The prices for gasoline could soon rise dramatically for your family through a new stealth carbon-tax scheme – the TCI Gas Tax.

POLICY BRIEF: Why Raimondo Administration Should Not Impose New TCI Gas Tax

The Stealth TCI Gas Tax

Why the Governor Should Not Sign-on to the Transportation & Climate Initiative

Providence, RI – If the Raimondo administration gets its way and bypasses the General Assembly to sign-on to a new carbon-tax regional compact, a scheme devised by climate alarmists, Rhode Island motorists are about to see a major tax increase at the gas pump. 

A new policy brief released today – The TCI Tax –  by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity details the ‘diabolical’ goals of the Transportation & Climate Initiative (TCI), a green-new-deal type program that will necessarily increase the price of regular and diesel fuel. 

Like all far-left contrivances to reduce carbon-gas emissions, and like the Regional Greeenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) that preceded it, the TCI gas tax will harm economic growth and will take money out of the pockets of residents, while failing to meet its stated goals.

The Center’s policy brief discusses in detail the many reasons why our state should not join the TCI compact, including:

  • In Rhode Island, with its already dismal business climate and exodus of people to lower-cost states, families and businesses cannot afford a significant new gas tax
  • The failure of a similar regional scheme on electricity, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, has driven up consumer costs; has resulted in no added greenhouse gas reductions; and has caused economic harm. There is every reason to believe TCI will also produce a negative cost vs. benefit result. 
  • The Governor should not try to bypass the Constitutional authority of the General Assembly by unilaterally seeking to impose this new gas tax
  • Rhode Island could gain a significant competitive advantage in the region by refusing to sign-on to the TCI tax scheme by being able to offer lower-priced gasoline products
  • There are many less disruptive and more efficient ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • State and national legal challenges may result, along a number of potential Constitutional angles

“We are already suffering through a great Ocean State Exodus because of the worst business climate in the nation,” said the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse. “The Governor cannot unilaterally force motorists to pay higher gasoline taxes if there is zero resulting environmental benefit?”

Additional related information can be found on the Center’s home-TCI-page at RIFreedom.org/NoTCITax. #NOTCITAX

As part of its new strategic litigation initiative, the Center announced a lawsuit against an unconstitutional donor disclosure law.

Center and Robert Flanders Partner with Illinois Group to Bring Lawsuit Against Unconstitutional State Campaign Finance Law

Lawsuit Seeks to Protect Free Speech & Citizen Privacy

Center’s Board Member, Robert Flanders, to Serve as Local Counsel for lawsuit

Watch this NBC-10 TV STORY

Providence, RI – As part of its new strategic litigation initiative, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity announced today that it has partnered with the Liberty Justice Center (LJC) to bring a lawsuit against an unconstitutional donor disclosure law in the Ocean State. 

The lawsuit challenges a Rhode Island law, R.I.G.L. § 17-25.3-1, which requires information about donors who support nonpartisan, issue advocacy organizations to be disclosed to the government when the group engages in issue-advocacy during certain time periods. Issue-advocacy is a private and protected First Amendment right, regardless of when that money is spent. This invasive and unconstitutional law exposes citizens to possible retaliation and harassment for simply exercising their free speech rights. 

Press release from the Liberty Justice Center
Click here for the complaint
New York Times story on Donor Privacy

Press release from the Liberty Justice Center
Click here for the complaint
New York Times story on Donor Privacy

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are The Gaspee Project, a 501(c)4 nonpartisan advocacy organization in Rhode Island, and the Illinois Opportunity Project, a 501(c)4 social-welfare organization. The Gaspee Project et al. v. Mederos, was filed yesterday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island. Robert Flanders, former Associate Justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court and a board member of the Center, will serve as local counsel for the Liberty Justice Center, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public-interest litigation organization.

“The constitutional rights of Rhode Islanders have been under constant and serious threat for decades,” said the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse. “Rather than support open and free debate, this law shuts it down. It rigs the system to discourage organized issue-advocacy and chills free speech.”

