Alabama

Where Each State Stands on Medicaid Expansion

Where Each State Stands on Medicaid Expansion

The Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allowed states to opt out of the law’s Medicaid expansion, leaving each state’s decision to participate in the hands of the nation’s governors and state leaders.

A roundup of what each state’s leadership has said about their Medicaid plans

February 27, 2013 Text last updated on Feb. 26, 2013, at 3:45 p.m. ETmedicaid_map

For an interactive map where you can hover your cursor over a state to see the policy of the state, please click here.
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The Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) allowed states to opt out of the law’s Medicaid expansion, leaving each state’s decision to participate in the hands of the nation’s governors and state leaders.

Based on lawmakers’ statements, press releases, and media coverage, the Daily Briefing and American Health Line editorial teams have rounded up where each state currently stands on the expansion.

NOT PARTICIPATING (14 states)

  • Alabama*: Gov. Robert Bentley (R) on Nov. 13 announced that Alabama will not participate in the Medicaid expansion “because we simply cannot afford it” (Gadsden Times, 11/13; Lyman, Montgomery Advertiser, 11/13).
  • Georgia*: Gov. Nathan Deal (R) in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Politico/11 Alive interview on Aug. 28 said, “No, I do not have any intentions of expanding Medicaid,” adding, “I think that is something our state cannot afford.” When asked about the insurance exchanges, Deal said “we do have a time frame for making the decision on that I think, especially on the exchanges,” adding that “we have just a few days after the election in order to make a final determination on that” (Wingfield, “Kyle Wingfield,” Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/28).
  • Idaho*: Gov. C.L. Otter (R) in his 2013 State of the State address delivered on Jan. 7 said that while “there is broad agreement that the existing Medicaid program is broken,” the state “face[s] no immediate federal deadline” to address the situation. He added, “We have time to do this right … [s]o I’m seeking no expansion of” the program. Otter said he’s instructed the state Health and Welfare director to “flesh out a plan” that focuses on potential costs, savings and economic impact, which he plans to introduce in 2014 (Ritter Saunders, Boise State Public Radio, 1/7; Young, Huffington Post, 1/7; Petcash, KTVB, 1/7).
  • Iowa*: Gov. Terry Branstad (R) on Feb. 23 said that he has informed HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that he will not expand Medicaid in Iowa because of concerns that the expansion “will either collapse or the burden will be pushed onto the states in a very significant way.” Instead, Branstad pressed Sebelius for a federal waiver to continue IowaCare, a health care program that provides limited benefits to 70,000 low-income state residents (AP/Modern Healthcare, 2/24).
  • Louisiana*: Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) in an NBC “Meet the Press” interview on July 1 said, “Every governor’s got two critical decisions to make. One is do we set up these exchanges? And, secondly, do we expand Medicaid? And, no, in Louisiana, we’re not doing either one of those things.” However, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson (D) and other Democratic leaders after the Nov. 6 election urged Jindal to reconsider his opposition or the state will not be forced to accept a “one-size-fits-all” plan, CBC News “Money Watch” reports (Barrow, New Orleans Times-Picayune, 7/2; “Money Watch,” CBS News, 11/9).
  • Maine*: Gov. Paul LePage (R) on Nov. 16 said that Maine will not participate in the Medicaid expansion. He called the expansion and the state-based insurance exchanges a “degradation of our nation’s premier health care system” (Mistler, Kennebec Journal, 11/16).
  • Mississippi*: Gov. Phil Bryant (R) on Nov. 7 said Mississippi will not participate in the Medicaid expansion, reiterating previous statements that he had made about the ACA provision (Pender/Hall, Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 11/7).
  • North Carolina: Gov. Pat McCrory (R) on Feb. 12 announced that his state will not expand Medicaid or establish its own health insurance marketplace under the Affordable Care Act. McCrory said state officials conducted a comprehensive analysis to determine the advantages and disadvantages of expanding Medicaid and the right type of exchange option in the state, and concluded that it is “abundantly clear that North Carolina is not ready to expand the Medicaid system and that we should utilize a federal exchange.” He said the review included discussions with other governors, White House officials, health care providers, and leaders in the state Legislature (AP/Myrtle Beach Sun News, 2/12; Binker/Burns, “@NCCapitol,” WRAL, 2/12; Cornatzer, Raleigh News & Observer, 2/12).
  • Oklahoma: Gov. Mary Fallin (R) on Nov. 19 said Oklahoma will not participate in the Medicaid expansion. “Oklahoma will not be participating in the Obama Administration’s proposed expansion of Medicaid,” she said in a statement. She noted that the program would cost the state as much as $475 million over the next eight years (Greene, Tulsa World, 11/19).
  • Pennsylvania*: Gov. Tom Corbett (R) on Feb. 5 sent a letter to HHS saying he “cannot recommend a dramatic Medicaid expansion” in Pennsylvania because “it would be financially unsustainable for Pennsylvania taxpayers.” He noted that the expansion would necessitate “a large tax increase on Pennsylvania families” (Tolland, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2/5).
  • South Carolina*: Gov. Nikki Haley (R) on July 1 announced via Facebook that South Carolina “will NOT expand Medicaid, or participate in any health exchanges.” The state Legislature is expected to make a decision on the Medicaid expansion during the 2013 session (Gov. Haley Facebook page, 7/1; Holleman, Columbia State, 11/9).
  • South Dakota: Gov. Dennis Daugaard (R) in his annual budget address on Dec. 4 said he does not plan to participate in the Medicaid expansion. “I really think it would be premature to expand this year,” he said, adding that he hoped for more flexibility for the state program (Montgomery, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, 12/4).
  • Texas*: Gov. Rick Perry (R) in a statement on July 9 said, “If anyone was in doubt, we in Texas have no intention to implement so-called state exchanges or to expand Medicaid under ObamaCare.” Perry also sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on July 9 asserting this position. The Dallas Morning News reported that on Nov. 8, Perry reiterated his opposition to the expansion, saying, “Nothing changes from our perspective” (Office of Gov. Perry release, 7/9; Gov. Perry letter, 7/9; Garrett, Dallas Morning News, 11/11).
  • Wisconsin*: Gov. Scott Walker (R) on Feb. 13 announced his rejection of the Medicaid expansion. He proposed an alternative plan that would expand coverage to low-income state residents through private health care exchanges (Spicuzza, Wisconsin State Journal, 2/13).

