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The Uprising February 6, 2020

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Lots to talk about this week. Some big moves in the General Assembly, which seems intent on getting hot button issues like ghost guns, minimum wage, doula services and parentage rights squared away early, avoiding the kind of frenzy that surrounded the Reproductive Privacy Act last year. Being an election year, this is probably a good thing, from an incumbent point of view.

1. Demand that Raimondo’s energy appointments get true Senate oversight

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo‘s nominations to key energy positions in state government, raise many questions and concerns. She has nominated Nicholas Ucci as State Energy Commissioner (head of the Office of Energy Resources (OER)); Linda George as Administrator of the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers (DPUC); and Ronald Gerwatowski as Chair of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and, by default, head of the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB).

These nominations become official once the Senate confirms them.

Unfortunately, these nominations follow a disaster capitalism script well documented in Naomi Klein‘s The Shock Doctrine. The basic idea is that corporations and government exploit “national crises to push through controversial policies while citizens are too emotionally and physically distracted by disasters or upheavals to mount an effective resistance.”

Klein wrote about the Bush II response to Hurricane Katrina. In the smaller State of Rhode Island, we’re talking about the Aquidneck Island gas crisis from last year. Klein wrote about how Mike Pence, then chairman of the powerful and highly ideological Republican Study Committee (RSC), a caucus of conservative lawmakers, saw the disaster as a chance to impose neoliberal economic policies on New Orleans, including epic giveaways to the oil and gas industry.


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Here in Rhode Island, a DPUC report is suggesting a new, unneeded pipeline from the Port of Providence to Portsmouth, a 5x increase in LNG to the island, which may be seen as a giveaway to the oil and gas industry, particularly National Grid and Enbridge.

One of the the authors of the DPUC report, Ronald Gerwatowski, will be the new head of the EFSB, the government agency tasked with approving or denying these pipelines. Meanwhile, a State Senate commission to to study and evaluate Rhode Island’s electric and natural gas transmission and distribution system infrastructure includes representatives from National Grid and Enbridge, and no one representing environmental groups.

2. Governor Raimondo endorses Mike Bloomberg for President

Mike Bloomberg is everything President Trump isn’t,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo. “He’s facts over fiction. He’s a doer, not a talker… He’s a uniter, not a divider. He’s a pragmatist, not a partisan. And he brings calm, confident, steady leadership, not hysteria…

3. Senate committee hears testimony on doula bill

Doulas are trained healthcare professionals who provide the mother with continuous physical, emotional and informational support during pregnancy, childbirth and the first few weeks after giving birth. During childbirth, they help make women comfortable by providing breathing techniques, massages and advice, and also help advocate for the woman’s needs that she may not be able to express on her own. Births assisted by doulas also have significantly lower rates of cesarean sections, with one study showing a 39 percent reduction.

There is no question that this bill will save lives and be good for women of color in Rhode Island,” said Senator Ana Quezada, “but it also makes strong economic sense. Women who use doulas often require fewer expensive medical interventions during childbirth, which will save them, the hospitals, and the insurance companies money and make the childbirth process much easier for all involved.”

4a. House Labor bows to Senate, hears minimum wage bill with no path to $15

General Assembly leadership has approved a $1 increase to the state’s minimum wage. Yay!

General Assembly leadership has effectively wiped out the possibility of getting Rhode Island on a path to $15 an hour this legislative term. Boo!

It would be much better to be on a path to $15,” said Alan Krinsky the Senior Policy Analyst at the Economic Progress Institute.

4b. Senate District 31 Candidate Kendra Anderson’s statement on minimum wage increase

5a. Hundreds rally at State House to support The Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act

The Nursing Home Staffing and Quality Care Act will set minimum staffing standard of 4.1 care hours of care, raise wages for caregivers and provide needed training opportunities.

I love taking care of residents but short staffing and low wages make my job next to impossible some days,” said Victoria Mitchell, a certified nursing assistant from Hopkins Manor in North Providence who has been a caregiver for 23 years. “Young people do not want to do this work for such low pay when they can get a job elsewhere without all the extra stress. We need better wages, more training and recognition that our work matters.”

