Legislation to Avoid SALT Cap Named Bad Bill of the Week

Rhode Island lawmakers continue to stick their heads in the sand when it comes to the stagnant Rhode Island economy and weakening jobs market. Instead of directly addressing the core issues that are producing these negative outcomes, which run counter to positive national trends, the political class prefers to divert attention to band-aid policies that perpetuate the problem.

It is for this reason that H5576, the so-called Business Corporation Tax legislation, has been named the Bad Bill of the Week by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity. The legislation seeks to provide small business owners with a dubious option to avoid the $10,000 SALT (State And Local Tax) cap, defined in the 2017 federal tax reforms.

Even the highly respected and nonpartisan Tax Foundation in Washington, DC, wrote a post on the wrong-headedness of this legislation, which seeks to circumvent federal tax laws.

Ignoring the fact that state and local taxes are too high in Rhode Island, driving many people and businesses out of state, the legislation instead seeks to help small business owners by reducing the their federal tax burden; in essence, denying the federal government its lawful share of pass-through revenues that are usually associated with S-corporations, limited partnerships, and sole proprietorships.

State lawmakers should not seek to blame the federal government for the high state and local taxes that they, themselves, have imposed on the private sector. Further, the IRS has publicly signaled that it will not take kindly to state-based efforts to interfere with taxes owed to the federal government.

To encourage entrepreneurship, pass-through entities were created to relieve small business investors of the burden of double-taxation, both at the corporate level and then again upon distribution of profits at the individual level. Instead, profits under a pass-through structure flow entirely to its investors, to be taxed only once at the individual level – both federally and by states.

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act limited the amount of SALT deductions allowed on federal tax returns. In high tax states, such as Rhode Island, this means that certain people may not be able to federally deduct all of the taxes they are charged by their state and localities.

The proposed legislation in Rhode Island would allow pass-through businesses to pay “state” taxes on its profits at the ‘entity’ level (instead of passed-through to individuals). This scheme would effectively transpose a potentially non-deductible SALT tax into a fully-deductible business expense. A revenue-neutral policy at the state level, this entity level tax scheme will almost certainly be challenged by the IRS in that it would reduce federal tax receipts.

The proposed legislation in Rhode Island would allow pass-through businesses to pay “state” taxes on its profits at the ‘entity’ level (instead of passed-through to individuals). This scheme would effectively transpose a potentially non-deductible SALT tax into a fully-deductible business expense. A revenue-neutral policy at the state level, this entity level tax scheme will almost certainly be challenged by the IRS in that it would reduce federal tax receipts.

This legislation is objectionable for two main reasons. First, the IRS is unlikely to allow this sleight-of-hand to circumvent existing tax law. Second, and more importantly, the legislation avoids the actual core problem – high state and local taxes in Rhode Island.

As long as lawmakers refuse to deal with the real problems that plague our state, Rhode Island’s economy and the standard of living for its residents will continue to lag behind the rest of the country.

As the Tax Foundation concludes, and as the Center has long maintained, “States would be better off using their creative energy to reform their tax codes and alleviate the overall burden on taxpayers.”

This week’s “Progressive Land of Make Believe Bad Bills of the Week” are the so-called Fair Employment Practices legislation; House bill 7427 and Senate bill 2475. The legislation that could impose the most extreme employment burdens on Rhode Island businesses than in any other state in the nation.

March, 2019 – the Bad Bill of the Week: So-Called Fair Employment Practices Legislation is Immoral

Once again, politically correct legislation is being advanced in the General Assembly based on a progressive-contrived myth; legislation (H5659 and S0509) that could impose the most extreme employment burdens on Rhode Island businesses than in any other state in the nation – all for an imagined problem that does not exist!

Mandating equal income outcomes by advancing political inequality is immoral and un-American. Watch this video for more discussion and why this legislation is also not necessary:

Progressive lawmakers and activists pretend that a multitude of state and federal protections against wage discrimination, enforced by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), do not already exist.

