The main drivers of policy in 2022 will have their roots in the monumental events of 2020: the COVID-19 pandemic, the influence of Black Lives Matter protests, and the presidential election.
We’ve broken down our 2022 policy forecasts into seven main issue areas: elections, energy and environment, labor and employment, public health, social justice, tax and budgets, and technology. In each of these policy areas, we discuss key trending topics, including background context, current landscape, and outlook for 2022.
At this time each year, we pause to look back on the last year of legislative policymaking at the state and local level and try to foresee what the new year will bring. The main drivers of policy in 2022 will have their roots in the monumental events of 2020: the COVID-19 pandemic, the influence of Black Lives Matter protests, and the presidential election. Passionate debates over vaccinations, a rising animus toward tech companies, and policing reform efforts all emanate from the unexpected events of 2020.
The pandemic changed everything and it’s not done with us yet. As of this writing, the omicron variant of COVID-19 is setting record case numbers across the country. But decisions made back in the chaotic months of early 2020 will directly impact the 36 gubernatorial and over 6,000 state legislative elections this year. Stores were shuttered, workers became essential or not, food and drink (especially alcohol) delivery became the default, and much of the workforce shifted to remote. How many policy changes accelerated through the pandemic are here to stay?
While states were largely left to formulate their own policies to combat the pandemic, Congress opened its purse strings wide to provide an unprecedented infusion of cash to states, residents, and business owners. State lawmakers will debate how to spend much of those funds in 2022.
A year ago vaccines promised a return to normalcy — in a way. Once vaccines became abundant in the U.S. last summer, states experimented with and quickly expanded vaccine mandates as the year progressed. The U.S. Supreme Court will decide whether the culmination of these mandates — OSHA’s federal mandate to vaccinate all large businesses in the country — will go into effect as planned this month. Regardless of how the Court rules, intense legal and political arguments over mandating vaccines will persist through 2022. And with omicron or the next variant, it’s impossible to predict how public policy will evolve or whether we’ll settle into an endemic reality.
Amid the pandemic, police shootings of unarmed African Americans spurred nationwide protests and a public spotlight on another endemic reality. The rise of Black Lives Matter inspired social justice and policing reform legislation on the state level and will influence past and future elections. Large corporations have taken a stand on social justice issues that have been met with both kudos and retaliation from politicians. As companies navigate their political engagement strategies in 2022, they will be tasked with balancing their responsibilities to their shareholders, employees, elected officials, and an engaged voting public more than ever before
Finally, the 2020 presidential election shifted political control at the federal level as President Biden was inaugurated and President Trump spread unfounded accusations of widespread voter fraud. State lawmakers reacted by both expanding and restricting voting access, depending on the political leanings of the state. And after social media networks kicked President Trump off their platforms for spreading false information, state lawmakers targeted “big tech” companies with legislation feeding a growing “techlash.” Regulating technology companies was once a left-leaning pastime but today conservatives are taking a closer look at big tech’s power.
Many of the policy trends we’re seeing at the end of 2021 will be picked up again by state lawmakers as they reconvene for legislative sessions in 2022. It’s an election year once again with 36 governors and state lawmakers in 88 of 99 legislative chambers up for election in November. Republicans are eyeing big electoral gains across the country but as anyone who made predictions in January 2020 knows, a lot can happen between now and November.
Below, we’ve outlined these and many other policy trends our analysts are seeing in the states as we head into 2022. Click the pink headings below to click through to explore each issue area.