LEANING TOWARD NOT PARTICIPATING (2 states)

  • Nebraska*: Gov. Dave Heineman (R) in a statement on his website on June 28 said, “As I have said repeatedly, if this unfunded Medicaid expansion is implemented, state aid to education and funding for the University of Nebraska will be cut or taxes will be increased. If some state senators want to increase taxes or cut education funding, I will oppose them.” Heineman on July 11 sent a letter to state lawmakers saying the state could not afford the expansion, but he stopped short of saying that the state will not participate in the expansion, according to Reuters (Office of Gov. Heineman release, 6/28; Wisniewski, Reuters, 7/11).
  • Wyoming*: Gov. Matt Mead (R) on Nov. 30 recommended that Wyoming not participate in the Medicaid expansion, but added that his position could change in the future and urged “everyone to keep an open mind on this.” The state legislature will make the final decision on whether to expand the program, the AP/Jackson Hole Daily reports (Brown, Wyoming Tribune Eagle, 12/1; Graham, AP/Jackson Hole Daily, 12/1).

LEANING TOWARD PARTICIPATING (4 states)

  • Kentucky: Gov. Steve Beshear (D) when asked about the expansion in July said, “If there is a way that we can afford that will get more coverage for more Kentuckians, I’m for it.” However, state lawmakers are putting pressure on Beshear to reject the expansion (Office of Gov. Beshear release, 6/28; AP/Evansville Courier & Press, 6/28; AP/Evansville Courier & Press, 7/17; Autry, WYU, 7/5; Cross, Louisville Courier-Journal, 6/29).
  • New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in a statement on his website on June 28 said he was “pleased the Supreme Court upheld the [ACA]” and looks forward “to continuing to work together with the Obama administration to ensure accessible, quality care for all New Yorkers.” On July 26, Danielle Holahan—project director for New York’s health insurance exchange planning—said the state “largely meet[s] the federal required Medicaid levels already.” Although Cuomo’s office has not officially announced a decision, the Associated Press reported on Nov. 13 that New York will expand Medicaid (Office Gov. Cuomo release, 6/28; Grant, North Country Public Radio, 7/27; Delli Santi/Mulvihill, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 11/13).
  • Oregon: Gov. John Kitzhaber (D) said on June 28 that he is confident that the Oregon Legislature will approve a state Medicaid decision. In an interview with the Oregonian just hours after the Supreme Court issued its ruling on the ACA, Kitzhaber said, “We’ll make a decision on whether or not to expand the Medicaid program really based on, I think, the resources we have available in the general fund for that purpose going forward” (Budnick, Oregonian, 6/28).
  • Virginia: The House of Delegates and Senate on Feb. 23 amended the state budget to include the ability to expand the state’s Medicaid program. According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the move gives “a green light” to talks between state and federal officials over flexibility in the Medicaid program. Although Medicaid expansion supporters have hailed the legislative action as a victory, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) on Feb. 23 said, “As long as I’m governor, there’s not going to be any Medicaid expansion unless there is sustainable, long-lasting, cost-saving reforms” (Martz, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 2/24).

