Legislative Update: Colorado

Compromise Senate deal on CO Civil Rights Commission faces House Democratic objections

A bipartisan compromise bill approved by the Senate shifts some panel appointment power from the Governor to the legislature is facing objections from House Democrat leadership.  The Senate bill ensures a mix of Republican, Democrat and Independent voters on the Commission.  The bill does not change the mission of the Commission, but rather which body has the authority to appointment members to the Commission.

colorado-legislature-wp-file-e1477203661395House Speaker Crisanta Duran and Rep. Leslie Herod, both Democrats, released a joint statement saying, “The changes added in the Senate go too far, reworking the commission dramatically.  We cannot support the current changes, and hope that we can find common ground and pass a bill reauthorizing the Civil Rights Division and Commission before the end of the session.”  Without House approval, differences in the reauthorization will have to be quickly worked out in a conference committee between the Senate and House.  The current Colorado legislative session ends on May 9.

The deal raises the panel membership from seven to nine, with five appointed by the Governor, and four appointed by legislative leaders from the opposite party.  additionally, five members must be from a protected class, and the nine seats will be apportioned equally amongst Republicans, Democrats and Independent voters.

Chris Balzano contributed to this report

Legislative Update: Arizona

#RedforEd movement prompts Teacher strike

7b045e34996e6b4d7ffd9c8e257d5370Similar to other national teacher walk outs, Arizona teachers in an initiative called #RedforEd held a 6 day strike that had many schools closed, and thousands marching on the state capitol.  The teacher demand is for an increase in teacher salaries, more education funding, and increased wages for support staff such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers.

Governor Ducey proposed a $10.4 billion budget plan that will increase teacher salaries 20% by 2020, but protestors argue that the budget plan takes funds from needed services to disabled students, and not all teachers will qualify for the raises.

Ultimately, lawmakers approved a budget that included $273 million for teacher pay raises during its final week of the annual legislative session.

Navajos commemorate return to homeland

1200px-navajo_flag-svgThe Navajo Nation is preparing to commemorate a dark period of its history of the signing of the Treaty of 1868.  The Navajo Long Walk is an event in 1865 that saw many Navajo people rounded up from their traditional homelands and marched to Bosque Redondo near Fort Sumner, New Mexico.  Many Navajos died enroute to Bosque Redondo where they were held captive until Navajo leaders agreed to the Treaty of 1868.

Once the Treaty was signed, Navajos were allowed to return to their traditional homelands in Northern Arizona and Northwest New Mexico.

Recently, an original copy of the Treaty of 1868 was discovered and will go on display at the Bosque Redondo Memorial, and another copy will be displayed at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock, Arizona.

Chris Balzano contributed to this report

Election Preview: Massachusetts Gubernatorial Primary

Primary Election: September 4, 2018
General Election: November 6, 2018

220px-charlie_baker_official_portrait
Governor Charlie Baker (R – MA)

While Massachusetts remains a liberal-leaning state, Republican Charlie Baker has the highest favorability ratings among any governor in the United States. Baker is now running for re-election after he won in 2014 when he turned a traditional blue state red for the first time since Mitt Romney was elected governor in 2002. Prior to his election, Baker served as Massachusetts secretary of administration and finance in 1992, and health and human services secretary from 1994 to 1998 under Governor Bill Weld. After leaving government, he became CEO of a physician’s group, leading them to 24 quarters of continuous profitability.

Since he was elected, Baker has consistently governed as a social liberal, while maintaining fiscally-conservative principles. He’s increased renewable energy generation while opposing offshore drilling, promoted reproductive healthcare options, oversaw the legalization and taxation of cannabis, all while managing to cut taxes. A poll from WBUR (NPR) in January 2018 found Baker with a 72-percent approval rating and only a 16-percent disapproval rating among Massachusetts residents. According to an April poll from Morning Consult, Baker is considered the most popular governor in America. Although, he will face a fringe candidate in the Republican primary. Scott Lively, a pastor known for promoting an anti-gay agenda, has attempted to label Baker as a “Republican in name only.” Baker doesn’t align himself with many main stream conservatives and regularly critiques President Donald Trump. He skipped an April 2018 fundraiser with Vice President Mike Pence, causing outrage among conservative party members and Trump supporters.

