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6 Big Wins in 2022 for Higher Education, Democracy, Climate, Contraceptives, Organ Donation, and Evidence-Based Policy

This year saw growing support for the College Transparency Act, greater adoption of ranked-choice voting and open primaries, expansion of contraceptive access, and more federal spending on climate and clean energy, among other bright spots.

Arnold Ventures has long supported work in criminal justice as well as health care. However, the organization continues to maximize opportunity and minimize injustice in several other areas as well. Here are a handful of big wins in 2022 for some of AV’s lesser known but equally compelling programs.

Higher Education: The College Transparency Act gains traction

This bipartisan bill passed the House of Representatives with widespread support in February and is touted by advocates and policymakers as a simple way to bring together already available student-level data to create useful information on school programs for students, families, and employers. Now it is time to get it across the finish line and signed into law. Learn more about it here.

Democracy: Growing momentum for ranked-choice voting and open primaries

Ranked choice voting (RCV) has become the fastest growing nonpartisan election reform in the country. In 2022, eight localities that are collectively home to five million people voted to adopt RCV, among them: Evanston, Illinois; Portland, Maine; Fort Collins, Colorado; Portland, Oregon; Multnomah County, Oregon; and Seattle, Washington. In Alaska, voters used RCV for the first time to elect a conservative Republican governor, a moderate Republican senator, a moderate Democratic congresswoman and a cross partisan majority in the state legislature. A Nevada ballot measure for open primaries and RCV passed its first vote and will be on the ballot again in 2024. FairVote has a full list of these and other measures. 

Evidence-Based Policy: High-touch mentoring shows a crime and delinquency reduction in an interim report

David Dubois and Carla Herrera at the University of Illinois-Chicago are conducting a randomized controlled trial of the nationwide youth mentoring program Big Brothers Big Sisters, and the interim results showed the program’s potential for significant impact on underserved youth with regards to crime and delinquency. The study, involving over 1,300 youth, showed that after 18 months, those who had been offered participation in the program were 54% less likely to have been arrested and 41% less likely to have engaged in substance use than their peers in a control group.

Related: At Big Brothers Big Sisters, Mentorship Moves the Needle

Expansion of contraceptive access through multiple emerging delivery channels

Throughout the year, states have looked closely at how they can expand access to contraception. According to American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), 20 states have laws or standing orders that permit pharmacists to prescribe oral hormonal birth control. Several states, including North and South Carolina, passed those laws in 2022; 10 other states have similar legislation in the works. Many services, including health care, have moved online when possible in the pandemic; in 2022, we saw the growth of telemedicine for women’s health care at services such as Twenty Eight Health and others. And finally, a HRA Pharma has made an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to move its progestin-only birth control pill, OPill, to over-the-counter.

Related: Getting the Pill When You Can’t Get to the Doctor

Climate and Energy: Continued monumental federal spending

In 2022, the federal government made its single largest investment in climate and energy with the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). This burst of climate spending followed clean energy investments in last year’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, or Investment Infrastructure and Jobs Act (IIJA), and the bipartisan, bicameral Energy Act of 2020. Despite being attached to a partisan reconciliation bill, many elements included in the IRA have robust bipartisan support, including the greatly enhanced 45Q tax credit for carbon capture, sequestration, and storage; support for existing and advanced nuclear reactors and other innovative technologies; and credits to scale up clean hydrogen. The end of the year also saw the first real bipartisan discussion on federal permitting reform in a decade, which could signal opportunity in next year’s divided Congress.

Related: A Moon Shot to Solve the Climate Crisis

Organ Donation Reform: Senate committee spotlights widespread mismanagement and calls for breaking up national monopoly

The Senate Finance Committee in August continued its two-year, bipartisan investigation into failures of the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), which operates the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, or OPTN, to oversee the nation’s organ donation system under a contract with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The Committee released a damning, bipartisan report concluding that from the top down, the U.S. transplant network is not working” and is putting Americans’ lives at risk.” The Washington Post published two front-page stories detailing UNOS’ severe technology and IT security failings and its role in covering up deadly patient safety lapses, respectively.

The Finance Committee’s report called for HHS to break up OPTN’s monopoly over organ procurement, echoing earlier calls from the House Appropriations Committee. This November, prominent members of the Congressional Black Caucus, led by Sen. Cory Booker and Rep. Mondaire Jones, called for the same commonsense reform as an urgent health equity issue.”

On average, 33 Americans die every day for lack of a transplant, and 28,000 lifesaving organs are not transplanted every year. These failures disproportionately harm patients of color and contribute to massive taxpayer spending, largely driven by dialysis expenditures for patients awaiting kidney transplants. The OPTN contract expires in 2023, so these Congressional recommendations mark an urgent opportunity for HHS to ensure a first-ever competitive contracting process in 2023.