In May of 2019 the Center added former Justice Flanders to its Board of Directors, specifically to build an internal legal capacity and to coordinate with national legal organizations that bring lawsuits across the country to challenge unconstitutional state laws and regulations. Flanders was the GOP candidate in Rhode Island’s 2018 U.S. Senate race.

“One way to better inform the voting public about issues facing our communities is to ask the courts to remove laws that inhibit a full and informed debate,” added Flanders. “We should restore full 1st-Amendment rights and encourage everyone to share their ideas and perspectives without fear of retaliation or harassment.”

Similar disclosure requirements in other states have faced considerable scrutiny. As a result of challenge brought by the Liberty Justice Center in New Jersey, the state is currently blocked from enforcing the measures.

In 2014, a different Rhode Island campaign finance law that limited donor rights was successfully challenged by the state-based Stephen Hopkins Center for Civil Rights. 

About Liberty Justice Center: The Liberty Justice Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public-interest litigation center that was founded to fight against political privilege. The most notable example of the Liberty Justice Center’s success in this arena is its 2018 U.S. Supreme Court victory in Janus v. AFSCME. Beyond its work in the Janus case, the Liberty Justice Center’s team of talented, liberty-minded attorneys are also fighting to protect economic liberty, private property rights, free speech and other fundamental rights. The Liberty Justice Center pursues its goals through strategic, precedent-setting litigation to revitalize constitutional restraints on government power and protections for individual rights. Learn more about the Liberty Justice Center at LibertyJusticeCenter.org.

Center Announces Pillar of Freedom Award Honorees for its annual Freedom Banquet, Keynoted by Sean Spice

Senator Elaine Morgan and Rep. Sherry Roberts to be Honored

2019 Freedom Banquet to be keynoted by Sean Spicer

Providence, RI – The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity is pleased to announce that Senator Elaine Morgan and Representative Sherry Roberts have been named as the co-honorees of its prestigious 2019 Middendorf Pillar of Freedom Award at its sold-out October 25 Ocean State Freedom Banquet. 

The award is named after Ambassador J. William Middendorf, Rhode Island’s greatest living defender of freedom. Past winners are Robert and Warren Galkin (2017) and Dr. Daniel Harrop (2018). 

The Middendorf Pillar of Freedom Award is based upon the nominee’s record of achievement in one or more of the following areas : 1) Entrepreneurial or free-market business leadership, 2) Civic engagement, 3) Record of philanthropic giving or charitable organization volunteerism, or 4) Legislative voting history on preserving individual and constitutional freedoms.

In winning from the legislative category, Representative Roberts was the #1-ranked and highest-scoring member in the entire 113-person General Assembly on the Center’s 2019 Freedom Index and Legislator Scorecard while in 2018, Roberts was the highest-scoring member of the RI House of Representatives. In 2018 Senator Morgan was the #1-ranked and highest-scoring member in the full General Assembly while in 2019, Morgan was the highest scoring member of the RI Senate.

Also, Sean Spicer, the Rhode Island native and former White House Press Secretary, will be the keynote speaker at the Center’s 3rd annual banquet, a fundraising luncheon for the Center. The event is expected to draw over 200 people and has become the largest annual gathering of conservatives in the Ocean State. 

Spicer, who is currently performing on the hit realty-TV series, Dancing With The Stars, will discuss his experiences as Communications Director for the Trump Administration in its turbulent first year. All attendees will receive an autographed copy of Spicer’s book, The Briefing. 

The private event is not open to the media.

alaska-opt-in-form-recommended

Center Recommends Alaska-type Opt-in Form for Public Employees. 1900 Already Opted-out?

R.I. Should Follow Alaska’s Lead With a Clear Union Opt-in Form Process

Center’s My Pay-My Say Campaign Has Already Produced up to 1900 Rhode Island Union Opt-outs

Providence, RI – The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity recommends that all state and municipal employers in Rhode Island follow Alaska’s lead to protect the rights of public employees by achieving full compliance with the 2018 US Supreme Court Janus v AFSCME decision.