Currently, Rhode Island law clearly prohibits wage discrimination for “equal work” on “the same operations”. Who can disagree with this? However, the proposed legislation would blur this clear language and change the standard to “comparable work” under “similar working conditions”.

These fuzzy and divisive new regulations would be harmful to businesses, leading to frivolous complaint after frivolous complaint filed by employees against employers. Already with one of the most hostile business climates in America, Rhode Island should not impose more burdens on its valued job-producers.

Without documenting any evidence of systematic discrimination, not covered by existing law, this #Unfair2Employers legislation would set new, highly subjective wage-discrimination standards that are wholly unfair to job-producers. With ridiculous new definitions of acceptable wage determination practices, severe employer penalties will be devised and meted out by unelected government bureaucrats at the Department of Labor and Training.

Supporters of the legislation also pretends this is a “women’s rights” issue, when in fact a whole litany of politically-correct groups, favored by progressive politicians, are included in the new definitions. Existing laws cover these groups as well.

In the real world Rhode Island does not need more job-killing regulation … we simply need more education and better enforcement of existing laws.

Similarly, earlier versions of the bill in 2018 were named “Progressive Land of Make Believe Bad Bills of the Week” are the so-called Fair Employment Practices legislation; House bill 7427 and Senate bill 2475.

The Rhode Island business community is comprised not just of good business people, but also generous and fair employers. However, in the progressive land of make believe, Ocean State employers regularly practice discriminatory and bigoted compensatory practices against women and other politically-protected groups.

H5541 is the Bad Bill of the Week. The legisaltion would create a big brother Rhode Island health database to track information - without your consent.

Socialist “Big Brother” Database Bill Infringes on Our Privacy

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity today dubbed H5541 as its Bad Bill of the Week. The Rhode Island Department of Health wants to track sensitive information about you and your family – without your consent. In a state where government already has far too much control over our daily lives, big-brother should not be allowed to systematically track such information about our private lives.

Aimee Gardiner, founder of Rhode Islanders Against Mandated HPV Vaccines and a longtime advocate for medical informed consent, writes in her blog post about the many ways the proposed legislation (H5541) would infringe on our privacy. With the State of Rhode Island already collecting highly personal information about children and their families, the legislation would expand the government’s database to automatically include all adults … under the guise of tracking immunizations … without your knowledge or consent.

“Such an aggressive intrusion by government into our lives should not come as a surprise,” said the Center’s CEO, Mike Stenhouse. “Part of  the progressive-socialist agenda is for government to gather as much information as it can about its subjects, so it can someday decide who the winners and losers of its policy mandates should be.”

Further, a question raised by Gardiner asks whether or not this database-tracking is “dollar driven”, with the the Department of Health and/or doctors receiving a kick-back for every vaccination administered from big pharma vaccine manufacturers.

All in all, whether it’s a matter of government control or money, this legislation would violate our privacy without our permission! The medical community prides itself on the ethic of delivering services with “informed” patient-consent. This legislation would also violate that ethic.

If you do not want our state to take yet another step down the #RhodeToSerfdom, you are encouraged to send a note of opposition to your lawmaker, which can quickly and easily be done here: http://www.gaspeeproject.com/contact.

We have named three extreme abortion bills as the “Bad Bills of the Week,” and encourages both pro-life and pro-choice advocates who oppose unrestricted abortions to attend a statehouse rally on Tuesday afternoon.

Bad Bills Of The Week: Unrestricted Abortions Not What Rhode Islanders Want

The Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity today named three extreme abortion bills as the “Bad Bills of the Week,” and encourages both pro-life and pro-choice advocates who oppose unrestricted abortions to attend a statehouse rally on Tuesday afternoon. 

The progressive-left legislation (H5125, H5127, S0152), which would allow abortions up until the birth of the baby, virtually without restriction, is also dishonestly being positioned as nothing more than codification of existing law. 

However, the question of “choice” vs “life” is not what is central to this specific policy debate. Instead, because the legislation would dramatically expand the definition of what constitutes a legal abortion in the state, the actual question at hand is one of “restricted” vs “unrestricted abortions.”

