By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Alabama Policy Institute (API) President Gary Palmer admits as he wrote his API end year report, “For conservatives, the election was a major disappointment.”
President Palmer said, “However, it is also a fact that we cannot let it become a self-defeating discouragement …we have to get up and get back to work because we have a lot to do. All is not lost. The Republicans still control the U.S. House of Representatives and there are 30 states with Republican governors, the most in 12 years. Republicans control both chambers of legislatures in 26 states and one chamber in four others, regained the State Senate in Wisconsin, and took both chambers in the Arkansas Legislature for the first time since 1887. Holding this many governorships and state legislatures is critical. For at least the next two years, the battle for conservative principles will be fought largely at the state level.”
Palmer said that the battle over Obamacare is still being fought, the latest Kaiser Foundation poll shows only 38% support it, and a new law suit has been filed by the Pacific Legal Foundation challenging its constitutionality. Meanwhile, at least eight states, including Alabama, have declared that they will not set up health insurance exchanges.
Pres. Palmer said, “API will be in the middle of every effort against more encroachments by the federal government on issues from health care to education to energy policy while also working on critical state issues.”
Palmer said that API’s policy staff in 2012 provided Alabama legislators with a solid analysis of health exchanges and the long-term ramifications of setting them up. Palmer said API, “API directly confronted efforts to set up an Alabama-run health insurance exchange under The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). An Alabama-run exchange under the PPACA would cost the state anywhere from $34-$50 million annually, according to the Alabama Health Insurance Exchange Study Commission, and would be forced to meet the same standards as a federally-run exchange in Alabama.”
Pres. Palmer praised Alabama Governor Robert Bentley’s “wise decision” not to expand the Medicaid Program in the state. Palmer said, “With Alabama again facing budget concerns in 2012, API pushed back against expanding Medicaid under PPACA. The Supreme Court’s PPACA decision opened the door for Alabama to reject an expansion of Medicaid that would cost the cash-strapped state anywhere from $470 to $693 million from 2014 to 2019. Alabama should not expand any program where it already struggles to meet its current obligations.”
Other examples of API research and policy recommendations being acted upon by legislators in 2012 Palmer pointed to include: prison reforms, legislative pay, and health Insurance exchanges.
Pres. Palmer said that API did have some set legislative setbacks. Among these were charter schools. “API again led the way in pushing for quality public charter schools in areas with the poorest educational outcomes in the state. This year’s charter school legislation started with a strong footing, including many provisions based on API recommendations. However, the legislative process combined with intense opposition from the Alabama Education Association (AEA), Alabama’s education union, to create a convoluted mess that would have virtually assured there would be no charter schools in Alabama in the foreseeable future.”
Pres. Palmer believes that the decline in print media presents an opportunity for API to increase its influence. Palmer said, “With three of the four major newspapers in Alabama reducing distribution of a print version to just three days a week, API has a great opportunity to reach even more people through a newly designed website and our social media outreach. Cutbacks in print media personnel also give API a greater opportunity to provide analysis and insight on key issues to overburdened reporters trying to find credible sources for stories. For instance, Cameron Smith, API’s Policy Director and General Counsel, has been asked by The Birmingham News to write weekly for AL.com.”
Palmer said that in addition to their major studies, API published 54 Guide to the Issues online in 2012, introduced By the Numbers, a new feature designed to consolidate a current issue into a one-page infographic that presents facts and statistics without editorializing, and increased their web presence with greater coverage and a new website.
Palmer said, “In 2013, we will continue to provide critical reports and insights that can guide state legislators in their efforts to do what is best for Alabama. We make a major difference in Alabama and have an impact at the national level as well. Our recommendations on energy policy have gained national attention and our draft plan for immigration reform has also been well received.” “In terms of radio, TV, and national media coverage, 2012 was a record year with coverage of API reports and events carried by every major state media outlet as well as national and international coverage.”
Pres. Palmer said, “We will be working on issues of immediate importance, while at the same time continuing to invest in generational change through an effort to reach college-age students via a summer seminar at Samford University, cosponsored by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute and API. The inaugural First Principles of Freedom summer program was held July 2012 and attracted students from as far away as Canada and Connecticut.” A second conference has already been scheduled for July 2013.
Palmer said, “Frankly, the disappointment of the outcome of the election hangs over us like a dark cloud, myself included. But we cannot let that dark cloud overshadow the fact that 2012 has been one of the most productive years in API’s 23-year history. We have never been needed more than we will be in 2013. Alabama will be one of the states that will become a line of defense against the federal government policies that threaten our economic well-being and our freedom.”