- Empower Mississippi welcomed Steven Randle to the team as the director of justice and work. Randle previously worked at Tougaloo College, the Mississippi Community College Board, and the campaign and legislative staff of then-Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves.
- Center of the American Experiment’s Policy Fellow Katherine Kersten topped the Star Tribune’s most read opinion columns in 2020. The Star Tribune is the largest newspaper in Minnesota.
- The Mississippi Center for Public Policy announced that Douglas Carswell has been appointed as its new President and CEO. Carswell was a Member of Parliament in Britain for 12 years. During his time in Parliament, he co-founded Vote Leave, the official campaign that won the Brexit referendum in Britain.
- Daniel Honchariw, senior policy analyst and director of legislative affairs at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, was named a “Top 10 Conservative Rising Star” by Chuck Muth, a conservative blogger in the state.
- Ken Girardin joined the Yankee Institute as its new policy director. Before joining Yankee, Ken was a fellow and director of strategic initiatives at the Empire Center.
This week on SPN.org
- The Beacon Center celebrated how, as of January 1, 2021, Tennessee’s Hall Tax is no more. The Hall Tax applied a six percent tax to interest and dividend income received by individuals who maintain their legal residence in Tennessee. Tennessee now joins seven other states that have no income tax at all. This will save taxpayers more than $300 million per year.
- The US Department of Labor released a new rule that helps clarify whether someone is classified as an employee or an independent contractor under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The Mackinac Center noted this is a positive move to help safeguard protections for employees while preserving the independence of those working for themselves.
- The Steamboat Institute highlighted how citizen leadership and the Colorado Governor worked together to re-open restaurants in Routt County, Colorado—just in time for Christmas. The Steamboat Institute wrote an op-ed in December encouraging lawmakers across the country to allow in-person dining and let people get back to work.
Solutions from the states: This week’s policy briefs
Economic Freedom of North America 2020
The Buckeye Institute
Social Justice Ideology in Idaho Higher Education
Idaho Freedom Foundation
Balanced Budget Plan: Delivers Services, Saves Taxpayers to Make Economic Growth, Recession Resiliency, and Tax Reform Attainable
Kansas Policy Institute
New and Emerging Obstacles Facing Charter Schools
Pacific Research Institute
Protecting Florida’s Most Vulnerable: Market-Based Reform to Improve Nursing Home Care
The James Madison Institute
Policy news from the states
- The Cardinal Institute highlighted the growing problem of pandemic-caused learning loss in West Virginia and called for increased school choice and educational flexibility.
- The Goldwater Institute noted education funding should follow the student in whatever form of education best meets their needs.
- The Liberty Justice Center is representing a group of Vermont parents that are suing the state and local school districts over unequal access to education under the state’s 150-year-old Town Tuitioning system. The parents say the program violates the state constitution by allowing children residing in certain school districts to attend the school of their choice and denying the same right to others.
- The Beacon Center of Tennessee noted now is the time to reform certificate-of-need laws.
- The Empire Center criticized the lack of transparency within the New York Governor’s seven-member Clinical Advisory Task Force. The coalition was put together to verify the safety and effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines.
- The Texas Public Policy Foundation encouraged the Texas Supreme Court to reject a Houston property-tax law that would put aesthetic housing choices (like the color of paint) under the purview of the government.
Jobs and state economies
- The Caesar Rodney Institute noted that infusions of cash into an economy—like the recent $600 federal stimulus funds—may generate an economic “sugar high,” but they don’t change the essential underlying factors that are causing a recession.
- The Cascade Policy Institute highlighted how more than 85 percent of Oregon businesses will pay higher unemployment insurance rates in 2021.
- Center of the American Experiment encouraged the Minnesota Governor to end his shutdown of Minnesota’s bars and restaurants.
- Center of the American Experiment highlighted how thousands of Minnesotans are unable to pay utility bills in the pandemic.
- The Freedom Foundation is supporting a family-owned restaurant in Oregon that decided to remain open, despite the Oregon Governor’s shutdown order. Watch the video on the story here.
- The Foundation for Government Accountability shared the myths and facts on unemployment insurance.
- The Mackinac Center pointed out states have higher unemployment when governors force more businesses to close.
- The Maine Policy Institute analyzed the impact the coronavirus and related shutdowns had on Maine’s economy and labor force.
- The Pelican Institute considered the latest Louisiana employment numbers and pointed out the decline in the unemployment rate was caused in part by many eligible workers leaving the workforce completely.
