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 announced today that it has partnered with the RI Coalition for Israel (RICI) to encourage members of the public to register for a compelling online event this coming Sunday.

PRESS RELEASE: Center Sponsors Online Forum on Hamas’ Oct 7th Sexual Violence

April 7 Forum to Expose Truth of October 7 Sexual Violence
Public Invited to Register for Online Event this Sunday

Cranston, RI – The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity announced today that it has partnered with the RI Coalition for Israel (RICI) to encourage members of the public to register for a compelling online event this coming Sunday.

Entitled “The Reality of Sexual Violence in War”, the April 7, 2:00 PM EST Zoom-based event will feature as keynote speakers two internationally prominent Jewish women – Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and Susan Seely – who will discuss and display images of some of the carnage and aftermath of the brutal attacks by Hamas on the people of Israel last October 7. Local organizations that work with women will also present during the 90-minute forum.

According to RICI, there is a public need to raise awareness about Hamas’ use of rape and sexual violence as a weapon of war, in direct violation of the international rules of war. This 6-month remembrance event, presented by RICI and the RI Chapter of Hadassah, is designed to erase doubts that Hamas utilized sexual and gender-base violence as a weapon of war and intimidation … a documented fact that has often been dismissed as Israeli propaganda by enemies of Israel.

As the event’s promotional co-sponsor, the Center conducted an in-depth interview with two leaders of RICI on its popular podcast, In The Dugout with Mike Stenhouse, and is raising awareness via its media, email, and social media apparatus.

“Given the many anti-Semitic and pro-Palestinian protests across the country and here in Rhode Island, it is important that the public understand the abject brutality that occurred on October 7,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “Hopefully, such knowledge will bring more balance to the debate about Israel’s need to eliminate Hamas in Gaza vs. calls for a cease-fire.”

Sunday’s web-based event is open to and free for all to attend, with registration options below:

Visit TinyURL.com/NeverSilenced6
Visit RICI’s Facebook page and follow the links

The Left’s Assault on RI Families

Rhode Island’s ruling class is working against the interests of families by adopting extremist ideologies

Has our own government become the enemy of Ocean State families?

Corrupt insiders win … families lose!

It’s time to restore traditional family values – “love of country” and “trust in God” 

#AssaultOnRIFamilies 

Rhode Island families are disillusioned … and under assault from their own government:

  • Economicallyinflation & high taxes are robbing family budgets
  • Educationallypoliticized curricula are failing our children
  • Culturally – controversial & divisive theories are turning our society upside down
  • Religiouslyintolerance for God, Christians, and Jews is fueling hate and restricting religious freedom
  • Emotionallythe bombardment of age-inappropriate content is leading to mental health issues among our youth
  • Physicallycrime, drugs, woke transgender policies, and the erosion of self-defense rights put family members at risk of  bodily harm
  • Patrioticallyanimosity towards America and her founding fathers, as pushed by the Left, is creating enemies within

The preservation and advancement of the well-being of families and children should be the foremost goal of our society and government. Every resident of Rhode Island aspires to live in a peaceful and prosperous society, and every family wishes for a bright future for their children.

Yet, here in our state, families are being ripped apart by a radical agenda that undermines traditional family values and seeks to transition children into political pawns.

Centuries of empirical evidence and common sense have shown that a stable and nurturing family environment is the best path to a productive future. The “success sequence”, supported by extensive research, is that path, which consists of three main pillars: 1) completing a quality education and earning at least a high school diploma; 2) securing full-time employment; and 3) marrying before having children. Following these steps alone can provide young adults with more than a 97% chance of avoiding poverty.

However, virtually all significant societal and economic issues we encounter today can be attributed to the breakdown of the traditional family structure and its security, which in turn leads to the collapse of faith.

