March 26, 2008

So This Is the State House...

Justin Katz

Well, it's already after eight o'clock, and the thing's still going, so it's as good a time as any for my first visit to the State House. It's worth visiting such places, I find, just to sense the grandeur of marble stairs and high ceilings. It's easy to imagine how two-bit legislators get to feeling that they're just the people to control (and coopt) government largesse.


Well, 8:28, and Monique and I were ejected from the room (fire code you know). Representative Trillo offered his seat to Matt Allen — who, although he didn't know it — was standing next to me. Personally, I'm happy sitting cross-legged on the floor in the hall. It's the appropriate perspective.


While I was still one of the elect in the room, Rep. Costantino mentioned, after noting that the final three attendees who would be speaking for the Economic Death and Dismemberment Act would be followed by pages of people interested in speaking against it, and I recalled a thought that I'd had while watching the first round of business leaders testifying against it on television: how little this hearing will register with average Rhode Islanders.

Tomorrow, there'll be a news report taking (at best) a 50:50 angle. The next day, something else will come up. And within a week, it'll be business as usual.

Or not...


9:00 is late enough for me; if the State House had a WLAN, I'd have stayed, but I've got too much to accomplish on a given night.

Indeed, I've got to force myself out of my natural interpersonal reticence and introduce myself to others more freely. It would have been cordial of me to introduce myself to Tom Sgouros as he left a short while ago and to let him know that I'd be heading home so I'd have time to poke holes in his research before bed, perhaps continuing in an early-to-rise period before work.

Then it's back to real life... cutting headers into 100-year-old floor joists for the HVAC guys while the roofing subcontractor muses that, if it weren't for the rich folks, he'd have to lay off half of his crew this year. Perhaps he should have testified, tonight.

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Would love to have you sitting in the House gallery blogging during the budget wars. Keep that possibility in the back of your mind come late June. This year is going to be war. Your input and insight from the scene would be invaluable. Just a vibe but imo we're getting very close to a forceful public display of taxpayer unhappiness in that building. It's coming! Don't know when or in what form but it's coming!

Posted by: Tim at March 26, 2008 9:06 PM

This is just the beginning, Justin. Remember that they fear opposition even more than the Feds.

And this will not be the last battle.

Posted by: Greg at March 26, 2008 9:08 PM

I've been watching this on tv and the people opposing the bill seem to be making more of an impact than those supporting it.
I'm pleasantly surprised that the committee did not play Duane(oh,I forgot REVEREND)Clinker's game by being drawn into a debate with him.And Costantino seems to be running things very fairly.
The homeless veteran,Bergeron,had a good point,but he was in the wrong venue-veteran's assistance is handled by the Federal government,and yes, they better step up no matter who is President.
I thought it was great when Rep.Shanley skewered that devious woman from ocean state action for pushing redistribution of income.
The whole thing so far has left me with a good feeling about the outcome.Handy sounds like an ignoramous and apparently submitted a bill that is self-contradictory.Maybe this scumbag should go back to enabling baby rapers to avoid public scrutiny.
Where were jerzyk,duck suit,and segal??
Probably getting wasted at the Wild Colonial.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 26, 2008 9:20 PM

Or not...

Be a long time before we see business as usual in the State House. No money and lots and lots of moochers and looters nervously looking for their next government fix.
Enjoy the show!

Posted by: Tim at March 26, 2008 9:23 PM

I went to the State House about 4:00pm and stayed for about an hour with some other like-minded folks just to get acquainted with the place. I don't visit it anymore than I have to. Even though it is a beautiful building, it's still a cesspool of corruption and filth. I was not planning to testify, because it is rather pointless, unless you're being paid to do it. The "hearing" is purely for show; it has next to no impact at all on the politicians inside.

First of all, the "public" Hearing Room set-up was appalling. Besides being in the dark sub-basement of the State House, everything there says "public not welcome." It's far too small, not enough chairs, too hot (no A/C), etc. From the looks of it, the public labor union types (I noticed some people wearing SEIU shirts) got there fairly early, as they hogged the precious few seats in the hearing room itself well before it began.

