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322 election-related bills introduced in state legislatures last week

Welcome to the Wednesday, February 8, Brew. 


Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. 322 election-related bills introduced in state legislatures
  2. Comparing presidential Article III federal judicial nominations since 2001
  3. Biden gives State of the Union address, Arkansas Gov. Sanders gives Republican response

322 election-related bills introduced in state legislatures 

Election administration in the U.S. is an ever-changing patchwork of federal, state, and local laws and policies. Our Election Administration Legislation Tracker helps you cut through the noise and The Ballot Bulletin, a weekly digest of election-related bills and news, keeps you in the know.  

Let’s take a look at the election administration legislation big picture so far this year using data from our Legislation Tracker. 

Since Jan. 27, 322 election-related bills have been introduced (or had pre-committee action)

That’s a 17.1% increase from last week’s total of 275 bills. These 322 bills represent 27% of the 1,192 pieces of legislation we are currently tracking this year. Of the 322 bills, 73 are from states with Democratic trifectas, 177 are from states with Republican trifectas, and 72 are from states with a divided government.

We have tracked 1,192 election-related bills in 2023. These bills were either introduced this year or crossed over from last year’s legislative sessions. One bill has been enacted, one has passed both chambers, and 32 have passed one chamber.  

Election administration is a term that covers many subjects. The chart below breaks down some of the specific subjects lawmakers have addressed in their bills.

Our weekly election administration digest brings you the latest election administration news. Here’s an example of some stories we’re following:

  • On Jan. 22, Alaska Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom (R) approved a ballot initiative for circulation that would eliminate open top-four primaries and ranked-choice voting in general elections and establish a party primary system. Alaska and Maine are the only states that have implemented ranked-choice voting for federal and state elections. 
  • In Wisconsin, on Jan. 24,  Dane County Circuit Court Judge Nia Trammell heard arguments over whether absentee ballots without parts of a witness’ address should be counted. The lawsuit asks the court to rule on conflicting interpretations of what constitutes a missing address.

To learn more about election-related legislation, click the link below and subscribe to The Ballot Bulletin. You’ll receive weekly updates on election-related activity across the states, including noteworthy bills, enacted legislation, and which states have the most legislative activity. You can also use our interactive Election Administration Legislation Tracker to find and read election-related bills in your state. 

Keep reading


Biden has nominated 152 judges to Article III judgeships  

Here’s a quick update on judicial vacancies on Article III courts and President Joe Biden’s (D) nominations to fill those vacancies. Article III judgeships are lifetime appointments. 

As of Feb. 1, 743 days into his term, President Biden has nominated 152 judges. Currently, there are 890 authorized federal judgeships and 89 vacancies.

  • No judges were confirmed in January 2023.
  • In the last 30 days, Biden has announced he will make four judicial nominations. 

Here’s how Biden compares to his predecessors*

  1. At 743 days into office, President Donald Trump (R) had nominated 177 individuals, 139 of whom were confirmed.
  2. President Barack Obama (D) had nominated 128 individuals, 110 of whom were confirmed.
  3. President George W. Bush (R) had nominated 183 individuals, 128 of whom were confirmed.

*Note: These figures include unsuccessful nominations.

The following charts track the number of presidential Article III judicial nominations by days in office during the Biden, Trump, Obama, and W. Bush administrations (2001-present). 

The first tracker is limited to nominees who were confirmed:

The second tracker counts all Article III nominations, including unsuccessful nominations (for example, the nomination was withdrawn or the U.S. Senate did not vote on the nomination), renominations of individuals to the same court, and recess appointments. A recess appointment is when the president appoints a federal official while the Senate is in recess.

We compile this data using the Federal Judicial Center’s publicly available information. Learn more about federal judicial vacancies at the link below.
Keep reading 


Biden gives State of the Union address, Arkansas Gov. Sanders gives Republican response

Yesterday, on Feb. 7, President Biden addressed Congress in the annual State of the Union speech. It was Biden’s second State of the Union since becoming president in 2021. Although Biden addressed Congress on April 28, 2021, the speech was not considered a State of the Union address, in keeping with the tradition that presidents do not give State of the Union addresses only a few weeks into office. 

