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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


Today's Legislative Invasion of First Amendment Rights

The state Senate will vote on SB 821 today: if passed into law, this bill would create a cumbersome and expensive new government program for registration, training, and tracking citizens who are paid to circulate petitions to place initiatives and referendums on the ballot. SB 821, sponsored by state Senator Keith Ingram, would place extremely heavy burdens on Arkansas’s initiative and referendum process – indeed, the bill almost seems designed to make it difficult or impossible for citizens to run successful ballot campaigns.

You can read "How SB 821 Endangers the First Amendment," AAI's newest paper, here.


Why Arkansas's Anti-Scalping Laws Should Be Repealed

Friday, we released our latest policy brief titled, “Why Arkansas’s Anti-Scalping Laws Should Be Repealed.” 

The paper, authored by Alex Cartwright, makes the case that anti-scalping laws encourage counterfeiting, encourage fraud, and create consumer confusion. Rather than protect the consumer, anti-scalping laws encourage underground-market activity and restrict the public’s access to events.  

HB1404 by Rep. Doug House addresses many of these concerns and was voted down by the House on Friday, but can be brought back up for consideration before the end of session.

You can read the full paper here.


Why Prosecutors Shouldn't Be Partisan

HB 1412, which is on today’s House calendar, would remove partisan considerations from prosecutorial races; it would end Arkansas’s practice of partisan campaigns by the state’s prosecuting attorneys. As a general matter, removing party labels from prosecutor candidates is sound public policy: there is good reason to believe that public confidence in the fair and neutral administration of justice will be better justified in a system stripped of open partisanship. To read our latest paper -- "Removing Partisanship from Prosecutors Is In the Public Interest" -- click here.


How Voter ID Makes It Easy to Vote -- And Hard to Cheat

Last week, a majority of legislators on the Senate State Agencies committee passed a voter ID bill for the first time in Arkansas history. SB 2, sponsored by Sen. Bryan King, would require voters at the polling place either to present an identification document or to cast a provisional ballot; it also provides that the very small percentage of voters who cannot afford to pay for an ID can obtain one for free. The bill, in addition to extinguishing in-person voter impersonation, would stop double-voting by dual-state registrants, voting by illegal aliens, and voting under fictitious registrations: this policy makes it easy to vote, but hard to cheat. Voter ID is a common-sense reform to stop vote fraud that is supported by large majorities of Americans, but opponents of voter ID continue to oppose this policy with defective arguments.

Nonetheless, the opponents of voter ID continue to provide flawed legal arguments, groundless statistics, and manufactured facts. The Institute's latest paper, "Arguments Against Voter ID: An Autopsy," is a sure cure for their misinformation.


Want to hear Steve Moore speak? Register here.

Please join us Thursday to hear Stephen Moore of The Wall Street Journal, brought to you by the Advance Arkansas Institute.

When: 11:30am to 12:30pm, Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Admission begins 30 minutes prior to event (11:00am)

Admission is free. Lunch can be purchased for $5. Please register in advance here. We urge you to register in advance, whether you want lunch or not.

Where: Arkansas Association of Counties, 1415 West 3rd Street, one block from the state Capitol.

Stephen Moore is an experienced interpreter and analyst of the mysteries of Washington, D.C. Moore is the founder and former president of the Club for Growth. He currently serves as editorial board member and senior economics writer for The Wall Street Journal, splitting his time between Washington, D.C. and New York and focusing on tax and budget policy.

* The first 20 elected officials who arrive will receive a free copy of Moore's newest book, "Who's the Fairest of Them All."

* The first 20 private-citizen attendees will also receive a free copy of the book.


Our Latest Policy Bulletins


Why A Federal Exchange Is the Best of Obamacare's Bad Options

In less than ten months, fifty different Obamacare exchanges (one per state) will be required to start accepting and processing citizen enrollments in health insurance plans; all insurance coverage must begin on January 1, 2014. Federal law requires each exchange to carry out a costly and difficult mission: the task of building the bureaucratic infrastructure each exchange needs to do its job in the time allotted looks next to impossible. AAI's latest paper, "Why A Federal Exchange Is the Best of the Bad Options that Obamacare Gives to Arkansas," discusses the many unnecessary burdens that Governor Beebe's proposal for a "hybrid" or "partnership" exchange will place on Arkansas, such as its gigantic expense, extraordinary bureaucratic burdens, elimination of political responsibility, and enhanced vulnerability to identity theft. 