In summary, according to a detailed legal analysis, the legislation would:

  • Eliminate all legal restrictions on late-term abortions
  • Eliminate all restrictions on methods of abortion
  • Eliminate any penalties for experimenting on human fetuses
  • Undermine the authority of the State from adopting any restrictions on the performance of abortions
  • Require taxpayers to fund any abortion sought by a Medicaid enrollee
  • Remove “human-ness” from an unborn baby, by making its murder no longer a crime
  • Infringe on parental rights, by abrogating the “parental consent” statute from minors seeking an abortion

It is ironic and disturbing that many of the same lawmakers that have voted to systematically over-regulate legitimate businesses and industries, are the same lawmakers who want this controversial industry to be allowed to operate without any oversight or impunity.

The dishonesty arises because a recent poll clearly showed that an overwhelming majority of Rhode Islanders oppose unrestricted abortions; yet proponents of the legislation claim the public strongly supports the legislation. 

This disconnect can be explained because abortion proponents believe that current law already essentially allows for anytime-anywhere abortions; and despite the legal analysis described above, that the legislation merely codifies what already exists.

But don’t tell that to Rhode Islanders who obviously believe that existing laws do impose common-sense restrictions, while banning such brutal practices as late-term and partial-birth abortions.

“Only the most extreme radicals could possibly think that a butcher like Kermit Gosnell should be able to act with impunity in our state,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. In 2013 Gosnell, a Pennsylvania abortionist, was convicted of murdering three infants who were born alive during attempted abortion procedures, and was also convicted of 21 felony counts of illegal late-term abortions and 211 counts of violating the 24-hour informed consent law.

On Tuesday, February 26, opponents of the legislation are hosting a rally at the State House for a “Day of Action” from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Pre-event registration is encouraged here. Further, you can contact your local state Rep or Senator here

Governor Raimondo’s proposed "Medicaid Employer Assessment” is a new tax designed to force businesses to pay for the state’s decision to expand Medicaid.

Governor’s Proposed Medicaid Employer Assessment Tax Will cause the Same Hardship as seen in MA.

Starbucks could be driven out of Rhode Island … another step down the Rhode to Serfdom!

Progressives in the Raimondo Administration are once again seeking to punish employers for not operating their private businesses the way this government wants them to. Governor Raimondo’s proposed “Medicaid Employer Assessment” is a new tax designed to force private sector businesses to pay for the state’s costly decision to expand Medicaid earlier this decade.

In a state struggling to attract business and families; a state tragically destined to lose a prized US Congressional seat because of its relative loss of population; and a state already with a bottom-5 ranked business climate … this new business tax would make matters worse.

And if Massachusetts is our guide … much worse. Ironically, because the Bay State imposed its own “MassHealth Tax” a few years ago, proponents of this blatant money grab now say the Ocean State should follow suit. What we should all know, however, is that this corporate Medicaid tax has proven to be an “absolute disaster” for Massachusetts, harming small and large businesses alike, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB).

Under this proposed new tax in Rhode Island, employers would receive a bill from the government, up to $1500 for each employee who chose to opt-in to the government’s own push to increase enrollment in Medicaid. The Governor’s misguided theory is that if employees are not covered by their employer’s insurance plan, full or part time, and instead have chosen to enroll in Medicaid, then the business should be punished. Unfortunately, in many such instances, it is out of the employer’s control.

Keep in mind that an employer cannot force an employee to accept their business-offered health insurance, because in America, people (for the time being) still have some choice to choose. In many cases, the employer likely does not know which of their employees may be enrolled in Medicaid

Further, it is not the responsibility of job-producers to pay for government’s bad decisions of the past. Regardless, the government is looking for money, and once again it is blaming job-producers … the lifeblood of our economy. Even more outrageous, some members of the RI business community, who are insider cronies of the Governor, have apparently endorsed this anti-jobs tax.

