Prefile legislation to make R.I. nation's most "independent worker friendly state"

"I will prefile legislation to make R.I. the most independent worker friendly state in the nation. I will ask the General Assembly to enact an act on legislative initiatives dealing with independent workers in the first 100 days."


Chafee fails to act quickly to assist independent contractors

During his campaign, candidate Lincoln Chafee outlined a detailed plan for his first one hundred days in office. Helping independent contractors was one of those goals.

"Independent workers make up 30% of the nation's workforce," he said on his website. "They are freelancers, consultants, independent contractors, temps, part-timers, contingent employees, and the self-employed. Many are recent college graduates who are just starting out in their careers, finding it difficult to find a job, and are just starting out on their own. Others are advanced in their careers and would be attracted to the opportunity to work for themselves."

The problem, according to Chafee, is that "most freelancers can't access affordable insurance, are taxed more than traditional employees, and have limited access to protections such as unemployment insurance, retirement plans, and unpaid wage claims."

So he promised during the campaign that he would prefile legislation with the General Assembly "to make RI the most independent worker friendly state in the nation." The measure was supposed to make group health benefits available to independent workers and create an Independent Workforce Council to ensure that all government programs fairly address their needs.

He also pledged to ask legislators to pass the bill in the first 100 days.

(In reality, you can't file a bill in the House or Senate until it comes into session, so prefiling isn't a formal process, according to House spokesman Larry Berman. It's a term used when a legislator contacts the Legislative Council and asks the lawyers there to draft legislation. Then it's ready to be introduced on the first day of the new session.)

But when the legislature convened on Jan. 4, no such bill was in the hopper and none has been drafted.

Chafee spokesman Michael Trainor acknowledged that the promise to prefile the legislation was not kept, but said the governor is committed to the underlying idea.

"It's not lost or forgotten," he said, explaining that the Chafee administration wanted to work toward that goal as part of its larger economic plan, which included retaining Economic Development Corporation executive director Keith Stokes.

"Clearly the campaign was a bit ahead of itself with respect to the prefiling," said Trainor.

Legislation to help freelancers and other independent contractors thrive in Rhode Island may eventually be introduced and be passed. But the Chafee administration vowed to take the first step before the legislature convened and didn"t do so.

So we rate this as a Promise Broken.

Sources:, "The First One Hundred Days Plan for Jobs," accessed Jan. 20, 2011

Interview, Michael Trainor, spokesman, Gov. Lincoln Chafee, Jan. 20, 2011

Interview, Larry Berman, spokesman, Rhode Island House, Jan. 21, 2011