April 24, 2014

ACS Student Competition Showcases Student Ideas for State Policy Change

ACS Network, Sarah Molinoff, Zachary J. Kolodin

by Zachary J. Kolodin, 3L, New York University School of Law, Former President, New York University School of Law ACS Student Chapter, ACS Next Generation Leader; and Sarah Molinoff, 2L, New York University School of Law, Co-Legislation Chair, New York University School of Law ACS Student Chapter

The New York University School of Law ACS Student Chapter broke new ground this year by launching its first annual Legislation Competition. Inspired by the work of American Legislative and Issue Campaign Exchange (ALICE), the NYU ACS Student Chapter partnered with the NYU Journal of Legislation and Public Policy to create a real-life policy problem and asked law students to come up with solutions that could be translated into legislation at the state level. Participants in the competition drafted model state-level bills and wrote policy papers advocating for and explaining their proposed legislation.

The competition aimed to leverage the immense amount of talent in the student body. The NYU ACS Student Chapter decided that it could have the greatest impact by mobilizing student ideas and energy into creating innovative policy solutions for state legislatures and then marketing those ideas. The competition also generated buzz for ACS on campus while serving as an opportunity to promote legislative and policy work to students. 

Law students at NYU regularly propose policy ideas in student notes and in classroom policy papers. However, the NYU ACS Student Chapter realized that a lot of intellectual energy was not being used. “We wanted to create a vehicle for students to get their ideas out into world, reshaping policy at the state level,” said David Holmberg, NYU ACS Student Chapter President.

The competition attracted enormous interest, with over 40 students attending its legislative drafting trainings conducted by Andrew Green, Legislative Counsel for Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR). “Students who attended the legislation training got practical advice on how to put together a piece of quality legislation, which they can take with them into their summer internship, and eventually, into their careers,” said Adam Axler, Co-Chair of the Legislation Competition.

The competition solicited pieces on the topic of access to justice in civil cases. “We were particularly inspired by [New York Court of Appeals] Chief Judge Lippmann’s efforts to improve access to justice through the regulation of lawyers in New York,” said Peter Dubrowski, the Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Legislation and Public Policy, and a former NYU ACS Student Chapter Board Member.

The winning piece, written by first-year student Cerin Lindgrensavage, is a bill called the Model Fairness and Advocacy for Interested Recipients (FAIR) Act. The FAIR Act would provide authority for state agencies that run essential programs such as Medicaid or welfare to negotiate with the federal government to create demonstration projects to provide people with legal counsel. Under the FAIR Act, demonstration programs created through Section 1115 of the Social Security Act would provide a budget-neutral path forward to create and expand legal services for people in need by leveraging existing safety net programs and investments. In addition to increasing investment in legal services generally, these demonstration projects would integrate the provision of legal services into programs in a way that could reach people who need services but who are ineligible or unable to get assistance through a legal aid organization. One example of a potential demonstration program would be using a Section 1115 Medicaid waiver to secure federal matching funds for medical-legal partnerships that serve Medicaid patients.

The FAIR Act and an accompanying policy piece in will be featured in an upcoming edition of Quorum, the Journal of Legislation and Public Policy’s online publication.