Political labels indifferent to 'Gang of 5'

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It started with two and now there are five.

They’ve been dubbed the “gang of five,” but no question they would welcome others to join their ranks. They are bound by the causes they support, not the party labels they wear, which in this day of divisive politics makes them unusual.

It started during the last legislative session when Republican Rep. Robert Lancia of Cranston introduced legislation to create an Office of Inspector General that would rout out government waste and fraud. Freshman Democrat Evan Shanley of Warwick was also thinking of an inspector general and was interested to hear what Lancia had to say. The two ended up working on a bill that didn’t make it into law, at least not last year.

Now another Republican Rep. Kenneth J. Mendonça of Middletown and two Democrats, Rep. Camille Vella-Wilkinson of Warwick and Rep. Moria Walsh of Providence have joined their ranks. They agree on the need for an inspector general and more. In the wake of the disclosure that $10 million in fees collected for 911 Call Center have been siphoned into the general fund, which Lancia brought to light, they favor what has become the restricted receipts bill.

The gang of five also favor lunch shaming legislation to prevent schools from taking back a lunch or requiring a student to perform chores if they cannot pay for the lunch.

House Majority Leader K. Joseph Shekarchi hadn’t heard of the gang of five, although he knows them all. The fact they have become an item didn’t stop him from applauding the cooperation from across the aisle.

“I always think it is good when reps from both parties work together…when we work together we’re stronger,” he said.

However, Shekarchi isn’t convinced the state needs another state office in the form of an inspector general. He points out that the state has an auditor general who is keeping an eye on state contracts and expenditures.

Lancia notes 34 states have inspector generals. He’s concerned by the cost of Rhode Island government and the state budget of more than $9 billion that he said has doubled in the past 10 years. He put the per capita cost of state government at $8,700 as compared to $6,700 nationwide. He said states with inspector generals average $6,700 and that Florida is the best example, where the average is $3,900. Lancia questions why Rhode Island government is so costly when Maine and New Hampshire have state budgets of $7.1 billion and $5.7 billion, respectively.

Shanley likewise wants to see greater oversight of spending. Shanley believes an inspector general would more than pay for him or herself.

“They would be dedicated to finding holes in the budget,” he said. “I don’t think we have anyone responsible for that…an independent watchdog.”

Mendonça said his predecessor, Rep. Daniel Riley, advocated for an inspector general.

“Bob Lancia picked up the ball,” he said. He pointed out that state police should be called in when there is evidence of fraud and corruption, but that they can’t be dedicated to ferreting it out. That would be the task of an inspector general.

“Let’s try it and give it a term limit,” he said. He suggests a five-year trial at a cost of $5 million to $10 million. He believes it would pay for itself 10 times over.
What of working with legislators from the opposite side of the political aisle?

“I think multiple perspectives creates the best final product,” said Shanley.

“We’ve got different outlooks,” said Lancia. “We work on what we can work on together,” he said. Lancia said 30 legislators have co-signed onto the inspector general bill.

How did they become known as the “gang of five?”

Lancia said Pat Ford of Coalition Radio coined the phrase when he was interviewing Lancia on air.

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Thecaptain

One more time. Here is the list of Wilkinson's campaign contributions. Does anyone really think she represents anyone other than special interest groups?

FUND FOR DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP PAC $1,000.00 12/28/2017

RHODE ISLAND GOOD GOVERNMENT PAC PAC $900.00 12/26/2017

RHODE ISLAND GOOD GOVERNMENT PAC PAC $300.00 11/17/2015

WARWICK TEACHER'S UNION 915 PAC $210.00 11/17/2015

IBEW LOCAL 99 PAC (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) PAC $105.00 11/16/2015

GUN OWNERS PAC PAC $75.00 11/12/2015

WARWICK FIREFIGHTERS LOCAL 2748 PAC $150.00 11/12/2015

WARWICK FOP LODGE #7 PAC PAC $100.00 11/10/2015

PROVIDENCE RI CENTRAL FEDERATED COUNCIL AFL-CIO PAC $200.00 11/09/2015

GINA PAC (FRMLY HOPE NOW PAC) PAC $200.00 11/05/2016

RI STATE ASSOCIATION OF FIREFIGHTERS PAC $200.00 11/03/2017

RHODE ISLAND GOOD GOVERNMENT PAC PAC $100.00 11/03/2017

WARWICK FOP LODGE #7 PAC PAC $100.00 11/03/2017

CRANSTON FIREFIGHTERS LOCAL 1363 COPE PAC $200.00 11/03/2017

IBEW LOCAL 99 PAC (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) PAC $125.00 11/02/2016

