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"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

The Declaration of Independence

Wednesday
Dec242014

Our Annual Request to You

Now it’s time for us to go all PBS on you.

We’ve had a busy and successful year promoting conservative solutions, but we don’t take government grants and we can’t ask George Soros to pay the bills. Instead, we ask our members -- freedom-loving conservatives like you -- to help us out with a donation. If you haven’t already, why not become a member of the Advance Arkansas Institute?

Unlike the other gifts you’ve given this year, your gift to the Advance Arkansas Institute -- which produces this blog -- will be fully tax-deductible.

We so appreciate the gifts of conservatives in Arkansas that allow us to keep our state moving in a conservative direction, and we’re excited about the possibility of greater successes in 2015. Here are some of the Advance Arkansas Institute’s accomplishments over the past 12 months:

During the 2014 session, we worked to research and publicize the dangers of Medicaid expansion in Arkansas, even as other conservative groups stood mute on the biggest expansion of state government in modern history; we collaborated with representatives from the Oklahoma Center for Policy Analysis and the Foundation for Government Accountability to hold a series of town halls across the state about the misnamed “private option.” AAI published several short papers evaluating Medicaid expansion, as well as a longer study: The Cure Is Worse Than the Disease: Why the Private Option Will Hurt, Not Help, Arkansas Hospitals. One Republican legislator who advocated Medicaid expansion circulated a private letter to all 50 of his Republican colleagues, claiming AAI’s study was defective and that Arkansas nonprofit hospitals were “losing BIG money.” AAI responded with a brief report showing that, with the figures that this legislator supplied, simple math demonstrated those hospitals to be reaping, on average, a one percent profit.

AAI and its journalism program, The Arkansas Project, continue to be authoritative sources for facts and statistics. In the state’s recent primary elections, all four candidates in two hotly contested state senate primaries (Phil Grace, Sen. Bruce Holland, Sen. Missy Irvin, and Rep. Terry Rice) relied on our research and our reputation as honest brokers in their public statements or direct mail. Other candidates used our research to demonstrate their conservative bona fides in the recent general election, such as Senator-elect Blake Johnson. The Arkansas Project also broke news regularly; we revealed, for instance, that one northwest Arkansas primary legislative candidate was using a fraudulent college degree as a credential. (Thankfully, that candidate lost.) We coauthored several papers with the Foundation for Government Accountability on Medicaid reform; Institute staff also collaborated with Conduit for Action to produce a voter guide; AAI staff were also frequent radio and television guests.

In the fall, AAI rolled out its iPhone app, which enables observers of the Arkansas legislature to follow developments there at the touch of a button. For each one of Arkansas’s 135 legislators, app users can look up (by name or zip code) nearly 100 votes on different bills during the previous legislative session, the text of those bills, a district map, a personal legislative webpage, and 14 different ratings on legislative performance. For each of those ratings, the app also displays comparative rankings, so that users can see how one legislator compares to others. It also lists the awards that several legislators received for their comparatively superior performance in the previous legislative session. The app uses the data from our biennial Freedom Scorecard, which lists and rates the voting records of all Arkansas General Assembly members. That report, the most thorough of its kind ever produced in Arkansas, gives each legislator a set of vote ratings. In next year’s session, our app will provide users with real-time updates on legislative developments. 

The Advance Arkansas Institute continues to be seen as an idea factory for conservatives. Because we have spent significant time building relationships with legislators and other decision-makers, and because of the extraordinary success of conservative candidates during the 2014 elections, we are in a unique position. We intend to be vigorous and effective advocates for a well-researched, intellectually serious, reformist, free-market conservative agenda focusing on health care reform, tax relief, and economic growth. (For more details, see our Action Plan for Arkansas 2014, a 200-page book of policy recommendations which we just published.) We only published the Action Plan a few weeks ago, but we’ve already received requests from legislators to help them draft legislation for the forthcoming session that will realize many of the ideas in the book. Right now, at the request of legislators, our team is drafting plans for tort reform, deregulation, health insurance access, student rights, religious freedom, property rights protection, civil rights, open government records, and protecting the First Amendment.

