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.

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity has joined with over 130 organizations across the United States in support of the SAVE Title IX national movement to protest new and unpopular mandates on K-12 schools and colleges.

SAVE TITLE IX: Center Joins National Movement to Protest Biden’s Proposed Rule Changes

Center Joins 130+ Orgs Across America to SAVE Title IX
National movement protests Biden administration’s attempt to re-write federal regulations to punish schools and people that do not affirmatively further transgender ideologies

Cranston, RI – The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity has joined with over 130 organizations across the United States in support of the SAVE Title IX national movement to protest new and unpopular mandates on K-12 schools and colleges.

“The Biden Administration’s Proposed Title IX Rule Undermines the Rights of Parents,” said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “The Biden Education Department is rewriting federal regulations to require any school that receives federal funds to affirm a child’s gender identity without the approval or knowledge of his or her parents. We believe that parents, not school officials, have the right to teach their children about issues of sex and gender identity.”

For parents and citizens who agree, there is an easy way to make your voices heard by sending an official comment to the US Department of Education; the link to this simple “Title IX Comment Form” can be accessed at the Center’s Action Center, (click here).

The Biden Administration’s Department of Education released on June 23, 2022, their new Title IX regulations which expand its long-standing definition of sex to include “gender identity,” making obsolete the gains made during the Trump Administration.

“The new Title IX policy proposes to expand the biological definition of “sex” to also include “sex stereotypes, sex characteristics, pregnancy or related conditions, sexual orientation, and gender identity, said Edward Bartlett, founder of the national SAVE organization, which is leading the national movement. “The proposed Biden Title IX plan also violates many provisions found in state-level campus due process laws.”

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Ed Bartlett was the featured guest Wednesday, July 27, on the video podcast, #InTheDugout with Mike Stenhouse; and can be viewed here on The Ocean State Current website.

A rally will be held in Washington, DC on August 11 to highlight these concerns, and to call on the Department of Education to not move forward with its Title IX proposal.

According to SAVE, there are 6 major areas where the proposed new rules would violate rights or moral norms:

  1. Parental Rights: If the definition of sex is expanded to include “gender identity,” parents may lose their right to restrict the exposure of young children to age-inappropriate discussions of sexual practices. Worse, children could be gender “transitioned” and assigned a new name without their parents’ knowledge or consent.
  2. Due Process: Many colleges have failed to abide by the Fourteenth Amendment, which promises due process protections for all. The new Title IX regulation seeks to remove key due process protections for persons, especially male students, accused of violating campus sexual misconduct policies.
  3. Free Speech: A recent survey of 481 colleges reported only 12% received a “green-light” rating. The draft Title IX regulation expands the definition of sexual harassment, which will serve to curtail campus speech about controversial topics. And once the legal definition of “sex” is expanded to include gender identity, students can demand that persons call them by their preferred pronouns. But mandated speech is not free speech. In a recent Wisconsin case, a 13-year-old boy refused to use a fellow student’s preferred “they” and “them” pronouns, resulting in a Title IX complaint against him.
  4. Women’s Sports: Transgenders enjoy numerous physical advantages over biological females. This contradicts the whole purpose of Title IX, which is to assure fairness for all students regardless of sex. For example, transgender Lia Thomas set new school and program records after competing on the women’s UPenn swim team.
  5. Bathrooms and Locker Room Privacy: In August 2021, Loudon County, VA approved a new policy on Rights of Transgender and Gender-Expansive Students. During the following three months, a student committed a sexual assault in a girl’s bathroom, high schoolers staged a walk-out to protest the schools’ handling of the incident, and the case became a focus of heated debate during the race for governor. No more safe spaces for children. Their rights being denied and not protected.
  6. Gender Experimentation: The vast majority of children who struggle with their sex come to accept their biological sex by adulthood. Boys and girls need to be supported, not encouraged to question fundamental facts of their biology. Encouraging young children to question their own biology represents a radical experiment in gender engineering.
The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has joined the The Civics Alliance, a national coalition of organizations and individuals dedicated to improving America’s civics education: The Civics Alliance’s model K-12 social studies standards, American Birthright, was launched yesterday, one week before July 4, to honor Independence Day.

Center Joins National Civics Alliance to Inspire Reform at State Education Departments

In Honor of July 4 Independence Day and the Upcoming 250th Anniversary of America’s Birthright of Freedom

Cranston, RI – The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has joined the The Civics Alliance, a national coalition of organizations and individuals dedicated to improving America’s civics education: The Civics Alliance’s model K-12 social studies standards, American Birthright, was launched yesterday, one week before July 4, to honor Independence Day.

The Civics Alliance wants to inspire America’s state education leaders to provide social studies standards that teach American students their birthright of liberty.

Per Civics Alliance Executive Director David Randall, “Every American student should be educated to be another Harry Truman—a high-school graduate who, without ever graduating from college, has a solid grasp of history and is capable of serving as an officer, a judge, a senator, and president.”

“Here in Rhode Island, our state department of education (RIDE), empowered by enabling legislation in 2019, is forcing local school districts to adopt social studies standards that combine misguided pedagogical theory, low academic standards, and anti-American teachings,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “Conversely, American Birthright is an equal opportunity program in that both disadvantaged and better-off students will be exposed to diverse and intensive content standards that fulfill America’s promise of equal educational opportunities for everyone.”

