The nominations for this year’s Bob Williams Awards for Outstanding Policy Achievement included an array of impressive efforts and successes in three categories: Most Influential Research, Best Issue Campaign, and Biggest Win. Thank you to everyone who took the time to nominate a state-based organization this year!

The top three finalists have been selected in each category, and this year, we invited the network to help choose the winner. Voting is now closed, but keep reading to see the finalists in each category. The winners will be announced at SPN’s 26th Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City on October 9-12, 2018.

Bob Williams Policy Awards

Most Influential Research

This category recognizes an organization whose original research achieved a high level of influence in academia, media, and/or policy-making arenas.

2018 Finalists

John Locke Foundation – Raise The Age: Bringing North Carolina’s Juvenile Justice System Into the 21st Century
North Carolina was still treating 16- and 17-year-olds as adults for criminal justice purposes—just as it had been doing since 1909. This approach put young offenders at a severe disadvantage to those in other states and made it difficult for them to become productive, law-abiding citizens. Previous research from the Foundation brought this problem to the public eye, and when three different raise-the-age bills were introduced, the Foundation provided a report analyzing the pros and cons of each. The next month, the General Assembly approved the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act that included virtually all of the features the Foundation had recommended. Now, North Carolina has one of the best juvenile justice regimes in the country.

Mackinac Center for Public Policy – Prevailing Wage Law
For 50 years, Michigan has had a “prevailing wage” law requiring all public projects to pay union wages. In 2015, free-enterprise groups started gathering the 200,000+ signatures and lawmaker support needed to repeal the law without the governor’s signature. Mackinac Center research helped make that possible by providing clear arguments about a complicated issue. The reports countered arguments about “fair wages” and showed how the law was particularly onerous in low-income areas. The Center’s research was featured in the Wall Street Journal, and now that the law has been repealed, Michigan stands to save hundreds millions of dollars each year on government construction projects.

Palmetto Promise Institute – Santee Cooper’s Uncertain Future
Santee Cooper, a state-held utility company, was part of a failed $9 billion nuclear reactor project that could result in higher utility bills of more $20,000 per customer. The Institute released a report on the fiasco, calling for a commission to be formed to explore the sale of the state utility and provide relief to rate payers. The South Carolina Governor tweeted that the report should be “required reading for lawmakers,” and a few months later the suggested commission was approved.


Best Issue Campaign

This category recognizes organizations that ran exceptional issue education campaigns, demonstrating successful execution on several fronts including strategic thinking, exemplary use of outreach tactics, ability to reach target audiences, and team alignment.

2018 Finalists

Beacon Center of Tennessee – “Rigged: The Injustice of Corporate Welfare”
The Beacon Center published a mini-documentary sharing the story of two furniture store owners near Memphis who found themselves competing with IKEA after the furniture giant was awarded $10 million to open a store near their locations. The documentary received many awards and media attention, making corporate welfare a primary issue for candidates running for state office.

The Buckeye Institute – Worker Voting Rights
The Buckeye Institute created a comprehensive campaign to advance labor freedom in Ohio. The campaign included a gamut of well-executed strategies including research and sample legislation as well as outdoor advertising to targeted advertising. The Institute had numerous meetings with the Speaker of the Ohio House, his staff, and members of the Ohio legislature to discuss the issue. Targeted ads to help build awareness of the issue were well received and outperformed industry averages.

Foundation for Government Accountability – Farm Bill 2018: The Power of Work
Beginning last year, the Foundation for Government Accountability launched a successful multi-pronged campaign to lift millions of American from dependency by expanding food stamp work requirements. Through strategic polling, new research, and an effective outreach strategy, FGA equipped policymakers with helpful facts, stories of lives changed by work, and evidence of the public’s support for work requirements. In June 2018, the House of Representatives passed a Farm Bill that includes provisions to eliminate loop holes in the existing work requirement and expands work requirements to cover parents and middle-aged able-bodied workers.


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.

2018 Finalists

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.