Massachusetts has a “modified” primary, meaning registered voters with no party affiliation can choose to participate in whichever party primary they want. In the Bay state, more than half of all registered voters can choose which primary they want to participate in.

With Baker’s popularity, Democrats have found it challenging to identify viable candidates. Jay Gonzalez, a former state cabinet official; Bob Massie, an entrepreneur and 2012 U.S. Senate candidate; and Setti Warren, former Newton Mayor, are the only three Democrats to declare their candidacy. All three remain largely unknown and nowhere near the Republican fundraising operation. Some Democrats, including Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, have crossed party lines to endorse Baker. Potential Democrats rumored to jump into the race include former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, 2014 candidate for governor Joe Avellone, and State Representative Paul Mark. However, the window for committing is rapidly closing. In hypothetical polling conducted by WBUR in March 2018, Baker leads all Democratic candidates by a margin of 24 to 29 points.

The Cook Political Report, Rothenberg Political Report, and Sabato’s Crystal Ball have all designated this race as “solid” or “likely” Republican.

Ranked-Choice Voting in Maine

In November 2016, Maine voters approved an initiative to reshape the balloting process in the Pine Tree State. With a 52-47 vote, Mainers moved from a plurality voting system, to a ranked-choice system—also known as instant run-off voting—for all statewide offices, including Governor, Congress and the U.S. Senate.

However, in early 2017, the Maine State Senate asked the state Supreme Court for its advisory opinion as to whether the measure was constitutional. In May 2017, the court said ranked-choice voting could violate the state constitution’s plurality clause for the election of Governor and legislature.  In October 2017, the state assembly passed a bill that delayed ranked-choice voting until voters could approve an amendment to the constitution. When Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap

Maine_Matthew_Dunlap.jpg
Secretary of State Dunlap

decided to allow ranked-choice voting in the June primaries, the Republican-controlled senate asked the Superior Court in Maine to listen to their concerns. After hearing arguments from GOP Senators and attorneys supporting the voter’s decision, the court ruled on April 17 that Maine could move forward with the initiative during the June 12th primary.

As a result, Maine will become the first state to implement ranked-choice voting in the United States. Both parties will use the system to select their gubernatorial nominees, while the Democratic primary for the second congressional district and the Republican primary for a Maine house seat will all have ranked-choice options. There will also be a voter-referendum on the June 12 ballot to repeal the bill delaying ranked-choice voting.

Whereas most elections operate on a plurality, ranked-choice allows voters to select their candidates in order of preference. After ballots are collected, all the first choice votes are tabulated. If no candidate receives a majority after the first round, the candidate with the lowest number of first choice votes is eliminated. As a result, voters who chose the eliminated candidate have their second-ranked candidate tabulated to the overall vote. The process continues until one candidate has a majority of votes and is declared the winner. According to Greg Kesich, the editorial page editor of the Portland Press Herald: “It’s basically a series of runoffs, but instead of having to keep coming back for another election, you cast all your votes at once.”

VIDEO: How Ranked Choice Voting Works 

First invented by Danish mathematician Carl Andrae in 1855, it was adopted by the Duth for parliamentary elections shortly thereafter. Canada, Ireland and Australia have adopted ranked-choice voting in some form. While Maine is the first U.S. state, San Francisco, Santa Fe, Oakland and Minneapolis use ranked choice for local elections.

Maine has a long history of moderate politicians: they’ve had three Independent governors in the past four decades, while Independent Senator Angus King currently serves in Congress.  Advocates believe ranked-choice voting will bring more civility into the political process by forcing candidates to appeal to voters who might make them a second-choice candidate. After making several controversial public comments, Republican Governor Paul LePage’s behavior has heightened calls or a less divisive electoral process, while ensuring candidates have majority support of the constituencies they represent (In 2010 and 2014, LePage won election with 38 and 48 percent of the vote, respectively). Supporters believe this method will ensure voters feel like their ballot counts.

