Latest stories

Trump’s nominee to FCC, a Democrat, confirmed by U.S. Senate

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.


Federal Register weekly update; 2019 off to a slow start

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.
 
Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the _Federal Register_ from 2017 to 2019: https://ballotpedia.org/Changes_to_the_Federal_Register
 
Click here to find yearly information about additions to the _Federal Register_ from 1936 to 2016: https://ballotpedia.org/Historical_additions_to_the_Federal_Register,_1936-2016
 
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.


Local California tax measures reach decade high in 2018

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.


New Maine Gov. Janet Mills signs order to expand Medicaid under Question 2 (2017)

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.


RNC outraised and outspent DNC by almost a two-to-one margin in 2018

The Republican National Committee (RNC) raised over $184 million in the first eleven months of 2018, as reported on its post-general election report filed with the Federal Election Commission (FEC). In comparison, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) raised $104.5 million during that same period.
 
The RNC spent almost twice as much as the DNC through the end of November 2018, with disbursements of over $196 million. The DNC reported disbursements of just under $101 million over the same period. From July 1 to November 26, 2018, the RNC spent $127.5 million and the DNC spent $59.5 million.
 
As of November 26, 2018, the RNC reported having $27 million in cash on hand and no debts owed. The DNC reported having just over $10 million as of the end of the cycle, with about $3 million of debt.


Tennessee law requiring local compliance with federal immigration laws takes effect

House Bill (HB) 2315, a bill involving sanctuary cities, went into effect in Tennessee. In May 2018, Gov. Bill Haslam (R) allowed the bill to become law without his signature.
 
HB 2315 requires local law enforcement to comply with detainer requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Under the law, localities that fail to comply could lose state funding, such as economic and community grants.
 
Sanctuary cities—cities that have enacted policies that limit local officials’ involvement in the enforcement of federal immigration law—are prohibited in Tennessee. In May, Haslam said he did not believe Tennessee had any sanctuary city-related issues and thought HB 2315 was “a solution looking for a problem.”
 
House Speaker Beth Harwell (R) said the law would “further allow our local, state, and federal officials to work together to keep our communities safe, building on the law we passed in 2009 to outlaw sanctuary city policies.”
 
Christian Patiño, director of operations for La Paz Chattanooga, said HB 2315 would distract law enforcement from carrying out their regular duties. “The priority for officers should be policing communities, and I think this can break the trust and relationships that people have with their police force.” La Paz Chattanooga described itself as providing an environment for “area Latinos to come together in order to build community, develop leaders, and be a positive contribution to the growth and development of the Chattanooga region.”


Federal Register 2018 in review

In 2018, the Trump administration added a total of 68,082 pages to the _Federal Register_, 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. The page total will likely decrease after the National Archives processes the blank pages and finalizes the publication. Over the course of the year, the _Federal Register_ included a total of 27,749 documents: 22,020 notices, 260 presidential documents, 2,044 proposed rules, and 3,367 rules.
 
During 2017, the Trump administration added a total of 61,950 pages to the _Federal Register_. The 2018 page total led the 2017 page total by 6,132 pages.
 
The Trump administration added an average of 1,301 pages to the _Federal Register_ each week in 2018. Over the course of the Obama administration, the _Federal Register_ increased by an average of 1,658 pages per week.
 
The 2018 and 2017 page totals under the Trump administration are the lowest page totals since 2001, when the _Federal Register_ reached 64,438 pages. According to government data, the _Federal Register_ hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.
 
The 3,367 final rules in the 2018 _Federal Register_ and the 3,281 final rules in the 2017 _Federal Register_ are the lowest annual rule counts since the 1970s.
 
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.


Pelosi elected speaker of the House

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was elected speaker of the House with 220 votes. Fifteen Democrats did not vote for her. Eight of those who voted against Pelosi were among the 16 Democrats that signed a letter opposing her candidacy on November 19, 2018.
 
Pelosi previously served as speaker of the House from 2007-2011. She is the first and only woman to hold the position.
 
The speaker of the House presides over sessions of the lower chamber and is second in the line of presidential succession.


469 state legislators lost in 2018, the most since 2012

Four hundred sixty-nine incumbent state legislators lost in 2018 primaries or general elections out of the 4,952 legislators that filed for re-election.
 
The 469 losses were the most since 2012 when 488 legislators were defeated.
 
Overall, the losses include:
  • 119 Democrats
  • 330 Republicans
  • 20 third party or independent legislators
In the November 6 general election, 322 incumbents lost. This was the highest number of general election losses since 2010, when 502 incumbents were defeated. 2018’s general election losses included:
  • 49 Democrats
  • 253 Republicans
  • 20 third party or independent legislators.
In the primaries, 147 incumbents lost, including 70 Democrats and 77 Republicans. In the last four election cycles (2010-2016), only 2012 saw more incumbents lose their primaries—194.
 
Democrats’ 119 incumbent losses was their lowest number since before 2010, while Republicans’ 330 losses was their highest number since 2012. Democrats lost 538 incumbents in 2010, 137 incumbents in 2012, 272 in 2014, and 165 in 2016. Republicans lost 70 incumbents in 2010, 347 in 2012, 125 in 2014, and 187 in 2016.


Two state appellate judges file for Wisconsin Supreme Court, spring election will influence control of the court

Lisa Neubauer and Brian Hagedorn, both sitting judges on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, filed to run for the Wisconsin Supreme Court seat currently held by retiring Justice Shirley Abrahamson. Abrahamson, the first woman to serve on the Wisconsin Supreme Court, was appointed to her seat by a Democratic governor more than four decades ago.

Although state Supreme Court elections in Wisconsin are nonpartisan, liberal and conservative groups typically coalesce around specific candidates. Conservatives, who back Hagedorn, currently hold a 4-3 majority on the court.

The next election after 2019 will be in 2020 for Dan Kelly’s seat. Kelly was appointed to the court in 2016 by Gov. Scott Walker (R). If liberals retain Abrahamson’s seat this year, the election in 2020 could will be a battle for control of the court.

With only two candidates running as of Wednesday’s filing deadline, Neubauer and Hagedorn will proceed directly to the general election on April 2.



Bitnami