PROGRAMMING NOTE: David Randall will be the featured guest this Thursday, June 30, at 4:00PM EST for an in depth interview on the video podcast, #InTheDugout with Mike Stenhouse and can be viewed at OceanStateCurrent.com/AmericanBirthright.

Too many Americans emerge from our schools ignorant of America’s history, indifferent to liberty, and estranged from their country. We must restore American social studies instruction centered on liberty if we are to restore the American republic to good health.

“Americans of all parties want to take back their schools,” Randall explained. “The Civics Alliance wrote American Birthright to equip governors, state legislators, school boards, and grassroots activists for that fight. Every American needs to know what a proper social studies instruction should be.”

The Civics Alliance crafted American Birthright to teach America’s foundational history of liberty. American Birthright provides the comprehensive content knowledge in history, geography, civics, and economics that schools should teach in each grade from pre-kindergarten through high school, and teaches students to identify the ideals, institutions, and individual examples of human liberty, individualism, religious freedom, and republican self-government; assess the extent to which civilizations have fulfilled these ideals; and describe how the evolution of these ideals in different times and places has contributed to the formation of modern American ideals.

Above all, American Birthright teaches about the expansion of American liberty to include all Americans, the contributions that Americans from every walk of life have made to our shared history of liberty, and America’s championship of liberty throughout the world. Students will learn of heroes of liberty such as Abraham Lincoln, Susan B. Anthony, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ronald Reagan.

American Birthright adapts material from several sources that did a particularly good job of providing structure and content for social studies instruction. The largest source of American Birthright is the 2003 Massachusetts History and Social Sciences Curriculum Framework.

A distinguished panel of Expert Consultants worked on American Birthright; and the American Birthright coalition includes a large number of organizations and individuals, including many state policymakers. (See Who We Are.) The policymakers who have joined the American Birthright coalition include Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson of North Carolina, Senator Rob Sampson of Connecticut (Assistant Minority Leader), Representative Don Jones of Ohio (Majority Whip), and Representative Garry R. Smith of South Carolina (Chairman, House Operations and Management Committee). Among the organizations who have joined the coalition are the Claremont Institute and the Eagle Forum, individuals include Victor Davis Hanson and Christopher Rufo.

Randall added, “The Civics Alliance crafted rigorous standards to make it straightforward for policymakers to create equally rigorous equivalents with different priorities, whether by abbreviating some topics, expanding others, or adjusting the course sequences. States and school districts should and will modify American Birthright in detail.”

State policymakers should accompany K-12 social studies standards modeled on American Birthright with legislation to ensure that public K-12 schools provide proper social studies instruction, such as the bills in the Civic Alliance’s Model K-12 Civics Code. Americans need to make sure the content in reformed social studies standards reaches students in the classroom.

Proper social studies standards are a linchpin in the work to educate a new generation of Americans who understand and appreciate their nation’s past and who respect and are prepared to sacrifice for their country. American children should be equipped to continue the work bequeathed to them by the Founders—to establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. The Civics Alliance offers American Birthright to help its fellow Americans to craft the standards, the curricula, the textbooks, and the lessons that will sustain our republic and our nation.

The Ocean State Current Launches its “Election Waves” Interview and Debate Series

Launch of “Election Waves” Interview and Debate Series
Candidates for Coventry School Committee Special Election Featured

Ron St. Pierre and Ken Block headline debate moderators

Cranston, RI – Which candidates are making waves in the Ocean State? The nonpartisan Ocean State Current announced today that it will broadcast the first of its series of Election Waves interviews and debates tonight at 7:00 PM EST at OceanStateCurrent.com/CoventryD1.

Featured this evening will be the Coventry District-1 School Committee May 3 Special Election. Candidates Ana Isabel dos Reis-Couto and Bethany Chatterley join Mike Stenhouse for back-to-back 1-on-1 interviews on a special election-year version of his popular In The Dugout podcast.

The goal of Election Waves is to encourage more informed participation by citizens in the upcoming election process.

Former radio personality and station executive Ron St. Pierre will anchor the debate moderator team and will be regularly joined by:

  • Moderate Party founder and former gubernatorial candidate Ken Block
  • Former Democratic State Representative Thomas Palangio
  • Former Republican State Representative Anthony Giarrusso

Mike Stenhouse will conduct 1-on-1 interviews on his In The Dugout video podcast.

The Current believes candidates for public office deserve an opportunity to inform voters of their policy positions. An open invitation is extended to all federal, state, General Assembly, and school committee candidates; interested candidates can request an interview by sending an email to OceanStateCurrent@RIFreedom.org from the email address listed on their official Board of Elections filing.

In order to comply with IRS tax-exempt nonprofit guidelines, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity (operator of The Ocean State Current) will remain impartial and nonpartisan when it comes to candidates and elections. The Center and The Current never support or oppose any political candidate.

For more information on The Current’s Election Waves policies, go to OceanStateCurrent.com/ElectionWaves.

Only on The Current. The Ocean State Current is rapidly becoming the trusted source for issues that are important to Rhode Island families at OceanStateCurrent.com 

With one of the most technologically advanced websites in the industry, The Current offers text-to-audio translation for posts for easy mobile listening, automatically pulls posts from select content partners, features an advanced and easy search capacity, and displays a unique Watch, Read, and Listen layout.

