Alan Smith

Too Organic for the Government

One just can’t make this stuff up. Earlier this month, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) got a stay until May 1 of a court mandate requiring farmers …

Mandated Electronic Logging Devices will Pump the Brakes on the Trucking Industry

The economy is finally emerging from a period of its slowest growth in several decades, and guess what’s about to put the brakes back on? Following a frenzied, multi-pronged …

Ohio Maintains Its Standing

  “We’re ahead of everybody,” Gov. John Kasich told me just after I attended the latest legislative briefing on self-driving vehicles. His effort to convert the Rust Belt state …

Detroit mayor, statehouse leaders take another shot at Michigan no-fault reform

The state that long has been home of the American auto industry also long has taken a unique approach to auto insurance. The Great Lake state is the …

A new electronic logging rule could drive independent truckers off the road

The following op-ed was co-authored by Forrest Lucas, the founder of Lucas Oil Products. A new rule proposed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration would require all over-the-road freight …

Pennsylvania should reject unconstitutional internet sales tax

For decades, one of the thorniest issues in all of state government has been how to be even-handed in the tax treatment of merchants who sell from within …

Ohio’s opioid agony

As college football season looms, hope springs eternal here in Columbus that our premier land-grant institution of higher learning will be atop the pile at the end of …

States still stuck when it comes to pension plan fixes

I spoke recently with Bill Howell, the longtime speaker of Virginia's House of Delegates. While he is not standing again for election, he is the kind of person …

LETTER: Veto internet sales tax in Ohio H.B. 49

Dear Gov. Kasich: The R Street Institute strongly opposes the provision in H.B. 49 that would require online vendors located outside Ohio to remit sales tax to the state. …

N.C. lawmakers again scuttle bill to reform rate bureau

Most of the auto insurance industry has for several years been trying to convince North Carolina's lawmakers to eliminate the last vestiges of the once-common "rate bureau" system, …

Nebraska should be on the cutting edge of spacesharing

Nebraska’s fame as a place for innovation and leadership is legendary. Even before Warren Buffet became the “Oracle of Omaha,” Nebraskans had invented CliffsNotes, the Reuben sandwich, Vise-Grip …

Another bright idea from Mitch Daniels

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels was in Washington last week to receive the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star from the government of Japan at …

Missouri ridesharing bill moves to Gov. Greitens’ desk

Legislation legalizing ridesharing services in the Show-Me State now sits on Gov. Eric Greitens' desk, after the Missouri House passed statewide rules for transportation network companies by a …

Ohio and Indiana take different approaches to opioid epidemic

Ohio Gov. John Kasich described drug addiction as "a common enemy" in this week's state-of-the-state address. Kasich highlighted the challenge in terms similar to those laid out by …

Kentucky’s new leadership tries to pull it back from the pension cliff

Having become the last legislative chamber in the entire South to flip to Republican control last November, the Kentucky House of Representatives wasted no time this session in …

Short-term-rental rules on the docket in Indiana

Carmel, Indiana, is a beautiful and completely modern community of more than 85,000 folks, just north of Indianapolis. Its 100 traffic roundabouts are the most of any U.S. …

Criminal justice reform takes center stage at CPAC

The right end of the political spectrum historically has favored getting tough on crime and increasing criminal penalties as a solution to rising crime rates. But to be …

Seventh Circuit strikes down Indiana’s protectionist vaping rules

Apparently we weren’t the only observers who thought the Indiana law regulating vaping products was a little over the top. A major reason why Indianapolis rated a grade …

Ohio and Michigan both kick off 2017 with asset-forfeiture reform

Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, opened the new legislative session last week by declaring the legislative branch's job was to improve quality of life for all Ohioans. …

State, city should be friendlier for e-cigarettes

Even though a half-million Americans die every year from smoking-related illness, roughly 17 percent of U.S. adults continue to smoke. It’s encouraging that new options have come to the …

Why policy should recognize help of e-cigarettes

In the late 1960s, I worked at Grant Hospital as an inhalation therapist, fascinated that some of those I treated for breathing ailments would stub out a cigarette …

