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Weekly Update: November 12-16, 2018

Congress Solidifies Leadership Posts for Three of Four Caucuses

On Wednesday, Senators selected Members for Leadership posts for the 116th Congress, re-electing Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R - KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D - NY) to their posts. Sen. John Cornyn (R - TX) left his post as Majority Whip due to term limits—he will be replaced by Sen. John Thune (R - SD). Notably, Sen. Joni Ernst (R - IA) was elected to Senate Leadership, taking the position of Senate Republican vice-chairman, the number 5 position. Ernst will become a critical voice on an otherwise all-male team that has come under criticism for its lack of diversity. Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D - IL) has retained his leadership position along with Assistant Minority Leader Patty Murray (D - WA). Republicans, who will be in the House Minority next year, elected Kevin McCarthy (R - CA) to be minority leader and Steve Scalise (R - LA) to be minority whip. House Republicans also added a new female Member to Leadership, Rep. Liz Cheney (R - WY), who will replace Rep. Cathy McMorris - Rodgers (R - WA) as Chair of the House Republican Conference. The big changes will be in House Majority Leadership, where retiring Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R - WI) will be ceding his position to a still-to-be determined Democrat. While it is currently assumed that Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D - CA) will retain her post, several newly elected Democrats campaigned in part on a change in leadership and Rep. Marcia Fudge (D - OH) has surfaced as a possible challenger for the position. House Democrats are expected to hold their Leadership elections the first week of December.

Eleven Days After Midterm Elections, Results Continue to Trickle In

With over 100 new members joining Congress next year and freshman orientation already underway, a handful of races have yet to be decided as absentee and irregular ballots continue to be examined in races that are still too close to call. This week brought two House Republican upsets: Rep. Mimi Walters (R - CA) was unseated by Democratic challenger Katie Porter in a district that was affectionately known as Reagan County given its deep Republican roots; Rep. Bruce Poliquin (R - ME) was unseated by Democrat Jared Golden through rank-choice voting, where if candidates fail to reach 50 percent, second choice votes will be tallied to decide a winner (Poliquin was slightly ahead of Golden before tallying second choice votes). A few House races are still too close to call, including blue-leaning races in New York’s 22nd and Utah’s 4th Districts and red-leaning races in California’s 39th, Georgia’s 7th and New York’s 27th Districts. In the Senate, Kyrsten Sinema (D - AZ) flipped the seat currently held by Republican Sen. Jeff Flake after final votes were tallied this week. The Florida Senate race remains too close to call with Republican Governor Rick Scott slightly ahead of incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and a manual hand recount currently underway.

Keeping All Students Safe Act Introduced in Senate and House

This week, S. 3626 / HR 712 4 the Keeping All Students Safe Act, was introduced by Sen. Chris Murphy (D - CT) and Rep. Don Beyer (D - VA) respectively. The bill is an update to legislation introduced in previous years whose purpose is to reduce the use of aversive practices (e.g. seclusion and restraint) on children in public schools. The bicameral bill outlines how states are required by the Every Student Succeeds Act to help districts reduce the use of aversives and would provide grant funding to support states in meeting these requirements. The bill: 1) establishes minimum safety standards for Head Start and K-12 schools in prohibiting seclusion of children and the use of mechanical, chemical and physical restraint that restricts breathing or is life threatening and any form of aversive behavioral interventions; 2) supports States to provide training of all personnel in de-escalation techniques and other evidence-based forms of intervention; 3) increases transparency, data collection and enforcement to prevent future abuse and death of students.

Read the bill here.

Two New Reports Released on School Choice for Students with Disabilities

The National Council on Disabilities released the School Choice series which includes two new reports: Charter Schools--Implications for Students with Disabilities; and Choice and Vouchers--Implications for Students with Disabilities. The reports include research, analyses, focus groups, interviews, and case studies providing an in-depth overview of the current landscape of the education of students with disabilities in charter schools and outline the construct of vouchers, education savings accounts and tax credits for students with disabilities. Recommendations for federal, state and local policymakers are included in each report .

Read the reports here.