Category Archives: Attorney General

Rhode Island seeks Good Neighbors on Air Pollution at the U.S. Supreme Court

Last week, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard oral argument in two cases about what it means to be a good neighbor… if you are a state.

The two cases – EPA v. EME Homer City Generation and American Lung Association v. EME Homer City Generation will likely determine the Environmental Protection Agency’s authority to prevent one state’s air pollution from reaching the air of a neighboring state.

The state of Rhode Island joined 8 other states, the District of Columbia, and five cities in urging the SCOTUS to uphold the Clean Air Act’s requirement that “upwind” states have an independent obligation to fix the impact they have on “downwind” states.  Read the brief that Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin filed here.

More background on the case and prospects for SCOTUS’ ruling can be found here on the SCOTUS blog.

In related news, Attorney General Peter Kilmartin joined a coalition of other state attorneys general in submitting comments to the EPA this week arguing that the EPA must combat power plant pollution by both setting strong emission limits and giving states flexibility on how they choose to meet the limits. More details here.

Protect Yourself while Holiday Shopping in Rhode Island

Attorneys Sue Pegden and Sean Feeney from the lawfirm of Hamel, Waxler, Allen & Collins have a great blog post up on ways to remain safe and protected while shopping during the holiday season:

According to the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), “(d)eaths, injuries, and property damage from consumer product incidents cost the nation more than $900 billion annually.” Before you buy anything, check the CPSC website at www.cpsc.gov to see if a recall or warning has been issued on the item you want to buy. This is particularly true of items for sale on line or second-hand items.

Click here for more.

Attorney General Kilmartin Comments on SCOTUS Decision Upholding Citizens United

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin commented on the Supreme Court decision reversing, without hearing arguments or accepting briefs, a Montana Supreme Court ruling that affirmed the state’s right to impose its own ban on independent spending by corporations.

“Today’s decision is a clear indication that the Supreme Court will not reconsider its Citizens United ruling.  Citizens United has resulted in a torrent of undisclosed corporate and special interest money into the electoral process due to the flourishing of corporate spending.  This presidential election cycle has seen hundreds of millions of dollars thrown into the race on both sides to sway the American electorate, with very little oversight or accountability.  It is undermining the fairness of elections and distorting the electoral process.

“Therefore, the only way to address the damage caused by that decision is to amend the United States Constitution.  I recognize that amending the Constitution is not an easy task and should not be done lightly.  It should only be amended when it is in the absolute best interest of the nation and its citizens.  Undoing the damage of Citizens United is in the best interest of our country, and is the only way to put the electoral process back in the hands of the people, not special interests.”

In April, Kilmartin called on Congress in a letter to amend the U.S. Constitution to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.  In May, Kilmartin and 22 attorneys general filed an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to reconsider the 2010 Citizens United decision, citing that unrestricted independent campaign expenditures may distort political races, promote corruption or require corporate shareholders to fund political communication that they oppose.  The states argued that all state laws governing corporate campaign expenditures seek to ensure that such expenditures did not undermine principles of accountability and integrity in state and local elections, while protecting residents’ rights to participate in the electoral process.

Incoming Attorney General Peter Kilmartin Supports “Secure Communities” Program

While incoming Governor Lincoln Chafee and incoming Providence Mayor Angel Taveras have been vocal about their opposition to policies that target immigrants, incoming Attorney General Peter Kilmartin is taking a different tack according to the Providence Journal:

Criminal suspects in Rhode Island would have their fingerprints automatically checked against an immigration database to determine if they’re in the country legally under a federal initiative that incoming attorney general Peter Kilmartin says he’ll enlist the state in after taking office.

The “Secure Communities” program, which the federal government hopes to roll out nationwide by 2013, has stoked debate about what role local police departments should have in federal immigration enforcement and about whether illegal immigrants accused of petty offenses are being flagged for deportation.

Supporters, including Kilmartin, say the initiative simplifies information sharing between local and federal law enforcement agencies, and is about identifying only those illegal immigrants accused of breaking the law. The government says the fingerprint program comes at no extra cost for communities.

Joe Fernandez Counter Attacks in new TV ad

Responding to a negative ad from Peter Kilmartin, Joe Fernandez goes on the offensive against his two opponents:

Steve Archambault Unveils New TV Ad

AG Candidate Kilmartin Goes on the Offensive

Democratic Attorney General candidate Peter Kilmartin has a new TV ad that goes on the offensive against his two primary opponents.  Let’s see if there is a response:

RI Lawyers Weekly Profiles Steve Archambault

RI Lawyers Weekly is doing a series of interviews with the candidates for attorney general.

