Today, legislators in New York will be sworn in. In the state Senate, this marks a change of power from a Republican-led coalition to a Democratic majority. Although Democrats have held a numerical majority in the chamber since 2012, a faction of Democrats known as the Independent Democratic Caucus aligned with the chamber’s Republicans, helping create a coalition majority. Democrats now have 40 members in the chamber while Republicans have 23. Prior to the election, Democrats held a 32-31 numerical majority. New York was previously a Democratic trifecta from 2009 to 2010; in every other year since 1992 it has been under divided government.
New York is one of six states to change from a divided government to a Democratic trifecta as a result of the 2018 elections. It joins Democratic pickups in Colorado, Illinois, Maine, New Mexico, and Nevada. Democrats also gained ground in four other states: Kansas, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Wisconsin. These states moved from Republican trifectas to divided government.
Prior to the 2018 elections, 20 percent of Americans lived under a Democratic trifecta, 48 percent under a Republican trifecta, and 31 percent under divided government. Once all lawmakers elected in 2018 are sworn in, 35 percent of Americans will live under a Democratic trifecta, 42 percent under a Republican trifecta, and 24 percent under divided government.
Last week, Chicago Alderman Ed Burke was charged with extortion. Burke has represented Chicago’s 14th Ward since 1969 and is the longest-serving alderman in the city’s history.
The FBI filed a complaint in the U.S. Northern District of Illinois court alleging that Burke attempted to use his position as alderman to solicit business for his law firm, Klaner & Burke, from a restaurant owner who was seeking permits for remodeling in 2017.
The complaint also claims that Burke illegally sought a donation for another politician from an executive of the company.
The charges came after the FBI conducted two raids of Burke’s offices, first on November 29 and again on December 13.
Burke said of the charge, “I believe that I’m not guilty of anything, and I’m trusting that when I have my day in court, that will be clear beyond a reasonable doubt.”
On Monday, Burke resigned from his position as chairman of the City Council Finance Committee. He announced that he intends to continue his re-election bid, in which he faces four challengers—Irene Corral, Jaime Guzman, Tanya Patino, and Jose Torrez.
Patino called on Burke to withdraw from the race, saying, “It’s an embarrassment to know that your alderman is doing things for his own personal gain instead of the community’s interest.”
A representative of Jose Torrez said, “We are running on a platform of transparency so we’re not going to allow this to ever have to be an issue in the 14th Ward again.”
Following are reactions from some of the 15 mayoral candidates:
Toni Preckwinkle, who is chair of the Cook County Democratic Party, removed Burke from his role as chair of the Cook County judicial slating committee, announced that she would return all money raised at a fundraiser at Burke’s house in January 2018 during her re-election bid for the Cook County Board of Supervisors, and said Burke should resign from the council.
Preckwinkle also confirmed that she received a donation from the company executive named in the charge against Burke during her Cook County re-election bid. Her lawyer said the donation in question was not accepted but that the campaign made a possible technical error in not reporting the donation and its return last year.
Gery Chico, who was endorsed by Burke, said that he would not accept support from Burke in the mayoral race. He also called on Burke to step down as finance committee chair.
Susana Mendoza called on Burke to step down from the finance committee and said it’s time for someone else to represent the 14th Ward. Bob Fioretti had called on Burke to step down as finance committee chair as well, and Bill Daley also said the ward needs a new alderman.
Paul Vallas called on Preckwinkle, Mendoza, Chico, and Daley to withdraw from the mayoral race because of connections with Burke. Vallas also proposed rotating committee chairmanships on the city council.
Willie Wilson said Preckwinkle should resign as Cook County Board president and that, as mayor, he would use a citizen advisory committee to select city council committee chairs as opposed to allowing the city council to select them.
Lori Lightfoot called for Burke to resign as finance chair following the first raid of his offices and, since the charge, said Burke should resign from the city council.
Amara Enyia stated, “A lot of the other candidates have significant ties to Alderman Burke and therefore ties to corruption, so the question Chicagoans will be asking is can we trust individuals that came out of that same establishment.” She also called for Burke to resign from city council.
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Rep. Larry Householder (R) was elected as speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives on January 7 by a coalition of 26 Republicans and 26 Democrats. Thirty-four Republicans, who hold a 61-38 majority in the chamber, voted for sitting House Speaker Ryan Smith (R). No Democrat ran for the position.
In the May 2018 Republican primaries, Smith and Householder supported opposing candidates in 20 races. Householder-backed candidates won 15, Smith-backed candidates won 3, and candidates affiliated with neither won two.
In June 2018, Smith was elected as the interim speaker after Republican Cliff Rosenberger resigned early due to an FBI investigation into his activities with lobbyists. Householder-aligned Republicans opposed Smith’s speakership bid, which he won with 44 votes in a four-way race with Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn and two other Republicans.
