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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.


Trump announces withdrawal of troops from Syria

On December 19, 2018, President Donald Trump ordered all remaining U.S. troops to be withdrawn from Syria. The U.S. had been conducting direct combat operations in Syria since April 2017. Department of Defense officials said they expected the troop withdrawal to take no more than 30 days. In a video posted to Twitter, Trump said, “We have won against ISIS. Our boys, our young women, our men – they’re all coming back, and they’re coming back now.” According to The New York Times, this move was the catalyst for Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis’s retirement, which was announced Thursday night. Click here to read more about the conflict in Syria and the Trump administration. 



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.


Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis to retire in Feb. 2019

Secretary of Defense James Mattis will retire at the end of February 2019, President Donald Trump announced in a tweet Thursday. Trump tweeted, “During Jim’s tenure, tremendous progress has been made, especially with respect to the purchase of new fighting equipment. General Mattis was a great help to me in getting allies and other countries to pay their share of military obligations. A new Secretary of Defense will be named shortly. I greatly thank Jim for his service!” 
 
Mattis, a former Marine Corps four-star general, became secretary of defense in January 2017 after the U.S. Senate confirmed him in a 98-1 vote. He was the first recently retired general to serve in the position since George C. Marshall in the early 1950s.


New Mexico governor orders regulatory impact statements for all new proposed rules or regulatory changes

New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez (R) signed an executive order on Tuesday that requires all state boards, commissions, and agencies to complete a Regulatory Impact Form (RIF) for each proposed rule or regulatory change. 

The RIFs will feature information about each proposal’s impact on the general public and possible outcomes to expect if the proposal is not implemented. State regulators must also include information that identifies the problem that the proposal is intended to address and provides an explanation for why the proposal is the best option among other possible solutions. The RIFs will be posted online through the state’s Sunshine Portal for public review 48 hours prior to the public comment period.

“Improving our regulatory environment has been a top priority for this administration, and analyzing each proposed rule is another step forward in ensuring that regulations are created responsibly and transparently,” said Martinez in a press release. “This new tool will help regulators and the public better understand the impact these regulations have on the people of our state.”

Democratic Governor-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham has not indicated whether or not she supports the order. She could rescind the order after she takes office in early 2019.

The RIFs in New Mexico are similar to the Regulatory Impact Analyses (RIA) submitted by federal agencies as part of the federal regulatory review process. Pursuant to Presidential Executive Order 12866, federal agencies must submit RIAs to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for each proposed significant regulatory action— those that may conflict with presidential priorities or have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments.

Unlike federal RIAs, New Mexico’s RIFs will be required for all proposed rules or regulatory changes and will not be limited to those with significant regulatory impacts.



USDA proposes new rule for SNAP program work requirements

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed a new rule tightening regulations over Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) work requirement waivers. The new rule would only grant waivers to SNAP work requirements for able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWD) if the unemployment rate in certain areas was over 7 percent. The rule also prevents states from combining areas of high and low unemployment to receive waivers for larger geographic areas. Previously, USDA granted waivers to states containing areas with unemployment rates 20 percent above the national average. 
 
The USDA proposed the rule as a response to President Trump’s Executive Order 13828, which directed agencies to strengthen work requirements for work-capable individuals receiving benefits from public assistance programs. The executive order asked agencies to review regulations and guidance documents to see whether they increased self-sufficiency, well-being, and economic mobility.
 
Proposed rules are preliminary versions of a prospective federal agency regulation. If an agency determines that a new regulation is necessary, the agency develops a proposed rule for publication in the Federal Register. After a period of public comment, the agency may determine to revise the proposed rule, abandon the proposal, or move forward to the final rule stage of the rulemaking process.
 
An executive order is a formal command handed down from the president to federal agencies within the executive branch. While executive orders are legally binding, they are not laws; they are instructions on how the executive branch ought to enforce the law. These instructions must line up with existing U.S. laws and the U.S. Constitution.
 
Executive orders differ from other types of executive action, namely presidential proclamations and presidential memorandums. Unlike executive orders, presidential memorandums are not numbered or cataloged, and they do not require the president to cite any authority for their issuance. Proclamations direct the actions of individuals rather than government agencies and are often ceremonial. 


Local recalls headline Ballotpedia’s year-end recall report

Recall efforts targeting local officials in Michigan, North Dakota, Oregon, and Wisconsin topped Ballotpedia’s list of notable recall efforts in 2018. Ballotpedia covered a total of 206 recall efforts against 299 officials this year. Of the 123 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 77 were recalled and 46 survived the attempt. This year’s recall efforts had a success rate of 63 percent. Recall efforts in 2016 and 2017 both had a success rate of 56 percent, in comparison. City council officials and school board members drew the most recall petitions in 2018. A total of 93 city council officials and 74 school board members were targeted for recall in 2018. 
 
For the first time in three years, a state other than California held the highest number of recall efforts in 2018. Michigan took over the top spot with 65 recall efforts. California (61) and Arizona (27) were second and third in total recall efforts.
 
The report’s notable recalls included efforts targeting two school boards, four township officials, and two county officials. An example of those efforts was in Saugatuck Township, Michigan. Town Clerk Brad Rudich, Town Treasurer Lori Babinski, Town Trustee Douglas Lane, and Town Trustee Roy McIlwaine were targeted for recall due to their vote to reprimand Township Manager Aaron Sheridan instead of removing him. Another township supervisor, Jon Phillips, had accused Sheridan of threatening behavior involving public officials, abusive language, and indecent conduct. Phillips motioned to have Sheridan dismissed as manager, but no other board members seconded the motion. The board then unanimously approved a motion to reprimand Sheridan and include that reprimand in his permanent personnel file. Rudich, Babinski, Lane, and McIlwaine were all successfully recalled. 


Minnesota Congressman Rick Nolan will not seek re-election in 2018

Congress Rick Nolan (D), who represents Minnesota 8th Congressional District, announced Friday that he will retire at the end of his current term and not seek re-election in 2018. Nolan was elected to his current seat in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012. Nolan was one of nine individuals elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2012 who had prior congressional experience. He served three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, from 1974 to 1980. Three candidates have filed to run in primaries for Nolan’s seat.

As of February 9, a total of 50 current representatives have announced that they will not seek re-election in 2018. Of those 50, 34 are Republicans and 16 are Democrats.