To the Editor:
The R.I. legislature has once again managed to completely ignore the economy in Rhode Island while dealing with a host of issues of lesser importance. Unfortunately, in many of these minor issues they are consistently getting them wrong.
The seat belt issue is a no-brainer. Seat belts should be mandatory; in fact you really should not be able to start your car without the seat belts being fashioned. It has been proven time and again that seat belts save lives just as speed limits, limits on texting and cell phone use save lives. To use the excuse, “It is about personal freedom,” is a totally bogus issue. Yes, it is your life you are putting in danger, but you are also affecting the lives of your friends and family, not to mention society, which has to pay for your medical or funeral bills. It should not be open to debate. The legislature should continue, if not strengthen, the seat belt law to save lives.
The Master Lever is another no-brainer. In numerous hearings, no one has supported the Master Lever and virtually everyone in state office has advocated eliminating the concept. It has been studied to death and proven time and again to be a hindrance to good government. Do you really think that voters are too dumb to vote for individuals on their own? Its only purpose is to support a Democratic majority in the legislature. We know how well that is working out. We have the highest unemployment in the United Sates and one of the worst business climates. This has resulted in a loss of population and no new jobs from companies moving to Rhode Island. The Master Lever should be eliminated immediately.
There are a host of new gun laws currently being proposed in the legislature that will have absolutely no effect on crime. We already have some of the toughest gun laws in the country. Criminals don’t register guns. They don’t get background checks. They also almost never use rifles or assault weapons. Virtually all of the gun deaths and shootings in Rhode Island are done with handguns. If you want to get tough on guns, make the penalties so severe that criminals won’t use them. Mandatory long-term sentences would go a long way toward preventing gun violence. Feel-good laws are easy and safe for politicians to propose, but they don’t reduce gun violence because they don’t address the real problem: Drugs and mental health.
Finally, the current debate over gay marriage is another no-brainer. Permit civil unions among gay couples so they have the legal rights of a married couple and let individual churches decide who they want to marry. Marriage is, first and foremost, a civil act in our society. It has legal ramifications concerning children, property rights, health benefits, contracts and estates. People can be married by judges, priests, pastors, rabbis and anyone who gets a one-day permit in most states. There is even the concept of common law marriage in many states when a couple lives together for a period of time. Increasingly, more and more, couples are living together without the benefit of marriage. There are more children being born to single parents than to married couples. Unfortunately, the concept of marriage is a moving target that is not going to be solved by our legislature. Society and children do best with a mother and father in a stable home, but we can’t legislate that.
It is long past the time for the R.I. legislature to deal with real issues. The reality is that the state and many cities and towns are on the brink of bankruptcy. You cannot tax, borrow or spend your way to prosperity. As the late Margaret Thatcher once said, “The problem with Socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.” We have kicked the can down the road once too often. Our economy is in dire need of help and should be our primary concern. Too many of our children and citizens are leaving the state for jobs and fewer taxes. The legislature needs to make some tough choices and stop rearranging the deck chairs in the Ocean State.
Frederick J. Wilson III