The Center recommends that the various state and local departments should create a new form and related procedures to verify employees’ identity, explain their full rights, and document their clear intent. Not doing so puts government employers in danger of being in violation of workers’ first amendment rights.

“According to the highest court in the land, no public servant should have union dues automatically deducted from their paycheck unless they provide clear affirmative consent with full understanding of their Janus rights,” advised Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center. “Without a union opt-in process that fully complies with Janus, governments and unions may be at risk of legal action by employees who may have been misinformed.”

In the summer of 2018 the Center initiated its MyPayMySayRI.com campaign, which seeks to advise public employees of their newly restored first amendment rights under Janus

Since then, based actual responses to dozens of records-requests, it can be documented that there are 811 more government workers in 2019 who chose not to pay expensive government union dues than in 2018. This means more than 4% of workers opted-out of their unions. Extrapolated across the entire state, it is estimated that there are now 1900 fewer dues- or fee-paying union members than last year.

In late September, Alaska Governor Michael J. Dunleavy, backed by an opinion from the state’s Attorney General, announced the implementation of an administrative order to protect the first amendment rights of State employees by bringing State government into compliance with the 2018 court ruling. Per Dunleavy’s press release:

“In Janus, the Supreme Court held that 1) government employees cannot be required to pay dues or fees to a public sector union as a condition of employment, and 2) no money can be deducted by employers for public sector unions “unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay.” Public employers, such as the State, cannot according to the court, deduct union dues or fees from an employee’s wages unless the employer has “clear and compelling evidence” that the employee has authorized such deductions. The administrative order only applies to State of Alaska employees currently represented by a union.

The administrative order directs the Alaska Department of Administration to create an initial opt-in program where unionized State employees decide, online or in written form, if they want union dues deducted from their paychecks, which would be revocable at any time.”

A new Freedom Index is here! The Freedom Index is a legislator scorecard that measures if Rhode Island lawmakers voted to preserve or erode our liberties.

Legislator Scorecard: Only 12 legislators score above zero in 2019 session

2019 Freedom Index Shows Massive Infringement on Rights

CLICK HERE FOR THE 2019 Freedom Index & Legislator Scorecard.

Representative Sherry Roberts scores highest. No Democrat lawmaker scores above zero.

Providence, RI — As has been the case throughout the world’s recent history, and as directly implied by its name, the more freedoms afforded to citizens, the more prosperity will result, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity today released its 2019 Freedom Index & Legislator Scorecard.

The Freedom Index measures whether or not state lawmakers voted to preserve or erode our liberties on 95 pieces of legislation that received a floor vote in either chamber. 

Overall, 66 bills were rated negatively, with just 29 receiving a plus rating. The RI Senate, collectively, was the biggest violator of economic, individual, and constitutional liberties with a dismal score of (-47.98) while the House score of (-36.34) was almost as intrusive. 

“As further evidence as to why the Ocean State consistently ranks in the bottom-10 in so many critical national indexes that measure prosperity – and why so many of our family and friends are leaving for greener pastures – the 2019 General Assembly once again executed a legislative assault on the freedoms and liberties of Rhode Island families and businesses,” said the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse

Among party caucuses:

  • the 66 House Democrats scored a negative (-47.22) while their 9 GOP counterparts scored a positive (+44.61)
  • the 33 Senate Democrats scored a negative (-59.63) while their 5 GOP counterparts scored a positive (+28.90)

Individually, only 12 lawmakers, all Republicans, scored above zero on the index,  where individual scores could range from (+101) to (-101). Among the highest and lowest ranking lawmakers:

  • the highest freedom index score in the entire General Assembly was achieved by Representative Sherry Roberts (+66.5), followed by David Place (+61.0). Meanwhile Elaine Morgan (+53.5) was the highest ranking Senator, followed by Jessica DeLaCruz (+43)
  • the worst violator of liberty was Senator Erin Lynch (-71.0), followed closely by Senator Cynthia Coyne (-70.5). The worst defenders of freedom in the House were Representatives Gregg Amore and Robert Craven (-53.3)

On the 2019 Freedom Index web-page, the interactive tables and charts can be sorted or filtered, while multiple tabs present varying breakdowns of the data. By clicking on a lawmaker’s name, viewers can see his or her detailed voting record on the rated bills.

