American Experiment wins prestigious awards

For research and advocacy with nationwide impact.

The State Policy Network (SPN) recently recognized the work of Center of the American Experiment by presenting the Minnesota-based think tank with two significant awards.

Policy Fellow Isaac Orr and Researcher Mitch Rolling were honored for their report, “Doubling Down on Failure: How a 50% by 2030 renewable energy standard would cost Minnesota $80.2 billion.” Their work revealed how a proposed renewable energy mandate would significantly increase the cost of energy and destroy jobs—but have no measurable impact on the global climate.

SPN also recognized the Center for its efforts to protect 350,000+ in-home caregivers nationwide from a dues-skimming scheme that deprived them of Medicaid funding.

SPN presented the awards in October at its annual gathering of more than 150 independent state policy organizations. SPN is a nonprofit umbrella organization for conservative and libertarian think tanks that focus on state-level policy. More than 1,300 policy professionals attended the event in Colorado Springs.

The Center’s energy report received the “Bob Williams Award for Most Influential Research.” The SPN judges recognized how Orr’s unique methodology established a research model that can be replicated by other regional think tanks. They also praised how he used his report to engage legislative debate. Orr provided expert testimony six times before the Minnesota House and Senate energy committees during the 2019 legislative session.

Orr’s team invested more than a thousand hours in estimating the holistic costs of closing coal plants and replacing them with wind, solar, and natural gas plants.

“What we found surprised us,” he says. “Reaching a clean energy goal is possible, but Minnesota is going about it in a completely wrong way. Electricity prices would actually decline if we used the Affordable Clean Energy rule to improve efficiency at Minnesota’s coal plants.” Nuclear and hydropower are the most affordable technologies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, he adds. Instead, Minnesota’s plans to focus on wind and solar will increase the cost of almost everything we buy.

“Xcel’s proposed 15.2 percent rate increase—a direct result of prioritizing inefficient wind and solar energy—will cost the average family at least $100 more per year,” Orr says.

The Center also received the “Network Award,” presented to five think tanks that led efforts to prevent public-sector unions from skimming Medicaid funds intended for Personal Care Attendants (PCAs).

Even though PCAs are typically family members caring for dependents in their own homes, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has deducted three percent of their Medicaid support, up to $948 per year. Estimates based on federal filings have revealed that the SEIU in Minnesota skimmed $4.7 million from PCAs’ Medicaid payments in 2016. Even though dues skimming is now illegal, it is still occurring in Minnesota, as of this writing.

Kathleen O’Hearn, SPN’s senior director of policy advancement, says the 2019 Network Award “recognizes the leadership of a network coalition that gave a voice and a choice to hundreds of thousands of home health care providers across our nation.”

Organizations joining American Experiment in the multi-year effort included the Freedom Foundation of Washington, Illinois Policy Institute, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, and National Right to Work Legal Foundation. The Center was the only organization to win two awards.