Policy in Action

State legislatures have been extremely active in 2016 reviewing a myriad of bills addressing pressing policy topics in their states.  Priorities focus on key topics impacting constituents and overall prosperity of their states.

Healthcare
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) implementation continues to be a subject of debate in 2016 in states where legislators are deciding whether or not to expand Medicaid. Apart from the ACA, healthcare insurers are continuing the steady rate of consolidation and as more insurance companies merge, legislators will have to come to terms with the effects on their respective states in terms of insurance offerings. Drug pricing mechanisms are likely to get attention too, given that 2015 saw investigations and arrests. Telehealth concerns rise in 2016 as patients rely more on their smartphones to access care, raising privacy and ethical concerns.

Education
In 2015, the average college student graduated with over $33,000 in student debt. As federal and state proposals arise on how to deal with this surmounting crisis, state legislators around the country are scrambling for ideas on how to mitigate the issue. State legislators are challenged to develop new and innovative methods to ensure students in K-12 are meeting rigorous academic standards in 2016. Another looming issue many legislators are considering is the growing problem of sexual assault on college campuses.

Energy & Environment
Following ongoing climate discussions, many state governments have incentives to offer diversified energy sources, as well as develop new opportunities to create sustainable environments in their states. However, hydro-fracking and other alternative energy sources are up for debate in states around the country as they consider new ways to meet increasing energy demand.

Science & Technology
Increasingly, data hacking and student data privacy are becoming concerns for many across the United States. Legislators are grappling with how to keep the Internet safe while efficient, while also ensuring net neutrality among service providers. At the same time, research and development spending may take over the spotlight as research centers in the states are pressured to develop new and innovative technologies in the face of shrinking research and development budgets.

Criminal Justice
Criminal Justice reform continues to be a hot topic in 2016. As states are the primary financiers of state prisons, conversations are growing around mental health and drug incarceration as budgets come into perspective. In addition, gun violence has proven to be a topic of conversation as states consider background checks and other mechanisms. Many state legislators also are making decisions about the use of body cameras on police forces as this issue continues to gain traction.

Economic Development
Over the last decade, the cost of living and inflation have significantly surpassed the rise in wages. Predictively, 2016 may be the year when legislators enact wage increase proposals and other measure to combat wage stagnation. Corporate profits also are likely to hit the scoreboard as the year continues as employees enjoy less of their company’s profit. After the Fed increased interest rates in 2015 for the first time in over 9 years, states must come to terms with the modest increase and determine ways to boost their local economies

Military & Veterans Affairs
Many states in 2016 are faced with the nation’s homeless veterans crisis. 54% of homeless veterans tend to have a mental and/or physical disorder, in some cases trauma-related. Much attention is needed to deal with this growing healthcare issue alongside the growing concern of sexual assault.