Press Releases

86% of Utah voters oppose current civil asset forfeiture laws

March 22, 2016  |  Posted in: Press Releases  |  One comment

Salt Lake City, UT (March 16, 2016) — A new poll of Utah voters shows overwhelming opposition to current law that allows police to seize, and prosecutors to forfeit, property from individuals not charged with—let alone convicted of—a crime.

The poll, commissioned by Drug Policy Action and conducted by Public Policy Polling last week, surveyed 565 voters. 77% of respondents indicated that they were unaware of civil asset forfeiture law. When provided a brief summary, 86% indicated that, “Police should not be able to seize and permanently take away property from people who have not been charged with a crime.”

“We often discuss civil asset forfeiture with groups of Utahns around the state,” said Connor Boyack, president of Libertas Institute. “Without fail, many in the audience are astounded to learn that the government is able to legally steal property from people not charged with any crime. It violates our sense of justice and due process. This poll affirms that most Utahns feel the same way, and that reform is needed to bring state law into alignment with what voters believe.”

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New Constitutional Amendment Proposal Announced

December 16, 2015  |  Posted in: Press Releases  |  No comments

Salt Lake City, UT (December 16, 2015) — Libertas Institute is pleased to announce a new proposal to amend Utah’s Constitution to protect property rights. The proposed amendment—a single word—will be sponsored as priority legislation by Representative Mel Brown.

Libertas Institute has published a new policy brief explaining the history of the issue, details of the proposed single-word amendment, along with examples that the amendment would address. A copy was delivered to each legislator last week.

“It’s widely believed that property rights are a fundamental aspect of good government,” said Connor Boyack, president of Libertas Institute. “But our research, along with conversations with land use attorneys, property owners, and city officials, makes clear one simple fact: they don’t actually exist to the degree most people would expect.”

“This constitutional amendment, though simple, is significant,” Boyack continued. “Property rights protections are out of balance, and judges lack the ability to overturn the actions of neighbors or cities that violate this right, simply because there is no relevant constitutional language. We’re hoping to fix that with this proposal.”

The policy brief highlights an example from the town of Virgin, Utah, where a land owner’s investment of millions of dollars to build an RV park was roadblocked due to a narrow majority of neighbors succeeding in a referendum to overturn the town council’s action and shut down the owner’s ability to develop his property. The land remains vacant. Read more here.

The constitutional amendment aims to balance a property owner’s right against the city’s ability to arbitrarily restrict this right, unless a compelling state interest can be shown in protection of the public health, safety, and welfare.

“For years we’ve heard and collected stories of people’s property rights being violated in Utah, and now we’re excited to offer a simple solution that will restore balance between a property owner’s rights, and the interests of city government,” said Josh Daniels, policy analyst at Libertas Institute. “We are confident that the legislature will recognize the importance of this amendment and submit it favorably to Utah voters on the 2016 ballot.”

New Ranking Scores Utah’s Cities on Individual Liberty, Private Property, Free Market

December 2, 2015  |  Posted in: Press Releases  |  7 comments

Salt Lake City, UT (December 2, 2015) — Libertas Institute announced today the results of a new, unique research project—the first of its kind in the country. The “Freest Cities Index” analyzes Utah’s top 50 most populous cities on over 100 metrics dealing with city laws and fees to analyze in which city Utahns will enjoy the most freedom.

Freest City: Heber City
Least Free City: Salt Lake City

The Freest Cities Index uses statistical weighting and calculation to compute a relative score to determine each city’s ranking. Broken into three categories—individual liberty, private property rights, and free markets—the Index includes metrics such as: free speech, gun regulations, alcohol sales, city debt, business permit fees, sales taxes, city-owned enterprises, and many more.

Libertas Institute has placed two billboards in the winning and losing cities. The Salt Lake City billboard is located one block east of City Hall — along 400 South, between 200 and 300 East.

High quality photos can be downloaded at this link. Permission is granted for publication/broadcast use.

“Our report contains a treasure trove of data on cities,” said Josh Daniels, a policy analyst at Libertas Institute who oversaw the research team for the project. “In two minutes, Utahns can quickly get up to speed on how their city performs on a wide range of issues, relative to other cities. Nothing like this has ever been done, and we’re thrilled to provide this service to our fellow Utahns.”

“City governments throughout the state are in sore need of transparency and accountability,” said Connor Boyack, president of Libertas Institute. “We routinely hear from Utahns who are frustrated with their city yet lack the knowledge or time to investigate the issues that matter. This Index provides a huge leap forward in both educating and empowering individuals throughout Utah to make a positive change in their community.”

The “2015 Freest City” award was presented to the Heber City Council on November 19, 2015. Click below for a photo:

High quality photos can be downloaded at this link. Permission is granted for publication/broadcast use.