This will be Householder’s second stint as speaker, following a term from 2001 to 2004 after he beat Bill Harris, who was backed by outgoing Speaker Jo Ann Davidson (R). Similar to the 2018 primaries, Householder supported successful primary challengers against candidates aligned with Harris and Davidson.
Householder is one of at least six state speakers elected with support from only a minority of the majority party since 1995.
Former Texas House Speaker Joe Straus (R) is one example. He was elected speaker in 2009 after the Republican majority fell to 76-74 in the 2008 elections. He unseated the sitting speaker, Tom Craddick (R), with support from 72 Democrats and 16 Republicans.
Similarly, California Assembly Democrats helped elect two Republican speakers in 1995 after Republicans won a 41-39 majority in the 1994 elections. The speakers were both opposed by a majority of the Republican caucus.
The Washington secretary of state’s office confirmed to Ballotpedia that sponsors of Initiative 1000 submitted signatures on January 4, 2019. I-1000 is an Initiative to the Legislature, a type of indirect initiated state statute, and maybe appear on the ballot for the election on November 5, 2019. Januar 4, 2019, was the deadline to submit signatures for 2019 Initiatives to the Legislature in Washington.
The measure would allow legislation and policies that use affirmative action without the use of quotas or preferential treatment. It would define affirmative action to mean the use of race, sex, ethnicity, national origin, age, disabilities, and military or veteran status as factors in determining education and employment opportunities. It would continue the state’s prohibition against preferential treatment based on certain characteristics and would define preferential treatment to mean “using race, sex, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, sexual orientation, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, and honorably discharged veteran or military status as the sole qualifying factor to select a lesser qualified candidate over a more qualified candidate.”
The measure would also create the Governor’s commission on diversity, equity, and inclusion, which would be responsible for ensuring compliance with the measure, and would be required to issue an annual report on the progress of state agencies in achieving the goals under the measure.
Washington voters approved I-200 on November 3, 1998. I-200, also an Initiative to the Legislature, banned preferential treatment and discrimination in public education, employment, and contracting based on “race, sex, color, ethnicity, or national origin.” I-1000 would also add the following characteristics to that list: “age, sexual orientation, the presence of any sensory, mental, or physical disability, or honorably discharged veteran or military status.”
Two initiatives, I-976 and I-1000, submitted signatures by the deadline on January 4, 2019. To qualify for the 2019 ballot, 269,622 valid signatures are required.
Of 47 total Initiatives to the Legislature filed with the Washington secretary of state’s office, Ballotpedia identified three other measures with active or potentially-active efforts. All other measures were either withdrawn or abandoned by sponsors. Signatures for those three measures, detailed below, were not submitted by the deadline.
Initiative 978, which proposed to raise the minimum age to purchase firearms or ammunition to 21, with exceptions
Initiative 1002, which proposed to prohibit marijuana cultivation, processing, and sales in residential zones; and
Initiative 1003, which proposed changing special education funding requirements.
Initiative to the Legislature is the name of indirect initiated state statutes in the state of Washington. Upon signature verification, these initiatives go before the Washington Legislature at its next regular legislative session in January. The legislature must take one of three actions:
The legislature can adopt the initiative as proposed, in which case it becomes law without a vote of the people.
The legislature can reject or refuse to act on the proposed initiative, in which case the initiative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election.
The legislature can approve an alternative to the proposed initiative, in which case both the original proposal and the legislature’s alternative must be placed on the ballot at the next state general election
On January 4, the Alaska Supreme Court upheld Bart LeBon’s (R) one-vote victory over Kathryn Dodge (D) in the Alaska House District 1 election.
The court affirmed a finding by special master Eric Aarseth that the State Division of Elections acted properly when it held a recount in the race. Dodge had appealed the recount result, arguing that several ballots were improperly counted for LeBon.
The conclusion of the legal battle in District 1 means that all 40 seats in the Alaska House have been decided—Republicans won 23, Democrats won 16, and a Democratic-aligned independent won District 36.
However, control of the chamber is not yet decided because only 19 Republicans have committed to caucusing together. Here are the four Republicans who have not committed:
• Rep. David Eastman (R) said he would likely join with other Republicans, but he might want a more conservative speaker than David Talerico (R), the caucus’ original choice.
• Rep. Gary Knopp (R) originally said he would caucus with the other Republicans, but he left the caucus in mid-December, saying that a one-member majority would be unstable. He announced his intention to form a 24-member bipartisan majority caucus with power sharing between the parties.
• Reps. Louise Stutes (R) and Gabrielle LeDoux (R) caucused with Democrats from 2017 to 2018 and signed onto a letter in late December announcing their intention to join a bipartisan coalition again.
