Reasons Why 2016 May Be a Rough Year Between Raimondo and Mattiello in RI

Sunday, December 13, 2015

 

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The undercurrents going into the 2016 legislative session are setting the stage for an ever more strained relationship between the two political heavyweights in the state - Governor Gina Raimondo and Speaker Nick Mattiello.

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Since the beginning, the relationship has had its ups and down. On the plus side, the Speaker delivered almost all of the Governor’s budget and did it with a unanimous vote of Republicans and Democrats. 

The relationship hit some early bumps when the Governor criticized the secrecy of the state budget process to the national media and then apologized. Another significant bump was when Raimondo let Mattiello take the hit on the failed Pawtucket Red Sox Stadium proposal. Mysteriously, Brown University reversed field and left Mattiello holding the proverbial “baseball.” 

More recently the two have sparred over everything from tolls to legislative strategy for 2016 session. 

Presently, the relationship between the two is "frosty" according to both staffs. Frustration continues to mount. The following are the issues that have emerged and why they set the stage for a volatile 2016 legislative session.

 

Related Slideshow: Raimondo and Mattiello - Friction Going Into the 2016 Session

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1)

HealthSource 

Mattiello has long questioned why little Rhode Island has its own health exchange. His questions center around scale, cost and long-term viability.  Raimondo had been defending the Chafee initiative, but the move of Anya Rader Wallack from her leadership position at HealthSource to Medicaid (right when open enrollment started, to boot) is one of the indications of Raimondo’s walk away.

As GoLocal reported in January, Walack’s program in Vermont ended up failing under her leadership

Now the question is, will Raimondo make the policy change in her budget or make Mattiello do the dirty work?

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2)

Tolls

Raimondo has been the champion of an ever-changing funding scheme to rebuild Rhode Island’s infrastructure.

No one questions the need to rehab Rhode Island’s failed bridges and roads, but most everyone has raised questions about the constantly changing funding structure and the corresponding lack of disclosure. 

Raimondo’s request to legislative leaders has been to pass legislation -  and to trust her and her administration. Last session of the General Assembly the Senate functionally went along with the plan and the House held firm on wanting to see the numbers.

Now, it is six-months later and much of the plan has not been disclosed to legislative leaders, the public or the media.

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3)

Irony of Transparency

For decades, Rhode Island Speakers have been wildly criticized for being all powerful, Machiavellian, and highly secretive, but in this unusual situation it is often that Mattiello is the open, responsive and proactive communicator. 

In contrast, Raimondo less than two months ago came under fire from the media and civil rights groups for secrecy, failing to respond to media inquiries, and non-responsiveness to public information requests. 

As GoLocal reported in October: 

Five organizations, including ACCESS/RI, American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, Rhode Island Press Association, New England First Amendment Coalition,and League of Women Voters of Rhode Island, sent sharply wordedletter to Governor Gina Raimondo on Tuesday asking her to issue an executive order which calls on state agencies to "adopt a strong presumption in favor of disclosure in addressing public information requests.

Mattiello, unlike his predecessors, has been the voice of the voter asking for information and requesting greater transparency. 

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4)

Election Year

The Democratic Governor enjoys a four-year term, but she needs the support of a legislature who is up for re-election with an electorate that is wildly dissatisfied with the direction of the country, the direction of the state, the performance of Congress. It is a Presidential election year which will only add to the volatility.

The Governor who only won the Democratic primary with 40% of the vote and then was elected last November with 40% off the vote hardly has the most powerful bully pulpit to speak from.

For many legislators the smart political step maybe to show independence and raise questions rather than to lock step with her.  

For Mattiello, this means he may need to give far greater latitude to legislators to vote freely.

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5)

Raimondo a Lawyer and Venture Capitalist 

Raimondo is trained as an attorney and worked nearly her entire professional career as Venture Capitalist. Lots of Non-Disclosure Agreements, “paper the deal” with agreements and little disclosure.

This training is great for confidentiality as it relates to high stakes venture, but those skills become obstacles to governing in a Democracy during a period when the public demands transparency.

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6)

 “I am better than you”

There is a growing sentiment among Democratic legislators that the Governor has a “I am better than you” attitude. Raimondo who was educated at Yale, Harvard and Oxford seems to intentionally or unintentionally exude superiority.

As one legislator told GoLocal at the request of anonymity, “The only thing worse than her being pompous is when she tries to act like she is ‘just like everyone else.’ It is insulting.”

The ramifications of the Governor and her staff’s tone is not lost on legislators. Top Raimondo confidant Representative Joe Shekarchi can only do “Shuttle-Diplomacy” so much. 

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7)

Guns 

Raimondo has announced a series of initiatives to restrict gun ownership in Rhode Island. A corresponding pro-gun control campaign is being funded by Democratic heavy weight Mark Weiner and former Hasbro CEO Alan Hassenfeld.

Raimondo uses the issue of gun control as a fundraising trigger with her supporters. The initiative may be good political fundraising, but will put her at odds with Mattiello, who is a strong gun rights supporter who has received high scores for his voting record on from the gun rights organization.

 
 

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