PARTICIPATING (24 states and the District of Columbia)

  • Arizona*: Gov. Jan Brewer (R) in her 2013 State of the State speech, delivered on Jan. 14, announced that Arizona will participate in the Medicaid expansion, which would extend health care services to an estimated 300,000 more state residents. Brewer noted that the expansion plan will “include a circuit-breaker that automatically” would reduce enrollment if federal reimbursement rates decrease. Brewer was expected to offer further details of the plan in her budget proposal, which is subject to approval by the Republican-controlled Legislature (Christie, AP/Sacramento Bee, 1/14; Sanders/Wingett Sanchez, Arizona Republic, 1/14; Fischer, Sierra Vista Herald, 1/14; Safier, Tucson Citizen, 1/14).
  • Arkansas: Gov. Mike Beebe (D) on Sept. 11 said he planned to participate in the Medicaid expansion, the Associated Press reports. According to the AP, Beebe agreed to participate in the expansion after officials assured him the state could opt out later if it faces a financial crunch. Beebe said, “I’m for it. I think it’s good for our people because it’s helping folks that don’t have insurance now that are working their tails off. They’re not sitting on a couch somewhere asking for something” (Brantley, Arkansas Times, 9/11).
  • California: Gov. Jerry Brown (D) in a statement on June 28 said the Supreme Court’s ruling “removes the last roadblock to fulfilling President Obama’s historic plan to bring health care to millions of uninsured citizens.” California got a head start on expanding its Medicaid program in November 2010 with its “Bridge to Reform” program, which aimed to bring at least two million uninsured Californians into Medicaid (Office of Gov. Brown release, 6/28; DeBord, “KPCC News,” KPCC, 6/28).
  • Colorado*: Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) on Jan. 3 announced that his state will participate in the expansion. In a news release, his office said the move would extend Medicaid coverage to about 160,000 low-income residents and save Colorado an estimated $280 million over 10 years without affecting the state’s general fund (Stokols, KDVR, 1/3; Wyatt, AP/Denver Post, 1/3).
  • Connecticut: Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) was among the first governors to sign up for the Medicaid expansion after the ACA was enacted in March 2010. Soon after the Supreme Court ruling on June 28, Malloy said “it’s great … [and a] very important decision for the people of Connecticut. 500,000 people would have lost coverage if Republicans had their way” (Davis, WTNH, 6/28).
  • Delaware: Gov. Jack Markell (D) in a statement on June 28 said, “The Supreme Court’s ruling enables Delaware to continue to implement provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to provide access to health care benefits for Delawareans.” He added, “On the Medicaid front, Delaware already voluntarily expanded the state’s Medicaid coverage program in 1996 to cover many Delawareans not previously covered” (Office of Gov. Markell release, 6/28).
  • District of Columbia: D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray (D) in a statement on June 28 said, “The District is not at risk of losing any Medicaid funding as a result of this ruling, because District officials have already begun implementation of the ACA’s Medicaid-expansion provisions and will continue to implement the expansion” (Executive Office of the Mayor release, 6/28).
  • Florida*: Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Feb. 20 announced that the state will participate in the ACA’s Medicaid expansion, citing HHS’s conditional support for a waiver to shift most of the state’s Medicaid beneficiaries into a managed-care program. However, Scott said that Florida would only participate in the expansion for three years before reevaluating the decision. Supporters of the ACA heralded Florida’s shift as a major reversal; Scott mounted his successful campaign for governor in 2010, in part, by being one of the nation’s foremost critics of President Obama’s planned health reforms (Kennedy/Fineout, Associated Press, 2/20; Office of Gov. Scott release, 2/20).
  • Hawaii: Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D) in a statement on June 28 welcomed the Supreme Court’s ruling and said the ACA “is our ally” in the effort to “support a health care system that ensures high quality, safety and sustainable costs.” Pat McManaman, director of the state Department of Human Services, said Hawaii’s Medicaid eligibility requirements in July would fall in line with the law’ guidelines, meaning an additional 24,000 people will be eligible for the program by 2014 (Office of Gov. Abercrombie release, 6/28; Garcia, AP/CBS News, 6/29).
  • Illinois: Gov. Pat Quinn (D) on June 28 praised the court’s decision and said he “will continue to work with President Obama to help working families get the healthcare coverage they need,” including expanding Medicaid (Office of the Governor release, 6/28; Thomason, Rock River Times, 7/3; Ehley, Fiscal Times, 8/20).
  • Maryland: Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) in a statement on June 28 said the Supreme Court’s decision “gives considerable momentum to our health care reform efforts here in Maryland,” adding that the state will move forward to implement the overhaul (Office of the Governor release, 6/28).
  • Massachusetts: Gov. Deval Patrick (D) in late June said Massachusetts is “an early expansion state as you know and we’re expecting further resources from the federal government to sustain the experiment here in Massachusetts.” Patrick called the ruling “good news for us” (Walker, YNN, 6/28).