Presidents usually give the State of the Union in January or February. The address comes from Article II, Section 3 of the Constitution: “[The president] shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient…” 

Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) delivered the Republican Party’s response.

If you’d like to read Biden’s address and Sanders’ response and learn more about the history of the State of the Union address, click the link below. 

We’ve compiled information and transcripts on every State of the Union, annual address, and other presidential speeches going back to 1921:

  • That’s 68 States of the Unions and 75 other presidential addresses (excluding inauguration speeches). 
  • President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave the most addresses (17), followed by President Harry S. Truman (15), and President Ronald Reagan (11). 
  • Biden, with three, has so far given the fewest addresses.


Keep reading 



Governor Phil Murphy (D) issues one executive order from Jan. 31-Feb. 6

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) issued one executive order from Jan. 31-Feb. 6. As of Feb. 6, Murphy has issued one executive order in 2023—nine fewer than he did at this point a year ago.

Governors use executive orders to manage executive branch operations. During the week of Jan. 31-Feb. 6, the nation’s governors issued 13 executive orders. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) issued the most with three. Governors in 40 states issued zero. Republican governors issued seven of the 13 orders, while Democratic governors issued six.

Murphy has served as governor since Jan. 16, 2018. He issued 37 executive orders in 2022 and 66 in 2021. Nationally, governors issued at least 1,559 executive orders in 2022. Governors have issued 197 executive orders in 2023. Republican governors issued 134, while Democratic governors issued 63.  New Jersey is a Democratic trifecta, meaning Democrats control the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature. 

Additional reading: 



Governor Kathy Hochul (D) issues one executive order from Jan. 31-Feb. 6

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) issued one new executive order from Jan. 31-Feb. 6. As of Feb 6, Hochul has issued five executive orders in 2023—one fewer than she did at this point a year ago.

Governors use executive orders to manage executive branch operations. During the week of Jan. 31-Feb. 6, the nation’s governors issued 13 executive orders. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) issued the most with three. Governors in 40 states issued zero. Republican governors issued seven of the 13 orders, while Democratic governors issued six.

Hochul has served as governor since Aug. 24, 2021. She issued 64 executive orders in 2022 and 25 in 2021. Nationally, governors issued at least 1,559 executive orders in 2022. Governors have issued 197 executive orders in 2023. Republican governors issued 134, while Democratic governors issued 63. New York is a Democratic trifecta, meaning Democrats control the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature. 

Additional reading: 



U.S. weekly unemployment insurance claims fall to 183,000

New applications for U.S. unemployment insurance benefits fell 3,000 for the week ending January 28 to a seasonally adjusted 183,000. The previous week’s figure was unrevised at 186,000. The four-week moving average as of January 28 fell to 191,750 from an unrevised 197,500 as of the week ending January 21.

The number of continuing unemployment insurance claims, which refers to the number of unemployed workers who filed for benefits at least two weeks ago and are actively receiving unemployment benefits, fell 11,000 from the previous week’s revised number to a seasonally adjusted 1.655 million for the week ending January 21. Reporting for continuing claims lags one week.

Unemployment insurance is a joint federal and state program that provides temporary monetary benefits to eligible laid-off workers who are actively seeking new employment. Qualifying individuals receive unemployment compensation as a percentage of their lost wages in the form of weekly cash benefits while they search for new employment.

The federal government oversees the general administration of state unemployment insurance programs. The states control the specific features of their unemployment insurance programs, such as eligibility requirements and length of benefits.

Additional reading:



Since 2000, the Republican Party’s share of seats won exceeded its national vote share in 11 of 12 U.S. House of Representatives elections

Since 2000, the Republican Party’s share of seats won exceeded its national vote share in 11 of 12 U.S. House of Representatives elections. The only election where the Republican Party won fewer U.S. House districts relative to its national vote share was in 2008.

