CHARLOTTE, N.C.—As a freshman attendant at the American Legislative Exchange Council Spring 2012 summit, I was assigned to the Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force, which aligns somewhat with my position on the N.H. House Commerce and Consumer Affairs Committee. We considered model legislation bills on insurance, occupational licensing, food safety and labor, several of which could have a future in New Hampshire law. Fellow N.H. Rep. Gary Daniels, who is chairman of our N.H. House Labor Committee, served as chairman of the Commerce Committee in Charlotte.
Strangely, ALEC assigned health insurance legislation to a Health and Human Services Task Force, so I felt torn between the two meetings since the entire reason I joined the House Commerce Committee in New Hampshire was to address health insurance issues, particularly with Obamacare. The way things turned out, however, I was able to straddle both conferences and learn from both, and I have some interesting things to report from my experiences today.
Before I get started, for those who don’t know, ALEC is a national organization of elected state legislators and private sector lobbyists who meet to advance the Jeffersonian principles of free markets, limited government, federalism and individual liberty through a series of periodic summits where members of the public-private partnership work to develop policies and model legislation for advancing these principles. I paid for ALEC membership out of pocket at the cost of $50 a year.
It’s also important to note that my trip expenses to the ALEC Task Force Summit today was reimbursed by private donors, and not by taxpayers. Nevertheless, I minimized expenses for donors as mentioned in my previous post by flying down and back on the same day without a hotel night’s stay and by splitting my cab with Rep. Daniels on the way back to the airport. Besides Rep. Daniels and me, N.H. Reps. Jordan Ulery, Ken Weyler, Andy Renzullo and Kris Roberts were also in attendance.
Before legislators went their separate ways into issue task forces to develop and approve model legislation, we attended a morning workshop featuring reports of three issues of imminent importance to the several states:
The EPA’s power grab
The first session focused on the report “Economy Derailed: State-by-State Impacts of the EPA Regulatory Train Wreck,” by Todd Wynn, available via www.RegulatoryTrainWreck.com. Wynn explained how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is trampling states’ rights with newly proposed Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which violate a federal law that reserves such environmental regulation to the states. He noted an estimated $500,000 to $6 million annual benefit from the regulations at the cost of about $10 million per year. By driving up energy costs to this extent, the federal government is killing jobs and stripping hard-earned money from families that are finding it increasingly difficult to get by, he said.
Besides the newly proposed standards, Wynn noted several other federal programs that have killed jobs and economic opportunity by raising energy costs without any measurable benefit. These included the Utility MACT, Boiler MACT, the Cross State Air Pollution Rule, Cooling Water Intake Regulations, Coal Ash Regulations and Greenhouse Gas regulations, among others.
The weakest economic recovery ever
The second session focused on ALEC’s report, “Rich States, Poor States: A Guide to Economic Prosperity,” by Jonathan Williams, available via www.alec.org. Williams noted that the United States is currently experiencing the weakest recovery ever seen, largely due to excessive government spending, disproportionate public sector growth over private sector growth, a lack of transparency and accountability in government departments and agencies receiving taxpayer funding, unfunded pension liabilities that now approach $4 trillion nationally, and excessive taxes.
Williams said states such as California and Hawaii showed negative population growth despite their idyllic weather due to their excessive government regulations and higher tax burdens. New York and Pennsylvania lost more people than any other states due to their growing regulatory and tax burdens. States with smaller governments and lower tax and regulatory burdens, such as Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, Arizona and Utah, had positive population growth.
In the report, New Hampshire is ranked 34th in economic health among the states and 28th in its general outlook rank going forward, but it was positively mentioned for its “live free or die attitude,” particularly in regard to its success without a personal income or sales tax.
Williams said that states such as New Hampshire without a personal income tax fare better overall than states that have a personal income tax. For example, states without a personal income tax experienced 59 percent growth in Gross State Product verses 42 percent growth in GSP for states with a personal income tax. Likewise, states without an income tax had 81.53 percent tax receipt growth verses states with the tax that had 44.88 percent tax receipt growth. Additionally, states without an income tax showed 5.36 percent job growth verses the negative 1.68 percent job growth seen in income tax states.
