This year has been a banner year for IJ’s legislative team. Since January, 17 pieces of legislation in 13 states have been enacted to deregulate occupations, repeal restrictions on free speech, expand school choice programs and scale back law enforcement’s use of civil forfeiture. Many times, IJ’s lawsuits spur states into taking action on their own without waiting for the courts to rule.
Over the past 10 years—and consistent with IRS rules—we have expanded our legislative efforts from eminent domain reform post-Kelo to include IJ’s other three pillars and have broadened and deepened our advocacy skills. IJ now has a small team that meets with state legislators to introduce bills based on IJ’s model legislation. It is common for state legislators to share drafts with IJ attorneys to ensure that bills are designed effectively to protect the rights of entrepreneurs, property owners and grassroots activists and, in the case of school choice legislation, to prepare for possible litigation from teachers’ unions after a bill is passed.
We bring the same principled advocacy and media savvy to legislative fights as we do to our courtroom battles. This includes using IJ’s strategic research, meeting with individual legislators, testifying before committees and dominating the terms of the debate in the court of public opinion.
Public interest litigation will always be IJ’s raison d’être. But, as you will read in the next few pages, IJ’s legislative advocacy plays a strategic role in advancing our mission.
Lee McGrath is IJ’s legislative counsel.
Nevada Puts a New Face on Liberty
In a victory for free speech and economic liberty, Nevada no longer requires makeup artists who want to teach others how to apply makeup to obtain an irrelevant instructor’s license.
The new law comes after IJ and two Las Vegas-based makeup artists challenged the licensing scheme in federal court in 2012. Lissette Waugh and Wendy Robin have more than 40 years of combined experience working as makeup artists, and both opened schools to train new makeup artists.
But the state cosmetology board moved to shut them down because they had not spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours to obtain a license utterly devoid of any relevance to teaching makeup artistry. They were also told to convert their schools into full-scale cosmetology schools to teach courses on hair and nails and install useless equipment like shampoo bowls and manicure tables.
The new law affirms the proposition that government cannot force entrepreneurs to do useless things.
Tim Keller is the managing attorney of IJ Arizona.
Victory in Minnesota Campaign Speech
Often an early victory in court leads to a long-term victory in the legislature. That is just what happened in Minnesota.
In April 2014, IJ teamed up with a group of Minnesota donors and candidates to challenge the state’s “special sources limit” that allowed only the first 12 ordinary citizens to donate $1,000 to the state house candidate of their choice. Everyone who contributed after that was allowed to donate only $500. That is unconstitutional. In this country, we do not dole out rights on a first-come, first-served basis.
Less than two months after we filed the lawsuit, the judge ordered Minnesota to stop enforcing its speech-squelching campaign finance law.
After that, the Minnesota Legislature saw the writing on the wall and repealed the law in May. IJ’s lawsuit made good precedent and paved the way for legislators to protect the First Amendment.
Anthony Sanders is an IJ senior attorney.
Hair Braiding Completely Deregulated in Texas
African hair braiders in Texas no longer have red tape tied around their hands. The last issue ofLiberty & Law featured IJ’s successful federal constitutional challenge against Texas laws that forced natural hair braiders, like IJ client Isis Brantley, to build large, fully equipped barber colleges before the state would allow them to teach students to braid hair for a living. Soon after that victory, state lawmakers moved to completely deregulate hair braiding, and on June 8, Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill into law. IJ played a key role in getting this reform passed.
The deregulation of hair braiding in Texas marks a victory for natural hair braiders and economic liberty. It also serves as recognition that occupational licensing has gone too far when Texans are forced to obtain an unneccessary government license to simply go to work each morning. IJ will continue fighting until entrepreneurs everywhere enjoy economic liberty, free from the burdens of arbitrary licensing laws.
Arif Panju is an IJ attorney.
New School Choice Programs Show Teachers’ Unions Who’s Boss
More states are passing school choice legislation, and IJ is defending more programs in court than ever before. Legislators have become emboldened, in part because of IJ’s success in defending those programs in states like Indiana, New Hampshire and Alabama. This year is no exception.
So far, five states—Montana, Mississippi, Arkansas, Tennessee and Nevada—have enacted new choice programs. Nevada, in particular, went big and bold with an education savings account program that enables all parents with a child in public school to use their tax dollars for an education program of their choice, including private schools. IJ Arizona Managing Attorney Tim Keller was invited to attend the bill signing ceremony in recognition of his indispensable efforts in helping draft and pass Nevada’s program.
As always, IJ’s school choice team stands ready to defend Nevada’s program and the other new programs if opponents decide to challenge them.
Erica Smith is an IJ attorney.
Food Freedom Initiative Makes Two States
More Delicious In 2013, IJ launched its National Food Freedom Initiative with three different cases in three different states. Two of the lawsuits spurred state officials to make changes.
In May 2015, Oregon repealed its ban on the advertisement of raw—or unpasteurized—milk after IJ challenged the ban on behalf of Christine Anderson. Under that law, Christine had been ordered to remove information about her raw milk—a perfectly legal product—from her farm’s website.
And in June, Minnesota repealed its severe restrictions on homemade, or “cottage,” foods. The restrictions, which IJ challenged on behalf of home-baking entrepreneurs Jane Astramecki and Mara Heck, limited the sale of cottage foods to farmers’ markets and community events and capped sales at just $5,000 annually. After the Minnesota Court of Appeals rejected the state’s attempt to dismiss the lawsuit, the state capitulated, eliminating the farmers’ market/community event restriction and increasing the sales cap to $18,000.
IJ will continue fighting to ensure Americans are free to produce, procure and consume the foods of their choice.
Michael Bindas is an IJ senior attorney.
Georgia, Montana and Nevada Pass Forfeiture Reform
Since January, many state legislatures have considered reforming state forfeiture laws. In the last issue of Liberty & Law readers learned that New Mexico completely ended civil forfeiture in April, and in the late spring, Georgia, Montana and Nevada became the latest states to enact solid reforms.
Georgia has some of the worst forfeiture laws in the nation. Even worse, law enforcement agencies routinely fail to report forfeitures as required by law. IJ successfully sued three agencies in 2011, but even that was insufficient to cause all other agencies to report.
After IJ’s persistent advocacy, Georgia enacted IJ’s model legislation for law enforcement to report forfeiture activity, which provides greater transparency on seizures and the use of forfeiture proceeds.
And officials in Montana and Nevada worked with IJ to enact meaningful reforms, including requiring a conviction in criminal court as a prerequisite to forfeiture in civil court. Additionally, Montana shifted the burden of proof to the government in claims brought by spouses and other innocent owners, and Nevada enacted comprehensive reporting requirements.
Five states total have passed forfeiture reform laws in the last year. They will not be the last.
Lee McGrath is IJ’s legislative counsel.