Even when we’re not working, we’re still working.
That’s the realization I came to recently when three parental rights bills in three different western states all passed on the same day—and we didn’t have to oversee any of them.
I recently wrote about the amazing work that parental rights volunteers are doing in states like Florida, Iowa, and Indiana. And frankly, those are the efforts that have held my attention throughout this legislative session.
I knew there were also efforts going on in Montana, Nevada, Texas, and Oklahoma, but they weren’t demanding my attention like these others were.
In fact, they were moving forward just fine.
Drafting a Good Model
The day after three of those bills passed, a colleague on the front lines of those efforts reminded me in an email: model legislation the Parental Rights Foundation had contributed to last year provided the starting point for three of those four bills. (Nevada’s bill is also good for parental rights, but not directly tied to our language.)
While our political action arm was engaged elsewhere, our previous efforts were still at work in Texas, Montana, and Oklahoma. When we worked with our coalition partners earlier to iron out good parental rights policy and preserve it in solid legal language, that paved the way for other organizations (and their volunteers) to ultimately push it across the finish line.
And that’s a win for all of us.
Because the most important outcome is the protection of children through a deeper respect for parental rights in each of these states.
So, just what policies have gotten passed?
House Bill 2565 (H.B. 2565) in Oklahoma and H.B. 567 in Texas each exclude from their respective state’s definition of “neglect” those decisions of a parent to let their child engage in age-appropriate activities.
The language in Texas is general and broad, declaring that a parent “allowing the child to engage in independent activities that are appropriate and typical for the child’s level of maturity, physical condition, developmental abilities, or culture” is not negligent.
Oklahoma’s bill is just as broad, providing that “‘neglect’ shall not mean a child who engages in independent activities.” But then it contains a non-exhaustive list of specific activities, including walking to school, travelling to nearby recreational facilities, playing outside, remaining unattended at home for a reasonable amount of time, or remaining in a vehicle alone on a day when the temperature allows for it.
These bills were championed by our allies at LetGrow and the Texas Public Policy Foundation, and were rooted, as I mentioned, in policies your Parental Rights Foundation ironed out with them last year.
Montana Runs with an Idea
In addition to these, there was another bill in Montana, which provides an even clearer example.
That’s because, unlike in Oklahoma or Texas, the bill in Montana was not shepherded by another organization. It was driven by a single lawmaker who came into contact with our language late last year.
State Senator Manzella heard about our policies at a gathering hosted by one of our board members last fall. As a result, she went back to her home state determined to protect parental rights, and she set to work on a bill that would do just that.
Once again, we weren’t directing a major grassroots project. We didn’t spend hours coordinating volunteers, and even I myself didn’t need to weigh in until a committee hearing late in the process.
But the Parental Rights Foundation had provided the idea, refined it with general guiding principles, and fermented it into specific language—language that Senator Manzella could use to protect Montana families.
Without our original groundwork, her bill wouldn’t have happened.
And even without a lot of effort on our part, Senator Manzella’s Senate Bill 400 eventually passed both houses to become Montana law.
Under this new law, not only are parental rights “fundamental” and subject to “strict scrutiny” protection, but violations of these rights can even provide a “right of action.” That means parents whose rights are truly violated can file suit against the state agent or agency who violates those rights.
In that respect, this Montana bill is the first of its kind in the nation.
Now, I’ll be honest. I love situations like Florida and Iowa, where we can be a resource for passionate volunteers like Patti and Barb through our political arm at ParentalRights.org.
But I also deeply appreciate lawmakers like Senator Manzella, who take our principles, our policy ideas, and run with them.
And I likewise appreciate our coalition partners and other allies who are doing the same thing.
None of these—neither the lawmakers like Senator Manzella nor the organizations like LetGrow or Texas Public Policy—are doing this because we asked them to.
Rather, they are doing it because, just like you and me, they believe in empowering parents to protect children. They believe good law protects the vital parent-child relationship and the privacy of our families.
They are serving our interests—serving your interests—simply by doing what they themselves believe in.
But even that itself is the fruit of more than a decade of work in parental rights.
To put it simply, working with these likeminded individuals and groups has proven a successful means to multiply our own effectiveness. And these bills in Oklahoma, Texas, and Montana demonstrate just that.
In some ways, this is one of our greatest achievements.
Ten years ago, we had to be the boots on the ground for every piece of good legislation; no one else was fighting for parents’ rights in these legislatures.
Today, these three bills happened largely through the work of others—because of the groundwork we laid.
And it is partners like you who made that possible.
Partnership Makes It Possible
Your prior gifts to the Parental Rights Foundation have empowered us to be a part of the discussion, and even a leader in it. You have enabled us to be there, and to iron out the very language now shaping good law in our country.
And your reach is not limited to just the states where we ourselves have boots on the ground.
Rather, we’re building foundational materials for and with these likeminded groups, and even for individual lawmakers like Senator Manzella.
And we couldn’t have done any of it without you.
Thank you for making this possible.
While we celebrate these victories for families in all of these states—not just Oklahoma, Texas, Nevada, and Montana, but Iowa, Florida, and Indiana, too—there is still a lot of work to do.
There are still more than 40 states that have not passed parental rights legislation this year. And even in the states that have, additional reforms are needed.
That’s why we are currently guiding language through the American Legislative Exchange Council that would replace anonymous reporting with confidential reporting to child abuse hotlines. We hope to receive ALEC’s endorsement of that model later this summer and see where it might be passed—with us or without our direct guidance—next year.
So, can I count on you today to continue your partnership with us, to enable these policies to reach more states and protect more families?
Will you take a moment today to give your best gift of $15, $30, or even $75 to empower us to keep fighting for good legislation that will protect our families?
P.S. The effort we put into positive legislative proposals is still paying off through good laws like those recently passed out west, even though we weren’t directly guiding their passage. Recent successes in Montana, Oklahoma, and Texas wouldn’t have happened without our work over the years, and our work doesn’t happen without you. Will you continue to support those efforts today, so that more American families can be safe?