AMICA / RI PAC PAC $125.00 11/02/2016

WARWICK TEACHER'S UNION 915 PAC $210.00 10/31/2011

PROVIDENCE RI CENTRAL FEDERATED COUNCIL AFL-CIO PAC $50.00 10/29/2010

WARWICK FOP LODGE #7 PAC PAC $200.00 10/29/2010

RI ALLIANCE SSE SEIU COPE (Social Service Employees) PAC $50.00 10/27/2017

CRANSTON FF'S FOR PUBLIC SAFETY PAC $200.00 10/27/2016

GUN OWNERS PAC PAC $250.00 10/27/2016

GURSKY WIENS RILABORLAW PAC PAC $50.00 10/27/2016

RI STATE ASSOCIATION OF FIREFIGHTERS PAC $100.00 10/27/2016

LOCAL 791 UFCW PAC (United Food & Commercial Workers) PAC $200.00 10/26/2016

PANNONE LOPES DEVEREAUX & O'GARA LLC RI STATE PAC PAC $100.00 10/23/2017

RI FEDERATION OF TEACHERS COPE PAC PAC $100.00 10/23/2016

PROVIDENCE RI CENTRAL FEDERATED COUNCIL AFL-CIO PAC $125.00 10/22/2016

PROVIDENCE RI CENTRAL FEDERATED COUNCIL AFL-CIO PAC $50.00 10/21/2011

CRANSTON FF'S FOR PUBLIC SAFETY PAC $300.00 10/20/2016

MIDDLETOWN FIREFIGHTERS COPE PAC $100.00 10/19/2016

WARWICK FOP LODGE #7 PAC PAC $150.00 10/18/2011

WARWICK FIREFIGHTERS LOCAL 2748 PAC $500.00 10/18/2011

PEOPLE, RI COUNCIL 94, AFSCME AFL-CIO PAC PAC $100.00 10/18/2010

FUND FOR DEMOCRATIC LEADERSHIP PAC $500.00 10/17/2016

WARWICK FIREFIGHTERS LOCAL 2748 PAC $200.00 10/14/2010

RI LABORERS' PUBLIC EMPLOYEES PAC PAC $200.00 10/14/2010

CONNECTICUT HEALTH CARE DISTRICT 1199 PAC PAC $200.00 10/09/2017

PROVIDENCE RI CENTRAL FEDERATED COUNCIL AFL-CIO PAC $100.00 10/09/2014

WARWICK TEACHER'S UNION 915 PAC $200.00 10/07/2010

WARWICK FOP LODGE #7 PAC PAC $100.00 10/06/2016

WARWICK FOP LODGE #7 PAC PAC $100.00 10/06/2016

HOPE RI PAC PAC $500.00 10/06/2016

GURSKY WIENS RILABORLAW PAC PAC $100.00 10/06/2016

WARWICK FOP LODGE #7 PAC PAC ($100.00) 10/06/2016

RHODE ISLAND GOOD GOVERNMENT PAC PAC $300.00 10/04/2016

PEOPLE, RI COUNCIL 94, AFSCME AFL-CIO PAC PAC $250.00 10/03/2016

RI BROTHERHOOD OF CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS PAC PAC $400.00 09/30/2016

RHODE ISLAND GOOD GOVERNMENT PAC PAC $120.00 09/24/2013

RI LABORERS' PAC PAC $200.00 09/24/2013

RI CARPENTERS PAC PAC $200.00 09/19/2014

RI NERCC PAC (New England Regional Council of Carpenters) PAC $200.00 09/19/2014

PEOPLE, RI COUNCIL 94, AFSCME AFL-CIO PAC PAC $250.00 09/06/2012

WARWICK FOP LODGE #7 PAC PAC $200.00 08/23/2016

WARWICK FIREFIGHTERS LOCAL 2748 PAC $500.00 08/22/2016

RI ALLIANCE SSE SEIU COPE (Social Service Employees) PAC $150.00 08/15/2014

IBEW LOCAL 99 PAC (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) PAC $40.00 08/02/2014

