This edition of Policy Matters looks at some of the biggest, most divisive issues playing out at the state level in 2023. Several states are proving to be “trend-setters” – on the leading edge of certain policies that have captured the attention and energy of the national political parties. The outcomes of the 2023 state legislative session preview some of the issues that will dominate campaigns up and down the ballot in the 2024 elections.
As the repercussions and reverberations of the 2020 and 2022 elections continue, a number of states are considering election reform legislation in 2023. Republican legislators are focused on tightening rules around absentee voting and registration, while Democrats work to expand access to the ballot box. Several states – and officials on both sides of the aisle – have pursued protections for election workers.
During the pandemic, the number of people enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) grew dramatically, increasing by 23.3 million individuals, in part due to Congress’ requirement that state programs continuously enroll individuals through the end of the COVID-19 emergency to qualify for federal funding. As of March 31, 2023, state Medicaid programs are now resuming eligibility reviews and removing individuals from their rolls, known as “unwinding.”
When the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ended the nationwide right to an abortion in June 2022, the majority ruled that it was time the issue of abortion was “returned to the people and their elected representatives” in the states. Along with “trigger laws” in place in more than a dozen states that went into effect following the Court’s ruling, many legislatures have again taken up the issue in the 2023 legislative session.
Recent deadly shootings – including in Nashville, Tenn., Louisville, KyDadeville, Ala. –have sparked renewed calls for additional gun control measures nationwide. Pro-regulation protests from students, parents and lawmakers in Nashville evolved into a separate political crisis when two Democratic state lawmakers were expelled from the legislature for protesting on the chamber floor; both have since been reinstated.
Environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing continues to be a hot-button issue in state legislatures. Republicans in more than a dozen states have introduced or are considering taking action on bills that would curb ESG investments and policies.
Partly in response to pandemic-era remote learning, education and “parental rights” issues continue to dominate state legislatures across the country, from school choice to restrictions on curriculum and programming related to sexual orientation and gender identity, diversity, equity and inclusion and critical race theory.
Congress has been unable to pass a national data privacy law, despite some bipartisan momentum last Congress. In the absence of a national standard, states continue to fill the void. Comprehensive consumer privacy legislation has been introduced or considered in at least 25 states in 2023.