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The 1981 Alaska House has parallels to current leadership deadlock

The Alaska House of Representatives has not yet formed a majority. Twenty-one members are needed to elect a permanent House speaker, and only 20 of the chamber’s 23 Republicans are in alliance.
 
The history of the House shows that narrow majorities formed after lengthy bargaining periods have failed before.
 
In 1981, the Alaska House set the state record for the longest period without a majority in place. Democrats won 22 of 40 seats in the 1980 elections, but their members were unable to agree on the leadership of the Finance Committee. Twenty-two days after the session began, Democrats formed their majority and elected Rep. Jim Duncan (D) as speaker.
 
In June 1981, several Democrats unhappy with Duncan, particularly over the length of time he kept them in session, joined with Republicans to depose Duncan. They elected Rep. Joe Hayes (R) as speaker in his place. Duncan and his allies attempted to sue the new majority over the incident, but an Alaska superior court dismissed their case.
 
One of the unaligned Republicans today, Rep. Gary Knopp, says he will not join with other Republicans because he believes a 21-member majority would be unstable. In December 2018, he said he believed the majority would unravel in the middle of the legislative session if Rep. David Eastman (R) was among its members. The Alaska Daily News reported that Eastman was the sole “no” vote against legislation 75 times from 2017 to 2018 and that he had more solo “no” votes than all other legislators combined from 2013 to 2016. Because of this, Knopp says he wants to form a bipartisan power-sharing coalition with members from both parties.
 
Eastman responded to Knopp’s plans in a January 28 op-ed. He questioned whether the proposed bipartisan coalition would accurately represent the result that Alaskans voted for in 2018 when Mike Dunleavy (R) was elected governor over Mark Begich (D). Eastman originally did not align with other Republicans behind caucus leader David Talerico, saying he might want a more conservative leader. However, Eastman joined all Republicans except Knopp, Gabrielle LeDoux, and Louise Stutes in voting for Talerico as speaker on January 22. LeDoux and Stutes both caucused with Democrats from 2017 to 2018.


U.S. intel officials cite cooperation between China and Russia as top security threat

U.S. intelligence officials delivered their annual assessment of global threats to national security to Congress, identifying cooperation between China and Russia as their top concern.
 
During a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Chris Wray, and Central Intelligence Agency Director Gina Haspel said that cyber warfare, weapons of mass destruction, and terrorism pose the biggest threats to the U.S.
 
The threat assessment report focused on the relationship between China and Russia and stated that the two countries “are more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s, and the relationship is likely to strengthen in the coming year as some of their interests and threat perceptions converge, particularly regarding perceived US unilateralism and interventionism and Western promotion of democratic values and human rights.”
 
Intelligence officials said that they expect Russia and China to continue to interfere in U.S. elections. They also warned that China is capable of launching cyberattacks that could disable U.S. critical infrastructure.
 
Intelligence officials warned members of Congress about the ongoing threats posed by chemical weapons and terrorism. They found that “North Korea, Russia, Syria, and ISIS have used chemical weapons on the battlefield or in assassination operations during the past two years.” Additionally, they identified Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and Southeast Asia as hotspots for terrorism, and they said that ISIS would continue to pose a global threat despite losing territorial ground in Syria.


No candidates file for seat on Kansas City school board in Missouri

Seven seats on the Kansas City school board in Missouri are up for nonpartisan general election on April 2, 2019. The filing deadline for this election was January 15, and the community will only see contested races in Sub-district 1 and Sub-district 5 where two candidates filed to run per seat.
 
In Sub-district 4, no candidate filed at all in the race, leaving it up to the district to appoint a member to the position if no write-in candidates are added to the ballot.
 
In the at-large race for two positions, only the incumbents filed for re-election. There is also no opposition for newcomer Nathaniel Hogan in Sub-district 2 or for Manny Abarca in Sub-district 3.
 
In 2013, a law was passed requiring Kansas City Public Schools to switch from three at-large seats to two and to eliminate sub-district 6 by April 2019. This will reduce the total number of board seats from nine to seven. All of the seats are on the ballot this year in order to accommodate this change.
 
Kansas City Public Schools is the third-largest Missouri school district with 2019 elections. The district served a total of 15,724 students during the 2015-2016 school year. In all, Ballotpedia is covering elections for 28 school board seats across 11 school districts in Missouri this year.


U.S. to suspend INF treaty with Russia

The Trump administration said that it will suspend its obligations under the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, effective February 2, 2019. The administration said that Russia is not complying with the treaty.
 
In a statement, President Donald Trump explained the decision to leave the treaty, saying, “The United States has fully adhered to the INF Treaty for more than 30 years, but we will not remain constrained by its terms while Russia misrepresents its actions. We cannot be the only country in the world unilaterally bound by this treaty, or any other. We will move forward with developing our own military response options and will work with NATO and our other allies and partners to deny Russia any military advantage from its unlawful conduct.”
 