Center Signs-On to Coalition Letter to Decouple RI from California’s Oppressive Emissions Policies

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity has signed-on to a regional coalition letter to protest California’s extreme and influential carbon emissions policies, along with 28 other organizations. On March 10, the Center’s CEO participated in a press conference with other coalition partners from New England.

READ THE REGIOINAL COALITION LETTER – Click Here

Most Rhode Islanders do not realize, in addition to the costly and non-productive ‘green’ policies imposed upon them by state and federal lawmakers, that the Ocean State, along with 15 other states, is also beholden to enact emissions policies enacted by California.

At specific issue, is a California ban of the sale of vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE), which Rhode Island must statutorily also adopt, which would dramatically drive up the cost of personal automobiles. As such, given the soaring energy costs across America, the regional coalition is recommending that member states work to “decouple” themselves from California’s increasingly oppressive and irrational policies.

The Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse, published an opinion piece representing many of the arguments put forth in the coalition letter, along with a link to the letter.

Have Teacher Unions in Rhode Island Been Unlawfully Collecting Dues for Years?

 

Government officials take an oath of office to preserve the constitutional rights of their constituents. However, in Rhode Island, school board officials who approved agreements with special-interest public employee unions have effectively hidden those rights from their employees via unconstitutional collective bargaining provisions that are in direct defiance of the Supreme Court Of the United States (SCOTUS).

In 2018, the highest court in America ruled that public employees must retain power over their own paychecks. Yet, since then, many government unions in Rhode Island may have unlawfully collected dues from employees by propagating misleading language that overtly shields them from knowledge of their rights.

The landmark June 2018 US Supreme Court decision in the Janus v AFSCME case opened the door to worker freedom in America. But some of the old political machines were taken aback, especially government employee unions at the state and local level. SCOTUS ruled that no longer could a public employee be mandated to pay union “dues”, “Association fees”, “agency fees”, or “shop fees” as a condition of their employment.

Under the weight of this ruling, most public employee unions across the country, reluctantly realizing the great financial and legal risk of non-compliance, immediately amended their policies and subsequent contract agreements to comply with the new law … such that any dues payments could only be collected once the employee affirmatively provided clear authorization … but not so for many unions in Rhode Island.

According to the Mackinac Center in Michigan, one of nation’s top legal and public policy experts when it comes to government unions, Rhode Island’s rate of non-compliance with the Janus ruling looks to be among the highest in the country. The extent to which blatantly anti-Janus-constitutional provisions still exist in many teacher union Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) is alarming.

An initial review of about three dozen collective bargaining agreements with local school districts in Rhode Island reveals an alarming number – eleven (more than 1 in 4) – that were signed or put into effect after the Janus ruling, contained dues or fees mandate provisions that clearly defy the Supreme Court’s ruling … provisions that are legally unenforceable.

Types of language clearly violating the Janus Supreme Court ruling that were found in the eleven Rhode Island CBAs with local chapters of the NEA, AFT, AFL-CIO, and AFSCME … unlawful provisions that remained in effect for years after 2018 … can be summarized as including passages that:

  • Require automatic deduction of dues or fees from employee paychecks without their expressed consent
  • Require payment of dues or fees as a condition of employment
  • Limit the union opt-out time-window for employees

The table below summarizes the unlawful language of offending school districts (supporting details appear as an Appendix at the end of this report:)

As an example of what a properly worded CBA should look like, post-Janus, we look to provisions in the agreement between the Glocester K-5 school district and the Glocester Teachers’ Association for the time period July 2019 to June 2022:

The Glocester school district maintained the above Articles 20 and 21, post-Janus, but appropriately REMOVED the following provision that appeared in the district’s pre-Janus CBA:

As national examples of how post-Janus federal court cases compelled government unions to appropriately modify their dues/fees collection policies, what follows is language from two related US Third Circuit cases:

LaSpina v. SEIU Pennsylvania State Council, 985 F.3d 278, 282 (3rd Cir. 2021). After the Supreme Court decided Janus, the Union abandoned its agency-fee setup. The day the Court issued its decision, Steve Catanese, president of SEIU Local 668, wrote to Jack Finnerty of the Scranton Public Library “that the Supreme Court has ruled in Janus” and has “held public-sector employers may no longer deduct agency fees from non-consenting employees.” Supp. App. 69. Catanese’s letter instructed Finnerty to, “effective immediately, please discontinue fair-share fee deductions.” Id. (emphasis in original).

“Therefore, under Janus I, Pennsylvania’s public sector agency shop law was no longer constitutional.” Diamond v. Pennsylvania Educ. Ass’n, 972 F.3d 262, 268 (3rd Cir. 2020). Circuit law directly on point.

Other Supreme Court precedent illustrates what must be done to demonstrate employee consent. The Court has ruled that, to demonstrate consent to a waiver of constitutional rights, there must be evidence that the waiver is a “knowing, intelligent act … done with sufficient awareness of the relevant circumstances and likely consequences.” Brady v United States, 397 U.S. 742, 748 (1970). “It must also be done with “a full awareness of both the nature of the right being abandoned and the consequences of the decision to abandon it.” Moran v. Burbine, 475 U.S. 421,421 (1986) …

Per the SCOTUS ruling, before employees can consent to financially supporting a public sector union, they must know both what their rights are and the consequences of waiving those rights.

