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Policy Labs

AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB, Eduqas, WJEC

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Policy labs, occasionally known as laboratories of democracy are a theory of policy testing in a small area. The basis for this idea originates in the Tenth Amendment stating that powers not mentioned in the constitution are reserved to the states.

Under the idea of policy labs, states will enact laws and policies at a state level. The benefit of this method means that policies can be evaluated and tested in one state without significant risk being posed to the remaining 49 states.

There have been numerous instances whereby a policy has been trialled in a state first before making it into federal law. However, the most famous example would be in 2006 when Massachusetts passed health care reform, which then in 2010 became the model of the Affordable Care Act.

In addition to this, the term policy labs can be applied to the wide difference in state laws the exist too. For example, California introduced the use of pollution permits for corporations, something which is being watched closely by the Obama Administration. Further examples include the legalisation of cannabis in several states such as Colorado.

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