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Diego Hernandez resigns from Oregon House of Representatives 

On Feb. 21, Rep. Diego Hernandez (D) resigned from the Oregon House of Representatives. He represented District 47 from 2017 to 2021. 

On May 4, 2020, the interim House Conduct Committee in the Oregon House of Representatives opened an investigation after seven individuals accused Hernandez of verbal and physical sexual harassment and creating a hostile workplace environment.

Hernandez did not participate in the investigatory hearing and issued the following statement in response: “I have no idea what the concerns raised are or by whom. I do know that there has been an organized campaign against me recently to get me out of the office I was duly elected to and I was threatened this would happen if I didn’t resign. Due process matters, I ask that people withhold judgment until the investigation is complete.”

On May 11, Hernandez filed a tort claim against the Oregon state legislature, citing damages related to the following: “abuse of process, discrimination (gender and national origin/race) under state and federal law, aiding and abetting discrimination, bullying/mobbing, whistleblowing retaliation (ORS 659A.199, ORS 659A.203, ORS659A.206), intentional infliction of emotional distress, intentional interference with a prospective economic relationship, defamation, violation of due process under state and federal law, and other potential claims.” 

After nine months, the committee voted 4-0 to recommend expulsion to the House. Hernandez filed a lawsuit to halt further movement on the measure, but United States District Judge Ann Aiken denied judicial interference. Hernandez resigned from his seat the following day on Feb. 21.

If there is a vacancy in the Oregon Legislature, the board of county commissioners representing the vacant seat must select a replacement. This can only be done when the legislature is in session or when the vacancy happens more than 61 days before the next scheduled general election. The board must consider at least three candidates and select a person from the political party that last held the vacant seat. Persons selected to fill House seats serve for the remainder of the unexpired term.

As of the morning of Feb. 24, there have been 28 state legislative vacancies in 20 states this year. Eleven of those vacancies have been filled, with 17 vacancies remaining. Hernandez’s vacancy is one of 13 Democratic vacancies to have occurred in 2021. So far, seven vacancies have been filled by Democrats, while three have been filled by Republicans.  

Additional Reading:



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: February 24, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery by Ballotpedia

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

  • Illinois (Democratic trifecta): People age 16 and older with state-defined high-risk conditions will be eligible for vaccinations starting Feb. 25. The state’s list of qualifying conditions includes cancer, obesity, and diabetes.

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

  • California (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a $9.6 billion package of bills he says are meant for coronavirus aid (bills AB 81, AB 82, AB 85, SB 87, SB 88, and SB 94) into law. The package includes $600 direct payments to households with incomes less than $30,000. Some taxpayers who did not qualify for federal stimulus payments will also be eligible for $600 payments. For more details, click here.
  • Florida (Republican trifecta): On Tuesday, Feb. 23, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced that CVS Health will offer vaccines at 81 pharmacy locations in 13 counties beginning later this week. The pharmacies include CVS Pharmacy, CVS Pharmacy y más, and Navarro Discount Pharmacy. 
  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Tuesday, Feb. 23, the Indiana state Senate voted 38-8 to pass a bill that would limit the governor’s state of emergency declarations to 60 days. Under the law, the General Assembly would have sole authority to extend emergency declaration beyond 60 days. The bill now goes to the House for consideration.
  • Maryland (divided government): On Tuesday, Feb. 23, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) issued an executive order requiring all people over the age of five to wear masks on school property, including in hallways, gyms, and on buses. 
  • North Carolina (divided government): On Wednesday, Feb. 24, teachers and staff, including bus drivers and custodial staff, can register to receive a coronavirus vaccine. 
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced that effective Feb. 26 – March 11, five counties will be in the state’s Extreme Risk level, 11 will be at High Risk, 10 will be at Moderate Risk, and 10 will have Lower Risk restrictions. In the current period from Feb. 12-25, 14 counties are in the state’s Extreme Risk level, 11 are at High Risk, three are at Moderate Risk, and eight have Lower Risk restrictions.  To see restrictions in a specific county or risk level, click here.
  • Texas (Republican trifecta): On Tuesday, Feb. 23, the percentage of hospital beds devoted to COVID-19 patients in the Southeast Texas Trauma Service Area, which includes Houston, remained below 15% for seven consecutive days, allowing restaurants and other businesses to increase their operating capacity from 50% to 75% capacity, up from 50%. In an Oct. 7, 2020, executive order, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) mandated tighter restrictions in regions that saw high levels of COVID-19 hospitalizations. The executive order permits county judges to decide if bars can reopen in regions where COVID-19 hospitalizations are below 15% of hospital capacity. 
  • Virginia (Democratic trifecta): On Tuesday, Feb. 23, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced he will ease some coronavirus restrictions beginning March 1. On that day, the gathering limit on outdoor entertainment venues will increase from 30% or 250 people to 30% or 1,000 people. Additionally, up to 250 spectators or 30% will be permitted per field at outdoor sports games, up from the current limit of two spectators per participant. The outdoor gathering limit will increase from 10 to 25 people.