Yet, not every school district in Rhode Island was as careful to follow the law as was Glocester, as many districts continued to allow overtly unconstitutional language to remain in their post-Janus CBAs, without providing employees with the required notification of their rights.

One of the most blatant examples of such an unconstitutional provision appears in the September 2018 Westerly Teachers’ Association CBA:

How did this happen? Elected school committee members were either complicit with teacher unions in allowing such “unlawful” language to remain, or they were unwitting victims of malfeasance or ill-advice by their school committee solicitors, who are highly paid to provide accurate legal guidance.

The fact is, that for over three years, many teachers and other school district staff in Rhode Island may have been fraudulently deceived into paying union dues or association fees because of the unconstitutional language in their respective CBAs. These employees likely had dues automatically deducted from their paychecks without ever understanding that their First Amendment rights – that they could not be forced to pay part of their paycheck to their union – had been restored in 2018.

Indeed, as compared with opt-out rates nationally, Rhode Island teachers and other public employees are choosing to “opt-out” of paying union dues at rates far lower than their counterparts in other states. While states like California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Massachusetts are seeing more than 15% of workers opt out of paying money to their unions, we estimate that less than 5% of Rhode Island union members have opted out. Now, we may know why.

In the majority Supreme Court decision in 2018, Justice Alito was noted that billions of dollars were likely collected by government unions nationwide in recent decades. Much of this money came from employees who never wanted to pay union dues in the first place but were forced to, because of prior legal precedent.

However, over the past three and a half years, Rhode Island unions may have similarly, yet unlawfully, collected millions of dollars in dues from employees who may have chosen to opt-out … had they not been deceived by clearly unconstitutional language.

Obvious questions must be asked, including:

  • How many teachers and school staff would not have paid union dues if they had been appropriately advised of their rights? How much money was fraudulently collected by unions?
  • Why do so man teacher union CBAs in Rhode Island contain such unconstitutional language? 
  • Why did Rhode Island school committees and teacher unions engage in such non-compliance so much more than any other state?
  • Did school committee members knowingly turn a blind eye towards this malfeasance, or were they completely ignorant of these obvious violations?
  • How can high-paid school committee solicitors allow such obviously unconstitutional language to be included in recent CBAs?
  • Is anything comparable to this level of unconstitutionality occurring in non-teacher public employee CBA contracts in Rhode Island?

Why in some cases, does the AFSCME CBA have proper language regarding dues and fees, while the teacher contract over the same period in the same school district has unconstitutional language?

The main question this report raises … is whether or not certain public teacher unions in Rhode Island conspired to illicitly collect union dues from unwitting teachers and staff?

This is not the first time that a government entity in Rhode Island has exhibited such blatant defiance of the US Supreme Court’s Janus decision. In 2018, our Center’s MyPayMySayRI.com campaign triggered a public letter of warning from then Attorney General Peter Kilmartin, after our outreach initiative sought to educate government workers about their restored Janus rights. The letter from Rhode Island’s highest law enforcement official contained numerous unsubstantiated, unspecified, and false assertions of “misinformation” being put forth by our RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, such as the bogus claim that we were mis-informing public employees of their rights not to join or pay union dues or fees.

Then, as now, the pattern of government officials in Rhode Island conducting the bidding of public sector unions – at both the state and local level – even to the extent of seeking to obfuscate the constitutional rights of its members … runs directly contrary to the public oaths they took upon entering office.

A review of non-school district CBAs will soon be conducted by the Center.

The following Appendix lists images the actual passages from post-Janus teacher-union CBAs in Rhode Island that contain language that does not comply with the US Supreme Court’s Janus ruling.


APPENDIX

Rhode Island School Districts with Unconstitutional Collective Bargaining Provisions

 

Burrillville: NEA Contract Period: September 2021-2024

Page-40: https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&pid=sites&srcid=YnNkLXJpLm5ldHxob21lfGd4Ojc1NTMwZjU2M2U5MDhiMQ

Page-5: https://core-docs.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/asset/uploaded_file/236104/CF_CBA_18-21_FINAL_FORM.pdf 

Foster-Glocester: NEA Contract Period 2020-2023

Page-29: http://www.fg.k12.ri.us/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=9841126

Johnston: AFL-CIO Local 808 Contract period 2017-2020, extended in 2020 by the school district

Pages 4-5: https://www.johnstonschools.org/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=20171014

June 2020 Johnston School District Minutes

 

Lincoln: AFSCME Contract Period September 2018-2021

Page-4: https://www.lincolnps.org/cms/lib/RI50000681/Centricity/Domain/44/L2671-contract-2018-2021-02-07-19-FINAL.pdf

New Shoreham: AFSCME Contract Period 2019-2022

Page-2: https://4.files.edl.io/4ef8/11/15/19/153226-ac2437cb-2ef2-43d3-8fb7-ab0bbf4cb0cf.pdf

North Smithfield: NEA Contract Period 2021-24

Page-6: NSTA Collective Bargaining Agreement

Portsmouth: AFSCME Contract Period September 2018-2021
Page-2:

https://core-docs.s3.amazonaws.com/documents/asset/uploaded_file/1355692/Council_94_Contract_7.1.18_-_7.30.21.pdf