Then, the comic relief of the afternoon... predictably, even before the hearing started, the hearing room and the hallway outside of it were waaaay over capacity, so a single Capitol Police officer, citing the state fire code, asked the people outside the hearing room in the hallway to move to other areas of the floor, or to go back up to the first floor to wait their turn to speak. This particular officer was dutifully "assisted" by Pat "Duck Suit" Crowley (who was not wearing his duck suit today, though it may have been appropriate). I'm sure Pat thought he was being helpful, but it only went to show to the people on the "outside" that he's been down that road before. They know how to play the system. The whole thing seemed more than a bit scripted, but it was interesting to watch.

Of course, there were a number of people testifying, and not all about the current tax increase bill -- so they leave it to near the end. The House Finance Committee chair takes all the "for" people first, then after many hours, starts taking the "against" folks, instead of alternating. About the only "positive" that I see from the set-up is that all the "against" folks have been getting to testify in prime time, even if they had to wait many hours to do it.

PS I still think this bill is a "bait and switch." The Speaker allows the bill to get a hearing, we all get outraged over the prospect of getting even more screwed than we already are, then he and his minions generously offer to "save" us from the income redistributionists, by offering to only half-screw us instead.

PPS I'm watching the hearing on TV. It's now after 10:00pm. They just called the names of several people which I was talking with at 4:00pm who were planning to testify against the legislation to raise our taxes. Surprise, surprise, six hours later, they aren't there to testify. How conveeeenient. Could it be, SATAN? Probably.

Posted by: Will at March 26, 2008 10:15 PM

Very interesting... I realize he's probably been sitting in there for over 6 hours now, but I just saw Rep. John Patrick Shanley literally attack a witness who was against the tax legislation. I think he might need a nitro. I really hope someone taped it, as it would make for an excellent TV ad in the fall. I think it's time he retire.

Posted by: Will at March 26, 2008 10:25 PM

Sorry, Joe. I had work, then law school and then child care duties at home. Some of us have real lives!

Posted by: Matt Jerzyk at March 26, 2008 11:05 PM

I understand Matt-I was doing that before you were born-such things as going to war,work,night school,raising kids,dealing with cancer when I was about 3 years older than you are now and not whining about it-but when you agitate to the extent that you manage to on your blog,one would think that you'd show up to be a cheerleader for the team-I had a pretty real life,but now as an older guy I would rather participate in current affairs than play shuffleboard in f***in' Florida-you blog;I lack computer skills,so I access talk radio.And I have testified at a Senate hearing,but it has to be a subject where I have something concrete to add.Anytime you catch me saying something blatantly untrue(other than my opinion which is subjective)just challenge me on it.Good luck on that.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 26, 2008 11:32 PM

Why don't you tell your poverty pimp pals how your multi-millionaire father Timothy (number 2 man in Yum Corp., owners of Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut) ABANDONED your high tax native state of Illinois for low tax Kentucky to keep his fast-food loot.

Posted by: Mike at March 26, 2008 11:43 PM

I intended to lead with Justin's quote, which reminded me of Hamilton's statement... (but it got lost in cyberspace)

"a thought that I'd had while watching the first round of business leaders testifying against it on television: how little this hearing will register with average Rhode Islanders."

-- Justin Katz

Posted by: George at March 27, 2008 10:43 AM

It doesn't register with average Rhode Island because it inevitably dissolves into a predictable amount of name-calling by both sides. Nobody wants to show any real leadership.
At least Handy put something out there, though it's pretty clear it won't fly. Let's see his critics put a counterproposal out there.

Posted by: rhody at March 27, 2008 11:31 AM

What's worse? Putting out something stupid on it's face or putting out nothing at all? Can't really blame the Repubs here. They're too incompetent to not pee on their own shoes let alone have an idea.

Posted by: Greg at March 27, 2008 11:41 AM


Posted by: joe bernstein at March 27, 2008 11:54 AM

>>Oh, and his company doesn't own Burger King. Yum owns Pizza Hut, Taco Bell, KFC and a few other franchises. A simple google search could have told you that! Do they allow you to google in the psych ward?

Do they provide fully employer paid (or nearly fully employer paid) health care for part and full-time their employees?

Does every position pay at least a "living wage?"

"Enquiring minds want to know!"

Posted by: Ragin' Rhode Islander at March 27, 2008 12:36 PM

I'm surprised young Matty hasn't abandoned his last name considering that his pops is a big wig for a capitalist beast like YUM..