Because of the power of technology, one of our most important programs is also one of our cheapest. We send out a weekly email newsletter to our supporters, to the news media, and to other think tanks that explains and reproduces the work we do – and we place a premium on having a clean and accessible website that is a repository for all of our research. We regularly receive compliments for the accessibility and transparency of our work. Make sure to let us know if you’d like to be on our weekly email list.

It is because of the support of our friends who love liberty that we are able to advance the values we share. We are very grateful for the support of our members, and we look forward to participating in a 2015 legislative session which advances the values of limited, transparent, and conservative government. Because of the growing impact of conservative ideas and values in our state’s legislature and executive branch, there is every reason to believe that 2015 is going to be a great year.

We respectfully ask you: if you’d like to contribute to the fight for liberty in Arkansas, please donate here.

 

Tuesday
Dec232014

AAI's Action Plan for Arkansas Is Here!

The Advance Arkansas Institute’s newest edition of Action Plan for Arkansas is hot off the presses!

Our brand new, 200-page report contains an extensive conservative legislative agenda — if implemented by the state legislature, it would make Arkansas a much more free and prosperous state.

The policy areas covered in the report include property rights protection, health care reform, lawsuit reform, government transparency, and tax reform.

Have you become a member of the Advance Arkansas Institute this year? In exchange for a recommended $100 tax-deductible donation to AAI, we’ll send you your own personal copy of this year’s Action Plan for Arkansas.

 

Just so you have a good idea of the contents of our new book, here’s the table of contents.


Wednesday
Nov122014

Join Us For Lunch Next Friday


The Advance Arkansas Institute will host a luncheon — entitled “Three Big Ideas” — on Friday, November 21, in Little Rock.

During our luncheon, three experts will provide a brief outline of changes in federal policy that would advance America: Professor Phil Oliver of the UALR-Bowen Law School, business owner Rachael Cox, and Professor Richard Ford of the UALR Economics Department.

Our speakers will focus on tax reform, immigration reform and free trade. You should come! The first 50 people to register get a free lunch. You can reserve your ticket here. We hope to see you at 1415 West Third Street (the Arkansas Association of Counties building), which is just northeast of the state Capitol.

 

Thursday
Oct232014

Announcing: AAI’s New App

The newest project from the Advance Arkansas Institute gives you extraordinary knowledge about the workings of the Arkansas General Assembly. Our new iPhone app (also usable on the iPad) gives you all kinds of data on the voting records of those currently serving in the Arkansas legislature. You can look up the voting records of any Arkansas legislator, and you’ll also get 15 different, individualized ratings for each legislator. The app brings you the data from our Arkansas Freedom Scorecard – and also supplies district maps, the full text of roughly 100 rated bills, the awards we gave for superior legislative performance, and links to state legislative pages and to projects of the Advance Arkansas Institute. In short, if you use an iPhone, this app gives you big legislative data that you can carry around in the palm of your hand.

Perhaps the most important part of our app, however, is the information that it will bring you in the future. When the legislative session begins in 2015, we’ll be incorporating new data into the app on a regular basis – namely, the votes and legislation during the 2015 session that advance (or shrink) freedom and good government. We’ll also give you up-to-the-minute alerts through the app; if you have the app on your phone or tablet, we’ll keep you posted about the progress of important bills.

And best of all, the app only costs you 99 cents! How can you lose? Just search for “Advance AR” in the App Store to download it. If you’re not sold yet, watch our video for more information.

Saturday
Apr262014

Arkansas Candidates on the Record

Earlier this month, we helped to compile a comprehensive report that highlights where candidates stand on many policy issues. The survey was conducted by Commerce In Action. They sent a questionnaire to every legislative primary candidate in Arkansas. Not all candidates responded. In fact, in a few districts, no candidates responded at all. (Candidates from one particular political party were a lot more forthcoming about their views.) But the survey contains a list of every primary candidate nonetheless. If a candidate chose not to answer, this is indicated by a column of question marks.

As The Arkansas Project's Nic Horton noted, "One thing that I particularly like about this questionnaire is that, for the most part, it asks candidates about real, specific proposals that have already come through the legislature in bill form (and cites the particular bills by name, so voters can read the bills themselves). Unfortunately, many questionnaires often ask unrealistic or wildly hypothetical questions (for example, “Do you support cutting state government by 90%?”) That certainly might be a noble goal, and the candidate’s answer might tell us something valuable about their principles — but it also might not. If candidates are asked unrealistic questions, they have an incentive to provide unrealistic answers — because the likelihood that they’ll actually have to face a vote on that particular question is very small."

