Latest stories

December 2018 OIRA review count on same level as previous year; Total 2018 review count more than 100 rules higher than 2017

In December 2018, the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) reviewed 31 significant regulatory actions issued by federal agencies. The agency approved the intent of 26 rules while recommending changes to their content. OIRA approved three other rules without changes. Agencies withdrew two rules from the review process.
 
The 31 significant regulatory actions reviewed by OIRA in December 2018 is higher than the 30 significant regulatory actions reviewed by OIRA in December 2017. During the Obama administration from 2009-2016, OIRA reviewed an average of 58 significant regulatory actions each December.
 
The office reviewed a total of 355 significant rules in 2018. In 2017, OIRA reviewed 237 significant rules.
 
As of January 2, 2018, OIRA’s website listed 92 regulatory actions under review.
 
OIRA is responsible for reviewing and coordinating what it deems to be all significant regulatory actions made by federal agencies, with the exception of independent federal agencies. Significant regulatory actions include agency rules that have had or may have a large impact on the economy, environment, public health, or state and local governments and communities. These regulatory actions may also may conflict with other regulations or with the priorities of the president.
 
Every month, Ballotpedia compiles information about regulatory reviews conducted by OIRA.


Compared to previous midterm cycles, Democrat gains in 2018 smaller than usual

The 2018 election cycle, President Donald Trump’s first midterm, saw gains by the Democratic Party in every federal and state government office except the U.S. Senate. However, compared to the first midterms of Presidents Barack Obama (D) (2010), George W. Bush (R) (2002), and Bill Clinton (D) (1994), Democrats’ 2018 gains were the smallest for every office type except governor.
 
• In the U.S. House, Democrats picked up 41 seats, the lowest number for the out-of-power party since 1994. Republicans gained 64 seats in 2010 and 54 seats in 1994. In 2002, Democrats lost eight seats and they were the out-of-power party. The last time the out-of-power party had lost House seats in a president’s first midterm was 1934.
 
• Democrats lost one Senate seat between 2016 and 2018, the same number they lost between 2000 and 2002. Republicans picked up five Senate seats in both the 1994 and 2010 midterms.
 
• Democrats gained 349 state legislative seats, the lowest for the out-of-power party since 1994. Their six pick-ups in state legislative chambers (five state senates and one state house) are also the lowest since 1994.
 
• In gubernatorial races, Democrats gained seven seats, the most for an out-of-power party since 1994 when Republicans picked up 10. In 2010, Republicans picked up six seats. In 2002 Democrats picked up three seats.
 
All comparisons are between the midterm’s result and the result of the preceding election (i.e. 2018 is compared to the results of 2016). Some results in the U.S. House and state legislatures are still pending.


Could the 2018 elections impact constitutional amendments and legislatively-referred ballot measures in 2019?

Legislatures can refer measures, including constitutional amendments, state statutes, and bond issues, to the ballot for voter consideration. Amendments do not require a governor’s signature, but referred statutes and bond issues do, with exceptions in some states. Changes in the membership of state legislatures and governor’s offices, as a result of elections on November 6, 2018, could have an effect on how many and what measures are referred to the ballot by state legislatures in 2019. There are three states, in particular, that often feature legislative referrals on their odd-numbered year ballots and had partisan shifts in 2018 that could have an effect on the referral process.
 
Colorado: Democrats won the governor’s office and both legislative chambers in Colorado, making the state one of six to flip from a divided government to trifecta control in 2018. The change in partisan control wasn’t large enough to give Democrats the power to refer constitutional amendments without the support of some Republicans since constitutional amendments require a two-thirds vote of each legislative chamber. The change in partisan control could, however, affect proposals for revenue increases as set forth in Colorado’s Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR). TABOR, passed as a ballot initiative in 1992, requires a simple majority vote in the state legislature and voter approval of tax increases that generate revenue in excess of a formula based on inflation and population growth. With Democrats in control of both chambers in 2019, measures to override the cap on revenue will be easier to refer to the ballot without the support of Republicans.
 