St. Louis to use new mayoral primary system for first time on March 2

Image of several stickers with the words "I voted"

On March 2, St. Louis, Missouri, will hold a mayoral primary using an electoral system called approval voting for the first time in the city’s history. Candidates of all political affiliations will appear on the ballot without partisan labels and voters may choose any number of candidates to vote for. The two candidates receiving the most votes will advance to the general election on April 6. Voters approved the method through the passage of Proposition D in November 2020.

Mayor Lyda Krewson (D) is not running for re-election. Four candidates are running in the primary: 2017 mayoral candidate Andrew Jones, St. Louis Treasurer Tishaura Jones, Aldermen President Lewis Reed, and Alderwoman Cara Spencer. Each has a partisan affiliation: A. Jones ran as a Republican in 2017, and the other three candidates have previously run for office as Democrats.

The St. Louis Post Dispatch endorsed both Spencer and Reed. T. Jones was endorsed by Saint Louis County Executive Sam Page, Democracy for America, and the state council of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). Spencer was endorsed by former Mayor Vincent Schoemehl Jr. and former Aldermanic President James Shrewsbury.

Through Feb. 22, Spencer raised the most money of all the candidates ($356,000), followed by T. Jones ($333,000), Reed ($271,000), and A. Jones ($20,000).

Candidates have each made crime a key priority in this campaign. A. Jones said that the city’s violent crime problem made it harder for the city to attract new businesses and retain existing ones, so addressing crime would improve safety while also improving the city’s business climate. T. Jones said she supported restructuring the police department’s budget to reallocate funding for mental health services, job training programs, and treating substance abuse. Reed’s campaign website called for a focus on violent crime, using a strategy called focused deterrence with groups most likely to commit violent crimes. Spencer, citing her background in mathematics and modeling, said she would implement a data-driven strategy for crime reduction in the city. 

The city of St. Louis utilizes a strong mayor and city council system. In this form of municipal government, the city council serves as the city’s primary legislative body and the mayor serves as the city’s chief executive.



Senate confirms Vilsack for agriculture secretary, Thomas-Greenfield for UN ambassador

The Senate confirmed Linda Thomas-Greenfield, a diplomat who served in the U.S. Foreign Service for three decades, to serve as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday by a vote of 78-20.

The Senate also confirmed Tom Vilsack for secretary of agriculture by a vote of 92-7. He previously served in this position during the Obama administration.

Six Republican senators and one independent voted against Vilsack’s confirmation:

• Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

• Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.)

• Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

• Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

• Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.)

• Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also voted against Vilsack’s nomination, marking the first time a Democrat or independent who caucuses with the Democrats opposed a Biden nominee.

Thomas-Greenfield and Vilsack will be sworn in on Wednesday.

