Policy Documents

The Leaflet - 2012 Emerging Issues Forum Videos

September 13, 2012

On August 9, The Heartland Institute hosted its eighth Emerging Issues Forum, a gathering of state elected officials, public policy experts, and Heartland senior staff to discuss the issues likely to be on the agenda in 2013 and beyond. The event was a huge success, attracting more than 85 elected officials from at least 30 different states. Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh started the day with a speech that brought attendees to their feet. Prof. Robert McDonald of the U.S. Military Academy gave a vivid presentation on “The Revolution for Liberty.”

The event featured panels covering important issues such as “The Future of Energy In America”, “Transforming Education”, “A Heartland Tax Rebellion”, and “How Obamacare Will Affect the States”. You can view the videos from the Emerging Issues Forum on our YouTube page. I hope you consider watching some of them, and perhaps forwarding the links to people you know.

One of the many great testimonials from lawmakers came from Iowa State Senator Nancy Boettger, who said, “Over my 18 years as a state senator I have attended many meetings on the issues we are contemplating. The Heartland Institute’s Emerging Issues Forum is one of the best and their resources are invaluable. I think The Heartland Institute’s meetings are some of the best learning opportunities out there. I am always grateful for the opportunity to attend. Their educational publications are so valuable and useful to legislators.”

We hope even more of you will attend the 2013 Emerging Issues Forum, but in the meantime, if you are interested in having The Heartland Institute host a Capitol Policy Forum in your state for you and your colleagues please contact Heartland’s manager of external relations, Kendall Antekeier, at kantekeier@heartland.org.

This week’s edition of The Leaflet features research and commentary addressing food stamps, hydraulic fracturing and air quality, the Chicago teacher strike, broadband taxes, Idaho unemployment insurance, and Hobby Lobby suing over the contraceptive mandate.

Respectfully,

John Nothdurft
Director - Government Relations
The Heartland Institute

 

Lead Story

Research & Commentary: Food Stamp Reform
Budget & Tax

In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examines the SNAP program, its rapid growth, and proposed reforms.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as the Food Stamp program, has become one of the fastest-growing welfare programs of the U.S. government. SNAP is administered by the Department of Agriculture, and the benefits are distributed by individual states. Currently, SNAP is the fourth-largest means-tested program for low-income families and individuals.

Eligibility has expanded considerably since the program’s inception, leading to huge growth in the number of people receiving SNAP benefits. When the Food Stamp program was first implemented nationally in the 1970s, just one in 50 Americans participated. Today, according to the Congressional Bridget Office, one in seven Americans receive SNAP benefits, at a total cost of more than $6 billion per month. SNAP costs have doubled in the past five years, from $33 billion in 2006 to $78 billion in 2011. In that brief period, the number of people receiving SNAP benefits increased from 26 million to 45 million.

Part of this inflation is caused by states that use categorical eligibility for SNAP: Recipients are determined not by the program’s income and asset limitations but by participation in other cash welfare assistance programs, which can have more relaxed eligibility standards. SNAP’s funding structure also inflates the recipient population: States have an incentive to increase the number of participants because the federal money they receive increases automatically as more people enroll.

Efforts to reform SNAP were considered in amendments to the 2012 Farm Bill. Those reforms would have ended the bonuses states receive when they increase their food stamp participation. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that change could save $480 million over 10 years. A second amendment would have restored asset tests designed to ensure SNAP recipients meet eligibility requirements. That was estimated to save $11 billion over 10 years. Both amendments failed in the Senate.

Reforms ensuring that recipients are both truly eligible and actively seeking work are needed. Both Congress and state legislators should take a closer look at such reforms before SNAP expenditures spiral out of control.

 

What We're Working On 

Research & Commentary: Hydraulic Fracturing and Air Quality
Environment

In this Research & Commentary, Heartland Policy Analyst Taylor Smith assesses the air pollution risks of oil and gas exploration, particularly associated with hydraulic fracturing. As claims over groundwater contamination begin to lose traction, anti-fracking groups have shifted their attack, saying natural gas wells emit harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs), threatening residents who live nearby. But Taylor argues no state or federal regulator has found these emissions to be at any level worthy of concern.

Taylor explains, “Drilling companies already have to comply with federal air standards for hydraulically fractured natural gas wells, as required by the Clean Air Act. The U.S. Environmental Agency expects those rules will reduce VOC emissions in more than 11,000 new hydraulic fractured gas wells each year by almost 95 percent.”


Heartland Daily Podcast: Chicago Teachers Union Strike
Education

In the new Heartland Daily Podcast, Jim Lakely interviews Heartland Research Fellow Joy Pullmann about the Chicago Teachers Union and its refusal to work this week in the nation’s third largest school district. According to Joy, the main subject of contention is teacher evaluation.

