Letter from Washington: Our new project

by Eli Lehrer on May 15, 2012 · View Comments

Deborah Bailin, Christian Camara, Julie Drenner, R.J. Lehmann, Alan Smith, and I have all submitted our resignations from the Heartland Institute effective May 31, 2012. You can read the press release here.

Matthew Glans, who has been a frequent blogger on this site, will be continuing at the Heartland Institute and focusing on other issues. All of us expect that we’ll continue to work with him and others at Heartland. We’ll be continuing Out of the Storm News and, indeed, all of our other work under a new brand, the R Street Institute. Watch this site—and other Heartland sites—for more information about our transition and set up as a new, independent, non-partisan think tank.

All of us proud of the work we’ve done at Heartland and grateful to our colleagues who will continue to work there after we depart.  Heartland is a vital organization that has done more than any other think tank to advance liberty on the state level.

As R Street, we plan to partner with Heartland and believe that it will continue to do much good work and, indeed, thrive, in the future. Joe Bast, Heartland’s CEO, has been a gentleman and partner in every part of this transition. I have nothing but good things to say about Heartland and my colleagues there. It was a good place to work and, for a little more than two more weeks, still will be.  This isn’t an ending but, instead, a new beginning. We’re excited but we’re also nervous.


On a more personal note, I am sorry about the billboard that Heartland ran. It was an experiment. It was short lived.  I didn’t create it and didn’t know about it until about five minutes before it launched. Nonetheless, I still work for the Heartland Institute through May 31 and, as such, I feel I owe everyone an apology.  I’ll say it again: I’m sorry. The billboard just isn’t my style or a message that I particularly agree with.


Back on insurance: the so-called Flood the Hill efforts continued this week. Because of recent chaos, Heartland wasn’t there to take part. But it’s clear the debate won’t end right away. Even if the U.S. Senate somehow votes before May 31, a short-term extension is still going to be needed while the Senate and U.S. House work out their differences. (Although it strikes me as possible that the House could simply pass the Senate bill.)  What seems most likely now is a very short-term extension to June 30, 2012 as Sen. David Vitter, R-La., has proposed. This is probably a decent idea since it keeps alive the possibility that the flood program could get the real changes it needs during 2012.

The problem with short-term reauthorizations is that, in general, they have not compelled action on the flood program or any real reform. The reason for this, in the past, was simple: the House and Senate were simply too far apart. Although I admired him for doing it, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., was fighting a rather lonely fight when he tried to use the short-term extensions to create pressure on the program.

This time, however, it may be different: a short-term extension does keep the pressure on and, because the House and Senate aren’t that far apart, could result in a real, meaningful reform bill passing during 2012. We can—and should—always hope.

Until next week.

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