Side of the Rhode: Who’s Hot and Who’s Not in RI Politics
Friday, May 16, 2014
Dan Lawlor, GoLocalProv MINDSETTER™
Every Friday, Dan Lawlor breaks down who's rising and who's falling in the world of Rhode Island politics. Check out who made the lists this week.
Jack Reed/US Senator - Reed argues, “…too many students are drowning in debt and it has threatened to hold back a whole generation of young Americans when they could be buying a car, or starting a business.” In response, the Senator has co-sponsored Elizabeth Warren’s bill to allow for private and federal undergraduate student loans to be refinanced at interest rates no higher than 3.86%. (Currently, some interest rates exceed 10%). The fiscal squeeze is real - as GoLocal reported, in 2012 Rhode Islanders had the fifth highest average student loan debt in the country. - See more at his website
Lisa Baldelli Hunt/Woonsocket Mayor - Woonsocket families, Mayor Baldelli Hunt, and Superintendent Vanna Donoyan had a big win this week as the School Committee voted to bring Full Day Kindergarten to the the state’s Northern city! Many parents showed up at the meeting to support the measure - which now goes on to Woonsocket’s Budget Commission.
Hanna Gallo, Erin Lynch, and James Doyle II/State Senators - This election improving trio sponsored Senate Bill 2237, which would allow in-person early voting. Especially following the long lines and delays during the 2012 election, Rhode Islanders deserve efficient and accessible voting options. Unfortunately, the bill is being held for further study. For more background on the 2012 election delays, check out this report from Common Cause RI, “We Have to Fix That.”
Sister Simone Campbell/Nuns on the Bus - “Democracy, by definition, means people working together for a more perfect union,” argues Sister Simone. Simone, who organized the “Nuns on the Bus” tour to highlight the needs of the poor during the above mentioned 2012 campaign cycle, was the keynote speaker at the RI Interfaith Coalition on Poverty Conference. In that line of thinking, on Thursday, fast food workers organized by Jobs with Justice went on a one day strike in Warwick, Central Falls and Providence.
Sam Zurier/City Council - “In order to minimize any perception of corruption and/or improper influence in awarding contracts in the City, the City Council wishes to establish campaign contribution limits from contractors, while still affording candidates the ability to raise funds to seek election to public office,” argued Councilor Zurier, supported by David Salvatore’s Ways and Means Committee. Congratulations to the full City Council for taking up Zurier’s proposal to push back against good old boys nostalgia, and better regulate campaign donations from contractors.
Jim Vincent/Providence NAACP - “Come join us on Saturday, May 17, 2014, from 9:00 AM until 11:00 AM, as we celebrate 60 years since the Brown vs. Board of Education victory,” Vincent writes. Warren Simmons, the Executive Director of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University, will give the keynote address. Tickets are $35.00 and the event is at the Providence Marriott Hotel. Sign up here.
Urban Pond Procession (UPP) - Mashapaug Pond is a beautiful, albeit polluted, gem which lies between the Reservoir Triangle and the demolished “Across the Tracks” neighborhood, now known as the Huntington Business Park. UPP is working to restore the pond and connect the surrounding community. UPP writes, “For the first time, the procession will be held in the evening, with a roving shadow puppet show, creative lanterns to light the way and a variety show to cap off the night.” Be part of the celebration!
Angel Taveras - “We don’t want to compare one need against another. The city needs to figure out a way to meet ALL kids needs and not pitting one against the other,” said parent Kira Greene. As GoLocal reported, “Parents in Providence are claiming that the Providence School Department is in violation of federal law following the decision to move an integrated pre-K program out of a barrier-free Vartan Gregorian Elementary in Fox Point.” http://www.golocalprov.com/news/providence-parents-claim-school-dept.-violating-special-needs-act/
Michael Solomon - The City Council President has an impressive vision for our long neglected school buildings, but his recent acceptance of donations from city workers disappoints. As Mayoral Candidate Lorne Adrain argues, echoing sentiments from Jorge Elorza, Brett Smiley, and Dan Harrop, “City employees must be able to focus on doing a great job, not on worrying if their job depends on supporting a candidate who would be their boss.” Mr President, reconsider and return the donations.
