When legislatures reconvene this year, the political landscape will look significantly different in many states. As a result of the November 2010 elections, 13 state legislatures changed party majority and 29 new Governors will be place. These changes will result in many legislatures reorganizing and we are sure to see new committee structures, chairs and legislative leaders in place in 2011. These changes will make for an interesting and exciting 2011.
For 2011, states are prioritizing a variety of heart disease and stroke related issues, ranging from requiring high school students be taught CPR prior to graduation to developing telemedicine systems that will assure those in the most remote locations will be able to receive critical specialty care. The issues which are being addressed most widely are: promoting physical education programs in schools; creating or strengthening stroke system of care; securing or protecting tobacco prevention funding; and establishing strong secondhand smoke policies. Each of these policy issues are on the legislative agendas in more than 30 states.
Of special concern for states will be significant state budget deficits. According to a recent report, jointly released by the National Governor’s Association (NGA) and the National Association of State Budget Officers (NASBO), fiscal conditions will remain a major challenge for state budgets and state will continue to face slow revenue growth, increased spending demands and the end of the stimulus funds provided to state buy the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
State budget deficits provide an opening for staff and volunteers to establish the benefits of a tobacco tax increase. The AHA supports tobacco excise tax increases because of the many well-known health benefits however they can also provide much need fiscal resources to state coffers. At least nineteen state advocacy teams crafted strategic plans around a tobacco excise tax increase for their state. State budget deficits also make the plans our state teams carry out around increasing and protecting heart disease and stroke prevention funding even more critical.For more information about the state policy agenda in your state please contact your local state advocacy staff.