Science Policy Predictions After the 2018 Midterms

Editorial written by Jenny Bratburd, CaSP member and a graduate student in Microbiology.

In the 2018 midterms, many scientifically trained candidates won elections for the House of Representatives, including a doctor, nurse, and several engineers. Further, with Democrats controlling the House, leadership on committees will change. Notably on the Science, Space and Technology committee, climate change denier Lamar Smith (R-Texas) will likely be replaced by Eddie Bernice Smith (D-Texas). Committee subpoenas against the EPA and NOAA for climate alarmism may be a thing of the past, and EPA oversight may change even as the current administration continues to roll back environmental regulations.

Despite gains in the house, scientists may face challenges with bipartisan support for evidence-based policy since many climate moderate, science funding supportive Republicans lost their seats to Democratic challengers. Finding common ground may be difficult, but not impossible, as long as legislatures consider how to appeal to different sets of values and stakeholders. For example, in the National Review, Reihan Salam suggests conservatives might find nuclear energy as a palatable renewable energy source if presented as deregulation and investing in technology.

In Wisconsin, the election of education-minded Tony Evers bodes well for the University of Wisconsin system that faced cuts under Scott Walker’s regime. Potentially, Evers can also overhaul the Department of Natural Resources. With a Republican controlled legislature, Evers’s abilities may be limited, especially if the legislature tries to limit the governor’s power. In the Attorney General race, Democrat Josh Kaul defeated incumbent Brad Schimel. Kaul’s priorities may affect policies statewide, like his plans to withdraw Wisconsin from a suit challenging the Affordable Care Act. Kaul may also be more likely to side with environmental groups than his predecessor.