful comparisons.)

Index Overview

The Center selected legislative bills for inclusion in the Freedom Index if they were deemed to have an effect on free-market, small-government, or constitutional principles, with each bill assigned a positive or negative weighting based on the criteria listed below. Weighted points for each bill were given to each legislator based on his or her roll-call vote on it.

Each legislator’s final Freedom Index was calculated as his or her score’s percentage of the total possible points. A positive score indicates a 2012 voting record that generally protected individual and economic freedoms, while a negative score reflects the opposite.

Disclaimer: It should be noted that the total Freedom Index score generated for each legislator is a direct reflection of the perspective of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity when it comes to the weighting of each bill. The Freedom Index is not an absolute measure of a legislator’s merit and does not constitute any endorsement or individual criticism. The Freedom Index is a tool designed for general research and for accountability, giving voters some quantitative metrics for their own assessments as to their elected legislators’ performance. 

Methodology

1) Determine weighting: Each selected bill received a weight ranging from +3 to -3, as determined by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity. Negative weights indicate legislation that creates or expands an agency, government program/function, or tax; creates new regulatory burdens; is hostile to constitutional principles; or otherwise conflicts with the principles that guide the Center. Positive factors were assigned to bills in line with those principles. Companion bills in the House and Senate were weighted identically. To determine the weightings, the Center requested reviews of all chosen legislation from a half dozen engaged Rhode Islanders with similar principles and combined the range of results for a final weighting.

2) Determine vote: Each legislator received a +1 or -1 vote factor, depending on whether he or she voted FOR or AGAINST a particular bill, respectively. If a legislator did not vote on a bill, he or she received a +0.25 if the bill passed or a -0.25 if the bill failed. Legislators who abstained from voting received a +0.75 or a -0.75 vote factor depending on if the bill passed or failed.

3) Calculate weighted vote: Multiplying the weighting factor and the vote factor produced a weighted vote score for each legislator for each bill.

4) Calculate the legislator score:  The cumulative score for all bills for each legislator determined that legislator’s overall score.

5) Calculate Freedom Index: Dividing each legislator’s total score by the maximum possible for the appropriate chamber provided his or her Freedom Index, or a percentage of the best possible score he or she could have achieved. In 2012, the “perfect” scores are 106 for the House and 116 for the Senate.

For example, consider a bill that would increase the regulatory burden significantly in Rhode Island and that the Center therefore weighted as a -2. Legislator A voted for the bill. His or her weighted vote would be calculated as follows: -2 x 1 = -2. Conversely, the weighted vote for Legislator B, who voted against the bill, would be: -2 x -1 = 2.

If Legislator A, in the House chamber, earned a total legislator score of -33, his or her Freedom Index would be calculated as: -33 ÷ 106 x 100 =  -31.1.  If Legislator B in the Senate had a total score of +23, his or her Freedom Index would be calculated as: 23 ÷ 116 x 100 = 19.8.

To rank the legislators, the Center sorted them by their Freedom Index scores and then, in the cases of ties, by their scores in each category, in the following order: Regulatory Environment, Tax & Budget, Constitutional Government, Public Sector Labor, and Education Reform. When legislators’ results were still identical, the Center adjusted them in order of their apparent stature and power within their chambers.

Criteria

In determining each bill’s weighting, the following questions were considered:

  • Does the bill create or eliminate an agency, program, or function of government?
  • Does it give the government new or expanded power to prohibit or restrict activities in the free market? Examples may include licensure and other restrictions on legal business practices.
  • Is it unconstitutional or does it do violence to our concepts of federalism or separation of powers? Does it restrict property, speech, gun, or other constitutionally recognized rights or freedoms? Conversely, does it restore balance between the state and federal government, resume state authority over an issue under the 10th Amendment, or remove restrictions on constitutionally protected rights?

Other considerations were also brought into question:

  • Does the bill redistribute wealth or use tax policy or other incentives to reward specific interest groups with special favors or perks? Conversely, does it eliminate special favors and perks in the tax code or public policy?
  • Does it perform a function that can and should be performed by the private sector or restore functions to the private sector?
  • Does it grow or shrink the regulatory scope of an agency?
  • Does it directly or indirectly create/reduce taxes, fees, or other assessments?
  • Does it increase or decrease control of the private sector through rules, regulation, or statute?
  • Does it increase or decrease long-term debt or override or restore statutory or constitutional protections against long-term debt?
  • Does it give or reduce special benefits for government employees or politicians?
  • Does it promote government transparency and openness or does it restrict access to information that should be in the public domain?

It should be noted that the complexity not only of the law but of political theory in general can make assessments of the sort described above subjective and very difficult. People reviewing the index should consider the results to be the best judgment of the Center, given our collected experience and expertise.

Download: Freedom Index 2012 Scorecardlegislator votes, bill explanations, and rankings

R.I. Creating an Expressway to Dependency

The Issue. Rhode Island is leading the nation in the advancement of a larger entitlement culture via its planned expansion of social services through a health benefits exchange, a component of the controversial federal healthcare law. When collecting detailed personal financial and household information from individuals seeking health insurance support, the state intends to proactively enroll participants in other state programs for which they are eligible. Will this create and expanded culture of dependency?

