Executive Branch

State and territorial attorneys general are using antitrust and consumer protection enforcement authority to address issues in the health care marketplace, as well as warning consumers about virtual currency called Bitcoin.

Without funding or resources to update outdated voting systems and software, states and localities are struggling to understand—and implement—the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s January 2017 designation of elections as “critical infrastructure.” Many states support a push to have the Trump administration rescind the executive order. Election officials that oppose the measure are concerned about the lack of federal government parameters and the possibility it will create more problems at the polls than it solves, but national intelligence officials say it’s necessary to properly secure the process against threats—particularly foreign-government cyberattacks. No matter what happens in Washington, state policymakers are asking: How can we protect and secure our voting process for the future?

With a national anti-establishment mood and 12 gubernatorial elections—eight in states with a Democrat as sitting governor—the Republicans were optimistic that they would strengthen their hand as they headed into the November elections. Republicans already held 31 governorships to the Democrats’ 18—Alaska Gov. Bill Walker is an Independent—and with about half the gubernatorial elections considered competitive, Republicans had the potential to increase their control to 36 governors’ mansions. For their part, Democrats had a realistic chance to convert only a couple of Republican governorships to their party. Given the party’s win-loss potential, Republicans were optimistic, in a good position.

As Utah code states: “The assignment of important responsibilities to the lieutenant governor is essential to the continuity of state government and for the effective use of funds appropriated to the office of lieutenant governor.” State legislators have a significant role to define responsibilities for a state’s lieutenant governor in statute. Lieutenant governors elected statewide hold an average of eight statutory duties which range from operating a government department to leading an array of commissions.

The slow economy and unpredictable Trump administration have governors in a bit of a straitjacket, some more than others. Chief executives in states with reasonably stable finances are able to speak positively to their public—some are opting for long overdue pay raises for state workers, expanding programs, innovating others, and replenishing rainy day funds. Those in states suffering financially are less sanguine, holding firm to tight agendas by limiting policy concerns, discussion about budget priorities and/or emphasizing the need for continued hard work and sacrifices ahead. This is the first year since 2007 that gubernatorial concerns and policy options related to economic development and jobs have fallen from the top three issues considered by at least two thirds of governors. In 2007, these concerns tracked fifth in terms of being mentioned by at least 66 percent of state chief executives. The Great Recession officially began later that year and states seemingly have yet to fully recover.

Chapter 4 of The Book of the States 2017 contains the following articles and tables:

President Trump released a fiscal 2018 budget plan today, which includes a $54 billion increase to defense spending and a corresponding decrease to domestic spending by the same amount. The fiscal plan, called a “skinny budget,” only contains the top-line spending numbers for each federal agency.  The plan also highlights the major cuts and increases to federal programs that the administration is seeking.

The full budget...

President Trump signed a revised version of the Executive Order on Immigration yesterday, after the original order was blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court. The purpose of the order is to protect U.S. citizens from terrorist attacks, including those committed by foreign nationals. It states that the U.S. will improve screening and vetting and the process of visa issuance. The revised order removes Iraqi citizens from the travel ban and scraps the provision that protected religious minorities. The order also suspends the refugee program for 120 days and lowers the acceptance of refugees from 110,000 to 50,000 a year.

On Tuesday, Feb. 7, the U.S. Senate confirmed President Donald Trump’s nomination of Betsy DeVos as secretary of the U.S. Department of Education with a 51-50 vote. What should states expect in education policy under Secretary DeVos and the Trump administration?

On February 9 the Ninth Circuit refused to stay a district court’s temporary restraining order disallowing the President’s travel ban from going into effect. The executive order prevents people from seven predominately Muslim countries from entering the United States for 90 days.

Washington and Minnesota sued President Trump claiming their public universities are harmed because students and faculty of the affected countries cannot travel for research, academic collaboration, or personal reasons.

The government argued that the President has “unreviewable authority to suspend admissions of any class of aliens.” The Ninth Circuit disagreed stating: “There is no precedent to support this claimed unreviewablity, which runs contrary to the fundamental structure of our constitutional democracy.” 

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