State Report: Medical Marijuana, RI’s Business Ranking & Obama Supports Cicilline
Saturday, October 13, 2012
This week, the GoLocal roundup primarily looks at the state’s economic outlook. Although the state finished a disappointing 46th on a new business climate study, the governor once again met with business leaders this week to map out a path to revive Rhode Island’s economy. Additionally, a newly released RI Lottery report showed that the state’s general fund would be receiving almost $400 million.
Aside from economics, the RI ACLU has once again filed suit against the state. This time the advocacy group is battling the health department over a change to patients’ medical marijuana applications. Lastly, we inject a national flavor into out local news, as President Barack Obama throws his weight behind Rep. David Cicilline.
RI lottery added $377 million to the state last year
The state announced on Tuesday that the Rhode Island Lottery added more than $377 million to the state’s general fund in the last fiscal year ending June 30. The total includes commission and operating expense deductions, which was $6.2 million. The amount is $22.8 million more than the previous fiscal year.
The history of the Rhode Island Lottery dates back to November 6, 1973 when a Constitutional Amendment passed by a three to one margin. The amendment gave the General Assembly the task of regulating all future lotteries in the state. The original rationale behind the lottery was to make up for revenue lost from permitting the value of a trade-in automobile toward the sales tax liability on a new vehicle.
The Rhode Island Lottery currently offers games like Powerball, Mega Millions, Wild Money, keno, scratch tickets and video lottery. The largest ever lottery prize was $336 million, which was awarded in February 2012.
RI ranks 46th on new business climate report
Rhode Island has finished 46th on a new state business tax climate report conducted by the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan research group. The study titled 2013 State Business Tax Climate Report concluded that Rhode Island and the other states at the bottom suffer from “complex, non-neutral taxes, with comparatively high rates.”
As for Rhode Island’s specific rankings, it finished near the bottom in multiple categories including corporate tax (42), individual income tax (37), property tax (46) and unemployment insurance tax (50). The one bright spot for the state was its sales tax, where it finished 25th.
Rhode Island’s final ranking was the same as last year Tax Foundation report. Rhode Island finished 50th in a similar study conducted by CNBC in July.
The state’s that faired the best in the report all had one major thing in common: absence of a major tax. According to the Tax Foundation, “The lesson is simple: a state that raises sufficient revenue without one of the major taxes will, all things being equal, have an advantage over those states that levy every tax in the state tax collector’s arsenal.”
Here are the top 10 states:
2. South Dakota
7. New Hampshire
Here are the bottom 10 states:
4. North Carolina
6. Rhode Island
9. New Jersey
10. New York
It’s ‘Back to Basics’ for the state’s economy
Keeping in line with the state’s discouraging business climate data, Governor Chafee announced earlier this week that Rhode Island will be taking a “back-to-basics” approach to revitalize the state’s economic landscape. On Thursday, the governor presented his economic vision to private sector leaders including the head of the RI AFL-CIO and an executive from the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce.
Based on his presentation, it appears that the governor has taken heed in the recent economic report presented to him by the Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council. In their report, the agency recommended that the state appoint a new commerce secretary to oversee the state’s Economic Development Corp., a suggestion which Chafee is considering. Chafee has also not ruled out RIPEC’s recommendation of absorbing the EDC into a new state commerce office.
The governor also announced that his administration will conduct a business climate study to pin point ways that Rhode Island can become more competitive. Chafee also proposed enhancing the Quonset industrial park in North Kingstown, the Station District in Warwick and the so-called Knowledge District in Providence.
Despite the governor’s suggestions, Neil Steinberg, head of the Rhode Island Foundation, stressed that this must be a joint effort amongst the public and private sectors. “Everybody needs to step up. It was clear. It’s not in the hands of one sector or another,” said Steinberg.
RI ACLU sues state over new medical marijuana policy
On Tuesday, the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union announced that it is suing the state’s health department over an alteration to its medical marijuana program. The lawsuit stems from the department’s decision to longer recognize medical marijuana applications signed by physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners.
As of August, the department only accepts applications signed by a physician verifying the patient’s condition. The department made its decision without legislative approval or public hearings, said ACLU attorney John Dineen.
According to Department of Health spokesperson Dara Chadwick, the agency reached it decision after analyzing the state’s medical marijuana law. Chadwick would not comment on the lawsuit.
There are currently 6,000 people enrolled in the state’s medical marijuana program. The program allows patients to obtain marijuana for a number of afflictions including glaucoma, chronic pain, AIDS, seizures and multiple sclerosis.
The department’s decision could seriously hinder patients’ ability to obtain medical marijuana, according to JoAnne Leppanen, executive director of the Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition. “What the health department has done is put up another barrier, basically pulling the rug out from under patients,” said Leppanen.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have passed medical marijuana legislation. The majority of these states accept applications signed by nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants.
Obama endorses Cicilline for Congress
On Wednesday, the David Cicilline for Congress Campaign announced President Barack Obama’s endorsement of the congressman. The president came to Rhode Island in 2010 to show his support for Cicilline in his congressional race against Republican State Representative John Loughlin.
"Congressman Cicilline has stood at my side as we have worked to help middle class families get ahead and put our economy back on the right track," said President Obama in a statement. "Even in his first term, David has already established himself as a strong advocate for Rhode Island by working to reinvigorate American manufacturing, cut taxes for middle class families, and support investments in local infrastructure projects. I need Rhode Islanders to send David Cicilline back to Washington so he can continue fighting for them."
“I thank President Obama for his endorsement today,” said Cicilline. “This November, we have a clear choice between re-electing President Obama and moving our country forward, or supporting Mitt Romney and Republicans who want to take us back to the failed policies of the past. I am looking forward to going back to Washington to work with him and to fight on behalf of the hardworking men and women of Rhode Island's First District.”
Cicilline has voted with the Democratic Party 96 percent of the time during his tenure in the U.S. House of Representatives, according to the Washington Post.
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