As our Center predicted six years ago, when Rhode Island opted to expand Medicaid under Obamacare provisions, the massive increased costs to our state would be unaffordable, without contriving some new scheme to extract more money from taxpayers or businesses. And now, here we are.

The negative impact has been so severe for some Massachusetts’ businesses, that:

  • State lawmakers had to scramble to implement a “hardship waiver” to save them from closing their doors or moving out of state.
  • For certain high-turnover industries, with a high-proportion of part-time workers, the MassHealth Tax has been devastating. Temp agencies and large company-owned restaurant and grocery chains (like Starbucks, Chipoltle, Cracker Barrel, Dave’s, and Stop & Shop) would be especially hard hit.
  • Several MA lawmakers have filed bills to immediately repeal the MassHealth Tax even before the December 31, 2019 sunset date, because its negative impacts have been so severe for some.
  • Seasonal job-providers in MA were less likely to hire workers during the summer months and holiday season in fear of triggering the new tax

Does RI really want to risk large employers not hiring lower income individuals in search of work because they may trigger this new tax?

The proposed Rhode Island Medicaid tax is different from the Massachusetts version in two important ways:

  • Rhode Island’s Medicaid tax would initially apply only to businesses with 300 or more employees, while the MassHealth Tax would apply to large and small businesses.
  • Unlike the temporary MassHealth Tax which had a two-year sunset period, Rhode Island’s Medicaid tax would presumably go on forever … with no sunset provision. This is especially dangerous because over time, and as is the case with virtually all taxes, it is likely that this unfair tax would be extended to include more and more businesses with lower numbers of employees

In summary, this Medicaid tax has been a nightmare for employers in Massachusetts.

But in following down this same failed path, Rhode Island would put more and more Ocean Staters on the Rhode to Serfdom.

***

Related excerpts from the Governors proposed 2020 budget:

Pg. 4. Medicaid Employer Assessment: Too many Rhode Islanders are working multiple jobs without the benefit of health insurance through an employer. Medicaid is their only path to health care, placing the cost burden on taxpayers alone. The Medicaid Employer Assessment Fee charges large, for-profit employers with at least 300 employees an assessment for each employee they have on Medicaid, creating a shared investment in the health of Rhode Islanders. This is projected to generate about $14.5 million in general revenue.

Pg 15. Medicaid Employer Assessment: Too many Rhode Islanders are working multiple jobs without the benefit of health insurance through an employer. Medicaid is their only path to health care, placing the cost burden on taxpayers alone. The Governor recommends that for-profit employers of 300 employees or greater be assessed for each non-fully-disabled employee receiving Medicaid, so that these employers share the costs of Medicaid with Rhode Island taxpayers. The quarterly assessment would be 10% of those employees’ wages, capped at $1,500. This assessment, effective October 1, 2019, is expected to increase revenues by $15.6 million.

H5137, the Fair Housing Practices bill, is unfair to landlords. Under the bill, Section-8 applicants must be accepted or be victims of discrimination.

Unnecessary “Fair Housing” Bill is Unfair to Landlords!

House bill 5137, deceptively named the Fair Housing Practices bill, which mirrors leftist-inspired legislation introduced in other states, is completely unfair to landlords. The legislation claims it seeks to end discriminatory housing practices because in the progressives’ land of social-equity, making a legitimate business decision should be a crime. Under the proposed law, any Section-8 lessee applicant (those whose rents are subsidized by the federal government) who are not accepted as a tenant, must have been discriminated against, and the landlord must be punished.

We all agree that if such discrimination were to be practiced … it would be wrong. However, this legislation is not necessary, as there already exists multiple state and federal laws that protect against discrimination. Additionally, there are multiple legitimate reasons for making certain business decisions.

The legislation would make it illegal for a landlord to inquire about a potential tenant’s source of income, or even whether they are an adult over the age of 18.

According to federal guidelines, acceptance of Section-8 vouchers is supposed be voluntary. Yet this Fair Housing Practices bill would unfairly impose a defacto state mandate on landlords to accept any Section-8 application they receive. Even if the landlord makes a legitimate and nondiscriminatory business decision otherwise, they would be at legal risk of being prosecuted for discriminatory racial actions.