Maine: In 2019, Democrats control both chambers of the state legislature, as well as the governor’s office, making Maine a Democratic trifecta. Prior to 2019, Maine was a divided government. As Democrats have trifecta control in 2019, no legislative Republicans are needed to put statutes or bond issues before voters. Amendments to the Maine Constitution, however, still require support from some Republicans as Democrats do not control two-thirds of the seats in either legislative chamber.
 
Texas: Republicans kept trifecta control of Texas. However, Republicans lost seats in both chambers of the Texas State Legislature. Changes in the state Senate could have an effect on the prospects of constitutional amendments making the ballot since referral of a constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote in each chamber of the legislature. Republicans held 21 seats in the state Senate in 2018, which was enough to pass an amendment without support from Democrats. In 2019, Republicans hold 19 seats, meaning at least two Democrats are needed to pass a constitutional amendment in the state Senate.


Michigan legislature passes distribution requirement for initiatives

The Michigan State Legislature approved and Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed Michigan House Bill 6595 on December 28, 2018. HB 6595 created a distribution requirement for initiative signature petitions in Michigan limiting the number of signatures collected in any one congressional district to 15 percent of the total required. Michigan has 14 congressional districts. The requirement applies to both initiated constitutional amendments, initiated state statutes, and veto referendums. This effectively requires valid signatures from a minimum of seven different congressional districts for a successful initiative petition.
 
The bill also required the disclosure on petitions of whether a petitioner is paid or volunteer; mandated a petitioner affidavit; and made other changes regarding petitioners, valid signatures, and the timeline for certification.
 
The bill was passed in the state House on December 12, 2018. It was amended and approved by the state Senate on December 21, 2018, in a vote of 26-to-12. In the Senate, 26 Republicans voted in favor of the bill, and all 11 Democrats along with one Republican, Tory Rocca, voted against the bill. The House concurred with the state Senate’s amended version on December 21, 2018, in a vote of 57-to-47. Among Republicans in the House, the bill was approved 56-to-5. Among Democrats, the bill was rejected 42-to-1.
 
Background context
 
Of the 26 states with some form of ballot initiative or veto referendum petition process at the statewide level, 16 other states besides Michigan have a distribution requirement. Of those 16 states, seven states base the distribution requirement on the state’s counties (Arkansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, and Wyoming). In five states, it is calculated based on state legislative districts (Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and Utah). In the other four states with a distribution requirement, it is based on U.S. congressional districts (Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, and Nevada). Washington, D.C., also has a distribution requirement based on city wards.
 
Most recently, Colorado voters approved a distribution requirement specifically for initiated constitutional amendments in 2016. It was put on their ballot through a successful initiative petition.
 
Legislators in Maine, Oklahoma, and South Dakota considered distribution requirements for citizen initiatives in 2018, but none of the proposals were enacted.


2019 Congressional calendar

The 116th Congress will convene on January 3, 2019, and will conclude on January 3, 2021. The House is scheduled to meet for 130 days in 2019, and the Senate is scheduled to meet for 168 days.
 
In 2018, the House had 171 legislative days, and the Senate had 186 days.
 
From 2001 to 2018, the House spent an average of 140 days in session each year, while the Senate averaged 165 days in session each year.
 
Click here to view the calendar for the first session of the 116th Congress.


Ja’Mal Green withdraws from Chicago mayoral race, 17 candidates remain

On Monday, activist Ja’Mal Green withdrew from Chicago’s nonpartisan mayoral race, bringing the candidate field to 17.
 
In his withdrawal announcement, Green said his campaign lacked sufficient resources to continue amid a petition challenge launched by candidate Willie Wilson’s campaign lawyer. The challenge stated that Green didn’t have the required number of valid signatures (12,500) to qualify for the ballot.
 
The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners was in the process of considering the challenge at the time of Green’s withdrawal.
 
Last week, three candidates were disqualified from the ballot. Richard Mayers and Conrein Hykes Clark did not have the required number of valid signatures, and Sandra Mallory filed her paperwork incorrectly, an election board spokesperson said.
 
Petition challenges against five candidates are still being considered by the board: Dorothy Brown, Catherine Brown D’Tycoon, La Shawn Ford, Neal Sales-Griffin, and Roger Washington.
 
