October 21, 2014
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Rating our legislators’ performance
My take on the news
Lonnie Barham

THUMBS UP/DOWN ON LATE SESSION LEGISLATION: With the General Assembly session now complete, it’s time to give a thumbs up or thumbs down to several pieces of legislation passed or rejected toward the end of the session, many at the last minute.

Thumbs Down: The delay until 2017 of NECAP test requirement for graduation. It delays improvement of our education system at the expense of future employers.

Thumbs Down: Elimination of annual performance evaluations for teachers. It’s already very difficult to rid our classrooms of poor teachers; it will now be even harder.

Thumbs Down: The requirement that taxpayers throughout the state pay a $4.8 million bail- out to Central Falls retirees to restore their pensions. Why should Warwick, Cranston, Johnston and other cities’ taxpayers suffer for the bad decisions made by previous Central Falls leaders?

Thumbs Up: The requirement that the names of those deemed by a court to be mentally ill are reported to the national gun purchase database. It will help keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill thus helping to protect all of us.

Thumbs Up: Though it has been the butt of numerous jokes, naming Calamari as the state appetizer is a good thing. It will help our tourist industry when it gains the kind of notoriety that Maine has gained because of its lobsters.

Thumbs Up: Rejection of re-instatement of the Ethics Commission’s oversight of the General Assembly. The separation of powers doctrine makes such external control of the legislature improper. The only external force properly exercising such ethical oversight jurisdiction should be the voters who can kick legislators out of office. Just as the U.S. Congress has done, our General Assembly should establish its own ethics panel that will have investigative, censure, dismissal, and arrest-referral authority.

Thumbs Up:The approval of a referendum question that would allow table games at Newport Grand Casino and would increase the casino’s and Newport’s share of profits. It’s a good move that adds equity and should increase Newport’s viability as a prospering tourist destination.

Thumbs Up: The ban on Sakonnet Bridge tolls. It eliminates the unfair penalty levied against those who must use the bridge every day and improves the method for how the state will pay for bridge maintenance.

Thumbs Down: Rejection of a bill that would have required the removal of cesspools within 12 months after a house is sold. There is no doubt that even well-functioning cesspools contaminate ground water that leeches into water supplies, wildlife habitats, recreational areas and the Bay.

Thumbs Down: The approval of a referendum question that would allow borrowing to build a $45 million parking garage at the Garrahy Judicial Complex. If approved it will keep our taxpayers in debt for years to come.

Thumbs Up: Rejection of a bill that would have given a taxpayer “gift” to the owners of the “Superman Building”. It’s time to stop taxpayer subsidization of private enterprise. It only serves to increase our debt and require higher taxes.

Thumbs Up: Rejection of adding $52 million to the Historic Preservation Tax Credit program. It would have been another giveaway of taxpayer money to private enterprise.

Thumbs Down: The new rule that requires taxpayers to pay a percentage of their federal adjusted gross income to the state in lieu of sales tax on Internet purchases. Sales taxes were designed to pay for state services that support businesses that make sales in our state. Very little, sometimes zero, state support is required for Internet purchases. Taxing such purchases is unjust.

Thumbs Up: A big thumbs up for the reduction of our corporate income tax rate from 9 to 7 percent. It’s a big win for commerce in our state and will surely improve our economy. Now the federal government must lower its corporate tax rate, which is currently a ridiculous 35 percent. Other countries with lower rates, like Ireland with its 12.5 percent rate, are attracting U.S. companies, which hoard their money there instead of investing it in the U.S.

LONGSHOREMEN OUTDO EVEN PUBLIC EMPLOYEE UNIONS: We thought public employee unions were in the lead regarding high wages, extra-generous benefits, bloated numbers and control of legislators. We now learn that the International Longshore and Warehouse Union that has a lock on the entire shipping labor pool on the west coast is even more powerful.

A full-time longshoreman is paid $130,000 per year with paid health insurance and $1 drug prescriptions. His foreman makes $210,000 per year.

