Strategic Research

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  • January 12, 2017    |    Strategic Research

    Before the 85th Texas Legislative Session formally opened on Tuesday, state lawmakers had already filed a handful of bills that would curb or strike down the law enforcement practice known as civil forfeiture, which allows law enforcement officials to seize assets from those suspected, not charged or convicted, of involvement in criminal activity. Konni Burton,…

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Strategic Research

IJ’s strategic research program is unique among public-interest law firms, applying social science and policy research methods to issues IJ litigates. IJ researchers and university scholars contribute studies, and news outlets, policymakers and scholarly publications regularly turn to our strategic research to understand the real-world effects of public policies.

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  • January 12, 2017    |    Strategic Research

    Before the 85th Texas Legislative Session formally opened on Tuesday, state lawmakers had already filed a handful of bills that would curb or strike down the law enforcement practice known as civil forfeiture, which allows law enforcement officials to seize assets from those suspected, not charged or convicted, of involvement in criminal activity. Konni Burton,…

  • January 10, 2017    |    Strategic Research

    State Crafts Radical Bill to Free Pot Users from Jail After Vote for Legal Weed — Cops are Furious

    The proposed Massachusetts measure would release people doing time for acts no longer considered a criminal offense in the state.

    Massachusetts was one of four states to legalize recreational cannabis at the ballot box Nov. 8, and some lawmakers are taking the cause of freedom even further. Sen. Jamie Eldridge is working to craft a bill that would free some of those in jail for cannabis possession and sales, as well as expunge their records.…

  • January 10, 2017    |    Strategic Research

    Ilona Holland came to Nebraska in 2013 with two decades of experience in massage therapy in Europe and 600 more education hours once she got to this country, and wanted to open a business in Omaha. But 400 added education hours required in Nebraska discouraged her, and she opened her business in eastern Iowa. Gov.…

  • January 10, 2017    |    Strategic Research

    Law enforcement can seize the assets of Washingtonians who are simply suspected of a crime, but that could change in the 2017 legislative session. The bipartisan bill HB 1016 would prohibit law enforcement from seizing property from people who have not been found guilty and only would allow police to take assets directly involved in…

  • January 4, 2017    |    Strategic Research

    Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) on Wednesday signed a bill reining in law enforcement’s power to permanently seize property from people who have not been convicted of a crime, and in many cases have not even been charged with one. The bill, HB 347, addresses the controversial practice known as civil asset forfeiture. Police say…

  • January 4, 2017    |    Strategic Research

    Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a bill today that will require a criminal conviction before law enforcement can permanently confiscate property for many civil forfeiture cases. Only 11 other states have similar or stricter requirements. “Civil forfeiture is one of the most serious assaults on due process and private property rights in the United States…

  • January 3, 2017    |    Strategic Research

    The state public defender is advocating that forfeited funds should go to the state, not individual law enforcement agencies. Andre de Gruy, who is a member of the Asset Forfeiture Task Force created by the Legislature, has submitted his own recommendations for reforming state laws governing asset forfeiture. The forfeited funds are public funds, de…

  • January 2, 2017    |    Strategic Research

    Last week during a long overdue vacation, a close friend of mine recommended reading the autobiography of Rich DeVos called Simply Rich. DeVos is a billionaire entrepreneur who started countless ventures during his nine decades on this earth. Back in the 1946, for example, DeVos started an airline… virtually overnight. He just bought an airplane…

  • January 2, 2017    |    Strategic Research

    Seizing the property of innocent people has become a common practice for law enforcement agencies everywhere, as it pads budgets and fills creature comforts. Such as the district attorney in Massachusetts, who used $1,000 to buy a Zamboni. Or the police chief from Michigan who spent $115,000 on a tanning salon for his wife and…

  • January 1, 2017    |    Strategic Research

    Ed Forchion — the pro-pot activist popularly known as NJ Weedman — is turning to the public for help replacing his infamous “Weedmobile” — the 1986 Ford E-150 emblazoned with pro-marijuana art he says fell victim to his ongoing legal battle with Trenton police. “Trenton police called Forchion’s weedmobile an ‘irritant,’ and it was reduced…

  • October 1, 2016    |    Strategic Research

    Putting Licensing to the Test

    How Licenses for Tour Guides Fail Consumers—and Guides

    More Americans than ever need a license to work. But what do occupational licenses actually accomplish? This case study of one such license adds to a growing body of research that suggests this red tape does nothing but create needless barriers to work. It finds that a licensing scheme for tour guides in the District…

