Rhode Island still held its overall ranking of 47th in the country on the September 2019 third quater Jobs & Opportunity Index.

Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI), September 2019: Hanging on While the Country Advances

As the third quarter of 2019 came to a close, Rhode Island still held its overall ranking of 47th in the country on the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s Jobs & Opportunity Index (JOI) but was basically tied with 48th place Louisiana. Data for all 12 datapoints of the index except federal taxes were updated for this iteration, and RI benefited by the fact that it was finally able to report data for SNAP (foodstamps), which it had not done for two-and-a-half years thanks to the UHIP debacle.

Compared with June, RI improved on most measures. Employment and labor force were up about 0.6% since the first-reported numbers for June, with RI-based jobs increasing a more-modest 0.3%. Correspondingly, Medicaid enrollment fell 0.8%, while TANF (cash welfare) rolls shrank by 8.0%. SNAP enrollment was down 4.0%, although that is from the number as reported ever since February 2017. The Ocean State had 2.3% fewer residents who counted as long-term unemployed and 3.8% fewer who were working only part time because more work was not available. However, the number counting as marginally attached increased 23.7%.

The picture is also mixed when it comes to money. Personal income was up 3.9% on an annualized basis, which amounted to $1.8 billion more income. However, state and local taxation increased 10.5%, or $349 million, resulting not only from the increased income, but also expansive changes to tax policy.

The first chart shows RI remaining last in New England on JOI, at 47th for September 2019. New Hampshire returned to 1st nationally. Vermont and Maine slipped, to 14th and 19th, respectively. Massachusetts remained 37th. However, Connecticut advanced to 38th.

Rhode Island still held its overall ranking of 47th in the country on the September 2019 third quater Jobs & Opportunity Index.

The second chart shows the gaps between RI and New England and the United States on JOI for September 2019, and the third chart shows the gaps in the official unemployment rate.

Rhode Island still held its overall ranking of 47th in the country on the September 2019 third quater Jobs & Opportunity Index.
Rhode Island still held its overall ranking of 47th in the country on the September 2019 third quater Jobs & Opportunity Index.

Results for the three underlying Jobs & Opportunity Index factors were:

  • Job Outlook Factor (optimism that adequate work is available): RI fell three spots, to 32nd.
  • Freedom Factor (the level of work against reliance on welfare programs): RI advanced two, to 41st.
  • Prosperity Factor (the financial motivation of income versus taxes): RI remained 47th.

Click here for the corresponding employment post on the Ocean State Current.

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.”

Are local, state, and federal governments over-reacting to the recent reports of vaping-related illnesses, and even deaths?

The Other Side of the Vaping Debate

Are local, state, and federal governments over-reacting to the recent reports of vaping-related illnesses, and even deaths?

Are the decisions by the governors of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, for instance, to halt the sale of vaping products … which will destroy jobs and businesses … fueled by solid research, or inspired by politically-correct activism?

This week the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity co-signed a national letter urging the Trump administration’s FDA not to proceed with its proposed regulatory crack-down on what many see as a burgeoning and life-saving industry.

The excerpt below gives the primary argument against governmental over-reaction, while the letter itself strongly presents the other side of the vaping debate.

“Both the FDA and Centers for Disease Control now acknowledge that the recent deaths and respiratory and lung illnesses associated with vaping have largely been caused by the illicit marijuana and THC market. Instead of targeting legal nicotine products that have existed for a decade, the administration’s focus should be on cracking down on California drug dealers that are poisoning consumers with dangerous, unregulated, and counterfeit products sourced from places like China and Mexico.”

Sean Spicer to Keynote Center’s Annual Freedom Banquet; former White House Press Secretary is RI Native

2019 Freedom Banquet to Feature Sean Spicer

Annual Luncheon has Become Rhode Island’s Largest Gathering of Conservatives

Providence, RI Sean Spicer, the Rhode Island native and former White House Press Secretary, will be the keynote speaker the 3rd annual Freedom Banquet, a fundraising luncheon for the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity.

The October 25 banquet, which has drawn over 200 people in its first two years, 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 luncheon will also feature the announcement of the winner of the Center’s 2019 “Pillar of Freedom” award. Past winners are Robert and Warren Galkin (2017) and Dr. Daniel Harrop (2018). 

Individual tickets can be purchased with a tax-deductible donation of $175 or a table of eight can be reserved for $1200. More information and registration can be found at www.RIFreedom.org/Events .

sean spicer
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.

PAID FOR NOT WORKING, COLLECTIVE-BARGAINING TAXPAYER RIPOFF #2 : Providence Teacher Leaves of Absence

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 … Mike Stenhouse

In the spring of 2019, the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity 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.