Tiverton: NEA Contract Period; 2019 –

Page-9: http://www.tivertonschools.org/common/pages/DisplayFile.aspx?itemId=8558123

Westerly: NEA Contract Period September 2018-2021

Page-5: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1V6e4ChNvhLkp6-Y0zqPUdieauxOzAMvm/view

West Warwick: AFT Contract Period September 2018-2023

Page-21: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1NdyhtJYJb0SibVVm0BXmthzTkehxDtjU/view

MEDIA RELEASE: Ron St. Pierre Joins The Ocean State Current, New Brand Logo for In The Dugout

Ron St. Pierre Joins The Ocean State Current
New Executive Producer Role & Anchor of Election 2022 Debates

In The Dugout Logo Contest Winner Announced

Cranston, RI – The Ocean State Current announced today that Ron St. Pierre will join its staff and that it has selected a new brand logo for its In The Dugout video podcast.

The Ocean State Current is Rhode Island’s fastest growing all-digital news and information source. In promoting common sense policies and opinions as the media arm of the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, The Current is quickly becoming the voice of parents and concerned citizens who seek improvement over the Ocean State’s failed status quo.

Along with its flagship video podcast, In The Dugout with Mike Stenhouse, The Current features video, text, and audio posts from citizen journalists and policy experts. An increasing lineup of content and new programming is expected in the near future, as Ron St. Pierre, popular on-air radio personality and former station president and general manager, will serve in the newly created position as Executive Producer for The Current, beginning March 1.

Beginning this week, St. Pierre will be joined by his longtime radio partner, Jen Brien, to co-host In The Dugout shows on Mondays, along with Mike Stenhouse. This special Monday podcast will soon launch a unique “talk video” format.

News & Views to Turn the Tide! The Current features a team of citizen journalists as well as prominent local and national personalities from across the political spectrum, who present a wide range of perspectives and common sense solutions … in text, audio, and video formats.

National contributors include: Stephen Moore, Chief Economist at the Heritage Foundation, Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, Andy Bernstein, Ayn Rand expert and Objectivist, and Hans Von Spakovsky, elections expert at the Heritage Foundation.

In addition to dozens of mom and dad parental-rights advocates, local contributors include: Judge Robert Flanders, former Associate Justice of the RI Supreme Court,  Stephen Laffey, former Cranston mayor and US Senatorial candidate, Anthony Giarrusso, former state Representative from East Greenwich, Tom Ward, founder of The Valley Breeze newspaper, Jen Brien, radio personality, and Tyler Rowley, religion & morality expert.

Election 2022. Ron St. Pierre will also anchor an Election 2022 debate series that will focus on upcoming state and local elections in Rhode Island. Also as part of St. Pierre’s role, The Current will also be developing premium content that will soon be available to monthly subscribers.

The Current also announces today that its new In The Dugout logo (below) was selected from a national logo contest among graphic artists and was the clear selection in a private survey. The new logo portrays both baseball and broadcast themes in a classic style, along with more contemporary elements. Stenhouse was a former Major League Baseball player in the 1980’s with the Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, and Montreal Expos.

The In The Dugout podcasts, which normally air live Monday through Thursday from 4:00-5:00 PM EST, are reminiscent of some of Stenhouse’s favorite baseball memories when he and his teammates would engage in talk about all manner of issues while sitting in the dugout before or after a game. Stenhouse invites all of his guests to join him in donning a cap of their favorite team or organization.

Only on The Current. The Ocean State Current is rapidly becoming the trusted source for issues that are important to Rhode Island families … issues that the corporate media won’t cover or put forth with a false narrative. For those who are tired of the bias of the mainstream media, give The Current a look by browsing regularly at OceanStateCurrent.com

With one of the most technologically advanced websites in the industry, The Current offers text-to-audio translation for posts for easy mobile listening, automatically pulls content from select media partners, features an advanced and easy search capacity, and displays a unique Watch, Read, and Listen layout.

The Scientific Truth About Mask Mandates

Fourteen Randomized, Controlled Trials of Community Masking, Published 2008 to 2021, Are Uniformly Negative, and Underscore the Punitive, Anti-Scientific Futility of Public Mask Mandates

By Dr. Andrew Bostom

Background

In August of 2021, the State of Rhode Island and the Rhode Island Department of Health implemented a school mask mandate which will extend at least into January of 2022. Subsequently, there has been much public debate and outcry about the wisdom and motives behind this heavy-handed policy, including a lawsuit brought by concerned parents.

In a November 2021 Superior Court ruling in the State of Rhode Island, presented with scientific evidence and after hearing testimony from parents, the trial judge found that the prolonged masking of children over the course of a school day caused “irreparable harm” for the children in the state who were forced to wear masks.1

Yet, despite overwhelming research against the , still, by early February of 2022, at the time of this post, Rhode Island’s school mask mandate was still in effect – even as, in recent weeks, Massachusetts, Virginia, Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and Oregon announced they would be ending their mandates.

Worse, on February 8, House and Senate committees in the Rhode Island General Assembly advanced legislation that would allow school mask mandates to be remain in place through the end of March by extending the Governor’s emergency executive powers.

Back in August, the State cited vague guidance by the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as the basis for imposing this mandate, yet history and the most credible studies do not support a policy of universal masking within designated communities.