  • Michigan*: Gov. Rick Snyder (R), in a statement released on Feb. 6, announced that his fiscal year 2014 budget proposal includes a plan to expand the state’s Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. The plan would extend Medicaid benefits to about 320,000 eligible residents. Snyder said the plan contains safeguards that will ensure the financial stability of the program and protect against changes in the government’s financial commitment to the expansion (Office of Gov. Snyder release, 2/6).
  • Minnesota: Gov. Mark Dayton (D) said in a statement on June 28 said, “Today’s ruling will be met with relief by the Minnesotans whose lives have already been improved by this law.” Dayton in 2011 used federal money to expand Medicaid early to 84,000 adults with annual incomes below $8,400 (Lohn, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 6/28).
  • Missouri: Gov. Jay Nixon (D) on Nov. 29 announced that Missouri will participate in the Medicaid expansion. Nixon said he will include the expansion in the state budget proposal he submits to lawmakers. “We’re not going to let politics get in the way of doing the best thing for our state,” he said (Crisp, “Political Fix,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 11/29).
  • Montana: Gov.-elect Steve Bullock (D) — who takes office on Jan. 7 — on Jan. 4 announced several changes to outgoing Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s (D) two-year budget recommendations, but retained the proposal to expand Medicaid. During a news conference, Bullock said the Medicaid expansion is part of his “Access Health Montana” plan to increase health care coverage for more Montana families. (Johnson, Billings Gazette, 1/5; Johnson, Montana Standard, 1/5).
  • Nevada*: Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) on Dec. 11 announced that the state will participate in the Medicaid expansion. “Though I have never liked the Affordable Care Act because of the individual mandate it places on citizens, the increased burden on businesses and concerns about access to health care, the law has been upheld by the Supreme Court,” Sandoval said in a statement, adding, “As such, I am forced to accept it as today’s reality and I have decided to expand Nevada’s Medicaid coverage” (Damon, Las Vegas Sun, 12/11).
  • New Jersey: Gov. Chris Christie (R) in his Feb. 26 budget address announced that New Jersey will participate in the Medicaid expansion. The ACA provision is expected to extended Medicaid coverage to about 300,000 uninsured New Jersey residents (Delli Santi, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 2/26).
  • New Hampshire: Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) in her Feb. 14 budget address said that New Hampshire will opt into the ACA’s Medicaid expansion because “it’s a good deal…[that will] allow us to save money in existing state programs, while increasing state revenues.” A state report estimates that the expansion will cost New Hampshire about $85 million through 2020, but will bring in $2.5 billion in federal funds and help reduce the number of uninsured residents from roughly 170,000 to 71,000 (Ramer, AP/Seacoastonline.com, 2/14)
  • New Mexico: Gov. Susana Martinez (R) on Jan. 9 announced that her state will participate in the Medicaid expansion, which potentially could extend health coverage to nearly 170,000 additional low-income uninsured residents. Martinez noted that contingency measures will be established if federal funding for the expansion diminishes, which would mean scaling back the expansion by dropping newly covered beneficiaries from the Medicaid rolls (Massey/Montoya Bryan, AP/Santa Fe New Mexican, 1/9; Schirtzinger, Santa Fe Reporter, 1/9; Reichbach, New Mexico Telegram, 1/9).
  • North Dakota*: Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) in January said the politics associated with the ACA should not prevent North Dakota from participating in the Medicaid expansion. He is supporting a bill that would allow the state health department to access federal funds allocated through the ACA. Dalrymple also said he will include the expansion in his budget proposal and that members of his staff will testify in favor of the expansion before state lawmakers (Jerke, Grand Forks Herald, 1/12).
  • Ohio*: Gov. John Kasich (R) on Feb. 4 announced that the state will be participating in the Medicaid expansion, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. He made the announcement in his two-year budget announcement, but warned that Ohio would “reverse this decision” if the federal government does not provide the funds it has pledged to the expansion (Tribble, Cleveland Plain Dealer, 2/4).
  • Rhode Island: Gov. Lincoln Chaffee (I) in a statement on his website on June 28 said, “I have fully committed to ensuring Rhode Island is a national leader in implementing health reform whatever the Supreme Court decision, and this just reinforces that commitment.” According to Steven Costantino, the state’s secretary of health and human services, “The expansion is easy to do and makes sense.” Moreover, on July 12, USA Today reported that Chaffee planned to participate in the expansion (Chaffee statement, 6/28; Wolf, USA Today, 7/12; Radnofsky et al., Wall Street Journal, 7/2).
  • Vermont: Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) on June 28 said Vermont’s Medicaid program already meets the requirements under the health reform law’s Medicaid expansion (Steimle, WCAX, 7/1).
  • Washington*: In an email responding to a query by American Health Line, Karina Shagren—a deputy communications director in Gov. Chris Gregoire’s (D) administration—in early July said “the governor supports the Medicaid expansion—and Washington will move forward.” U.S. Rep. Jay Inslee (D)—who supports the expansion—was elected governor on Nov. 6 (Shagren email, 7/5; Washington Secretary of State website, 11/12).

