Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gary Palmer: Don’t look to Washington, look to the states

  In the immediate aftermath of the 2012 elections, many people concluded that the conservative movement was all but lost. But who would have thought that only five weeks after the election, conservatives would be celebrating a landmark victory?

  Following the re-election of President Barack Obama and the Republican embarrassment in the U.S. Senate races no one would have believed that any state would be able to muster support for passage of right-to-work legislation in any state. Yet on December 11th, in spite of fierce opposition from Michigan labor unions, the Michigan State Legislature passed legislation that Gov. Rick Snyder signed making Michigan the 24th right-to-work state.

  In 2011, the Wisconsin Legislature passed right-to-work legislation that resulted in massive protests by labor unions there. Even though the labor unions threatened retribution, state legislators and Governor Scott Walker stood firm. The unions initiated recall elections that resulted in the Republican loss of majority in the Wisconsin State Senate, but the Republicans regained the majority in the 2012 election. In addition, the unions’ effort to defeat Gov. Walker in a recall not only failed, but he was re-elected by a greater margin in the recall than when he was elected in the 2010 general election.

  Moreover, despite disruptive actions of the unions, Indiana followed Wisconsin’s lead and passed their own right-to-work law.

  The reason the Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan right-to-work victories are so important is that it is proof that conservatives can still win.

  Advancing workers’ freedom is not the only issue where governors and state legislatures have taken a strong stand. As of January 4th, there are 26 states, including Alabama, that are refusing to establish state health exchanges and seven other states that are still undecided. If governors in these states maintain their commitment to refuse to establish the health exchanges, it appears that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) cannot be fully implemented.

  Without the exchanges, the key components of the law such as the premium-assistance tax credits cannot be implemented. The law clearly restricts the administration of the premium-assistance tax credits to state-run exchanges. Despite the Obama Administration’s arguments to the contrary, there is no clear parallel authority in the law for the federal government to administer the credits or even impose taxes on those who refuse to participate if the state exchanges do not exist.

  In addition, the state of Oklahoma has a lawsuit challenging the recent rule that authorizes the IRS to distribute tax credits and subsidies through federally-operated health insurance exchanges in states that refuse to establish their own exchanges.  Oklahoma’s Attorney General Scott Pruitt is making the case that the IRS rule is unconstitutional because it violates a provision in the ACA that explicitly denies subsidies and credits to states who fail to comply. Moreover, the ACA specifies that the fines and penalties will apply only to individuals or companies eligible to receive the tax credits and subsidies. According to the Oklahoma suit, If a state does not set up the exchange, the residents of that state are not eligible to receive the tax credits and subsidies and therefore, are not subject to the fines and penalties. Therefore, the federal government has no legal authority to implement either if a state doesn’t establish a health exchange.

  States are also taking action to protect their citizens’ Second Amendment rights in opposition to President Obama and the Democrats’ efforts to impose expansive gun control laws and some states are preparing to challenge the Obama Administration on energy and environmental policies that are killing their economies.

  The states form a strong line of defense against the liberal agenda that the Obama Administration is trying shove down our throats.  We must make a stand at the state level to defend our freedom against the federal government’s encroachments. The fact that there are strong and courageous state leaders who are willing to take on tough issues against powerful opposition should be of great encouragement to conservatives to stay the course and not give up.

  The bottom line is that the battle for freedom is not over; it is just going to be fought in places other than Washington, D.C.

  About the author: Gary Palmer is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.

  This article was published by the Alabama Policy Institute.

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