Conduit for Action Legislative Session Weekly Scorecard:
Week 2 – January 23-27, 2017
Conduit for Action, Inc. (CFA) promotes the reduction in the size and scope of Arkansas state government with the belief such reduction would proportionately increase individual freedom and liberties and economic prosperity for all Arkansans. During the Arkansas 91st General Assembly regular legislative session, CFA will issue weekly tracking and scoring of relevant bills filed by the legislature. CFA will take a position on those bills and either support or oppose them using the CFA Economic Freedom Filter. This filter looks at whether a piece of legislation promotes more freedom or less freedom by considering: (1) If it grows or shrinks government, (2) Increases/Decreases dependency on government, and/or (3) Spends money the state does not have.
CFA will be highlighting the bills (by topic) recently filed and which may be considered for either a committee or full chamber vote. CFA will additionally be tracking and scoring those bills mentioned. These scores will assist in rankings for the annual Calvin Coolidge Heroes of Freedom awards, highlighting those state legislators promoting legislation which promotes reducing the scope and size of government.
CFA Position: CFA supports comprehensive tax reform which would reduce overall tax rates starting with reducing the tax burden on all business. This would be true job creation. Revenue neutral tax reductions are not tax reductions but wealth redistribution.
Reduction of income tax rates if revenue from those rates is greater than 3% from the previous year
Sponsor: Rep. Joe Farrer (R-H44)
This bill would require that income tax rates must be reduced by 1/8th of one percent if the total income tax revenues collected exceeds the total income tax revenues from the previous year by three percent. This would apply to individuals, trusts, estates, and corporation’s individual income tax rates. In effect, this would mean that when revenues from income taxes have grown more than three percent from the previous year, then a reduction in the income tax rate is automatically triggered.
Creates new earned income tax credit
Sponsor: Rep. Warwick Sabin (D-H33) / Sen. Jake Files (R-S8)
This bill would create a refundable income tax credit at 5% of what a person gets under the federal earned income tax credit (EITC). The refundable tax credit is provided to persons based their taxable income. It is only available to lower income persons and many times results in a welfare check as many who receive the refundable “credit” do not actually pay income taxes, or pay little. It also disincentives a person to work more. When a person works more and then earns more they lose their eligibility for the credit. It is estimated that this would cost the state $40 million. The rate of 5% of what the federal credit, will fluctuate with what the federal government decides. At the federal level, the earned income tax credit is also riddled with fraud. Per a Reason Magazine article, the IRS reports the EITC error and fraud rate was 27 percent, which amounted to $18 billion in overpayments. In effect, this bill would create a new welfare spending program redistributing taxpayer dollars to those who either pay very little, or pay none at all.
CFA Position: CFA opposes legislation that would impose an undue burden on a person to engage in an occupation. The barriers presented through excessive occupational licensing hurt those trying to enter an occupational field or those without resources to adhere to arduous and costly licensing requirements. While some basic occupational licensing may be necessary, it should be limited, well-defined, and specifically tailored to any perceived harm the licensing seeks to prevent. Ideally, occupational licensing should be avoided in favor of a free market system in which consumers pick and choose the winners rather than picked due to excessive occupational licensing through government coercion. Excessive occupational licensing creates less competition leading to higher prices and blocking access for consumers.
A resource on the harms of occupational licensing created by the Arkansas Center for Research in Economics (ACRE) at the University of Central Arkansas can be found HERE.
Licensing of hearing instrument dispensers
Sponsor: Rep. Charlene Fite (R-H80)
This bill will create new licensing and regulation requirements on those engaged in the dispensing of hearing instruments, such as hearing aids. Under this bill the Board of Hearing Instrument Dispensers would have full discretion on what is a “valid” one-year employment internship. Currently just engaging in a one year internship under the supervision of a licensed hearing instrument dispenser or valid audiologist was enough. It is unclear how this would change, but the effect is giving this licensing board more power. This bill also creates new requirements to receive a license to dispense hearing instruments. Application for a license “shall be made in such a manner and in such a form as the board may determine.” Again, this language would give more power to the board. Under this bill a person who owns multiple hearing instrument dispensing establishments must have a separate license for each location. This regulation is harmful, because if a person is qualified and licensed they should be free to use that license statewide.
