Paul Ryan Elected as Speaker of the House
Rep. Paul Ryan
was officially elected as the 54th Speaker of the House on October 29.
His first major test will be the ability to get a long term highway
funding bill to the President’s desk. Before leaving the
position, former Speaker John Boehner was able to get a budget deal and
a debt ceiling suspension through the House. Boehner formally resigned
as Ohio’s 8th congressional district Representative on October 31.
The GOP House
steering committee selected Kevin Brady to replace Speaker Ryan as
Chair of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. His main competitor was
Ohio Representative Pat Tiberi who will chair that committee’s
subcommittee on trade.
Obama Signs a Two-Year Budget
On November 2,
President Obama signed into law a two-year budget agreement which
suspends the debt limit until March 2017. The agreement also lifts
sequestration caps on defense and domestic spending for FY 2016 and FY
2017. Offsets for these costs were found through Medicare and Social
Security program reforms/cuts/savings. These include a 20% cut to
Social Service Disability Insurance benefits, new Social Security fraud
prevention measures, a block to Medicare Part B premium increases, and
an equalization of payment rates for hospital owned outpatient
departments and hospital-owned physician offices. The agreement also
permits the auctioning of the government controlled wireless spectrum,
the sale of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and changes to
tax regulations for business partnerships. Finally, the agreement
included a policy rider that repeals an ACA provision that requires
employers with more than 200 full-time employees to automatically
enroll new employees in the their health coverage.
Now that the
agreement has been signed into law, Appropriations committees in the
House and Senate must work to pass an omnibus budget to allocate the
funds. They have until December 11 when the Continuing Resolution
currently keeping the government open expires. Total spending is
capped at $1.1 trillion. Speaker Ryan had been contemplating how/if
they will reopen the appropriations process, given the looming
deadline. However, in the Senate, leaders have begun laying the
groundwork for an omnibus bill, using the Military Construction -
Veterans Affairs bill (HR 2029) as a vehicle. A number of energy and
environment riders are being discussed including one that would block
the EPA from its planned expansion of the definition of protected
waters. The Mil-Con bill is at the top of the Senate’s agenda with work
expected to be completed on it by the end of the week.
House Passes Multiyear Surface Transportation Bill
On November 5,
following three days of debate, during which over 130 amendments were
considered, the House approved by a vote of 363 to 64, a bipartisan,
multiyear surface transportation bill to reauthorize and reform federal
highway, transit, and highway safety programs.
Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 (the STRR Act) helps
improve the Nation’s surface transportation infrastructure, refocuses
programs on addressing national priorities, provides more flexibility
and certainty for states and local governments, accelerates project
delivery, maintains a strong commitment to safety, and promotes
innovation to make the transportation system and programs more
effective. The legislation was introduced in the House by
Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster
(R-PA), Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member
Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Highways and Transit Subcommittee Chairman Sam
Graves (R-MO), and Highways and Transit Subcommittee Ranking Member
Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC.)
committee work has begun to reconcile both chambers’ plan. House and
Senate staff are meeting this week to begin work and a bicameral deal
is expected to be reached quickly. Conferees have been named, and been
made public by Democratic and Republican leadership. They are expected
to hold one or two meetings the week of November 16.
plan, similar to that of the Senate, contains six years of
infrastructure projects but only contains a funding source for three of
those years. In the House version, after the first three years, a
funding source must be identified or the last three years of projects
would be suspended. Also, in a last minute change to the bill, the
House version is funded partially by surplus capital from the Federal
Reserve. They did not include the Senate’s reduction to Federal Reserve
dividends for national banks as an offset. Both bills would reauthorize
the Export-Import bank through September 2019 despite opposition to the
bank from numerous Republican leaders, including Speaker Ryan. Finally,
the House provides less money for infrastructure and more for safety
than does the Senate’s version. Congress has until November 20 before
the current stop-gap highway bill expires.
Senate Blocks EPA Clean Water Bill
On November 3,
the Senate fell short of advancing legislation to repeal environmental
regulations that bring more waterways and wetlands under federal
protection, a victory for the Obama administration on rules that have
faced a series of legal and political setbacks over the past few
written by the EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, were scheduled
to go into effect earlier this year, but a federal court blocked them
temporarily in early October while a group of states mount legal
challenges. Issued in May, the rules would put about 3% more waterways
under federal jurisdiction, meaning a federal permit would be required
to release pollutant substances into those waters, and access could be
restricted altogether. Major waterways are already under the protection
of the Clean Water Act and wouldn’t be affected.