Alarmingly, between 2018 and 2022, 32 percent of RI infants were born to a mother with less than a high school diploma, while 34 percent of fathers had less than a high school diploma. These troubling trends can be largely attributed to destructive public policies in our state that erode one or more of these pillars, encroach upon our freedoms, and impose more politicized government control over our lives. For instance, as we describe below, many of our state’s public assistance programs actually create a “marriage penalty” for couples who want to tie the knot.

Unfairly, for those of you who do study, obtain a good job, and get married … all too often your hard-earned tax dollars are redistributed to others who weren’t responsible enough to follow this path!

These misguided policies often stem from corruption, where government bureaucrats prioritize serving insider special interest groups and agendas – especially when under public pressure from progressive activists, the media, and academia – which inevitably results in negative consequences for families and taxpayers.

The Washington Bridge debacle exemplifies the potential consequences of a state government’s corrupt dealings with one special interest group – public and private sector unions – resulting in significant incompetence and waste as well as danger for all of us. The Rhode Island Department of Transportation was aware of the bridge’s structural issues since 2012, but for over a decade, they concealed the report and failed to take action to protect the safety of motorists. Rather than spending $8 million on repairs at that time, unionized construction firms now stand to gain as much as $300 million of taxpayer money to reconstruct the entire bridge. This raises the question we must often ask: who wins and who loses?

Low-income families, with under-educated children, have been voting for liberal-left candidates for decades … and they’re still poor, with un-educated kids!

Corrupt Identity Politics. In a disturbingly large number of instances, important public policy issues are decided upon based on false narratives manufactured and advanced by self-serving special-interest groups … often inventing new categories of victims who ostensibly suffer from some contrived or  fake injustice. These “identity politics” narratives are then perpetrated by the compliant local media, academia, and liberal advocacy groups … then, finally, legislative and executive actions are enacted to address these pretend “social inequities”, resulting in benefits for the special interest few at the expense of the well-being of the many Ocean State families.

The public has lost complete faith in our government, which increasingly is ruled by politicians who are beholden to these obviously false narratives … and voters will put their support behind candidates who offer a change … a realistic, taxpayer-centric approach.

The gross corruption of governmental officials – beholden to these false narratives and the extremists who support them; elected and and appointed officials who oversee policies in the economy, education, housing, and the environment as well as of compliant judges in the courts – is robbing our children of their rightful opportunity for a bright and prosperous future in our Ocean State … all so that crony insiders will benefit instead.

Who wins and who loses?

In short, RI public policy has become an “assault” on Ocean State families … in favor of selfish and corrupt insider cronies and their false narratives.

The Left’s War on Women

In Washington, DC, the Biden Administration’s 2024 reckless reforms to Title IX, which will put the safety of boys and girls at risk, seeks to reshape and dismantle the role of families in the raising and education of their children, by inventing and mandating a new set of rights for gender-denying students, which have no constitutional basis.

In response, Americans are revolting and many state superintendents across America have issued directives NOT TO COMPLY with these dangerous new woke rules.

Back here in Rhode Island, and as detailed throughout this post, families are under further assault from our own state government and the progressive Left, beginning with RI’s Education Commissioner, Angelica Infante-Green, who refuses to change RIDE’s anti-family guidance on school transgender policies.

The critical question is whether or not state lawmakers will “wake up” to the harsh realities of the consequences of the Left’s misguided policies.

While not everyone can be raised in a stable family environment, and while we have a responsibility to support citizens in our state who may be in real need, elected officials should continually strive to adopt public polices that reward marriage, promote a thriving economy with a low cost of living and free-market business climate, and provide a meaningful public educational system that respects parental rights.

The Proof – The Great Ocean State Exodus

No other metric best illustrates the oppressive nature of RI’s failed public polices than the well-documented pattern of graduates, retirees, middle- and upper-income families, and high-net-worth individuals fleeing our state … reducing our state’s tax base and limiting the amount of capital available to invest in starting or expanding a business, or to donate to charitable organizations.