Statement from CEO, Mike Stenhouse. “This is an extreme case of misguided public policy. The expansion of government and special interest control over our personal healthcare decisions, along with the culture of dependency being freely advocated by this administration, should be viewed as an assault on our deeply held American value of self-reliance.

“Imagine turning to the RI health benefits portal because your employer cancelled your insurance and finding yourself on a government-created expressway to a life of dependency. Wouldn’t we all be better off, instead, if the state encouraged residents to become independent, productive members of society?”

Related LinksMike Stenhouse discusses the ‘Dependency Portal’ on the Helen Glover radio show … click hereDependency Portal Pieces in Place;

What the Center is calling a “dependency portal.”  The dependency portal is a not-so-hidden goal of Rhode Island’s version of the health benefits exchanges described in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA, commonly known as ObamaCare).

Although the final design has not been developed in specific detail, the idea of the exchanges is to enable healthcare consumers to use a government Web site to review their available options for insurance and to determine their eligibility for public subsidies.  Most likely, a series of Web-based forms will ask the user for a variety of highly personal information regarding health, income, and family circumstances in order to determine what health plans and public assistance amounts he or she is eligible for.

Whether such information will be requested of all residents who seek to use the site or only of those explicitly seeking subsidies remains an open question.

The exchange will become a dependency portal when other forms of public assistance — from food stamps to cash-payment welfare to child-care subsidies — are integrated into the system and promoted to the exchange user based on information that he or she provides while seeking health coverage — perhaps automatically enrolling people with the merest expression of consent.

At a recent press conference, Rhode Island Health and Human Services Secretary Steven Costantino referred to this “hidden element” of the exchanges as “one-stop shopping.”

Why is that bad? As a free market think tank, the Center is certainly not opposed to practices that encourage efficiency and the use of technology to improve the access that customers and clients have to services. Information technology, in particular, has empowered individuals to accomplish easily and inexpensively tasks that once required expert consultants.

From a business perspective, the Internet and the proliferating technologies that use it, now including smartphones and tablets, smooth the path from a potential customer’s initial interest all the way to final purchase.  Technology enhances businesses’ ability to market and sell their products and services, and they seek to accomplish those ends in order to grow their revenue and expand their market share.

That model is not appropriate to government in dispensing taxpayer-funded services.

In the private sector, bundling of services has become commonplace, and it is easy to understand why companies would pursue the strategy.  Think of the merging technologies of television, Internet, and telephone; it makes sense for a company with an advantage in, say, television, to use various marketing techniques, such as reduced-price packages, cross advertising, and one-stop shopping, to gain an edge in other markets.

However, the public clearly has a sense that these methods can go too far.  Indeed, at the turn of the millennium, the federal government sued Microsoft on the grounds that it was hindering competition by using its operating system dominance (with Windows) to gain an insurmountable advantage in the Web browser market (with Internet Explorer).

In the case of government, all of the same incentives exist for the organization to expand its reach.  The difference is that government has three inherent competitive advantages:

  1. In its ability to simply confiscate money to pay for, or at least subsidize, its services
  2. In the fact that the people whom it entices to its services are not paying their full cost
  3. In its control of the marketplace by means of regulation

Over time, government programs are therefore less and less “public services” that taxpayers agree to support through the people whom they elect and more and more bureaucratic offerings that use the enrollment of some citizens as justification for claiming more authority and confiscating more money from others.

One can see evidence of this intention in the process by which Rhode Island’s exchange was initiated.  In the face of (to be mild) public uncertainty about the PPACA, the Democrat president and Congress pushed it through.  It creates financial incentive for states to build the exchanges (by making taxpayers from other states pay for it), and it hands an astonishing amount of policy discretion to the unelected Secretary of Health and Human Services.

In Rhode Island, Governor Lincoln Chafee broke with common understanding of separation of powers in order to create the exchange by means of executive order, committing the state to pay for the site’s maintenance once it is operational.  Similarly, the state executive branch has simply determined to agree to a related Medicaid waiver, expanding free healthcare services in the state and adding to its expenses.  No legislative input; no public hearings; in short, no public statement of agreement with the programs being developed in the people’s name.

As the government exchanges claim increasing shares of the market nationally, unelected state and federal officers will be authorized to determine everything from minimum benefits to price controls to payment schedules.  The board that Governor Chafee appointed to initiate the exchange illustrates that special interests will have an outsized role, as well.

With the addition of other welfare programs to the mix, it will be even more difficult for the people of the state to change course.

What it means for you. Losing control of activities done in the public’s name may not be the most dire consequence of the dependency portal approach.  Rather, the fatal part of the trap is the fast lane to a culture of universal reliance on government and a pervasive sense of entitlement.

Whenever the topic of welfare arises, conversation turns toward those who “know how to work the system” and thus become the fabled “welfare queens.”  For them, incentives toward good behavior have been reduced or reversed, and democracy has devolved into an exchange of political power for handouts.

The real danger of the dependency portal is that it sets up a chute so that previously self-reliant Rhode Islanders will increasingly fall into an entitlement existence.  Why else would the exchanges offer health care subsidies to a family of four with income of $92,200?

Just as technology has simplified tasks that once required expert consultants, the dependency portal will make “working the system” a simple matter of clicking a few buttons.