Michigan looks to become autonomous vehicle mecca

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder last week signed a package of four bills (S.B. 995-998) intended to signal the state's commitment to the autonomous future, including by opening up …

Ohio wants to be testing ground for self-driving cars

The world knows Ohio as home of the Wright brothers and the first man to step on the moon. But locals also know it as home to aviatrix …

IRS plans to make it harder to let families keep their businesses

The Internal Revenue Service is up to about 10,000 public comments submitted thus far on its latest assault on families – proposed sweeping changes to Section 2704 of …

States and cities are drowning in pension debts

One of the purest mysteries in public policy these days is that while there's a clarion call from every class of political leadership to do something about sea-level …

Planting mustard seeds in the heartland

This week, I'm taking part in a beta test for a new service that connects Columbus, Ohio's parking-space owners mostly with out-of-towners looking for a place to park …

NCOIL looks at high cost of air ambulances

Health insurance premiums, and the underlying health care costs that drive them, were a major topic at last month's National Conference of Insurance Legislators' meetings in Portland, Oregon, …

Immigration challenges that aren’t demogoguery

Back around the turn of the century, a few of us who toil in the public-policy vineyards guessed that privacy was going to be the overwhelming pubic-policy issue …

Wisconsin Supreme Court shoots down Milwaukee home-rule claim

The world looked on last week as the people of the United Kingdom consider whether to loosen the grip that a reported 40,000-plus Brussels bureaucrats have over their …

Illinois moving to loosen occupational licensing rules for ex-offenders

When persons with “backgrounds” in Illinois want to turn their lives around, "we want them to be as productive as possible as quick as possible," state Rep. Marcus …

Some American values may be dimming, but transparency continues to shine bright

Attending a Memorial Day ceremony in my little city yesterday, I couldn’t help but wonder what happened all of the sudden to make it palatable for so many …

Citizens’ anger is palpable, global, often misdirected

An awesome 6.7 percent of Iceland's resident population took to the streets last month to demand the resignation of their prime minister. The rallying cause was his perceived …

Obamacare’s state impacts dominate spring NCOIL meeting

Even with Sen. Ted Cruz also in town, the struggle between state lawmakers and regulators over who would take the lead on health-care policy continued to dominate the …

The invisible wounds of occupational licensing

At the same time the Buckeye State was celebrating the 200th anniversary of Columbus as the state's permanent capitol last week, the Ohio Senate unanimously passed bipartisan legislation …

The split screen

The headline for a New York Times piece by Peter Baker this week used the metaphor of a split screen, contrasting President Obama’s State of the Union address …

Ridesharing lessons from the Buckeye State

One wonders if Ohio Gov. John Kasich, before he made his way back home following Tuesday's CNN presidential debate in Las Vegas, might have noticed how the local …

Ohio dodged a bullet on ‘legal’ pot

Ohio voters last week voted down legalized recreational marijuana use, but the state also may be taking a first step toward exploring the medical research and ameliorative capability …

Asset-forfeiture reform: No more margarita machines!

"We can neither confirm or deny if we have the mayor’s possessions." That was reportedly the statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Sacramento to Stockton, Calif. Mayor …

How lasting will the American experiment be?

A recent three-day family vacation brought me to the impressive Seattle Art Museum, where I marveled over the collection of artifacts from around the world and what they …

Finding the future’s free-market advocates

It's interesting to contrast the nightly news dispatches on the increasingly juvenile presidential campaign with the solid work of an organization composed of actual young adults -- high …

Ohio considers the crony side of cannabis

Ohio produced the first airplane pilot and the first man on the moon. This week, we are blessed with the consensus No. 1 preseason pick of college football …

Mississippi is on the wrong track with telemedicine

Recent years have seen plenty of debates about misguided health and safety regulations, but the current one in Mississippi threatens to frustrate one of the brightest trends in …

TNCs, price optimization and roofing fraud top agenda at NCOIL

Model legislation governing insurance for transportation network companies may have headlined the summer meeting of the National Conference of Insurance Legislators, but other topics – from "price optimization" …

Signs of hope in North Carolina

The North Carolina House of Representatives passed a bill 119-1 Monday which, for the first time, would disclose to North Carolina drivers what they pay in surcharges to …