Scientists who have analyzed the data around ranked-choice voting say the system has a tendency to marginalize low-information voters in less affluent communities. Critics believe ranked-choice voting makes choosing candidates complex, therefore it depresses voter turnout.

Plurality voting remains in effect for November. However, “a people’s veto ballot question” in June would amend the constitution and allow ranked-choice voting for federal races in the general election.

Election Preview: Pennsylvania Gubernatorial Primary

Primary Election: May 15th, 2018
General Election: November 6th, 2018

Wolf.png
Governor Tom Wolf (D)

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf (D), a former York County business executive, will seek a second term during the 2018 gubernatorial election. Wolf defeated Republican Governor Tom Corbett by nearly 10 points in 2014, becoming the first incumbent governor denied a second term after the state constitution was amended in 1968 to allow two consecutive terms

Two years later, Democrats swept all state row offices, including the Attorney General, Auditor General and State Treasurer in the 2016 general election. However, Republicans have maintained majorities in the State House and Senate, creating a partisan rift between the General Assembly and the Governor’s Office.

Prior to becoming governor, Wolf received advanced degrees from the University of London and The Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He went on to run the Wolf Organization, a family-owned building materials company where he started as a forklift operator before taking an executive role. He also served as the State Secretary of Revenue under Governor Ed Rendell in 2007. During the 2014 election, he campaigned as a moderate, but has pressed for higher income and sales taxes since taking office. He’s pushed for a natural gas severance tax, which received a stiff rebuttal from Republican lawmakers. His proposal helped lead to a budget impasse in July 2017. The Senate approved the tax in a bipartisan vote, but Republican House leaders refused to bring the proposal to the floor. The budget showdown ended after lawmakers decided to borrow $1.5 billion and expand gambling in hopes of creating $240 million in revenue.

In early February, Wolf proposed another natural gas severance tax that would bring an additional $250 million over the next year. Pennsylvania is the second-largest natural gas producing state in the country, making it a prime target for Wolf. He hopes to use the revenue for education, work force training and opioid treatment programs. While Republicans have called the plan dead on arrival in the legislature, it’s Wolf’s fourth attempt at taxing natural gas.

According to a February poll from Morning Consult, Wolf has a 44-percent approval rating and a 38-percent disapproval rating. He has a double-digit point advantage in a head-to-head matchup will all three GOP gubernatorial challengers, according to a March poll from Franklin and Marshall College. He’s raised more than $14.7 million, including $5 million in the first four months of 2018.

In the Republican primary, Senator Scott Wagner, Paul Mango and Laura Ellsworth are seeking the party’s nomination. Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai appeared in the first gubernatorial debate, but dropped out in February. The Republican Party Committee of Pennsylvania voted to endorse Wagner in February over Mango (Ellsworth opted not to participate in the process).

Wagner
State Sen. Scott Wagner (R)

Like Wolf, Wagner is a wealthy businessman from York County. He started a waste disposal company with no college degree and is now worth an estimated $20 million. While he didn’t become a lawmaker until 2014, he’s spent more than $3.2 million on helping Republican candidates get elected in Pennsylvania from 2007 to 2016. Wagner won a state senate seat by defeating both Republican and the Democrat in a write-in campaign. Records show he’s the only person to accomplish this feat in state history. As State Senator, Wagner has pushed for fiscally-conservative legislation, while building a cadre of like-minded lawmakers to usurp leadership in the state legislature. After leading an effort to oust the Senate Majority leader, he’s helped conservatives win elections in Erie and Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Wagner received an endorsement from former White House advisor Steve Bannon in September 2017. Along with the state party endorsement, 24 Republican Party county chairman have followed suit. With $6.1 million in the bank, Wagner currently has the most funding out of the GOP candidates, but remains well short of Wolf’s campaign haul. Mango’s team has begun running advertisements on television attacking Wagner for being a slum lord, violating environmental laws and skipping out on child support payments. The advertisement features him as a 3-D cartoon counting money and disposing toxic waste. The Mango campaign has also begun chastising him for 2006 protection from abuse order filed by his eldest daughter, Katharine. However, his daughter has strongly denied any violence and appeared in advertisement defending her father.

