By JOHN HOWELL It was House Minority Leader Blake Filippi's turn to address the Warwick Rotary Club Thursday, and he didn't waste time tearing into what House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi listed as major legislative achievements. It wasn't all negative,
It was House Minority Leader Blake Filippi’s turn to address the Warwick Rotary Club Thursday, and he didn’t waste time tearing into what House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi listed as major legislative achievements.
It wasn’t all negative, either. As positive accomplishments, Filippi cited greater controls on the governor’s emergency powers, additional funding for the Department of Children, Youth and Families, and a provision enabling those who were granted a PPP loan of $250,000 or more to file the loan as a grant in next year’s return rather than amending the return at an added accounting expense.
Brandishing a copy of the speaker’s news release, Filippi said, “what concerns me is what’s missing. There’s some things on here I like there’s some things on here. I’m absolutely opposed to that are wrong for Rhode Island. But there’s a lot of missing things. And I’ll start with that. What’s missing in this past legislative session is any help for small businesses.”
Referring to a study performed by Harvard and Brown universities, Filippi said up to 50 percent of Rhode Island small businesses closed or are due to close because of the pandemic.
When it comes to economic development, Filippi said Shekarchi focused on the extension of the IGT contract to run casinos, the renaming of T.F. Green Airport to Rhode Island T.F. Green International Airport and allowing the direct dockside sale of fish. He said nothing would change as a result of those initiatives.
He said nothing was done for small businesses, “And we didn’t focus on them. And they’re the ones who needed our help this the past six months.”
Shekarchi spoke to the club on July 15. He highlighted legislation that failed to gain approval including a tax on the rich that he said would have severely impacted the state’s economy, including small businesses.
Filippi was in agreement with the governor’s issuance of a state of emergency at the beginning of the pandemic but he had issues with its continuance once legislators were back in session. To lift that executive order, he explained, the governor needs to act or for both the House and Senate to pass a concurrent resolution.
“We really advocated for a different metric for a state of emergency saying that the General Assembly must act to keep us in rather than the General Assembly must act to take us out. And in this budget that we just passed, we changed our state of emergency law to require the General Assembly to affirmatively act within 120 days of the declaration of a state of emergency or the state of emergency ceases,” he said.
Filippi said there are ample bad things to come out of the session but, “I’m just going to focus on the biggest bad thing. We passed this thing called the 2021 Act on climate.”
Filippi said the measure “massively changes the way our government operates”
He said the act gives a coordinating council the power to advise the governor on how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He said it takes a purely advisory body and gives them added responsibilities.
“It commanded them to come up with a plan, even if it were economically ruinous for the state…it doesn’t matter, they have no discretion. They must adopt a plan to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 45%, below 1990 levels by 2030; 80%, below 1990 levels by 2040.”
“So they have to adopt this plan. Once that plan is adopted, every organ of state government is mandated no discretion to adopt regulations to carry that plan forward, essentially, to require all of us … businesses, municipalities, offices, individuals, to pass regulations which govern our lives. “
Filippi said a state report calls these goals unachievable unless Rhode Islanders decarbonized homes and businesses with the elimination of oil, propane, natural gas, heat, and going to all electric cars.
“This is something that a regulatory body should not be imposing on the citizens of this state.”
He said such regulations should be the purview of legislators elected by the people. He said the act would “massively, massively drive up costs.” The result, he said, will be to drive businesses out of the state.
“Now Rhode Island has the second lowest per capita emissions of any state in the country... We’ve done our part, we’ve set a great example. But many forces in the state view carbon as something we just have to eliminate. We have to save the world,” he said.
“ We’ve taken our eye off other environmental issues, core environmental issues that we can have a measurable impact on. We’re not looking at serious environmental issues in the state because we are so focused on saving the world.,” he said.
He said the state should be preparing for sea level rise by hardening shorelines, dealing with salt water intrusion in wells and focusing on the potential of wildfires in the forests of western Rhode Island.
“We don’t have fire roads anymore. We don’t have fire breaks.”
He said that is one example of an environmental issue in our backyard, “that we can affect that we can have a real measurable impact on and we’re just not focusing on it.”