The EPA says the
rules are necessary to clarify which waters fall under the Clean Water
Act after two Supreme Court rulings, in 2001 and 2006, called into
question whether and to what extent 60% of U.S. waterways, especially
smaller streams and wetlands, fall under federal jurisdiction.
Supporters of the bill said the EPA regulations would pose federal
intrusion on states’ rights, impose difficulties on farmers and
ranchers, and create uncertainty for all concerned. However,
supporters of the regulations said they were needed to protect the
drinking supply of 117 million Americans, and that farming activity
would be exempt.
for permits under the Clean Water Act for a host of industrial
activities, such as building roads and bridges and discharging waste
material like sewage.
DOT Announces TIGER Grant Awardees
On October 29,
the Department of Transportation announced TIGER grant awardees.
Overall, $500 million was awarded to 39 projects in 34 states. 629
applications were submitted. An entire list of successful projects
along with their description can be viewed here.
ACA Open Enrollment Began November 1
enrollment period for health insurance offered through the health care
exchange opened on November 1. A number of new features have been added
to HealthCare.gov including one that shows consumers how much insurance
would cost after ACA subsidies are taken into account, and what
out-of-pocket medical expenses consumers can expect to incur. The
administration’s coverage goal is 10 million people by the end of 2016,
an increase of just under 1 million from the 2015 year-end goal of 9.1
million. Midlevel ACA health policies have on average increased notably
in cost this year. Premiums for the second lowest cost silver plans
(used as a benchmark for health premiums) have increased by 7.5% in
states that use the federally run exchange compared to last year’s 2%
increase. Premiums climbed as high as 35.7% in Oklahoma and as low as a
12.6% decline in Indiana. Approximately 80% of individuals will be able
to find a plan that costs under $100 a month once subsidies are taken
into account according to CMS. The average HealthCare.gov premium is
projected by CMS to be $240 in 2016.
NEW JERSEY ELECTION
New Jersey held
its General Assembly elections on November 3, along with county,
municipal and school board elections. One Senate seat, the fifth
legislative district (including parts of Camden and Gloucester
counties), was up in this cycle. Incumbent Democratic Senator Nilsa
Cruz-Perez ran unopposed.
incumbents were widely re-elected to the Assembly with only a handful
of Republican legislators losing to their Democratic challengers.
Democrats picked up 4 seats bringing their total to 51, their largest
majority in over 30 years. Republicans held on to 29 seats (down from
31). Below are brief summaries of races where at least one new
individual was elected to the General Assembly.
Legislative District: Atlantic (part) - Cape May - Cumberland (part)
incumbent Sam Fiocchi was defeated by Democrats R. Bruce Land.
Democratic incumbent Bob Andrzejczak was re-elected.
Legislative District: Camden (part) - Gloucester (part) Counties
Barclay and Patricia Egan Jones handily defeated their Republican
opponents, Kevin Ehret and Keith Walker. They will replace outgoing
Democratic Assemblymen Gilbert Wilson and Angel Fuetes.
Legislative District: Atlantic (part) - Burlington (part) - Camden
Howarth joins his running mate incumbent Maria Rodriguez-Gregg in the
Assembly. Both ran unopposed. Howarth is replacing retiring Republican
Assemblyman Christopher Brown.
Legislative District: Monmouth (part) Counties
Houghtaling and Joann Downey narrowly beat their incumbent Republican
competitors Mary Pat Angelini and Caroline Casagrande.
Legislative District: Hunterdon (part) - Mercer (part) - Middlesex
(part) - Somerset (part) Counties
night, Democrat Andrew Zwicker was leading incumbent Republican
challenger Donna Simon by 29 votes, making it the tightest Assembly race.
Zwicker’s lead has appeared to have grown by 10 with provisional
ballots (that are still being counted). However, at the time of writing
the race remains too close to call. The losing candidate has until
November 14 to file for a recount. Republican incumbent Jack
Ciattarelli was re-elected.
Legislative District: Middlesex (part) - Somerset (part) - Union (part)
Kennedy was elected to replace retiring Democratic Assemblywoman Linda
Stender. Democratic incumbent Jerry Green was re-elected.
Legislative District: Morris (part) - Sussex - Warren (part) Counties
Phoebus was elected to replace retiring Republican Assemblywoman Alison
McHose. Incumbent Republican Parker Space was re-elected.
Legislative District: Hudson (part) Counties
incumbents running for re-election in the district, Democrats Angela
McKnight and Nicholas Chiaravalloti handily defeated their Republican
opponents. They are replacing retiring Democratic Assemblymen Jason
O'Donnell and Charles Mainor.
