Following an intense 2016 campaign season, Republicans defied pollsters’ predictions, capturing the White House and maintaining control in the Senate and House of Representatives. As a result of Republicans’ success on Election Day, Heartland is hopeful states will be given more flexibility to enact more robust reforms at the state level.
Republicans now control 33 governors’ mansions, including flipping governorships in Missouri, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Prior the election, Republicans controlled 69 state legislative chambers and Democrats controlled 30 state legislative chambers. Republicans controlled both chambers of the legislature in 30 states, Democrats controlled both chambers in 12 states. Seven states split control. On November 8, Democrats won chambers in Nevada, New Mexico, and Washington. Republicans gained majorities in the Iowa State Senate, Kentucky House of Representatives, and Minnesota State Senate.
According to a recent National Conference of State Legislature’s blog, state legislative races also made their mark on Tuesday night: “In short, Republicans bested expectations. Having already reached the peak of control in party history, Republicans will maintain a similar level of control, in a year when many expected Democrats to net seats and chambers.”
Election Night also ended with the passage and defeat of important ballot initiatives. Colorado overwhelmingly voted down ColoradoCare, a proposal which would have created a single-payer health care system in the state. Three out of the four tobacco and vapor tax increases were defeated; however, the one that passed (in California) was the largest of the four. Oregon voters defeated a gross receipts tax proposal, and Washington State rejected what would have been the country’s first carbon tax.
John Nothdurft, The Heartland Institute’s director of government relations, said in reaction to the 2016 election results, “In the 2017 legislative sessions, states are likely to be given greater autonomy to govern. In particular, the biggest change will come from being able to more easily reform Medicaid. In terms of other state policy trends, it is likely we will see more states pass right-to-work legislation, an expansion in educational choice, and regulations allowing for even more responsible domestic energy production.”
The Heartland Institute congratulates all those elected officials who won their election or reelection campaigns. We look forward to working with you during the 2017 legislative session.
What We’re Working On
Budget & Tax
Research & Commentary: South Carolina Pension Reform Could Be on the Horizon
In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans discusses pension reform in South Carolina. He argues states should move away from defined-benefit pension systems and toward defined-contribution plans. “If the state passes serious pension reform, South Carolina will be able to eliminate the burden of future pension liabilities, avert the pension crisis, and make budgeting more predictable,” Glans wrote. Read more
Public Dissatisfied with Learning Standards, Disagrees on Goals of Education, Poll Shows
In this story for School Reform News, Jenni White, a news reporter for The Heartland Institute, analyzes a new poll by Phi Delta Kappa that finds only 46 percent of Americans say the educational standards in their local public schools are “about right,” while 43 percent believe expectations for student achievement are too low. The survey also found 59 percent of people oppose allowing students to opt out of standardized state tests, 84 percent would rather see a failing school kept open and improved than closed, 48 percent say charter schools should meet the same educational standards as other public school, and 46 percent say they should set their own standards, White reports. Read more
Energy & Environment
Research & Commentary: Hydraulic Fracturing Does Not Pose a Serious Threat to Groundwater
In this Research & Commentary, Policy Analyst Tim Benson writes despite protestations to the contrary and hysteric claims made by green activists, the existing peer-reviewed evidence shows hydraulic fracturing processes do not pose a systemic impact on groundwater. Since 2010, at least 15 of these studies have been produced, and federal, state, and local governments have tested thousands of sites for hydraulic fracturing pollution of groundwater and drinking water resources. There is no scientific justification for banning hydraulic fracturing or over-regulating it out of existence, Benson writes. Regulation should only be based on the best available scientific literature, not on wild, unfounded claims based on misinformation, fear, and superstition. Read more
Who’s Not Afraid of Rising ACA Premiums?
Approximately 200,000 U.S. patients are paying up to 22 percent more now than they paid in August for health care coverage, without government assistance to ease the burden, and they don’t seem to mind, partly because their coverage has nothing to do with the Affordable Care Act (ACA). In this edition of the Consumer Power Report, Michael Hamilton, managing editor of Health Care News, examines the skyrocketing cost of ACA health insurance policies and a new hike in premiums. “If Congress and the next president want to repair damage ACA has wrought on the U.S. insurance, health care, and job markets, they should learn from [Health Care Sharing Ministries]. Leaving these groups largely free from direct regulation under ACA has caused innovators to compete, families to flourish, and patients to prosper,” Hamilton wrote. Read more
From Our Free-Market Friends
A Growing Movement: America’s Largest Charter Public School Communities and Their Impact on Student Outcomes
Charter school student enrollment has tripled to 2.9 million students over the past 11 years, according to the latest National Alliance report. Three in 10 students now attend a charter public school in 17 mostly urban school districts across the country. For the first time this year, the annual National Alliance for Public Charter Schools enrollment share report also looks at student performance data and found that in districts where at least 30 percent of students are enrolled in charter schools, nearly all (14 of 16) had a higher percentage of test takers who scored proficient on state tests than did their district counterparts. Results are equally strong for economically disadvantaged charter school students. As parent demand for charter schools continues to strengthen, this year’s A Growing Movement report shows that the charter school movement continues to expand to meet that demand and that, more importantly, charter schools are delivering results for students across the country. Read more