Full results, including the detailed data spreadsheets, can be found at

New Lawsuit Announced to Support Free Speech and Association

November 16, 2015  |  Posted in: Press Releases  |  No comments

Salt Lake City, UT (November 16, 2015) — A new lawsuit will be filed tomorrow morning seeking to overturn a recently enacted law that compels private non-profit organizations to publicly disclose the personal information of their donors when the organization spends $750 or more on political activity in a single year. The brief alleges that this law—House Bill 43, passed in the 2013 legislative session—is unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

Libertas Institute is a plaintiff in the lawsuit, along with the Utah Taxpayers Association.

  • What: Announcement of a new lawsuit against Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox, Attorney General Sean Reyes, District Attorney Sim Gill, and District Attorney Jeff Buhman
  • Where: Utah Capitol, Presentation Room (first floor, next to Visitor’s Center)
  • When: Tuesday, November 17, 10am

House Bill 43 was sponsored by now-Speaker Greg Hughes, and was filed in response to a political consultant’s illegal use of non-profit organizations to hide the identity of the source of his donors—from the payday lending industry—to fund a negative campaign against Representative Brad Daw, who had sought to regulate the industry’s practices.

“Free speech and association are fundamental aspects of what it means to be an American—and Utahn,” said Connor Boyack, president of Libertas Institute. “They should not be undermined because of rogue political consultants and reactionary legislatures. We look forward to the judicial scrutiny this lawsuit will bring and are hopeful that this problematic law will be declared unconstitutional.”

The plaintiffs in the case are represented by Allen Dickerson and Owen D. Yeates, attorneys working with the Center for Competitive Politics.

Statement on U.S. Supreme Court Ruling Legalizing Same-Sex Marriage Nationwide

June 26, 2015  |  Posted in: Press Releases  |  5 comments

Salt Lake City, UT (June 26, 2015) — In response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s opinion this morning, legalizing same-sex marriages throughout the nation, Libertas Institute president Connor Boyack issued the following response:

“Our LGBT friends have good reason to be happy today, but those concerned about our laws and legal structure have great cause for alarm. As Chief Justice Roberts said in his dissent, ‘The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment. The right it announces has no basis in the Constitution or this Court’s precedent… Just who do we think we are?’

“Today’s opinion—and let’s be clear, that’s all it is—provides an opportunity for lawmakers to reconsider their long-standing support for government intervention in such an important societal relationship. In the coming months, we will be encouraging elected officials to consider a proposal to repeal government licensure of marriage, allowing churches, notaries public, and others to privately officiate and sanction these unions.

“Despite what some lawyers think, there is no ‘fundamental right’ to a government permission slip. The long-standing violation of the sacred union of marriage—encouraged by those looking to shape society to match their vision—needs to be fixed.”

A similar proposal recently passed the Alabama State Senate 22-3, but the legislature adjourned before it was considered in the House. Libertas Institute is encouraging supporters to sign this petition.

New Public Policy Brief Encourages Opposition to EPA

June 3, 2015  |  Posted in: Press Releases  |  One comment

Lawmakers interested in protecting private property rights in Utah

Salt Lake City, UT (June 3, 2015) — Libertas Institute has issued a new Public Policy Brief in the wake of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalizing its highly controversial rule, expanding their authority over intrastate bodies of water—including small streams—inside Utah.

The Public Policy Brief has been sent to lawmakers and other interested parties, with encouragement to begin planning opposition to the rule, and legal protection for property owners in Utah. Libertas Institute has spoken with several lawmakers interested in working on this issue in the coming months.

“The EPA needs to be put on notice that its unilateral expansion of bureaucratic authority will not be tolerated in Utah,” said Josh Daniels, policy analyst for Libertas Institute. “Several states have already begun pushing back, and Utah needs to join them; property owners throughout Utah need to be protected from burdensome regulations, bureaucratic hoops, and unreasonable compliance costs to peaceably and productively use their private property.”

The Brief contains analysis of the rule itself, the case law and legal issues surrounding EPA’s governance over the “waters of the United States,” an analysis of what other states are doing to resist the rule, and recommendations on what Utah legislators can and should do.


Libertas Institute Announces Series of Public Meetings to Discuss Medical Cannabis

May 14, 2015  |  Posted in: Press Releases  |  One comment

Libertas Institute has scheduled several public forum meetings to discuss Senator Madsen’s proposal to legalize medical cannabis in Utah. The first meeting, the details of which are below, will focus on law enforcement, criminal justice, and banking regulatory issues.

We expect this to be a standing room only event with over 300 people showing up. We will save a few seats for media in the front; please arrive early.