Joy says Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, along with President Barack Obama, supports a system of student achievement based on how the student progresses year after year, regardless of other factors influencing that student. For example, if a child enters 5th grade at a 2nd grade reading level, and by the end of the year that child is reading at a 3rd grade level, that progress would be considered a teacher success. The Chicago Teachers Union opposes evaluating teachers based on how their students progress through the year.

 

Research & Commentary: The Connect America Fund and Broadband Internet Taxes
Telecom

In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examines the Connect America Fund and the effects of Internet service taxes. Recently the FCC has proposed expanding the CAF by creating a new fee to be tacked onto the bills of all broadband Internet connections nationwide, even though nearly the entire nation (around 95 percent) already has access to broadband.

Using the Universal Service Fund as a model for the CAF is problematic given the USF’s mixed success in improving telecommunications services. The proposed broadband Internet tax would hit broadband users everywhere for billions of dollars of new government spending. This would put an unnecessary tax on consumers to do something the market is already handling quite effectively.

 

Research & Commentary: Idaho Unemployment Insurance and Overpayments
Finance, Insurance and Real Estate

In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examined Idaho’s unemployment system and the problems it faces from unemployment insurance overpayments. Idaho, like most U.S. states, has struggled to keep its unemployment insurance fund solvent. Matthews notes, “recent news about the increasing level of fraud and overpayments in the state’s unemployment system should concern everyone. Although the state has successfully reclaimed around $24.8 million in unemployment insurance overpayments since 2007 through new initiatives to find and penalize abusers, the Idaho Department of Labor forecasts there will be $13 million in overpayments in 2012, well above the five-year average of $9.8 million, according to the Associated Press.”

 

Hobby Lobby Files Suit Over HHS Contraceptive Mandate
Health Care

Kendall Antekeier reveals a new addition to the current 28 lawsuits against the federal health care law’s contraceptive mandate. Hobby Lobby is the first non-Catholic-owned private company to file suit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for requiring the company to provide the “morning after” and “week after” pill to employees. CEO and Founder David Green states, “By being required to make a choice between sacrificing our faith or paying millions of dollars in fines, we essentially must choose which poison pill to swallow. We simply cannot abandon our religious beliefs to comply with this mandate.”

 

 

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Events

Heartland’s Emerging Issues Call

Topic: How Obamacare will affect doctors and patient care
Wednesday, October 3, 2012,

1:00 PM EST
Speaker: Richard Dolinar, M.D.

Phone number: 312/445-3641
Pin: 37661

RSVP by emailing Robin Knox at rknox@heartland.org

 

 

Policy Newspaper 

School Reform News

The September issue of School Reform News reports more than 10,000 students applied to attend private schools this fall under Louisiana’s statewide voucher program, five times more than State Superintendent John White anticipated. Kevin Kane, president of the Pelican Institute for Public Policy, wasn’t caught off guard: “It comes as no surprise so many families are seeking out better alternatives for their children,” he said.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as the Food Stamp program, has become one of the fastest-growing welfare programs of the U.S. government. SNAP is administered by the Department of Agriculture, and the benefits are distributed by individual states. Currently, SNAP is the fourth-largest means-tested program for low-income families and individuals.

Eligibility has expanded considerably since the program’s inception, leading to huge growth in the number of people receiving SNAP benefits. When the Food Stamp program was first implemented nationally in the 1970s, just one in 50 Americans participated. Today, according to the Congressional Bridget Office, one in seven Americans receive SNAP benefits, at a total cost of more than $6 billion per month. SNAP costs have doubled in the past five years, from $33 billion in 2006 to $78 billion in 2011. In that brief period, the number of people receiving SNAP benefits increased from 26 million to 45 million.

Part of this inflation is caused by states that use categorical eligibility for SNAP: Recipients are determined not by the program’s income and asset limitations but by participation in other cash welfare assistance programs, which can have more relaxed eligibility standards. SNAP’s funding structure also inflates the recipient population: States have an incentive to increase the number of participants because the federal money they receive increases automatically as more people enroll.

Efforts to reform SNAP were considered in amendments to the 2012 Farm Bill. Those reforms would have ended the bonuses states receive when they increase their food stamp participation. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that change could save $480 million over 10 years. A second amendment would have restored asset tests designed to ensure SNAP recipients meet eligibility requirements. That was estimated to save $11 billion over 10 years. Both amendments failed in the Senate.

Reforms ensuring that recipients are both truly eligible and actively seeking work are needed. Both Congress and state legislators should take a closer look at such reforms before SNAP expenditures spiral out of control.