Testimony to Minnesota House Committee on Taxes

My name is Alan Smith and I serve as senior fellow and Midwest director for the R Street Institute. R Street is a nonprofit 501(c)3 institution devoted to …

Kansas City could make terrible ridesharing market even worse

I was in Dallas last week and used my Uber account to hire rides from Love Field to the hotel, and then back again when I was finished …

Missouri considers overly prescriptive TNC law

Governments are having a difficult time keeping up with changes in the culture and in the economy these days. One of the top issues for governments everywhere is …

Insurance industry needs better arguments for ‘price optimization’

Back in her high school days, my daughter got to be a pretty darned good field hockey player, eventually became the captain of her team. But in her …

The message Boehner should give to House Republicans

I used to work for a big and complicated enterprise – a multinational, multibillion dollar financial services confection of companies. I worked on public policy. In large commercial …

Seeking common sense in 2015

I was going to try to write something positive at the end of the year, to balance out what a scold I’ve been almost all year long about …

Fear and loathing at Columbia Law

It isn’t the "stupid American voters" that are the problem in this country, unless you count the crazies manifesting their unhappiness this week that the fellow who promised …

Rounding up NCOIL’s San Francisco meeting

The National Conference of Insurance Legislators is an organization founded with the goal of helping legislators make informed policy decisions. Over the course of three yearly meetings, members …

Post-election scrum powers ride-sharing bills in the Midwest

It is disappointing to see all the public policy debates that languished over the last several months, both in Washington and in the state capitals, suddenly light up …

Tipping the hat to all the veterans

Today is Veteran's Day in the United States and the president -- apparently no longer particularly mindful of the optics of his role as commander-in-chief -- is in …

America’s motor state going the wrong way on direct sales

For most of my life, the Detroit area has been the epicenter of the domestic automotive world. Unless you are the sort of person who experienced a fainting …

Detroit enables ‘prison guards of the past’

"There you go again..." exclaimed  Ronald Reagan famously, as he claimed the debate audience and eventually the White House.  The City of Detroit is once more eschewing hospitable …

Detroit takes another title: highest car insurance in America

The Detroit-Warren-Ann Arbor metropolitan area has higher auto insurance rates than any other top 25 metro area in the United States. It wasn’t even close, according to the …

Not-so-common core

At last week's 40th annual meeting of the National Conference of State Legislators, several rock stars lit up the stage and podium. I'm not mostly talking about sold-out …

Gingrich advises state lawmakers not to kill innovation

Former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich is known as a font of ideas, even by detractors who don’t necessarily approve the product of all his …

Michigan scalping law is ‘consumer protection’ gone wrong

So-called "consumer protection" has evolved into a major legislative preoccupation, which would be fine if it was mostly related to protecting citizens from injury – physical or fiscal. Alas, …

Testimony on Michigan ticket freedom bill

Testimony on House Bill 5108 Alan Smith, R Street Institute Midwest Director Tuesday, June 10, 2014 Michigan Senate Government Operations Committee Good afternoon Chairman Richardville and members of Senate leadership constituting the …

Detroit: From ‘Heat Wave’ to deep freeze

In the early 1960s, a young songwriter from Detroit named Lamont Dozier signed an exclusive contract with Motown Records, teamed up with Eddie and Brian Holland, and eventually …

The REINS Act doesn’t go far enough

In a recent Rasmussen poll, more than half of likely voters (51 percent) said they believe EPA regulations should require congressional approval before they are implemented.  Given that …

Fear and clarity in Davos

I happened to be watching the World Economic Forum in Davos this week and was struck by the number of CEOs who mentioned "clarity" as the overarching need …

Testimony to Michigan House Criminal Justice Committee

Testimony of Alan Smith, R Street Institute Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2014 Michigan House of Representatives Criminal Justice Committee Good morning Chairman Heise, Vice Chairs Graves and Oakes and members of the Criminal …

Wisconsin workers’ comp insurers propose to rein in costs

States once again show the way to management and reform of public systems by having affected interests sit down together to work out a plan. In Wisconsin, the …