UNDECIDED/NO COMMENT (6 states)

  • Alaska*: Gov. Sean Parnell (R) on Aug. 8 said he is guarded on the expansion “because our history with the federal government right now is they cut what they promise to fund.” Parnell said he wants to thoroughly understand the costs to the state before making a decision (Bohrer, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, 8/8).
  • Indiana*: Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) in a statement on June 29 said, “Any decision to expand Medicaid in 2014 is entirely the province of the next General Assembly and governor.” U.S. Rep. Mike Pence (R) was elected governor on Nov. 6. In a position statement earlier this year, Pence noted that the Medicaid expansion would double “down on an already broken and unaffordable Medicaid system.” Addressing the Affordable Care Act as a whole, he wrote, “I believe the State of Indiana should take no part in this deeply flawed healthcare bureaucracy” (Office of Gov. Daniels release, 6/29; Pence letter).
  • Kansas*: Gov. Sam Brownback (R), who has been a vocal opponent of the Affordable Care Act, has not stated whether to opt in or out of the Medicaid expansion, the Associated Press reported on Nov. 9 (AP/NECN, 11/9).
  • Tennessee: Gov. Bill Haslam (R) has not decided whether Tennessee will participate in the Medicaid expansion. However, two lawmakers—Sen. Brian Kelsey (R) and Rep. Jeremy Durham (R)—already have committed to introducing legislation that would block expansion, and the state’s new Republican supermajority in the General Assembly means such a bill could pass (Bohs, “Bohs Column,” The Jackson Sun, 11/9).
  • Utah*: In an email responding to a query by American Health Line, Nate McDonald—public information officer for Gov. Gary Herbert (R), who won re-election in the state’s gubernatorial race in November 2012—said “[n]o official decision” has been made on the Medicaid expansion (McDonald email, 11/9).
  • West Virginia: Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin (D) in a statement on his website on June 28 said, “We know what the law is but as I’ve said before, I will continue to do what is best for West Virginia … We’re going to review the Supreme Court’s ruling, and work with our federal delegation on how we move forward.” In the state’s gubernatorial race in November 2012, Tomblin was re-elected (Office of Gov. Tomblin release, 6/28; AP/Marietta Times, 11/7).

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This article is composed by The Advisory Board for their Daily Briefing.  It can be seen at http://www.advisory.com/Daily-Briefing/2012/11/09/MedicaidMap#lightbox/0/
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The (F)Law of the Land — Why RTW Laws are Bad for State Economies

Michigan leaders, like moths, are mindlessly being drawn to the destructive Right-to-work flame, soon making them the 24th state to enact a bad law which every qualified economist who has seriously studied the subject finds to be destructive to a state’s economy and workforce, while being little more than a short-term political lever at best. The state will join the ranks of: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia,and Wyoming.

Newspapers across Michigan are rethinking their endorsement of the governor, and Virg Bernero is suddenly looking a lot more like “the one that got away” to the media as he is now the darling of recent interviews. Even the Free Press is crying foul about Snyder’s abrupt 180 — apparently they’re feeling duped, as they should. Two years ago my local paper similarly made a bad call by endorsing the sonorous corporate raider with the headline: Little to lose by voting for Rick Snyder for governor.”  The editor had a few choice words this past week about the Snyder bait and switch routine on Right-to-work.

The fall-out of Snyder’s double-agency will be seen and heard this Tuesday on the capitol steps in Lansing with massive peaceful protests . This time, hopefully without being pepper sprayed.