These productive citizens are being replaced, in large part, by undocumented immigrants who often rely on public assistance – tax dollar eaters instead of tax dollar producers.

Our Ocean State’s population has stagnated in recent decades and has not kept pace with population growth in other states. As such, most experts agree that Rhode Island will lose one of its two prized House of Representative seats in the US Congress after the 2030 Census.

Here’s how our own government has become the enemy of RI families:

ECONOMICALLY

On the economic front, family budgets are stressed to the breaking point. Because of oppressive regulations, not only is our state one of the worst states in which to start a business and create jobs, but Rhode Island suffers from one of the highest costs of living in America due to high taxes and inflation-causing regulatory and spending policies that reduce supplies and raise demand. Our Ocean State is also one of the most expensive states for seniors to retire.

The average 2-parent Rhode Island family will pay over $1,369,000 in taxes throughout their lifetime … over 30% higher than the US average!

Also, family savings have completely reversed (-72% drop) under the Biden’s control over the national economy as compared with Trump’s (+129% rise).

The “tax the rich” and spend mentality of the progressive-left actually makes worse the problem of wealth inequality by robbing low income families of opportunities for upward mobility; instead of encouraging them to become dependent on government assistance.

When income or wealth is over-taxed at the individual or corporate level, there is less incentive to invest cash (capital) to hire and pay workers or to start or expand a businesses, while at the same time driving high-income investors out of Rhode Island and to other, less oppressive, states.

These kind of natural and human reactions are why increased taxation often leads to decreased revenues to the government.

Such counter-productive policies that borrow opportunity from future generations, in order to satisfy the demands of corrupt insiders, inevitably lead to many negative and unintended economic consequences for families:

  • Soaring “Local” Inflation (High Cost Of Living) means families are losing thousands of dollars of purchasing power each year, as prices on many staples continue to rise. Groceries cost too much. Clothing costs too much. Housing costs too much. Electricity costs too much.
    • On top of the national inflation problem, Ocean State politicians have made local inflation even worse. RI politicians have continually and mindlessly collected billions of of dollars in federal aid and hundreds of millions in wasteful spending bonds … most of which end up in the pockets of insider cronies and special interest groups.
    • It’s a basic “supply and demand” situation: Combined with over-regulation (which limits output, or supply), these unchecked levels of federal & bond funds and indiscriminate state spending (which increases consumer spending power, or demand) are a direct and major cause why local prices have risen so significantly. 
    • For too many families, rises in family incomes are not keeping pace with rises in the local cost of living. “Shrinkflation”, where consumers get LESS product for the same spend, is also a direct cause of government over-spending.
  • “Real” wages for families (income as compared with inflation) have fallen by 2.54% under the progressive policies of progressives in the White House
  • High housing costs in RI are significantly higher than the national average, while misguided over-regulation by government has reduced the number of units to rent and homes to buy. Housing prices have exploded past the level of affordability for an increasing number of Rhode Islanders, with lack of availability even a bigger concern. Never-ending government regulation in the housing industry has reduced the number of available units, while increasing costs on builders, sellers, and landlords … all of which are passed onto buyers and renters.
    • Property Taxes are among the highest in America, largely due to overly-generous collective bargaining agreements with unionized public employees
    • Most new and available public housing units are being developed for the benefit of illegal immigrants and NOT for hard-working Ocean State families.
    • SOLUTION: Allow natural market forces to determine what gets built, free from onerous regulation. Repeal 2014 “RhodeMapRI” regulations that mandate social-engineering and urban-planning policies (such as “sustainable development” and “smart growth”) that artificially increase the cost of building and restrict the supply of home and rental units. End free housing policies for illegal immigrants.
  • Ever increasing cost of utilities and exploding energy prices, while simultaneously decreasing energy choices, when it comes to heating our homes and driving our vehicles. Our government’s foolish race to be the first net-zero-emissions state … will actually result in zero world-wide benefit … but will impose massive energy costs upon families, while limiting our freedom of choice. Who wins and who loses?
    • In recent years, RI lawmakers enacted green energy mandates for power suppliers and voluntary entered our state into a regional cap-and-trade market … each of which artificially drives up the cost of electricity, hoping many families will use less
      • The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is a regional compact between participating states, whose goal is to artificially raise electricity prices
    • By next decade, Rhode Island motorists will be banned from buying lower-cost gas powered cars, and will be forced to buy significantly higher-priced and less-reliable Electric Vehicles … because state lawmakers mandated that RI must follow California’s (CARB) oppressive vehicle emissions standards
    • The “Act On Climate”, passed by RI lawmakers in 2021, supports our state’s  unachievable path to eliminate carbon emissions … a path that will lead to increased utility and energy prices even more rapidly than we have seen in recent decades.
      • SOLUTIONS: Accept the reality of the limitations of green energy. Repeal the Act of Climate and end RI’s voluntary membership in RGGI and CARB
  • Fewer good paying jobs will be available for many Rhode Islanders as they are increasingly going to illegal immigrants welcomed into our state by Rhode Island’s and Providence’s “sanctuary state” and “sanctuary city” policies.
    • Small businesses, the main source of jobs in our state, are being crowded out by high local inflation and oppressive regulations imposed by progressive lawmakers that make it costly to produce goods or provide services
    • Also, RI’s high and ever-increasing minimum wage mandates, means employers will hire fewer workers and will cut back on the hours of part-time or hourly workers.
    • SOLUTION: Reform RI’s minimum wage laws to match the federal minimum wage minimums. This will increase job availability and allow good-performing workers to quickly earn higher wages from employers who will want to keep them.
  • Reductions in Public Assistance for low-middle income families are at threat because of the Left’s misguided polices. First, the influx of illegal immigrants means more public funds are being diverted away from long-time Rhode Island resident families. Second, our high tax and cost-of-living environment means thousands of people are leaving our state every year, which will lead to a loss of one of our two prized House of Representative seats in the US Congress … resulting in lower levels of federal aid for Rhode Island. Who wins and who loses?