“Paul Mango is a disgrace. …Dragging me into his dirty campaign is beyond the bounds of decency,” she said.

In April, Val DiGiorgio, chairman of the Pennsylvania Republican Party, appeared alongside Wagner in a press conference to announce results from an internal poll of likely Republican voters in Pennsylvania. According to DiGiorgio, more than half of Keystone GOP voters prefer Wagner, while a quarter chose Mango and nine percent support Ellsworth. The telephone poll, which was conducted by Virginia-based McLaughlin & Associates, contacted 500 likely GOP voters. The margin of error was 4.5 percent.

Mango
Paul Mango

Mango, a Pittsburgh healthcare executive and West Point graduate, remains defiant in the face the opposition. He’s bought more air time for the advertisement and says it’s a response to Wagner’s ads calling him “phony,” and a leading advocate for Obamacare.

As a healthcare consultant with a Harvard MBA, Mango pushes a socially-conservative agenda that opposes abortion, while supporting efforts to eliminate property tax and create school choice. While Wagner has said he will propose right-to-work legislation, Mango has indicated he would crack down on unions, but stopped short of calling for Pennsylvania to become right-to-work. Mango also attacked Obamacare as a complete disaster on the campaign trail, but he made favorable comments about the plan in 2009.

Mango has received endorsements from former Republican Senator Rick Santorum, as well 20 county commissioners from 16 counties in the state. Mango entered 2018 with $5.5 million, most of which came from his own fortune. He currently has $2.8 million in funds remaining.

As Mango and Wagner attack each other with bitter advertisements, Pittsburgh Attorney Laura Ellsworth has emerged as a dark horse moderate in the GOP primary. She’s the only Republican candidate to publicly admit she did not support President Trump in the 2016 election (she decided to write-in Ohio Governor John Kasich instead). Ellsworth spent 30 years at the Jones Day law firm in Pittsburgh and has served as the head of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. She has positioned herself as a candidate who can get things done, while citing her civic and business engagement to help turn Pittsburgh from a rustbelt town, into a tech haven. Ellsworth has also served in important leadership roles with the United Way and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

Ellsworth
Laura Ellsworth

While her views on certain social issues fall in-line with mainstream conservatism, including a staunch views on abortion and right-to-work, Ellsworth hasn’t ruled out a severance tax on natural gas drilling, but says it must “make sense.” She doesn’t want to eliminate school property taxes, while both of her opponents support the overhaul. Ellsworth has also proposed increasing the number of state police officers trained in narcotics to help combat the opioid epidemic. Ellsworth has roughly $434,000 in campaign funds, and has not purchased any television advertisements, making her bid for the nomination challenging.

According to the Franklin and Marshall poll from March, Wolf led Wagner by 38 to 21 percent; Mango 49 to 22 percent; and Ellsworth 51 to 22 percent. The poll surveyed 423 voters in late March with a 7-percent margin of error.

The Cook Political Report and Inside Elections have categorized the race as ‘Lean Democratic.’

 

 

 

Election Preview: Hawaii Gubernatorial Primary

Primary Election: August 11, 2018
General Election: November 6, 2018

Governor_David_Ige.jpg
Governor David Ige (D- HI)

Democratic Governor David Ige is running for a second term as chief executive of the Aloha State. First elected in 2014, Ige defeated Democratic Governor Neil Abercrombie in the primary by a 35-point margin—the first time in state history an incumbent was defeated in a party primary. Ige’s first term was highlighted by a homelessness crisis which resulted in a declared state of emergency in 2015. The Governor also remains committed to the Paris Climate Agreement after President Donald Trump withdrew the United States. According to a Morning Consult poll from February, Ige has a 46-percent approval rating, while his disapproval rating sits at 38 percent.