Methodology and prior years’ scorecards and indexes can be viewed on the Center’s Freedom Index home page at RIFreedom.org/FreedomIndex.

NEW REPORT: Collective Bargaining Gives Incentive to Providence Teachers NOT to Work for 37 Days

37 Days: Paid for Not Working in Providence Schools

Collective-bargaining contracts provide a disincentive to teach

Providence, RI –– The collective-bargaining agreement between the Providence Teachers Union and the government of Providence may explain why chronic teacher absences are one of the major problems contributing to the dismal K-12 educational conditions in the capital city. 

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity today released a report – Paid for Not Working, Collective Bargaining Taxpayer Ripoff #2 : Providence Teacher Leaves of Absence – that highlights the many forms of collectively-bargained “leave time” allowed for teachers. About a quarter of all Providence teachers are being paid for missing 10% (18 days) or more of their vital class time with students. As the union contract actually allows for up to 37 days of paid-time-off per year per teacher, the teacher absentee problem could be twice as bad.

“It is not difficult to understand that if our front-line public servants have incentive to not actually be on the front lines, then the overall quality of those public services will suffer,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “We should be thankful that more teachers are not taking full advantage of the numerous and counter-productive leave provisions that unions demand.”

The Center’s new report, an expansion of its Taxpayer Ripoff #1 Ghost Workers report in May, discusses the financial and societal costs of these excessive leave provisions and includes a table listing the many ways and days teachers are allowed to not teach and, in most cases, to be paid for not working. 

In the spring of 2019, the Center published a major report – Public Union Excesses – detailing the $888 million per year in excessive costs paid by taxpayers due to overly generous collective bargaining provisions in government union contracts at the state and local levels. With two-thirds of these costs absorbed by municipal taxpayers, property taxes could be lowered by as much as 25% if government services were contracted at normal market rates.

The Center refutes the unsubstantiated & off-target NEA-RI claims made by two government union officials in publicly responding to our Union Excess Report.

Center Assigns Blame, Calls for Bankruptcy to Help Solve Providence K-12 Disaster

The Government-Union Alliance Has Failed Students
Collective-bargaining savings and immediate private school options are vital

Providence, RI –– The dismal public school system in Providence is clearly the result of a failed and costly government-union alliance, with misplaced priorities, that likely will require new perspectives and city bankruptcy as part of the solution. A state takeover would only be more of the same.

The RI Center for Freedom & Prosperitymaintains that whatever reforms are eventually implemented from whatever public review process is put in place will not help the tens of thousands of Providence students currently in their critical learning years. 

The Center refutes the unsubstantiated & off-target NEA-RI claims made by two government union officials in publicly responding to our Union Excess Report.

“These kids need a new and better learning environment now, today. They cannot wait,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “In order to provide Providence and all Rhode Island students with a better chance at a brighter future, new players must have a seat at the table and new thinking is required as part of the solution. This dire situation cannot be turned around if the same people that caused the problem – local and state government and teachers union officials – are in charge of developing solutions.”

Historically, faint-hearted politicians and their teacher union allies have blocked educational reform ideas that have been successful in other states. However, if political leaders are honest and serious about their proclamations that all options must now be considered, and are willing to break those historical ties, the Center offers two practical and significant reform items that can have immediate impact:

1. More Educational Choices for Families. Recognizing that the larger school system reform process will take many, many years – if ever – to take positive effect, the Center suggests that thousands of Providence families can be provided with an an immediate escape-hatch from the drowning Providence school system. Educational Scholarship Accounts (ESAs), first introduced in Rhode Island by the Center in 2014, would empower parents with the freedom and funding to select a private school educational path for their children. Extensive research by the Center showed that an ESA program can be immediately implemented – at no additional cost to state or local taxpayers!