Tracing the progress of the portal in Rhode Island. RI Health & Human Services Secretary Steven Costantino, Health Benefits Exchange Director Christine Ferguson, and Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts describe Rhode Island’s nation-leading steps toward the dependency portal (June 28, 2012):

 

Elaboration on why Rhode Island and the United States should resist the pull toward dependency portals:

RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity first identifies the dependency-portal dynamic as one reason to reject the health benefit exchange and the Medicaid expansion:

The pieces needed to turn the exchange into a dependency portal are being put into place:

RI officials acknowledge intention to implement Medicaid expansion, without any indication of legislative or public input:

Documents related to the dependency portal begin to reveal the direct connection between those pushing the concept and those involved with Rhode Island’s health benefits exchange:

The dependency portal in concert with eliminated work requirements for welfare may mark the return of the “welfare queen” and a “majority coalition” for big-government activists:

Documents. The federal government and national non-profits describe the dependency portal and the related “express lane eligibility”:

RI out-Migration to border Counties in MA and CT

County Out-Migration Should Be Alarm to Municipalities

For nearly a decade, taxpayers have been leaving Rhode Island. With cities and towns facing wave after wave of difficult decisions, a change of policy course is critical. Between 2003 and 2010, the net migration out of the state has left Rhode Island with 24,455 fewer income-tax-paying households with a total of $1.2 billion of annual income.

Governor Should Tread Slowly on Health Care Exchanges

(see the ProJo OpEd version here)

The Governor’s office should exercise caution and search for answers to important questions before rubber-stamping the health insurance exchange ‘executive order’ recommended by a special panel. President Obama’s controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) “Exchanges” may simply be too risky for RI.

We encourage a serious public debate on this very important issue before bypassing the normal legislative process, which failed to pass related legislation. The debate should focus on whether or not now is the appropriate time to move forward with a PPACA exchange, especially considering the high associated risks and potential alternative paths. Our state has time, and should take the time to act prudently.

The PPACA federal law is unstable, politically and legally. In August, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that PPACA exchanges, which would create an individual mandate to purchase health insurance, is unconstitutional. Also, one implication of the recent national debt-ceiling debate may mean that millions or even billions of dollars designated to support PPACA would be at risk if the debt super-committee can’t come up with the required spending cuts.

There are many arguments and questions about why RI should not rush into implementing this controversial system at this time:

  • Federal policy is in a precarious state of flux: The President announced that he favored significant changes to his health care reform, providing even more uncertainty about future changes from Washington. PPACA is also under attack by Congress, with open threats to deny funding or repeal it. There is concern that if RI implements a PPACA exchange that the federal government, would not be able to provide the federal funds that we may anticipate. What happens if PPACA is ruled unconstitutional and we create an exchange, does RI have to assume these cost commitments?
  • Federal health care legislation may be unconstitutional:  PPACA has been ruled unconstitutional by federal courts in Florida and Virginia as well as by the 11th Circuit. This legal uncertainty underscores the danger of RI risking the time, expense, and potential that PPACA could be thrown out as unconstitutional. The US Supreme Court is expected to hear and rule on this case by June of 2012. Also, if a new administration were to be elected later in 2012, it is certain that it would spell doom for PPACA. Recent polls suggest that a 2nd Obama term is anything but guaranteed. Is it sound public policy to push ahead with the Exchange when we don’t know if we can legally require everyone to participate?
  • Impact on businesses. Have we evaluated how businesses will react? I have spoken with many business owners who believe that PPACA will increase premium costs to the point where it may be more prudent for them to dump health coverage for their employees and pay the federal fine. How would this make RI a more competitive state for business?
  • Federal Strings. RI is again chasing federal funds, which bring along a multitude of federal mandates, which, in turn, are highly likely to change … unpredictably so. Just recently PPACA was changed to mandate that all “exchange” insurance policies must now cover birth control contraceptives. And, as recently as April 5, 2011 Congress passed changes that rewrote the way health exchange subsidies will be paid for. Already, the law’s foundation is crumbling among other states: in August, Kansas returned a large federal grant wanting out of the law and its mandates. Why should we race to put RI in the same position?
  • Our state cannot afford to waste time and money on this risky endeavor. With all of the problems our state confronts and the multitude of other reforms we must enact; and when PPACA federal funding may never be provided, and while there is so much legal uncertainty why should we risk wasting critical resources on this issue?
  • Government vs Free Market: the very idea of a government controlled exchange is antithetical to our nation’s historical free-market principles, which is the only proven way to consistently deliver a quality service at the lowest possible rate. A true free-market “is” an exchange in itself! Do we even know if RI’s small risk pool can effectively support an exchange? State’s rights issues also come into play.

Since states are not required to implement an exchange until 2014, why shouldn’t we hold off making these decisions until after the uncertainty around PPACA has played itself out? Dozens of other states have held off.

We all want lower prices for good health insurance. Instead of conforming to a federally controlled system, Rhode Island should consider regional Health Insurance Compacts and expanded Health Savings Accounts, which would allow free-market competition to reduce prices and to provide consumers with more choices. Such compacts would authorize out-of-state insurers to compete for business, in much the same way that we purchase auto and property insurance. These free-market models would create larger markets, more competition, more choices, and lower prices.

Right now, PPACA is a major headache for the Obama administration. Why should we make it Rhode Island’s headache as well?

Mike Stenhouse is CEO of the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity.

State Pension Reform – RI has a way to go to catch up with other states

In 2010 and 2011 (39) US states enacted some form of public pension reform. Rhode Island is one of those states, but we acted in only one of the measured categories in this report.

