Here is what is happening in the nation and the states in the NERCA region of the U.S.
With voters giving Democrats control of the House of Representatives and Republicans maintaining control of the Senate, it is clear that a divided Congress will ensure that compromises will be necessary to move any legislation. Observers believe that an infrastructure bill might be one of the only areas where Democrats and Republicans could work together, however both sides might prefer to posture for public approval while denying the other any legislative victories ahead of the 2020 election.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers outlined plans to address the crumbling foundations crisis, including recommending state legislation to test quarries and regulate the amount of pyrrhotite, the iron-sulfide mineral causing foundations to deteriorate. The corps is recommending the state establish an acceptable amount of pyrrhotite in aggregate for concrete. Any aggregate with less than 0.1% sulfide would be acceptable for use. The Corps recommends testing every 25,000 tons of material or every three months, whichever is more frequent. With a cost of about $5,000 per test and a rock price of about $25 per ton, the cost of testing would represent about 1% of the cost of aggregate and prevent future problems.
After 8 years of Republican control, Maine’s state government is now going to be dominated by Democrats. Including now sizeable majorities of both houses of the State Legislature, firebrand Governor Paul LePage is going to be replaced by Maine’s first female governor Janet Mills. The first order of business for the new administration will be to expand the state Medicaid program, MaineCare as was supported by the voters in a previous ballot referendum, but opposed by the Governor and conservative Republicans.
This 12th annual State Energy Efficiency Scorecard was published by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The scorecard ranks states based on 32 metrics in six areas. Massachusetts continued to rank No. 1 overall. It launched a plan to set new three-year energy savings targets and approved utility spending for grid-scale modernization. “We are proud Massachusetts leads the nation in energy efficiency for the eighth year in a row, and we will continue to adopt and pursue measures that deliver billions of dollars in savings to our residents and businesses each year,” said Massachusetts’ Gov. Charlie Baker.
For the first time ever, a Republican Governor will have to work with an all Democratic Legislature. Following the election where New Hampshire Democrats won a majority in the State Legislature, Gov. Chris Sununu must now work with Democrats to identify shared goals. Among these priorities are initiatives like workforce training, paid family leave, healthcare, and mental health funding. However, it is also likely that Democrats could force the hand of the Governor by passing legislation which the Governor would have difficulty signing into law without upsetting his base.
The New Jersey Legislature is gearing back up with Democrats feeling further emboldened after recreational marijuana legalization and a potential big boost in the minimum wage could mean big changes in the lives of many New Jerseyans. Senate President Stephen Sweeney has said he expects legislative hearings on recreational marijuana this month, and Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin said he hopes his chamber could vote on a $15 minimum wage bill in December.
While Governor Andrew Cuomo may have been happy to hear that Amazon would be locating half of their HQ2 in Long Island City, many New Yorkers, including City Councilors and Congress people are casting doubt on the promised benefits that the HQ2 will bring. With affordable housing already a problem in and around New York City, some are concerned that an influx of additional tech workers could exacerbate the problem. In addition, progressive Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio Cortez has entered the fray criticizing the promised tax breaks and incentives against the promised 50,000 jobs and $5 billion in revenue offered by Amazon which is now to be split in half.
Democratic Governor Tom Wolf will be getting some reinforcements in the state government following the election. Although Republicans will maintain their majorities in the State Assembly, they have lost their supermajorities which allowed them to threaten to override any vetoes from the Governor. Democrats picked up a net of 11 seats in the House and won 5 new ones in the Senate, giving them their biggest election night wins since the 1970s. Republicans will have 110 members in the House and Democrats 93. The Senate will have 29 GOP senators and Democrats 21.
With the Democratic majority in the Rhode Island Legislature never in question, the Democratic Caucus is already moving swiftly to enact new legislation to insulate the state from the national Republican party. This includes codifying many Republican hot button issues into state law, including Obamacare protections, abortion rights, net neutrality, trans and LGBTQ rights, consumer protections, and climate change regulations. By addressing these issues through the state law, Rhode Island policymakers believe they can shield the state from any Trump Administration regulatory reforms or any rulings by the Supreme Court to remove federal protection for minority groups.
In 2014, Vermont voters elected Phil Scott as their Governor and in 2018 they reelected him by almost 15 percentage points. This defeat crushed the hopes of the first mainstream transgender candidate. However, voters also handed a legislative supermajority to the state Democratic party. In his first term, the Governor vetoed 14 bills including the state budget three times to avoid additional taxes. Once he vetoed marijuana legalization, effectively delaying the bill for seven months until a compromise emerged. He vetoed a minimum wage hike, a paid family leave program, and bills about chemicals in toys and racism in government.
Learn more about NERCA and the benefits of membership at www.nerca.org.
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