Ige will face three challengers in the Democratic party primary. He has entered the 2018 campaign with more than $940,000 on hand, while Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa has quickly become Ige’s chief political rival. Hanabusa has attacked Ige for a lack of leadership and collaboration with the private sector. Hanabusa has locked up support from Democratic figures like Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, former Lieutenant Governor Shan Tsutsui, and state and local labor unions. In early April 2018, the State House Speaker Scott Saiki, State Rep. Sylvia Luke, State Senate President Ron Kouchi, and State Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz all signed a fundraising letter for Hanabusa, criticizing the governor for his “inattention, indecision, and inaction.” Hanabusa’s campaign raised more than $730,000 in the last four months of 2017 (96 percent came from individual donations). Former State Senator Clayton Hee and perennial candidate Wendell Kaehuaea are also running. Polling conducted by Mason-Dixon from March 13-18 found Hanabusa leading with 47 percent, while Ige trailed with 27 percent. Fifteen percent remained undecided.

Hawaii_Colleen_Hanabusa_
Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa (D- HI-1)

In the Republican primary, two candidates are seeking to capture the GOP nomination. Former State Representative and Senator John Carroll and State House Minority Leader Andria Tupola both want to become the second Republican governor in state history (the Republicans last controlled the governor’s office in 2010). Currently, Republicans control five of 51 seats in the State House and none in the State Senate. Last year, Tupola was defeated in a race for Chair of the Hawaii Republican Party by businesswoman Shirlene Ostrov. Carrol, who is 88 and hasn’t served in government since 1981, leads Tupola with 40 percent of the vote, while Tupola has 28 percent, according to the March polling from the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.

The Cook Political Report, Inside Elections, and Sabato’s Crystal Ball all list the race as “solid Democrat.”

Legislative Update: Utah

Utah

Legislature poised to override Governor’s veto of bills that address separation of powers

The Utah state legislature will convene to vote to override Governor Herbert’s veto of two bills and a budget line-item veto related to the bills.

800px-utah_state_capitol_building

The first bill – SB 171 – authorizes the legislature to intervene in court cases that impact laws passes without depending upon the state Attorney General.  The Governor’s position is that this creates separate state positions on lawsuits challenging bills.

The second bill — HB 198 – requires the Attorney General to provide the legislature will written legal opinions even if a party objects and raises attorney-client privilege as its basis.  HB 198 was in response to the Governor’s block of a legal opinion by the Attorney General citing attorney-client privilege.

Lastly, a constitutional amendment will allow the legislature to call itself into special session.  Currently, the legislature can only call a session to conduct a veto override.  The constitutional amendment will be before voters this November.

Utah ranks high in lung cancer rates due to air pollution

According to the American Thoracic Society, Utah is one of five states where lung cancers are likely caused by exposure to air pollution as reported in its latest annual report.

It is estimated that 4 to 29 Utahns develop lung cancer due to small particulate pollution that accumulates on the Wasatch front during winter inversions.  Currently, Utah does not meet federal standards for particulate or ozone pollution.

Ballot measure faces tough opposition

The Utah Psychiatric Association (UPA) has added its opposition to the Utah Marijuana Initiative joining the Utah Medical Association, the LDS Church and Governor Herbert.  A statement released by the UPA says that it was “concerned that backers of the Utah Marijuana Initiative are misrepresenting and misappropriating the position of the medical profession in Utah to garner support for their initiative.”  Additionally, that the UPA “recognizes that cannabis may have potential treatment benefits, and we encourage more research to further evaluate these effects.”

The Utah Marijuana Initiative has gathered the 200,000 signatures needed to make it on the November ballot in 24 Senate districts.

Chris Balzano contributed to this report