711 - There are roughly 711 chronically homeless people in Rhode Island (often suffering from mental illness or substance abuse). Here’s a secret: it would cost about $3.4 million to house this core group of chronic homeless. If our city elite can consider a $20 million reworking of Kennedy Plaza, a http://www.golocalprov.com/business/New-Proposal-Ten-of-Millions-of-Taxpayer-Funds-for-Superman-Bldg/)">$39 million bankrolling of condos in the Industrial Trust Tower, and a $100 million train for hip people and hospital workers, surely $3.4 million can’t be that high a tab?
The Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency - As GoLocal reported, the agency “mismanaged $41 million in federal funds, spending money on unauthorized expenses, charging expenditures to grants after their expiration, and generally failing to keep track of where federal dollars were going and how they were spent.”
Teresa Paiva Weed and Dominic Ruggiero - With the encouragement of folks from Ken Block to Margaret Kane, from Gina Raimondo to Lincoln Chafee, the RI House voted to abolish the master lever, or straight party voting. Tell Senate Leadership to stop delays, listen to the public, and call a vote to eliminate this confusing ballot line.
27% - According to RI KIDS Count, in 2013, 27% of Rhode Island youth struggled with body size –16% of Rhode Island high school students were overweight, and 11% were obese. On the positive side, Kindergarten obesity levels are at their lowest rates in ten years- still too high at 15.5%, but much better than the 20.3% of 2005.
House OKs bill to seize pimps’ profits
On Thursday, the House of Representatives approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Arthur Corvese to help law enforcement target pimps and others who derive proceeds from pandering or permitting prostitution in the state.
The legislation (2014-H 7620) will now be sent to the Senate, which has already passed similar legislation (2014-S 2820) sponsored by Sen. Frank S. Lombardi (D-Dist. 26, Cranston). Both legislators introduced the legislation on behalf of Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin.
Under current law, those convicted of prostitution have been subject to forfeiture of any assets received due to their unlawful acts. But those who induce or allow another to provide those services have not been subject to the forfeiture of proceeds that result from the unlawful activity.
The legislation will strike the forfeiture provision from law as it applies to prostitutes, and will add the forfeiture provision to the law dealing with “pimps,” or, as the law describes them, individuals who by any promise or threat, by abuse or by any other device or scheme cause, induce, persuade or encourage a person to become a prostitute.
Senate OKs bill creating a Joint Committee of the Repealer
The Rhode Island Senate has approved legislation sponsored by Sen. Erin P. Lynch (D-Dist. 31, Warwick, Cranston) to establish a new General Assembly Joint Committee of the Repealer, whose job it would be to comb through Rhode Island’s laws and suggest outdated statutes to be repealed.
Over the years, said Senator Lynch, Rhode Island’s General Laws have become littered with statutes that may be hindering economic growth or business development. The new committee, she said, will help to ensure that economic growth is not being held back by outdated laws.
“The new Joint Committee will be a big step forward to ensuring that the state’s laws are adapted to the 21st century, and that no statute from the 1950s is hurting us economically in 2014,” she said.
The Joint Committee of the Repealer would have the formal power to compile a list of statutes, regulations and executive orders that it recommends be repealed based on suggestions received from citizens, agencies and the business community
The committee’s membership would consist of three appointed lawmakers each from the House of Representatives and the Senate (six total), with no more than two members from each House and Senate political party. The Committee would expire on December 31, 2019, unless extended by the General Assembly.
Senator Lynch hopes that with the passage of her bill in the Senate, Rhode Island will adapt the idea to its own economic needs and ensure that businesses are not restrained by unnecessary and out-of-date legislation.
“I think this committee is just what Rhode Island needs,” said Senator Lynch. “If we can clean up our outdated laws and ease the burden on our businesses, we’re definitely on the right track.”
House OKs bill expanding practitionier, pharmacist access to electronic prescription database
The House of Representatives approved legislation on Wednesday, 2014-H 7574A, sponsored by Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence), to expand the categories of individuals authorized to access and use the database and requiring all practitioners to register with the DoH monitoring database as a condition of the initial approval of or renewal of the practitioner’s authority to prescribe controlled substances.