Between 2008-2020, thirteen negative randomized controlled trials (the gold-standard for studies of medical interventions) on masking were published.2-5 These studies conducted among ~18,000 persons, worldwide, all indicated that masking does not reduce community respiratory virus transmission.

Conversely, the most prominent study that the CDC cited to support its call for the continued masking of children aged 2 and older in school, was not a randomized, controlled trial, had serious design flaws, and may have included factitious data.6

Gold Standard Studies

In our era, randomized, controlled trials have shown, uniformly that face masks are not effective against respiratory virus outbreaks, or epidemics. But with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and increasing political pressure, suddenly studies appeared claiming the opposite. In reality, none of these studies were of the gold standard caliber; instead a mixture of confounded observational data, unrealistic modelling and laboratory results, and possible fraud.

Taking a look at more credible ‘gold standard’ designs, ten negative studies, focusing primarily on influenza, 2008 to 2016, were “meta-analyzed” [their data “pooled”], confirming the individual negative results.3 Independently validating these pooled findings are the results from a single large randomized controlled trial of masking among another cohort of Hajj pilgrims whose enrollment [n=6338] equaled the sum enrollment of all the 10 studies in the May, 2020 “meta-analysis.” Published online in mid-October, 2020, this “cluster randomized” (i.e., by tent) controlled trial confirmed mask usage did not reduce the incidence of clinically defined, or laboratory-confirmed respiratory viral infections, primarily influenza and/or rhinovirus. Indeed, there was a suggestion masking increased laboratory-confirmed infections by 40%, although this trend was not “statistically significant.”4

Subsequently, Danish investigators published the results during mid-November, 2020 of a randomized, controlled study conducted in 4862 persons which found that masking did not reduce SARS-CoV-2 (covid-19) infection rates to a statistically significant, or clinically relevant extent.  Covid-19 infections (detected by laboratory testing or hospital diagnosis) occurred among 1.8% of those assigned masks, versus 2.1% in control participants. Moreover, a secondary analysis including only participants who reported wearing face masks “exactly as instructed,” revealed a further narrowing of this non-significant, clinically meaningless infection rate “difference” to 0.1%, i.e., 2.0% in mask wearers versus 2.1% in controls.5

Finally, a vast (n=342,000) Bangladesh randomized trial of community masking, reported 8/31/21 as preprint, found cloth masks did not prevent SARS-CoV-2 infections. Odd, contradictory findings were described regarding surgical masks: they conferred a minimal, clinically irrelevant overall absolute risk reduction of 0.09%, which was somehow selectively limited only to those over 50 years old.7 However, a re-analysis of the raw data using appropriate statistical methods, found no evidence of benefit of paper masks either, in any subgroup.8

In aggregate from 2008 through August 2021, these fourteen negative randomized controlled trials of community masking for the prevention of respiratory viral infections, including SARS-CoV-2,2-5,7,8 underscore the punitive, anti-scientific fecklessness of public mask mandates

Dr. Andrew Bostom, an adjunct scholar to the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is an academic internist, clinical trialist, and epidemiologist. Dr, Bostom was academic faculty for 24-years at Brown University Medical School, and remains affiliated with the Brown University Center For Primary Care and Prevention of Kent-Memorial Hospital.

References

1) https://www.abc6.com/content/uploads/2021/11/h/b/PC-2021-5915-decision-mask-mandate.pdf

2) “Surgical Mask to Prevent Influenza Transmission in Households: A Cluster Randomized Trial.”

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0013998

3) “Nonpharmaceutical Measures for Pandemic Influenza in Nonhealthcare Settings—Personal Protective and Environmental Measures” https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/26/5/19-0994_article

4) “Facemask against viral respiratory infections among Hajj pilgrims: A challenging cluster randomized trial” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7553311/pdf/pone.0240287.pdf

5) “Effectiveness of Adding a Mask Recommendation to Other Public Health Measures to Prevent SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Danish Mask Wearers”

https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/full/10.7326/M20-6817

6) ““The CDC’s Flawed Case for Wearing Masks in School” https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2021/12/mask-guidelines-cdc-walensky/621035/

7) “The Impact of Community Masking on COVID-19: A Cluster-Randomized Trial in Bangladesh”

https://www.poverty-action.org/sites/default/files/publications/Mask_RCT____Symptomatic_Seropositivity_083121.pdf

8) “A note on sampling biases in the Bangladesh mask trial.” https://arxiv.org/abs/2112.01296

 

 

 

 

 

 

Center’s Chairman Files Federal Lawsuit to Overturn State of RI Ban on Caring for His Patients

Dr. Skoly Files Federal Lawsuit
Complaint alleges that the State’s actions barring him from caring for his patients are unconstitutional, irrational, arbitrary, and vindictive

Cranston, RI – Dr. Stephen Skoly and his legal team today filed a lawsuit in federal court against defendants Governor Daniel McKee and Nicole Alexander-Scott, the outgoing Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH), seeking an order to enjoin the State from barring him from caring for his patients as well as a restraining order that would immediately restore his right to continue his practice.

Dr. Skoly, Chairman of the RI Center for Freedom of Prosperity and a highly respected oral and maxillofacial surgeon who regularly provided service to those institutionalized by the State, was ordered by RIDOH on October 1, 2021 to cease providing his critical surgical care to patients, after his request for a medical exemption for the Covid-19 vaccine was denied.