Restoring Competitiveness to Rhode Island

Our RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has a bold, new vision to restore greatness to the Ocean State by making it the most dramatic turn-around state in the nation. In the coming months, our Center for Freedom will release a detailed “Prosperity Agenda” for Rhode Island: a game-changing, new agenda that will return competitiveness to our economic and educational institutions, backed by insightful research.

Commentary by Mike Stenhouse

Rhode Island is a last place team. Remember earlier this year when the Red Sox were in the cellar? In Rhode Island many of our citizens are resigned to doom. In contrast, Red Sox nation was outraged.

If only RI citizens were like Red Sox fans.In the competition for people, wealth and business, our Ocean State simply is not competitive with other states. Yet we find little leadership from our public officials to try to improve our lot and far too few jeers from the public. Many reform advocates debate less important issues. Nobody seems to be focused on winning!

With the recent budget debate and with the current pension debate, we can clearly see why RI never improves its standing.

The recently passed state budget and the pension solutions currently being discussed will only serve to make Rhode Island LESS competitive. We debated balancing our budget and how to raise enough revenues to do so. Now we are debating how to raise enough revenues to pay off our massive unfunded pension liabilities. We debate the merits of trading this tax for that tax. We debate how to keep funding our past promises or how to pass on costs to this group or that group. We keep debating each issue as a one-off item, yet no one is talking about improving our state’s competitiveness, and actually winning again.

And, predictably, we always seem to end up in the same place … last place. Yet there are many who defend the status quo and resist reform.

WE NEED A WINNING STRATEGY. For Rhode Island, that strategy must include a dramatic reduction in taxes along with dramatic reductions in spending. There is no other way to remain competitive.

We all know that RI ranks at or near the bottom in far too many areas when it comes to education and the economy. Our perpetually poor rankings prove the utter failure of the status quo. Yet, we cling to what we know, we put the same players back on the field with the same rules, and we seem pleased with ourselves if we can just figure out how not to appear to worsen the situation.

But we are indeed worsening the situation. We know now that our current oppressive tax and regulatory structure is driving people and wealth out of our state. Recent headlines about our education are equally disturbing. To build a sustainable economy, we need educated, productive citizens and capital. To successfully compete with other states, we need more of both. Maintaining the status quo only means we will continue to hemorrhage even more of these valuable resources.

How would raising taxes on the rich, or on property owners, as many suggest, grow our struggling economy?

Even the Governor half-agreed, stating that raising taxes on the wealthy would cause them to move. True. But we also know that middle-class Rhode Islanders will also migrate to other states if they are over taxed. It’s the same, I would guess, with businesses and consumer purchasing.

Raising taxes – any taxes – in order to balance our budget or pay off unfunded debts will only serve to make us LESS competitive! We will continue to lose citizens and money; and we will squander yet another opportunity to improve our chance of winning. Balancing the budget and paying off debt is the wrong game.

THE GAME SHOULD BE ABOUT HOW TO IMPROVE OUR STATE’S COMPETIVENESS AND HOW TO WIN BACK PEOPLE AND WEALTH!

Were Red Sox fans silent when their team was in last place? Would they be mollified if the team bragged that it balanced its books? Would they really care how much players were paid? Would they be satisfied if we merely shuffled the same old lineup? Would they accept increased ticket prices for a perpetual last place team? These wouldn’t matter much if the team was winning. But this is exactly what our public officials want us to accept … pay more money to remain in the cellar.

In RI, little else should matter unless we grow the economy and reform education for the prosperity of our citizens and the future of our children. The primary standard should be whether or not we are improving our competiveness with other states … not balancing the budget.

As long as we continue to play by rules that decrease our competitiveness and without a clear winning vision from our leadership, RI will continue to be a cellar-dweller. Even if our economy recovers to some small degree, it is likely that other states’ economies will improve even more.

In the sports world, where competition and free market principles mainly prevail, a last place team will embark on a “rebuilding” strategy, where it’s “out with the old” and “in with the new”. This may mean a few years of potential struggle while the “new” strategy takes hold, but when it does, if the plan is designed properly, the situation will improve dramatically.

Trouble is, in Rhode Island, we don’t seem to have many strategic thinkers with the courage to admit that long term reform can only happen with some near term pain. And you won’t hear much from our state’s fans (we the citizens). Nor do we find cutting commentary from the media demanding a better team or an improved standing. Imagine the Boston Globe endorsing a perennial last place Red Sox team that refused make wholesale changes.

Red Sox nation demanded a winner and the Red Sox successfully broke its “curse” by winning two world championships! It took the vision of a young and talented GM. The state of RI must do the same … but we are left to wonder where we will find that kind leadership and that kind of public outrage.

If only we could bring out the Red Sox fan inside each of us!

Our RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity is a “fan” of the state of Rhode Island. We hope you will join in us in refusing to remain silent. Not only do we demand a bold, new ‘winning’ strategy for our state, but we intend to map out the initial cornerstone reforms that should be part of that strategy.

Parents Alert: Media Literacy APRA Request Template

?Attention Parents! Your Voice Matters! Are you concerned about transparency and accountability within our school district? Do you want to ensure that the operations and activities of our schools are fully understood by the public? Here’s your chance to take action! Click here now or on the button below to fill out the form!