If the winds are blowing against political insiders this year, Stephen R. Archambault, one of three Democrats vying for the attorney general’s post in the Sept. 14 primary, may be in an enviable position.

While Archambault likes to point to his experience as a Warwick attorney, Smithfield Town Council member, Lincoln town prosecutor and Jamestown police officer, he’s also quick to mention a job he’s never held: that of legislator.

Archambault has tried to boost his populist credentials by publicly calling for measures to prevent State House corruption and by criticizing the double-digit rate hikes proposed by Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Continue reading

AG Candidate Archambault Calls for Crackdown on Employee Misclassification

Steve Archambault, Democratic candidate for Attorney General, has called for a crackdown on the widespread practice of companies paying regular employees as independent contractors.

Steve Archambault said, “Employee misclassification is costing our state millions of dollars in tax revenues, leaving workers without basic protections, and putting employers who comply with the law at a competitive disadvantage. It is time to address this problem head on.”

Archambault pointed to the findings of the Special Joint Commission to Study the Underground Economy and Employee Misclassification, which estimated that paying people as independent contractors who should be employees is costing Rhode Island as much as $50 million annually in unpaid income tax. Studies indicate that independent contractors do not report about 30% of their income. Companies pay people as independent contractors, in part, to avoid paying unemployment insurance, workers’ compensation and temporary disability insurance.

“This leaves too many workers without a basic safety net and that is even more problematic in these difficult economic times,” Steve Archambault said.

According to Archambault, businesses that comply with the law are put at a competitive disadvantage because it is significantly more expensive to pay people as regular employees. Archambault called for the creation of a single uniform statutory definition of independent contractor with a three point test as recommended by the Commission and for enhanced penalties for companies that continue to misclassify.

Archambault said, “One clear definition will limit confusion and provide a solid foundation for aggressive enforcement actions.” Generally speaking, a person is an independent contractor when they control their own work. When an employer controls where, when and how a person performs their work, they should be paid and classified as an employee.”

As Attorney General, Archambault pledged to work closely and cooperatively with the appropriate state agencies to bring about more effective enforcement.

Debate for Democratic Candidates for RI Attorney General

The Democratic Law Students Association of Roger Williams University School of Law will be hosting a debate for the Democratic candidates for Attorney General.

The event will take place on Tuesday, April 6 beginning at 700p.m. at RWU Law, Appellate Courtroom (Rm. 283). The event will be open to the public. There will be time set aside for audience members to ask questions of the candidates.

In attendance will be Steven Archambault, Rep. Peter Kilmartin, and Robert Rainville (due to schedule conflict, Joe Fernandez will not be able to participate). Moderating the event will be me: a 2008 graduate of RWU Law.

The full details are on Facebook here.

2nd Circuit Allows State’s Lawsuit on Global Warming to Move Forward

Attorney General Patrick Lynch heralded yesterday’s ruling by the Federal Court of Appeals in New York as another significant victory to force America’s five biggest global warming polluters to curb their emissions.

The ruling by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals represents another win in a lawsuit filed by Lynch and seven other state attorneys general almost six years ago against the nation’s highest-emitting electric power companies. The lawsuit is the first ever brought by state attorneys general against private companies to force reductions in heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions.

The multi-state global warming case is now headed for a major trial in US District Court in New York unless the power industry is successful in first obtaining a ruling from the United States Supreme Court. If the case goes to trial, Lynch said, the theory of man-made climate change could be tested in a battle of experts.

“We can avoid a lengthy court battle if the profit-driven energy industry giants cease fighting change in the halls of Congress and support new regulations that are so crucial to the sustainability of our environment and our planet,” Lynch said. “The emissions from the defendant companies amount to nearly a quarter of emissions from the electric utility industry in our nation, and approximately 10 percent of all emissions in the entire United States. The federal lawsuit we filed in 2004, using nuisance law to force carbon reductions, does not seek monetary damages but calls on the companies to reduce their pollution. The nuisance created by carbon dioxide directly threatens Rhode Island’s public health and safety, economy, coastline, fisheries and tourism – indeed our very way of life. It’s time for reason, and respect for our fragile environment, to prevail.”