PEOPLE, RI COUNCIL 94, AFSCME AFL-CIO PAC PAC $100.00 08/02/2014

PROVIDENCE RI CENTRAL FEDERATED COUNCIL AFL-CIO PAC $100.00 08/02/2014

RI LABORERS' PAC PAC $200.00 07/29/2015

RHODE ISLAND GOOD GOVERNMENT PAC PAC $25.00 06/23/2014

WARWICK FOP LODGE #7 PAC PAC $100.00 06/23/2014

WARWICK FIREFIGHTERS LOCAL 2748 PAC $125.00 06/23/2014

PEOPLE, RI COUNCIL 94, AFSCME AFL-CIO PAC PAC $150.00 06/23/2014

WARWICK TEACHER'S UNION 915 PAC $200.00 06/23/2014

RI LABORERS' PUBLIC EMPLOYEES PAC PAC $200.00 06/23/2014

GINA PAC (FRMLY HOPE NOW PAC) PAC $250.00 06/23/2014

IBEW LOCAL 99 PAC (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) PAC $40.00 06/23/2014

RI AFL-CIO PAC PAC $150.00 06/10/2012

IBEW LOCAL 99 PAC (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) PAC $200.00 06/10/2012

RI LABORERS' PAC PAC $200.00 05/21/2012

WARWICK FIREFIGHTERS LOCAL 2748 PAC $200.00 05/16/2012

WARWICK FOP LODGE #7 PAC PAC $100.00 05/15/2017

PEOPLE, RI COUNCIL 94, AFSCME AFL-CIO PAC PAC $250.00 05/15/2017

GUN OWNERS PAC PAC $150.00 05/15/2017

IBEW LOCAL 2323 PAC (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) PAC $500.00 05/15/2017

RI BROTHERHOOD OF CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS PAC PAC $400.00 05/15/2017

WARWICK FIREFIGHTERS LOCAL 2748 PAC $250.00 05/15/2017

NEARI PACE (National Education Association of RI) PAC $100.00 05/15/2017

WE THE PEOPLE/RI FIREARM OWNERS LEAGUE PAC $100.00 05/15/2017

CRANSTON FIREFIGHTERS LOCAL 1363 COPE PAC $100.00 05/12/2017

WARWICK TEACHER'S UNION 915 PAC $160.00 05/09/2012

RI STATE ASSOCIATION OF FIREFIGHTERS PAC $100.00 05/08/2017

AMALGAMATED TRANSIT UNION COPE-RHODE ISLAND PAC $100.00 05/08/2017

IBEW LOCAL 99 PAC (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) PAC $50.00 05/04/2017

WARWICK TEACHER'S UNION 915 PAC $200.00 05/01/2017

RI LABORERS' PAC PAC $200.00 05/01/2017

RI AFT RETIREES COPE PAC PAC $300.00 04/28/2017

WARWICK TEACHER'S UNION 915 PAC $120.00 04/28/2016

WARWICK FOP LODGE #7 PAC PAC $100.00 04/28/2016

WARWICK FIREFIGHTERS LOCAL 2748 PAC $250.00 04/28/2016

RI AFL-CIO PAC PAC $100.00 04/25/2017

TEAMSTERS LU251 DRIVE PAC PAC $200.00 04/03/2017

RI AFL-CIO PAC PAC $50.00 03/30/2015

WARWICK FIREFIGHTERS LOCAL 2748 PAC $200.00 03/23/2015

RHODE ISLAND GOOD GOVERNMENT PAC PAC $120.00 03/23/2015

IBEW LOCAL 99 PAC (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) PAC $80.00 03/23/2015

WARWICK TEACHER'S UNION 915 PAC $200.00 03/23/2015

Wednesday, April 4
JohnStark

This is actually an intriguing topic, and one that should absolutely terrify local pols. I speak, of course, of RI's level of fiscal discipline in contrast to that of neighboring states. How much comes in, and where does it go? New Hampshire, with a population that is now 50% larger than that of RI (for a reason), has a FY 2018 budget that is 60% LESS THAN that of RI. So why does NH spend $3926 for every man, woman, and child while RI spends $9400? Because RI can! With a confiscatory and wasteful system of taxes, including state sales tax, state income tax, and a gasoline tax 43% higher than NH, the money just rolls into Smith Hill coffers. And where does it go? It goes to expand an already morbidly obese state government! Somehow, magically, NH manages to maintain it's 17,000 mile system of state highways far more efficiently than RI does with their 3300 miles.