Our survey's questions are likely to come before the legislature when or if these candidates become lawmakers. Because of this, voters should have a much better idea how these candidates might vote when they’re faced with similar proposals.

Hats off to Conduit In Action for a great survey, and thanks to all the candidates who took the time to fill it out.

You can view the full report here.

You can also view an appendix of a few candidates’ comments here.

 

Monday
Mar102014

The Private Option's Future: Fiscally Unsustainable

In conjunction with the Advance Arkansas InstituteJoe Luppino-Esposito of State Budget Solutions has published a new report on the budgetary impact of Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion on the state.

Here are some of the key findings from the report:

Arkansas's total state debt: $3.7 billion -- that puts the per capita debt at $12,785.

Arkansas’s state debt is 34% of the state gross product. That is a whopping 264% of the state’s total expenditures in fiscal year 2012.

Medicaid already accounts for 21.4% of Arkansas’s total expenditures.

Arkansas is approaching a dangerous reliance on the federal government for its revenue. In 2012, the state received 34.47% of its general revenue from the federal government—more than 29 other states.

The eventual reduction of the federal government’s 90% reimbursement rate is all but certain: “The fastest thing that’s going to go when we’re cutting spending in Washington is a 100 or 90 percent match rate for Medicaid. There’s no way. It doesn’t matter if Republicans are running Congress or Democrats are running Congress. There’s no way we’re going to keep those match rates like that.” – Rep. Paul Ryan

Also, in case you missed it, AAI published this report recently about the material changes in Obamacare since the legislature originally adopted Medicaid expansion last year.

Monday
Mar032014

The Facts on Arkansas Hospital Finances

About a week ago, Representative Doug House sent a mass email to fifty of his House Republican colleagues, and then it found its way into my inbox. I think it’s a response to the paper that AAI published earlier this month called “The Cure Is Worse Than the Disease: Why the Private Option Will Hurt, Not Help, Arkansas’s Hospitals.” 

In response to House’s response, the Advance Arkansas Institute prepared this brief paper and distributed it to all House members yesterday.

Rep. House’s email, as I understand it, argues that the “private” option – Arkansas’s version of Obamacare-Medicaid expansion – has nothing to do with Medicaid reimbursements, and that the vast majority of Arkansas hospitals who are facing severe financial danger will have their problems solved by the private option. I’m not sure if I can aptly summarize every argument in House’s email, so we’ve reproduced it here. And, of course, you can see AAI’s response to House’s email – “The Question That Private Option Advocates Cannot Answer” – here.

Although some advocates of Medicaid expansion have been arguing that Arkansas hospitals are losing money en masse, as far as I know AAI is the only organization to run the numbers. Even when we used the data that Rep. House relied on, we found that -- as a whole -- Arkansas hospitals, both the non-profit and for-profit kind, continue to be net revenue generators. 

Wednesday
Feb122014

Presenting the 2013 Freedom Scorecard (Updated)

It's that moment you've all been waiting for -- the full unveiling of AAI's 2013 Freedom Scorecard!

The report is the most thorough of its kind to ever be produced in the state of Arkansas, scoring over 100 bills from last year's legislative session.

Here's an excerpt from the report:

The Advance Arkansas Institute and Conduit for Commerce are pleased to present this study of the 2013 voting records of legislators serving in the Arkansas General Assembly. Arkansas’s 2013 Freedom Scorecard discloses and rates legislative votes on roughly 100 notable bills of the 89th General Assembly. Notability, of course, is in the eye of the beholder; in this case, the beholders are the authors and producers of the study. Although it is not the role of AAI or CFC to endorse (or condemn) the performance of any particular legislator, we believe that the data illuminate how the votes of some legislators advanced the well-being of Arkansas citizens, while the votes of other legislators diminished it.