Legislative District: Hudson (part) Counties
Chaparro was elected to replace retiring Democratic Assemblyman Carmelo
Garcia. Incumbent Democrat Raj Mukherji was re-elected.
In terms of
county elections, below is a brief summary of races where at least one
non-incumbent won, along with any ballot question results:
Maureen Kern was elected as the 2nd District’s Freeholder. The
Republicans swept the elections in Atlantic County and were able to
easily maintain their majority on the Board of Chosen Freeholders.
Incumbents Dennis Levinson, James Curcio, Frank Formica, and James
Bertino were re-elected.
Gibbs and Ryan Peters were elected to the Board of Chosen Freeholders,
defeating Democratic incumbents Aimee Belgard and Joanne Schwartz. As
such, Democrats lost their majority on the board.
Angulo and William Moen Jr. join Democratic incumbents Jeffrey Nash and
Jonathan Young Sr. on the Board of Chosen Freeholders. Camden also
elected Democrat Gilbert “Whip” Wilson to the position of Sheriff,
replacing outgoing Sheriff Charles Billingham.
Democrat James Quinn joins Cumberland’s Board of Chosen Freeholders.
Incumbent Joseph Derella was re-elected. Overall, Democrats preserve
their 4-3 majority.
individuals voted yes to the Public Question “Shall the governing body
of the County of Middlesex prioritize funding to programs which provide
transportation services for individuals in need of dialysis,
chemotherapy or other regular medical services as a means of offsetting
recent federal and state funding cuts?”
newcomers Christine Myers and Deborah Smith, and incumbent Republican
John Cesaro were (re) elected to Morris’ Board of Chosen Freeholders.
Passiac County’s Freeholder elections. Newly elected Cassandra Lazzara
and incumbents John Bartlett and Hector Lora allowed Democrats to
retain control of the board.
Melissa DeCastro appears to have narrowly defeated Democrat Charles V.
Hassler in an extremely tight race for a seat on the county’s
freeholder board. DeCastro led by 11 votes on election night. After
provisional ballots had been counted, DeCastro’s lead narrowed to 7
votes, making her the winner. Democrats are expected to challenge the
Jersey Legislative Priorities for the Lame Duck Session
-Funding the New
-Funding for the
Transportation Trust Fund
Cross Blue Shield OMNIA
Christie’s Cabinet/Staff Changes
was formally nominated as Commissioner of the Department of Banking and
Insurance. He has served as Acting Commissioner since August of this
COO of Laffer Associates, will be nominated to the position of State
Treasurer. Current Acting Treasurer, Robert Romano, will be responsible
for management and operation of Treasury activities.
Assistant Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Transportation,
will become that department’s Acting Commissioner. He replaces Jamie
OHIO ELECTION UPDATE
Focus on Ohio’s
election largely centered around ballot measures, one of which would
have legalized the personal and medical use of marijuana. There were
also a number of local races, local ballot initiatives, and proposed
levies up this cycle.
1 would create a bipartisan redistricting commission tasked with
drawing legislative districts in the state. It was strongly supported
by a vote of 71% to 29%. This redistricting commission “establish[es]
the bipartisan Ohio Redistricting Commission, composed of 7 members
including the Governor, the Auditor of State, the Secretary of State,
and 4 members appointed by the majority and minority leaders of the
General Assembly.” It is mandated that “a bipartisan majority of 4 members”
is required “in order to adopt any final district plan, and prevent
deadlock by limiting the length of time any plan adopted without
bipartisan support is effective.”
2 would prohibit the initiative process from being used for
personal economic benefit. It was also passed by a vote of 52% to 48%.
This measure was included largely in response to the way state issue 3
was phrased. Specifically it “Prohibit[s] any petitioner from using the
Ohio Constitution to grant a monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel for their
exclusive financial benefit or to establish a preferential tax status.”
It also “Prohibit[s] from taking effect any proposed constitutional
amendment appearing on the November 3, 2015 General Election ballot
that creates a monopoly, oligopoly, or cartel for the sale,
distribution, or other use of any federal Schedule I controlled
substance.” As such, had state issue 3 been successful, this initiative
would have overridden its authority.
3 would grant a monopoly for the commercial production and sale of
marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes. It failed to pass
with 64% of individuals voting no compared to 36% who voted yes. In
addition to traditional opposition to marijuana legalization, this
initiative also attracted opposition from individuals who might
otherwise have supported marijuana legalization. Specifically, this
group opposed the provision which would have “Endow exclusive rights
for commercial marijuana growth, cultivation, and extraction to
self-designated landowners who own ten predetermined parcels of land in
Butler, Clermont, Franklin, Hamilton, Licking, Lorain, Lucas, Delaware,
Stark, and Summit Counties.”