In September 2009, in a victory at the frontiers of the law, Lynch and his seven colleagues obtained a decision against the power industry in the fight to reduce greenhouse gases contributing to global warming. Last September’s ruling in favor of the states from a two-judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals was a sweeping reversal of a previous ruling by a trial court that dismissed the case at the outset. That ruling by the Second Circuit determined that a federal lawsuit can proceed unless and until there is action directly regulating greenhouse gases under the current Clean Air Act or new climate legislation. Yesterday, the full panel of 21 judges affirmed the September 2009 ruling in an order refusing to rehear the case.

The companies named in the lawsuit are American Electric Power Company, the Southern company, Tennessee Valley Authority, Xcel Energy Inc. and Cinergy Corporation. At the time the suit was filed in 2004, these entities owned or operated 174 fossil fuel-burning power plants in 20 states and emitted 650 million tons of carbon dioxide every year.

The plaintiff states, in addition to Rhode Island, are California, Connecticut, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Vermont and Wisconsin. The City of New York also is a plaintiff.

Rhode Island Attorney General Update

Peter Kilmartin (D) is kicking off his bid for the Democratic Nomination for Attorney General tonight from 430pm to 630pm at the Portuguese Social Club in Pawtucket.

Yesterday, in a submission of public comment to Health Insurance Commissioner Koller regarding the recent health insurance premium rate hike proposal by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Rhode Island (BCBSRI), Kilmartin urged the Commissioner to fight for Rhode Islanders and against rate hikes.

“Nearly thirteen percent of Rhode Islanders are out of work and even higher percentages are having a difficult time affording health insurance,” said Peter F. Kilmartin. “Conversely, BCBRSI – which has non-profit status yet ended its fiscal year of 2008 with profits of $44 million and a surplus of $412 million – is seeking to further increase the cost of health insurance premiums in order to bolster its profit and surplus margins.”

Peter F. Kilmartin recommended Commissioner Koller ask BCBRSI the following questions:

1.       BCBRSI declared 2008 fiscal year profits of $44 million – how can they justify their non-profit tax status?
2.       With a surplus of upwards of $412 million, and a 13 percent unemployment rate in, how can BCBRSI justify a requested rate hike increase in health insurance premiums?

Peter F. Kilmartin asserted: “If Rhode Islanders elect me as their next Attorney General, I will continue to fight for their interests by establishing the health consumer advocate office as more than a regulatory evaluation and reactionary position. On my watch, the office will proactively engage health insurers, providers, and small businesses in order to sufficiently address the real issues that lead to rising health care costs and further protect Rhode Islanders from unfair rate hikes.”

Meanwhile, Steve Archambault (D), recently announced that Samantha Cotter has been hired to serve as his campaign manager. Cotter will be responsible for coordinating all day-to-day campaign activities.  Cotter served as a New Hampshire field organizer for President Obama in the 2008 general election–a winning state for Obama.  She also worked as a field organizer for Ned Lamont’ s campaign for US Senate in Connecticut. Cotter is a graduate of Hofstra University and a resident of Cranston.

Rainville Runs for AG; Moffit for Governor

A Democrat and a Republican recently announced their bids for statewide office in Rhode Island.

Robert Rainville is running for the Democratic nomination for Attorney General.  The Providence Journal reports:

East Greenwich lawyer Robert E. Rainville, a lobbyist and former probate court judge in West Warwick, announced Friday that he will be a candidate for the Democratic nomination for attorney general.

A self-described “conservative Democrat,” Rainville said he wants the office, in part, to demonstrate that it can be run in a nonpartisan way and in the public interest.

Rainville said the electorate must remember there is much more to the post of attorney general than crime-fighting, and he said that he would emphasize consumer protection on issues such as health-insurance rates and fraud, as well as the prosecution of white-collar crime and political corruption.

Rainville, 40, owns a real estate title company and is a sole legal practitioner who specializes in estate planning, litigation and government relations. He has been a registered lobbyist for, among others, the hospital company Care New England, a casino group associated with millionaire Donald Trump, the Rhode Island Board of Governors for Higher Education and the Rhode Island Pharmacists Association.

Victor Moffitt is running for the Republican nomination for Governor.  The Providence Journal has more:

A second Republican is on the verge of announcing his candidacy for governor.

Tax accountant and former state Rep. Victor Moffitt confirmed Thursday that he intends to announce his candidacy for governor on April 15, which, not entirely coincidentally, is the deadline for filing tax returns.