During this period, the Democratic Party’s share of seats won exceeded its national vote share in seven of 12 U.S. House elections—in 2000, 2002, 2006, 2008, 2018, 2020, and 2022.

The Republican and Democratic parties can both win more seats than the percentage of total votes cast for the party’s candidates in U.S. House elections. Since 2000, candidates representing the Libertarian, Green, and other parties—including write-in candidates—have not won election in any U.S. House district. During that period, the national vote share that candidates representing the Libertarian, Green, and other parties received in U.S. House elections has ranged from 1.6% in 2022 to 4.8% in 2002.

Since 2000, the party that received the largest vote share in U.S. House elections won a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in every cycle but one—in 2012. That year, Republican candidates received 47.1% of the U.S. House vote nationwide and Democratic candidates received 48.4%, and Republicans won a majority of U.S. House seats—234 to 201. The most recent time this occurred prior to 2012 was in 1952 when Democrats won the popular vote but Republicans won the House. The other two times this happened were in 1914 and 1942, when Republicans won the popular vote but did not win the most U.S. House seats.

The largest difference between the Democratic Party’s share of seats won and its national vote share in U.S. House elections was in 2008. That year, it received 52.9% of the vote in U.S. House elections nationwide and won 256 districts—58.9%—of the seats in the House of Representatives.

The largest difference between the Republican Party’s share of seats won and its national vote share in U.S. House elections was in 2016. That year, it received 48.3% of the vote in U.S. House elections nationwide and won 241 districts—55.4%—of the seats in the House of Representatives.

Since 2000, the national vote share that independent candidates received in U.S. House elections has ranged from 0.3% in 2020 to 0.8% in 2014. Independent candidates won four U.S. House elections since 2000—Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in 2000, 2002, and 2004 and Virgil Goode (I-Va.) in 2000.

Ballotpedia compiled data from the 2022 U.S. House elections from official election sources. Final election results for 2022 are not yet certified or published in all states.

Additional reading:



House Republicans ramp up ESG opposition


Economy and Society is Ballotpedia’s weekly review of the developments in corporate activism; corporate political engagement; and the Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) trends and events that characterize the growing intersection between business and politics.


Have a minute and an opinion? Take our 2023 reader survey!


ESG Developments This Week

In Washington, D.C.

House Republicans ramp up ESG opposition

House Republicans are moving to push back against ESG with their majority in the chamber. The House Financial Services Committee on February 3 announced the formation of what Fox News called a first-of-its-kind ESG working group:

Republican leaders on the House Financial Services Committee are creating a first-of-its-kind task force to coordinate their response to various proposals related to the environmental, social and governance (ESG) movement.

Financial Services Committee Chairman Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., said Friday that the ESG working group would lead the Republican effort to combat the threat ESG policies pose to U.S. capital markets. He added that Financial Services Oversight Subcommittee Chairman Bill Huizenga, R-Mich., would lead the initiative and appointed another eight GOP committee members to serve on the working group.

“Progressives are trying to do with American businesses what they already did to our public education system—using our institutions to force their far-left ideology on the American people,” McHenry said in a statement shared with Fox News Digital. “Their latest tool in these efforts is environmental, social, and governance proposals. This is why I am creating a Republican ESG working group led by Oversight & Investigations Subcommittee Chair Bill Huizenga.” …

According to McHenry, the working group will be focused on reining in regulatory overreach from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), reinforce the materiality standard — which requires corporations to disclose key information to investors — “as a pillar” of the financial disclosure regime and hold those who misuse the proxy process that gives shareholders a saying in company decisions accountable.

The task force will ultimately organize Republican efforts to fight back against the ESG movement, educate congressmen on the issues and develop policy proposals. …

In addition to Huizenga, fellow committee members Reps. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga., Bryan Steil, R-Wis., Andrew Garbarino, R-N.Y., Byron Donalds, R-Fla., Monica De La Cruz, R-Texas, Erin Houchin, R-Ind., and Andy Ogles, R-Tenn., will serve on the working group.

