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State Report: Fung’s New Hire, Drug Reform + Fmr. AG Passes Away

Saturday, November 30, 2013


This week’s State Report centers on a new hire made by Cranston Mayor and 2014 gubernatorial candidate Allan Fung, which may have a dramatic impact on the 2014 governor’s race. Additionally, we’ll look at the passing of former Rhode Island Attorney General Herbert F. DeSimone and preview several committee meetings set to take place next week. Lastly, we'll examine Senator Jack Reed's crusade to ensure that Rhode Islanders do not go hungry this holiday season.

Fung's New Hire

On Wednesday, Cranston Mayor Allan Fung announced the addition of Majority Strategies to his gubernatorial campaign.

Over the past decade, Majority Strategies has produced nearly one billion pieces of political mail for more than 1,000 campaigns in all 50 states. They have written and designed voter contact mail for successful candidates running for every imaginable office from school board up to President of the United States.

"I'm very excited to bring Majority Strategies onto Team Fung. They have one of the best, if not the best, mail firms in the United States. Not only have they won republican races across the country, they have won in the Northeast, including Rhode Island. We know we are in good hands with Jim and his team," said Patrick Sweeney, Fung’s political consultant.

Majority Strategies has worked for several successful candidates for governor, including Tim Pawlenty in Minnesota, Brian Sandoval in Nevada, Rick Scott in Florida, Don Carcieri in Rhode Island, George Pataki in New York, Matt Meade in Wyoming, Mitch Daniels in Indiana, Sam Brownback in Kansas and Bobby Jindal in Louisiana.

The Republican National Committee has used their firm to handle voter contact mail in numerous states in every election cycle since 2000, including the presidential campaigns of Bush and McCain.

Additionally, the National Republican Congressional Committee has used their firm to do issue advocacy and independent expenditure mail in more than 50 districts. In addition to several million pieces of issue mail for the NRCC, we have worked directly with nearly 30 members of Congress, including Speaker John Boehner and NRCC Chairman Pete Sessions.

The Fung campaign says that the leading consultant will be James Klein, who has been with Majority Strategies since 2006. Since joining Majority Strategies, he has assisted in writing, producing, and consulting countless local, state, and national candidates across the country with their mail campaigns.

Earlier this month, the Fung announced the addition of three new consultants to his gubernatorial campaign staff— Robert Coupe, Esq., Kyle Regan and Paula Smith.

Fung will square off against former Moderate Party gubernatorial candidate Block in next September’s Republican Primary. According to GoLocal's ongoing "GOP Governor Nominee: Block or Fung" poll, Fung has received 2,736 votes compared to 2,068 for Block. Click here if you would like to cast your vote.

On the Democratic side, Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, who announced his candidacy last month, is currently the only major candidate to join the race. General Treasurer Gina Raimondo is expected to announce her candidacy by the end of the year.

GoLocal first reported last month that Clay Pell, grandson of the late six-term Senator Claiborne Pell, is also considering entering the race. Todd Giroux, who ran as an Independent in 2010, announced last month that he’d run as a Democrat in 2014.

Check out more news from the past week below

Related Slideshow:
RI State Report: More News of the Week - 11/30/13

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Fmr. AG Passes Away

Earlier this week, former Rhode Island Attorney General Herbert F. DeSimone passed away at the age of 84.

DeSimone, a Republican, served two terms as attorney general from 1967 to 1971, and served as Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Transportation from 1971 to 1972.

Prior to DeSimone becoming attorney general in 1967, a Republican had not held the office since Louis V. Jackvony in 1941.

After leaving the attorney general’s office, DeSimone ran unsuccessfully for governor twice in 1970 and 1972.

Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin issued the following statement on the passing of DeSimone:

"Herb DeSimone will be remembered as a dedicated and principled public servant. In every role he served, he did so with great integrity and honor, matched only by his passion for the law and love for his family. He was respected on both sides of the political aisle for his honesty and his 'roll up the sleeves and get the job done' attitude. He was not afraid to tackle the tough issues and never shied away from a challenge, including indicting and convicting New England mob boss Raymond Patriarca.

