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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.


Under new federal rule, employers no longer required to submit privacy-violating info about employees to OSHA

On January 24, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), an agency within the Department of Labor, published a rule protecting worker privacy by keeping sensitive details about workers’ injuries away from the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) process. Companies will still have to keep detailed records of employee injuries and illnesses, but will only have to submit summary data to the agency.
 
OSHA said the new rule was a deregulatory action following President Trump’s Executive Order 13771, which requires agencies to eliminate two old regulations for each new regulation. Under regulations set during the Obama administration, some employers had to submit detailed information to OSHA about employee illnesses and injuries every year.


Three years ago, presidential candidate field thins

Early 2016 primaries and caucuses three years ago beginning February 1, 2016, prompted a wave of candidates to withdraw from the presidential election that month.
 
From February 1 through February 20, seven Republicans and one Democrat dropped out of the presidential race. Below is a look at the timeline of the early 2016 primaries and caucuses, and the candidates who dropped out of the race in their aftermath.
 
February 1, 2016: Iowa caucuses
Winners: Clinton (D), Cruz (R)
Dropped out:
Martin O’Malley (D)
Mike Huckabee (R)
Rand Paul (R)
Rick Santorum (R)
 
February 9, 2016: New Hampshire primaries
Winners: Sanders (D), Trump (R)
Dropped out:
Chris Christie (R)
Carly Fiorina (R)
Jim Gilmore (R)
 
February 20, 2016: South Carolina Republican primary
Winners: Clinton (D), Trump (R)
Dropped out:
Jeb Bush (R)


New York Legislature approves extreme risk protection order bill

New York’s legislature sent a firearms regulation bill to Governor Cuomo earlier this week.
 
The New York State Legislature approved SB 2451 along party lines on January 29. According to the New York State Senate website, the bill “establishes extreme risk protection orders as a court-issued order of protection prohibiting a person from purchasing, possessing or attempting to purchase or possess a firearm, rifle or shotgun.”
 
The bill, introduced by Sen. Brian Kavanagh (D-District 26), authorizes law enforcement officers, family members, and certain school officials to ask a court to issue an order restricting a person deemed likely to harm themselves or others from accessing firearms.
 
Kavanagh said in a statement, “Until now, this bill, which we have been working to pass for several years, has been blocked by Senate Republicans.”
 
Republicans opposed to the bill, such as Sen. Pamela Helming (R-District 54) said it would “infringe upon the rights of law-abiding citizens.” Assm. William Barclay (R-District 120) said the bill was passed too quickly without public input or a “willingness to accept reasonable input from people who want to ensure that New Yorkers are safe but also worry about the infringement on people’s Second Amendment rights.”
 
Prior to the 2018 elections, New York had a divided government. Democrats held the governor’s office and the state House while Republicans controlled the State Senate. The Democratic Party gained a trifecta in 2018 by taking control of the State Senate. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.
 
Extreme risk protection orders, also known as red flag laws, gun violence restraining orders, or ERPOs, authorize family members, household members, and law enforcement officers to petition a court to restrict an individual’s access to firearms. If the court finds that the person presents a danger to him- or herself or others, the person must surrender his or her firearms to law enforcement officials and is prohibited from buying, selling, or possessing firearms for a certain amount of time.
 
As of January 2019, 13 states—California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington—had enacted laws authorizing courts to issue extreme risk protection orders.


229 years ago today, the first SCOTUS session

The Supreme Court hears its next case in a few weeks. But 229 years ago today, the Court’s first session was commencing.
 
On February 1, 1790, SCOTUS met to convene for the first time in New York City. No quorum was met that day, however, so the court officially came to order for the first time the following day.
 
President George Washington nominated six initial justices to that first court. They were:
  • John Jay (Chief Justice)
  • John Rutledge
  • William Cushing
  • John Blair
  • James Wilson
  • Robert Harrison
The size of the United States Supreme Court changed six times during the 19th century, from as many as 10 justices to as few as five.
 
Click here to learn more about the history of SCOTUS.


Most popular governors of 2018 continue to top charts in fourth quarter

America’s three most popular governors throughout 2018 remained the most popular in the fourth quarter of the year, according to a poll of gubernatorial approval ratings conducted by Morning Consult. The quarterly poll measures approval ratings for all 50 state governors.
 
For the eighth consecutive quarter, Gov. Charlie Baker (R-Mass.) was the most popular governor in the country. His 72 percent approval rating was his strongest in the Morning Consult poll since the first quarter of 2017. Baker was followed by Larry Hogan (R-Md.), marking his eighth consecutive quarter in second place. Kay Ivey (R-Ala.) came in third place for a sixth consecutive quarter with 63 percent.
 
The least popular governor was Mary Fallin (R-Okla.) with a 16 percent approval rating. She was followed by Dan Malloy (D-Conn.) with 20 percent and Bruce Rauner (R-Ill.) with 25 percent. All three recently left office. Fallin was term-limited, Malloy did not run for re-election, and Rauner lost his re-election bid to J.B. Pritzker (D).
 
David Ige (D-Hawaii) experienced the largest increase in approval rating during 2018: it went up 17 percentage points from 37 percent in the first quarter to 54 percent in the fourth. Ige was followed by Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) and Tom Wolf (D-Penn.), who each gained 7 percentage points in approval over the course of the year.
 
Click here to see how your governor compares.


Three Florida special elections set for June 2019

On January 25, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced special elections to fill three state House seats left vacant after the previous occupants joined his gubernatorial administration. A special primary is set for April 9, and the special general election is on June 18. The filing deadline for candidates is February 8.
 
The three seats on the ballot are District 7, District 38, and District 97. The former representatives resigned in January 2019 to fill positions in the governor’s administration. Rep. Halsey Beshears (R) of House District 7 became Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Rep. Danny Burgess (R) of House District 38 became Executive Director of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and Rep. Jared Moskowitz (D) of House District 97 became Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
 
As of November 7, 2018, Republicans held 73 seats in the Florida House of Representatives to Democrats’ 47. All 120 seats were up for election last November.
 
Under Florida law, the governor is responsible for calling a special election to fill vacant seats in the state legislature. If the special primary on April 9 is conclusive, the special general election on June 18 will be canceled.


Longtime New Mexico lawmaker dies at 82

Former New Mexico state Rep. Henry “Kiki” Saavedra (D) died on January 28, 2019, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. He was 82 years old.
 
He served in the New Mexico House of Representatives for 37 years from 1977 to 2014. He left office in 2014 when he decided to not seek re-election. While in office, he served as chair of the House Appropriations and Finance Committee and was involved with crafting the state’s annual budget. He also worked for the city of Albuquerque from 1967 to 1995.
 
Saavedra is survived by his wife, Charissa Saavedra, five children, four step-daughters, 17 grandchildren, and one great-grandson.