Is this the year for the business lobby?

There is some understandable skepticism, among the chattering classes, about whether the General Assembly will deliver the sort of meaningful reform this session that might jolt the economy. The state legislature has not exactly covered itself in glory since the recession hit. Indeed, the Rhode Island political system's single biggest failing of recent decades may come on the economic development front. As critic after critic has noted, there has been no coherent vision. But the 38 Studios debacle, which laid bare the establishment's insider, shot-in-the-dark approach, seems to have inspired some genuine fever for reform among the House and Senate leadership. There is serious talk of blowing up the Economic Development Corporation (EDC), slashing the corporate tax for the state's smallest businesses, and engaging in regulatory reform. Business community folk I've spoken with say they've never seen something like this on Smith Hill. Next week, Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed will unveil a report, "Moving the Needle," examining Rhode Island's poor standing in business climate rankings and suggesting a way forward. Now, whether all of this adds up to a coherent vision, whether it will truly move the needle, is another question. If it just turns into another reactive spasm to a setback, the state will be no better off. But if the General Assembly can buck its longstanding pattern, and do something thoughtful, we may see a better result.
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