This morning, I taped an appearance on WPRI-TV's "Newsmakers" to discuss my recent cover story calling out the biggest problem in Rhode Island public life circa 2012: amateurism.
The story, among other things, suggested that the part-time General Assembly is ill-equipped to vet the big - and sometimes bad - ideas foisted upon it.
My new cover story, sizing up the 2014 gubernatorial race, discusses the early jockeying for labor's support, among other topics. And my basic conclusion is this: public employee unions have no "fair-haired child" in the race, as one Chafee aide put it.
All the leading contenders have ticked off union leaders in one way or another in the last couple of years.
Treasurer Gina Raimondo, a likely candidate for governor, endured some less-than-flattering press last week when the Wall Street Journal reported that John Arnold, a former Enron trader and hedge fund manager, wrote a six-figure check to EngageRI, an independent expenditure group that supported the treasurer's high-profile pension reform push.
Rhode Island Superior Court Judge Sarah Taft-Carter has ordered negotiations over a union lawsuit challenging the state's landmark pension reform bill.
I'd be surprised, though, if there's a pre-trial settlement.
Treasurer Gina Raimondo, who pushed the bill through the General Assembly and built a national reputation as a can-do pol in the process, has just released a statement saying she'll negotiate in "good faith."
Governor Lincoln Chafee has a habit of going out on a limb. Last year, he pushed for a doomed expansion of the state sales tax. His refusal to turn over murder suspect Jason Pleau to federal authorities, fearing they might seek the death penalty, seemed like a legal longshot from the start. And his stubborn insistence on calling the State House spruce a "holiday tree" - two years running now - remains deeply unpopular.
Rhode Island public employee unions filed a lawsuit today seeking to overturn last year's big pension overhaul. The outcome, of course, will have a big impact on workers' retirement and the state's long-term fiscal health. But what of the political ramifications?
Treasurer Gina Raimondo was the architect of the overhaul, of course.
Governor Chafee is making his final push for a municipal financial rescue package with a nifty new video called "Momentum." But the latest word on Smith Hill is that the package doesn't have much momentum at all: only a few of the less controversial measures are expected to pass.
Is this a sign of the governor's weakness? Sure.
As Dan McGowan at GoLocalProv reported earlier today, Providence City Councilman John Igliozzi has been ousted from his position as chairman of the panel's finance committee a day after he and Councilman Terry Hassett voiced second thoughts about the sweeping pension reform package they recently approved alongside the rest of the council.
Governor Lincoln Chafee, who has made the on-line video a go-to medium, is at it again with a well-produced pitch for his legislative package aimed at rescuing the state's floundering cities and towns. Dramatic music, a ticking clock, who knew Linc could be an action movie star?
Still, as I noted in this space a couple of days ago, he faces an uphill climb in a General Assembly loathe to hit organized labor hard for the second year in a row: last year, it was sweeping pension reform for workers in the state-run system; Chafee's package could mean cuts in pay and pensions for municipal workers.
It was two weeks ago that Governor Chafee unveiled a legislative package, during a press conference at Pawtucket City Hall, that aims to help cities and town cut costs and pull back from the brink of fiscal crisis.
Some of the most controversial measures would allow "severely distressed" communities to bypass parts of employee contracts, like salary hikes for teachers, and suspend annual cost-of-living hikes for retirees.
Last week, I wrote in this space about a letter a coalition of seven liberal advocacy groups wrote to Treasurer Gina Raimondo, asking her to return an award she recently accepted from the right-leaning Manhattan Institute for shepherding pension reform through the General Assembly.
The letter cited Manhattan Institute-sponsored writings attacking gay marriage and feminism and suggesting claims about racial profiling are "promoting racial paranoia."
Liberal advocacy group People for the American Way (PFAW) is joining local union officials in criticizing Treasurer Gina Raimondo for accepting an award from the conservative Manhattan Institute for her work overhauling the state pension system. From PFAW:
Rhode Island Treasurer Gina Raimondo appeared at the Manhattan Institute on Thursday to receive
that organization’s Urban Innovator Award.
Forbes was in attendance today in new York as Treasurer Gina Raimondo accepted an award from the right-leaning Manhattan Institute for Public Policy Research for her work in overhauling the state pension system.
The magazine's Tim Ferguson noted that Raimondo preached transparency: an unrelenting effort to educate the public on the nature and depth of the pension crisis, such that a broad constituency would "own the problem" and embrace reform.
There was much that was striking about last night's vote to approve a sweeping pension overhaul. Ted Nesi over at WPRI, who has provided excellent coverage of the issue from start to finish, tackles some of the big themes in a post-vote analysis.
But one thing that strikes me is the near-unanimous support the legislature's progressive wing, generally quite friendly to organized labor, gave to the bill.
We've got a pretty good sense, now, for what the pension bill will look like when it comes up for a vote. And most observers expect it to pass. So how did the key players fare in Smith Hill's battle royale? An initial look: