By Ted Nesi
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island officials say it’s “full speed ahead” for the state in implementing President Obama’s health care law locally after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it as constitutional. More than 50,000 more residents are expected to sign up for Medicaid at a cost of $1.9 billion over five years.
• Related: Q&A: Lt. Gov. Roberts on what’s next for health reform in RI (June 28)
“Is this the happiest day of my life? Pretty much!”
That’s what a smiling Christine Ferguson told me at a press conference this morning when I asked how it felt Thursday to see the health policy she developed as a senior aide to the late U.S. Sen. John Chafee upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Ferguson, who started working for Chafee’s son on Monday as head of Rhode Island’s new health insurance exchange, said unequivocally that President Obama’s signature accomplishment is what she drafted for Republicans two decades ago. ”It is based on the John Chafee bill of 1993,” she said. “It is pretty much exactly how we envisioned it.” She added: “I think it’s a great day.”
Ferguson was a key architect of the Health Equity and Access Reform Today Act of 1993, introduced by the senior Chafee that year as the Republican alternative to the Clinton administration’s so-called “Hillarycare” proposal. (Oddly enough, Hillary Clinton’s 1993 proposal was crafted in partnership with a Rhode Islander, too – Ira Magaziner of Greenhouse Compact fame.)
There may be no bigger health wonk in Rhode Island politics than Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts. Now in her second term, the Democrat was tasked by Governor Chafee shortly after he took office with overseeing the state implementation of the federal health care law, and she’s moved quickly to do so.
After this morning’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding the health law, I sat down with the lieutenant governor in her State House office to discuss what comes next. The transcript has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
This decision just says, OK, Rhode Island, keep doing what you’re doing with implementing the health care law, right?
It says keep doing what we’re doing and with a sense of confidence that the federal government is going to be our partner in this going forward. We also have a lot of regional conversations going on, and there’ll be more consistency from state to state – we now know that as a country we are moving forward with this law. That will change a lot of the politics, and also a lot of the practical work that we’re doing.
Take me through – at 30,000 feet – the big benchmarks and milestones ahead in implementing the law for Rhode Island.
A curious poll is being done in Rhode Island’s 1st Congressional District.
A reader who lives in Providence got called on Sunday for a telephone survey that asked about the three candidates running in the 1st District – Democrats David Cicilline and Anthony Gemma, and Republican Brendan Doherty – plus two other Democrats: Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts and Treasurer Gina Raimondo.
Roberts and Raimondo? For Congress?
The poll tested their favorability ratings, Raimondo’s job approval rating and how they’d fare against Brendan Doherty in the November election. It’s unlikely either woman is planning to jump into the race, though – they’d need to declare their candidacies by Wednesday to get on the ballot.
Much of the poll focused on Cicilline and Doherty, checking how voters react to various potentially divisive facts about the Democrat (tax issues, support for Nancy Pelosi, Providence’s solvency, mob connections) and the Republican (Bush tax cuts, abortion, Medicare cuts).
The tipster wasn’t familiar with the name of the polling firm, but said it sounded like “Kalamata.”
• Related: New WPRI 12 Poll: Cicilline 40%, Gemma 36%, undecided 20% (May 16)
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Rhode Island’s most prominent political leaders are divided on whether they should allow the public to review their income tax returns and find out how much they paid the government.
Out of 12 leading politicians surveyed by WPRI.com, six said they would disclose the results of their 2011 tax filings as soon as they become available: U.S. Sen. Jack Reed; Congressman David Cicilline; Republican congressional candidate Brendan Doherty; Republican U.S. Senate candidate Barry Hinckley; Treasurer Gina Raimondo; and Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis.
Tax rates have become a political hot potato in 2012. Democrats spent the last few weeks publicizing their proposed “Buffett rule” requiring a higher tax rate on income above $1 million, and President Obama is pressuring Republican Mitt Romney to release his returns. In the U.K., David Cameron may soon become the first British prime minister to disclose his tax bill.