SEC considers modification of proposed climate disclosure rules 

The Wall Street Journal on February 3 reported that Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairman Gary Gensler and his supporters on the commission might be considering reducing the amount of climate data publicly traded companies will have to disclose under its proposed climate rules:

The Securities and Exchange Commission is considering a softening of planned rules requiring companies to disclose the effects of extreme weather and other costs related to global warming when the regulator completes its climate-change proposals, people close to the agency said.

The Wall Street regulator is looking again at the financial reporting aspect of the climate-disclosure plan it issued last year, following pushback from investors, companies and lawmakers, the people said. 

The final version of the SEC rules, expected this year, will likely still mandate some climate disclosures in financial statements, according to the people close to the agency. But the commission is weighing making the requirements less onerous than originally proposed, the people said, such as by raising the threshold at which companies must report climate costs.

Gary Gensler‘s climate proposals would require publicly traded companies to disclose the greenhouse-gas emissions from their operations, energy consumption and—in some cases—suppliers and customers. 

The climate package, a signature measure of Mr. Gensler’s SEC leadership, is expected to face legal challenges from industry groups or Republicans. Dialing back the financial-reporting rules could bolster the agency’s legal defense by allowing it to demonstrate that it has listened to business concerns and reduced the forecast multibillion-dollar annual cost of the new system. Evan Williams, senior director at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Capital Markets Competitiveness, said the SEC needs to adjust the proposal if it wants to produce “a court-durable final rule.”

The proposed reporting rules would require public companies to include a raft of climate data in their audited financial statements. The mandated disclosures cover everything from costs caused by wildfires to the loss of a sales contract because of climate regulations, such as a cap on carbon emissions.

Companies would have to analyze climate-related costs and risks for each line item of their financial statements, such as revenue, inventories or intangible assets. Any climate costs that are 1% or more of each line item total would have to be reported….

SEC officials have been taken aback by the strength of opposition to their financial- reporting proposals, people close to the agency said. Many companies said the changes would bring high costs, complexity and potential unintended consequences.

SEC commissioner shares ESG concerns

SEC Commissioner Mark Uyeda on January 27 gave a speech in which he addressed what he views as the failures of ESG. Some analysts have claimed that Uyeda’s remarks put forth a legislative and legal roadmap for ESG opponents to follow:

SEC Commissioner Uyeda delivered an address in which he “focus[ed] on issues related to asset managers’ use of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investment strategies.”  While his talk addressed many aspects of ESG investing, including “[t]he [g]rowth of ESG [i]nvesting,” the thrust of his talk concerned “three factors” that “complicated” “ESG investing.”  Specifically, these factors were defined as:

(1) “[T]he inability to objectively define ‘ESG’ or any of its components.”

(2) “[T]he temptation . . . [for] regulators . . . [to] favor specific ESG goals or objectives.”

(3) “[T]he desire of certain asset managers to use client assets to pursue ESG-related goals without obtaining a mandate from clients.” …

[T]he overall thrust of Commissioner Uyeda’s argument is that the SEC’s proposed rulemaking with respect to ESG issues–the focus of substantial attention by both regulators and commentators over the past year–is unnecessary because “the federal securities laws already have standards in place” and that “full and fair disclosure” is already required by the relevant regulatory framework.

But Commissioner Uyeda’s speech is not simply a re-hashing of conservative complaints about ESG investing.  Instead, it serves as a road map for arguments–both legal and otherwise–likely to be advanced in the courtrooms and Congress against any further attempts to increase the salience of ESG factors.


In the states

Indiana lawmakers join ESG pushback

Members of the Indiana General Assembly’s House Financial Institutions Committee on February 2 passed a bill that would require the state to remove all pension funds from management by financial firms that support ESG or consider ESG criteria in investments:

A House committee on Thursday approved a bill requiring the state’s public pension system to divest from and terminate business relationships with firms or funds that use non-financial “ESG” factors in decisions, such boycotting gun manufacturers and fossil fuel companies.