Further, this legislation is a back-door RhodeMap RI type scheme to advance a social equity agenda that will only tear at the fabric of our society … by making innocent private property owners appear to be bigots.

Yes, once again, after failing in 2018, the social equity extremists are back; those who believe that their views of society should prohibit the free-choice and rights of property owners to make business decisions that are in their own best interests. Once again, RhodeMap Rhode Island and HUD (the federal department of Housing and Urban Development), and its local surrogate, the RI Housing authority, are at it again..

According to progressive logic, since people receiving Section-8 vouchers are typically low-income; and because many low-income individuals and families are minorities, then saying ‘no’ to a Section-8 applicant must be because of racism, and therefore must be discriminatory. The actual effect of this legislation, which seeks to extend government control into even more aspects of our personal and business lives, would be to subject landlords to lawsuits or other penalties by automatically assuming that discrimination was the motivating factor.

Based on conversations with landlords I know, there is a major, legitimate, and non-racial reason why some business prefer not to accept clients subsidized by public money and all the red-tape they would have to go through. In this case, once a landlord accepts a federally subsidized Section-8 tenant, that business is now subject to a whole new array of mandates, red tape, and risks that otherwise, it would not have to worry about.

Under this legislative mandate, landlords would be subject to unfair rules by HUD, which we know from the RhodeMap RI debate years ago, does not care about private property rights. HUD has corrupted its mission of putting low-income people into appropriate housing to the point where it routinely tramples on the rights of other private property owners.

Landlords would be forced to endure annual state inspections, they otherwise would not be subject to, and could even be at potential criminal risk if they did not appropriately “police” their own tenants and report to the state any potential violations Section-8 eligibility guidelines.

This legislation, avidly supported by Rhode Island Housing is a clear extension of the HUD and RhodeMap RI anti property-owner agenda.

Consider that this legislation automatically presumes that our neighborhood brothers and sisters are guilty of discrimination. Last year, our Center hosted a luncheon where the nationally acclaimed Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, spoke of the “solidarity of brotherhood”, where we should work together to help “start up” the lives of those in our community. But how can it possibly be “solidarity” to automatically and divisively claim that legitimate business decisions by business owners in our community are based on bigotry?

Private business owners should be free to make the business decisions that they feel are best for them – and none should be forced to comply with onerous federal regulations, if they are allowed to choose not to. Just because the progressive-left see inequities in every aspect of our society, does not mean that government should be stepping-in to tell people how to run their businesses.

Already suffering from one of the most hostile business and legal climates in the country, Rhode Island would become an even more dangerous place to operate as a landlord. Small ‘rental property’ business owners could be forced to spend money unnecessarily to become lawyered-up like a major corporation if they were to be sued … an expense and time most cannot possibly afford. In other states where similar legislation has already been enacted, property owners are indeed being sued, and they are routinely losing in court battles, even though they may have committed no wrong.

Our state would suffer greatly if the unintended consequences of this legislation might drive some landlords out of business, or out of state, and lead to fewer available housing units.

Once again, we ask lawmakers to consider the moral and real-world impacts of such presumptive and intrusive legislation, and to understand that the issue is not a real major problem – at least not for the stated discriminatory reasons.

Our state government, always looking for schemes to grab money from our pockets, has recently also become subservient to political correctness. This year, the hysteria to punish everything tobacco-industry related, shows how the progressive world of make believe can wreak havoc on RI’s economy with a new cigarette tax.

Article 4, Cigarette Tax and the Make Believe World of Political Correctness

Our state government, always looking for schemes to grab money from our pockets, has recently also become subservient to political correctness. This year, the hysteria to punish everything tobacco-industry related, shows how the progressive world of make believe can  wreak havoc on Rhode Island’s economy. Article 4 of the Governor’s proposed fiscal-year 2019 budget calls for yet another excise tobacco tax increase on cigarettes, to $4.50 per pack; a 534% increase since 2001, while pretending that there will be no adverse impact on low-income families or our state’s economy.