The legislation is the direct result of hearings conducted last year by a special House commission, chaired by Representative O’Brien, that studied establishing an Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing (I-STOP) .
“It is imperative that we do whatever we can to help practitioners and pharmacists monitor and ensure the safe use of controlled drugs that are being prescribed,” said Representative O’Brien. “It is important that we do what we can to mitigate the diversion and abuse of these substances. The Department of Health monitoring program is helping to maintain effective controls against diversion of these substances into illegitimate channels, and this legislation will help ensure the greater efficiency and more widespread use of that monitoring database.”
The O’Brien bill, which now goes to the Senate for consideration, would allow other authorized designees of a practitioner or pharmacist to access the database on the practitioner’s or pharmacist’s behalf, provided the designee is employed by the same professional practice or pharmacy, that that practitioner or pharmacist takes reasonable steps to ensure that such a designee is sufficiently competent to use the database and that the ultimate decision as to whether or not to prescribe or dispense a controlled substance remains with the practitioner or pharmacist.
'Country of origin' labeling on pharmaceuticals
Earlier this week, the Senate approved a resolution introduced by Majority Leader Ruggerio, supporting federal legislative and regulatory efforts to increase country-of-origin labeling for pharmaceuticals “to inform consumers of where their drugs are made.”
The Senate resolution, 2014-S 2225, recalls a 2008 incident, when a foreign manufacturer substituted a fake ingredient in a supply of blood thinner medication. The contaminated drug killed 81 people in the United States and sickened hundreds.
“Although that may have been an isolated incident, it nonetheless highlights the safety concerns associated with imported drugs and the need for greater consumer information and protection,” said Majority Leader Ruggerio. “Unless these companies of their own volition stop this potentially dangerous way of doing business, the best we can hope for is full transparency about the drugs that are being put on the market in the U.S.”
The resolution, which would be sent to the members of Rhode Island’s Congressional delegation, supports efforts such as a bill introduced in Congress in 2008 that would require drug labels to include the identity of the country of manufacture of each active and inactive ingredient in the drug.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), in a report issued two years ago, said that more than 80 percent of the active ingredients for drugs sold in the United States are made abroad, often in plants that are rarely inspected. According to data from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, the FDA only inspected 11 percent of the more than 3,700 foreign pharmaceutical manufacturing sites in 2009.
House OKs bill updating, amending vital records laws
In a letter to Rep. K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick) in regard to legislation he had introduced, Warwick City Clerk Marie Ahlert wrote to convey a message of support from the Rhode Island City and Town Clerk’s Association:
“We, as clerks, are trying to make an attempt to make sure that everyone in the 39 cities and towns is following the same guidelines when it comes to the issuance of vital records. In this world of stolen identities, we take very precaution that we can to insure the integrity of the vital records we are entrusted to protect in our city/town halls. Without a clear director in our general laws, the issuance of these records has been left up to individual interpretations.”
The legislation, 2014-H 7515, was approved on Tuesday by the House of Representatives and now goes to the Senate for consideration. The bill makes technical amendments to the Vital Records laws, removing an obsolete reference to the local or municipal registry of birth records and updating the statute to reflect that births are now reported electronically.
Among the changes included in the legislation:
- It allows a midwife, in addition to a physician, to certify a birth to the Department of Health vital records registry;
- It provides that, when a birth occurs in a moving conveyance, the place of birth will be the address in the city or town where the child is first removed from the conveyance;
- It gives the Superior Court sole jurisdiction over proceedings relating to certificates of birth rejected by the state registrar of vital records;
- It expands the list of individuals who will have access to or be permitted to examine the original or any copy of a birth certificate or birth records. Currently limited to the person whose birth is recorded or his/her issue, parent or guardian, the legislation will make the records available to a spouse, civil union and/or registered domestic partner, grandparent, sibling, attorneys at law, title examiners or members of legally incorporated genealogical societies in the conduct of their officials duties.