J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · August 20, 2020

Today, the Institute for Justice (IJ), a nonprofit public interest law firm, launched a new initiative aimed at helping legislators at the state and local level identify and craft high-impact, narrowly tailored and practical legislative reforms that respond to the crises of 2020. The “2021 Initiative” brings to bear the expertise of IJ’s attorneys, advocates and researchers to respond for the remainder of this year and into 2021 to the three main crises of 2020:  the COVID-19 pandemic, the devastation it caused the economy and ongoing issues with the inability to hold government officials accountable.

“The year 2020 brought unprecedented crises and has taught Americans a lot of hard lessons,” said Lee McGrath, IJ’s senior legislative counsel. “To make matters worse, long-standing laws and policies have exacerbated these crises, leading to limitations on the availability of health care, barriers to honest work, and official misconduct.”

The initiative seeks to help lawmakers:

  • Increase the availability of health care — The pandemic exposed that health care regulations often decrease access to needed services and stifle medical innovation. In response to COVID-19, many states temporarily waived some of these regulations, which calls into question their existence in the first place.
  • Create economic opportunity — With tens of millions of Americans unemployed, a simple way for states to jump-start their economies is to remove barriers to earning a living and make it as easy as possible for people to find work. The initiative proposes ways to make it easier for currently displaced workers, particularly those in the hospitality industries, to find accessible work, and for small businesses to adapt and stay afloat.
  • Instill accountability in government — There also are long-standing policies that allow law enforcement and other government officials to act with impunity, which undermines the proper role of the police and has led to tragic misconduct. There are practical steps lawmakers can take to fix fundamental flaws in the way American communities are regulated and policed.

The reform ideas are previewed on the initiative’s website, www.2021initiative.com, but IJ’s recommendations to states and cities will be based on real-world research about the jurisdiction’s experience in 2020. IJ will ensure that reforms are highly responsive to needs on the ground—not just models off the shelf.  State reforms span all three areas, and local reforms are focused on creating economic opportunity.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution to lawmaking,” said Brooke Fallon, associate director of activism and leader of IJ’s effort to make it cheaper, faster and simpler to start a small business in America’s cities. “Every city and state is different, and has experienced 2020 in different ways. And while model bills have their place, the hard work is identifying responsive solutions for jurisdictions based on local needs and crafting impactful legislation. We are ready to join state and municipal leaders to tackle that challenge!”

“Through this initiative, we hope to partner with lawmakers to make 2021 a year of recovery,” said IJ legislative counsel Meagan Forbes. “Our goal is to help lawmakers take the lessons of 2020 and turn them into substantive change that increases the availability of health care, gets millions of Americans back to work and instills accountability in government officials. And we at IJ are ready to help however we can.”

For more than 25 years, the Institute for Justice has fought to break down barriers to work, create opportunity, and hold government officials accountable, through cutting-edge litigation, legislative and grassroots advocacy and strategic research. Based in Arlington, Virginia, IJ also has regional offices in Miami, Minneapolis, Austin, Phoenix and Seattle, as well as a legal clinic at the University of Chicago.