The looming Obamacare disaster
The third session focused on the looming economic disaster headed toward the states from the passage of Obamacare. Christie Herrera covered a lot of ground with her presentation, “From the States to the Supreme Court: ALEC’s Health Care Freedom Initiative,” noting that 14 states, including New Hampshire, have already adopted ALEC’s model legislation, which was based on Arizona’s Proposition 106. Essentially, the law prohibits individual mandates that require citizens to buy health insurance as well as the taxes or fines imposed on citizens who don’t comply with the individual mandate. New Hampshire’s version of the initiative was passed into law last year as SB 148, a bill I vigorously supported. A total of 30 states are currently working on versions of the law, and only 6 states have not discussed it.
Herrera explained that Obamacare, technically called by the misnomer, “The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010,” is bad for Americans because it forces individuals and businesses to purchase a government-defined insurance product or pay a fine equivalent to $95 or 1 percent of their personal income or $3,000 per year, per employee. She asked rhetorically what business would hire an additional person who would automatically cost it $3,000 for health insurance, or more?
Herrera also highlighted the act’s 20 new or increased taxes on families and businesses that would increase the cost of health insurance by $1,303 for the average family.
Next, she explained how 18 million more Americans would be forced onto the broken Medicaid system by the Act. Medicaid recipients are already the most prevalent users of emergency rooms for non-emergencies because they can’t find doctors willing to accept Medicaid and work for less than the cost of doing business. So in effect, Obamacare is going to make the problem with emergency room overuse worse across the country. The increased cost to New Hampshire taxpayers will be about 24.3 percent from the additional Medicaid users under the Act.
Finally, Hererra noted how the states’ best defense against Obamacare was to prohibit the implementation of a state health benefits exchange, which was the bureaucratic mechanism used by the federal Act to enforce many aspects of the new law, including the individual mandate. She mentioned my bill in New Hampshire, HB 1297, which would do just that. So far, 20 states, including New Hampshire, have either not acted on the implementation of an exchange, have actively killed exchange legislation or have prohibited the implementation of an exchange. Another 11 states are still talking about what to do. Only 19 states have actually implemented a state exchange.
Lunch Meeting: Government’s Driving Record
For lunch, the Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force featured David Hartgen’s report, “Are Highways Really ‘Crumbling’?: 20-Year Trends in Road Condition,” a study supported by the Reason Foundation. Hartgen’s latest public annual report can be read at the Reason Foundation’s Web site. In general, Hartgen supported the idea that highway access is essential for economic progress, but importantly, he noted that several keys legislatures should follow to ensure a better road system and lower costs:
- Ensure stable, adequate funds, with low diversion of costs or debt payments;
- Use professional management and oversight of highway systems with modern data systems that monitor how spending ties to real improvements;
- Focus on maintenance instead of new construction and devise realistic plans that can be achieved within the envisioned time frame;
- Monitor local roads and bridges;
- Complete projects based on a lifetime benefit/cost analysis; and
- Use a competitive bidding process and good engineers to get the most bang for the buck.
Over the last 20 years, Hartgen noted that national trends show improvement with rural interstate and primary highways, and that urban congestion problems are improving, while highway fatalities are down to 1.09 fatalities per 100 million miles from 2.16 fatalities per 100 million miles. However, locally owned bridges are in worse shape than state-owned bridges, he said, and local-level roads are deteriorating. During the period, New Hampshire’s highways improved on four measures, while the money dispersed for highways remained about the same.
Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force Meeting
The Commerce Task Force considered and adopted 11 pieces of model legislation during its afternoon session, and I personally contributed language to three of the model bills. Two of the model bills; namely, the “Election Accountability for Municipal Employees Act” and “The Public Employees Decertification Elections Act,” already passed the House in New Hampshire this year in a different form, but that bill, HB 1645, was referred to Interim Study in the Senate.