(Franklin County), City Council President Andrew Ginther (D)
defeated Franklin County Sheriff Zach Scott (D) to become the next
mayor of the city. Current Mayor Michael Coleman, mayor since
2000, did not run for reelection. This was a non-partisan race,
with the two top vote getters from the May primary facing off.
Toledo elected a
new Mayor on Tuesday. Democrat Paula Hicks-Hudson was handily elected
to replace the late D. Michael Collins. She will be up for re-election
in two years, when Collins’ term would have ended. She is the first
Democrat to be elected to the position since 2006. The late D. Michael
Collins was an independent as was his predecessor. Incumbent Councilor
Mike Craig did not seek re-election for District 3 and will be replaced
by Peter Ujvagi.
voters were more supportive of levies for schools, mental health
agencies, social services and a slew of other levies compared with
levies put to the electorate in past elections. This increased support
is partly due to improving economic conditions across the state.
Notable levies that were successful include a $1 million property tax
for Sinclair Community College, and a Franklin County property tax for
the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. The zoo failed to get a permanent levy
passed last year.
PENNSYLVANIA ELECTION AND BUDGET UPDATE
PA Budget Talks Continue
meetings resume in Harrisburg, although there is increased optimism of
a budget being passed before Thanksgiving. Education funding, a
natural gas severance tax, pension reforms and liquor privatization are
acting as the main obstacles.
House GOP Leader
Dave Reed's memo to members last week relayed, "We are making
progress towards the framework of what could lead to a final budget
compromise." Governor Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan stated
there are serious negotiations taking place behind closed doors, and
there is a “light at the end of the tunnel.”
$2.4 billion revenue-generating proposal was defeated in the House in
October. The plan included both a half-a-percentage-point hike of the
personal income tax (PIT), from 3.07 percent to 3.57 percent, and an
increase of the state’s current tax on natural gas drilling.
For more than
130 days, Pennsylvania's government has been in a partial shutdown as
the Republican-controlled Legislature battles the Governor’s
Pittsburgh’s New Campaign Contribution Limits
Councilman Dan Gilman’s legislation setting new limits on campaign
contributions unanimously passed Pittsburgh City Council on October 20
with Councilwoman Darlene Harris abstaining. It was signed into law by
Mayor Bill Peduto on October 28. Gilman’s ordinance establishes new
contribution limits on municipal elections. Contribution limitations
are the same as those imposed federally by the Federal Election
Commission, presently $2,700 for individuals and $5,000 for political
committees per election. Primaries and the general election are
considered separate. However, donations cannot be made for a primary
and general election at the same time. The plan also requires campaigns
to report monthly starting five months from the election and creates an
searchable electronic finance report database. Any contributions made
prior to October 28, 2015 are not counted towards individuals’ or political
committees’ totals. Full text of the ordinance can be viewed here.
In a separate
piece of legislation, Councilman Gilman also revives and reforms the
city’s Ethics Hearing Board which has not met in years. Specifically,
his legislation would create a nine-seat board. Seven of the members
would be nominated by an advisory panel with approval from the Mayor
and Council and would serve three-year terms. The Council President and
Mayor would each be able to pick the other two members. This ordinance
also passed with unanimous support. Councilwoman Darlene Harris
expressed opposition to the bill and abstained. Full text of the
ordinance can be viewed here.
held a number of judicial elections, including for three vacancies on
the Supreme Court, as well as a number of local elections.
statewide judicial elections for Supreme Court, Superior Court and, the
Commonwealth Court on November 3. The three vacancies on PA’s Supreme
Court will be filled by David Wecht, Kevin Dougherty, and Christine
Donohue meaning that Democrats will now hold a majority (five) of the
court’s seven seats. Alice Dubow defeated Republican Emil Giordano for
the Superior Court seat. Michael Wojcik defeated Republican Paul Lalley
for the Commonwealth Court seat.
for the State Legislature
retook the 37th Senatorial District from the Democrats. Guy
Reschenthaler will replace Matt Smith who resigned in June 2015 to
become president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. His
Democratic opponent was Heather Arnet.
Dominic Pileggi (representing the 9th Senatorial District) and
Representative Tim Krieger (representing the 57th Legislative District)
were elected Tuesday to the Delaware and Westmoreland Courts of Common
Pleas, respectively. As such, both will vacate their seats in January
of 2016. In Philadelphia, Representative Cherelle Parker was voted into
Council and will be vacating her seat as the representative for the
200th Legislative District.
