State Policy Network
2018 Bob Williams Awards: Biggest Win Nominees

The nominations for the Bob Williams Awards for Outstanding Policy Achievement are in! Thank you to everyone who took the time to nominate a state-based organization this year.

These organizations’ efforts to increase Americans’ freedom and prosperity are truly inspiring. Since all nominees have done great things in their states, we wanted to take a minute to recognize and celebrate the accomplishments shared through the Bob Williams Awards nomination process. The winners in each category will be announced at SPN’s 26th Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City on October 9-12, 2018. In the meantime, please join us in congratulating these think tanks on their nominations in the “Biggest Win” category.

Biggest Win

This category recognizes the organization whose effort was instrumental toward securing a significant policy victory this year in one or more states or at the national level.

Badger Institute – Criminal Justice Reform
The Institute released a report identifying serious problems with Wisconsin’s criminal justice system and suggesting community-based solutions in the form of Hope for Prisoners, a successful nonprofit in Las Vegas focused on reentry, mentoring and employment. The Institute increased interest in this approach with a well-attended follow-up event. Eventually the Institute brought a contingent from Wisconsin to Las Vegas to connect with and observe the nonprofit’s operations, and this group subsequently received training to launch a similar program in Wisconsin.

Beacon Center of Tennessee – Medicaid Work Requirements with a Tennessee Touch
Tennessee is the first non-Medicaid expansion state to pass legislation imposing work requirements on able-bodied working age adults. Beacon Impact, the Beacon Center‘s 501(c)(4) sister advocacy organization, proposed legislation that overcame opposition with its unique approach, which doesn’t require additional federal or state funding to implement. It’s also a template other states can follow.

The Buckeye Institute – Criminal Justice Reform
Ohio suffers from a steadily increasing inmate population. To address this problem, the Institute published research arguing that the successful model used to address the juvenile incarceration and recidivism should be replicated for the adult population. Thanks to Buckeye’s multi-faceted education efforts, the Targeted Community Alternatives to Prison (T-CAP) program passed, becoming mandatory in Ohio’s ten most populous counties. Last year, Ohio’s prison population dropped for the first time in years, from 52,000 to less than 50,000.

Commonwealth Foundation – Pension Reform
Pennsylvania enacted groundbreaking public pension reform legislation in summer 2017, following Commonwealth Foundation’s decade-long effort to expose the crisis and craft a solution. This legislation, which received overwhelming bipartisan support, begins to transition Pennsylvania away from unsustainable traditional pensions to a system that provides portability for workers and predictability for taxpayers.

Foundation for Government Accountability – Commonsense Work Requirements for Medicaid
Nearly 28 million able-bodied adults are now dependent on Medicaid, tripling the total Medicaid spending since 2000, with spending on able-bodied adults increasing by 700%. FGA developed first-of-its-kind research that tracked the impact of work requirements for multiple populations on multiple welfare programs in multiple states and provided technical support and advice as states put together waiver requests. As a result, states began requesting Medicaid waivers to implement the reform, and in January 2018, the Trump administration issued new guidance on how states can implement Medicaid work requirements. The Administration has approved Medicaid work requirements in four states, with more than a dozen states seeking similar waivers. Additional states are considering legislation to accomplish similar reforms.

Goldwater Institute – Right to Try
In the United States, thousands of people suffer and die every year while treatments that could help them await the outcome of a slow, bureaucratic federal process that could take over a decade. Previous efforts to change this met with little success, so the Goldwater Institute, alongside patients, doctors, and policymakers nationwide, crafted a new approach: a state-law reform that protects terminally ill Americans’ right to seek investigational treatments when they are out of other options. In four years, Right to Try bills were introduced in every state, and 40 adopted the law, with overwhelming bipartisan support. This year President Donald Trump signed S.204, making Right to Try the law of the land.

Illinois Policy Institute & Liberty Justice Center – Workplace Freedom
On June 27, the US Supreme Court announced its groundbreaking decision in the Janus v. AFSCME case. Because of the work of the Liberty Justice Center, along with help from the Illinois Policy Institute and other coalition partners, the Court ruled that all government workers across America will have their constitutional rights restored. This decision liberated more than five million government workers from the burden of paying mandatory union fees and restored these workers’ First Amendment rights to free speech and freedom of association.

MacIver Institute – Amending the State Constitution
At the end of the 2018 legislative session, Wisconsin Democrats introduced a number of bills and proposals, including a proposed joint resolution for changes to the state constitution. The Institute was the first to discover that these changes would eliminate right-to-work and Election Integrity, while making equal pay, living wages, “clean” air, and abortions constitutional rights. The Institute broke this story, bringing statewide attention and pushback to these threats to freedom.