  • July 19, 2016    |    Strategic Research

    Barriers to Braiding

    How Job-Killing Licensing Laws Tangle Natural Hair Care in Needless Red Tape

    African-style hair braiding is a time-tested and natural craft. Yet most states force braiders to get a government license and take hundreds or even thousands of hours of classes to work legally. This study finds that such onerous licensing has nothing to do with protecting public health and safety. Instead, it just keeps braiders out…

  • March 16, 2016    |    Strategic Research

    On Common Constitutional Ground

    How Georgia’s Scholarship Tax Credits Mirror Other State Programs and Expand Educational Opportunity

    Launched in 2008, Georgia’s scholarship tax credit program will help over 13,000 children get the best education for their needs at secular and religious private schools this year. But in 2014 school choice opponents sued to end the program, calling it unconstitutional. This report finds, however, that the scholarship tax credit is just one of…

  • November 10, 2015    |    Strategic Research

    Policing for Profit

    The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture: 2nd Edition

    Civil forfeiture laws pose some of the greatest threats to property rights in the nation today, too often making it easy and lucrative for law enforcement to take and keep property—regardless of the owner’s guilt or innocence. This updated and expanded second edition of Policing for Profit: The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture makes the…

  • October 6, 2015    |    Strategic Research

    Upwardly Mobile

    Street Vending and the American Dream

    As old as the country itself, American street vending has never been more prominent. It’s the subject of television shows, think pieces and—less happily—burdensome regulations in cities nationwide. Yet hard data about vendors and their economic contributions have been hard to come by—until now. Alongside the stories of a diverse group of vendors, Upwardly Mobile:…

  • February 1, 2015    |    Strategic Research

    Seize First, Question Later

    The IRS and Civil Forfeiture

    Thanks to federal civil forfeiture laws, the Internal Revenue Service has seized millions of dollars from thousands of Americans’ bank accounts without proof of criminal wrongdoing.

  • September 8, 2014    |    Strategic Research

    Bad Apples or Bad Laws?

    Testing the Incentives of Civil Forfeiture

    An original experiment finds that civil forfeiture laws create a strong temptation for law enforcement to seize property to pad their own budgets.

  • June 1, 2014    |    Strategic Research

    Street Eats, Safe Eats

    How Food Trucks and Carts Stack Up to Restaurants on Sanitation

    Street food, long a part of American life, has boomed in popularity in recent years. Yet an idea persists that food from trucks and sidewalk carts is unclean and unsafe. Street Eats, Safe Eats tests that common, but unsubstantiated claim by reviewing more than 260,000 food-safety inspection reports from seven large American cities. In each…

  • February 1, 2014    |    Strategic Research

    Opening the Schoolhouse Doors

    Tax Credits and Educational Access in Alabama

    Alabama’s scholarship tax credit programs follow in the footsteps of at least six similar tax credits dating to the 1970s that give students a choice of public, private or religious schools, demonstrating that scholarship tax credits are constitutional.

  • April 1, 2013    |    Strategic Research

    White Out

    How Dental Industry Insiders Thwart Competition from Teeth-whitening Entrepreneurs

    As the teeth-whitening industry has exploded in recent years, so too has the push for laws and regulations that enable licensed dentists and hygienists to capture a greater share of that market by banning anyone else from offering teeth-whitening services. This study investigates this expansion of dental licensing as a form of economic protectionism, where…

  • January 1, 2013    |    Strategic Research

    A Stacked Deck

    How Minnesota's Civil Forfeiture Laws Put Citizens' Property at Risk

    State data show that from 2003 to 2010, forfeiture revenue in Minnesota jumped 75 percent, even as crime rates declined, and the average value of forfeited property was only $1,000.