  • Where: Wildcat Theater, Shepherd Union Building, Weber State University
    3848 Harrison Blvd, Ogden, UT 84408
  • When: Tuesday, May 19, 7-8:30pm
  • Who: Senator Mark Madsen, sponsor of the legislation; Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill; 22-year undercover Utah narcotics agent Allen Larsen; Christine Stenquist, director of Drug Policy Project of Utah; and Representative Marc Roberts, president of a high-risk payment processing company.

Future meetings will discuss patient stories, medical research, regulatory issues, PTSD, and other topics.

“Few legislators oppose this policy, but there was some legitimate concerns during the previous legislative session that it was happening too quickly and that there were unanswered questions,” said Connor Boyack, president of Libertas Institute. “As a result, we’re holding meetings statewide to openly discuss the bill, field questions, resolve concerns, and educate the public about the importance of and need for medical cannabis as a treatment option for many sick and suffering Utahns.”

Senator Mark Madsen commented, “I’m eager to participate in these meetings. For Utahns like me who sincerely believe in individual liberty and limited government, and who are interested in learning about medical cannabis, these public forums will be invaluable. People need to become informed and weigh in if we are ever going to stop government from making decisions for people that are better left to them and their physicians.”

A poll conducted by Y2 Analytics earlier this year found that 72% of likely voters in Utah support the proposed legislation.

Libertas Institute Announces New Vice President

May 4, 2015  |  Posted in: Press Releases  |  One comment

Free Market Think Tank Strengthens Its Resources

Salt Lake City, UT (May 4, 2015) — Libertas Institute announced today that DJ Schanz has joined the Institute to help further its goals of advancing the cause of limited government and the ideals of the free market. DJ Schanz brings with him a wealth of experience, relationships, and foresight to add to Libertas’s recent successful initiatives, both educationally and legislatively.

Speaking of his new role, DJ commented, “I’m excited to be part of the Libertas team and the dynamic energy the organization has for bettering our society in real, pragmatic ways. Few organizations can boast the same success and effectiveness Libertas has shown in such a relatively short period of time.”

Connor Boyack, president of Libertas Institute said, “DJ’s experience and knowledge, both politically and philosophically, line up perfectly with the direction Libertas is headed. We view his addition to our team as a sign of not only our growth and success, but of our vibrant future as a positive influence on public policy.”

DJ received his undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University and an MBA from the Thunderbird School of Global Management. In addition to his duties with Libertas, DJ owns a medical records company and a political phone bank. He currently sits on the Utah GOP State Central Committee. In his spare time he coaches Little League, conducts Cub Scout meetings, cycles, and enjoys spending as much time as possible with his wife and four children.

About Libertas Institute

Libertas Institute’s mission is to advance the cause of liberty within the State of Utah by supporting and defending individual liberty, private property, and free enterprise. The Institute promotes liberty by generating non-partisan analysis and commentary on public policy issues relating to Utah, and recommending our findings to opinion leaders, policy makers, media, and interested Utahns.

New Common Core lawsuit announced against Utah State School Board

July 31, 2014  |  Posted in: Press Releases  |  One comment

Salt Lake City, UT (July 31, 2014) — Libertas Institute announces a new lawsuit over Common Core’s adoption in Utah, being filed today in the Third Judicial District Court.

“Two weeks ago, Governor Herbert announced he had asked the Attorney General to investigate legal issues surrounding Common Core,” said Libertas Institute president Connor Boyack. “We have been conducting our own investigation since January and have identified several violations of the law.”

The lawsuit features six plaintiffs denied an opportunity to be consulted prior to establishing new education standards in Utah—an opportunity to which they are entitled by state law. The plaintiffs are:

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Fourth Amendment Forum to discuss law enforcement and civil liberties

June 16, 2014  |  Posted in: Press Releases  |  No comments

Salt Lake City, UT (June 17, 2014) — Libertas Institute, along with ACLU Utah and the Utah Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, is hosting a “Fourth Amendment Forum” this evening to discuss issues relating to civil liberties, police militarization, and searches and seizures as they related to the 4th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“While the NSA is invading our privacy and the other branches of the federal government have been complicit, state legislators have passed some really good laws this year to protect our rights and appropriately restrain agents of the government,” said Libertas Institute president Connor Boyack. “Because these are pressing issues, and because our rights are substantially threatened by policies that place too much power in the hands of government, we’re excited to hear from panelists this evening on what Utah is doing right, and what is wrong and still needs fixing.”

Confirmed panelists include:

  • Sean Reyes, Attorney General of Utah
  • Sim Gill, District Attorney of Salt Lake County
  • Jim Tracy, president of the Utah Sheriff’s Association
  • Chris Gebhardt, two-time multi-jurisdictional SWAT Team Leader
  • Kara Dansky, Senior Counsel, ACLU Center for Justice

Date: Tonight
Time: 7-9pm
Location: Red Lion Hotel, 161 West 600 South, Salt Lake City (Wasatch 3 and Cascade rooms)