Snyder had better re-read his Sun Tzu, for he’s in for quite a political battle, and if he thinks More →

Chris Hayes On How The Republicans Intend To Prevent Millions From Voting

After one of the most powerful and courageous social movements in American history, one which took the lives of at least 40 people, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, LBJ famously signed the voting rights act in 1965 ending these practices.

“Wherever, by clear and objective standards, states and counties are using regulations, or laws, or tests to deny the right to vote, then they will be struck down. If it is clear that State officials still intend to discriminate, then Federal examiners will be sent in to register all eligible voters. When the prospect of discrimination is gone, the examiners will be immediately withdrawn. And, under this act, if any county anywhere in this Nation does not want Federal intervention it need only open its polling places to all of its people.”

It wasn’t until the passage of the Voting Rights Act, and the many amendments to it over the years that black people in the South and in some places outside the South could actually exercise their right to be full participating citizens in American democracy.

To read this entire article, a treatise on voting rights and the efforts to suppress them, please click hereThe article includes an embedded video.  If you prefer to watch the video and not read the entire report, it is posted to the VLTPVideoChannel, which you can access by clicking here

The Taxes on the Farmer Feeds Us All

I was watching Rock Center on TV when it hit me.  The segment was about the problems that they are having in the farming sector in Alabama.  Now that illegal immigrants have fled, there is nobody to work the fields and do this back-breaking work, a fields are rotting away.  Reporter Kate Snow spent time looking at the human side of this story about immigration policy, and the temporary use of prisoners to harvest these crops.  But because of the reluctance/fear of calling out ALEC or any Koch Brothers actions in the conservative MSM (1), Ms. Snow’s segment fell far short of its informative potential.

Alabama cucumber farmer Jerry Danford grows cucumbers which are sold to pickle companies.  By the time his crop is pickled, processed, and reaches retail stores, it historically generates about $20 million annually in retail pickle sales. Danford accused Alabama politicians of not even bothering to interview farmers like himself who would be affected by the proposed immigration legislation when it was up for consideration.

Danford, a lifelong republican, is angry at republican lawmakers in Montgomery who passed perhaps the most severe immigration law in the United States. He’s angry with the leaders that supported the legislation for what he sees as a political move that hurts not only farmers like himself, but the economy of the entire state of Alabama.

Since the signing of Alabama’s immigration bill this past summer, Danford has watched many of the illegal immigrant workers he depends on to harvest his crop simply pack up and leave. He worries that come spring harvest–when a provision of the immigration law will be in effect requiring that employers check the immigration status of all workers – he will not have any workers to work his fields.  The immigrants’ crew chief says that he will not recruit Mexicans to work in Alabama in the future because they risk being fined, incarcerated, and deported

“I would like for these lawmakers to go out and get me a pool of labor,” says Danford. (2)

After the commercial break, Ms.Snow spoke with Alabama Governor Bentley about Danford’s concerns.  Bentley noted that there would be a short-term “adjustment” to the new labor force, but this strict immigration law will reduce Alabama’s unemployment rate, which, at 10%, is quite high.  Bentley acknowledges that illegal farm workers will leave the state (that is the intent of the law), but he is convinced that unemployed legal residents will replace them on farms like Jerry Danford’s.  And Alabamians will not have to break the unenforced Federal law any longer to run their farms.

Indeed Alabama has set up a web site to try and attract local workers to working on farms.  Reports Ms. Snow “On several visits to Alabama, we did find some native Alabamians willing to work in the fields.”  However, since then, all of the American workers had quit. (3)

Danford says that the governor is wrong.  Based, he says, on his lifetime of experience with local workers, “the people that you could get locally, they wouldn’t — regardless of what you offered them, within reason — they wouldn’t put in the long hours. It’d take probably three (of them) to do what two of the immigrant workers do,” he says.  “They’d want to be on break all the time, going to the bathroom, going to get a drink, or, you know, something. They just don’t have the initiative to work, just plain and simple.”  He goes on to say that local workers will show up for a day and then quit, assuming that they apply at all. (4) 

But what if he paid a higher hourly wage?  The going rate now is $10 an hour. “The [pickle] company wouldn’t buy it from you then,” he says.  “They’d turn to suppliers in other states where labor is cheaper — states that allow undocumented immigrants to continue working under the radar.” (5)

So what does the future hold for farmers like Jerry Danford?  Certainly less labor-intensive crops, but people and companies all the way up the supply chain from his fields to the retail stores that sell $20 million of pickles are all affected by Alabama’s new immigration control act.