In the progressive-left fantasy world, all tobacco and vaping products would be abolished. But the reality is that tobacco products are legal, and tobacco users will continue to purchase related products at the lowest prices they can find.

Progressives pretend that poor Rhode Islanders would not disproportionately bear the burden of this regressive tobacco tax. In fact, low-income individuals use tobacco more often and spend more of their incomes on such products. This means less money for more-healthy items such as groceries, home heating, and other household goods.

Anti-tobacco fanatics also pretend that taxes on cigarettes are NOT a driving factor in determining retail store patronage, where smokers will also buy gasoline and other convenience items. It’s true, that to avoid high cigarette taxes, smokers will simply drive a few miles across state-lines and spend their money elsewhere. Many small business retailers, with almost one-third of their revenue derived from tobacco-related products, could be severely harmed.

Further, in their land of make believe, progressives fail to recognize the unintended consequence that high tobacco tax will also fuel an underground market of illegally smuggled and sold products. This real-life underground economy not only reduces state tax receipts, but leads to more illegal activity … with all of the associated costs of increased prosecutions and incarcerations.

Progressives also pretend that proven economic principles will not come into play; that the loss of disposable income, the retail sales losses, and the increased criminal justice costs would NOT further weaken our already fragile state economy.

They also pretend this added tax will give them more money to spend in the state’s budget. However, in the real world, the law of diminishing returns means that higher revenues from higher cigarette taxes are uncertain and unlikely. The total state intake from its 2005 cigarette tax of $2.46 per pack is virtually identical to its 2017 intake at $3.75 per pack, around $137 million per year. In reality, receipts actually decreased when the tax was raised, in many years.

Other related legislation this year is similarly based on make believe assumptions. Plans to increase taxes on vaping products, which are up to 95% less harmful than cigarettes for those who switch will not improve public health. Real-world research shows that high vaping taxes would disincentive use of “harm reduction” products that could dramatically improve societal health and decrease medical costs, including state Medicaid spending.

Dozens of such politically-correct inspired tax and regulatory policies, based on fantasy assumptions, have resulted in bottom 10 national rankings for our state when it comes to overall business climate, family prosperity, and population growth. Rankings that mean real Rhode Islanders are not realizing their potential. But the politically correct left cares to pretend such harms do not exist. Instead, they dismissively and exclusively care only about their own pretend agenda, while looking to punish anyone they don’t approve of.

It is our hope that state lawmakers, who still have time to think about the actual harm that higher tobacco and vaping taxes would cause, will make reality-based decisions later this spring. The real benefits of not increasing these taxes include; no new burdens imposed on the poor; the jobs and economic advantages of keeping RI retailers more competitive; the reduced criminal justice costs; a budget that does not rely on uncertain receipts; a society with fewer health problems; and the increased overall competitiveness of our state.

We do not live in a fantasy world. And the consequences of limiting or taxing free-choice … because some think they think they know better … mean that many others in the real world will be made to suffer.

This year, let’s stop making these same pretend and emotionally driven mistakes. When it comes to pretend thinking that it is a good thing to increase taxes on politically incorrect products, let’s put some reality-based thought into it for once.

RhodeMapRI is back! Once again the social equity extremists are trying to prohibit the free-choice and rights of property owners to make business decisions that are in their own best interests. This time with bills H7528 & S2301 the so-called Fair Housing Practices act.

Progressive BAD BILLS of the Week: H7528 / S2301 So-called Fair Housing Practices

RhodeMapRI is Back!

Once again the social equity extremists are back, those who believe that their views of society should prohibit the free-choice and rights of property owners to make business decisions that are in their own best interests. Once again, RhodeMap Rhode Island and HUD (the federal department of Housing and Urban Development), and its local surrogate, the RI Housing authority, are at it again.