U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who led Democrats in beating the drum for the Buffett rule, requested an extension to finish his 2011 tax returns, spokesman Seth Larson said. Larson declined to say whether Whitehouse will break with his past practice and release his returns once they’re completed. In 2010, Whitehouse disclosed that his net worth was at least $3.5 million.
But Doherty is far from the only leading Rhode Island politician who took donations from Ciccone – though he may be the only Republican.
Ciccone has donated at least $25,610 to a host of politicians and political organizations since 2002, including $2,800 to Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis, $2,000 to former Providence City Council President John Lombardi and $1,650 to Congressman David Cicilline during his mayoral days, an analysis of R.I. Board of Elections filings by WPRI.com shows.
The Rhode Island Laborers District Council, an arm of the Laborers International Union, paid Ciccone $120,625 in 2011, according to its most recent federal disclosure filing. The Senate paid him $13,962.
Ciccone, D-Providence, also gave money to many of the state’s current leaders, including Gov. Lincoln Chafee ($500), Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts ($200), Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed ($750), Senate Majority Leader Dominick Ruggerio ($350), Providence Mayor Angel Taveras ($300) and U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse ($1,000) during his failed 2002 gubernatorial bid.
Beneficiaries who are out of office included former Treasurer Frank Caprio ($1,600), former Lt. Gov. Charlie Fogarty ($1,350), former Senate Majority Leader Dan Connors ($900), former Attorney General Patrick Lynch ($850), former Providence Mayor Buddy Cianci ($125) and former state Rep. David Segal ($50).
Among the notables who did not get any money from Ciccone were House Speaker Gordon Fox, Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. The senator did not return a phone call Monday.
• Related: Senate President Paiva Weed silent on Ciccone’s police report (April 2)
(photo: Rhode Island Senate)
Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, whose relationship with Chafee has been tense at times, was part of a sizable contingent of lawmakers who showed up at the event, held at the Waterman Grille restaurant overlooking the Seekonk River on the East Side, WPRI.com has learned. “It was packed,” one attendee said.
Other guests included Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, who introduced Chafee to the crowd and expressed confidence in his leadership; Colin Kane, the head of the I-195 Commission; state Sens. Josh Miller and Maryellen Goodwin; lawyer Kelly Sheridan; and high-powered lobbyist Joe Walsh.
The event was organized by Amy Gabarra, a veteran Democratic fundraising consultant who signed on with Chafee shortly after he won the 2010 election. Gabarra’s previous clients included Frank Caprio and Bill Lynch, and she also put together the recent University Club fundraiser for Joseph P. Kennedy III.
The total haul from the event hadn’t been totaled up as of Friday morning. Chafee’s campaign war chest totaled $192,801 as of Dec. 31, though he still owed himself $1.61 million from personal loans he made to his 2010 gubernatorial campaign. Treasurer Gina Raimondo had $528,095 on Dec. 31, the most in Rhode Island.
Chafee, an independent, has sidestepped questions about whether he will run for a second term in 2014, though during a February appearance on “Newsmakers” he said: “I’m raising money, and that’s really the test of if you’re serious about running.” He added: “And no one likes that, so…”
(photo: Waterman Grille)
If Mitt Romney wins the presidency in November, could Rhode Island wind up implementing President Obama’s health care reform law while other states don’t? A new TPM report suggests it’s possible.
Rhode Island has already received more money than any other state - $64.8 million – to create the law’s new health insurance exchanges. And even if Romney wins, the officials driving the effort here – Governor Chafee and Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts – will be in office through 2014, when the exchange will start up:
A closer look reveals that chipping away at Obamacare, or even repealing it altogether will be a daunting challenge ….
For instance, because so many state governments are unprepared or unwilling to build out the architecture of the law by 2014, Obamacare empowers the federal government to set up, or help set up, insurance exchanges in lagging jurisdictions. But a GOP President could put a stop to that. …
Absent Congressional action, that would leave in place many of the law’s reforms, but no way to realize them in many states — in other words, health care reform for some, and not for others.