Four bills considered during the session are worth filing in New Hampshire next year:
- The Occupational Licensing Relief and Job Creation Act (ALEC version)
“Occupational licensing increases unemployment by about 1 percent, raises prices by about 15 percent and offers no incremental consumer protection over a competitive market,” according to bill writer Lee McGrath at the Institute for Justice. “This Act ensures that an individual may pursue lawful occupation free from unnecessary occupational regulations, and protects against the use of occupational regulations to reduce competition and increase prices to consumers. When enacting future occupational regulations, this Act requires state legislatures to find real harm, and select the least-restrictive regulation to address that harm. The Act also protects entrepreneurs by shifting the burden to the government to show in court and administrative hearings that it is enforcing occupational laws for health-and-safety reasons, and not solely as a barrier to entry.”
- The Provisional Licenses for Ex-Offenders Act
“This bill,” written by Mark Levin of the Texas Public Policy Foundation, “allows certain ex-offenders to obtain a provisional, or probationary, occupational license if they are otherwise qualified. Research indicates that a person who has been law abiding for at least five years is at a low risk of re-offending. Also, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, ex-offenders who are employed are three-to-five times less likely to reoffend.”
- The Financial Accountability for Public Employee Unions Act
“This Act,” written by Paul Kersey of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, “increases transparency and accountability to taxpayers by requiring public employee unions to annually file an independent audit of all expenditures attributed to the costs of collective bargaining, contract administration and grievance adjustment.” While not the model legislation adopted by ALEC, this language, particularly the language in bold may be more comprehensive and potentially useful and appears to be the source language for the model legislation.
- Food and Nutrition Act
“The Food and Nutrition Act,” written by Rep. Cheryl Grossman of Ohio, “preempts towns, counties and other political subdivisions from enacting regulation in regards to food service establishments based upon or regarding food nutrition information, customer incentive items, and a restaurant’s designation as quick-service, fast food, casual dining or sit-down service.” If New Hampshire were to adopt a law like this, it should also add the text of my effort in Section 3 of HB 1650 from earlier this year.
Health and Human Services Task Force Meeting
The HHS Task Force considered and adopted 5 pieces of model legislation during its afternoon session, and while I was not a member of this Task Force, I joined the meeting as soon as my own Task Force was completed and picked up a packet of the model legislation.
One of the model bills; namely, the “Health Care Price Disclosure Act,” written by Ariz. Sen. Nancy Barto as SB 1384, resembled a bill sponsored by N.H. Rep. Seth Cohn and me this year; namely, HB 1590, requiring the disclosure to patients and prospective patients of the charges for medical procedures. Perhaps Sen. Barto’s language and approach may help advance a New Hampshire bill next year?
Also of interest were the following pieces of Legislation, which should be filed in New Hampshire next year:
- The Charity Health Care Tax Credit Act, by Georgia Sen. Judson Hill
“This Act provides state tax credits for individuals ($1,000/year), families ($2,500/year), and nonprofit charity organizations (up to 75 percent of income tax liability) who provide health care services to the uninsured.” Clearly, since New Hampshire doesn’t have an income tax, this bill would have to be adopted for the state, but businesses that pay profits taxes and enterprise taxes may benefit from a law like this.
- The Zarephath Charity Health Care Act, by Alieta Eck of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons
“This Act provides full malpractice immunity for medical professionals who volunteer at least four hours per week, for four consecutive weeks, at a non-governmental free clinic that provides charity care to the poor.”
After the Task Force meetings concluded, I attended a reception at the Nascar Hall of Fame, where I had interesting conversations with representatives and senators from South Dakota and Michigan. The South Dakotans noted that a good portion of the laws they pass are in response to federal rules and regulations in an attempt to preserve the state’s sovereignty and resist the federal takeover. The Michigan legislators spoke about Right to Work and other free market bills that they’ve been working on. Overall, it was interesting to discuss the various state systems of government around the country. I also had conversations with legislators from Arizona, Ohio, Washington State, Maryland, Oklahoma, Indiana and North Carolina.
My trip home that evening was uneventful, unlike the trip down that morning, and I moved through airport security with ease, sans backscatter scanners or pat downs. I wish all trips were that easy.