A Hummel Report InvestigationIn March we took a look at some of the more bizarre legislative proposals filed in this year's General Assembly session. Now as Rhode Island's lawmakers head into the homestretch, we take another look at another round of offbeat bills winding their way through the committee process. From taxing soda or allowing free beer and wine tastings at package stores to business-friendly legislation that's about 20 years overdue: Jim Hummel is back to break down another set of bills.
Back by popular demand this week: another round of legislative proposals that are making their way through the General Assembly. Sure, Deepwater Wind, same sex divorce - and the budget are grabbing all the headlines, but how about some others that for the most part are once again flying under the public's radar....
Two weeks ago - nearly four months after the session began both the House and Senate filed nine separate bills under the heading: ``An Act Making it Easier to do Business in Rhode Island.'' From the fire safety code, to simultaneous licensing...small business representation on the EDC and a fast start office, it all sounds good. But every politician now seemingly wants to hug a small businessman. Fellas, where have you been the past 20 years?
Also under the heading of ``Let's not Rush into Anything:'' A House Commission was appointed three years ago to study regionalizing the school system here on Aquidneck Island. Two questions: 1) Why weren't we doing this in 1975? and 2) now they're asking for another six months to complete the study. It took less time to build the Newport Bridge.
We all know government is having to do more with less. So why is it that the town of Warren wants to start charging for criminal background checks on daycare workers? I like to call it a la carte government. Beware when the bill says a community can charge a ``reasonable'' fee. What government and the people who pay for it feel is reasonable may be two very different things.
Here's another head scratcher...A bill mandating that any driver of a motor vehicle be at least three feet away when passing a bicyclist....or slow down to 10 miles under the post speed limit. Now who's going to enforce THAT one?
If one West Warwick lawmaker's legislation passes, you'll soon be able to attend a free beer and wine tasting at your local package store - with limits on the consumption of course. And how's this for a companion bill - that would also allow free samples of hard liquor. If it goes through you'll be able to have a shot...and a chaser when you go to buy your alcohol.
Beware when lawmakers say they are holding the line on your taxes. That may be true for income or sales tax, but it's the little ones that add up. Called the Soda Act, it would slap a 20 percent tax on sugar sweetened beverages like this one. So are they looking out for my health or trying to balance the budget, one soda at a time?
Now this one makes entirely too much sense. It would require money from taxpayer check off - you know, the one on your tax form that says do you want to support wildlife, or a drug program or arts and tourism, to actually go into a separate account and used for the purpose is says it is. Instead of going into the General Fund and being used for whatever they want up here, as we find out it has been now for the past 15 years.
Of course the main focus over the next month will be on balancing the budget - no easy task this year - then The House and Senate will rush to adjourn, after passing 400 bills the last night of the session. My favorite part: the three months it'll take those of us in the media to figure out exactly what our lawmakers did on that last night.
In Providence, I'm Jim Hummel, for The Hummel Report.