And, it is notable that Snow reports that a new forecast from the University of Alabama estimates the law will cost the state economy at least $40 million in lost revenue overall.  (6)

Faced with rotting crops and angry farmers in this bad economy, the State of Alabama has stepped in and is providing prisoners to harvest the fields—as a short term solution.  For now it is a “short term” solution because as Think Progress reports that in Georgia where they had already tried this plan, “the probationers picking cucumbers couldn’t keep up with their Latino counterparts and had all quit by afternoon”. (7)

Personally, I am disgusted that “state Rep. Scott Beason who sponsored the Alabama immigration law refused a challenge to pick tomatoes just like the illegal immigrants who he thought could be replaced. (8)

Tomato farmer Leroy Smith, second from left, talks with State Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, in Steele, Ala. Only a few of Smith’s field workers showed up for work after Alabama’s new
immigration law took effect recently. (9)

 

And that’s what Kate Snow and Rock Center reported – the middle of this story. To understand the entire story in context requires that we see how this all came about.  After all, this is a blog about the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The starting point of this story is the new immigration bill which Mr. Danford identified as the source of this problem.  Where did this bill come from?  This did not originate in the Alabama legislature.  This began in ALEC as model legislation 7K3 – The Immigration Law Enforcement Act.  This was approved by the full ALEC Board of Directors in June 2008, (10), and supplemented with model legislation 7K5, the infamous No Sanctuary for Illegal Immigrants Act (the almost word-for-word precedent to Arizona’s SB1070 Act). (11)

Alabama is one of 18 states implementing strict immigration laws.  While the U.S. Attorney General is taking the states (starting with So. Carolina) which have implemented their own immigration laws to court on constitutional grounds, these new laws are being enforced.  And who is going to take a shot at a fine, jail, and deportation when they can work elsewhere.

And in this manner the corporate members of ALEC who wanted strict immigration laws paid their money to ALEC and received their model legislation.

But there is the very important second issue in the Rock Center segment–prisoners being used for the harvesting of these crops.  I worry if this a sign of things to come, or is it just temporary as currently claimed?

This, in turn, takes us to the issue of prison privatization, a key goal of ALEC since 1994 due to the presence of CCA, Wackenhut (predecessor to GEO), and the ever-present Jerry Watson of the American Bail Coalition. (12)

But ALEC is far too professional to use only its own members to investigate opportunities and devise strategies.  As key members of the Koch Brothers’ “Cabal, they have access to excellent think tanks and research institutes.  One of those institutes was also founded by Paul Weyrich (founder of ALEC)—the Heritage Foundation.  As far back as 1988 the Heritage Foundation was studying prison privatization after CCA tried to privatize the entire prison system of Tennessee in 1985.  (Interestingly, the Heritage Foundation study concluded that they could not say if privatization would save a State any money.) (13)

Another Cabal member, The Heartland Institute entered the immigration policy conversation in 2008.  “The right to migrate is a key human liberty that ought to be subject to limits only as a last resort. But the failure of institutions in the U.S. to assimilate new immigrants is real, and it makes unlimited immigration a threat to our own freedom. Both sides in the debate have ‘freedom arguments’ on their side.” (14)

While the Heritage Foundation could not say for certain that prison privatization would save the States any money, the NY Times has concluded that it does not. (15)

“The largest private prison corporations, Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) and the GEO Group, have spent millions of dollars trying to convince federal and state legislators that privatization saves taxpayer money without sacrificing tight security and adequate conditions for prisoners. However, the evidence supporting this claim has been mixed at best. A study by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics concluded that promised cost savings “have simply not materialized.” When cost savings are reported, they are often mitigated by private prisons’ tendency to refuse high-cost inmates.

“Even if cost savings were substantial, prison privatization is intrinsically incompatible with the supposed goals of the U.S. prison system. Private prisons have few incentives to pursue meaningful rehabilitation or reduce recidivism rates. In fact, they have a vested interest in the continuation of the United States’ incomparably high incarceration rates.

“In order to ensure a steady flow of inmates, and thus a steady flow of profits, private prison corporations lobby for “tough on crime” laws that lock up petty offenders for long periods of time and do little to curb crime rates. They have historically enjoyed close ties with state legislators through conferences hosted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which advocates harsh sentencing laws. At the conferences, corporations write “model bills” with legislators that have contributed to the escalation of mass incarceration.”  (16)

Envision prisoners in Alabama working outside doing back-breaking work that other Americans do not want to do.  Brings back memories of slave labor in the southern states for good reason.  Witness the article “Arizona Brings Back Slavery for Latinos”.  The embedded video from Cuentame spells the situation out very neatly:  “First, the state passes a harsh immigration law. Then, it detains large numbers of immigrants. Third, private prisons (LCS, CCA, GEO) receive fresh inmates. And finally, the artificially created labor shortage is supplied by the new inmates. Does this sound like modern-day slavery to anyone? (17)

