Ocular Telemedicine Ban: Progressive Bad Bill of the Week

In blocking technological innovation, by seeking a virtual ban on the emerging and promising “ocular tele-medicine” industry, Senate bill S2404 and its House companion, H7608, have been dubbed the Progressive Land of Make Believe Bad Bills of the Week.

One reason why Rhode Island has such a dismal business climate and reputation is precisely bills like these that stifle innovation and increase costs on patients, all because existing national and local optometry associations and practitioners are asking for protectionist policies that block competition.

Perhaps even worse, Senate committee chairman, Joshua Miller, who oversaw the hearing on the legislation, said he would “dismiss” the testimony of the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse. It is a common tactic of progressives like the Honorable Senator Miller to seek to shut down open and honest debate, because they believe their views, and only their views, deserve discussion.

See Stenhouse’s video commentary here.

See the video of Stenhouse’s actual committee testimony  – and multiple interruptions – here.

Read the GoLocalProv article, where even Common Cause RI criticizes the Senator for his intolerance.

Red below for Stenhouse’s 2017 OpEd on the issue …


2017 OpEd: Rhode Island Should Encourage Eye Care Innovation, Not Protectionism

Every Rhode Island family should have multiple choices to select the affordable, high-quality health care that’s best for them. And as new federal healthcare laws are debated in Washington, D.C., Rhode Island needs to have its own debate about insurance mandates and other protectionist policies.

In the case of eye care, Rhode Islanders often pay above market rates for glasses and contact lenses. However, new technology has the power to change this inefficiency by lowering prices and increasing convenience for consumers – that is, unless new protectionist legislation is passed into law.

Optometrists are unique in that they are some of the only medical professionals that sell what they prescribe. Oftentimes, they conveniently forget to provide copies of vision prescriptions to patients, or they advise them to purchases lenses directly from eye care offices at inflated prices. The prescriptions that optometrists write are often brand specific – usually for Johnson & Johnson’s Acuvue lenses. The reason is simple: Johnson & Johnson produces over 40 percent of the world’s contacts, and as a way of furthering a monopoly, they give eye care professionals kickbacks on every sale made within their offices.

Federal legislation has attempted to bandage the problem by making it illegal for eye doctors to hold back prescriptions, but, as we all know, there is only so much that government enforcement can do to stop cronyism.

Fortunately, the free market has recently developed a new solution whereby optometrists’ office visits can often be bypassed. New technology accurately allows consumers to measure their prescription strength from the comfort of their own homes, a process known as “ocular telemedicine,” via their smartphones or computers, whereby they can take an eye-test approved by a board-certified ophthalmologist.

Patients can then use that e-prescription to purchase lenses or glasses wherever they choose, typically at much lower prices. With this technology, healthy adults only need to visit a brick-and-mortar eye doctor once every two years for a full eye health exam (as recommended by the American Optometric Association) instead of every time a lens refill is needed, or for specific eye problems.

Although this innovation is saving consumers time and money, it is causing quite an uproar in the optometry industry. Like the hair-styling and cosmetology protectionists who are trying to block natural hair-braiders like Jocelyn DeCouto from practicing their harmless trade, the vision industry is hoping to see through a usage ban on this new technology.

Washington lobbying groups like the American Optometric Association (AOA) are pressuring state legislatures to introduce bills that will ban most uses for ocular telemedicine. On the national level alone, this group is spending nearly $2 million a year in lobbying.

In banning a technology that can provide affordable, high quality eye care for Rhode Islanders – particularly for poor and rural residents – these two bills are an assault on the free market, innovation, and common sense.

Thankfully, this type of legislation has fared poorly in other states. In the past year, similar protectionist bills that kill competition and cost eye care customers more time and money have been shot down across America; New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez issued a veto as did then-Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley, who stated the bill, “uses health practice mandates to stifle competition for the benefit of a single industry … putting us on the leading edge of protectionism, not innovation.”

Rhode Island lawmakers need to see through the optometry cartel’s attempts to kill innovation and competition. At-home vision testing technology can empower Rhode Island families and individuals to get the prescription vision-aids they need at lower cost and with more ease than ever before.


The Raimondo administration is heaping additional burdens on employers by doling out tens of millions of their hard-earned tax dollars to Infosys.

Statement on Infosys Announcement: Small Businesses Should Be the Focus

Pro Small Business Measures Would Benefit Ocean State More than Infosys-Type Corporate Welfare

Federal Tax Reforms Could Open Door for Real Economic Growth

Providence, RI – Just days after touting “Small Business Saturday” the Raimondo administration has heaped additional tax burdens on employers and taxpayers in the Ocean State by doling out tens of millions of their hard-earned dollars to Infosys. Today’s announcement of yet another astro-turf corporate welfare scheme underscores how little is being done to nurture small business employers, who account for well over 90% of all jobs in the state.

Ironically, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity points out that it may be reforms in Washington, DC … often the target of scorn by the Governor … that could be the main reason behind the Infosys announcement, and that may spur real, grass-rootseconomic growth.

“There is little doubt in my mind that the primary reason why Infosys is now locating more jobs in America is because of the easing of federal regulations that we have seen this year,” commented Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “If Congress next passes its Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, companies won’t need taxpayer-funded hand-outs to decide to become established and to flourish in our state.”

Rhode Islanders need a credible alternative to the status quo and its destructive progressive ideas. You can help.

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The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is the Ocean State’s leading voice against the wreckage caused by our state’s progressive agenda.