Our study ranked the voting records of legislators by totaling up the subscores they earned to derive a final score. That final score is a quick-and-dirty measure of each legislator’s commitment to liberty and good government. That score is dependent on a variety of subscores -- we measured, through their votes on various bills, legislators’ fidelity to a dozen different values: clean elections, criminal justice, education reform, economic freedom, Obamacare and health care reform, integrity in government, lawsuit reform, personal liberty, anti-cronyism, Second Amendment rights, smaller government, and tax relief. Each of those dozen values created a separate subscore for each legislator, which we represent as percentages.

AAI/CFC recognized several groups of legislators for their commitments to advancing freedom in Arkansas: the two legislators with the highest overall scores in each chamber were recognized as "Best Friends of Freedom." The top-tier of scorers in each chamber were recognized as "Friends of Freedom." Legislators who withstood immense pressure and voted against expanding Medicaid were recognized with the Calvin Coolidge Award. And finally, two legislators were recognized as "Legislator of the Year" (one for each chamber of the legislature) for their work in sponsoring and passing important legislation.

To see how your legislators fared, click here.

[A brief 4/15/14 update on technical corrections from Alex Cartwright, coauthor of the report, follows:

Recently, two different public officials alerted us about a few minor errors in our 2013 Freedom Scorecard. We did a top-to-bottom review and discovered that legislators’ votes had been mistranscribed in a few instances. We then recalculated the final scores with corrected data.

The point of the scorecard is to use recorded votes in order to compare legislators to one another in a relative way. When we recalculated the scores, we found that legislators' scores had not changed materially: our recalculation resulted in changes that amounted, in most cases, to moving one point up or down on what is approximately a 100-point scale. (Of course, depending on one’s perspective, a small change might seem large, especially with respect to our subscores. For instance, we took five House votes into account for our “Lawsuit Reform” subscore. Changing one vote of those five votes, for instance, could change a 60% subscore to a 40% subscore or an 80% subscore. To repeat, that is the kind of subscore change one might expect when changing one vote.)

We apologize for our error. The revised scorecard has been posted above.]

Tuesday
Feb112014

Medicaid Expansion: Bad For Arkansas Hospitals

Our latest policy paper examines the impact of the “private” option on Arkansas hospitals. The news is not good.

Authors Dan Greenberg and Shane Stacks explain that the basic realities of Arkansas hospital finance cannot justify the private option, or any other form of Medicaid expansion. Key findings include:

  • The problem of hospitals’ uncompensated care is driven primarily by bad debt, which the private option does not address;

  • The problem of hospital bad debt, and uncompensated care generally, is likely overstated by hospitals’ use of “charge basis” accounting;

  • The private option will weaken hospital balance sheets by increasing both their bad debt and their undercompensated Medicaid costs;

  • The private option will increase both the costs and the burdens in already-strained Arkansas hospital emergency rooms;

  • The Affordable Care Act’s scheduled Medicaid cuts which supposedly justified the private option – like the Affordable Care Act’s scheduled employer mandate – never happened.

The report contains a statistical analysis of many of the publicly disclosed Form 990s that nonprofit hospitals have filed. The analysis demonstrates that undercompensated Medicaid expenses, which the private option is supposed to remedy, only constitute about 10% of hospitals’ uncompensated care problem -- and that the private option will by and large leave the other 90% of uncompensated care unaffected.

You can click here to read  “The Cure Is Worse Than the Disease: Why the Private Option Will Hurt, Not Help, Arkansas’s Hospitals.”

 

Thursday
Jan162014

Uncovering the Obamacare Exchanges

 Do you understand how the Obamacare exchanges will affect you? Well, don’t worry about it: nobody else does either.

In fact, the Obamacare exchanges create extraordinary pitfalls for people who want to get married, change jobs, save money, or – indeed – seek medical attention. If you think you might face any of these life choices in the future, you owe it to yourself to read the two papers we’ve just published on the Obamacare exchanges.

Our first paper explains how the exchanges can limit your choices and create unforeseen tax liabilities. Our second paper explains how the exchanges will increase the role of the IRS in your life – through greater complexity in the tax system, an increased likelihood of identity theft, larger probabilities of more intrusive audits, and (of course) Obamacare’s 18 new taxes.

The Advance Arkansas Institute is proud to publish these two new papers in concert with the Foundation for Government Accountability.