We urge all parents to fill out the following form letter and send it to our school district administration. By doing so, you are requesting important documents under the Rhode Island Access Public Records Act (APRA) that pertain to the organizations Ad Fontes Media and Media Literacy Now. These documents will shed light on the communications and activities involving these entities within our schools.

 

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity today publicly backed previous calls for the resignation of Angelica Infante-Green, the RI Department of Education's failed commissioner, by promoting an online petition that all Ocean Staters are encouraged to sign.

Center Backs Call for Resignation of RI Education Commissioner

Petition to Save our Kids from RIDE

Calls for Infante-Green’s resignation and for repeal of 2019 law that empowered the corrupt agency

Cranston, Rhode Island – The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity today publicly backed previous calls for the resignation of Angelica Infante-Green, the RI Department of Education’s failed commissioner, by promoting an online petition that all Ocean Staters are encouraged to sign.

The petition, which allows concerned parents and citizens to also log their own comments, and which automatically sends an email to multiple lawmakers and state education officials, can be accessed at RIFreedom.org/resign .

Without any prior publicity the e-petition has already garnered over 70 signatures, many of which include highly damning statements about RIDE’s many failures by members of the public.

The initial public call for Infante-Green’s removal was made last October by former state Senate candidate, Niyoka Powell, during her special election campaign. Given the ongoing failures of RIDE as well as recently exposed stories about a major public corruption scandal and its promotion of a media literacy scam that seeks to censor conservative views in K-12 schools, the Center is now openly publicizing its e-petition.

“The ongoing assault on families by Infante-Green’s RIDE, by indoctrinating students into a radical-left ideology, must be brought to an end,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “It’s time to save our kids from RIDE by seeking a new commissioner and to defrock RIDE of its curricula mandate authority.”

The online petition, entitled “Save Our Kids From RIDE,” also calls for repeal of the 2019 law that empowered RIDE to mandate curricula guidelines to all public school districts … and, therefore, to all elementary and secondary school students in government-run schools.

The petition web-page lists a number of indictments and links to support these two calls-to-action. The Center has reported extensively on RIDE’s radical agenda and its lack of success in improving student achievement.

“RIDE and Infante-Green have proven to be wholly ineffective, irresponsible, and unworthy of the powers granted to it the General Assembly,” concluded Stenhouse.

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity and a high-ranking member of the Rhode Island General Assembly call upon US and State Government agencies to cancel their affiliation with "Courageous RI."

PRESS RELEASE: Center & State Rep. Newberry Urge Government Agencies to Cancel Affiliation with URI’s Media Literacy Scam

URI’s Media Literacy Scam Raising Alarms in RI and DC
Potential First Amendment Violations by Government Agencies?

Cranston, RI– The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity and a high-ranking member of the Rhode Island General Assembly call upon US and State Government agencies to cancel their affiliation with “Courageous RI.”

In a recent series of alarming reports, the nationally renowned Media Research Center (MRC) exposed how multiple state agencies have colluded with the University of Rhode Island and the federal Department of Homeland Security to indoctrinate students in a media literacy scam that includes censorship of conservative media and Christian values.

“It is likely a 1st Amendment violation for any American governmental entity to support activities that limit or suppress free speech,” said the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse. “This sinister Biden administration initiative actually trains K-12 teachers to utilize censorship tools that discourage students from viewing content that the leaders of Courageous RI disagree with.”

State Representative Brian C. Newberry, former House Minority Leader and attorney said, “I participated in the launch event one year ago upon being asked because I think the issue of media literacy and educating our children how to sift fact from fiction is important. But I issued several warnings about how this program, while appealing in concept, could go off the rails if not managed properly. Unfortunately, and to my disappointment, though not surprise … the partisanship, censorship, and bias that has been infused by the Courageous RI leadership proves that this program is not worthy of, nor legally defensible for, any government entity to support in any way.”

This national scheme, implemented in states and contrived by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, currently the subject of Congressional impeachment proceedings, is also raising alarm bells at the US Capitol.

“Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri has introduced legislation to cut the federal funding of the Department of Homeland Security’s dystopian censorship activities following the bombshell exposés by our organization,” said Tim Kilcullen, attorney for MRC and author of the reports. “Similarly, the House Homeland Security Committee has already passed legislation to do the same.” Kilcullen was special guest on a recent episode, Uncovering the Indoctrination Agenda, on the popular video podcast, In The Dugout with Mike Stenhouse, which can be viewed here.

“URI is ground-zero for this national scheme. What DHS is doing with Courageous RI in Ocean State schools is exactly why the US Congress is looking to defund this un-American effort and ensure that the money is used for its original intent to prevent actual violence and terrorism,” added Kilcullen.

The DHS-URI-Courageous RI collusion was first reported in the Ocean State by Parents United RI, a parental-rights advocacy group, led by its founder, Laurie Gaddis Barrett. The group continues to investigate other aspects of this national censorship scandal.

Among the government and related agencies that are listed as Courageous RI partners, and who should immediately renounce their affiliations, are:

  • RI Secretary of State
  • US Attorney’s Office
  • RI Department of Education
  • RI School Superintendents Association
  • RI Department of Public Health
  • RI State Police
  • RI National Guard

Private entities that are also known as partners or supporters, include:

  • Former Congressman David Cicilline
  • The RI Foundation
  • RI Public Broadcasting

The full list of partners and team members can be viewed at About Us | Courageous RI (courageousri.com/about).

