Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze Woonsocket North Smithfield 05-14-2020

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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NORTH SMITHFIELD BLACKSTONE WOONSOCKET EDITION | VALLEY BREEZE | MAY 14-20, 2020 OPINION 13 I was chagrined when I read about 10 nursing homes in California which were seeking to have legis- lative immunity against neg- ligence as a result of their operations (or lack thereof) during the coronavirus cri- sis. Seven of the 10 nursing homes were the subject of numerous code violations before the coronavirus and had the lowest ranks pos- sible for service. Giving nursing homes immunity from liability is wrong, par- ticularly when they flaunted executive orders regarding service of the elderly and disabled under their care. I think that we will now see a flurry of activity whereby folks who run businesses, including daycare, camps, or private school settings will seek liability waivers from their patrons. The waivers should be unen- forceable if the programs violate executive orders in place. Generally, waivers can be enforceable if the parties on both sides have bargaining power and the terms of that waiver are clear and unam- biguous. Parents, though, who need daycare to return to work, hardly are in a position to "bargain" terms. They often are confronted with a "take it or leave it" choice which vitiates volun- tariness. Most importantly, businesses are on full notice of the government rules and guidelines and if they devi- ate from the requirements of cleaning, social distanc- ing, etc., they will do so at their peril. For sure, even though liability waivers are rou- tine and well-known, it is unclear whether a COVID-19 waiver would be enforceable since to date no court in the country has analyzed such a waiver in this context. Yet, the body of case law doesn't totally insulate an entity. In addi- tion to violating public policy (i.e. rules of opera- tion required by the execu- tive orders), the sometimes onerous recitations in the waiver which requires a law degree for the parent signing it to understand, the lack of equal bargain- ing power rather than a forced agreement since the working parent has no choice but to sign it, and the legal concept that liability waivers are strictly construed against the party that drafted them, organiza- tions shouldn't feel copas- etic about the use of such a document. So, why am I writing this, besides the fact that I con- sider myself a public inter- est lawyer? My reality is that I don't want businesses, profit or non-profit, to play Russian Roulette with the health of anyone, particu- larly children, by scoffing at the rules. An entity should be protected if they follow the rules but an attempt to circumvent the reopening requirements after initial approval should not be countenanced. A service provider, for example, that deals with children, must keep the requirement that the staff be tested daily via a tem- perature taking to avoid exposure to a child or the child's parent since so little is known about carriers of the virus who are asymp- tomatic. Social distancing should not be relaxed after a daycare center or camp is allowed to operate as a result of the plan it sub- mitted to the state. Last month I read a renowned epidemiologist who stated that in confined spaces if somebody infected coughs or sneezes the virus par- ticles can remain for hours. Needless to say, I'm not a fan of porta johns for that reason. In sum, adherence to rules and regulations are imperative so a second wave of reinfection doesn't happen. Violet is an attorney and for- mer state attorney general. Businesses: Follow the rules As this is the last time I'll be taking shots at political and economic absurdity here in Rhode Island, my friend, Brian Benoit, of the famous Benoit broth- ers (Bob, Brian and Chris) at Anchor Subaru-Nissan hands me a column topic that's a gift from God. Everyone: Pay attention here! Not only to this col- umn, but to a full-page ad paid for by Anchor and the Benoits. Do you know that if you buy a $40,000 vehicle from a Rhode Island car dealer, and you are charged $2,800 (7 percent) in sales tax upon registration, all that money goes to Rhode Island? Well of course you know that! If you cross the line into nearby Attleboro or Seekonk and buy a car there, you'll still pay $2,800 in sales tax to Rhode Island, right? Nope. Not true. When you buy out of state, of the 7 percent sales tax, 6.25 percent will be given back to Massachusetts, and only .75 percent will come to Rhode Island. That is, of the $2,800 you pay in sales tax, the Bay State will get $2,500, and Rhode Island will get a measly $300. And you thought all that tax money went to help your schools and colleges, public safety, and your Rhode Island neighbors, didn't you? I know I was fooled, too. Nope! Buy a car in Mass., and most of the sales tax goes to Mass. (Yes, it works in reverse, too, but few from Mass. buy a car in R.I.). What idiot thought this up? Right now, our state offi- cials are in a panic about the COVID-19 pandemic and where, oh where, they will go for more revenue. What was once a $200 mil- lion state deficit is now much larger – up to $800 million. Like teens waiting by the phone for an invita- tion to prom, state leaders have dispatched U.S. Sen. Jack Reed to see how much money he can scrounge up from Washington, D.C., to make our pain go away. And every state politi- cian thinks Gov. Gina Raimondo, in her budget work, has looked under every sofa cushion and come up dry. There's just no more money. The expec- tation is that taxes will have to be raised – maybe by a lot! But what about the car sales tax, and Benoit's dis- covery? Based on last year's sales, he claims Rhode Island could have collected (and kept!) another $145 million, if we had only kept Rhode Islander's money in the state, instead of shovel- ing it into Mass. Nobody knows when or why this madness started. Brian Benoit has been doing his job for 33 years, and "it's always been this way." He's spoken to political leaders like Lt. Gov. Dan McKee, who is looking into the problem. "We've been getting fleeced for years," said Brian Benoit, "and nobody cares!" He even has a simple solution. Instead of chang- ing the law, for the time being "Just lower the car sales tax in R.I. to 6 percent for R.I. residents. When we incentivize state residents to shop in Rhode Island, they will buy cars here, and because of that, the money will stay in our state," says Brian Benoit. So in this, my next-to-last column here at The Valley Breeze, I share with you, our legislators and leaders, the Benoits' idea. While you are all going bonkers look- ing for new revenue, take a close look at a viable solu- tion that's right under your noses. Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze Benoits offer revenue idea anchored in common sense From the Publisher TOM WARD Poli-Ticks ARLENE VIOLET Volume XXI, Number 38 May 14, 2020 @ Breeze THE VALLEY ABOUT US The Valley Breeze Newspapers are a locally operated group of free weekly newspapers serving the people of Cumberland, Lincoln, North Smithfield, Woonsocket, Smithfield, Scituate, Foster, Glocester, North Providence, Pawtucket, R.I., and Blackstone, Mass. Each Thursday, 58,500+ copies are distributed to retailers, banks, offices, and restaurants and other busy spots. Circulation is audited by the Circulation Verification Council of St. Louis, Mo. and has earned its "Gold Standard Award." OUR MISSION It is the Mission of The Valley Breeze to facilitate a positive sense of community among the res- idents of Northern Rhode Island by providing a forum for the free exchange of ideas, and to provide information of local events and neighbors. It is our further Mission to provide the highest quality advertising at the lowest possible cost to retailers, professionals, tradespersons, and other service providers in order to enhance the economic well-being of our community. Thomas V. Ward, Publisher James Quinn, Deputy Publisher Jack Birolini, Director of Sales Ethan Shorey, Managing Editor Barbara Phinney, Controller

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