The official complaint was prepared by attorney Brian Rosner, Senior Litigation Counsel for the nationally renowned and Washington, DC based New Civil Liberties Alliance (NCLA) and was filed today in the United States District Court for Rhode Island by local attorney Gregory Piccirilli.

“After four months of being forced out of work, I still held out some hope that all mandates might come to an end in mid February. But now, with Rhode Island’s Speaker of the House and Senate President openly planning with Governor McKee to extend his executive orders and unilateral powers for at least another two months … I am left with no choice but to file this lawsuit,” exclaimed Skoly, who for 18 months of the pandemic safely cared for his patients.

At a special breaking news event, Rosner and Skoly will address the public and the media live today at 4:00 PM virtually on The Ocean State Current in a hybrid press-conference/interview format, hosted by the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse.

The 34-page complaint puts forth two primary arguments for the Court to consider:

First, the complaint claims that Dr. Skoly’s “equal protection” and “due process” rights were violated, under the 14th Amendment to the US Constitution, which states that no State shall “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” In Dr. Skoly’s case, the State of Rhode Island has awarded hundreds of related exemptions to various healthcare professionals, while simultaneously denying Dr. Skoly equal consideration and failing to provide the legal due process that he is entitled to.

Second, the complaint cites that it was an “irrational and arbitrary move” for RIDOH to deny Dr. Skoly’s valid request for a medical exemption. The complaint not only documents Dr. Skoly’s naturally acquired immunity and antibody testing, but also his personal medical history of suffering from Bell’s Palsy facial paralysis, a condition that has scientifically been demonstrated to be associated with the Covid-19 vaccine … and where at least fifteen such cases have been reported in Rhode Island. Risking re-activation of such paralysis in order to continue his medical practice is repeatedly cited in the complaint as an irrational demand by the State of Rhode Island, which has caused “hardship and suffering to hundreds of Rhode Islanders” who are denied care by Dr. Skoly.

In advancing its “equal protection” argument, the complaint discusses how N95 masking has essentially been designated by the State as an acceptable alternative to vaccination. Dr. Skoly, who has agreed to comply with required testing and masking protocols, presents no more risk to patients than the hundreds and thousands of other healthcare workers, vaccinated or not, infected or not, who are currently allowed to care for patients under those same protocols. The complaint continues that the State, in allowing masked and “infected” workers to retain their livelihoods, while barring (infection-free) Dr. Skoly from practicing his profession, is guilty of an “arbitrary and capricious distinction” that “denies Dr. Skoly the equal protection of the law” .. an “action that has the appearance of being vindictive.”

Sources have informed the Center that RIDOH staff have privately admitted that Dr. Skoly was being made an example of, in part, because of his association with “that conservative organization” … as Chairman of our RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity.

Supporting Dr. Skoly’s position, and included in the filing, are over a dozen affidavits from local medical professionals, including statements from multiple national experts on Bell’s Palsy and Covid-19, as well as citation of recent findings from the CDC and updated policies from other countries.

Also, to date, about 4000 emails have been delivered to state officials via an online petition whereby concerned citizens and can #StandWithDocSkoly . The petition, plus related documentation and links can be found on the Center’s website at RIFreedom.org/DocSkoly.

RIDOH

McKee Must Remake RI DOH in a New Image

Why Governor McKee Must Completely Remake RI DOH
With Someone Like Dr. Andrew Bostom, Who Got It Right All Along?

Cranston, RI – The departure of two top executives from the RI Department of Health (RI DOH), and with more resignations expected to follow, Governor Dan McKee should not seek to rebuild the failed health organization in the same image, according to the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity.

In a detailed opinion piece (Remake RI DOH) published over the weekend on The Ocean State Current, the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse, chronicled the many failures and shortcomings of the RI DOH strategy from the very start of Covid-19; a politically-driven strategy that failed to take a comprehensive approach to managing the pandemic in the Ocean State.

As opposed to the status quo replacements that will likely be put forth, health professionals who continually got it wrong by denying the science, who instead succumbed to political and public pressure from the left, and who arbitrarily pushed for un-necessary lockdown measures, the Center recommends, conversely, that medical experts with a successful track record be newly installed at RI DOH.

Indeed, there have been few medical professionals who have dared to publicly challenge the government’s false narrative, who conducted their own independent thorough and open-minded research of the available Covid-19 studies and trials, and who demonstrated a proven track record of accurately interpreting the data and advocating for a more effective public policy strategy. It is this kind of health expert that should provide the foundation for the re-building of the new RI DOH.

Rhode Islanders would benefit greatly from someone like Dr. Andrew Bostom, a Brown University credentialed epidemiologist and adjunct scholar to the Center, who should be a central part of Rhode Island’s new health administration. Bostom, who gained statewide public trust and a large following from his weekly appearances on the popular internet show, In The Dugout with Mike Stenhouse; and who repeatedly and accurately foretold of issues related to various pandemic-related treatments and policies.

“Someone like Dr. Bostom, who often was many months ahead of the curve in boldly speaking out about what was allowed to be stated publicly and that we now know as fact; someone who continually and correctly analyzed emerging research data from across the globe; someone who was un-deterred by the cancel-culture that tried to silence him; someone with an appropriately open-minded and academic approach; and someone who ultimately was proven to be correct in virtually everything that he discussed on my show … that is the exact kind of someone who would bring a successful approach that is so obviously needed at the RI DOH,” advised Stenhouse.