• Related: Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts talks health reform on ‘Newsmakers’ (Dec. 30)
The federal government has awarded $64.8 million to Rhode Island since September 2010 to help the state create its new health insurance exchange, an online marketplace where residents will buy subsidized coverage starting in 2014 under the Affordable Care Act.
The bulk of Rhode Island’s money – $58.5 million – was awarded Nov. 29, when it became the first state to get a second-round grant to fund “development, design and technology procurement” for the exchange through 2014. No other state has advanced that far yet.
The White House said $729.5 million has been awarded across the 50 states and Washington, D.C. Oregon has received the second-most money, at $58 million. Governor Chafee has said he’s “extremely pleased” with how fast Rhode Island is moving.
The White House report singled out Rhode Island and nine other states to explain the steps they’re taking to implement the law. Rhode Island is in discussions with Massachusetts and Vermont about whether to share technology and make purchases jointly, according to the report.
• Related: Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts talks health reform on ‘Newsmakers’ (Dec. 30)
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts won’t be challenging independent Gov. Lincoln Chafee for Rhode Island’s top job in 2014.
“I do not see a scenario where I would run against Chafee,” Roberts, a second-term Democrat frequently mentioned as a potential candidate for governor, said Friday during a taping of WPRI 12′s “Newsmakers.” Roberts previously opted not to enter the crowded field of Democrats who tried and failed to win last year.
Roberts, who is barred by from seeking another term as lieutenant governor, was more cagey about the possibility that she would challenge Treasurer Gina Raimondo in a Democratic primary for governor three years from now. The full episode of “Newsmakers” will be posted on WPRI.com later today.
A new Brown University poll released Thursday morning found 60% of Rhode Island voters support the pension overhaul signed by Gov. Lincoln Chafee last month and only 28% oppose it, with 90% calling it important to the state’s economic future. A majority of Republicans (64%), independents (64%) and Democrats (58%) all support the new law.
But the legislation did nothing for Chafee’s approval rating, which dipped to 27% this month from 32% in March. His support is highest among Democrats, at 39%, and lower among independents (22%) and Republicans (15%).
By contrast, Raimondo’s approval rating jumped from 40% to 52% over the same period, but her support is weakest among members of her own Democratic Party (38%) compared with 61% among Republicans and 60% among independents. She ties Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, also at 52% approval, as the state’s most popular politician.
The news is grim for Congressman David Cicilline. With less than a year to go before he faces reelection, Cicilline’s approval rating is just 23% in the 1st Congressional District. The redistricting commission will hold a hearing tonight on a new map that would redraw the district to make it safer for Cicilline. A vote is set for Monday.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts and Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian visited the shelter at the city’s Veterans Memorial High School this evening as they continued monitoring Hurricane Irene. Warwick has ordered low-lying coastal areas to evacuate.
On a lighter note, the high school’s team name is the Hurricanes, which allowed the trio to take this photo with a Red Cross representative from Florida – the sign is rather apropos considering the circumstances, no?
(photo: Stephen Kavanagh/governor’s office)
Claire Peracchio is a student at Brown University and The Brown Daily Herald’s city and state editor. This semester, she’s also an intern here at WPRI.com who will be contributing reporting and posts to Nesi’s Notes. Here’s her first piece. Give her a warm welcome. -TN.
By Claire Peracchio
Want to know what Rhode Island’s five general officers are up to – in 140 characters or less?
As candidates, the top officials used Twitter to promote their policy ideas, advertise campaign events and rally supporters. And after taking office, four out of five are still using the site.
The lone Twitter abstainer? Gov. Lincoln Chafee. Chafee was an active tweeter during his campaign but sent out his last tweet roughly two weeks after getting elected. His spokesman Mike Trainor confirms the governor is not tweeting in office.
Some of the other tweeters’ handles have changed since the campaign – here’s how to find them:
- Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts (@LtGovRoberts)
- General Treasurer Gina Raimondo (@GinaRaimondo)
- Secretary of State Ralph Mollis (@RalphMollis)
- Attorney General Peter Kilmartin (@AGKilmartin)
Roberts “usually tweets a few times a week,” according to her spokeswoman Maria Tocco.