If no majority has organized the chamber by January 15, Lieutenant Gov. Kevin Meyer (R) will preside over the chamber (or appoint a speaker pro tempore) until the House decides its organization.
If Republicans organize a majority, they will have gained trifecta control of the state in the 2018 elections. If they do not, the state will operate under divided government.
The chamber was controlled by a Democratic-led bipartisan majority caucus from 2017 to 2018 even though Republicans won 21 of 40 seats in the 2016 elections.
The Senate Judiciary Committee announced that it will hold a confirmation hearing for William Barr’s nomination to be United States Attorney General on January 15 and 16. President Donald Trump (R) announced his intent to nominate Barr to the position on December 7, 2018, and formally sent his nomination to the Senate on January 3, 2019. Barr will have to be confirmed by the Senate with a simple majority vote before taking office.
Barr served as the 77th United States Attorney General under former President George H.W. Bush (R) from 1991 to 1993. He was confirmed by a unanimous voice vote in November 1991. The previous attorney general under Trump, Jeff Sessions, was confirmed 52-47 in November 2017.
The U.S. Senate voted yesterday to confirm Democrat Geoffrey Starks as a commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Under federal law, only three FCC commissioners can be from the same political party, so President Trump nominated Starks based on recommendations from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). The FCC is an independent federal agency formed in 1934 that regulates interstate and international radio, television and other communications.
Independent federal agencies operate with some degree of autonomy from the executive branch. These agencies exist outside of the Executive Office of the President and executive departments or have top officials with protections against removal by the president or other officials. The FCC is run by five commissioners appointed by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate to five-year terms.
The _Federal Register_ is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a measure of an administration’s regulatory activity.
During the week of January 1 to January 4, the number of pages in the _Federal Register_ increased by 34 pages. A total of 15 documents were included in the week’s _Federal Register_, including 14 notices and one rule.
No proposed or final rules were deemed significant under E.O. 12866. To be deemed significant, final rules must prospectively have a large impact 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 2018, the number of pages in the _Federal Register_ increased by 704 pages. As of January 4, the 2019 total trailed the 2018 total by 670 pages.
According to government data, the _Federal Register_ hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.
Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the _Federal Register_ as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.
Ballotpedia covers all local tax measures in California. We also track ballot measure trends related to business, hotel, utility, parcel, and sales taxes. The total number of tax measures in all five of these categories was 333 in 2018, compared to 239 in 2016. This bump in tax measures represented a 39 percent increase. The number was even lower in 2014 when there were 182 measures in the five tax categories.
Numbers for business tax measures (102), hotel tax measures (43), and parcel tax measures (90) on local California ballots in 2018 were the highest in a decade. The majority of all business tax measures were marijuana business taxes.
The number of sales tax measures in 2018 (82) was only surpassed once in the past decade; in 2016, there were 100 sales tax measures on local ballots. The number of utility tax measures in 2018 was the lowest for all even-numbered years in the past decade.
Including various other types of tax-related measures, tax measures represented 48 percent of all local ballot measures in California in 2018.
On January 3, 2019, Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed an order to expand Medicaid, known as MaineCare in Maine, citing the approval of Question 2, a ballot initiative, in 2017.
Question 2 was the first citizen-initiated measure to expand Medicaid via Obamacare, expanding the program’s coverage to persons under the age of 65 and with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty line. In 2018, this amounted to an annual income of $16,753 for an individual or $34,638 for a household of four. Under Obamacare, the federal government was to provide 93 percent of funding for expanded coverage in 2019 and 90 percent in 2020 and thereafter.
Gov. Mills’ predecessor, Paul LePage (R), said his administration would not file an application with the federal government to expand Medicaid unless the legislature could fund expansion without tax increases or one-time funding mechanisms. In April 2018, several organizations that supported Question 2 sued the governor’s administration in a case that ended up going before the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. The state Supreme Judicial Court ordered Gov. LePage to submit an expansion plan to the federal government in June 2018. In August, Gov. LePage wrote a letter to U.S. Health and Human Services asking officials to reject the plan that Maine filed to expand Medicaid. In November 2018, the issue was back in court, with a superior court judge ruling that the governor’s actions went against the initiative’s objectives. The judge extended the deadline for implementation to February 1, 2018.
In 2018, voters in Idaho, Nebraska, and Utah also approved ballot initiatives to expand Medicaid. Voters in Montana rejected an initiative to re-approve Medicaid expansion with funding from a tobacco tax increase in 2018. As of January 2019, there are several states with the ballot initiative process that have not expanded Medicaid, including Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Florida and Mississippi—two additional states that have not expanded Medicaid—allow initiated constitutional amendments but not initiated statutes.