As Congress returns from recess, we hold out hope that they will make better use of this session than the last one and work to fulfill their campaign promises. But even while politicians in the House and Senate were away from Washington this week, state legislatures remained active.
All across the nation, conservative grassroots activists are pushing for laws that will limit the size and scope of the government, increase individual liberty and restore constitutionally-guaranteed rights. And they've had some remarkable successes in the past several weeks.
In Arizona, grassroots pushed to protect crucial civil and economic liberties. Although designed to target organized crime like drug cartels, civil asset forfeiture laws permitted police officers and prosecutors to seize property and money on the mere suspicion of a crime. This deprives citizens — who may never be arrested, charged, or convicted of a crime — of both their right to property and their right to due process, putting far too much power in the hands of lawyers and law enforcement.
Grassroots activists made their voices heard, making more than 9,000 contacts with officials. Gov. Doug Ducey, R-Ariz., signed the bill that makes seizing property more difficult and raises the standard for prosecutors by requiring "clear and convincing evidence" that property was used in a criminal activity.
Although centrist and liberal Republicans in Washington have flipped on their promises to protect the right of individuals to control their own healthcare, Iowa has made massive strides towards this key goal. "Right to try" legislation has passed in both chambers and is due to appear on Republican Gov. Terry Branstad's desk, thanks to the relentless work of state-level activists.
The legislation permits terminally-ill patients who can't get into clinical trials of drugs, after consulting with their doctor, to try drugs that have passed Phase I of FDA standards but have not yet been fully approved. To protect caregivers and insurance companies, the bill also allows hospice and insurance to refuse care and coverage to the patient after they have decided to take the drugs.
In Kentucky, conservative grassroots sent 4,000 messages to state legislators to support the criminal justice reform legislation SB 120. The bill passed through the House and the Senate and was just signed into law by Republican Gov. Matt Bevin. It makes significant reforms to improve Kentucky's criminal justice system, including permitting convicts to work minimum-wage jobs while in prison, letting them study for an occupational license, and making the process of obtaining these licenses fairer after release.
In addition to helping the currently incarcerated, the law also supports those who might be on their way to prison and those who have been released. It prevents law enforcement from imprisoning poor individuals because they cannot afford to pay their fines or court costs. It allows those on parole to lower their time by earning credits through good behavior. And it also creates substance-abuse and re-entry programs for those on parole and the formerly-incarcerated.
The combined impact of these reforms will reduce the amount of money taxpayers spend on corrections and increase public safety by incentivizing drug treatment and good behavior on the part of the formerly-incarcerated.
Lastly, in Missouri, the Senate passed term limit legislation that is on its way to the Missouri House for their approval. Conservative activists contacted the Senate 5,000 times to urge them to pass this legislation, which caps the number of terms a politician can serve and prevents the growth of a long-time political class at the state level.
We are proud to support these activists in all their hard work. It shows that they've really taken the principle of federalism to heart and pushed for some incredible experiments in freedom in their states. Let's hope federal Republicans take note of their accomplishments, and can apply some of the lessons from these "laboratories of democracy" in Washington.
Noah Wall (@NoahWWall) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is FreedomWorks' national director of campaigns.
If you would like to write an op-ed for the Washington Examiner, please read our guidelines on submissions here.