Societal Costs. The excessive financial costs to taxpayers may not be as troubling as the social costs resulting from government worker unionization in our state. Union officials have propagated a culture in which extracting every possible dime from taxpayers and dues-payers, regardless of the impact on the quality of the services rendered, appears to be the objective, a culture that inevitably has creeped into the workplace. 

Educational Failures. Perhaps no area of government service exemplifies this negative value proposition more clearly than public education. In November 2018, the state released the RICAS student assessment scores, which highlighted the Ocean State’s dismal performance of schools within its public educational system. Furthermore, a July 2018 report showed that Rhode Island schools also suffered from the third-highest teacher absentee rate in the nation.

Connecting the dots, Public Union Excesses clearly lays out the many union contract provisions that provide a disincentive for teachers and other public employees to actually show up for work or perform the vital public services they were hired to conduct at peak levels. 

Teacher Attendance. With a national spotlight shining on the government-run Providence public school system for operating what some have characterized as among the worst schools in the country, the lack of consistent and reliable teacher attendance has been in the news.  Boston Globe journalist Dan McGowan reports that 500 of the city’s teachers (more than one-quarter) were absent at least 18 times, which is 10% of the school year.  That percentage is subtracted from teachers’ 181-day work-year, which is already 21% shorter than the approximate private-sector average work-year of 230.

Parents and interested Rhode Islanders might wonder how this is possible, so the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity took a look at the Providence Teachers Union contract.  Our results are shown in the table below.

In summary, in a standard year, teachers are contractually allowed to take up to 26 days off for a variety of reasons, from sick leave (15 days) to “purposes connected with the welfare of the school and/or community” (2 days).  Unlike in the private sector, unused sick days for teachers are allowed to roll over — in full — from year to year, up to 150 days.  A teacher can use up to 135 paid days off in one year before facing any consequences.

Common life events like weddings and deaths can add more time to the annual total — 11 days for a year with one of each.  Additionally, all teachers are eligible for up to another 11 days for union activities on a rotating and limited basis.  Additionally, a union professional development/mentoring coordinator is relieved of teaching duties for one-fifth of the school year, while the union president is relieved for two-fifths; that’s the equivalent of 36 and 72 days each.  Adding in the other days off available to all teachers, the union president would be able to not do any actual teaching for the equivalent of 101 of the work year’s 181 days.  The Center reported on such absences in our May 2019 “Ghost Workers” report.

On top of this are longer-term and more-rare absences like sabbaticals, quarantine, or job-related-injury leave, which can go for a year or more with pay.  Teachers can also take a year at a time off without pay for a number of reasons.

Of course, when a regular teacher is away for a day or for an extended period of time, a substitute teacher must often be hired at additional expense; in Providence it is estimated that substitute teachers cost taxpayers and extra $7 million per year.

These added costs, combined with the reduced quality of education, are one reason why Providence public schools are performing so poorly.

“PAID FOR NOT WORKING” – COLLECTIVELY BARGAINED, ALLOWED TEACHER ABSENCES IN PROVIDENCE

Number of Days Contract Citation
Standard Year
Sick leave 15 4-1
Personal 2 5-1.4
Superintendent-approved personal 3 5-1.5
Religious observance 3 5-1.2
"Welfare of the school and/or community" 2 5-1.6
Visiting other schools (in or out of district) 1 5-1.7
Subtotal 26
Life Events1
Wedding 2 5-1.1
Bereavement (immediate family) 5 5-2
Bereavement (in-laws) 3 5-2
Bereavement (extended) 1 5-2
Subtotal 11
Union Activities (Limited Number of Teachers)
Delegate to AFL-CIO or other union meetings 5 5-1.3
Negotiating Committee2 1 16-2.2
Union professional development/mentoring attendance 5 8-30-2
Subtotal 11
Total available to any given teacher each year 48
Special Union Positions3
Union professional development/mentoring coordinator4 36 8-30-1
Total available to coordinator 65
Union president5 72 5-6
Total available to union president 101
Other Events
Sabbatical 91 5-3
Compulsory Reserve or National Guard 20 5-7.2
Injured on the job 90 6-1
Assault and/or battery on the job 181 6-2
Government tests & examinations Unlimited 5-8
Court service Unlimited 5-9
Quarantine Unlimited 5-10
Without Pay
Personal 181 5-5.1
Union service 181 5-6
Military leave 181 5-7
Parental/adoption leave 181 5-11
Notes:
1 The “life events” subtotal assumes one of each in a given year.
2 We estimate an average of one day per year in total negotiating time for each teacher on the negotiating committee. Some years, this would be zero, and other years, it could be much higher than 1.
3 The union coordinator and president totals adjust the days available for all teachers so as not to double count their lighter work schedules.
4 The number of days off for the coordinator is the one-fifth schedule reduction applied to the full school year.
5 The number of days off for the president is the two-fifth schedule reduction applied to the full school year.