"Herb DeSimone was much more than a politician; he was a true statesman. On behalf of the entire staff of the Office of Attorney General, I extend our deepest condolences to his family."

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Workforce Program

Governor Lincoln D. Chafee announced on Tuesday that the Governor's Workforce Board has voted to invest up to $150,000 toward the development of two new non-traditional apprenticeships—one for Computer Numerically Controlled Machinists and another for Cost-Estimators and Construction Managers. Funding for this initiative comes from Article 15 of the FY 2014 budget, and represents the first time in recent history that General Revenue has been used to fund workforce development efforts.

"The development of these apprenticeships will allow Rhode Island to expand its options for workforce training and create new opportunities for upward mobility in the manufacturing and construction sectors," Chafee said. "I am proud to have worked with the General Assembly in order to fund this new venture."

The curricula for both apprenticeships are expected to be completed in late spring and submitted for approval to the Department of Labor and Training. Apprenticeships could be operational as soon as next summer and fall.

Proposed in response to industry demand, the CNC Machinist apprenticeship is a collaborative effort with R.I. Manufacturing Extension Services, the R.I. Marine Trades Association and the Community College of Rhode Island.

Also proposed in response to industry need, the Cost-Estimators and Construction Managers apprenticeship will be developed by the Building Futures/Providence Plan in collaboration with the Gilbane Building Company.

The proposals were chosen through a Request for Proposals targeting existing GWB Industry Partnerships. Industry Partnerships serve as liaisons between the public and private sector in Rhode Island's high-growth industries and are instrumental in the current efforts to create career pathways for the Rhode Island workforce.

The Governor's Workforce Board is the primary policy-making board for Rhode Island workforce development. Since its inception in 2005, the board has invested more than $70 million in initiatives that improve the existing skill base of the workforce and anticipate the future needs of growing and emerging businesses.

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Food Bank Funding

In an effort to ensure food banks in Rhode Island and across the country are able to help vulnerable families, U.S. Senator Jack Reed has called on Congress to listen to the needs of the hungry.  On Tuesday, Reed and 25 of his Senate colleagues sent a letter to key Farm Bill negotiators urging them to support a level of funding for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) that will keep pace with the demand for emergency food relief.

“Congress needs to do more to help thousands of hungry Rhode Islanders meet basic nutritional needs and alleviate hunger,” said Reed. “Our food banks are working overtime to feed hungry people in the communities they serve, but they’re already stretched thin. I urge bipartisan support for our nation’s emergency food assistance network in the Farm Bill. Instead of just shifting the burden to local food banks, Congress needs to work together to improve the economy and provide cost-effective resources to support programs like TEFAP.”

TEFAP is a means-tested federal program that provides food commodities through organizations like food banks, soup kitchens, and emergency shelters. TEFAP helps feed children, seniors, and families at risk of hunger and poor nutrition by enabling the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase surplus foods from American farmers and ship it to states with high rates of unemployment and low-income families.  State agencies administer the program and leverage the funding by partnering with local organizations to distribute the TEFAP commodities and storage and distribution funding with private donations of food, infrastructure, and manpower.

Last year, Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee, helped secure $311 million overall for TEFAP, and Rhode Island received approximately $1.4 million.  This year, Reed is seeking to increase mandatory funding for TEFAP resources under the Farm Bill by $330 million per year for over the next ten years.

According to the Rhode Island Community Food Bank’s newly released 2013 Status Report on Hunger, 68,000 people visit food banks around Rhode Island each month, an increase of 1,000 people over last year.

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Firearms Task Force

The Joint Behavioral Health and Firearms Safety Task Force is scheduled to meet next week for a staff presentation on Rhode Island weapons and mental health laws.

Created by legislation (2013-H 5992A, 2013-S 862B) sponsored by its co-chairwomen, Rep. Deborah Ruggiero (D-Dist. 74, Jamestown, Middletown) and Sen. Catherine Cool Rumsey (D-Dist. 34, Exeter, Charlestown, Hopkinton, Richmond, West Greenwich), the task force is a key element of the package of legislation introduced this year in the General Assembly to address gun safety following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

The 20-member task force is to weigh the rights of those with behavioral health problems to own guns with the risks. The panel is to conduct a review of current law and make recommendations on legislation to improve public safety by developing a more comprehensive approach addressing the nexus between behavioral health and firearms safety.