Posted by: jd at March 27, 2008 5:53 PM

"Just like most people, he doesn't make "moving decisions" based on income tax rates, he makes decisions based on things like his job and his family."

Whether or not it is true for individuals, it is very often the case for companies that wish to remain profitable for their shareholders, especially ones which do business in multiple states. People respond to incentives and disincentives. Nothing happens in a vacuum.

Matt is correct in that the information is very easy to find online.

Posted by: Will at March 27, 2008 5:53 PM

Hey guys-I don't like jerzyk's attitude,but we don't pick our families-let's stick to what HE espouses-case in point-one of my favorite relatives is my cousin Barbara,whose father was my first cousin,currently deceased.He was a career criminal and a total scumbag.It didn't rub off on his daughters.I have no idea what jerzyk's father actually does for a living,but Taco Bell and KFC aren't like the Medellin drug cartel or anything and as conservatives we hold each individual responsible for his/her actions.I really like to bust his balls but it has to be about the things he is responsible for.My own son,who's 30,thinks I'm a complete idiot for calling talk radio,but he hasn't voted once in his life.You wouldn't think we were related considering how little influence I have on him.But we do like to go fishing and shooting together.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 27, 2008 6:50 PM

Joe's exactly right. Matt's background is certainly relevant in certain circumstances, but there's certainly a line between him and his family that has been crossed.

Posted by: Justin Katz at March 27, 2008 7:14 PM

Hypocrite Jerzyk's multi-millionaire minimum wage paying daddy is VERY relevant in the discussion of the Handy-Moura monstrosity.
The whole argument against the bill is that raising taxes on "da rich" is that business will leave. This JUST WHAT Jerzyk's company did, fleeing ultra-progressive Chicago (which just raised it's sales tax to 10.25% by the way) for low tax Red State Kentucky. Just like so many jobs have left and continue to leave RI for more friendly tax climes.

Posted by: Mike at March 27, 2008 8:36 PM

" Let's see his critics put a counterproposal out there."

Cut spending by $400,000,000 per year.

No one opposed to this bill is especially gleeful about this option, particularly because it will only keep us at fourth highest taxed, not even back us down from that ranking. Nor does anyone think it will be easy in the political sense, and to a certain extent, they have my sympathy on that front. But in view of how high our taxes already are, it's the only option.

Posted by: Monique at March 27, 2008 8:39 PM

Not sure how this got to be a Matt post, but the only way it is relevant may have to do with the way that certain progressives try to portray themselves as "populists" (i.e. like Abe Lincoln growing up in a log cabin, etc.).

PS Guess who else is on the board at YUM! -- (the not as yet indicted) Tom Ryan of CVS. Coincidence, I assume.

Posted by: Will at March 27, 2008 9:04 PM

It is a fact that many "progressives" and "revolutionaries" are the offspring of privilege-not only here and now in the USA,but throughout the world,particularly in the 20th century.I am not sure what accounts for the phenomenon,perhaps guilt or a lack of knowing what most average,productive people have to be concerned with.Many of them are gleefully "played"by societal dregs who are looking for mainstream patrons to enable their lifestyles.To be honest,some are just idealistic,but we can't afford to allow even benignly-inspired idealism to result in the redistribution of income acording to some marxist formula.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 27, 2008 9:58 PM

Joe B., your thesis has some merit because the children of the privileged class have a front row seat to see the damage the privileged class can do to society, and might want to do something about it.

Posted by: rhody at March 28, 2008 11:16 AM

Legislative hearings could be and can be held in other locations around Rhode Island and that should be considered.I realize with the budget situation and times of travel may impede such a suggestion as this.The finance situation of Rhode Island should be aired all over Rhode Island not only those who have an easy access to the State House.

Posted by: Scott Bill Hirst at March 28, 2008 1:11 PM

Scott Bill Hirst-Amen to that idea!!The much maligned Secretary of State,Ralph Mollis ,who I did not vote for,has shown a great deal of concern for the public and common sense by having had his hearings on Voter ID at venues aaround the state that were accessible,large enough,he had refreshments provided for the citizens attending,and all citizens were treated with the utmost respect.I am referring here to the Warwick Library hearing site.It was shameful that Rep.Almeida and Sen.Pichardo did not show up although they were on the panel.I don't know much about Ralph Mollis,but he was truly doing a good job on this.

Posted by: joe bernstein at March 28, 2008 3:18 PM
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