States collected more tax revenue over the past year than budget analysts expected when the pandemic hit. Lawmakers used the extra funds to pay for social services, economic stimulus and tax cuts—and are gearing up to spend billions of dollars in COVID-19 aid given directly to states by the American Rescue Plan.
State lawmakers across the country made sweeping changes to policing this year, following last summer’s worldwide anti-racism protests after the murder of George Floyd. Many states passed laws limiting police use of force and mandating the collection of data on police activity. Other laws covered training, body cameras, disciplinary records, decertification procedures, investigations, qualified immunity and biometric data.
Upset that former President Donald Trump lost the election, Republican state lawmakers around the country enacted new laws to curtail the powers of secretaries of state and county clerks. Election officials and voting rights activists worry these new measures will further politicize the voting process and lead to situations in which state lawmakers overturn legitimate election results.
Public health was a global concern this year, and lawmakers and governors in many states approved measures with an eye toward the next pandemic. But while some states took steps to bolster their health systems, many others preemptively curbed the powers of governors and public health officials to order shutdowns and mask mandates.
Not since the Supreme Court legalized abortion nationwide in 1973 has there been a year in which states enacted so many new abortion restrictions—at least 90 of them in 19 states. Many state legislatures also grappled with other social issues such as transgender rights and critical race theory.