Kilcullen’s and Newberry’s full statements can be viewed here.

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity today officially petitioned Governor McKee to issue a proclamation declaring February 6th as "Ronald Reagan Day"

PRESS RELEASE: Center Petitions Governor McKee to Issue to Ronald Reagan Day Proclamation

RI Should Recognize February 6 as “Ronald Reagan Day”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 4, 2024

Cranston, Rhode Island – The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity today officially petitioned Governor McKee to issue a proclamation declaring February 6th as “Ronald Reagan Day”.

As state sponsor for the The Ronald Reagan Legacy Project, the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse, said “In recent years, 36 Governors, in red and blues states alike, have proclaimed Ronald Reagan Day in their state; unfortunately Governors McKee and Raimondo have not joined with the rest of America in honoring the 20th century’s greatest President.”

The last Ocean State governor to issue such a proclamation, was Lincoln Chafee (I) in 2011. That same year, the RI Senate passed a related resolution, which in part read:

“WHEREAS, During Mr. Reagan’s presidency, he worked in a bipartisan manner to enact his bold agenda of restoring accountability and common sense to government, which led to an unprecedented economic expansion and opportunity for millions of Americans.”

Included in its Contact the Governor online submission, the Center wrote:

“The Ronald Reagan Legacy Project is committed to preserving the legacy of one of America’s greatest presidents throughout the nation and abroad. One of the ways we work to further the legacy of Reagan is by asking the governor of every state in the nation to make a proclamation declaring February 6th, “Ronald Reagan Day.” An average of 30 governors a year over the last few years have made such a proclamation, choosing to honor character over partisanship.”

“A proclamation in our state can help thousands learn the legacy of our nation’s 40th president and ensure his impact – including America’s victory over communism in the Cold War – is not forgotten,” concluded Stenhouse.

A special initiative of Americans for Tax Reform, the Ronald Reagan Legacy Project sends requests to governors from all 50 states to issue a proclamation declaring February 6 “Ronald Reagan Day,” This year, the proclamations would help celebrate Reagan’s 113th birthday.

As of the time of this media release, the Center has not received a response from the Governor’s office.

Under the deficient leadership of its commissioner, Angelica Infante-Green, the Rhode Island Department of Education deserves an “F” for failing to implement successful educational reforms while student achievement continues to plummet across the state, as evidenced by the October release of RI’s dismal RICAS scores.

WHY MAJOR CHANGES ARE NEEDED AT THE RI DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

Top-10 Failures of Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green & RIDE

Under the deficient leadership of its commissioner, Angelica Infante-Green, the Rhode Island Department of Education deserves an “F” for failing to implement successful educational reforms while student achievement continues to plummet across the state as evidenced by the October release of RI’s dismal RICAS scores. Infante-Green’s tenure, which began in 2019, coincides with passage and enactment of a controversial bill (S0863) that took away local school district control and granted RIDE with the authority to develop and mandate curricula standards and guidelines in critical core subjects for all school districts in the Ocean State. 

Infante-Green and RIDE are wholly ineffective, irresponsible, and unworthy of this unabridged power to influence the education of our state’s children. As a result, student achievement and public confidence in our state’s educational system have further deteriorated. Rhode Island’s education system has been systematically designed to confuse and demoralize students about their country, God, their core values, their fellow students, themselves, and their families. As a result, mental health problems are on the rise.

New leadership, with repealed curricula authority, is clearly required at RIDE.



The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity today announced that Frank & Liz Mauran of Providence will be honored at its November 3 Freedom Banquet which resumes after a three-year hiatus.

Center Announces Middendorf Honorees for 2023 Freedom Banquet

Center Announces 2023 Middendorf “Pillar of Freedom” Honorees for its Nov. 3 Fundraising Luncheon

Frank & Liz Mauran are Living Models of Liberty

Cranston, RI – The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity today announced that Frank & Liz Mauran of Providence will be honored at its November 3 Freedom Banquet which resumes after a three-year hiatus.

“Perhaps no other husband and wife duo in the Ocean State can present more notable family and civic ties to the very founding of Rhode Island – and of America – while their ongoing philanthropy and business ventures continue to benefit our state and the nation,” said the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse. “The Mauran family ancestry reads like a history book.”

The J. William Middendorf Pillar of Freedom Award, to be presented by the Center’s Chairman, Dr. Stephen Skoly, is named in honor of Ambassador J. William Middendorf, Little Compton resident, former Secretary of the Navy, and current Heritage Foundation board member. He is, perhaps, Rhode Island’s greatest living defender of freedom.

The 2023 Daniel S Harrop Freedom Banquet, presented by Americans For Prosperity (AFP), is a fundraising luncheon that will be held on Friday November 3 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick. The event is named after the Center’s founding chairman, Dr. Daniel Harrop, who unexpectedly passed away last fall.

The keynote speaker for the event, Guy Benson, is Political Editor of Townhall.com, a Fox News Contributor, and host of the nationally syndicated “Guy Benson Show” on Fox News Radio.

Tickets are still available. Tables of eight can be sponsored with a tax-deductible donation of $1200, while individual seats can be reserved with a $175 gift. More information and registration can be accessed at RIFreedom.org/Banquet.