MacIver Institute – Gas Tax
The road building industry launched a major campaign to raise Wisconsin’s gas tax during the budget debates. Through videos, written reports, and radio appearances, the Institute was able to debunk the “billion-dollar transportation deficit” and highlight billions of dollars of waste over the past decade. Their information worked to end the narrative that the state is responsible for maintaining local roads. This support enabled Gov. Walker to resist pressure from the special interests and maintain his vow to veto any gas tax.

Mackinac Center for Public Policy – Pension Reform
In July of 2017, Michigan passed a historic pension reform resulting in the vast majority of government workers moving off of pension systems. This was the Center’s number one issue for four years, and it was responsible for raising broad awareness of the issue and providing solutions. Lawmakers saw the Center as an important partner during the debate and legislative process and looked to the Mackinac Center for “expert financial and historical analysis at key moments.”

Mississippi Center for Public Policy – Foster Care Reform
The current state of foster care in Mississippi is not meeting children’s needs, and the Center is working to move Mississippi’s foster care system toward a sustainable public-private partnership by infusing nonprofits with private investment. The Center educated lawmakers and built a diverse coalition to pass a dollar-for-dollar tax credit (HB 1566) for individual donations to nonprofits working in the foster care space, as well as those working with disabled children and low-income families.

Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs – Medicaid Reform
OCPA successfully stopped repeated Medicaid expansion attempts by the governor leading up to the passage of enrollment audits and work requirements in 2018. This success, primarily though legislative outreach, prevents hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans from being caught up in government dependency and saves taxpayers millions of dollars.

Platte Institute – Occupational Licensing Reform
The Institute’s campaign for comprehensive job licensing reform in Nebraska led to the passage of LB299, the Occupational Board Reform Act. The new law requires a review of every job licensing law on the books every five years, helping lawmakers understand the many other options for occupational regulation they have at their disposal and enabling workers and entrepreneurs to have more of a voice in the licensing lawmaking process. The Wall Street Journal called the Institute’s work a model for licensing reform.

Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity – Education Reform
The Center exposed a bill that would have imposed progressive values on school children and public-school staff and led to numerous official complaints against staff and students for any comments or actions that could be arbitrarily judged as “discriminatory.” Within an hour of learning of the bill, the Center launched a multi-media campaign to make the public aware of the underlying issues of the proposed bill and rally their response. A few hours later, the sponsors withdrew the bill.

Rio Grande Foundation – Right-to-Work
Working with allies in New Mexico and other states, the Foundation showed the benefits that counties would gain from right-to-work, and four New Mexico counties adopted right-to-work ordinances. These ordinances apply to private-sector workers only, but with New Mexico’s Legislature unwilling to adopt right-to-work on a state level, these county-level successes are one of the few bright spots for New Mexico public policy and help make these counties, and ultimately the state, more business-friendly.

Show Me Institute – Workplace Freedom
This year Missouri passed HB 1413, a monumental government union reform driven by years of the Institute’s work on the subject. The bill offers protection for thousands of Missouri government employees, including Paycheck Protection, regular union recertification votes, financial transparency akin to private union LM-2s, collective bargaining limitations, and the end of “evergreen clauses.” Three years ago, the Institute published a primer on the subject, drafted model reform language, publicized the issue in a way that was accessible to the public, and discovered legislative champions to carry the bills forward.

Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty – Fourth Amendment Rights
Wisconsin had a state law financially punishing people who asserted their Fourth Amendment right to refuse to government searches of their homes. The Institute filed a lawsuit that went all the way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, and ultimately the law was struck down. Based on the Institute’s efforts, the state legislature also passed a Homeowners Bill of Rights, protecting owners’ rights to refuse to allow a government search of their property without retaliation or punishment.

Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty – Tailgating
This year, the Institute saved tailgating in Wisconsin, a state synonymous with the Green Bay Packers and their devoted fan base. An amendment had been included in a bipartisan bill would have required private property owners to obtain a liquor license when renting space and allowing alcohol consumption on the premises. This requirement would have severely limited tailgating at Lambeau Field and other popular Wisconsin venues. The Institute wrote a short legal memo and conducted a public relations campaign that generated statewide and even national media coverage. The next week lawmakers “slammed the brakes” on the amendment.

Washington Policy Center – Snake River Dam
Four Lower Snake River Dams in Washington are threatened by a judicial ruling that requires federal agencies to study tearing down dams. These Snake River Dams produce nearly $300 million in electricity a year and provide an affordable route of transport for agricultural goods. WPC found several problems with the agency’s study, including underestimated costs and overestimated job creation. WPC’s analysis garnered significant news coverage and was distributed to Washington members of Congress, as well as everyone on the relevant committee. Legislation to protect the dams passed the House and is now before the Senate.

See the nominees in other categories

The winners in each category will be announced at SPN’s 26th Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City, UT (October 9-12, 2018). To join us, register here.

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