RhodeWorks RI, a Constitutional Pandora’s Box

Constitution No ALPR         RhodeWorks  Automatic License Plate Recognition

 RhodeWorks RI,
a Constitutional Pandora’s Box

Many Thanks to GoLocalProv for Carrying this Post

AESantos (Tony) March 9, 2016

     The “political mugging” inflicted by Smith Hill Leadership on those opposing RhodeWorks is everything we’ve come to know of governance in a “Banana Republic”.  Despite overwhelming opposition and protest by business and the electorate to scrap this $300 Million Economic and Constitutional Juggernaut, leadership on The Hill rammed this thru with unprecedented force and speed, weeks not months.  The legislative outcome of RhodeWorks 3.0 was engineered and orchestrated well before the bill hit the chamber floor.  The open hostility on the part of veteran lawmakers affirms the electorate has more to fear from leadership than any law they could ram thru the legislative process without our consent.  Alexis de Tocqueville (1835 Democracy in America) would have branded their abuse of power and political intimidation of individuals in the public and private sectors as “Soft Tyranny”

     Leadership on The Hill often pushes the envelope with provocative issues, 38 Studios, Pawsox Relo, and former Rep. Donald “Revolving Door” Lally to name a few, but the passage of RhodeWorks serves a larger political agenda that reaches to clear to Washington.  RhodeWorks 3.0 has broad National and Constitutional implications.   As discussed in a previous post, Rhode Island is an incubator for a National Tolling agenda.  The Obama Administration introduced the Six Year $478 Billion “Grow America Act” now in its second iteration and thankfully languishing in Congress.  At the core of this back door Stimulus Program are proposals to lift tolling bans on interstate highways and allow individual states to use revenue collected for non-infrastructure use.  In Rhode Island’s case tolling revenues collected would vanish into the fiscal black hole of the general fund.

     RhodeWorks is the state run version of the White House Grow America act, and now that it has been signed into law, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy is considering reclaiming the handle of the Toll Booth State and tolling trucks.

     Like ObamaCare, the full economic and constitutional impact of RhodeWorks will not be known for some time.  The toll gantries are expected to come online by 2019.  By then Governor Gina Raimondo will be seeing Rhode Island in the rear view from Washington.  Lawmakers who voted thumbs up on RhodeWorks might consider witness protection before the Constitutionality of RhodeWorks is challenged in Federal court.  The  provision to toll 18 Wheelers (Class 8) vehicles exclusively was engineered to be struck down in Federal Court.  Once the tolling gantries are active, legal challenges by the American Trucking Association (ATA) and other national transportation interests will be brought to Federal court and the tolling of 18 Wheeler/Class 8 vehicles exclusively will ultimately be found unconstitutional and in violation of the Interstate Commerce Act.  Smith Hill Lawmakers will then be forced to rewrite Rhodeworks to include tolling of all vehicle classes which was the intent from the start.  The provision to toll cars only by future voter referendum was an unenforceable insurance policy to fend off an angry electorate until RhodeWorks was passed into law.

     RhodeWorks faces a laundry list of legal challenges and its passage has opened  a Constitutional Pandora’s Box.  The license plates of all vehicles passing thru the gantries will be recorded without exception, the ACLU has raised privacy issues over vehicles to be excluded from tolling, but privacy concerns under the First amendment go much deeper than that.  Vehicle registrations are linked to sensitive personal information that could be monitored and exploited.  By today’s standards the RIDMV is still entrenched in prehistoric 1980’s Mainframe technology. Access by a third party is a security hole big enough to drive an 18 Wheeler thru. Given the Federal Government’s investment in RhodeWorks and their insatiable appetite for data, numerous Federal agencies, bureaucracies, including law enforcement will demand unrestricted access to the recorded data.

The revenue vultures have already begun to circle over the RhodeKill carcass.    House Rep (D) Robert Jacquard introduced legislation to extract recorded data from the tolling gantries to target out of state uninsured motorist to capture as much as $15 Million in additional revenue.  The basis of Rep. Jacquard’s bill is hardly new or original.  The argument against “Automated Enforcement” has cut into the First and Fourth Amendments since recording devices were first staged by the Federal Government to monitor the general population’s movements.  House Speaker (D) Nick Mattiello has since pulled Jacquard’s bill only to reintroduce and fight this battle again once full tolling of all vehicle classes is mandated.

     It may have gone unnoticed, but Rhode Island is celebrating the infamous 25th Anniversary of the Temporary Sales tax Increase to from 5 to 7 percent (RISDIC Crisis).  Like all taxes they never really go away, they only morph.  Once RhodeWorks is rewritten to include all vehicles the General Assembly will continue collecting fuel taxes and DMV fees that were slated for infrastructure and we will effectively be “Double Taxed” to maintain the same infrastructure.

     Great leaders have been said to provide what the people need, not necessarily what they want.   RhodeWorks 3.0 is purely self-serving to the principles that rammed it thru the system.  Governor Gina Raimondo has earned her Washington Merit Badge, and will cash in end of term. Organized Labor has their 10 year plus Stimulus Package, local and national labor interest will no doubt also extend their gratitude to the Governor.   House Speaker Mattiello will have the full cooperation and support of the Governor’s office for the duration of her watch.

     The seed for a national tolling agenda planted in deep blue Rhode Island will shortly take root and spread like a fungus to other revenue hungry states.  When you find yourself on the business end of your first tolling invoice after being dinged by a toll gantry it will be of little comfort that yes “you did build that”, and you paid for it twice.

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  1. Thanks for this well written, informative article. Now, if only those who SHOULD read it did!! Why do the voters in this state continue to elect and re-elect the same folks? The damage done to this state, I’m afraid, is nearly irreparable!! It is a sad thing to tell your child to leave this state! What will happen to all the free loaders when the few workers/businesses who are here leave? Tolls won’t be nearly enough!

    • Thanks Judy,
      Between now and 2019 when the gantries go online the economic effects will be more subtle. Business that relies heavily on transportation are no doubt scouting for locations beyond the state line, and will take jobs and tax dollars with them. The ATA will find a quick victory in Federal court when they contest the constitutionality of tolling 18 wheelers/class 8 only and lawmakers will have to hide under their desks when RhodeWorks is rewritten to toll all vehicles, the electorate will scream and holler but sadly re-elect the same yahoo’s back to warm the seats of Smith Hill. You’re right RhodeWorks will cause irreparable economic damage to the state and take a big bite our of out civil liberties with the unfettered use of “Automatic License Plate Recognition” Too bad the public’s attention span is so short, there’s barely a whisper now on RhodeWorks, Sen. Ciccone’s “Sap and Pine Needle” bill has sucked the oxygen out of the room. It’s not just business that’s planning their escape from hostile territory
      Much Obliged