By Constance Campanella, President and CEO

What do you think of when you hear the word, TRENDS?

A series of actions that form a predictive pathway to future actions?

A great tool for state and local government relations professionals?


Major events like hurricanes, man-made disasters, high profile institutional melt downs, unusual crimes or new technologies usually inspire lawmakers and provoke a flurry of new legislation or executive actions. But, those types of events are just the more obvious examples of what sparks or sustains trends.

Much of what “trends” in terms of state issues builds up over time and reflects a convergence of government obligations and citizen engagement–with some media attention thrown in.

Given that Stateside deals with all 50 states, we also strive to recognize trends, understand their origins and determine how to exploit or withstand their impact.

Recently, we gathered several trend and forecast reports produced by the Council of State Governments, the National Conference of State Legislatures and Governing magazine. We thought that these three would be broad in their perspective and embrace the widest array of hot state issues. And, we were not disappointed–especially when Governing chose to include IMMIGRATION among its Top Ten Issues to Watch in 2014 but left out the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

NCSL was the only one to include GUNS on its list. And, CSG reached out to highlight NET METERING, which the others did not address.

Were they not all looking at the same 50 state legislatures and Governors?

As you will see below, just three issues were specifically mentioned by all three organizations: Medicaid, Hydraulic Fracturing and Transportation Funding. Of course, some issue categories can be presumed to embrace more than is specifically mentioned. For example, NCSL’s Big Data description does not include Privacy, but references issues of personal control.

Affordable Solar Energy x
Autonomous Vehicles x x
Big Data x
Brain Research x
Cloud Computing (taxes) x
Common Core x x
Distracted Driving x
Drones x x
Education Quality x
Electronic Cigarettes x
Guns x
Health Insurance Exchanges x x
Higher Education Cost x x
Hydraulic Fracturing x x x
Immigration x
Juvenile Justice x
Medicaid x x x
Minimum Wage x x
MOOCs* x x
Net Metering x
Privacy x
Public Pensions x
The Sharing Economy x
Tax Reform/Revision x x
Teacher Quality x
Transportation Funding x x x
Voter Registration/High Tech Voting x
Water x

*Massive Open Online Courses

While not unanimous in their perspectives, these reports help us look outside our own issue priorities and appreciate the great diversity of issues and pressures faced by state lawmakers.

The best way to use these types of forecasts is to read as many as you can find. Each organization is going to imbue its forecast with some hopeful thinking, so you can learn a lot from scanning and taking note of the unique issues in each report.

And, for a slightly different perspective, PEW published this look at new laws taking effect in 2014, which address several of the “trend” issues featured elsewhere.

What other “hot issues” do you think should have earned spots on these lists?


Constance Campanella is the Founder, President and CEO of Stateside Associates. A veteran of 30 years of state and federal issue management experience, Ms. Campanella managed Stateside’s growth from a one-person firm to what one trade publication has called, “a behemoth in state lobbying.”

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