The prohibition is part of a GOP effort to crack down on the environmental, social and governmental framework known as ESG investing.

“These types of policies undermine the security that we seek,” author Rep. Ethan Manning, R-Logansport, told the House Financial Institutions Committee on Thursday. “We need to focus our pension investments on financial factors and leave the politics and the social and ideological considerations out of it.”

Proponents say House Bill 1008 ensures that managers investing on behalf of the Indiana Public Retirement System make returns-based decisions, and supports businesses in controversial industries who’ve found themselves cut off from financing, insurance and shipping options. …

INPRS uses external money managers to make investment decisions for its $45 billion-plus portfolio. A team of more than 20 INPRS employees then manage those investment managers.

The legislation turns scrutiny on them.

It says portfolio company engagement, votes and other actions involving a range of topics could constitute furthering ESG interests. That includes disclosing, lowering or offsetting greenhouse gas emissions, looking at things like hiring practices and divesting from a list of protected industries.

Oklahoma treasurer inquires about financial companies’ ESG policies, eligibility for state contracts 

Oklahoma State Treasurer Todd Russ (R) sent a letter to more than 100 financial services companies to determine their positions on ESG and, by extension, their suitability for state contracts:

Republican State Treasurer Todd Russ of Oklahoma sent a letter to over 100 financial institutions to determine if their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) policies disqualify them from working with the Oklahoma government, Russ’ office announced Wednesday.

Companies will have until March 31 to respond to a series of 19 questions that the state of Oklahoma will use to determine if the company is violating Oklahoma law by engaging in a boycott of energy companies, according to the letter obtained by the Daily Caller News Foundation. Russ specifically mentioned BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager and frequent target of GOP criticism for its consistent support of ESG investing, which Republican critics allege violates its fiduciary duty to its clients, in a statement to the DCNF.

“This list is crucial to provide accountability for our government entities, including organizations responsible for pension funds such as the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS), Teachers Retirement System (TRS) to ensure our constituents’ tax dollars are only invested in secure and verified financial companies that comply with Oklahoma law,” Russ told the DCNF. “OPERS alone has more than 60 percent of their portfolio totaling more than $10 billion managed by Blackrock, a well-known adversary of energy businesses.”…

The debate around financial managers’ use of ESG policies has intensified in recent months, as several Republican states pulled billions from BlackRock. The company was also among those who received a letter from Democratic New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, who threatened to pull $43 billion from the firm, and more from others, if they failed to support shareholder resolutions that promoted “net zero” investment strategies. 

Proxy advisors push back against pushback

The two largest proxy advisory services – Institutional Shareholder Service (ISS) and Glass-Lewis – responded on January 31 to an inquiry into the services’ ESG policies launched last month by 21 state attorneys general. Both companies stood by their approaches to considering certain ESG factors in client voting recommendations:

Top U.S. proxy advisers Glass Lewis and Institutional Shareholder Services on Tuesday defended their corporate voting recommendations on environmental and social matters, with both saying they remain focused on long-term shareholder value.

The two companies were questioned by Republican attorneys general from 21 states earlier this month about whether their guidance on issues like climate change or boardroom diversity violate their duties to clients.

In a response letter dated Jan. 31, Glass Lewis Executive Chairman Kevin Cameron pushed back on the suggestion and said that under the firm’s benchmark policy it routinely recommends against shareholder proposals “that — however worthwhile as a social goal — have not demonstrated a nexus to shareholder value.”

In addition, Cameron wrote that issues like how companies manage the risks and opportunities presented by climate change “is widely recognized as a material risk-return factor today.” Nearly all companies in the S&P 500 now publish sustainability reports using various third-party standards, he noted. …

In a separate letter provided by a spokesman, ISS Chief Executive Gary Retelny wrote that while environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations have grown more important to investors, “fulfilling our fiduciary and contractual responsibilities to our clients remains the foundation of our business.”



