ARLENE VIOLET - R.I. legislators killing us softly

ARLENE VIOLET - R.I. legislators killing us softly

Does anything ever change in Rhode Island? Recent decisions made by the so-called leaders up on Smith Hill certainly challenge the thinking that things are getting any better in this state. Here are some examples of the business as usual routine:

Gov. Lincoln Chafee has nominated Chris Fierro, a former Woonsocket state representative and district director for Congressman David Cicilline, to serve as chairman of the three member Rhode Island Board of Review, occupying the seat representing the public. This board decides appeals mostly from employees who have been denied unemployment compensation or temporary disability by a referee in a prior hearing.

On the Board there already is a member representing labor. The public member is supposed to be neutral. Mr. Fierro, however, has been a past member of the New England Carpenters Labor Management Program and Service Employees International Union. His appointment to Cicilline's staff was due in no small part to his labor credentials. With all the blather in the state about attracting jobs, Chafee's actions signal anew how much he is in bed with the unions for his reelection bid to the detriment of business. An employer doesn't stand a chance of winning an appeal given this lop-sided review board. Nothing could be a clearer signal to employers that they should stay out of this state because it is impossible to win any hearing.

Chafee again deserves raspberries for his appointment of former R.I. Senate President, North Providence's Joseph Montalbano, to a judgeship. One would think that the governor could have found a candidate who hadn't violated the ethics laws. Montalbano was fined $12,000 for not disclosing legal work he did for Harrah's, the casino giant which was promoting the Narragansett Indian casino. The new judge noted that a former legislator hasn't been selected since 1994 and told the crowd at his hearing for the post that selecting him would allow for the same to happen too many of them. Standing in the crowd were legislators and judges who should have known better as they gushed all over him.

The legislators also didn't disappoint in flashing their pro labor union credentials. A committee supported a proposal to demand union apprenticeships in bidding jobs over $1 million. Non-union companies testified that the measure would knock every non-union contractor from bidding on state or municipal jobs. Towns would have to pay higher costs for municipal work projects. So much for the professed love affair politicians spout about small businesses.

Finally, the "Will not shirk" of Senate President Theresa Paiva Weed and the "None in the legislature" response of Gordon Fox to an inquiry as to whether there was any controversy about the loan guarantee for 38 Studios represented anew the fiefdom attitude of the legislative bosses. Worse still was the response of the serfs who gave their imprimatur to the deal. State taxpayers will not only have to pony up for a bond that should not be paid but also for the welshing done in trying to renege on the pension contribution necessary to keep the promise to those in its system. In other words, the solons decided to pay a debt that they need not pay while stiffing public employees whom they promised to begin to make whole. No wonder skepticism reigns!

Violet is an attorney and former state attorney general.