ARLENE VIOLET – Labor Day vote setup newest mess

ARLENE VIOLET – Labor Day vote setup newest mess

If Rhode Island politicians spent money as though it were their own, taxpayers would see radically different behavior. Instead, they have a “cookie jar” mentality, i.e. that it’s other people’s money so they can go on a spree. Citizens have only to go down the memory lane of financial fiascos past and present to document how little thought is given to spending tax revenue.

Do you remember 38 Studios? How about the UHIP disaster that mushroomed into a spending binge, yet Deloitte, the perpetrator of the burgeoning costs, was kept on to run the computer system? You probably chuckled about the “Cooler and Warmer” $5 million tourist campaign complete with footage from Iceland parading as a Rhode Island “hot spot.” Outsiders thought the state was also quite foolish in using a logo that was supposed to be a sail but which they misinterpreted as a shark.

Well, these examples are not just past history. The General Assembly just passed legislation that Gov. Gina Raimondo signed into law to move the state’s primary in 2020 up a week. The import of the bill was to authorize the primary election the day after Labor Day. It is hard to imagine how the solons missed the obvious problem with the date since they are enamored of watching voting dates and times in order to guarantee their reelection. In order to get the polls open in this instance, workers would have to spend Labor Day setting up voting booths and preparing voting places. The time and a half costs required by work on a legal holiday would add tens of thousands of dollars in costs to the municipalities. Oops!

The Rhode Island Town and City Clerk’s Association plans to ask the General Assembly to jettison the Sept. 8 date and move it to Sept 9 in order to avoid overtime. Of course, school children will have an early vacation from school, a move that, no doubt, further explains another reason for dismal education scores as the school year is interrupted. Far be it to schedule a primary in August when the kiddies aren’t in school.

The legislature is pondering an early return in the fall to take up the governor’s proposed no-bid, $1 billion dollar contract with IGT for gaming. Fortunately, the state has a luminary in the person of Alan Hassenfeld, the former chairman and CEO of Hasbro. While IGT is promoting a study it commissioned as to the economic benefit IGT produces “directly, indirectly and induced,” Hassenfeld correctly notes that the legislature should have outside experts to analyze the proposed deal.

“Get someone who runs a great lottery from around the country. Get someone from scientific and gaming technology who can tell you better where things are going,” he admonishes. Hassenfeld correctly argues that the longevity of any contract must be carefully examined given the rapidity of technology changes. He noted that one only has to look at the fact that “5G” technology was unheard of years ago. Projecting the state of technology 20 years out is problematic. Further, other proposals should be vetted with regard to employment goals.

While Hassenfeld has offered to fund such a study, the fact is that state leaders should pony up before any vote.

Violet is an attorney and former state attorney general.