Information on past Middendorf Award honorees can be viewed by clicking here. A link to the Mauran’s full award biography will be posted here after the banquet.

Frank & Liz Mauran are living models of liberty. In donating their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to the great American ideal, they also exemplify all three foundational principles that comprise the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s annual Middendorf Pillar of Freedom Award; personal philanthropy, civic engagement, and free-market or entrepreneurial achievement.

Frank and Liz Mauran 2023 Honorees

2023 Middendorf Pillar of Freedom Award

Frank & Liz Mauran are living models of liberty. In donating their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to the great American ideal, they also exemplify all three foundational principles that comprise the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity’s annual Middendorf Pillar of Freedom Award; personal philanthropy, civic engagement, and free-market or entrepreneurial achievement.

Indeed, perhaps no other husband and wife duo in the Ocean State can present more notable family and civic ties to the very founding of Rhode Island and of America, while their ongoing philanthropy and business ventures continue to benefit our state and the nation.

The Mauran family ancestry reads like a history book. Roger Williams, himself, was originally buried in the backyard of their historic home on Benefit Street. Frank’s lineage includes such prominent Rhode Island names as Thomas Wilson Dorr, William Ames, John and Lincoln Chafee, Governors Henry and Charles Lippitt, and US Senator Jesse Metcalf. Liz is great-granddaughter of a former New Hampshire Governor, Frank West Rollins, whose father was former U.S. Senator, Edward W. Rollins, founder of the Granite State’s Republican party.

Further, as a direct descendent of a Revolutionary War major, Frank is a state officer and member of the Society of the Cincinnati, America’s oldest patriotic organization, founded in 1783 by the officers of General George Washington’s Continental Army. Meanwhile, Liz is Vice Regent to Rhode Island for the Mount Vernon Ladies Association, the oldest national preservation organization charged with preserving the estate owned by George Washington.

Beginning in the late 1700’s with Sullivan Dorr, Frank’s family prospered from trade with China, in textile manufacturing, as the original “tugboat” operator in Narragansett Bay (founding the Providence Steamboat Company), and in the newspaper business, where his grandfather served as former Chairman of The Providence Journal. Similarly, Liz’s father founded a timber company in Maine, for which she has served as long time President.

Frank has engaged in multiple entrepreneurial pursuits in recent decades, publishing the Rhode Island “Onion” magazine, co-founding a money-management firm and a commercial real-estate firm, and now owning and operating a popular UPS Store in Providence’s jewelry district.

When it comes to civic engagement, Frank, a US Navy veteran who was twice deployed during the Reagan build-up years, has also been a long-time supporter of the state and federal Republican party. Liz is the Vice President of MoHA (Mile of Historic Association) whose goal is to preserve the history and protect famed Benefit Street in Providence.

The couple’s philanthropic munificence is a central component of their contributions to society. Whether donating their time or treasure, the generosity of Frank and Liz Mauran has benefitted countless Ocean Staters and Americans.

They have also been major financial supporters of each of these organizations for which they have selflessly donated their time and expertise. Liz has also served for decades on the board of the Rhode Island Zoological Society and the family has contributed to multiple projects at the Roger Williams Park Zoo. Similarly, Frank serves as a board member and donor to The Rhode Island Nature Conservancy, which preserves lands vital to our environment. Among the many other organizations supported by the Maurans, are the RI Historical Society, Crossroads RI, the Perennial Planters Garden Club, and the Newport Historical Society.

With regard to our Center, without the generous support of Frank Mauran, The Ocean State Current and its In The Dugout podcast would not exist today.

Married in 1987 and with three children, the family enjoys spending time in Exeter.

At our 2023 Freedom Banquet, we honor the great contributions to Rhode Island and American society by Frank and Liz Mauran. With a storied thread of ancestral history, they are not only highly deserving recipients, but they exemplify and have dedicated their lives – by their many good deeds – to the principles and foundations of America and of our organization’s annual Pillar of Freedom award.

The J. William Middendorf Pillar of Freedom Award is named in honor of Ambassador J. William Middendorf, Little Compton resident, former Secretary of the Navy, and current Heritage Foundation board member. He is, perhaps, Rhode Island’s greatest living defender of freedom.

 

 

The Center launches a public awareness campaign to educate conservative voters to cross over and vote in the upcoming Democrat primary.

Campaign Launch: Center Encourages Conservatives to Cross-Over & Vote in Democrat Primary

Why Conservatives Should Cross-Over & Vote in the September 5 Democrat Primary for RI CD-1
August 6 Deadline to Check or Change Your Eligibility

Cranston, RI – The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity today announced that it has launched a public awareness campaign to educate and encourage independent and conservative voters, who normally wouldn’t do so, to cross over and vote in the upcoming Democrat primary. Voters have until August 6 to check or change their voter status in order to be eligible for the September 5 primary to replace RI’s former US Congressman, David Cicilline.

“It is your patriotic duty to vote,” said the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse. “Why not be strategic about casting your ballot by crossing-over to help elect a more palatable and common-sense candidate, instead of sending yet another reality-challenged progressive to Congress?”

But registered voters in RI’s 1st Congressional District must take near-term action to ensure they are eligible to vote in the Democrat primary. Voter affiliation & eligibility instructions have been posted and can be accessed at RIFreedom.org/CrossOver.