Additional Reading:



Sponsors of South Dakota medical marijuana initiative propose alternative implementation schedule after Gov. Noem proposed a 1-year delay

In November, South Dakota became the first state to vote on recreational and medical marijuana at the same election. Voters approved Initiated Measure 26 by a vote of 70% to 30% and Constitutional Amendment A by a vote of 54% to 46%.

IM 26 was designed to establish a medical marijuana program in South Dakota for individuals who have a debilitating medical condition as certified by a physician. The initiative was set to take effect on July 1, 2021, with deadlines for certain implementation steps to take place in the fall. The state House is considering a bill to change the effective date from July 1, 2021, to January 1, 2022, and to delay the deadlines for certain provisions from Fall 2021 (under IM 26) to Spring 2022. The delays are supported by Governor Kristi Noem, who announced plans for delaying implementation of the program by one year. Sponsors of IM 26 proposed an alternative implementation schedule to shorten the delays.

Under the IM 26, patients will be allowed to possess a maximum of three ounces of marijuana. Limits on the cannabis products a person may possess would be set by the Department of Health. According to the measure, patients registered to cultivate marijuana at home could grow three plants at minimum, or another amount as prescribed by a physician.

Constitutional Amendment A was designed to legalize the recreational use of marijuana and require the South Dakota State Legislature to pass laws providing for the use of medical marijuana and the sale of hemp by April 1, 2022. Amendment A was ruled unconstitutional by the Hughes County Circuit Court. Sponsors appealed to the state supreme court.

On February 10, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem (R) announced a plan to delay the implementation of the state’s medical marijuana program until July 1, 2022, a year later than the dates set forth under the IM 26. Noem said, “We are working diligently to get IM 26 implemented safely and correctly. The feasibility of getting this program up and running well will take additional time.”

House Bill 1100 was introduced in the South Dakota House of Representatives on January 27, 2021, and was passed by the state affairs committee on February 17, 2021. The bill would amend IM 26 to change the effective dates from 2021 to 2022. The bill stated that “Due to the pending litigation [surrounding Constitutional Amendment A], the Department of Health’s continued efforts against COVID-19, and the complexity of marijuana’s status under federal law, the State needs more time to establish a medical marijuana program with integrity and prudency than its current effective date of July 1, 2021.”

On February 22, 2021, New Approach South Dakota and South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws announced their proposal for an alternative implementation schedule in response to House Bill 1100. Matthew Schweich, director of South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws said, “A delay to implementation is partly justified due to the Department of Health’s important role in managing South Dakota’s pandemic response. That is one of the reasons why we are proposing this compromise. However, the primary motivation is the prospect of enactment of HB 1100A, which defies the will of the people, harshly re-criminalizes medical marijuana patients, and provides a vehicle for repealing and replacing the law.”

The proposed compromise legislation would extend the deadlines for certain parts of the medical marijuana program’s implementation to January 2022 in order to give the state more time to implement the measure. The proposed compromise bill would require legal protections for potential medical marijuana patients prior to registry ID cards being issued to take effect on July 1, 2021 (the date set forth under IM 26). HB 1100 initially proposed enacting the legal protections for potential medical marijuana patients starting on July 1, 2022, but it was amended to move that date up to January 1, 2022.

South Dakota is one of eleven states (out of 21 with a process for initiated state statutes) with no restrictions on how soon or with what majority state legislators can repeal or amend initiated statutes.

As of November 2020, 35 states and Washington, D.C., had passed laws legalizing or decriminalizing medical marijuana. Additionally, 15 states had legalized the use of cannabis oil, or cannabidiol (CBD)—one of the non-psychoactive ingredients found in marijuana—for medical purposes.

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for recreational purposes: 12 states and D.C. through ballot initiatives, one state through a legislatively referred ballot measure, and two through bills approved by state legislatures and signed by governors.

The federal government has classified marijuana as an illegal controlled substance since 1970. Marijuana is a Schedule I drug under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). As of 2020, the possession, purchase, and sale of marijuana were illegal under federal law.

