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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


Come hear Radley Balko speak this Wednesday!

Please join us Wednesday, March 11, to hear a talk from Radley Balko of The Washington Post, brought to you by the Advance Arkansas Institute.

When: 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 11, 2015. Admission begins 30 minutes prior (6:00 p.m.).

Where: Darragh Center Auditorium, Main Library, Central Arkansas Library System, 100 Rock Street, Little Rock.

Come hear a talk by Radley Balko on the increasing militarization of our police forces. There’s no charge to attend, but (just so we have a head count) we’d be grateful if you’d register here. We look forward to seeing you!

Balko, the author of Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces (2013), is an opinion blogger at the Washington Post, where he writes the popular blog on civil liberties and the criminal justice system, The Watch. Balko’s work on paramilitary raids and the overuse of SWAT teams was featured in the New York Times, has been praised by outlets ranging from Human Events to the Daily Kos, and was cited by Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer in his dissent in the case Hudson v. Michigan. Balko is also credited with bringing national attention to the case of Cory Maye, a black man who prior to Balko’s work was on death row in Mississippi for shooting and killing a white police officer during a raid on Maye’s home. (Maye is a free man today.)

Balko’s Reason feature on Maye was also cited in an opinion by the Mississippi State Supreme Court. Balko was formerly a policy analyst with the Cato Institute. He has been a columnist for, a senior editor at Reason, and has been published in the Wall Street Journal, Playboy, Time, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles TimesSlateForbes, ESPN, the National Post, Worth and numerous other publications. Balko has also appeared on the BBC, CNN, CNBC, Fox News Channel, MSNBC and NPR.

(Much of Balko’s biographical information above is taken directly from his biographical website.)


Practical Tax Reform For Arkansas

The best way to help Arkansas’s economy grow is through tax reform: policymakers who want to foster economic growth and attract job-creating capital investment should work to lower our income tax rates. Our nation’s experience with the tax reform that President Reagan and a bipartisan Congress produced in 1986 – perhaps the greatest domestic policy achievement of modern times – provides a critical lesson for Arkansas: namely, our state can lower tax rates without decreasing government revenue. The 1986 reforms generally receive bipartisan acclaim because they accomplished more than just lower rates – they led to more jobs, greater prosperity, and increased tax revenue nationally.

The income tax rate reduction that the General Assembly recently passed, prompted by Governor Hutchinson, is an admirable first step towards large-scale tax reform. As the legislative session begins to wind down, lawmakers will doubtless be presented with many opportunities to create small-scale, special- interest tax privileges. We have a better idea: Arkansas policymakers should pursue further income tax reform based on three features of the 1986 federal model: this reform could reduce or eliminate tax giveaways, swap those giveaways for lower rates, and stay revenue-neutral. In the long run, such a reform would likely increase both economic growth and state revenue. 

Our newest paper on tax reform, by AAI president Dan Greenberg and UALR law professor Robert Steinbuch, offers a practical, detailed plan about how to lower rates and raise Arkansans standard of living. Click here to read it.



Will Arkansas Break the Chains of Occupational Regulation?

Do we need regulations that accomplish little or nothing -- except to keep people from working? That is the question posed by HB 1158, which provides for a review of occupational regulation that would preserve health and safety rules but clean up state law of so as to rid it of special privileges for special interests. Our newest paper, HB 1158's Promise: More Arkansas Jobs, Lower Arkansas Prices, explains the historic opportunity that the Arkansas General Assembly has to supercharge our state's economy by adding more jobs and economic growth. The bill would create a statutory right to work that aspiring workers and entrepreneurs could use when overreaching regulators called them into court.

Regrettably, Arkansas’s economy has been victimized by excessive and overzealous occupational regulation more than almost any other state in America. In 2012, the Institute for Justice determined that the state of Arkansas has the second most burdensome set of barriers to job entry in the nation and is the fifth most extensively licensed state in the nation. In short, although Arkansas should be a land of opportunity, it is instead a land of licensure. 

If you, like us, think that is a dangerous trend, take a look at our newest paper and learn what the General Assembly needs to do to jump-start job growth in Arkansas.


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.



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.


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.



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.


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.



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.


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.