Learn more about the Center’s Bright Today Scholarship program at www.RIFreedom.org/EdChoiceRI or read our mini-report here.

2. Bankruptcy & Collective Bargaining Savings to Repair Schools. The top priority of any public school system must be about educating kids, not enriching adults. Decrepit and rat-infested school buildings can be repaired with savings from reworked overly-generous contracts with the teacher and all Providence unions. The Center’s May 2019 Public Union Excesses report estimated that the city of  Providence is paying $110 million per year above and beyond private-sector rates for collectively-bargained services. This amount of annual money could easily fund the physical repair and upgrade of school buildings in Providence in just a few years. 

However, given the newly enacted “evergreen contracts” law, it is only through bankruptcy proceedings, with a capable receiver, that these excessive collectively- bargained funds can be freed up for use in Providence. This is a Providence problem that must be solved with Providence money. It would be unfair for the state to mandate that taxpayers in other cities and towns to be forced to pay for the capitol city’s incompetence.

On the one year JANUS Anniversary: Center Launches $30,000 Phase-2 of Campaign to Inform Public Employees of their Rights

JANUS Anniversary: Center Launches $30,000 Phase-2 of Campaign to Inform Public Employees of their Rights

MyPayMySay Campaign to Spend $30,000 in Phase-2
Phase-1 Led to Doubling of State Worker Opt-Outs

Providence, RI –– In recognition of tomorrow’s one-year anniversary of the landmark US Supreme Court Janus v AFSCME ruling the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity announced today that it has launched phase-2 of its MyPayMySayRI.comcampaign to inform government workers of their restored first-Amendment rights.

“After hearing last summer from dozens of workers, frustrated that their unions were not adequately informing them of their rights following the Janus decision, our Center quickly launched, with little funding, our MyPayMySaycampaign, in conjunction with our national partner, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. 

Phase-1 of the campaign has already achieved significant results. According to a Providence Journal article, the percentage of state workers choosing not to become a union member has doubled from about 3% to 6% in less than one year. Also, 26% of the professional staff at the University of Rhode Island have left their NEA-RI union. 

JANUS Anniversary

Yet, a recent national survey shows that 83% of K-12 teachers don’t fully understand their rights, while half of all teachers still don’t know they can leave their union without being required to pay fees and without losing any of their pay, health insurance, tenure, or seniority or other benefits.

Phase-2 of the Center’s campaign, following a more sustained fundraising outreach, began in late May and will end in July. Overall, approximately $30,000 is being spent to inform workers of their options through social media and web advertising, as well as mail pieces to union households.

The June 27 anniversary coincides with action this month by state lawmakers to side-step the rights of public employees by advancing bills that are a clear contrast to the decision made by the nation’s highest court. The legislation gives government unions special access to workers and allows unions to charge certain fees to those who choose not to pay for membership. The Center will monitor these actions from a legal standpoint.

Government unions themselves were exposed in the news last year when the NEA-RI issued a misleading and coercive letter to its local Bristol-Warren members.

State government officials also have been complicit in attempting to deny public employees the unbiased information they need to make the best decision for themselves and their families. Last summer, Governor Raimondo issued a directive to deny state-worker information to groups seeking to inform workers of their rights. And, more disturbingly, shortly after the Center’s campaign was launched, former Attorney General Kilmartin issued a public statement that misled public workers about their Janus rights; legal experts rightly called out this failure of leadership.

In many other states, where similar post-Janus or Right-To-Work informational campaigns have been initiated, up to 20%-30% of public employees have freely chosen to leave their government-designated unions.

Public employees can learn the full truth at www.MyPayMySayRI.com.