- The Show-Me Institute highlighted a Missouri bar that is suing the state for the arbitrary nature of coronavirus lockdown measures.
- The Tax Education of Iowa outlined solutions to make Iowa more friendly to businesses.
State budgets and spending
- The Cascade Policy Institute demonstrated how new cigarette taxes will disproportionately harm low-income people while failing to offer the benefits the tax claims to bring.
- The Commonwealth Foundation listed five problems with Pennsylvania’s end-of-year budget.
- Empower Mississippi highlighted Tennessee’s good financial position and its consistent budgetary surplus despite no income tax. Empower encouraged Mississippi to imitate that success by eliminating its state income tax.
- The Garden State Initiative commended a proposal in the New Jersey Legislature to consolidate some of New Jersey’s 14 agencies that deal with transportation.
- Illinois Policy Institute argued “sin taxes” have failed to improve Illinoisans’ health while hurting low-income consumers the most.
- The Libertas Institute highlighted a bill in the Utah Senate that would provide property tax relief for senior citizens, especially those living on fixed income.
- The Yankee Institute highlighted how Connecticut lawmakers will face lower revenue, budget deficits, and a tight credit crunch in the upcoming the 2021 legislative session.
- The Alabama Policy Institute discussed some of the growing dystopian dangers of new technologies, such as artificial intelligence, and their roles in policing.
- As a campaign to recall the California Governor gains steam, California Policy Center called for a new coalition of allies to work together to realign California’s politics.
- Empower Mississippi signaled their support for legislation that would require five Mississippi agencies to begin a regulatory reduction program over the next three years.
- The Georgia Center for Opportunity considered Georgia’s runoff elections and pointed out that elected officials do not hold the absolute power to solve our problems. Peoples’ lives meaningfully improve locally when neighbors help neighbors.
- The Maryland Public Policy Institute considered the growing divide in the Republican Party and argued principle should trump partisanship.
- On The Full Platter podcast, the Platte Institute discussed the beginning of Nebraska’s 2021 legislative session.
- The Texas Public Policy Foundation and Congressman Michael McCaul launched the Election Protection Project, an initiative to enhance and bolster the security and integrity of our nation’s election system.
- The Washington Policy Center sent a letter to the Washington Governor outlining an alternative to his expensive climate agenda.
Think tanks in the news
- Rather than impeach the Kentucky Governor, the Bluegrass Institute argued the state legislature should focus its energies on passing or amending laws curbing the use of emergency powers in the future by the office of the governor—whomever the occupant.
- Commonwealth Foundation noted Pennsylvania lawmakers must challenge endless coronavirus lockdowns in 2021.
- Empower Mississippi President Russ Latino outlined 2021 legislative goals for Mississippi, which include repealing the state income tax, reforming occupational licensing, and reducing the state’s regulatory burden.The Epoch Times shared a story about an Oregon restaurant that is appealing a fine for staying open during the pandemic. The Freedom Foundation is representing the restaurant owners in the lawsuit.
- The Georgia Public Policy Foundation considered if a true reordering of American politics is coming.
- In The Wall Street Journal, the Goldwater Institute highlighted the problem with “release time”—where government workers are paid not to perform the jobs they were hired to do, and instead work for private labor unions.
- On the Mike Buck Show, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii considered why so many people are leaving Hawaii.
- In the Juneau Empire, the Institute for Justice called for increased transparency in Alaska’s civil asset forfeitures.
- The John Locke Foundation pointed out America’s tax system is either modestly or moderately progressive.
- The John Locke Foundation considered five questions about the coming year in North Carolina politics.
- In The Washington Post, the Maryland Public Policy Institute considered if Maryland Democrats will “tax into the wind” in the upcoming legislative session.
- The Pacific Research Institute considered if Los Angeles or San Francisco could become the next Detroit.
Events and Opportunities
A Delicate Balance: Liberty & Security During National Crises
Pacific Legal Foundation | January 8, 2021
Legislative Agenda For a Better Carolina
John Locke Foundation | January 11, 2021
Texas Public Policy Foundation | Jan. 13-15, 2021
Talking Michigan Taxes: Potential Increases and Reforms in 2021
Mackinac Center | January 19, 2021
Coming Together or Breaking Apart: The Case Against Cancel Culture
Pacific Legal Foundation | January 22, 2021
Our Path Forward: Reviving America After a Year of Chaos
Pacific Legal Foundation | January 29, 2021