Raimondo also plans to send out regular Twitter missives.
“She looks forward to tweeting frequently about how to tackle the state’s pension problems (among other Treasury topics) in 140 characters or less,” Raimondo spokeswoman Joy Fox quipped in an e-mail – though at this writing there was no tweet yet from Raimondo about the SEC investigation she disclosed today.
But the general officers aren’t the only ones on Twitter.
Providence Mayor Angel Taveras has also been sending his share of characters, snow-themed of late. He even used the recent snowstorm to recommend a trip to Providence.
“Take that snow day and come to Providence! There’s lots to do with kids to burn off that cabin fever!” Taveras tweeted on Jan. 27.
Claire Peracchio is a student at Brown University and an intern at WPRI.com.
Update: Raimondo slyly tweeted about the SEC investigation late yesterday afternoon:
Earlier this month, I suggested Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts was poised to take on a more prominent role in her second term thanks to the election of Lincoln Chafee, someone closer to her ideologically and with whom she already had a decent relationship. Perhaps, I mused, he would task her with overseeing the implementation of health reform in Rhode Island.
Well, Tim White and I just confirmed that Chafee will hold a press conference later today where he’ll announce that Roberts will lead a task force charged with implementing the health reform law here. Our story is up on WPRI.com. You heard it here first, folks!
Roberts seems like a solid choice for this job. She’s been working on health care for years and knows the issue as well as anyone in state government. Plus, in September her office released a lengthy report [pdf] laying out how Rhode Island could get the most out of the new law, which includes a big role for the states. Check out my interview with her about it to learn more.
Here’s a graphic from the report showing when different provisions of the law take effect over the next few years:
The whispers about Roberts started last spring, when it emerged that she would face a primary challenge from Jeremy Kapstein, a wealthy Red Sox executive and Tiverton native whose father was a state lawmaker. (Roberts had already bowed out of the Democratic gubernatorial race the previous summer.) Pundits saw the makings of a tough race, and Frank Caprio wouldn’t even endorse Roberts.
But Kapstein’s campaign never took off – he raised little money and put minimal effort into the contest – and Roberts walloped him in the Sept. 14 primary, winning 64% of the vote to his 36%.
Then Roberts’ Republican opponent, Heidi Rogers, abruptly dropped out just days after winning the party’s nomination. The Republicans threw their support behind perennial candidate Bob Healey Jr., whose campaign platform called for eliminating the lieutenant governor’s office altogether.
As the election drew closer, plenty of people (myself included) thought Roberts was in trouble. Healey’s anti-establishment message offered an opportunity for a grumpy electorate to stick it to an incumbent, and our WPRI 12 poll just before the vote showed him within seven points of Roberts.
Those predictions were dead wrong. Roberts defeated Healey by a 16-point margin last Tuesday, taking 55% of the vote to his 39%.
The survey showed incumbent Democrat Elizabeth Roberts just five points ahead of independent Robert Healey Jr., who wants the office abolished and now has the tacit support of the Rhode Island Republican Party. Roberts had 48% to Healey’s 43%, with 9% of voters undecided.
Last month’s Brown poll – which, unlike Profughi’s, included independent Bob Venturini – had Roberts at 36%, Healey at 23% and Venturini at 7%, with a third of voters still undecided.
Quest’s Victor Profughi sent me the crosstabs from his poll, and those showed Healey beating Roberts in the Blackstone Valley, Washington County and Cranston – Roberts’ hometown – as well as among men, Republicans and independents.
I’ve been thinking that if there was ever a year when Healey’s rebellious anti-establishment message could win the day, it’s 2010 – particularly as Roberts and her allies find it difficult to make a strong argument for the office’s continued usefulness. Dave’s take on the race sounds right to me:
The quixotic Healey says his campaign’s motto is “now or never” and he may be right – the state’s financial woes and a strong anti-incumbent sentiment offer a once-in-a-lifetime shot for Healey and raise the possibility of a shake-up in Rhode Island’s constitutional order.
Roberts still has to be considered the frontrunner. But the party’s get out the vote effort could be crucial here.