EDUCATIONALLY

Most disturbing of all, is that the Left and our government is now focusing its assault on families with a targeted war on our children.

The RI Department of Education is a failed institution. RIDE is not preparing our children for a prosperous future and for life informed citizens … and they are doing so on purpose!

Ocean State families are fed up and have lost trust in a failing government-run public school system that is increasingly controlled by corrupt teacher unions and radical left ideologues. Many families are seeking to escape the system and are desperate in seeking alternative options.

Both major teacher unions in RI have persistently stood in the way of significant educational reform by threatening to use their massive political war chest to oust lawmakers who do not support the agenda of union bosses. In recent years, both the AFT and the NEA rejected calls to focus more on objective subjects like math, science, and English … and instead make the politically subjective issue of “social justice” a priority in K-12 schools. Who wins and who loses?

Teacher unions, with their long-time special-interest and insider crony status, have more recently devolved into just another radical-left activist group that use alleged concern for students to attain power and influence. The reality, however, is while they care about teachers, they harm students far more than they help them. 

One example is teachers unions’ opposition to school choice. Those who actually care about students support the right of parents to choose their children’s schools—just as many teachers do when they send their own children to schools of their choice.

A second example is teachers unions’ making it nearly impossible to fire incompetent teachers.

A third example was teachers unions’ demands that schools lock down for nearly two years during the COVID-19 era. The unions did so despite there being no scientific evidence in support of school lockdowns and despite ample warnings that many children would suffer intellectually, scholastically, emotionally, and psychologically.

Moreover, wrote John H. Cochrane of the Hoover Institution in The Wall Street Journal, “When schools went remote, parents found out what was actually going on inside the classrooms. Teachers were coaching students to hate themselves, their country and their religious traditions, and sexualizing young children.”