Democrat James (Jim) Kenney was elected to replace outgoing Mayor
Michael Nutter. Democrat Lisa Deeley joins incumbent Democrats Anthony
Clark and Al Schmidt as city Commissioners. All three ran unopposed.
Democrats Helen Gym, Derek Green, and Allan Domb will join re-elected
Democratic incumbents Blondell Reynolds Brown and Bill Greenlee on the
city’s council at large. Republican David Oh was narrowly re-elected.
However, Republican incumbent Dennis O'Brien was narrowly defeated and
will be replaced by Republican Al Taubenberger. Democrat Cherelle
Parker will replace outgoing Democratic Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco
for the 9th District.
Voters in the
city of Philadelphia supported all three ballot questions. The first
ballot question establishes and defines the functions of a new Office
of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Affairs. The second creates
of a new Department of Planning and Development that will oversee the
city’s planning, zoning, development services, and housing & community
development functions. The third allows the city to borrow nearly $160
million for “transit, streets & sanitation, municipal buildings,
parks, recreation & museums, and economic & community
County, Republican Joseph Gale joins Democratic incumbent Commissioners
Josh Shapiro and Val Arkoosh. Democrat Kevin Steele was elected as the
county’s District Attorney.
County, Thaddeus Kirkland beat Republican Wendell Butler for Mayor of
In Bucks County,
Democrat Brian Galloway narrowly lost to incumbent Republican Charles
Martin for the third County Commissioner seat. Incumbent Democrat Diane
Ellis-Marseglia and Republican Robert Loughery were re-elected to the
other two seats.
County, Democrats were able to regain a majority of county Commissioner
seats. Incumbent Tom Chernisky and current Adams Township Supervisor
William Smith, both Democrat, came in first and second respectively.
Republican incumbent Mark Wissinger, who came in third place, was also
re-elected. Incumbent Republican and current President Commissioner,
Doug Lengenfelder, was not re-elected.
Centre county, with the re-election of Democrat Michael Pipe and
election of Mark Higgins, Democrats were able to gain control of the
Board of Commissioners. Incumbent Steve Dershem came in third and was
re-elected. Incumbent Republican Chris Exarchos who came in fourth was
all three open seats on the Allegheny County bench. The three
Democrats who were winners in the primary, Jennifer Staley McCrady, Dan
Regan and Hugh McGough, will take office in January. All eight
sitting judges, including Edward J. Borkowski, Thomas E. Flaherty, Beth
A. Lazzara, Anthony M. Mariani and Donna Jo McDaniel in criminal
division; Alan D. Hertzberg in civil division; and Kathryn M.
Hens-Greco and Dwayne D. Woodruff, in family division, were up for
retention and easily kept their seats.
Sandie Egley and Daniel Camp oust incumbent Democrat Joe Spanik and
gain majority on the Beaver County commissioners' board.
Incumbent Democratic Commissioner Tony Amadio narrowly held
on to his seat. This is the first time in nearly 60 years the GOP has
taken control of the courthouse.
Leslie Osche and Kimberly Geyer oust Democrats Jerry Johnston and Kevin
Boozel for the Butler County commissioners seats. This is the
first female majority ever on the three-seat board.
The battle over
a seat on the Washington County commission continued November 9, when
the county election board members began counting about 75 provisional
ballots. Currently, Democratic incumbent Harlan Shober is ahead
of Republican challenger Mike McCormick by 36 votes. Although McCormick
was leading late on election day, a count of 815 absentee ballots put
Shober into the lead Thursday. McCormick and Shober are fighting
over the third remaining seat on the commission. Incumbents Diana Irey
Vaughan, a Republican, and Democrat Larry Maggi won reelection. The
board of elections will soon set a hearing date to decide the
challenges, and the ballots have been sealed and placed under lock
until the hearing.
reclaimed a majority on the board of commissioners for the next four
years, ending the GOP’s leadership. Incumbent Ted Kopas and
political newcomer Gina Cerilli defeated first-term Republican
incumbent Tyler Courtney to help the Democrats retake the majority the
party held for more than a half-century before losing it four years
ago. Incumbent Charles Anderson secured the GOP's lone seat on
Morris Government Strategies, LLC will continue to monitor these and
important issues. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have an issue you
additional information on, or to be removed from the Capitol Commentary
Washington, DC | Newark, NJ | Trenton, NJ | Albany, NY |
Columbus, OH | Harrisburg, PA | Philadelphia, PA | Pittsburgh, PA