In believing Ocean Staters deserve representation in Washington, DC that respects their pocketbooks, heritage, and deeply-held traditional values, the Center joins with dozens of coalition member groups in supporting this cross-over voting strategy.

“With 22 announced Democrat candidates splitting the vote, a few thousand cross-over ballots could be the difference in swinging the election away from one of the radically-woke front-runners. Liberals successfully deployed this strategy in voting through a left-leaning candidate in Rhode Island’s 2006 US Senate Republican primary. It’s time for conservatives, likewise, to fully maximize their legal voting power,” Stenhouse added.

The Center’s two-month campaign will include:

  • 18 half-page ads in the Providence Journal
  • Social media advertising and promotion
  • Dedicated informational webpage
  • Regular emails to its tens of thousands of subscribers
  • Stories and opinion pieces on the Center’s media arm, The Ocean State Current
  • Frequent discussion and guests on the In The Dugout with Mike Stenhouse video podcast.

The Center also encourages the press and voters of all stripes to demand that every candidate go on record with responses to the biggest hot-button issue of our time … the Marxist & cultural revolution that has infected our society and is being indoctrinated into young students.

  • Should men be allowed to compete in women’s sports?
  • Should students be secretly coerced by school officials to undergo permanently debilitating and controversial gender-transition procedures?
  • Should sexually explicit materials, anti-American teachings, and divisive critical race theories be part of any public school curricula?
  • Should parents have full-rights to direct the health and education of their minor children?
The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity today announced it will hold its annual freedom banquet this November, resuming the event after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

Center Resumes its Annual Fundraising Luncheon after Three-Year Hiatus

Keynote Speaker: National Pundit, Guy Benson

 

Cranston, RI – The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity today announced it will hold its annual freedom banquet this November, resuming the event after a three-year hiatus due to the pandemic.

The 2023 Daniel S Harrop Freedom Banquet, presented by Americans For Prosperity (AFP), is a fundraising luncheon that will be held on Friday November 3 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Warwick. The event is named after the Center’s founding chairman, Dr. Daniel Harrop, who unexpectedly passed away last fall.

The keynote speaker, Guy Benson, is Political Editor of Townhall.com, a Fox News Contributor, and host of the nationally syndicated “Guy Benson Show” on Fox News Radio. The event will be emceed by Mike Stenhouse, CEO of the Center, who will share anecdotes from his Boston Red Sox playing days.

“Our freedom luncheon is our state’s premiere event for Rhode Islanders who support limited government, enjoy free market capitalism, and revere the constitutional liberties guaranteed to all Americans,” commented Stenhouse.

Over 300 guests are expected. The Middendorf Pillar of Freedom Award will also be presented to this year’s honoree by Dr. Stephen Skoly, the Center’s Chairman.

“We are happy to partner with the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity to present this year’s annual banquet as an opportunity for like-minded individuals to gather on the principles that unite us,” said Americans For Prosperity Northeast Director, Ross Connolly. “We at AFP are dedicated to advancing our shared goals of economic freedom and individual prosperity for all Americans and to reignite the American Dream in Rhode Island.”

Tables of eight can be sponsored with a donation of $1200, while individual seats can be reserved with a $175 gift. More information, as well as online registration for all guests and table sponsors, can be accessed at RIFreedom.org/Banquet

Mike Stenhouse, CEO of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, today submitted testimony to the RI House Committee on Education in support of House bill H5498, which will be heard today in committee at 4:00PM in Room 101 at the State House.

Stenhouse submits testimony in support of (H5498) to repeal RIDE’s curricula mandate powers

Stenhouse Testimony Includes Remarks from Over 100 Citizens
H5498 Would Repeal RIDE’s Curricula Mandate Powers

Providence, RI – Mike Stenhouse, CEO of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, today submitted testimony to the RI House Committee on Education in support of House bill H5498, which will be heard today in committee at 4:00PM in Room 101 at the State House.

The legislation would repeal the 2019 law that empowered the RI Department of Education to mandate standardized curricula to every school district and public school student in the state.

“It is the view of many parents in our state, and mine, that RIDE and its Commissioner, Angelica Infante-Green, have proven to be wholly ineffective, irresponsible, and unworthy of the authority granted to it by state lawmakers in 2019,” said Stenhouse. “RIDE continually infuses controversial political theories and age-inappropriate content into K-12 curricula … advancing political agendas instead of academic achievement … and to infringe on parental rights and on the authority of locally-elected school committee members. It’s clear that it’s time to reverse course.”

Stenhouse’s testimony, which can be accessed here, includes the personal remarks of over 100 citizens who submitted written testimony to the committee via email via an online tool provided by the Center. In just the past three days, over 125 Rhode Islanders utilized the tool to submit written testimony “for” H5498, while over 250 people had previously signed on online petition in support of the legislation.

As an example of RIDE’s politicized approach to education, the Center published a 54-page report in February, titled, “Taken for a RIDE; How Rhode Island’s Social Studies Standards Shortchange Students.” The report highlighted RIDE’s historically inaccurate and divisive social studies standards, which were rubber-stamped by the Board of Education. The report also made an argument for substantially modifying or entirely replacing the Standards with a more historically accurate and widely acceptable set of standards.

Bi-partisan companion legislation (S0187) has also been submitted in the RI Senate, although a hearing date has not yet been set.