The last point brings us to a fourth example: Teachers rob young students of their sexual innocence with premature talk of, and books that deal with, overt sexual activity, and the infamous use of drag queens to perform in front of children as young as 6 years old.

Just how left-wing teachers organizations are was made clear by the sympathetic left-wing magazine The Nation in January:

A rank-and-file campaign inside the National Education Association is demanding the president stop ‘sending military funding, equipment, and intelligence to Israel.’ … But the rank-and-file campaign goes beyond [that]. … Members want the [National Education Association] to revoke its endorsement of Joe Biden for the 2024 presidential race until the president … stops ‘sending military funding, equipment, and intelligence to Israel.’

That was only two months after Oct. 7.

Save our kids from the woke Left

Sadly, many believe that we must save our kids from RIDE – the RI Department of Education. In fact a petition drive calling for the resignation of commissioner Angelic Infante-Green has garnered hundreds of signatures and scathing comments.

The lack of educational achievement among students, combined with the cultural attack on children and parents … is even more troubling.

In 2019 the RI General Assembly granted RIDE with the authority to develop statewide curricula standards for core subjects … however, since then, under the direction of Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green, RIDE has proven to be wholly irresponsible and unworthy of such authority.

Instead of pursuing a traditional “content-based” curricula strategy, an objective method of teaching factual material, RIDE has adopted a more subjective and controversial approach, often referred to as “concept-based” pedagogy. In Rhode Island’s case, the Socialist worldview of Infante-Green and her “America as oppressors” point-of-view is persistently woven through almost all RIDE-recommended instructional content.

  • SOLUTION: Repeal the 2019 statue that empowered RIDE with curricula authority and return related decisions to locally-elected school committee officials, as Senate bill S2518 attempted to achieve in 2024.

The Marxification of Education in RI: On RIDE’s own website, the prominent Marxist Paulo Freire is prominently quoted. Freire’s “critical pedagogy,” whose theoretical roots are derived directly from Marxism, seeks to indoctrinate students to become critical agents of social change.

RIDE has failed in its mission to prepare children for college and life, while also leading the way in advancing a woke, social justice agenda that has divided local communities.

Education or Indoctrination?

Read more

Rich Southwell, lead plaintiff, along with his over three-dozen co-plaintiffs in the school mask mandate lawsuit against Governor McKee and the RI Department of Health, are calling for the support of parents and concerned citizens at a court-ordered public hearing to be conducted by RIDOH on Friday morning, March 15.

Court-ordered March 15 Public Forum May Expose Pseudo-Science of RIDOH’s School Mask Mandate Blunder

Rich Southwell, lead plaintiff, along with his over three-dozen co-plaintiffs in the school mask mandate lawsuit against Governor McKee and the RI Department of Health, are calling for the support of parents and concerned citizens at a court-ordered public hearing to be conducted by RIDOH on Friday morning, March 15.

Southwell is looking to fill the room, many of whom he hopes will testify, and to have others submit testimony via email, calling on the public do its part in fighting off future frivolous school mask mandates.

As part of the settlement agreement reached between the plaintiffs and the State of RI, RIDOH must hold an open forum, where testimony about the efficacy of community masking can be presented on the record … a required act of transparency that was ignored during the pandemic when McKee and the DOH first imposed the state’s school mask mandates.

As part of their negotiated victory in the case, Southwell and all plaintiffs, led by attorney Gregory Piccirilli, won a major concession from RIDOH … that the pros and cons of school mask mandates would finally be debated in a public forum.

In what may be the only instance in the nation where a state department of health has been forced to consider a specific masking regulation and forced to conduct a public hearing, Rhode Islanders and citizens across America should take heart that a significant victory has been achieved against the authoritarian mismanagement and scientific negligence by the government during the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to Dr. Andrew Bostom, the plaintiff’s top medical and data research advisor throughout the entire legal process, the upcoming public forum will expose the pseudo-science conducted by RI Department of Health.

