Heartland’s Policy Priorities for 2015

Published January 9, 2015

Heartland’s Policy Priorities for 2015

 With the start of the new year most state lawmakers are heading back to their state capitols to tackle many important issues. Heartland believes the following will be some of the top issues to watch for in numerous states this year.

Fighting EPA’s CO2 Regulations
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a plan to mandate a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from U.S. power plants’ 2005 levels by 2030. In 2014, Pennsylvania passed the Greenhouse Gas Regulation Implementation Act, a bipartisan bill that requires the legislature to approve any CO2 reduction plan the state’s Department of Environmental Protection develops before submitting it to EPA. The United States is increasingly becoming an energy-rich nation but has the policies of an energy-poor nation. States should fight back against these federal policies by rolling back their own interventionist energy policies, freeing up tremendous resources to create jobs, wealth, and prosperity. 

State Welfare Reform
Many governors have announced they are developing reforms to help people escape poverty and benefit families that remain in poverty but could receive better services and clearer signals for what they need to do to eventually regain financial independence. Heartland is preparing to release an update of its 2008 report card ranking each of the 50 states on the success or failure of welfare reform.

Certificate of Need Reform
Thirty-five states hinder competition through laws that limit the ability of health care providers to expand their businesses through an approval process known as Certificate of Need (CON). The unintended consequences of these laws have led many experts to call for their repeal. State legislators are likely to look at rolling or reforming these unnecessary regulations.

Rolling Back State Renewable Power Mandates
In the past year, Ohio became the first state to put a freeze on its renewable portfolio standards, while Kansas and North Carolina also came very close to rolling back these costly mandates. As states begin to run out of time to hit their renewable mandate requirements and the availability of low-cost, low-carbon domestic natural gas continues to improve, states will look at freezing or eliminating renewable requirements.

Common Core Education Standards
Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are in part an effort to further nationalize K–12 curriculum, and they have emerged as a flash point in the national debate over school reform. CCSS combines some good ideas, such as the value of setting standards and aligning curriculum and tests with them, with some very bad ideas, such as imposing a one-size-fits-all curriculum on the nation’s children.

Medicaid expansion
After the U.S. Supreme Court’s partial overturn of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion, states are left to decide whether to expand their health entitlement program to adults at or below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. While some states are attracted to the additional federal funding, many states are wary of expanding a program that is already fiscally unsustainable.

In addition to these issues The Heartland Institute will continue to promote other state-based policy solutions, such as stopping burdensome regulations and bans on hydraulic fracking; expanding education vouchers, education savings accounts, and tax credit scholarships; promoting fundamental tax reform; reforming state pension systems; and more.

The Heartland Institute stands ready to help you this legislative session by sending an expert to your state to testify or brief your caucus; hosting an event in your state; or sending you further information on a topic. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if we can be of assistance!

Budget & Tax
Florida Municipal PensionsState pension issues have received much attention from lawmakers and media, but many municipalities also face pension liabilities leading them toward bankruptcy. In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans states, “Florida legislators should consider reforms to protect both taxpayers and public workers by repealing the costly pension floor and following the private sector’s lead by switching workers from defined-benefit pension systems to defined-contribution-style pension plans like 401(k)s.” Read more

Energy & Environment
It’s Time to Endanger the Endangered Species Act
In this article published by Townhall magazine, Policy Analyst Taylor Smith examines the history of the Endangered Species Act and finds the unintended consequences of the law to be deeply problematic. Due to the law’s strict penalties, a landowner has more incentive to destroy potential endangered species’ habitats on their property rather than risk financial catastrophe. Smith discusses why many of the big-name environmentalist groups know this and still oppose reform and how the law can be altered to better protect endangered species while protecting landowners. Read more

Pence Proposes Education Agenda to Expand School Choice
Indiana has the broadest school voucher program in the nation, and Gov. Pence (R) is looking to expand the program’s success. As a part of his 2015 agenda, Pence is specifically asking legislators to lift the cap on the dollar amount for vouchers, raise the cap on the choice scholarship tax credit program, and add more funding for public charter schools. Read more

FCC Votes to Increase E-rate Telecom TaxesAccording to the Tax Foundation, wireless fees and taxes have increased at a rate three times faster than any other goods or services tax. In this Heartlander piece, contributor Matt Hurley writes about the possible effects of the Federal Communications Commission vote to hike fees on consumers’ wireless services, subsidizing the cost of Internet connectivity for public libraries and schools.Read more

Health Care
Alaska Medicaid Expansion
According to the Alaska Policy Forum, Alaska currently spends roughly $1.5 billion per year to provide health coverage for nearly 140,000 Alaskans. Contrary to expansion supporters’ depiction of new federal funds as “free money,” Medicaid expansion is expensive, creating new costs the federal government may not always cover and leaving state taxpayers on the hook for new liabilities. Medicaid is currently the largest category of state spending. According to the National Association of State Budget Officers, Medicaid consumes 23.6 percent of state government expenditures. In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans states “Alaska should avoid expanding a flawed model that is costly, delivers subpar health care, and shifts more power to the federal government.” Read more

From Our Free Market Friends
Top and Bottom Five School Choice Moments in 2014

School choice played a large role for many state legislators in 2014. Of all the school choice happenings around the country, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice has listed what it believes to be the top five and bottom five school choice moments from this past year. Read more




The January issue of Health Care News reports the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has once again lowered its estimates of the number of Americans enrolled in health insurance plans through government exchanges in 2014. In May, HHS touted 8 million enrollees; the current figure is more like 6.7 million.

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