Jim Baron: “Let’s Put These Bills Out of Their Misery”
Ahem. It is with considerable embarrassment that I note that Andrew did a far more timely post on Jim Baron’s column. My lame excuse for this duplicative post is … that I wanted to give Jim extra exposure. Yeah, that’s the ticket …
In his column “Politics As Usual” of a couple of weeks ago, Jim Baron of the Pawtucket Times does an excellent job identifying some questionable measures being considered this session at the General Assembly. Below are extensive excerpts; I added bold to the subject titles. Additions to the list may occur to commenters.
Every year in the General Assembly there are good, thoughtful, worthwhile pieces of legislation introduced and passed to the betterment of the Ocean State.
And every year in the General Assembly there are truly lousy, ill-considered and meaningless or even counter-productive bills that are introduced. While many of these die a well-deserved, ignominious death in committee, others actually manage to become law, diminishing and demeaning this great state by their very existence as blots on our lawbooks. […] We Don’t Need a Bottle Bill.
Just when you thought this horrible idea had been buried in the landfill forever back in the 90s, its bony hand reaches up from the grave to grab unsuspecting shoppers by the ankle, just like in that Stephen King movie. Perhaps all you have to know about this awful bill is that officials expect that there will be approximately $6.8 million in unclaimed deposits annually and the state is poised to scoop 75 percent of that or about 5.1 million for the general fund, leaving a paltry $1.7 million to the quasi-governmental corporation running the Johnston Landfill, the RI Resource Recovery Corp. (RIRRC).
The other thing you probably have to know is that it is sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Teresa Paiva Weed and any bill with heavy leadership support has an overwhelming chance of passing, its merits notwithstanding.
We already have to sort and categorize and arrange our rubbish, parceling it out to blue bins and green bins and some in the big green bags. Now we’re going to have to subdivide, once again make another collection of cans and bottles, that we will then have to put in our cars and return them to the store where we bought them, or one of several collection facilities the deficit-plagued state would have to build. Do you really want to be made to put a couple of dozen smelly old beer bottles in your back seat and drive them to the recycling center?
We already have a perfectly good law that requires recycling and allows the state to make money on the recycled materials. If that law was properly implemented and adequately enforced, we wouldn’t need a bottle bill, which was the reasoning when we passed the current law.
When we talk about state government nickel and diming us to death, what more literal example could there be, with 5 cents added to the cost of every beverage container you buy? A 12-pack of Pepsi or Budweiser? That will be an extra 60 cents on your register receipt. Two dozen bottles of Poland Spring? Add $1.20 to the store’s price. I see where the state would benefit by skimming off the lion’s share of the unclaimed deposits, but I’m not really sure where Mother Nature would benefit.
If people aren’t adequately sorting recyclables in their own home before they put them out on the street, do you really expect they are going to chauffer their beer and soda bottles back to the store? Really? With gas costing what it does, how many bottles are you going to have to store up somewhere in your house or garage before it is worth going back to the store to get the nickels back on each of them?
This is either one of those well-intentioned, do-gooder bills that is never going to work the way its sponsor expected, or else it is a cynical attempt to raise money for the state by charging Rhode Islanders a deposit they aren’t going to redeem, thereby working exactly as its sponsor expected. Either way, this bill should be hauled off to the dump.
Saturday voting? You’ve Got To Be Kidding!
Let’s see, we’re going to have a bunch of people vote on Saturday, and then all those machines and all those ballots are going to be stashed away somewhere Saturday night, all day Sunday, all day Monday, then trotted out again on Tuesday for more people to vote before they are counted. What could possibly go wrong with that? I mean, please. In Rhode Island you want to do this? You want Operation Dollar Bill to be succeeded by Operation Hack the Vote?
Even without assuming any skullduggery, incumbents would be able to get a whopping advantage, being able to see where voting is light or heavy at certain polling places and divert last-minute resources — phone calls, door-knocking, direct mailing — to those areas. I’m not saying that Election Day has to be Tuesday, although Tuesday has worked well for well over a century. If you want to hold the election on a Saturday, that’s OK, just don’t allow voting on two days that are two days apart; you are just asking for it. […] The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
This is another one of those Rasputin bills. You can shoot it, you can stab it, you can poison it, you can hold its head underwater and you still can’t kill it. It is going to continue to rear its ugly head every couple of years or so.
At least this year we were spared the effort (I think) to squelch the celebration of the end of one of mankind’s worst horrors, World War II, which gave us, among other nasty things, Hitler, the Holocaust and Hiroshima. But Providence Plantations has returned with the demand that we strip away more than 400 years of history in order to formalize a misapprehension. To bow to the mistaken in the name of political correctness.
Some black people — I won’t call them leaders, because if this is their idea of something important, given all of the other issues facing people of color and for that matter anyone else who has to work for a living these days, they are not leading in any meaningful way — want to change the official name of the state to cut of the “and Providence Plantations” part because, they say, it is offensive.
What they find offensive about growing crops is beyond me, because that is what the “Providence Plantations” in the name means. Just like Plimoth Plantation. No, what they find offensive is the non-existent link to the antebellum plantations of the Old Confederacy, where African slaves were imprisoned, bought and sold as chattel and forced to work in chains and live in unspeakable conditions against their will in gross contradiction to everything this country is supposed to stand for.
If that is what the “Plantations” in the state’s official name stood for and celebrated, I would be the first to argue that it should be yanked. But it’s not. Anyone who thinks that is what it means is wrong, mistaken, incorrect, in error, a victim of misunderstanding, repeating fallacy and just plan misinformed.
And we are going to change the official name of our state to accommodate that error? Why? Wouldn’t it be better to use this as a “teaching moment” to correct the misapprehension and allow those who hold it to take pride in their state and its name once again?
Some people don’t think so. Progreso Latino President Ramon Martinez reportedly testified before the House Finance Committee, that having “and Providence Plantations” at the end of the state’s name is: “morally reprehensible, politically offensive and economically exploitive.” Is he serious?
If he is, I for one will have to think long and hard the next time Martinez labels something morally reprehensible. Lynching is morally reprehensible, not allowing black people to vote or use public facilities is morally reprehensible, police stops of drivers for no reason other than their race or ethnicity is morally reprehensible. Maintaining a state name that has been around since the 1660s and has nothing to do with race is not. If that excess alone is not enough to derail the whole silly argument, I don’t know what is. What should we do next after we take the Providence Plantations out of the state name? Rename global warming so the people who believe the Earth is flat won’t be offended?
Those are just a few of the obvious clunkers in the legislative hopper. I’m sure there will be more before the session comes to an end in late June.