The task force will meet on Thursday, Dec. 5, at 3 p.m. in Room 313 on the third floor of the State House. The meeting will be televised live by Capitol Television and will be live streamed at www.rilin.state.ri.us/CapTV.

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Oversight Panel Summoned

A legislative oversight commission formed in 2004 to monitor the implementation of the state’s affordable housing law has been re-activated and appointed, and will meet again next week.

The meeting is scheduled to include election of co-chairpersons, review of the legislation establishing the commission and discussion of the group’s goals and objectives.

The legislation re-establishing the commission (2013-H 5960, 2013-S 0975) was sponsored by Rep. Donna M. Walsh (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly) and Sen. Juan M. Pichardo (D-Dist. 2, Providence) as a means to evaluate the effectiveness of the law as the first ten years of its existence draws toward a close. Both sponsors have been appointed to the commission.

The Housing Act of 2004 was passed to encourage the development of affordable housing at a sustainable level, to develop an orderly way to determine which previously submitted affordable-housing proposals should move forward, and require towns to create plans to meet their affordable housing needs.

The joint commission will meet on Monday, Dec. 2, at 4 p.m. in Room 203 on the second floor of the State House.

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Sales Tax Commission

Paul Dion of the RI Department of Revenue and Mike Stenhouse of the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity will testify before the Special Joint Legislative Commission to Study the Sales Tax Repeal when it meets on Tuesday, December 3.

This is the sixth hearing of the study commission, a 13-member panel that was created by legislation approved during the most recent legislative session to “make a comprehensive study of all aspects of the current system pertaining to sales tax, including, but not limited to, the possibility of repealing the sales tax.”

Dion, chief of the Office of Revenue Analysis, will discuss modeling the repeal of the RI sales tax. Stenhouse will present testimony on alternative sales tax reform scenarios.

The commission is expected to report its findings and recommendations to the General Assembly by February 6, 2014. Rep. Jan P. Malik (D-Dist. 67, Barrington, Warren) is the commission chair.

The hearing will take place at 4 p.m. Tuesday, December 3 in Room 313 of the State House. It will be televised by Capitol TV and will be live streamed at www.rilin.state.ri.us/CapTV.

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Prescription Drugs

The Special House Commission to Study the Feasibility of Enacting Legislation That Would Establish an Internet System for Tracking Over-Prescribing (I-STOP) will hold an organizational meeting on Monday, December 2.

Created by a resolution approved by the House of Representatives during the 2013 session, sponsored by Rep. William W. O’Brien (D-Dist. 54, North Providence), the commission will address concerns that prescription drugs, especially controlled substances, are increasingly subject to criminal diversion and abuse.

Serving on the study commission, in addition to Rep. O’Brien, will be Rep. Kenneth A. Marshall (D-Dist. 68, Bristol, Warren), a co-sponsor of the resolution; Rep. Joseph A. Trillo (R-Dist. 24, Warwick); Michael Fine, MD, Director, and Edward D’Arezzo, Assistant Director, representing the RI Department of Health; Joel Spellun, MD, a Johnston physician, and Dale K. Klatzer, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of The Providence Center.

According to the legislation creating the commission, such drug “diversion and abuse would be mitigated by establishing a prescription monitoring program registry containing data about controlled substances dispensed to individuals; requiring healthcare practitioners and permitting pharmacists to access such a registry before prescribing or dispensing additional doses of such substances, and requiring that prescriptions be transmitted electronically from practitioners to pharmacists.”

The commission is expected to report its recommendations and findings to the General Assembly by April 1, 2014.

In discussing the importance of the study commission, Rep. O’Brien referred to a recent report from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which indicated that nearly 15,000 people die every year from overdoses due to prescription painkillers. Furthermore, in 2010, 1 in 20 people over the age of 11 reported using prescription painkillers for non-medical reasons.

Earlier this year, the New York State legislature enacted the I-STOP law in an effort to crack down on prescription drug abuse through an electronic monitoring registry, improved distribution safeguards and a safe disposal program for unused medications.


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