October 20, 2014
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My Take On The News
Amendments threaten to water down pension reform
Lonnie Barham

HOMELAND SECURITY IDIOCY: There is something terribly wrong with our society when our schools are required to educate illegal immigrant children but cannot allow a child who is here on a legitimate visa to enroll. A middle class family from Argentina is sailing around the world and wants to winter in Wickford. The parents have been told by Homeland Security agents that their two daughters cannot enroll in North Kingstown schools, even though the family has legitimate visas. What a pity! North Kingstown children will not be exposed to these bright young girls’ tales of adventure. Again our government finds a way to penalize those who do things legally (obtain proper visas) and reward those who choose the illegal path (enter our country without permission).

NO SHARIA LAW IN HER COURTROOM: Kudos to Judge Susan McGuirl for her firmly secular response to child rapist Daniel Mercedes after his lawyer quoted the Bible in his attempt to lessen Mercedes’ sentence. The lawyer quoted Jesus who prevented a woman from being stoned to death by telling the crowd, “He who is without sin cast the first stone.” The Judge, clearly ready to cast the first stone, was not impressed. She replied, “But I’m not Jesus!” as she socked Mercedes with a 35 year prison term.

STUDENT TRANSPORTATION: The Providence School Department needs to keep its budget in line. But saving transportation costs by requiring high school students to walk up to three miles to school contradicts its mission to educate all children. Most of the 4,500 students who must walk are among the poorest in RI and many have little support at home to motivate them to go to school every day. How likely is it that these kids will trudge through 2-3 miles of snow or driving rain to get to school? Absenteeism is the biggest contributor to graduation failure. These kids must attend school and graduate. Otherwise, they will end up uneducated, unemployable adults who will further burden social service systems and cost taxpayers far more in the long run than the cost of providing transportation today.

WILL AMENDMENTS KILL PENSION REFORM? Commendably, the General Assembly’s committees made only minor changes to Treasurer Raimondo’s pension reform plan - but ominous handwriting is on the wall! Many legislators are planning to reject meaningful pension reform by introducing countless amendments. Most contentious, of course, are provisions to suspend COLAs and raise retirement age. Without these two provisions, any “reform” will be strictly a “smoke and mirrors” illusion. In the Senate, the amendment trickery will be led by Senator John Tassoni, the former union business agent who isn’t running for reelection. Other senators can hide behind him as he introduces their amendments. In the House, the likely leaders of the reform-killing amendment movement will be two committee members who voted against moving the bill to the floor, Representatives Carnevale, a retired public servant with a $45,000 pension, and San Bento whose two sons are state employees. Pension reform will be doomed if taxpayers do not take a solid stand against these self-serving legislators and force the General Assembly to show some guts for once.

TEACHER ASSIGNMENTS: Where in the world did Superior Court Judge Bennett Gallo go to law school? From his decision last week on a Portsmouth education issue, one might guess he got his law degree from a matchbook cover correspondence school. At issue is a school committee policy that ensures only the best teachers are hired and assigned without considering their seniority. Of course, the teachers’ union (NEARI) claimed the policy change had to be negotiated with them. The school committee contended that assigning teachers where they are needed based on their demonstrated abilities goes to the very heart of the educational mission assigned to them by state law. Title 16 of state law requires that school committees, not unions, set educational policies. State law also requires school committees to bargain with unions in good faith but does not require school committees to share policy making with them. The voters elected school committees to establish education policies; they did not elect union negotiators to make such policies. What extreme stretch of legal reasoning makes Judge Gallo think he can strip voters of their power to decide at the ballot box who will make the educational policies that will determine whether their children succeed or fail in the classroom? In this case, the judge is telling the foxes they have free rein to run the chicken house!

BAN CAMPAIGN BUTTONS? The state Board of Elections wants to ban the wearing of political campaign buttons by voters as they enter and leave polling places. First, it is a silly, sophomoric move that, at best, shows how government bureaucrats want to control our every action. At worst, it is a clear cut violation of our First Amendment right to free speech. Doesn’t this board have better things to do?


Comments
1 comment on this item

1.How many "middle class" families take a year off to sail around the world?

2.Pension reform. Who is going to administer the new defined contribution plan? Check the minutes of the R.I. Investment Commission. In meetings of less than three hours,millions of dollars are approved for taxpayer money to go to firms to invest pension money. Is it unreasonable to question if companies,or their lobbyist representatives,have contributed to Gina Raimondo's campaign fund? Also,try and find an easy way to get info on the benefits to our part time legislators. Health care and pensions for "public service"? No reform there.

3.Be carefull what you ask for in teacher assignments. Too many principals favor the teachers who don't make waves. No new contract should be approved without changing the absurd sick policy of 90,yes 90,sick days per year. Wouldn't take much work to see how many teachers have been using 20,30,40,and more sick days year after year.

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