Insurance shows that federalism works

Fifty-four years ago, the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations was established by statute to examine the best or most logical accommodations of federalism. For many years, it held …

Doubling down on dishonesty

"Somebody is on the wrong side of history," said Joe Trippi, the "netroots" guru and former campaign manager for Howard Dean's presidential quest, on a recent TV news …

The lost opportunity for ‘Grace’

In 1982, President Ronald Reagan initiated a two-year effort to ask thousands of businesses and associations to help his administration root out inefficiencies in the federal government. This …

A Royall legacy

Two hundred and twenty-six years ago this week, two prominent citizens and a 30-year-old represented the people of North Carolina by signing what has come to be the …

How can vouchers ‘threaten’ an education system this bad?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the …

States urged to restore Glass-Steagall

“The moment of truth has arrived. It is literally a choice between Glass-Steagall and mass starvation and death.”  This got my attention, and even though I thought I knew …

The White House’s ‘new’ newspeak

"I got tired of cursing the newspaper every morning. I got tired of seeing what was going wrong and not being able to do anything about it."  - …

The IRS scandal’s evolving narrative

We saw yet another congressional hearing on the Internal Revenue Service scandal yesterday in which both sides continued to establish beachheads with their partisan narratives. The Democrats have …

Does Obama have authority to suspend the employer mandate?

"We have heard concerns about the complexity of the requirements and the need for more time to implement them effectively,: says the U.S. Treasury spokesman about the Obamacare …

Indiana enacts law to limit balance billing

From The Heartlander: One of the longstanding tensions in health care finance—whether you’re talking about health insurance or managed care, for-profit or nonprofit, workers’ compensation, Medicare, Tricare, automobile medical payments, …

Indiana balance-billing law latest in fight over ‘reasonable’ charges

One of the long-standing tensions in health care  finance -- whether you're talking about health insurance or managed care, for-profit or non-profit, workers' compensation, Medicare, Tricare,  automobile medical …

Nobody’s fault in Michigan

There are two schools of thought about how to analyze a benefits system. The first is to look at its overall function and how the various parts interrelate. …

A silver lining in these very gray times

It has been an ugly two ­­­weeks. The Boston bombing horror cost my son’s triathlon coach a broken leg, broken ankle and a severed Achilles tendon. The coach’s …

Could this be the year for no-fault reform in Michigan?

Maybe the Michigan auto insurance law was "essential" when it became law, but in the last four decades it has become luxurious compared to all other states. Gov. …

Columbus makes ICF’s ‘Significant Seven’

As we prepare to celebrate the conclusion of the most popular national sports tournament in this country, the Intelligent Community Forum has picked my hometown, Columbus, Ohio, as …

From March Madness to the Hunger Games

I was in North Carolina last week. North Carolina is, I believe the only state in the union where the Monday after Easter is a state holiday to …

A less lively CPAC

The Conservative Political Action Conference is clearly not as energized as last year, due largely to the intervening national election, which  many of these folks had thought would …

Who navigates Obamacare’s navigators?

The federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was passed to address both the cost of medical treatment through insurance and the fact that many people didn't have …

Not deciding is a decision

Those who are following the great sequestration drama might get the impression that, while this kind of federal budget management is not ideal, at least something will be …

Michigan’s unlimited auto insurance, revisited

Most of the attempts to fix Michigan’s long-time Essential Insurance Act have ended as spectacularly as the meteor which exploded over the Ural Mountains town of Chelyabinsk a …

Republicans and civil rights: Michigan edition

This coming Sunday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will award its annual Oscars, with Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed “Lincoln” -- a look at the 16th president’s …

Why John Harbaugh’s job is easier than John Kasich’s

A great source of frustration to me when I worked in corporate America was that the people I worked with and who lived in my community would organize …

Why school choice matters

"You’d better cut the pizza in four pieces, because I’m not hungry enough to eat six.” – Yogi Berra Under the headline “Does it Matter if it’s Real?” the …

Hawaii’s Legislature hopes to avoid new taxes

Having already witnessed the inauguration of President Barack Obama the first time around, I opted this week instead to attend the opening day of the newly elected Hawaiian …

