Lobbying for Liberty

June 1, 2008

Lobbying for Liberty

IJ’s State Chapters Give Freedom A Voice In State Capitals

By William Maurer

No matter the state, the halls of the Capitol are choked with lobbyists seeking more regulation, special treatment and government benefits for their clients. But in Arizona, Minnesota and Washington, there are individuals lobbying for something different: freedom.

IJ’s state chapters not only allow us to employ a sustained litigation strategy in courtrooms across each of these states, but our local presence allows us to selectively influence state policy to favor liberty as well. Our policy successes in each of these states are a testament to the importance of having people on the ground all year round who know the political culture of their state and who appreciate the constitutionally imposed limits on the power of government.

Our efforts are often devoted to reforming state eminent domain laws. For example, IJ Minnesota Executive Director Lee McGrath led a diverse coalition of groups—from evangelical Christians to car dealers to the NAACP—to fight for reform of that state’s eminent domain regime, resulting in the enactment of meaningful reform.

Likewise, in Washington, IJ-WA led the effort to put eminent domain reform on the legislative agenda by drafting policy papers and op-eds on the need for reform. The efforts led to our participation in Attorney General Rob McKenna’s Eminent Domain Task Force, which continuously monitors the use and abuse of eminent domain in the Evergreen State. IJ-WA’s recommendations bore fruit in 2007 with a major change in Washington’s unfair eminent domain notice procedures.

But our efforts are not limited to eminent domain. Economic liberty is another area where IJ’s state chapters have led successful efforts. IJ-AZ successfully lobbied the Legislature to rid that state of a bureaucratic pest, the Structural Pest Control Commission, which regularly interfered with the free market and consumer choice. IJ-WA helped defeat efforts to establish a cartel in interior design. And, in an example of local efforts, IJ-MN helped Minneapolis deregulate its taxi market and is working to deregulate the household movers business.

We spread the word of freedom to neighboring states as well, employing our geographic proximity to remind lawmakers in those states that they cannot abuse liberty without consequences. For instance, IJ-AZ Staff Attorney Jen Perkins was active in New Mexico’s successful eminent domain reform efforts and IJ-WA Staff Attorney Michael Bindas lobbied Idaho’s legislature on enacting meaningful eminent domain reform.

Of course, the proponents of big government are well entrenched and will always make reform difficult. In Arizona, for example, even though both houses of the state legislature passed real eminent domain reform, the Governor bowed to special interests and vetoed it. And in Washington, substantive reform of the state’s eminent domain laws has fallen victim to the lawyers and lobbyists of local governments.

Nonetheless, with IJ’s never-say-die attitude, we continue to fight in state capitals for more freedom, less regulation and greater opportunity. And the opponents of reform can rest assured that we will be there every legislative session to continue the fight for a freer, more prosperous country.

William R. Maurer is IJ-WA’s executive director.

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