5b. While cutting $58.7M from Medicaid, Raimondo budget gives $15.7M to insurance companies by Senator Sam Bell

“This budget is in brutal shape,” writes Bell. “When we’re pushing brutal Medicaid cuts, we just can’t afford to give extra money to insurance companies – especially not when it comes with an initiative to encourage them to cut spending on actual care. To help pay for canceling the Medicaid cuts, one easy way is to cancel this initiative to give more Medicaid money to insurance companies.”

6. “Redraw Rhode Island” kicks-off campaign for an Independent Redistricting Commission

Common Cause Rhode Island kicked-off a proposed state constitutional amendment (S2077 and H7260) creating an independent redistricting commission to draw new legislative district lines after the 2020 Census in a gathering at the State Library on Wednesday.

Check out RedrawRI here!

If we pass this, now, we can have an independent redistricting process after the 2020 Census,” said John Marion, Executive Director of Common Cause Rhode Island. “We can have citizens draw the new district lines, rather than legislators. We can have a system that is open and trusted, rather than another political process that could be challenged in court again.

John Marion

7. Secretary of State introduces new lobbying and legislation data exploration tool

Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea announced a “new era of accountability and transparency in Rhode Island government” with the launch of the Lobbying and Legislation Data Exploration Tool.

Check it out, it’s great.

8. Introducing the Aquidneck Island Climate Caucus

Representatives Lauren Carson (Democrat, District 75, Newport) and Terri-Denise Cortvriend (Democrat, District 72, Portsmouth) announce the formation of the Aquidneck Island Climate Caucus, a community group to give voice to the importance of mitigating and adapting for the earth’s changing climate.

It isn’t some nebulous threat to us; the impact is already here on the island, where our homes, businesses and historic sites are being damaged by more frequent and deeper flooding,” said Representative Lauren Carson. “People want action, and this group will help us create a unified voice to call for it and help shape the response.”

9. NavyTimes: Navy chaplain’s ‘Lead Like Jesus’ message roils command staffs by Carl Prine

An emailed advertisement from the base chaplain urging commanders to “Lead Like Jesus” has irked dozens of senior leaders at Naval Station Newport and sparked a demand by the Military Religious Freedom Foundation to investigate the ad and punish those who sent it.

But military leaders insist the emailed flyer was designed to update times for an ongoing Sunday school program and wasn’t intended to convert any commanders to Christianity or besmirch other religious practices at Newport.

10a. New York Times: When Historic Preservation Hurts Cities by Binyamin Appelbaum

…historic preservation comes at a cost: It obstructs change for the better. And while that price is generally invisible, it is now on public display because of the city’s efforts to prevent Washington homeowners in historic neighborhoods from installing visible rooftop solar panels…

10b. Preservation Hurts Cities? Not So Fast… Brent Runyon, Executive Director of the Providence Preservation Society, responds…

“…admittedly, he does strike upon some truths, such as the fact that preservation as a field is not sufficiently reacting to climate change with new tools. But the article lacks nuance and ignores some important facts, including that hundreds of historic districts already allow solar panels, including those in Providence….

11. The Public’s Radio: Mattiello And Ruggerio’s Campaign Spending On Food & Drink Has Surged During Their Leadership by Ian Donnis

“Rhode Island lawmakers will hold lots of fundraisers in the months ahead to fuel their re-election campaigns. But what many Rhode Islanders do not know is how much of the money raised by the state’s two most powerful legislative leaders gets spent on food, beverages and meals, much of it at fancy restaurants. An exclusive investigation by The Public’s Radio shows that this spending by House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio has surged since they moved into their top leadership posts…”

12. ACLU: Barrington Drops Lawsuit Against Student for Challenging Unlawful School Suspension

“The ACLU of Rhode Island announced today that the Barrington School District has dropped the lawsuit it filed in October against one of its own students who had successfully challenged before the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) his three-day out-of-school suspension. Barrington’s lawsuit, which the ACLU had called “outrageous and shameful” when it was filed, had sought to overturn the RIDE decision and also demanded a recovery of attorneys’ fees from both the middle school student and RIDE. The ACLU called the suit’s dismissal “welcome but overdue….”

13. Bartholomewtown Podcast: Lynzi Deluccia (Multimedia Journalist, WJAR NBC10)

14. Picture of the Week:

Liz Gledhill, Chair of the Rhode Island Democratic Women’s Caucus and daughter Dayja

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Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for nearly a decade. atomicsteve@gmail.com