This bill requires that hearing instrument dispensing establishments be open to inspection “at any time during regular hours of operation” and to then allows the revocation, suspension, or removal of a license. This gives government bureaucrats open authority to show up unannounced to engage in an inspection. This bill goes further by dictating that a hearing instrument establishment that is part of a multi-unit enterprise may only “employ one full time manager” and that is reasonably available to all branches they are managing. This is the government outright saying how many people a private company can employ in a specific capacity. Any persons who have mobile units as defined under this bill would have to then get an additional license to engage in business. If an entity has mobile units, they should be allowed to use their license already secured for their non-mobile units.
Overall, this bill would increase the power of the governing board and impose new and excessive occupational licensing requirements on those who dispense hearing instruments. This could hurt consumers because the cost of adhering to these regulations would be passed on to consumers. This bill could also reduce access to hearing instrument dispensaries by requiring mobile units and separate branches to have their own licenses with no waiver allowed for those already holding a license for a separate establishment.
Reciprocity of optometrists coming from another state
Sponsor: Rep. Michelle Gray (R-H62)
This bill addresses reciprocity of optometrists who are wishing to move into the state of Arkansas to engage in their profession. As with any profession, it is to the benefit of those already engaged in that profession to make it harder for others to engage in that profession. This creates less competition and thus raises prices, benefitting those already in the profession. Therefore, reciprocity changes should always be looked at skeptically as persons already working in the field have every incentive to prevent or make it hard for those out of the state to compete against them. Although this bill does not seem to impose new excessive requirements, there is one key change that could hurt those wishing to move to our state to be an optometrist. Under current law, a person moving here would have had to have practiced for a period of three years in another state. This bill changes that requirement to “three of the past four years” in another state. Many scenarios could present themselves that would prohibit otherwise qualified persons to move to Arkansas to practice optometry. For example, consider a person who practices optometry for several years, has children, and decides to stay home for a few years with their children. If that person then moves to Arkansas and wishes to go back to work as an optometrist, they may be prevented from doing so under this bill. Another example, is a person moves as the spouse of someone in the military. They may not practice optometry during their time away. When they return, or move to Arkansas this bill may prevent this person from freely engaging in their profession. A change back to “three years” rather than “three of the past four years” would alleviate these potential unintended consequences.
CFA Position: CFA supports efforts to expand school choice and efforts to make public education competitive and effective with educating its students to be competitive and productive citizens as its only mission. It is the position of CFA that a successful workforce training effort in a state is simply an effective and successful K-12 education for its students.
School Choice and Education Savings Accounts
Sponsor: Rep. Jim Dotson (R-H93)
This creates an income tax credit for donations to nonprofits that distribute education savings accounts to parents for use against the cost of tuition, tutoring, services and related costs of attending nonpublic schools, and higher education institutions. This is a “School Choice” bill that will unleash the opportunity for students to succeed in Arkansas. This will allow educational opportunities outside of the traditional, government-run, public school system.
For an more in-depth analysis of this bill and its benefits see an article by Drew Catt, the director of State Research and Policy Analysis for EdChoice found HERE.
Restricts use of SNAP benefits to the purchase of foods with sufficient nutritional value
Sponsor: Rep. Mary Bentley (R-H73)
This bill would eliminate junk food, such as candy and sodas, from the items that can be purchased through the Supplemental NUTRITION Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP is still commonly known as food stamps. Although some argue that this is the Government controlling what you can or cannot eat, this bill simply doesn’t make taxpayers pay for unhealthy food. The bill gives taxpayers the nutrition program they agreed to pay for. SNAP recipients will have just as much taxpayer money to spend on groceries. Grocery stores still will have SNAP customers who will purchase just as much groceries from them.
*This scorecard, its contents, and positions on legislation is policy only and does not indicate any personal support for or against a specific legislator-sponsor.