One advantage Roberts has is money – her campaign had $238,378 on hand as of Oct. 4, while Healey had $0. Of course, he will find it easier than the average candidate to attract free media – like this blog post – thanks to the novelty of his message.
And even if Healey does win, the lieutenant governor’s office will continue to exist unless a constitutional amendment passes getting rid of it. That would be in the hands of the new General Assembly, which would have to approve holding a referendum asking voters if they want to keep the office. The reaction from top lawmakers to a Healey victory would be interesting, to say the least.
(image credit: Associated Press)
Update: For more on the health reform provisions taking effect today, check out this slideshow we’ve posted on WPRI.com.
Today marks six months since President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act – better known as health care reform – into law.
This morning, a task force convened by Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts released a report on implementing the law in Rhode Island. Yesterday afternoon, Roberts spoke with me about what the report found.
My plan was to transcribe the interview and post it here. But then when I went to type up our conversation, my recorder didn’t work. So instead, let me do my best to summarize what she said.
First, I asked why her office jumped on this so quickly, particularly when some Republicans are still talking about repealing the law altogether. Roberts pointed out that the law has now been in effect for six months, and some provisions have already been implemented – like the high-risk insurance pools – with more coming down the line.
Here’s a timeline of key provisions and when they take effect included in the report (click for a bigger version):
Last Thursday, I started jotting down notes about how one under-the-radar story coming out of the primary election was an advance made by women, with both major parties nominating female candidates for lieutenant governor – Democrat (and incumbent) Elizabeth Roberts and Republican Heidi Rogers.
In light of subsequent events, I’m glad I was too busy to finish the post that day.
After Rogers’ sudden exit from the race last Friday, WRNI’s Scott MacKay put up a provocative post of his own on the same topic. “Why don’t we just put up a sign on Route 95 that says: Entering Rhode Island We Don’t Want No Women in Government,” he wrote. “What else is one supposed to believe about the latest maneuver by the usual gang of political insiders to toss out Lt. Gov. Elizabeth Roberts, the lone woman in statewide office?”
Despite the Rogers imbroglio, though, I’m not as pessimistic as Scott – or at least I see a case for why the glass is half-full rather than half-empty.
The race for Rhode Island lieutenant governor is shaping up to be the oddest one of the year.
First, wealthy Red Sox executive Jeremy Kapstein decided to challenge incumbent Elizabeth Roberts for the Democratic nomination. Pundits expected a hard-fought race, but Kapstein never seemed to put much energy into his candidacy, and Roberts won renomination easily on Tuesday.
Now, just three days into the general election campaign, the race is taking another odd turn as Heidi Rogers, the Republican who won her party’s nomination, has apparently decided to drop out of the race.
Her reason gets to yet a third oddity in this contest – both Rogers and independent LG candidate Robert Healey Jr., who’s running for a third time this year under the Cool Moose banner, believe the office and its $1 million annual budget are so useless they should be eliminated. (Roberts disagrees.) Rogers is reportedly dropping out so that she and Healey don’t split the eliminate-the-LG’s-office vote.
There’s a reason this happened so quickly – today is the state deadline for nominees to withdraw if they want to let their parties put up a different candidate. That decision is now in the hands of G.O.P. Chairman Giovanni Cicione, who has said in the past he thinks local Republicans will prefer to vote for Healey.
If Rogers does formally withdraw today, her name will not appear on the ballot in November since no actual ballots have been printed yet, Robert Kando, executive director of the R.I. Board of Elections, just told me. (The R.I. Secretary of State’s office is in charge of actually printing them.)
Once ballots start getting printed, statewide candidates cannot withdraw from the race because then they would appear on ballots in some places and not in others, he said. (Local candidates can withdraw if their municipality’s ballots haven’t been printed yet.)
One option not open to the state’s Republicans is simply to make Robert Healey their candidate, too, which some states allow; all nominees are required to be members of the party on whose ballot line the will appear, Kando said.
Update: And for those who really want to understand how this process works, here’s the relevant section of state law.
