To the Editor:
Thanks to the Rhode Island Taxpayers’ Organization, word is getting out about the amount of special-interest legislation that long has been the source of the fiscal predicament that much of state and local government finds itself in at this time.
Why do Rhode Islanders, year after year after year, fail to realize the consequences of electing and sending public employees (teachers, fire fighters, police officers and many public-employee union officials, etc.) to Providence wherein, more often than not, all they really do is introduce and approve special-interest legislation and mandates that perpetuate their existence?
The General Assembly and its local equivalents enact legislation and mandates that, almost always, include what will be their working conditions and how their contracts must be negotiated … things that just do not happen, or exist, in the private sector.
The latest in “abuse of citizenry legislation” involves several bills that came before the House Labor Committee on Feb. 12. Two of the bills that are related to teacher contracts would, if approved, cause total chaos to the finances of every city and town in the state.
• H-5340 would extend binding arbitration to teachers on all contractual issues, including salary and benefits.
• H-5186 concerns teacher tenure and would basically block a school board or school committee from the right to lay-off teachers.
Thankfully, both pieces of legislation, while introduced, were held for further study, which is often one way that the legislature stops potential laws from moving to a vote. But they are but one more example of the harm and havoc caused when local and state public employees are also allowed to serve in elected office.
In fact, this kind of behavior is exactly the reason the federal government enacted The Hatch Act.
Similarly, Rogues Island needs to enact its own version of the Hatch Act, something that would stop these special-interest groups, the public employee unions, etc., from creating, year after year after year, the fiscal crisis caused by them for their benefit, and only their benefit.
Citizen reform groups, the already overburdened taxpayers of this state, the business community and the media have got to become more involved, and much more vocal in speaking out on these abuses. And most importantly, they must demand as a starting point that our elected leaders enact the equivalent of the Hatch Act at the local and state levels if at all possible during this current session of the General Assembly.