Ethics code haunts Chafee efforts to name Mancuso to top education post

My take on the News


CHAFEE LACKS COURAGE TO VETO:  If Governor Chafee wants to show voters that he has a backbone and is willing to make hard decisions for the good of our state, he failed miserably this week as the period ends during which he can veto bad legislation.  Chafee has exercised his veto prerogative only three times.  Rhode Islanders are used to a weak executive branch that is dominated by a strong legislative branch, and we understand that the General Assembly can easily override a veto since it is a 90-plus percent one-party body with rules that give the leaders extraordinary power over members.  However, we still expect our chief executive to keep the legislature honest and somewhat self-reflective by exercising the one power he has to affect bad legislation – the veto.  We don’t need a governor who accepts his role as the General Assembly’s doormat. Chafee should realize that even left-leaning Democrats and union supporters won’t vote for a doormat.

ETHICS CODE! WHAT ETHICS CODE? Governor Chafee nominated lawyer and current chair of the state’s Board of Education, Marie Mancuso, to become the interim commissioner of higher education for Rhode Island. He did so even though the state’s ethics code says a current board member cannot take a paid position that requires board approval for at least one year after leaving the board. We have grown accustomed to Chafee doing some silly things that indicate he doesn’t understand how government works, but, in this instance, his lack of knowledge and lack of even basic due diligence before making the nomination are astounding. The state’s ethics code and to whom it applies has been one of the biggest stories in Rhode Island for the past four years, yet our governor seems to have forgotten that it exists.

SUNLIGHT, BUT LITTLE TO SEE: The Sunlight Foundation, a group that gages state legislatures’ openness and transparency on their websites, has named Rhode Island’s General Assembly among the best for online and broadcasting technology. So, we now have sunlight cast on how our legislature works and the results it achieves. Our legislature passed a few pieces of important legislation this session but wasted time on ridiculous bills such as the now infamous “calamari bill”; again cast aside its own rules and participated in a chaotic, end-of-session bill passing orgy without public scrutiny; and again failed to remove the “master lever” from our ballot booths. Most Rhode Islanders would say that sunlight is meaningless when there is nothing there to see.

LOSS OF CURSIVE WRITING ABILITY: Recent news reports have talked about how more and more of our school districts are dropping the requirement for elementary school students to learn cursive writing. Those in favor say it’s no big deal, that the future lies in the printed word as expressed through the Internet, cell phones, Twitter and Facebook. Those who oppose abandoning cursive point to the plethora of historical documents future citizens will be unable to read without the ability to understand cursive – such as the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address, letters written by our Founding Fathers and past presidents, and even letters written by their own grandparents.

Our society cannot lose the ability to read and write cursive! To abandon this capability is tantamount to abandoning a key part of our culture. Our historical linguistic expressions have been mostly in cursive. If we relegate cursive to the dustbins of history, we will also be kissing goodbye to much of the historical knowledge future citizens would gain vicariously through reading firsthand cursive accounts. Do we really want to deprive our descendents of this kind of historical context? If we do, we chance falling into the aphoristic quagmire of “those who disregard history are doomed to repeat it.” It’s hard to appreciate and learn from history if we can’t read it.

TDI FACTS MANIPULATED: The Providence Journal’s PolitiFact, a column that supposedly researches controversial statements to get to the truth but which is, in reality, little more than a fact manipulator for leftist- and union-backed politicians and organizations, again fell far short of the “truth” in its Sunday column about Temporary Disability Insurance in Rhode Island. The column found that Representative Patricia Morgan’s and Moderate Party founder Ken Block’s statements about the TDI program were “Mostly False. “ The two had claimed that 9 percent of Rhode Island employees use TDI while only 3 percent use it in New Jersey, and that our employees use TDI an average of 11.4 weeks per year. PolitiFact determined the “real” percentage of users to be about 8 percent in Rhode Island and 4 percent in New Jersey, but PolitiFact counted multiple use by the same employee in one year as only one use. And, PolitiFact determined Rhode Islanders use TDI only 11.2 weeks per year instead of 11.4 as claimed by Morgan and Block.

So, two fiscal conservatives say 9 percent of our employees use TDI and the “facts” support 8 percent, and they say 11.4 weeks is the average annual usage and the “facts” support 11.2 percent usage. Yet, PolitiiFact says the two conservatives got it “Mostly False? “ In what strange universe do the PolitiFact writers live? Wait, of course, they live in that far-left, big government universe that wants high taxes, big spending and cradle-to-grave entitlement programs.
GAMBLING’S FUTURE LOOKS BAD: A reputable policy analysis center has produced a report on where New Englanders spend their gambling money. Massachusetts visitors account for 51 percent of the gambling-related money spent in Rhode Island – about $271 million per year, primarily at Twin River Casino. With three casinos set to be built in Massachusetts, those gamblers will no longer visit Twin River. Equally disturbing is that Rhode Islanders spend $176 million per year gambling in Connecticut.

The future for gambling support of our state budget doesn’t look good. With some of the future Massachusetts casinos close to Rhode Island, we will bleed even more of our residents’ gambling dollars to out-of-state casinos. We’re going to be stuck in the middle between two massive casinos in Connecticut and three fairly large ones in Massachusetts. It looks like we are entering the gambling game with too little, too late. Maybe we should have listened to the Indians years ago.

ZIMMERMAN VERDICT BAD FOR 2ND AMENDMENT: While the jury in the George Zimmerman trial got it right based on the prosecution’s failure to present sufficient evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the verdict will, unfortunately, galvanize anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment proponents and cause some state legislatures to resurrect the unnecessary and overreaching anti-gun bills that failed this year. Likewise, many states will further restrict when and to what extent a law-abiding citizen can act in self-defense against an attacker. Second Amendment advocates will see this verdict as a victory for citizens’ right to be armed and to defend themselves; however, the long-term effect of the case’s outcome will likely be detrimental to Second Amendment freedoms. The end result may be a battle won but the war lost.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Our legislative leaders should be careful what they ask for; they just might get it. That seems to be the case with House Finance Chairman Helio Melo, the key architect of the law that eliminated the old, bi-furcated system that had two education boards – one for elementary and secondary education, and one for higher education – and replaced it with one board. Opponents warned after the fact, since the legislature passed the measure at the last minute without public input, that a single board would do justice to neither level of education. Now that it looks like Marie Mancuso, a lawyer instead of an educator, may become commissioner of the single board, an amazed Melo stated: “I understand Rhode Island has the highest percentage of lawyers in the country. Does that make all lawyers here potential commissioners of education?” Well, Helio, you pushed to weaken educational leadership. You just may get it in spades!


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