Is Arkansas Doomed to Pay More for Government?

A candid shot of Professor Noel Campbell, the paper's lead author.Two scholars affiliated with the Advance Arkansas Institute presented a research paper to the state legislature's Joint Performance Review Committee yesterday.

The paper, “Are Arkansas Taxpayers Getting Value for Money? The Impact of Arkansas’s Budget Decisions,” was presented by Professors Noel Campbell and David Mitchell of the University of Central Arkansas. The study found, in summary, that Arkansas has a relatively high-taxing, high-spending government compared to our regional neighbors. Further, Arkansas state government spends a relatively high amount on current consumption, and a relatively low amount on investment goods that would lead to economic growth -- and, furthermore, the investment goods state government does fund seem to produce relatively little. These findings suggest that in order to make Arkansas a welcoming place for workers and job growth, we need a state government that taxes its citizens less and spends its revenue differently. 

According to the presentation, Little Rock families who make $25,000 pay $3,149 per year in state and local taxes. A working-class family in Little Rock therefore pays $409 more than a similar family in nearby Memphis. A Little Rock family making $50,000 pays $4,053 in taxes, putting Little Rock in the top half of taxing localities for the South Central US.

These higher taxes mean three things: 

* Arkansas working families have less money to spend on food, shelter, clothing, and entertainment than their neighbors.

* Working families are less likely to want to settle in Arkansas than in neighboring states.

* Arkansas’s tax and budget policies make its citizens, educated at taxpayer expense, more likely to leave the state.

Another important finding from the presentation is that every $1 of revenue taken in by the state costs $2.65. So it is imperative that state government exercises extreme caution and restraint when deciding to pull dollars out of the private sector.

You can read the paper, Are Arkansas Taxpayers Getting Value for Money? -- or, if you're in a hurry, you can read the three executive summaries of three of the paper's most important points below.

Executive Summary I: Times Are Tough in Little Rock

Executive Summary II: How Government Spending in Arkansas Slows Our State's Job Creation and Economic Growth

Executive Summary III: We're Not Keeping Up With the Joneses


Arkansas's Freedom Scorecard

Today, we release Arkansas’s Freedom Scorecard. The Scorecard provides numerical ratings to each Arkansas legislator in the 88th General Assembly based on votes in six categories: economic freedom, education reform, good government, personal liberty, small government, and tax/budget policy.

The Scorecard also designates approximately the top quarter of legislators in both chambers, as measured by their overall score, as “Friends of Freedom.” We congratulate Rep. Duncan Baird and Rep. Charlie Collins, who tied for the top score in House, as well as Sen. Gilbert Baker, the top scorer in the Senate. (The scores in the two different chambers are not meaningfully comparable against one another.)

The report is not an effort to endorse or condemn any legislator, but to show the public how legislators voted on the values that the Institute seeks to advance. Our ratings demonstrate how the voting records of some legislators advanced freedom and good government, while the votes of others stood in the way of writing those values into law.

The guide does not attempt to label any legislative outcome as “good” or “bad,” but simply measures how well each legislator's voting record reflects the values of free markets, lower taxes, individual responsibility, and limited, transparent, and efficient government. Each reader of the report can decide how important these values are for himself or herself.

To see who's a "Friend of Freedom"; to compare several legislators against each other; to see how your legislator did; or to read information about individual voting records, see the full report here.



Addressing the Arkansas Medicaid Crisis

Arkansas Medicaid costs are reaching a tipping point, with a major funding shortfall projected in the very near future. Lawmakers seeking to reform the system should look to Florida, where a Medicaid reform pilot program has created impressive results in cost savings and improved health outcomes.

In Arkansas, state officials now predict a Medicaid shortfall of around $300 million in FY 2014, which begins a little more than a year from today. As Senator Jonathan Dismang noted in a March 5 Arkansas News Bureau interview, the 2013 legislative session may “set down a $250 million to $400 million bill on the desks of new members and tell them to ‘See what you can figure out.’ ”

In this climate of strained government budgets, lawmakers should pay special attention to Florida’s record of success in controlling Medicaid costs: the Sunshine State has made tremendous strides in reforming Medicaid in recent years to make the program both less expensive and more responsive to client needs.

For more information about Florida's reforms, check out our latest policy paper.