Additional Reading:



New Jersey state Senator Gerald Cardinale dies

New Jersey Sen. Gerald Cardinale (R) passed away on Feb. 20, after being hospitalized with an illness unrelated to COVID-19. The second-longest-serving New Jersey legislator, Cardinale was first elected to Senate District 39 in 1981, serving until his death. Prior to joining the state Senate, Cardinale was a member of the New Jersey General Assembly from 1980 to 1982.  

During his Senate tenure, Cardinale served as deputy majority leader (1994-2001), majority whip (1992-1993), assistant minority leader (1987-1989), and minority whip (1985-1986). He was also a district-level delegate to the 2016 Republican National Convention from New Jersey. Cardinale was one of 51 delegates from New Jersey bound by state party rules to support Donald Trump at the convention. 

If there is a vacancy in the New Jersey Legislature, the vacancy will be filled by an interim appointment by the county leadership of the political party that holds the seat. The office will be on the ballot in the next general election unless the vacancy occurs within 51 days of the election. If that is the case, the appointment would stand until the following general election. This is not the case for Cardinale’s seat, which will be up for election in November 2021.

As of Feb. 23, there have been 27 state legislative vacancies in 20 states during 2021. Ten of those vacancies have been filled. Of the 27 vacancies, 15 are Republican and 12 are Democratic. Democrats have filled seven vacancies, while Republicans have filled three.  

Additional Reading:



Maine secretary of state verifies sufficient signatures for ballot initiative to prohibit electric transmission corridors in state’s Upper Kennebec Region

Voters in Maine could decide a ballot initiative designed to stop a 145-mile long, high-voltage transmission project, known as the New England Clean Energy Connect (NECEC), that would transmit hydroelectric power from Quebec to utilities in Massachusetts and Maine. The ballot initiative would also require a two-thirds vote of each state legislative chamber to approve future high-impact (defined) electric transmission corridors and prohibit new transmission corridors in the Upper Kennebec Region.

On February 22, 2021, Secretary of State Shenna Bellows announced that the initiative’s proponents had collected 80,506 valid signatures—17,439 more than the minimum needed for the initiative to go before voters on November 2, 2021. Proponents filed 95,622 unverified signatures on January 21. As ballot initiatives are indirect in Maine, the state legislature has the option to approve the initiative rather than having the issue placed on the November 2021 ballot.

The ballot initiative is the second attempt by NECEC opponents to stop the project at the ballot box. In 2020, the No CMP Corridor PAC, which is also behind this year’s effort, qualified a ballot initiative to require the state’s public utilities commission to reverse an order granting the project with a needed permit. On August 13, 2020, the Maine Supreme Court issued an opinion that the ballot initiative was not a legislative action and therefore exceeded “the scope of the people’s legislative power.” Ten weeks later, No CMP Corridor’s Thomas Saviello, a former Republican state senator, filed the new proposal.

NECEC was proposed by Central Maine Power (CMP) and Hydro-Québec, a Quebec state-owned enterprise. NECEC received its final federal or state permit from the U.S. Department of Energy on January 15, 2021. However, the U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction to prevent the construction of Segment 1 of NECEC, a 54-mile stretch of new corridor in northern Maine, pending a future court decision. Construction was permitted to begin on other segments, which will utilize existing corridors. 

No CMP Corridor, along with the Mainers for Local Power PAC, raised $6.29 million in contributions through December 31, 2021. Most—$6.05 million—was received by Mainers for Local Power. Contributions included $3.78 million from NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Cumberland, Maine, and six solar fields or projects in southern and central Maine; $1.15 million from Vistra Energy Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Veazie, Maine; and $1.12 million from Calpine Corp., which owns a natural gas-fired plant in Westbrook, Maine.

