IJ is well known for litigating in courts of law and the court of public opinion. But we also work tirelessly in state capitals across the country to protect and advance individual liberty.
IJ’s activism team organizes local entrepreneurs to fight burdensome licensing laws, our strategic research team supplies legislators with fresh data to use in reining in government overreach, and our attorneys review draft bills and provide testimony on legislation that impacts free speech, educational choice, economic liberty, and property rights. Meanwhile, IJ’s legislative team makes a unique pitch to state legislators: We are among the few advocates who ask lawmakers to have the government do less, not more.
This year, IJ has worked on more than 80 bills in 27 states—a new record for our legislative team. Here are some of our biggest legislative accomplishments so far this year:
Nebraska became the first state to adopt IJ’s model legislation to review occupational licensing laws. Every year, nonpartisan analysts will review one-fifth of the state’s occupational regulations in a two-step “sunset” process to confirm both that these rules actually protect Nebraskans from harm, and that they are the “least restrictive” way to do so. Nebraska’s law will systematically overhaul the state’s licensing laws, which is why The Wall Street Journal called it “a model for licensing reform.” We also helped enact a more modest version of our licensing review model in Louisiana this year.
IJ scored important victories for economic liberty in Arizona. The state now prohibits cities from banning food trucks and prevents municipalities from restricting the ability of mobile vendors to compete with brick-and-mortar restaurants. Thanks to this sweeping reform, food trucks are free to operate across the state.
Arizona also banned many licensing boards from disqualifying applicants simply because of a criminal record. Boards can use a criminal record to deny a license only if an applicant has been convicted of a felony or violent crime, and that crime is “substantially related” to the occupational license. Earning an honest living is one of the best ways to prevent re-offending, and Arizona’s reform will expand economic opportunity and help reduce recidivism.
IJ’s nationwide fight against civil forfeiture continues to notch successes. New transparency bills in Kansas and New Hampshire will shine a light on how police and prosecutors spend millions of dollars in forfeiture proceeds, making it easier to hold law enforcement accountable.
Wyoming became the third state (following Texas and Virginia) to outlaw roadside waivers, an abusive tactic used by law enforcement to pressure motorists into signing away their rights and their cash. The new law was directly inspired by IJ’s lawsuit on behalf of musician Phil Parhamovich. As Liberty & Law readers may remember, Phil was pressured into surrendering over $91,800 in cash—his entire life savings—after he was pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt on a Wyoming highway. Last year, IJ recovered every penny that the Wyoming Highway Patrol wrongfully took from Phil. Wyoming’s new ban on roadside waivers should ensure that what happened to Phil doesn’t happen to anyone else driving through the Cowboy State. These forfeiture reforms bring to 29 the number of states that have changed their laws for the better in the years since IJ launched our civil forfeiture initiative.
IJ’s legislative team is already preparing to build on these wins in the 2019 legislative session. These efforts are an important component of IJ’s multifaceted approach to securing individual freedom—an approach that is enabling countless Americans across the country to pursue their dreams free from government interference.