Co-sponsored by multiple progressives House bill #7258 and Senate bill #2301, these so-called Fair Housing Practices which mirrors leftist-inspired legislation introduced in other states, have already been heard in the House and Senate Judiciary Committees this year. The legislation claims it seeks to end discriminatory housing practices by certain landlords. In the progressives’ social-equity land of make believe, any Section-8 lessee applicant (those whose rents are subsidized by the federal government) who are not accepted as a tenant, must have been discriminated against.

According to their progressive fantasyland logic, since people receiving Section-8 vouchers are typically low-income; and because many low-income individuals and families are minorities, then saying ‘no’ to a Section-8 applicant must be because of racism, and therefore must be discriminatory. The actual effect of this legislation, which seeks to extend government control into even more aspects of our personal and business lives, would be to subject landlords to lawsuits or other penalties by automatically assuming that discrimination was the motivating factor.

According to federal guidelines, acceptance of Section-8 vouchers are supposed be voluntary. Yet these Fair Housing Practices would impose a defacto state mandate on landlords to accept any Section-8 application they receive. Even if the landlord makes a legitimate and nondiscriminatory business decision otherwise, they would be at legal risk of being prosecuted for discriminatory actions … or, for being a racist.

We can all agree that any such genuine discrimination is wrong, but there already exists multiple state and federal laws that protect against discrimination. Additionally, there are multiple other reasons for making alternative business decisions.

This legislation is a back-door RhodeMap RI type scheme to advance a social equity agenda that will only tear at the fabric of our society … by making innocent private property owners appear to be bigots.

Based on conversations with landlords and with home and facility based child-care business owners I know, there is a major, legitimate, and non-racial reason why some business prefer not to accept clients subsidized by public money and all the red-tape they would have to go through. In this case, once a landlord accepts a federally subsidized Section-8 tenant, that business is now subject to a whole new array of mandates, red tape, and risks that otherwise, it would not have to worry about.

Under this legislative mandate, landlords would be subject to unfair rules by HUD, which we know from the RhodeMap RI debate years ago, does not care about private property rights. HUD has corrupted its mission of putting low-income people into appropriate housing to the point where it routinely tramples on the rights of other private property owners.

Landlords would be forced to endure annual state inspections, they otherwise would not be subject to, and could even be at potential criminal risk if they did not appropriately “police” their own tenants and report to the state any potential violations Section-8 eligibility guidelines.

This legislation, avidly supported by Rhode Island Housing is a clear extension of the HUD and RhodeMap RI anti property-owner agenda.

Consider that this legislation automatically presumes that our neighborhood brothers and sisters are guilty of discrimination. Our Center recently hosted a luncheon where the nationally acclaimed Arthur Brooks, President of the American Enterprise Institute, spoke of the “solidarity of brotherhood”, where we should work together to help “start up” the lives of those in our community. But how can it possibly be “solidarity” to automatically and divisively claim that legitimate business decisions by business owners in our community are based on bigotry?

Private business owners should be free to make the business decisions that they feel are best for them. Just because some on the progressive-left see inequities in every aspect of our society, does not mean that government should be stepping-in to tell people how to run their businesses.

Already suffering from one of the most hostile business and legal climates in the country, and with a known affordable housing shortage, Rhode Island would become an even more dangerous place to operate as a landlord. Small ‘rental property’ business owners could be forced to spend money unnecessarily to become lawyered-up like a major corporation if they were to be sued … an expense and time most cannot possibly afford. In other states where similar legislation has already been enacted, property owners are indeed being sued, and they are routinely losing in court battles, even though they may have committed no wrong.

Our state would suffer greatly if this unintended consequences of this legislation might drive some landlords out of business, or out of state, and lead to fewer available housing units.

Once again, we ask lawmakers to consider the real-world impacts of such presumptive and intrusive legislation, and to understand that the left’s land of make believe scenario.

Progressive lawmakers are once again seeking to hand out “free stuff”, this time to wealthy-out of staters, in a misguided attempt to bribe them to move to Rhode Island. The legislation, House bill H8018 is an extension of the state’s failed corporate welfare strategy.