As the state’s leading research organization, advancing family and business friendly values… the mission of our Center is to make Rhode Island a better place to call home – to raise a family and to build a career.

While progressives value government-centric, taxpayer-funded dependency… our Center believes in the value of hard work and the free-enterprise system.

We understand that in order for more Rhode Island families to have a better quality of life, that more and better businesses are needed to create more and better jobs.

Your donation will help us fight the union-progressive movement and, instead, advocate for pro-family, pro-business policies and values.

Please make a generous, tax-deductible gift to support our Center today!

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The Center has long-maintained that Rhode Island’s corporate welfare based economic development strategy, like the Infosys deal, is not sufficient to spur robust economic growth and jobs creation. Instead, the Center has advocated that broad-based tax and regulator reforms – that will lessen burdens every business in our state – are the only means by which more and better companies will produce more and better-paying jobs.

“The Infosys deal does nothing to improve our state’s dismal business climate and will help very few Rhode Islanders,” continued Stenhouse. “Interestingly, while statewide legislative leaders continue to hamper small business growth, it may be the federal government that will take concrete steps to actually improve the climate for all small and large businesses.

“According to the Center, corporate welfare schemes will do little to alleviate the problems suffered by Rhode Island employers and families … as exemplified by bottom-10 national rankings in such broad-based indexes as: overall state business climate, Family Prosperity Index, Jobs & Opportunity Index, occupational licensing burdens, and the recently released poverty report.

Stenhouse commentary: Legislative Grants – Cheers to 10 Lawmakers, Shame on You

Commentary: CEO Stenhouse congratulates 10 lawmakers who have resisted immoral legislative grants, and rips the public policy culture they perpetuate.

See the video on The Ocean State CurrentStenSpeech3

Good day Rhode Island, I’m Mike Stenhouse with the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity welcoming you to our debate series, “What’s really in your best interests?”. Today we’ll explore the recently publicized and controversial topic of legislative grants. Are lawmakers the only people at fault, or is there a larger, more fundamental problem at play?

Legislative grants hand-out your taxpayer dollars to organizations in an arbitrary, yet highly politicized process. When your local Little League or parade receives such a grant, totaling anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, local lawmakers gets the credit for giving away your money … assuming those lawmakers, of course, are in favor with House and Senate leadership – this is where the internal politics comes in.

Much of the media attention has focused on lawmakers who have applied for such grants in a corrupt process to gain favor with voters. In looking at the other side of the coin, however, I’d like to recognize 10 lawmakers in the General Assembly who have not applied for a single legislative grant this year. In alphabetical order, they are:

Rep Greg Constantino, Democrat, Lincoln

Rep Blake Filippi, Independent, New Shoreham

Senator Mark Gee, Republican, East Greenwich

Rep Robert Jacquard, Democrat, Providence

Rep Karen MacBeth, Democrat turned Republican, Cumberland

Rep Brian Newberry, Republican minority leader, North Smithfield

Rep Jeremiah O’Grady, Democrat, Lincoln

Senator Ed O’Neill, Independent turned Republican, Lincoln

Senator John Pagliarini, Republican, Bristol

Rep Sheri Roberts, Republican, West Greenwich

These 10 lawmakers apparently understand the larger “principle” involved here … that the politicization of your hard-earned taxpayer dollars is simply wrong! I applaud these 10 lawmakers and I ask you to thank them next time you see them.

However, while we give “cheers” to these 10, there is another group who roundly deserve “boos”. The problem with legislative grants is not just the waste of your taxpayer dollars, but it’s the culture they perpetuate. It seems more and more, whether it be 38 Studios, a baseball stadium, the Superman building, local groups, and countless other private enterprises … that far too many individuals and businesses are becoming increasingly dependent on government handouts to survive or to boost their profits.

Just go up to Smith Hill some day. See who’s hanging around outside and inside the legislative chambers, listen to who testifies at the various hearings, and if you’re like me you’ll be sickened by sheer number of people up there demanding they get some of your money … as if it’s their right. No wonder some call it a “Den of Thieves”.

I say shame on you if you’re one of these businesses or groups who come begging to Smith Hill, to your legislators, or to your local town and city council with your hands out; whether seeking tax credits, subsidies, loan guarantees, tax stabilization plans, or, yes, a legislative grant.

If you’re one of these beggars, you are as big a problem as the lawmakers who accede to your demands.

You help perpetuate a special-interest culture of corruption

You help create an unfair playing field that distorts the free-market economy.

Why does your organization have any right to my money?

You are not examples of successful American capitalism  … you are byproducts of insider cronyism.

This overly-politicized “money” culture is immoral and it must stop. If we are to reform this corrupt culture, it must start with you … the people of Rhode Island. Our Center has never taken and never will take a single dime of taxpayer money. We depend entirely on the generosity of private individuals and private foundations.

Stop seeking government handouts … instead, start doing it yourself.

Stop supporting special-interest spending policies … instead, start demanding broad-based tax and regulatory cuts that benefit all of us.

Stop cozying up to politicians in order to curry monetary favor from them … instead, start holding them accountable when they politicize your money.

Friends, together, we can stop this corruption that benefits the insiders and hurts the rest of us. Let’s make a point of congratulating these 10 lawmakers … and among ourselves, let’s pledg to build our futures, on our own, so that our prosperity will be based on nothing more than our own hard work and ingenuity.

This how Rhode Island can be returned to prosperity.
In liberty, I remain at your service. This is Mike Stenhouse, good day.

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