The Center recognizes the enormous challenge that Covid-19 presented public health officials worldwide. This is why the RI DOH requires a new culture that will consider a comprehensive range of science-driven counter-measures for this and future public health challenges, as opposed to the narrow one-size-fits all approach that has dominated our state’s health department. Ocean Staters can enjoy far greater health and economic protections if the next administration at the RI DOH adopts a strategy that is on-mark, effective, and appropriate for a free society.

Analysis of research data performed by Dr. Andrew Bostom Natural Immunity Should be Included as a Vaccine Exemption.

Ashish Jha’s Improper Comparison of Pediatric Polio and Covid-19 Vaccinations

by Andrew Bostom, M.D., M.S., and Michelle Cretella, M.D.

Within 10 days of the 11/2/21 Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) interim recommendation for use of Pfizer’s covid-19 mRNA vaccine in children aged 5-11 years old, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, Dr. Ashish Jha claimed in an 11/11/21 Washington Post oped.

  • “If today’s misinformation, politicization and anti-vaccine sentiment existed in the United States in the 1950s, would the polio vaccine have received the same level of uptake?”

Hard data on childhood polio versus covid-19 disease severity, and direct juxtaposition of the polio and covid-19 vaccine trials, reveals a very different reality.

A 1957 JAMA publication analyzed polio mortality between 1915 and 1954 in U.S. children aged up to 14 years old, prior to mass polio vaccination efforts. Despite a steady decline due to the expanding development of natural immunity, the average polio death rate among these children, including the major outbreaks, was an alarming 5.7%. Rhode Island, through October 31st in 1953, alone, recorded 289 clinical pediatric polio cases, with 15 deaths, a 5.2% fatality rate.

These data stand in stark contrast to the near zero childhood covid-19 mortality, overall, and perhaps literally zero, among children free of chronic comorbidity. Rhode Island has had zero primary cause pediatric covid-19 deaths, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, per its recording system, maintains, “In states reporting, 0.00%-0.03% of all child COVID-19 cases resulted in death.” An elegant study from a national database in Germany reported concordant findings, noting,

  • “The lowest risk was observed in children aged 5-11 without comorbidities. In this group, the ICU admission rate was 0.2 per 10,000 (2 per 100,000) and case fatality could not be calculated, due to an absence of cases”

Dr. Vinay Prasad’s pellucid commentary on the German analysis, referenced these additional salient data:

  • For healthy kids, the risk of death is 3 per 1,000,000 with no deaths reported in kids older than 5.
  • Kids 5 to 11 have a risk of going to the ICU of 2 in 100,000; 0 died.
  • Among kids who died of COVID-19, 38% were already on palliative/ hospice care.

Juxtaposing the polio and covid-19 pediatric vaccine trials highlights consistent, equally glaring discordances.

The controlled (both placebo and observational controls) 1954 polio vaccine field trial recruited ~1.83 million total children, with ~1.35 million in the paralytic polio analysis. Pfizer’s Covid-19 mRNA vaccine randomized, controlled trial in 5 to 11 year-olds enrolled ~2300.

516 total cases of paralytic polio accumulated in the 1954 polio field trial, and vaccination reduced its incidence by 71.1% and 62.4%, relative to the placebo and observational-control groups, respectively. The Pfizer covid-19 vaccine randomized, placebo-controlled trial in 5 to 11 year-olds recorded zero cases of severe covid-19, despite recruiting ~20% with comorbidities. Covid-19 vaccination did reduce mildly symptomatic, covid-19 by “90.7%,” based on “3 cases in the BNT162b2 group and 16 cases in the placebo group (noting the 2:1 randomization of vaccine: placebo)”. Additionally, “No cases of COVID-19 were observed in either the vaccine group or the placebo group in participants with evidence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

 In summary, the 1954 polio vaccine trial for an order of magnitude more lethal, and crippling childhood disease than covid-19, assessed ~650-fold the number of children evaluated in Pfizer’s covid-19 vaccine trial. Polio vaccination in the 1954 trial prevented 374 cases of paralytic polio. Covid-19 vaccination in Pfizer’s trial prevented 13 cases equivalent to self-limited colds. Moreover, notwithstanding overwrought concerns about pediatric “long covid,” a December, 2021 Pediatric Infectious Diseases Journal review of 14 studies of this ostensible syndrome, concluded,

  • Evidence for long COVID in children and adolescents is limited, and all studies to date have substantial limitations or do not show a difference between children who had been infected by SARS-CoV-2 and those who were not.

 Dr. Jha’s comparison equating pediatric polio and covid-19 vaccination does not pass muster. Informed, dissenting medical opinions leery of mass, indiscriminate childhood covid-19 vaccination campaigns, should not be vilified.

Andrew Bostom, M.D. MS, is an adjunct scholar to the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity. He is an academic clinical trialist and epidemiologist, who is currently a Research Physician at the Brown University Center For Primary Care and Prevention of Kent-Memorial Hospital in Rhode Island.

Michelle Cretella, M.D., is Executive Director of the American College of Pediatricians. She is a Rhode Islander who practiced pediatrics with a special interest in behavioral health for 15 years.