At that point, Moffitt, 60, of Coventry said he will roll out an updated version of the Three R’s — “Reduce, Replace and Reform” — that he first unveiled when he ran for state treasurer on the Reform Party ticket in 1998.

“I will be laying out my entire tax program on April 15,” said Moffitt, who opted against running for reelection after serving three terms in the House of Representatives.

Once he makes it official, Moffitt will be locked in a Republican primary competition with John Robitaille who, until recently, was Republican Governor Carcieri’s communications director. Carcieri is barred by term limits from running for reelection.

Fundraising & Populism in the 2010 Attorney General’s Race in Rhode Island

In the campaign for Rhode Island Attorney General, two candidates have struck up a decidely populist tone.

First, Steve Archambault criticized both a proposed Blue Cross rate hike and then a subsequent agreement reached on the rate hike between Blue Cross and current Attorney General Patrick Lynch.

“In these difficult economic times, a nearly double digit rate increase on individuals and families, including many self-employed people running small businesses, is unacceptable.  Too many Rhode Island families are already at the breaking point. Blue Cross should be sent back to the drawing board.”

Next, Joe Fernandez criticized National Grid and called on them to withdraw their request for an 11% rate increase:

“When a British corporation whose executives make $2.3 million a year demand that Rhode Islanders pay more for their services – in a wintertime recession – someone has to step up on behalf of Rhode Island consumers.” Fernandez said. “I call on Grid to withdraw its request, look internally for costs savings, and come back to the PUC after we crawl out of these tough times.”  “It’s clear that big corporations are working overtime to find ways to use our economic troubles to squeeze Rhode Island families-and are choosing the worst time to do it. As our next Attorney General, I’ll make sure they don’t get away with it.”

Meanwhile, the final fundraising numbers for 2010 are now official.  Here’s where things stand.

Steve Archambault (D)

  • Starting balance: $37,515.06
  • Raised: $39,320.00 (incl $25,000 personal loan)
  • Spent: $13,863.67
  • COH: $62,971.39

Joe Fernandez (D)

  • Starting balance: $111,503.06
  • Raised: $67,535.26
  • Spent: $22,387.70
  • COH: $156,640.72

Peter Kilmartin (D)

  • Starting balance: $54,967.47
  • Raised: $164,080.00 (incl $100,000 personal loan)
  • Spent: $9,669.54
  • COH: $209,377.93

Robert Rainville (D)

  • Starting balance: Unk
  • Raised: Unk
  • Spent: Unk
  • COH: Unk

Erik Wallin (R)

  • Starting balance: $20,236.08
  • Raised: $4,401
  • Spent: $4,690.03
  • COH: $19,847.05

Archambault Opposes Blue Cross Rate Increases

With the news that Robert Rainville, a former West Warwick Probate Judge, might run for the Democratic nomination, the hiring of staff by Peter Kilmartin and the release of some early fundraising numbers, the 2010 campaign for Rhode Island Attorney General has certainly heated up!

One of these candidates, Steve Archambault, today called on Health Commissioner Christopher Koller to reject Blue Cross’ proposed rate increases for their health insurance plans.

Pointing to a recent study released by Koller’s office that ranks Blue Cross’ Administrative expenses higher than the average in New England, Archambault called on Koller to send Blue Cross “back to the drawing board.”

“These are difficult economic times. Too many Rhode Island families are already at the breaking point and both small and large businesses are struggling to stay afloat. These proposed rate increases are simply unaffordable. The Health Commissioner should send Blue Cross back to the drawing board and demand that they cut administrative expenses and seek other efficiencies first before asking for rate hikes,” Archambault said.

In a letter to Commissioner Koller, Archambault also called for additional public hearings on the proposed 10.2% increase in direct-pay plans – the plan rate increase that is currently before the commissioner. Direct-pay plans are purchased by Rhode Islanders who do not receive health care from their employer or other group. Archambault noted that the recommendation of an independent consultant retained by the Attorney General’s office to allow an increase of 9.5% increase in direct pay plans was still too high.

“Rhode Island families are facing the most difficult economic situation in at least a generation.  There must be a new emphasis on cost-savings. All Blue Cross expenses, including top executive salaries, should receive strict scrutiny,” he said.

Archambault’s criticism comes on the heels of his first issue-based release: fighting the drinking and driving problem in Rhode Island.