That is also the ACLU’s stand.  “The imprisonment of human beings at record levels is both a moral failure and an economic one — especially at a time when more and more Americans are struggling to make ends meet and when state governments confront enormous fiscal crises.”  But it does not stand in the way of reality..  “Mass incarceration provides a gigantic windfall for one special interest group — the private prison industry — even as current incarceration levels harm the country as a whole. While the nation’s unprecedented rate of imprisonment deprives individuals of freedom, wrests loved ones from their families, and drains the resources of governments, communities, and taxpayers, the private prison industry reaps lucrative rewards”. (18)

I say “it does not stand in the way of reality” because ALEC and the Heritage Foundation set out to accomplish two goals, and brought them both to fruition – despite any opposition.  They created an industry and then created the infrastructure and manpower to fit.  Do you really think that this is a temporary measure, or is this the way it’s going to be—all around the country?  Do prisoners have human rights or do they forfeit them at the entrance to the prison? And just think, because of the conservative MSM, you are among the few who truly understand the problem.

Which makes you among the few who know what needs to be done to stop it.  Our group, The Voter’s Legislative Transparency Project is trying to set up a bus tour to travel around the country, stopping in as many cities as time permits, to hold full day teach-ins to assemblies wherever we stop.  Let people know about ALEC and the rest of the Koch Cabal, and show how they have been manipulating our country since 1973.  Teaching people to evaluate their candidates to see who is going to honor his/her oath of office, and who is going to be beholden to ALEC or to the Tea Party or even to…Grover Norquist?

[Note:  The title of this article, Taxes on the Farmer Feed Us All is from an 1897 song, reissued by Ry Cooder on his album Into the Purple Valley.  If you are interested, you can hear it performed by clicking here

Endnotes:
(1)http://www.alternet.org/newsandviews/article/728866/rush_limbaugh_admits_the_media_is_conservativ/
(2), (3), (4), (5). (6) http://rockcenter.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/11/14/8760288-immigrant-workers-farmers-fearful-in-wake-of-alabama-immigration-law
(7), (8) http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2011/10/07/338922/alabama-prisoners-immigrants-farm-labor/
(9) http://content.usatoday.com/communities/ondeadline/post/2011/10/ala-weighs-using-inmates-as-farm-workers-to-replace-fleeing-hispanics/1  by Dave Martin, AP
(10) http://alecexposed.org/w/images/6/69/7K3-Immigration_Law_Enforcement_Act_Exposed.pdf
(11) http://alecexposed.org/w/images/2/2d/7K5-No_Sanctuary_Cities_for_Illegal_Immigrants_Act_Exposed.pdf
(12) http://www.policyarchive.org/handle/10207/bitstreams/5904.pdf
(13) http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/1988/05/BG650-A-Guide-to-Prison-Privatization
(14) http://heartland.org/policy-documents/where-do-you-stand-immigration
(15) http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/19/us/19prisons.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all
(16) http://www.policymic.com/articles/2404/privatization-of-prisons-is-no-solution-for-overcrowding
(17) http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/oct/12/alabama-slavery-latino-immigrants?newsfeed=true
(18) http://www.aclu.org/prisoners-rights/banking-bondage-private-prisons-and-mass-incarceration 

 

Voter ID Laws Passed Since 2011

SUMMARY OF VOTER ID LAWS PASSED 

Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Wisconsin all passed new voter ID laws in their 2011 or 2012 legislative sessions.  For each state, this memorandum provides: a brief description of the substance of the new law; its effective date; the types of photo IDs accepted; exceptions to the ID requirement, if any; any affidavit alternative to providing a photo ID; the photo ID requirements for early and absentee voting, if any; provisions relating to obtaining free ID; and public education requirements.

To read the best analysis of Voter ID laws, prepared by The Brennan Center, please click here

GOP Front Group Suing States To Force Voter Purges

A Tea Party group is suing states to try to purge their voter rolls before November’s election. True the Vote, an arm of the King Street Patriots, has filed a suit against the state of Indiana, alleging that the state has poor “list maintenance” of its voters.

[nice of them to do the dirty work of ALEC politicians, but then again, if ALEC is the legislative arm of the conservative Cabal, the Tea parties are its stormtroopers]

This suit kicks off a series of state-focused attempts by True the Vote, serving as a co-plaintiff with the conservative “watchdog” group Judicial Watch, to limit voter turnout this election season. Voter purges may be presented under the guise of fairer elections, but the idea of “cleaning” a list usually results in legal voters — overwhelmingly voters of color — being kicked off the rolls.

To read more about this attack on our Constitutional Right to Vote, please clickhere