Two PACs—Clean Energy Matters and Hydro-Québec Maine Partnership—registered to oppose the ballot measure. Together, the committees have raised $25.68 million, including $16.28 million from Central Maine Power (CMP) and CMP’s parent firm Avangrid and $8.28 million from H.Q. Energy Services (U.S.) Inc., which is a subsidiary of Hydro-Québec.

No CMP Corridor was the only campaign to filed signatures to get an initiative on the ballot for November 2, 2021. The general election could also feature legislatively referred constitutional amendments and bond issues, as well as citizen-initiated veto referendums proposed after a bill is passed.

Additional Reading:



Senate committees postpone votes on Tanden for OMB director

February 24, 2021: Two Senate committees postponed scheduled votes on Neera Tanden’s nomination for director of the Office of Management and Budget.

President Joe Biden (D) and his team have been preparing for the transition between presidential administrations since the election, including selecting senior White House staff and appointees to top government positions.

In 2020, there were 1,472 government positions subject to presidential appointment: 1,118 positions required Senate confirmation and 354 did not. The new administration is also responsible for filling thousands of other positions across the federal government, including in operations and policy. Every weekday, Ballotpedia is tracking potential Cabinet nominees, appointments, and news related to the Biden administration.

  • The Senate confirmed Linda Thomas-Greenfield to serve as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations on Tuesday by a vote of 78-20.
  • The Senate also confirmed Tom Vilsack to serve as secretary of agriculture on Tuesday by a vote of 92-7. Six Republicans voted against his confirmation: Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska). Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also voted against Vilsack, marking the first time a Democrat or independent who caucuses with Democrats voted against a Biden nominee.
  • Three committee hearings are scheduled Wednesday:
    • The Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources is holding a second day of hearings for Debra Haaland for secretary of the interior.
    • The Senate Finance Committee is holding a hearing for Xavier Becerra for secretary of health and human services.
    • The Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship will vote on Isabel Guzman’s nomination for administrator of the Small Business Administration.
  • The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs postponed a planned vote on Neera Tanden’s nomination for director of the Office of Management and Budget on Wednesday. The Washington Post reported that the Senate Budget Committee, which was also scheduled to vote on Tanden’s nomination on Wednesday, also planned to delay their vote.

News

  • Drew Tipton, a federal judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas, granted a preliminary injunction blocking the Biden administration’s 100-day moratorium on deportations. The injunction applies to all states. Tipton is a Trump appointee.
  • Biden is expected to sign an executive order on Wednesday calling for the review of global supply chains for computer chips, large-capacity batteries used in electric vehicles, pharmaceuticals and related products, and critical minerals.

Transition in Context

The following chart compares the pace of Senate confirmations for the main Cabinet members—the 15 agency heads in the presidential line of succession—following the inaugurations of Presidents Donald Trump (R) and Joe Biden (D). It does not include Cabinet-rank officials that vary by administration.

Five weeks after their respective inaugurations, Trump had nine of these secretaries confirmed and Biden had seven.

What We’re Reading



The Daily Brew: Congressional Review Act deadline is April 4

Welcome to the Wednesday, Feb. 24, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. April 4 is the deadline for Congress to repeal regulatory activity from the end of the Trump administration
  2. Register for our Feb. 25 briefing on incumbency in last year’s state legislative elections
  3. Indiana secretary of state announces resignation

Yesterday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) set the special election in Texas’ 6th Congressional District for May 1. The seat became vacant when Rep. Ron Wright (R) died on Feb. 7. In Texas, all special election candidates appear on the same ballot, regardless of party. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, the top two finishers compete in a runoff election on a date that will be determined after the runoff results are certified. Candidates that wish to run must file with the secretary of state by March 3.

April 4 is the deadline for Congress to repeal regulatory activity from the end of the Trump administration

The Biden administration has until April 4 to use the provisions of the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to repeal final rules issued at the end of the Trump administration. Here’s how this works.

The CRA is a 1996 federal law that creates a 60-day review period during which Congress can overturn a new federal agency rule. To do this, Congress must pass a joint resolution of disapproval which the president must then sign. 