Is it any wonder the cost of imported goods and goods we export to other countries is so high? With their contract expiring in June and a strike already being planned because the union wants even more money, these men who load ships are holding the shipping industry and the American people hostage; there’s no other way to look at it.

What’s the answer? The U.S. Supreme Court! It will issue a decision this week or next settling the question on whether or not companies have to force unwilling employees to pay union dues. If the justices decide in favor of democracy and free enterprise, the union lock on the shipping labor pool will end.

PELL’S NEW CAMPAIGN AD: Gubernatorial candidate Clay Pell is now running a new campaign ad in which he extols his virtues as a potential future governor. Unfortunately, the ad is substantially misleading. First, he emphasizes that he is the only candidate who has vowed to refuse campaign contributions from political action committees and special interest lobbyists. What he doesn’t tell us in the ad is that he doesn’t need to accept such contributions since he has invested over $2 million of his personal fortune in his campaign.

Worse, in the ad Pell shows himself in Coast Guard uniform standing on the deck of a Coast Guard ship, implying that he was a seagoing leader. Far from it! He was a Coast Guard lawyer who, instead of spending his time aboard a ship leading the crew in dangerous rescues and engaging criminals in drug interdiction missions, spent his time shore-bound in a military court room.

Much like he sought to deceive and deflect when he twice “misplaced” his car, Pell is now trying to mislead the public about his wealth and about his military record.

REDSKINS AND THE CONSTITUTION: Last week the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office decided to cancel trademarks issued to the Washington Redskins professional football team decades ago. The government said the name “Redskins” is offensive and disparaging to Native Americans and should not have been approved in the first place all those years ago. The feds also said that at least 30 percent of Native Americans find the name offensive.

The move represents the worst case of political correctness overruling reason and constitutional rights in recent memory. It’s hard to list the many arguments against the trademark cancellation.

First, it is a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution’s due process clause since it constitutes the taking of private property rights by the government without due process of law and without fair market compensation.

It appears to be a violation of the Constitution’s First Amendment protection of free speech. Because a few left wing politicians and a distinct minority of Native Americans find the name offensive doesn’t make it lose free speech protection. It’s not like yelling fire in a crowded theater. Many Americans find pro-abortion slogans and literature offensive, while their opposing counterparts find anti-abortion signs and speech equally offensive - yet both forms of speech are still constitutionally protected.

The trademark office’s decision was issued, at least in part, because the board members ultimate boss, President Barrack Obama, expressed his discontent with the Redskins name. Is this the wave of the future? If the President doesn’t like something, it is deemed unworthy of constitutional protection?

Lastly, if not overturned by the courts, we will have begun our trip down a very slippery slope. What will happen to other trademarks when a vocal minority rails against it? Will Notre Dame lose its “Fighting Irish” trademark because a minority of Americans of Irish descent find it offensive? Will the University of Mississippi lose its “Rebels” trademark because a few northerners are offended? Will the NY Yankees have to turn in its iconic trademark because some southerners who still defend the Confederacy are offended? Will the Angels professional baseball team have to change its name because religious nuts or atheists are offended? The list goes on and on…

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Teenagers are growing up in a world where they assume surveillance,” says Danah Boyd, a noted author and expert on the social lives of teens. It’s a sad comment on the extensive surveillance conducted by our “big brother” government on law-abiding Americans and similar digital tracking by such Internet technology companies as Google. A “Brave New World,” indeed.


Comments
1 comment on this item

"What he doesn’t tell us in the ad is that he doesn’t need to accept such contributions since he has invested over $2 million of his personal fortune in his campaign." And exactly what is the issue with him using his own money towards his campaign, Lonnie?

"Thumbs Up: The ban on Sakonnet Bridge tolls. It eliminates the unfair penalty levied against those who must use the bridge every day and improves the method for how the state will pay for bridge maintenance." Penalty? Really? It increases inspection fees 41%, increases court costs of good driving record dismissals 100%, and increases our already high gasoline tax. How is making someone pay for something they use considered a penalty?

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