The process of leaving the treaty is expected to be completed in six months, but Trump said that the U.S. would consider complying with the treaty if Russia destroys all of its missiles, launchers, and associated equipment prohibited by the treaty.
 
NATO released a statement in support of the Trump administration’s decision. “Unless Russia honours its INF Treaty obligations through the verifiable destruction of all of its 9M729 systems, thereby returning to full and verifiable compliance before the U.S. withdrawal takes effect in six months, Russia will bear sole responsibility for the end of the treaty,” the statement said.
 
In 2014, members of the Obama administration accused Russia of violating the treaty because of its development of a 9M729 cruise missile, and the Trump administration reiterated the same concerns in December 2018.
 
The INF Treaty, which was signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev, prohibits the use of intermediate- and shorter-range rockets. It also prohibits testing, producing, or fielding ground-based missiles.


Minnesota State Senate District 11 special election on Tuesday

A special election in Minnesota State Senate District 11 will take place Tuesday. If state Rep. Jason Rarick (R) wins the special election, Republicans will gain a 3-seat majority in the chamber. If Stu Lourey (DFL) wins, Republicans will again hold a 1-seat majority.
 
Lourey, Rarick, and Legal Marijuana Now candidate John Birrenbach are running in the special election. The election was called when state Sen. Tony Lourey (DFL)—who is Stu Lourey’s father—resigned in January 2019 after Governor Tim Walz (DFL) appointed Tony Lourey to serve as human services commissioner.
 
The district has been represented by a Lourey since 1997. Tony Lourey was in the seat since 2007, and his mother, Becky Lourey (DFL), held the seat from 1997 to 2007. Donald Trump (R) won the district in the 2016 presidential election by 13 points.
 
Before Tony Lourey’s resignation, Republicans held a 34-33 majority in the state Senate. Republicans gained that majority in the special election for Minnesota State Senate District 13 won by Jeff Howe (R) on November 6, 2018. The state Senate had been split 33-33 since May 2018, when Michelle Fischbach (R) resigned to serve as lieutenant governor.
 
Democrats control the governorship and the Minnesota House of Representatives.


Governor appoints Ives to fill New Mexico Court of Appeals vacancy

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) appointed Zachary Ives to the New Mexico Court of Appeals on January 31. He was appointed to replace Justice Michael Vigil, who was elected to the New Mexico Supreme Court in 2018.
 
Ives earned his B.A. from Vassar College in 1995 and his J.D. from the University of New Mexico School of Law in 2000. His professional experience includes working in private practice for 17 years and as a clerk under Chief Justice Pamela Minzner of the New Mexico Supreme Court.
 
Gov. Lujan Grisham picked Ives from a list of six candidates provided by the Judicial Nominating Commission. Grisham said about Ives that, “I’m pleased to name an accomplished legal mind in Zachary Ives to this seat. He has broad experience, having represented clients at every level of our state and federal systems, and a demonstrated commitment to the craft of legal writing and reasoning.”


Ballot set for Atlanta special election in March

The filing deadline for the Atlanta District 3 city council special election passed on January 25, 2019. The general election is on March 19, and a runoff election will be held on April 16 if no candidate receives a majority of the vote
 
The election was called after Ivory Lee Young Jr. died in November 2018 while in office. The winner of the special election will serve the remainder of Young’s four-year term, which ends in 2021.
 
A total of 10 candidates filed to run in the nonpartisan race: Byron Amos, Antonio Brown, Ricky Brown, Matthew Charles Cardinale, Greg Clay, Patricia “Granny P” Crayton, Erika Estrada, Mesha Mainor, Jabari Simama, and Shalise Young. Amos previously served on the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education but stepped down after qualifying for the city council race. Clay lost to Councilman Young in the 2017 general election. Shalise Young was Councilman Young’s wife.
 
Atlanta held city elections in 2017 for mayor, city council president, all 15 seats on the city council, and 10 city judges. During that election, Districts 4 and 11 had the most candidates on the ballot with eight each. Both districts held general runoff elections after no candidate received over 50 percent of the vote.
 
Atlanta is the largest city in Georgia and the 39th-largest city in the U.S. by population.


Florida energy market initiative moves forward; still needs more than 687,000 signatures to qualify for 2020 ballot

The Florida Changes to Energy Market Initiative (Initiative #18-10) is headed to the state supreme court for a ballot language review after sponsors submitted over 79,000 valid preliminary signatures. Citizens for Energy Choices, the sponsors of the measure, call it the Florida Energy Choice Initiative. The measure would give customers “the right to choose their electricity provider” and allow them to generate and sell electricity.
 
The measure would amend the state constitution to declare that it is the policy of the state of Florida that “its wholesale and retail electricity markets be fully competitive so that electricity customers are afforded meaningful choices among a wide variety of competing electricity providers.”
 