Update #2: Anchor Rising’s Justin Katz is not amused by Rogers’ bait-and-switch:
What utter disrespect for Rhode Island Republican voters who believe that their primary votes are honestly given to sincere candidates. As it turns out, we are just as apt to be manipulated as any other group to serve the higher cause that our political betters have discerned to exist. Frankly, I probably would have gone with Healey in the general election, but there’s absolutely no way he’ll get my vote now.
There are rules. Voters have expectations about the meaning of their votes. Game playing and procedural manipulation are very much part of [the] current hostility toward President Obama and Congressional Democrats. Why on Earth would the RIGOP cheer along as a candidate who just won the party’s primary offers ham-handed illustration that the loathed “ruling class” with no respect for the rules extends to such a pitiful office as lieutenant governor?
Update #3: Commenter James correctly reminds me that another candidate for lieutenant governor qualified to appear on the November ballot: Bob Venturini, a Pawtucket resident.
(image credit: Facebook)
A special edition of “Newsmakers” this week features the first televised debate between the Democrats running for lieutenant governor in the Sept. 14 primary – Elizabeth Roberts, the incumbent, and Jeremy Kapstein, a Boston Red Sox executive who is challenging her. Here’s host Tim White’s preview of the 30-minute exchange:
Roberts, of Cranston, is the first female lieutenant governor in Rhode Island history and a former 10-year member of the state Senate. Mr. Kapstein of Providence is a senior adviser for the Boston Red Sox; this is his first run for political office. Both candidate discuss their philosophy on the office of lieutenant governor, the pension system, the “Curt Schilling loan” and job creation.
WordPress won’t let me embed the video here, but click here to watch the full debate on WPRI.com. The debate is also being televised at 5:30 a.m. Sunday on both WPRI 12 and FOX Providence. You can also watch Tim’s summary version from last night’s evening news. (One fun fact I learned is that Kapstein worked in the sports department here at WPRI back in the day.)
Update: Also, this is just the first in a series of debates on “Newsmakers” coming up this fall (on top of the series of special prime-time debates we’re hosting). Next week, Tim and co. will have the three Democrats vying to be the party’s nominee for attorney general – Smithfield Town Councilman Steve Archambault, former Providence city solicitor Joe Fernandez and state Rep. Peter Kilmartin of Pawtucket.
But Roberts isn’t the only one in Rhode Island who wonders just what Kapstein is doing in the race for lieutenant governor. With five weeks to go until the Sept. 14 primary, voters know very little about a man who is asking us to put him a heartbeat away from the governor’s office.
Call it the stealth campaign of 2010. Kapstein doesn’t hold news conferences or issue position papers. He has not aired television advertising. He is known to have considerable wealth, but his campaign finance chest has just a few thousand dollars in it. His campaign doesn’t release a list of daily meetings and events.
As of June 30, Roberts’ campaign had $449,755 on hand, compared with Kapstein’s $12,608, according to my colleague Tim White. Put another way, Roberts had about $35 for every $1 of Kapstein’s. As MacKay notes, the wealthy Sox exec could probably make up the difference with his own funds. But the lackluster fundraising doesn’t speak to a big base of support.
With just a month to go before the primary, then, the stakes are high for this Friday’s radio debate between Roberts and Kapstein on WPRO. The pair will go head-to-head for an hour at 5 p.m., as part of a week-long series of debates during Buddy Cianci’s program.
It will be the first direct confrontation between the two – in fact, right now it’s the only one scheduled – so this is Kapstein’s big chance to make an impact and shake up the race. For Roberts, the objective is to stay in the pole position – while the July Brown poll gave her a 49%-18% advantage over Kapstein, a third of the primary electorate was still undecided.
It will be interesting to see what contrasts Kapstein tries to draw as the challenger in this low-profile race for this low-profile office. He must be hoping his luck will be better than the Red Sox’s has been lately.
Regardless of which Democrat wins the primary, in November he or she will face two opponents whose main campaign planks are eliminating the office of lieutenant governor altogether. Now that will be an interesting debate.