  • January 1, 2013    |    Strategic Research

    Rotten Reporting in the Peach State

    Civil Forfeiture in Georgia Leaves the Public in the Dark

    Georgia has some of the worst civil forfeiture laws in the nation, a problem compounded by law enforcement agencies’ routine failure to report forfeiture revenue and expenditures as required by law. But a 2011 Institute for Justice lawsuit forced some agencies to begin filing reports, and a new requirement that agencies post these reports online…

  • December 1, 2012    |    Strategic Research

    Arizona’s Profit Incentive in Civil Forfeiture

    Dangerous for law enforcement; Dangerous for Arizonans

    Arizona’s civil forfeiture laws need to be reformed. In the upside-down world of civil forfeiture, police and prosecutors can seize and keep cash and property that was allegedly involved in criminal activity—without ever proving a crime was actually committed. Unlike criminal forfeiture, with civil forfeiture a property owner need not be found guilty of a…

  • May 1, 2012    |    Strategic Research

    License to Work

    A National Study of Burdens from Occupational Licensing

    License to Work: A National Study of Burdens from Occupational Licensing is the first national study to measure how burdensome occupational licensing laws are for lower-income workers and aspiring entrepreneurs. The report documents the license requirements for 102 low- and moderate-income occupations—such as barber, massage therapist and preschool teacher—across all 50 states and the District…

  • December 1, 2011    |    Strategic Research

    Expanding Choice

    Tax Credits and Educational Access in Idaho

    Scholarship tax credits would expand educational opportunities for Idaho families, building on long-standing state policies encouraging private investments in education, as well as successful school choice programs in other states.

  • December 1, 2011    |    Strategic Research

    Opening the Schoolhouse Doors

    Indiana's Choice Scholarship Program Extends Long History of Choice-Based Aid

    Indiana’s Choice Scholarship Program empowers thousands of families to choose the best K-12 schools for their children—public, private or religious—just like state-funded college scholarship programs have done for decades.

  • October 1, 2011    |    Strategic Research

    Inequitable Justice

    How Federal "Equitable Sharing" Encourages Local Police and Prosecutors to Evade State Civil Forfeiture Law for Financial Gain

    This report examines a federal law enforcement practice known as “equitable sharing.” It enables—indeed, encourages—state and local police and prosecutors to circumvent the civil forfeiture laws of their states for financial gain. Civil forfeiture is the government power to take property suspected of involvement in a crime. Unlike criminal forfeiture—used to take the ill-gotten gains…

  • October 1, 2011    |    Strategic Research

    Full Disclosure

    How Campaign Finance Disclosure Laws Fail to Inform Voters and Stifle Public Debate

    Publicly disclosing contributions to ballot issue campaigns does little to help voters make better choices—and instead imposes substantial costs on people wishing to participate in politics.

  • July 1, 2011    |    Strategic Research

    Streets of Dreams

    How Cities Can Create Economic Opportunity by Knocking Down Protectionist Barriers to Street Vending

    Street vending is, and always has been, a part of the American economy and a fixture of urban life. Thanks to low start-up costs, the trade has offered countless entrepreneurs—particularly immigrants and others with little income or capital—opportunities for self-sufficiency and upward mobility. At the same time, vendors enrich their communities by providing access to…

  • June 1, 2011    |    Strategic Research

    In November 2010, as part of the Cooperative Congressional Election Study National Survey, the Institute for Justice asked a random sample of 1,000 participants nationwide whether they support various features of modern civil forfeiture laws. The results reported below show that the public overwhelmingly favors reform that would extend greater protections to property owners and…

  • March 1, 2011    |    Strategic Research

    Forfeiting Accountability

    Georgia Law Enforcement's Hidden Civil Forfeiture Funds

    Georgia has some of the worst civil forfeiture laws in the country. But at least state law requires law enforcement to publicly report annual forfeiture proceeds and expenditures. Public reporting ought to help check abuse and prevent forfeiture funds from becoming off-the-books slush funds. Unfortunately, Forfeiting Accountability, like an earlier state audit, finds that these…

  • November 1, 2010    |    Strategic Research

    Forfeiting Justice

    How Texas Police and Prosecutors Cash In On Seized Property

    Texas law gives police and prosecutors generous rewards for seizing people’s property—without even having to prove the owner committed any crime. And the law makes it so hard for owners to fight for the return of their property that many give up without even trying. As Forfeiting Justice shows, Texas law enforcement agencies have increasingly…

  • September 1, 2010    |    Strategic Research

    Keep Out

    How State Campaign Finance Laws Erect Barriers to Entry for Political Entrepreneurs

    Campaign-finance laws protect political insiders by making it harder for upstart citizen groups to form and bring new voices to public debate.

  • August 1, 2010    |    Strategic Research

    The best available evidence suggests that funding political campaigns with public dollars does little to reduce special interest influence, encourage competitive races or boost political participation.