Robe & Gavel: Federal Judicial Vacancy Count released for February

Welcome to the February 7 edition of Robe & Gavel, Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S.

Federal judicial vacancy counts are in, dear readers. We have a lot to catch up on, so grab a nice cup of coffee, and let’s gavel in!

Follow Ballotpedia on Twitter or subscribe to the Daily Brew for the latest news and analysis.

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We #SCOTUS and you can, too!

Grants

SCOTUS has not accepted any new cases to its merits docket since our Jan. 17 edition.


Arguments

The Supreme Court will not hear arguments in any cases this week. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term.


Opinions

SCOTUS has ruled on two cases since our Jan. 17 edition. The court has issued rulings in two cases so far this term. 

Click the links below to read more about the specific cases SCOTUS ruled on since Jan. 17:

Jan. 23, 2023

In re Grand Jury was argued before the court on Jan. 9, 2023.

The case: In Re Grand Jury concerned protected documents related to grand jury subpoenas.

The outcome: The court dismissed the case.

Arellano v. McDonough was argued before the court on Oct. 4, 2022.

The case: Under 38 U.S.C. § 5110, disability benefits can be awarded retroactively to the date of discharge if a veteran applies within one year of that date. Service-disabled veteran Adolfo Arellano was discharged from the U.S. Navy in October 1981. Approximately 30 years later, he applied for disability compensation benefits. Arellano challenged the effective date of his benefits, arguing the one-year deadline should have been tolled, or paused, because his disability prevented him from applying for benefits earlier. The Board of Veterans’ Appeals rejected the argument. Arellano appealed his case until it reached the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. This court held in a 6-6 opinion that Arellano’s effective date was the date his application was received (June 2011), not retroactive to his date of discharge (October 1981). 

The outcome: The court affirmed the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims, holding that equitable tolling does not apply to §5110(b)(1).

  • As presented by the Federal Circuit, the “equitable-tolling doctrine, as traditionally understood, ‘permits a court to pause a statutory time limit “when a litigant has pursued his rights diligently but some extraordinary circumstance prevents him from bringing a timely action.

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • Feb. 17, 2023: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.

The Federal Vacancy Count

The Federal Vacancy Count tracks vacancies, nominations, and confirmations to all United States Article III federal courts in a one-month period. This month’s edition includes nominations, confirmations, and vacancies from Jan. 1, 2023, to Feb 1, 2023. 

Highlights

  • Vacancies: There have been two new judicial vacancies since the January 2023 report. There are 87 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions on courts covered in this report. Including the United States Court of Federal Claims and the United States territorial courts, 89 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.  
  • Nominations: There were four new nominations since the January 2023 report. 
  • Confirmations: There were no new confirmations since the January 2023 report.

Vacancy count for January 1, 2023

A breakdown of the vacancies at each level can be found in the table below. For a more detailed look at the vacancies in the federal courts, click here.

*Though the United States territorial courts are called district courts, they are not Article III courts. They are created in accordance with the power granted under Article IV of the U.S. Constitution. Click here for more information.

New vacancies

Three judges left active status since the previous vacancy count, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies. The president nominates individuals to fill Article III judicial position vacancies. Nominations are subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.

The following chart tracks the number of vacancies in the United States Courts of Appeals from President Joe Biden’s (D) inauguration to the date indicated on the chart.

U.S. District Court vacancies

The following map shows the number of vacancies in the United States District Courts as of February 1, 2023.

New nominations

President Biden announced four new nominations since the Jan. 17 report:


The president has announced 152 Article III judicial nominations since taking office on January 20, 2021. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.

