When it comes to protecting individual, economic and educational freedoms of Rhode Islanders over the past two years, Warwick was ranked 23rd among the 39 cities and towns in the state, according to the recently released 2014 General Assembly Freedom Index and Legislative Scorecard published by the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity, a nonpartisan 501c3 nonprofit organization.
But the state’s Democrat Party leader doesn’t put much faith in the scorecard.
According to a press release announcing the results, the Center’s mission is to “return government to the people by opposing special-interest politics and advancing proven free-market solutions that can transform lives by restoring economic competitiveness, increasing educational opportunities, and protecting individual freedoms.”
The Center rated close to 300 distinct pieces of legislation over the past three years and recorded the associated floor votes in the House and Senate based on whether or not the legislation preserved or infringed upon individual, economic, or educational freedom.
The -53.24 score by the delegation from Warwick, consisting of Representatives David Bennett, Frank Ferri, Joseph McNamara, Patricia Morgan, Eileen Naughton, Patricia Serpa, K. Joseph Shekarchi, Joseph Trillo and Senators Erin Lynch, Michael McCaffrey, and William Walaska, was lower than the General Assembly’s overall score of -49.29.
According to the results, during the 2013 and 2014 legislative sessions, Rep. Bennett scored a -64.43, Rep. Ferri scored a -58.9, Rep. McNamara scored a -65.64, Rep. Morgan scored a -22.81, Rep. Naughton scored a -60.51, Rep. Serpa scored a -65.64, Rep. Shekarchi scored a -68.26, Rep. Trillo scored a -15.85, Sen. Lynch scored a -58.13, Sen. McCaffrey scored a -51.77, and Sen. Walaska scored a -53.76.
“With the general election just around the corner, voters must decide whether or not to hold their elected officials accountable and whether or not incumbents should be re-elected," said Mike Stenhouse, CEO for the Center, in a release.
“Their formula is so convoluted, it borders on insanity,” said McNamara, who in addition to being a Warwick/Cranston legislator chairs the State Democratic Committee, when asked about the results.
“They gave lousy ratings to their own Republican colleagues that voted against virtually everything.”
McNamara said the index results have zero creditability in his eyes, as he believes the scorecard was funded by out-of-state billionaires, such as the Koch brothers, who want to affect policy.
“I would pay more attention if they told us who is paying for these ridiculous surveys,” McNamara said. “If they are indeed a legitimate … these are their words, not mine … ‘think tank,’ then the public has a right to know who’s paying for their thinking. It looks like it’s coming from Planet Zolar.”
According to the press release, “It is the core tenet of the Center that with greater freedom comes greater prosperity, or conversely, as is the case in the Ocean State, that a continued loss of freedom leads to the type of economic stagnation that Rhode Islanders have suffered from over the past decade.”
While Shekarchi said he couldn’t comment on the index results since he hadn’t read the report, he said he would like to see the methodology used to determine how RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity arrived at its numbers.
“The economy needs to be better for everybody. I met with the Speaker yesterday and our hope is that [Gina] Raimondo wins and there’s a laser-like focus on jobs and the economy,” Shekarchi said Tuesday during a phone interview in reference to Raimondo’s bid to be Rhode Island’s next governor.
Shekarchi said, effective July 1, the General Assembly has reduced the corporate tax, increased the inheritance tax exemption and increased funding for education.
“We’re headed in the right direction,” he said. “The economy has been a mess for 15 years, but we’re finally starting to turn the light and focus on jobs. We need to make it better.”
Voters can review the legislative performance of their elected officials over the past three years using a new online tool called Freedom Index Live. The user-friendly tool provides the ability to filter and sort by score, year, legislator, district, town, party, chamber, and/or legislative category, as well as produces colorful charts and tables based on filter criteria determined by the viewer.
The 2014 General Assembly Freedom Index can be accessed here: rifreedom.org/wp-content/uploads/freedom-index-2014.pdf. The Legislative Scorecard can be accessed here: rifreedom.org/wp-content/uploads/ricfp-freedomscorecard-2014.pdf. Freedom Index Live can be accessed here: rifreedom.org/freedomindexlive.