A total of 21 candidates initially filed to run in the mayoral race, left open after incumbent Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced in September that he would not seek re-election. The election is on February 26, with a runoff on April 2 if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in February.
 
Chicago is the third-largest city in the U.S. by population.


Three candidates disqualified from Chicago mayoral race: Field now at 18

The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners announced Thursday that three mayoral candidates had been disqualified from the ballot.
 
Richard Mayers and Conrein Hykes Clark did not have the required number of valid signatures (12,500), and Sandra Mallory filed her paperwork incorrectly, a board spokesperson said.
 
That leaves 18 candidates in the mayoral race.
 
Several remaining candidates are facing challenges to their candidacies that are being considered by the board: Dorothy Brown, Catherine Brown D’Tycoon, La Shawn Ford, Ja’Mal Green, Neal Sales-Griffin, and Roger Washington.
 
Since December 19, Toni Preckwinkle has dropped challenges against Lori Lightfoot and Susana Mendoza after they were each found to have the required number of valid signatures during the board’s record exams.
 
Earlier this month, Jerry Joyce withdrew his challenge of Bill Daley, and Paul Vallas withdrew his challenge of Garry McCarthy.


Federal Register weekly update; highest weekly number of final rules since September as 2018 draws to a close

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity which includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s regulatory execution.
 
During the week of December 24 to December 28, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,600 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 67,676 pages. A total of 556 documents were included in the week’s Federal Register, including 418 notices, one presidential document, 45 proposed rules, and 92 rules.
 
No proposed or final rules were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—meaning that they may have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules.
 
During the same week in 2017, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,116 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 61,950 pages. As of December 28, the 2018 total led the 2017 total by 5,726 pages.
 
The Trump administration has added an average of 1,301 pages to the _Federal Register_ each week in 2018 as of December 28. Over the course of the Obama administration, the Federal Register increased by an average of 1,658 pages per week.
 
According to government data, the Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.


2019 mayoral election preview

In 2019, Ballotpedia will cover 31 mayoral elections across the 100 largest cities by population in the United States.
 
As of December 2018, the mayors of 60 of the country’s largest 100 cities are affiliated with the Democratic Party, 28 are affiliated with the Republican Party, seven are independents, four have unknown party affiliations, and one seat is vacant. Of the 31 seats up for election in 2019, 20 current officeholders are affiliated with the Democratic Party, six are affiliated with the Republican Party, three are independents, and two are unknown.
 
There are a number of top races happening between January and May. A special 2018 mayoral election in Phoenix will conclude with a runoff on March 12, 2019. The previous mayor was affiliated with the Democratic Party. Incumbent mayors may face challenges in Jacksonville, Indianapolis, Denver, and Philadelphia. There are open seats up for election in Tampa, Kansas City, and Dallas.
 
There were 25 mayoral elections in 2018. Democrats saw a net loss of one seat—in Lexington, Kentucky. Republicans saw a net gain of one seat—with gains in Lexington and Virginia Beach and a loss in Garland, Texas (which was won by an unaffiliated candidate). 


Democratic donor who backed Obama’s 2008 run announces pro-Booker super PAC

Democratic donor Steve Phillips announced the formation of the Dream United super PAC to support a possible presidential run by U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) Thursday. Phillips said he already had $4 million lined up to support Booker and expected to raise $10 million over the coming months. Phillips backed former President Barack Obama’s 2008 run in a similar fashion, with his groups spending $11 million on that campaign. 
 
While Booker said last month that he was considering running for president, three notable Democrats have taken formal steps towards a run. Former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro (D) formed an exploratory committee last week and West Virginia state Sen. Richard Ojeda (D) and U.S. Rep. John Delaney (D-Md.) both declared their candidacies.
 
Nearly 440 candidates have already filed with the Federal Election Commission to run for president in 2020, including 131 Democrats, 59 Republicans, 18 Libertarians, and 10 Greens.
 
Ballotpedia is also tracking more than 60 possible Democratic and Republican presidential contenders.