New confirmations

There were no new confirmations since the Jan. 17 report:

Comparison of Article III judicial appointments over time by president (1981-Present)

  • Presidents have made an average of 90 judicial appointments through Feb. 1 of their third year in office. 
  • President Bill Clinton (D) made the most, 128, while President Barack Obama (D) appointed the fewest with 62. 
  • President Clinton’s 128 appointments are the most through a second year. President Obama made the fewest with 62.
  • President Donald Trump’s (D) 234 appointments are the most through four years. President Ronald Reagan made the fewest through four years with 166.

Need a daily fix of judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? Click here for continuing updates on the status of all federal judicial nominees.

Or, keep an eye on this list for updates on federal judicial nominations.

Looking ahead

We’ll be back on Feb 21 with a new edition of Robe & Gavel. Until then, gaveling out! 

Contributions

Myj Saintyl compiled and edited this newsletter, with contributions from Samantha Post.



One hundred and three state legislative races decided by fewer than 100 votes in 2022, triple the figure from 2020

One hundred and three (1.64%) of the 6,278 state legislative races that took place in 2022 were decided by fewer than 100 votes. Ninety-eight of the races were in state house chambers, and five were in a state senate chamber.

Of the 88 state legislative chambers that held elections in 2022, 31 (35.2%) had at least one race that was decided by fewer than 100 votes.

The New Hampshire House of Representatives had 36 races decided by fewer than 100 votes—more than any other chamber. As of 2020, there were, on average, 3,444 people in each New Hampshire House district, making them the smallest state legislative districts in the country. The Maine House of Representatives and Vermont House of Representatives each had five races decided by fewer than 100 votes—the second-highest number after the New Hampshire House.

Most of the races took place in districts with small population sizes compared to the rest of the country. Sixty-eight races (66%) were in districts with a population of less than 25,000. Districts that size made up 26.3% of all state legislative districts as of 2020.

In 2020, 30 races across 14 chambers were decided by this margin. The New Hampshire House had the most (11), followed by the Vermont House (five). Twenty-four races (80%) were in districts with a population of less than 25,000.



California voters will decide on a veto referendum to repeal an oil and gas regulation law in 2024

The California secretary of state announced that a veto referendum seeking to repeal Senate Bill 1137 (SB 1137) had qualified for the 2024 ballot on Feb. 3. 

If upheld by voters, SB 1137 would require all oil or gas production facilities or wells within a health protection zone to comply with new regulations. Health protection zones are areas within 3,200 feet of a sensitive receptor. Sensitive receptors include residences, education facilities, daycare centers, colleges and universities, community resource centers, health care facilities, live-in housing, prisons and detention centers, and any building housing a business open to the public.

SB 1137 would also require operators with a production facility or well with a wellhead in a health protection zone to develop a leak detection system for certain chemicals and detailed response plans. The law would also require the Air Resources Board (ARB) and the State Water Board to adopt performance standards for the emissions detection system. The facilities would be required to post contact information to receive complaints, limit sound levels, limit light generation, institute dust prevention measures, abide by vehicle speed limits, comply with air district requirements, and submit a chemical analysis of produced water to California Geologic Energy Management Division (CalGEM). With signatures verified, the law is now on hold until the election in November 2024.

Stop the Energy Shutdown is leading the campaign to repeal the law. The number of signatures required was 623,212. The campaign filed 978,610 signatures. The final random sample count found that at least 687,058 signatures were valid. 

The committee reported over $20 million in contributions in its latest campaign finance filing. It has received endorsements from the California Independent Petroleum Association (CIPA), E & B Natural Resources Management Corp., Macpherson Oil Company LLC, Sentinel Peak Resources California LLC, Signal Hill Petroleum, Inc., and the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California. California Independent Petroleum Association (CIPA) said, “If implemented, SB 1137 would increase CA’s already high gas prices by decreasing our energy supply and replacing it with expensive imported foreign oil that tankers must transport from counties that do not uphold the same environmental or labor standards.”