As of January 31, 2019, the Florida Division of Elections reported that Citizens for Energy Choices had submitted 79,132 valid preliminary signatures, triggering a court review of the initiative’s ballot language and compliance with the state’s single-subject rule. To qualify for the 2020 ballot, at least 766,200 signatures need to be collected and verified with a recommended submission deadline of January 1, 2020.
 
The initiative itself would not directly change the structure of the state’s electric-power retail market. Rather, the amendment would declare that the state’s policy is to establish an open and competitive market for electric-power; provide consumers of investor-owned utility companies with the right to choose providers on a competitive wholesale and retail electric market and to produce electricity for themselves; and require the Florida State Legislature to pass laws to implement the amendment.
 
According to reports available as of January 31, 2019, Citizens for Energy Choice reported $1.14 million in contributions, all from Coalition for Energy Choice, Inc. The committee reported $574,080.39 in total expenditures. Of the total expenditures, $546,500 was expended to Ballot Access LLC and Linjen Corp for signature gathering. The average cost of a successful initiative in Florida was $4.15 million in 2016 and $4.59 million in 2018. The average total cost for qualifying a statewide initiative or veto referendum for the ballot in 2018 across the country was between $1.1 million and $1.2 million. In 2016, the average cost was $1.03 million.
 
On its website, Citizens for Energy Choice argued, “Florida has the second-highest electricity usage in the country, so it can be a major expense for homes and businesses alike. But of America’s seven largest states, Florida is the only one that doesn’t allow consumers to choose their own electricity providers. With choice, Florida can save more than $5 billion every year. This economic advantage would help keep Florida a leader among the country’s most populous states. Enacting energy choice in Florida will lower energy bills for all Floridians, expand clean energy options, and improve the reliability of infrastructure.”
 
Opponents of the measure include the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries of Florida, and Florida Power and Light. Associated Industries of Florida President and CEO Tom Feeney said, “We believe deregulation would have a detrimental impact on Florida’s businesses and citizens in the form of increased cost of electricity and market uncertainty. Deregulating Florida’s electric utility industry would create inefficient and uneven services throughout the state, causing major chaos when a natural disaster strikes.”
 
This Florida amendment contains very similar provisions to Nevada Question 3 of 2018, which supporters also referred to as the Energy Choice Initiative. The question needed to be approved at two successive general elections but was defeated at the second general election it faced in 2018. Nevada Question 3 was one of the top ten most expensive ballot initiatives in 2018 and was the measure with the highest cost-per vote– $100.85 was raised per vote for or against Nevada Question 3. In total, $33.4 million was raised in support of the measure and $63.9 million was raised in opposition to it.


Kentucky filing deadline review

Kentucky’s statewide filing deadline passed on January 29, 2019. Seven state executive offices are up for general election on November 5: governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, agriculture commissioner, auditor, and treasurer. Primary elections are scheduled for May 21.
 
Ballotpedia will also cover special judicial elections for a seat on the State Court of Appeals and a seat on the 22nd Circuit Court. Both were called after the previous officeholders were elected to higher judicial offices.
 
Gov. Matt Bevin (R), Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles (R), Auditor of Public Accounts Mike Harmon (R), and State Treasurer Allison Ball (R) all filed for re-election. Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) was not able to file for re-election due to term limits, and Attorney General Andy Beshear (D) filed to run for governor. Incumbents Harmon and Ball will not face challengers in the Republican primary, and candidate Gregory Stumbo is unopposed in the Democratic primary for attorney general. All other primaries have at least two candidates.
 
A total of 40 candidates filed for the seven state executive seats up for election, including 21 Democrats and 19 Republicans. The offices of governor and secretary of state are tied for the most candidates, with each seeing four Democratic and four Republican candidates running in the primary. The two special judicial elections drew eight total candidates—two for the Court of Appeals and six for the Circuit Court.
 
Kentucky’s statewide filing deadline was the second to take place in the 2019 election cycle. The next statewide filing deadline is on March 1 in Mississippi. Kentucky has a Republican trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.


Special election candidates set for Pennsylvania State Senate seat

Democratic and Republican committees have chosen candidates to run in the Pennsylvania State Senate District 37 special election. Pam Iovino (D) and D. Raja (R) are facing off in the general election on April 2. Candidates running for special elections in Pennsylvania are selected by their respective political parties rather than through primary elections.
 
The District 37 seat became vacant after Guy Reschenthaler (R) was elected to represent Pennsylvania’s 14th Congressional District in the U.S. House on November 6, 2018. Reschenthaler had served in the state Senate since 2015. He was last re-elected in 2016 with 60.7 percent of the vote.
 
The Pennsylvania State Senate currently has 28 Republicans, 21 Democrats, and one vacancy. Pennsylvania has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
 
In 2019, 38 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 15 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.


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