ICYMI: Top stories of the week

Each week, we bring you a collection of the most viewed stories from The Daily Brew, condensed. But first…

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Now, here are the top stories from the week of May 22-May 26.

Here’s why an initiative to create a power company is on the ballot in Maine this November 

One initiative has been certified for the November ballot in Maine—the Maine Creation of Pine Tree Power Company Initiative. The initiative would create a municipal consumer-owned electric transmission and distribution utility called the Pine Tree Power Company, run by a publicly elected board, and allow it to purchase and acquire all investor-owned transmission and distribution utilities in Maine.

Currently, two investor-owned companies distribute the majority of Maine’s power—Central Maine Power (CMP) and Versant. Supporters of the Pine Tree Power Company have said a consumer-owned utility company would be more affordable and reliable and have criticized CMP and Versant for their ties to foreign-owned businesses. Critics of the initiative have said that buying CMP and Versant would require billions of dollars worth of debt that consumers would pay through their electric bills. 

The Pine Tree Power Company Initiatives follows another ballot measure related to election transmission in Maine. In 2021, voters approved Question 1, which prohibited the construction of electric transmission lines defined as high-impact in the Upper Kennebec Region and required a two-third vote of each legislative chamber to approve future high-impact transmission line projects. Question 1 was the most expensive ballot measure in Maine’s history, with around $100 million raised in support and opposition.

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State executives continue to endorse school board candidates

Four state executive officials in Oklahoma endorsed school board candidates in this year’s elections, continuing what we first started to notice last year. These four officials endorsed three candidates in three races.

Gov. Kevin Stitt (R), Lt. Gov. Matt Pinnell (R), and Supt. of Public Instruction Ryan Walters (R) all endorsed Jared Buswell, who was challenging an incumbent in the Tulsa School District. Walters also endorsed Julie Bentley, who was running in the nearby Bixby School District. 

Commission of Labor Leslie Osborn (R) endorsed incumbent Judy Mullen Hopper in the Putnam School District.

Buswell and Bixby lost their respective elections. Mullen Hopper won.

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More absentee ballot drop box legislation introduced in 2023 than at this point in 2022

So far this year, state legislators have introduced more bills regulating the availability and security of absentee ballot drop boxes than at this point in 2022

Ballot drop boxes are like large mailboxes where voters can return their mail-in ballots. Drop boxes can be staffed or unstaffed. Depending on the location, a ballot drop box may be accessible 24/7 or only during specified business hours. The bills that would regulate such drop boxes can generally fit into two categories: drop box availability and drop box security. Bills on drop box availability regulate the allowance, availability, or placement of ballot drop boxes. Drop box security bills establish or change existing rules for the physical security of drop boxes, such as requiring security cameras or in-person staffing.

In 2023, legislators have introduced 34 bills related to ballot drop boxes. Three (9%) of these bills have become law. At this point in 2022, legislators had introduced 26 bills, and two (8%) had become. 

Since the start of 2022, Democrats have introduced more drop box availability bills overall, sponsoring 38 compared to Republicans’ 31. Republicans have introduced more drop box security bills, sponsoring 19 compared to Democrats’ 13. Republicans sponsored all seven bills introduced since 2022 to prohibit drop boxes entirely. 

Click below to use the Tracker and explore bills of your interest!

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