The official issue to be addressed at the 9:00 AM hearing, is whether a proposed new school masking regulation should be permanently adopted, which would govern RIDOH procedures when it comes to potential future airborne pandemics.

However, the actual issue that will be the focus of the hearing is whether the efficacy of school masking mandates have any scientific or data-driven basis … and whether such polices might cause real harm to children and staff who are forced to breathe unclean air for long periods of time, from under their masks. In fact, the Superior Court judge ruled previously in the case that children indeed suffered “irreparable harm” from the DOH’s mask mandates.

“Based on what we now know, we never want to see any child harmed again by such cavalier and callous actions by our own department of health,” said Southwell. “If there is to be a school masking regulation, it must ensure that any future consideration of school mask mandates will be required to be based upon the actual science and the findings of gold-star random control studies. This regulation provides no such assurance.”

To date, 78 such relevant studies, summarized by the prestigious Cochrane report, “did not show a clear reduction in respiratory viral infection with the use of medical/surgical masks.”[i]

The language of the proposed regulation was agreed upon as part of the lawsuit settlement, however the plaintiffs could not move the DOH far enough … and are therefore encouraging the public to testify – in person or via email – against adoption of the regulation.

Per attorney Piccirilli, he and the plaintiffs attempted to negotiate language that set a much higher scientific standard, however the State wanted as much arbitrary wiggle-room as possible by demanding vague language that would allow the DOH to balance scientific evidence with “the exercise of judgment” by DOH officials. [ii] The language that was agreed upon was the best the plaintiffs could negotiate with RIDOH, which clearly is seeking to maintain the regulatory authority to impose future mandates, if its staff so desires, regardless of the science.

While there is no existing specific school masking regulation, Southwell and Piccirilli believe that the proposed language will not provide adequate protections for the safety of children and will infringe upon parental rights. In fact, they believe adoption of this regulation would give RIDOH the power to capriciously impose mask mandates upon children for any infectious disease, such as RSV, the flu, or chicken pox.

Southwell believes that a large response by the public, combined with the scientific evidence to be presented by local and national experts against school mask mandates, may be sufficient to dissuade RIDOH from adopting the rule. Alternatively, they will likely seek to greatly strengthen the proposed language through recommended amendments or edits to it.

“There should be no regulation requiring masking in schools for the alleged prevention of respiratory viral infections until evidence of BOTH their effectiveness, and lack of harm, has been demonstrated convincingly by multiple, rigorous, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) in school age children published in peer reviewed journals,” advised Andrew Bostom.

Southwell calls upon parents, family, friends, and neighbors to participate and flood the RIDOH with compelling testimony. In February of 2022 over four-hundred Rhode Islanders testified against mandates and he feels this same level of support is once again needed.

Piccirilli further maintains that creating a public “record” of what he expects to be overwhelming evidence against child masking will be a critical legal deterrent against the DOH considering such a mandate again, even if the regulation is adopted largely as proposed.

According to a flyer put forth by Southwell to the plaintiff families, there are many ways to help stop this mask mandate regulation:

Citations:

[i] Do physical measures such as hand-washing or wearing masks stop or slow down the spread of respiratory viruses? | Cochrane

[ii] Masking in School – Rhode Island Department of State (ri.gov)

Parents Alert: Media Literacy APRA Request Template

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

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

 

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

Center Backs Call for Resignation of RI Education Commissioner

Petition to Save our Kids from RIDE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RI Should Recognize February 6 as “Ronald Reagan Day”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: January 4, 2024

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHY MAJOR CHANGES ARE NEEDED AT THE RI DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

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

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

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

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



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

Center Announces Middendorf Honorees for 2023 Freedom Banquet

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

Frank & Liz Mauran are Living Models of Liberty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frank and Liz Mauran 2023 Honorees

2023 Middendorf Pillar of Freedom Award

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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