I can hear the howlers already. "Yeah, but aren't NH property taxes high?" Yes, but... The median home value in RI right now is about $270k, on which the owner will pay about $4500 in taxes. On the same home in NH, the owner will pay, on average, $6264; a difference of $1764 annually, or $147 per month. Ask the average Rhode Islander if he/she would be willing to spend an extra $147 per month (which stays locally) in exchange for paying No state income tax, No state sales tax, No state capital gains tax, 43% less in gas tax, no state estate tax, a 2.6% unemployment rate, higher SAT scores, and a better educated adult work force. I think we know the answer, which is why the corrupt Blob at the state house wants absolutely nothing to do with this!

Little wonder that this topic is avoided like the plague, and the proposed legislation "...didn't make into law".

Wednesday, April 4
ronloparto

Only a Nut could read Rep Camille Vella-Wilkinsons Campaign Contributor List and Take a Look at Her Illegal Bills. That Governor Raimondo Stated "Vella-Wilkinsons Evergreen, Eternal Contracts Bill is Illegal and Harm Children Families and Taxpayers Diving Up Property Taxes for Everyone.

Mayor Avedisian and All Mayors, Administrators, Planners, Superintendents, School Committees and Financial Experts So Upset, Sat Down and Put in Writing! Vella-Wilkinsons Bill Will Harm Children and Families.Her Bill will Drive Up Property Taxes.

The Bill Failed Miserably.

Union Bosses have Ordered her "Get Your Butt Back in the State House and Resubmit

Stuffing her Pockets with more Dirty Money, Vella-Wilkinsons Obeying.

Rep Camille Vella-Wilkinson Can Be Quite the Gal at Election Time, Like Mattiello and the Rest of Democrat State Leadership.

But Bi-Partisan! No Way! Its Called Survival at Election Time!

Wednesday, April 4
richardcorrente

The teachers want>

an "evergreen" clause in their employment contracts to protect them during contract discussions. That way they are assured of a certain income after their present contract expires and before their new one starts. That's understandable to me, and I only speak for me. But I don't think it's enough.

The School Committee (SC) wants>

To have the negotiating strength of NOT having to pay ANY amount certain during the negotiations. That's NOT understandable to me (and, again, I only speak for me) as it gives a very unfair advantage and almost total control to the SC. Without protection the SC can, has, and in my opinion, will, use that power to force the teachers to accept less than they should.

The average starting salary nationwide for teachers is just under $40,000. In Rhode Island, the average is just over $40,000 and it's less than Massachusetts or Connecticut. That is according to MSN.

If the teachers are requesting, for example, a 4% raise and the SC refuses, there should be some middle ground to protect both sides, like granting half of the request, in the example above, 2% until a new contract can be finalized. In other contract negotiations such as professional sports, clauses like this are common. It's equally fair, or unfair to both sides and encourages BOTH sides to work things out. (In fact, in the NFL, if a contract is over and a new one hasn't been agreed to yet, the players gets the salary of the highest paid people at that position.)

I would be in favor of this "evergreen-plus" clause. I feel it's motivating to both sides, not just one. Our students are my biggest concern. I believe this solution protects their interests the most.

Happy Spring everyone.

Rick Corrente

The Taxpayers Mayor

Friday, April 6
Thecaptain

The miserably failed candidate Corrente is in favor of the Evergreen contract. A contract that every mayor in the state was against. Even "give -away Avedisian" was against the bill. But Corrente, who supports the former failed Warwick council woman Wilkinson, was all for it because it was her bill. Just another union panderer.

Saturday, April 7