Progressive Land of Make Believe Bad Bill of the Week: $10K Pays The Way (H8018)

Progressive lawmakers are once again seeking to hand out “free stuff”, this time to wealthy-out of staters, in a misguided attempt to bribe them to move to Rhode Island. The legislation, House bill H8018, has been named the “Progressive Land of Make Believe Bad Bill of the Week” by the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity, and is an individual-level extension of the state’s failed corporate welfare strategy.

“If we have to pay families, students, and businesses to move to or remain in Rhode Island, to survive our state’s oppressive tax and regulatory climate, then something is very wrong,” said Mike Stenhouse, the Center’s CEO. “Worse than the obvious face-value inanity of the bill, the ignorant belief of how an economy and family dynamics actually work is what is most troubling. The legislation openly acknowledges the negative economy in our state, yet, as with other progressive policies, it tries to band-aid the symptom rather than cure the core illness. ”

Dubbed by the Center as the #10kPaysTheWay Act, the legislation, sponsored by Representative Carlos Tobon, a progressive-Democrat from Pawtucket, pretends that taxpayer funded government hand-outs would be incentive-enough for upper-middle income people to relocate their lives to the Ocean State. It is the false premise of the progressive ideology that more government dependency is what people want; in this case, in desperate hope of increasing our state’s population so as to avoid losing one of its two U.S House of Representative seats after the 2020 national census is tabulated.

While it is unclear how much of a population increase Rhode Island might need to preclude losing a Congressional seat, the legislation seeks to pay up to 30,000 new families. The cost to state taxpayers for this program, estimated at $300 Million, at the proposed handout rate of $10,000 per family … but only to wealthier families that make over $100,000 per year.

There are so many make-believe assumptions underlying this bill that do not exist in the real world, that it is difficult to know where to begin to enumerate them:

  • Families have left Rhode Island not because of deficient government programs, but because of sub-standard job and educational opportunities. Until we can break away from the self-imposed budgetary constraints and special interest influences that impede reforms in our state, Rhode Island’s bottom-10 business climate and family prosperity rankings, will continue to make Rhode Island a relatively inhospitable place to build a career and raise a family.
  • This regressive ‘wealthy-welfare’ scheme is unfair.  Not only would all current Rhode Island residents, including low-income families, be taxed more so that wealthy out-of-state families can be given our money, but those in-state families that have worked hard to become successful will receive nothing. This is similar to how existing Ocean State businesses have to pay for corporate tax credit handouts to other companies, often their own competitors.
  • People not want to be dependent on government. Current and would-be Rhode Islanders want to live productive, soul-fulfilling, self-sufficient, and prosperous lives … even though progressives like to pretend this that more government programs define success.
  • A government hand-out is not enough to overcome the “long-term and short-term negative economic trends” that the legislation itself admits are currently plaguing our state. Already damaged by too many current job-killing progressive policies, more progressive policies cannot possibly make our state more attractive to families and entrepreneurs.
  • Rhode Island’s population would not likely increase. As with most tax schemes, progressives pretend that there will be no adverse economic impact or other unintended consequence to their simple-minded and purely emotional-based policies. In the real world, tax policy drives behavior. In this case, the increased taxes that will be heaped on every family and business will cause even more people to flee our state.
  • Most importantly, progressives pretend that the obvious solution to Rhode Island’s economic and population stagnation is not staring them directly in the face. Proving that the theoretical benefits of the tax and regulatory reductions that our Center have espoused since its inception in 2011, and which is the foundation of conservative economic policy, the recently implemented federal tax and regulatory reductions have led to unprecedented economic optimism and renewed economic growth across America.

Similarly, if Rhode Island were to abandon its government-centric corporate-welfare and wealthy-welfare agenda, and instead start working on creating a reality-based and improved economic climate, where businesses and families can thrive on their own and without costly government assistance, the Ocean State might soon be able to regain the Congressional seat that progressive policies have likely already doomed us to lose.

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 …

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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.