The 5 issues and trends experts expect states to tackle in 2024thedigitalchaps


2024 will be a monumental presidential election year. But when it comes to policy, it will be state governments that see the most action over the next 12 months.

When state legislatures kick off their fresh sessions in the coming weeks — 37 will go into session in January and another nine will follow in February — lawmakers will immediately dive into a host of big policy issues.

Some of those areas — like how to tackle artificial intelligence and deepfakes — will be relatively new. For others, like how state governments can best deal with major workforce shortages, legislators will be picking up where they left off last year.

Meanwhile, in areas like abortion rights, it will be organizers attempting to place measures on the November ballot, not lawmakers, who are taking the lead.

“2024 will be an incredibly important year as we think about the progress that can be made at the state level,” said Jessie Ulibarri, the co-executive director of the State Innovation Exchange, a policy shop that helps draw up model state legislation that advances traditionally progressive issues.

Here are the top five issues and trends experts expect to see emerge at the state level in 2024.

Abortion rights

Abortion rights has been a political boon for Democrats since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, but those successes have only occasionally taken the form of state legislation.

Rather, Democrats have seen their biggest victories in advancing abortion rights over the last two years take the form of state ballot measures — and more are on the horizon in 2024.

Abortion rights supporters have already made major progress in at least 10 states to put the issue on the ballot next year.

Groups are collecting signatures to let voters decide on ballot initiatives in Florida, Arizona, Nevada, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota and Missouri. In Maryland, New York and Colorado lawmakers — who control the amendment process in those states — have already succeeded in putting measures on the 2024 ballot that would enshrine abortion rights in those states’ constitutions.

“2023 was the first year since the Dobbs decision, and what we saw across the board, regardless of political context, was that the people of America are ready, willing and able to organize to advance reproductive freedom and access to abortion care in red and blue states alike,” said Ulibarri. “And that will remain a consistent effort in this next year, when there will be many more states considering ballot measures.”

Abortion rights advocates are also warning that 2024 will see efforts by conservative lawmakers, attorneys and judges in states including Ohio, Kansas and Michigan to block implementation of the passed initiatives by proposing new anti-abortion bills and threatening lawsuits.

AI and deepfakes

Advancements in artificial intelligence and deepfake technology have grown exponentially in just the past year.

State legislatures haven’t kept up.

That lag has been especially clear as it pertains to bills that seek to tackle political deepfakes, leaving potential threats unchecked heading into a presidential election year.

In 2023, just three states enacted laws attempting to address AI’s effects on political campaigns. But the few pieces of legislation that are in place — some focus on disclosure, others on prohibition — are likely to serve as models for other states going forward.

While most states haven’t yet released details of pre-filed bills for upcoming state legislative sessions, state politics observers predict many will attempt to address the issue next year.

“This is clearly a significant problem,” said Daniel Weiner, who as director of the elections and government program at the nonpartisan Brennan Center is closely following the challenges presented by AI and deepfakes.

“Start incrementally, do what you can, see how it works,” Weiner said, describing how he thinks state governments should approach legislation.

Tim Storey, the CEO of the National Conference of State Legislatures, added that the issues “are going to get a lot of attention and energy” in 2024. “It’s going to be a major theme in 2024 sessions,” he said.

States are also likely to begin more seriously looking to regulate other areas of AI and deepfakes, he explained.

“It’s happening so fast with AI, states know there’s going to have to be some regulatory guardrails around the integration of AI — both in terms of people’s personal lives and their commercial lives,” Storey said.

Workforce shortages

In critical fields such as education, medicine, health care and criminal justice, states in recent years have endured a jarring shortage of workers.

To find, attract and retain essential workers like teachers, nurses and corrections officers, states have tried to lean hard into legislation that incentivizes — or at least eases obstacles for — people looking to enter or stay in those fields.

State bills over the last several years have focused heavily on student debt forgiveness and pay increases.

With baby boomers continuing to retire, and the effects of a wave of pandemic-motivated workforce departures still robust, states — blue, red and purple — are expected to keep their foot on the gas in the space in their 2024 legislative sessions.

“This is one of those issues that is impacting every single state,” Storey said. “The workforce issue will continue to come into play,” he added, predicting that bills in upcoming sessions could focus on changing requirements for credentialing, licensure and in some cases degrees for certain in-demand professions.

In 2023, lawmakers in some states also attempted to address worker shortages by loosening child labor laws.

While that trend could continue in some states, some experts predict that at least a handful of states will instead move to shore up child labor protections in 2024 to make sure that their legislatures don’t deal with shortages by allowing children into the workforce.

“Unfortunately, we’ve seen this year some states attempt to roll back child labor laws, and other states are going to take that up next year,” said Ulibarri. “And many states will actually be looking to enshrine deeper protections to protect kids from being put into the workforce too early.”


In border states, governors and lawmakers from both parties have increasingly taken matters into their own hands amid a historic number of migrants attempting to cross into the U.S.

In just the last few weeks, both Democrats and Republicans have taken huge — and sometimes controversial — legislative steps to tackle the issue.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, recently signed legislation allowing police to arrest migrants who cross the border illegally.

Days earlier, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, requested from President Joe Biden more than $500 million to reimburse the state for border security expenses, as well as the reassignment of National Guard troops who could help reopen a key border crossing in the state.

Immigration mostly falls under the purview of the federal government. But if the ongoing inaction from the White House and Congress continues much further into 2024, border states will continue to try to tackle it, experts predicted.

“You do have a lot of states where they’re done waiting on Washington to address these issues, and looking at it individually, which is difficult,” Storey said. “But this is one of those issues that a state-by-state solution is more complicated.”

Meanwhile, the decision by Texas and other red states to continue busing recently arrived migrants to blue cities like Chicago, New York and Denver has resulted in states far from the border trying to deal with the issue as well.

“It’s not just California, Arizona, Texas anymore. It really is an issue that that everyone appreciates is at their doorstep,” Storey said.

Growing tensions

Not many state political observers saw the historic spike in expulsions, impeachment threats and punitive bills enacted by the party in power targeting members of the opposition coming in 2023.

But they do in 2024.

“I think we will continue to see significant tensions in legislative bodies until we attend to the conditions of governments,” Ulibarri said.

In Tennessee, Republican legislators expelled two Black Democrats from the state House in unprecedented votes earlier this year, drawing national attention and accusations of racism. In Montana, Republicans in the state House voted to bar Democratic state Rep. Zooey Zephyr, the state’s first transgender lawmaker, from participating in debates on the chamber floor. And in Oregon, state Democrats moved to ban 10 Republican lawmakers from running for re-election after they participated in a six-week walkout in protest over guns, abortion and other issues.

With the bitterness that comes with a presidential election year all but certain to continue fanning those flames on the state level, there’s little hope of the trend fading, experts said.

In Wisconsin, where Republicans have threatened to impeach a liberal state Supreme Court justice who won her April election by 11 percentage points, as well as the top elections official in the state, GOP Assembly Speaker Robin Vos refused to rule out taking action against either person in the upcoming session.

“We are seeing an era of partisan legislation,” Storey said, referring not only to policy, but to punitive measures as well.

“I think we’re going to be in that mode for some time longer.”