  • June 1, 2010    |    Strategic Research

    Special Needs Vouchers Aid Children and Promote Excellence

    A Response to “Beyond Cain v. Horne”

    In the previous article, Dr. Corinne Harmon responds to my analysis of the Arizona Supreme Court’s decision in Cain v. Horne (Keller, 2009) that struck down two voucher programs for students with special needs—one for children with disabilities and the other for children in foster care. Harmon believes my constitutional analysis is in error because…

  • April 1, 2010    |    Strategic Research

    Mowing Down the Grassroots

    How Grassroots Lobbying Disclosure Supresses Political Participation

    Grassroots lobbying—encouraging citizens to contact public officials in order to affect public policy—is quintessential representative democracy in action. However, as this report documents, sweeping lobbying laws in 36 states threaten to strangle grassroots movements in red tape and bureaucratic regulation. Such common activities as publishing an open letter, organizing a demonstration or distributing flyers can…

  • March 1, 2010    |    Strategic Research

    Policing for Profit: First Edition

    The Abuse of Civil Asset Forfeiture

    Civil forfeiture laws represent one of the most serious assaults on private property rights in the nation today. Under civil forfeiture, police and prosecutors can seize your car or other property, sell it and use the proceeds to fund agency budgets—all without so much as charging you with a crime. Unlike criminal forfeiture, where property…

  • March 1, 2010    |    Strategic Research

    Blooming Nonsense

    Experiment Reveals Louisiana's Florist Licensing Scheme as Pointless and Anti-Competitive

    For more than a decade, Monique Chauvin has owned and operated one of the most popular and recognized floral shops in all of New Orleans. Her work is regularly featured in magazines, and her store has been repeatedly voted as “Tops of the Town” in New Orleans magazine by residents of the Big Easy. Yet…

  • January 1, 2010    |    Strategic Research

    Empire State Eminent Domain

    Robin Hood in Reverse

    An analysis of the populations living in areas of New York City under threat of condemnation for private development finds that such eminent domain abuse disproportionately targets those who are less well-off and less educated, as well as ethnic and racial minorities—populations least able to fight back to protect their homes and businesses. In New…

  • June 1, 2009    |    Strategic Research

    Locking Up Political Speech

    How Electioneering Communications Laws Stifle Free Speech and Civic Engagement

    Americans were once free to speak about politics without asking permission from the government or being forced to document their political activities for the authorities.  But under the guise of “campaign finance reform,” government regulation of political speech has metastasized, spreading far beyond the mere financing of campaigns to monitor and control everyday political speech…

  • June 1, 2009    |    Strategic Research

    Campaign Finance Red Tape

    Strangling Free Speech & Political Debate

    Twenty-four states permit citizens to make laws directly through ballot measures. These states also regulate how citizens—if they band together—may speak out about them. In the name of “disclosure,” these regulations impose complicated registration and reporting requirements, administered by state bureaucrats, on political speech and activity by any citizen group that joins the public debate…

  • March 1, 2009    |    Strategic Research

    Expanding Choice

    Tax credits and Educational access in Montana

    School choice enjoys strong support among Montana residents, and of choice options, tax credits enjoy the greatest level of popularity. Such programs grant tax credits to taxpayers who donate to nonprofit organizations that give scholarships to students. These scholarships may then be used at both public and private (including religious) schools thereby putting previously unaffordable…

  • February 1, 2009    |    Strategic Research

    Designed to Exclude

    How Interior Design Insiders Use Government Power to Exclude Minorities & Burden Consumers

    Americans used to be free to practice interior design work and succeed or fail based solely on their skills. But, to the detriment of consumers and would-be entrepreneurs, that is changing. The American Society of Interior Designers, an industry trade group, would like state governments to define what it means to be an interior designer…

  • February 1, 2009    |    Strategic Research

    Expanding Choice

    Tax Credits and Educational Access in Indiana

    One of the oldest and more popular forms of school choice in the United States is educational tax credit. Like many other types of school choice, educational tax credits enable parents to send their children to the K-12 school of their choice, public or private, religious or non-religious. One type of educational tax credit, tax-credit…

  • February 1, 2009    |    Strategic Research

    Choice and Opportunity

    The Past and Future of Choice-Based Aid in Louisiana

    On February 29, 2008, Gov. Bobby Jindal presented the Louisiana Legislature with a proposed budget allocating $10 million for a school choice initiative that would enable parents in New Orleans to send their children to the school of their choice, including private schools, with state-funded scholarships. According to Gov. Jindal, “We want to make sure…