The referendum is opposed by Central California Environmental Justice Network, Sierra Club California, and Voices in Solidarity Against Oil in Neighborhoods (VISION). Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) released a statement saying, “I proudly signed SB 1137 last year to stop new oil drilling in our neighborhoods and protect California families. Big Oil knows that California is moving beyond fossil fuels, so on their way out these corporations are doing everything they can to squeeze out profits as they pollute our communities. We’re not standing for it.”

SB 1137 passed the California State Assembly by a vote of 46-24 with 10 not voting on Aug. 30, 2022. On Aug. 31, it passed the California State Senate by a vote of 25-10 with five not voting. It was signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) on Sept. 16.

In 2024, California voters are already set to decide on seven measures. Voters will be deciding on another veto referendum in 2024 that would repeal a law to establish a fast-food council to regulate working conditions in the industry. Four other citizen initiatives have qualified for the ballot related to pandemic prevention research and funding, the state’s minimum wage, remediation for labor violations, and vote requirements for new taxes. The state legislature also referred a constitutional amendment to the March 2024 ballot that would repeal the local voter requirement for publicly-funded housing projects classified as low rent.

Additional reading:



Missouri House approves 60% vote requirement for constitutional amendments

On Feb. 2, 2023, the Missouri House of Representatives voted 108-50 for a constitutional amendment to require a 60% vote requirement for referred and citizen-initiated constitutional amendments. The amendment is titled House Joint Resolution 43 (HJR 43). Of the 108 members who voted for HJR 43, 107 were Republicans and one was a Democrat. Fifty Democrats voted against the amendment.

If the Senate approves HJR 43, it will go on the ballot for Missouri voters to decide on Nov. 5, 2024.

HJR 43 also amends Article 3, Section 50 of the Missouri Constitution to include text that says: “For purposes of this article, only citizens of the United States of America who are residents of the State of Missouri and who are properly registered to vote in the State of Missouri shall be considered legal voters.”

The ballot question, as currently written, would read: “Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to: Allow only citizens of the United States to qualify as legal voters; Require initiative petitions proposing to amend the constitution to be reviewed by the voters in each congressional district; and require amendments to the constitution be approved by a sixty percent vote?”

As of 2022, in Missouri, constitutional amendments need to receive a simple majority (50%+1) vote at an election. This amendment would raise that vote requirement to 60%.

Rep. Mike Henderson (R), who sponsored the amendment, said: “I believe that the Missouri Constitution is a living document, not an ever-expanding document. And right now it has become an ever-expanding document.”

House Speaker Dean Plocher (R) also supports the amendment. “Our constitution is meant to be a sacred document, but is now one that has grown dramatically in size because of out-of-state interests that have spent millions of dollars here in Missouri to change our way of life,” he said.

Rep. David Tyson Smith (D) said that the language regarding citizen voting requirements would confuse voters. “We all know in this room that this is misleading language and is designed to confuse people,” he said. Travis Crum, professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, said that “Article VIII, Section 2 of the Missouri Constitution limits the right to vote to U.S. citizens.”

Rep. Peter Merideth (D) opposes the amendment, saying, “We’re attacking that fundamental power that lies in the hands of the people. That’s a slap in the face to the people in Missouri.”

Currently, when it comes to the voter approval of constitutional amendments, 38 states require a simple majority vote, while 11 states have some other type of requirement in place. Delaware is the only state that does not require any voter approval for constitutional amendments.

In 2022, three states had questions on the ballot that proposed a supermajority requirement for certain ballot measures. Arkansas voters rejected Issue 2, which would have required a 60% supermajority vote requirement for all constitutional amendments and voter-initiated state statutes. South Dakota voters rejected Amendment C in June of 2022, which would have required a 60% supermajority vote for ballot measures that would increase taxes. Arizona voters approved Proposition 132, which created a supermajority requirement for ballot measures that approve taxes (other measures continue to require a simple majority vote).

Currently, there are no certified ballot measures in Missouri for 2024. Historically, there have been 79 legislatively referred constitutional amendments on the ballot in Missouri between 1985 and 2022. Fifty-four (68%) have been approved and 25 (32%) have been defeated.

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