Policy change at the state level can improve Americans’ lives in faster, more relevant ways, and change in one state often paves the way for others to follow suit. State Policy Network’s annual Bob Williams Awards for Outstanding Policy Achievement recognize state think tanks doing exceptional work to create and disseminate credible policy research and ideas that will help states implement free-market solutions and expand personal freedom and opportunity for all Americans.
Just as each state is unique, so are the think tanks across the Network. Presented at SPN’s 27th Annual Meeting, SPN’s 2019 Bob Williams Awards celebrated wins and innovative approaches across a variety of states, organizational sizes and structures, and political and cultural environments. SPN is pleased to announce the following 2019 Bob Williams Award winners:
When Minnesota lawmakers proposed a 100 percent renewable electricity mandate, the Center of the American Experiment was the only opposing voice. Nevertheless, thanks to its sound research, the Center’s lone voice was a persuasive one. In conjunction with the release of its “Doubling Down on Failure” report, which detailed the massive costs involved and the lack of any measurable environmental beneﬁt, the Center launched a multi-media outreach campaign to lawmakers and residents and successfully raised public awareness of potential downsides. The mandate passed the Minnesota House but failed on a bipartisan basis in the Minnesota Senate.
During the economic crisis, waivers provided a temporary pause on work requirements so that welfare recipients who were already struggling would not find themselves worse off. Since then, federal loopholes have allowed states to use these waivers to game the system and trap able-bodied adults in a cycle of government dependency. The Foundation for Government Accountability built a multi-media campaign around the release of their “Waivers Gone Wild” reports, which raised national awareness of these loopholes and emphasized the need to rein in waiver abuse so that the food stamp program can adequately serve the truly needy and empower able-bodied adults to move from welfare to work. The campaign employed email, social media, op-eds, and outreach to educate lawmakers, journalists, and the public about this issue. As a result, the Trump Administration proposed a rule to curb abuse of the work requirement loopholes.
Thanks to Commonwealth Foundation’s persistent outreach over several years, tax credit scholarships have shifted from an obscure topic to a consistent point of discussion among Pennsylvania parents, educators, lawmakers, and the media. Despite the governor’s strong opposition to school choice, the Foundation’s research, op-eds, and student stories built the support needed to overturn the governor’s veto and increase funding for these programs by $30 million so that 15,000 more kids could benefit from school choice.
The US Supreme Court has long held that individuals don’t have an expectation of privacy in information they surrender to a third party. Based on this logic, law enforcement entities have been able to access all citizens’ digital information without a warrant. Libertas Institute spearheaded a campaign to change this in Utah, and after a two-year effort, the Institute persuaded the Legislature to unanimously adopt reforms that require law enforcement to obtain a warrant for a person’s data. This first-of-its-kind law received significant national media attention and set a precedent for other states to follow.
Congratulations to these organizations on successfully championing policy solutions that protect and increase human freedom and opportunity! Thanks to their leadership, these state-based, free-market solutions can serve as examples for the rest of the country, building momentum for state and local change that leads to national impact.