  • September 1, 2008    |    Strategic Research

    Designed to Mislead

    How Industry Insiders Mislead the Public About the Need for Interior Design Regulation

    Do people who design interiors “mislead” the public when they call themselves “interior designers” without government permission? Industry insiders advocating greater regulation say yes, but practicing interior designers who simply want to accurately describe what they do say no. This report tests each side’s claims. Using an opinion poll and a survey of leading industry…

  • July 1, 2008    |    Strategic Research

    Misinformation & Interior Design Regulation

    How the Interior Design Cartel's Attack on IJ's Designing Cartels Misses the Mark

    This report responds to a purported rebuttal of the Institute for Justice’s research on interior design regulations and details how its author, an advocate of increased regulation, fails to provide any evidence of the need for or benefits from limiting entry to the trade. The rebuttal is not only laced with logical and factual errors,…

  • January 1, 2008    |    Strategic Research

    Doomsday? No Way

    Economic Trends and Post-Kelo Eminent Domain Reform

    When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld eminent domain for private development in the 2005 Kelo case, the public reacted with shock and outrage, leading to a nationwide movement to reform state laws and curb the abuse of eminent domain for private gain. By the end of 2007, 42 states had passed some type of eminent…

  • November 1, 2007    |    Strategic Research

    Designing Cartels

    How Industry Insiders Cut Out Competition

    This report examines titling laws, little-known regulations that require people practicing certain professions to gain government permission to use a specific title, such as “interior designer,” to describe their work. Although titling laws receive little attention from the political, policy or research communities, they often represent the first step toward a better-known regulation—occupational licensing, which…

  • November 1, 2007    |    Strategic Research

    Fatally Flawed

    A Critique of Fixing the Milwaukee Public Schools: The Limits of Parent-Driven Reform

    In October 2007, the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute released a research report on public school choice and parental involvement, Fixing the Milwaukee Public School: The Limits of Parent-Driven Reform. Unfortunately, as this analysis finds, the WPRI report is fatally flawed, undermining both its claims about public school choice and any implications for private school choice…

  • July 1, 2007    |    Strategic Research

    Victimizing the Vulnerable

    The Demographics of Eminent Domain Abuse

    In Kelo v. City of New London—one of the most reviled U.S. Supreme Court decisions in history—the Court upheld the use of eminent domain by governments to take someone’s private property and give it to another for private economic development. In a major expansion of eminent domain power, the now-infamous Kelo decision marked the first…

  • March 1, 2007    |    Strategic Research

    Disclosure Costs

    Unintended Consequences of Campaign Finance Reform

    This study examines the impact of one of the most common features of campaign finance regulations: mandatory disclosure of contributions and contributors’ personal information. While scholars have looked at the effects of other kinds of campaign finance regulations, such as contribution and spending limits and public financing of campaigns, very little work has examined the…

  • March 1, 2007    |    Strategic Research

    Private Choice In Public Programs

    How Private Institutions Secure Social Services for Georgians

    Georgia’s Special Needs Scholarship Program extends to a new group of students the same kind of educational choice already enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of Georgia citizens from prekindergarten through college. Prior to the adoption of the special needs scholarship, Georgia already offered no less than 11 scholarship, grant or voucher programs related to the…

  • January 1, 2007    |    Strategic Research

    Private Choice In Public Programs

    How Private Institutions Secure Social Services for Arizonans

    Voucher programs that give recipients the free and independent choice of an array of providers, including faith-based organizations, have a long and established history in Arizona, including six different educational voucher programs that help more than 22,000 students annually attend the public, private or religious school of their choice.

  • October 1, 2006    |    Strategic Research

    Arizona’s tax code, like that of many state, national and international governments, includes a series of tax credits individuals and corporations may use to offset taxes owed. Arizona’s individual and corporate scholarship tax credit programs are only two of dozens of Arizona credits that encourage private spending to support public goals—including charitable donations to private,…

  • October 1, 2006    |    Strategic Research

    This report updates a 2005 analysis by Arizona’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee (JLBC) that looked at the fiscal impact of a proposed corporate tuition tax-credit scholarship program and reflects the program as actually passed in 2006. Updated figures indicate that the program could save the state of Arizona’s General Fund an estimated $57.2 million over…

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