October 30, 2014
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My take on the news
Absent-minded Board of Governors
Lonnie Barham

ABSENT-MINDED PROFESSORS: Just what was the Board of Governors for Higher Education thinking when they tentatively agreed to 3 percent annual pay raises for college professors for the next three years? Other state workers have given up raises and suffered reductions in retirement benefits; college students are facing large tuition increases; taxpayers are paying far more than they can afford – yet in an era when we face major budget deficits, the Board wants to give raises costing $2.5 million. We've all heard of absent-minded professors, but the Board of Governors' absence of mind in this instance is nothing short of astonishing!

RI SENATE LEADERSHIP: Senator Frank Ciccone has resigned from two RI Senate committees in the wake of what appeared to be threatening comments to Barrington Police while they were arresting Senator Dominick Ruggerio for drunk driving. Kudos to Senator Ciccone for voluntarily stepping down from these committees – though Senate President Paiva Weed likely pushed him along a bit. Just as Representative Bob Watson was ousted from his minority leadership position after his Connecticut arrest, it is now time for Senator Ruggerio's peers to also do what is best for Rhode Island and force Ruggerio from his majority leadership position.

STIMULUS FUNDS STEERED TO DEMOCRAT-HEAVY STATES: The Providence Journal's PolitiFact writers conducted a review of claims circulated in a chain email that the federal stimulus money was distributed unfairly by the Obama administration, with more money going to states whose congressional delegations were majority Democrat. While the email claimed Democrat states received an average of $460 more per person than Republican states, the review determined the unfair distribution was actually only $338 more per person to Democrat states versus Republican states. For states like California and New York, both heavily Democrat, the unfair distribution added $5-10 billion to each state’s take. Chalk it up to more chicanery on the part of the Obama administration.

DEFENSE OF MARRIAGE ACT: The constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) will be decided by the U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston and will likely be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Since the definition of marriage and the laws surrounding the institution are left to the states by the U.S. Constitution, it is hard to conceive how the court can hold DOMA constitutional. Whether one agrees with gay marriage or not, and this writer does, we should all support the Constitution and agree the federal government can no longer trample on the rights the Founding Fathers purposely left to the states.

MORE OCCUPY MADNESS: The so-called Occupy Movement is now actively moving homeless people into vacant houses that are in foreclosure. Occupy is promoting and assisting this squatting in several major cities with neither the homeowners' nor the banks' approval. Taking someone else's property just because they have left it temporarily is theft, pure and simple. Yes, we have a homelessness problem in this country, but encouraging theft is not the way to solve it. It looks like Occupy is moving from socialism to outright thuggery.

NATIONAL GRID AND SHELTON ACT: Last year the General Assembly passed the Shelton Act that forced National Grid to redistribute some of its customers' wealth by charging all paying customers $10 per year that goes to a fund to assist those who can't or won't pay their utility bills. Now these same legislators are upset that National Grid wants to amend the Act to allow the utility company to recover some of its bad debt by also redistributing the cost across all paying customers. Dear legislators: You can't have it both ways. You shortchanged the taxpayers last year with the Shelton Act, but we asked for it – we elected you. National Grid did not elect you. If you want to keep this business from recovering its losses through redistribution, then reverse the Shelton Act and stop its redistribution from taxpayers’ pockets.

WHO’S AFRAID OF PATRICIA MORGAN: No, she's not Virginia Woolf. But State Representative Patricia Morgan, who represents West Warwick and a part of Warwick, should be feared by the majority in our General Assembly who want to keep the wool pulled over the public's eyes about the cost of health care mandates imposed by these feckless legislators. Her excellent treatise on the subject in last Friday's Providence Journal was right on target. Our General Assembly has passed mandates that have pushed Rhode Island to the number one position in the country with 70 mandates. The national average is 43. These mandates for such "free" benefits as repeated smoking cessation treatments and multiple in-vitro fertilization attempts have increased our health care premiums by 10-15 percent. Such mandates are bad for individuals and for businesses that provide health insurance for their employees. Just one more reason businesses don't want to move to Rhode Island.


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