Re: The Way It’s Done
While this post is a reply to Justin’s about the controversy surrounding State Senator Stephen Alves and the failed A. Duie Pyle tax incentive, it is also a report on the way things are done in the General Assembly when a citizen is attempting to access information about bills and the legislative process.
In the course of denying the allegations that he blocked a tax incentive for a company looking to locate in Johnston, State Senator Stephen Alves said:
“If it was so important to them, why didn’t anybody come to see me about Duie Pyle or request a hearing? Nobody did.”
So what is the legislative history of the Duie Pyle tax incentive legislation? Was it a stand alone bill or intended to be passed as part of the state budget? And most importantly, did it receive the same treatment as the other two tax incentives that did pass?
I began my attempt this morning to clarify these matters by calling the office of the Secretary of the Senate Finance Committee, Ms. Donna LeBoeuf. I reached instead the Clerk of that committee, Mr. Ernest Balasco, who told me that Ms. LeBoeuf is on vacation this week. He further informed me – this is not news to anyone who follows the General Assembly! – that without a bill number, it will be impossible to track a bill.
I then called the Office of Legislative Data. A woman there attempted to assist me but was unable to find a bill with the words “Duie Pyle” in it. And looking through the forty four articles of the budget as passed would have been pointless because the crux of the Alves controversy is that the tax incentive did not become law.
In the face of all of these non-answers, you ask, why didn’t I get some input from one of the proponents of the tax incentive, Senator Christopher B. Maselli, D-Johnston? Good question. It seems, however, that Senator Maselli is one of the few Senators for whom no telephone number is provided on the Senate website.
I have e-mailed Senator Maselli and look forward to hearing from him on this matter.
In the meantime, to summarize. Secretary of that committee on vacation this week. No phone number posted for Senator Maselli, precluding easy contact. And most importantly, a decades old rigid, petrified bill access system designed to shield rather than inform.
Possibly it is paranoia, but I was left with the impression this morning that roadblocks had been added to what is already a difficult research route at the State House so as to prevent the legislative history of this doomed tax incentive from becoming public.
… specific to the Alves/Duie Pyle matter. Subpoenas have gone out. Senator Christopher Maselli received one and will not be answering questions publicly anytime soon:
Maselli has also been subpoenaed to tell his story to the grand jury, which is investigating allegations of influence peddling at the Rhode Island State House.
“Since I don’t want to do anything to hinder the ongoing investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office, I will have no further comment about Duie Pyle,” said Maselli. “I’ve already publicly said everything I know.”
Apparently it will take a Grand Jury to establish the legislative path of these three tax incentives.