Finding a path for pot in the post-criminal world

Pot smokers with no medical justification finally broke through in November in a couple of states where citizen-initiated lawmaking allowed the state’s voters to decide to allow recreational marijuana …

Picking up the tab

"There is no reason for me, at the moment, to believe anything they tell me,” said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie of his party’s congressional leadership at a …

States are getting more partisan, and more cooperative

This space has often compared what is going on in Washington to what is happening at the state level.  Most of the policy served out of Washington would …

Over the cliff

According to a report from the only living person who has done a federal sequestering of funds at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (last done in …

After elections, time to address long-term issues

With this election winding down to the final provisional and absentee ballot-counting in the seats too close to determine a winner on Election Day, there are a few …

The coming election

Since Ohio makes the news on a regular basis in any election year expected to be a close contest for the presidency, everywhere I go people are asking …

Hail to the vanquished

Even in the middle of the college football season, a lifelong Buckeye has to look at the proposed “economic death warrant” that could be signed by the voters …

What we are and aren’t getting out of the debates

A 21-year-old Bangladeshi man tried to blow up the building next to where my children live yesterday.  He was sent to our country on a student visa by …

Big idUS in Columbus

Hats off to Columbus for celebrating its 200th anniversary!  There are perhaps dozens of different ways to do a birthday party, and part of the festivity for the …

Ohio’s ‘fair’ elections question

Ohio voters once again enjoy the opportunity to make a huge policy change through this year's Issue 2 on the general election ballot. In the last general election, …

The ‘R’ word – responsibility

When I was engaged full-time in law enforcement, I was once searching a house pursuant to a federal warrant. While I was looking for evidence of the federal …

Taking the middle road on pension reform in Ohio

"Proposals’ goal: avoid insolvency" was the kicker under the headline last week in the Columbus Dispatch reporting that representatives of all five of Ohio’s public pension systems had …

Watching the debt pile up

Watching the Republican and Democratic conventions the last few days is not exactly reassuring to those of us who have been watching what is going on in Washington …

Immigration and the GOP Convention

A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I took a young Peruvian friend down to the federal courthouse to receive his naturalized American citizenship. I was thinking …

Will we have a debt debate?

I see that “grown-up” is still in the dictionary, having been joined this year by “aha moment”, “game-changer” and “f-bomb.”  But finding real honest-to-goodness grown-ups in the political …

The Medicaid expansion standoff

During the national debate in 2010 on the federal health care proposal that became the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, I was watching one of the weekend …

‘All of the Above’ is not working

If you view, as I do, the American economy running along on two major rails – cheap energy and cheap credit – it is easy for one to …

Lying, incompetent or what?

A few years ago following a number of major hurricanes, the public relations staff of the property casualty insurance company I was employed by at the time managed …

The decay of federalism

Within my own lifetime of several decades, I can remember a time when there was wide agreement among citizens of this country about issues that affected nearly everybody. …

Ohio takes it slow on new energy taxes

Ohio has an interesting case study in principles and politics in the current clash over the potential of new natural gas and oil reserves in the eastern and …

Round-up from CPAC Chicago

After road-testing in Florida not long ago, the mobile version of the Conservative Political Action Conference hit Chicago last week. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was the most …

Walker recall victory eclipses this week’s other once-in-a-lifetime event

Earlier this week, we were able to witness one of the two telescopic proofs of heliocentrism offered by Galileo in the 17th Century: that Venus could pass in …

Letter from Ohio: Rethinking crime in the wake of tragedy

As one Ohio community recoils in horror and anguish at yet another incomprehensible multiple school murder and attempts to cope with the aftermath, the public discussion will once …

Letter from Ohio: Insurance-scoring ban wouldn’t serve consumers well

Except for public health and some reasonable safety measures, when the government tells an industry how to run its core operations, the impact is not generally favorable to …

Letter from Ohio: Credit and energy, the economy’s twin tracks

The economy of the United States and all other developed countries rides along on two rails – credit and energy. Anybody who has read a newspaper in the …

Letter from Ohio: Buckeye State voters eye exchanges

When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) bills were signed by President Obama in March 2010, states already were moving to protect themselves from this overtly …

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