The Feb. 3 edition of the Congressional Record stated that Congress has 60 days from Feb. 3 to use the CRA to rescind regulations and informal rules issued at the end of the Trump administration. Daniel Pérez, a senior policy analyst at the George Washington University Regulatory Studies Center, estimates there may be as many as 1,354 of these rules.

The law defines this 60-day period as days where Congress is in continuous session. This means the projected deadline to block end-of-term regulatory activity from the Trump administration is April 4. That date could move later into April if either chamber of Congress adjourns for longer than three days before then.

Since the law’s creation in 1996, Congress has used the CRA to repeal 17 rules published in the Federal Register. Before 2017, Congress had used the CRA successfully one time—in 2001—to overturn a rule on ergonomics in the workplace. In the first four months of his administration, President Donald Trump (R) signed 14 CRA resolutions from Congress undoing a variety of rules issued near the end of Barack Obama’s (D) presidency. Congress ultimately repealed 16 rules using the CRA during the Trump administration.

To stay informed about whether Congress uses the CRA during the Biden administration, you can bookmark and visit the page linked below, or subscribe to our monthly Checks and Balances newsletter, which covers the latest information on federal rulemaking and regulatory activity. 

>Read on

Register for our Feb. 25 briefing on incumbency in last year’s state legislative elections

Voters in 44 states decided state legislative elections last year, with partisan control changing in two chambers. The National Conference of State Legislatures reported that this was the fewest changes in party control on Election Day since at least 1944.

We’re hosting a briefing on Thursday—Feb. 25—that examines these results, and specifically, how incumbents performed in last year’s state legislative elections. Here’s a sneak preview of some of the data points we’ll be discussing:

  • 227 state legislative incumbents lost in last year’s general elections, the lowest number since at least 2010. This was a 29.5% decrease from the 322 defeated in 2018 and was 54.8% lower than the decade-high 502 incumbents defeated in the 2010 general election. 
  • Since 2010, an average of 307 incumbents have been defeated in even-year general elections.
  • In the 2020 cycle, 381 incumbents lost re-election in total, with 154 defeated in a primary or nominating convention.

The chart below shows all state legislative incumbent losses in even-numbered years from 2010 to 2020:

Join me at 11 a.m. Central Time as Doug Kronaizl from our marquee team looks closer at this data, identifies those states that had the most defeated incumbents, and what it all means for this year’s state legislative sessions.

Click here or on the link below to register, and if you can’t attend live, we’ll send you a link to the recording so you can watch it on your schedule. Hope to see you there!

>Register

Indiana secretary of state announces resignation 

Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson (R) announced on Feb. 15 that she would resign, citing health and family reasons. Lawson said she will leave office after Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) appoints her successor, and that person is ready to take office. 

Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) first appointed Lawson as secretary of state in March 2012 to fill the vacancy created when Charlie White (R) resigned. Lawson was elected to the position in 2014 and 2018. Her tenure of nearly nine years is the second-longest in the history of the office. Indiana’s first secretary of state, Robert New, served for nine years and one month from 1816 to 1825.

The Indiana secretary of state is one of five statewide elected offices established by Indiana’s Constitution. The secretary of state is responsible for maintaining state records, overseeing elections, chartering new businesses, and overseeing the state’s securities and motor vehicle dealership industries. 

Lawson’s replacement will serve until the office’s next scheduled election in November 2022. Last year, eight state executives nationwide left office before their terms expired. 

The office of secretary of state exists in 47 states. It does not exist in Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah. Voters elect the secretary of state directly in 35 states. In the other 12, the governor or state legislature appoints the secretary of state. The current partisan composition of the nation’s secretaries of state is 25 Republicans, 21 Democrats, and one independent. Pennsylvania’s acting secretary of state—Veronica Degraffenreid—is not affiliated with either party. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) appointed Degraffenreid on Feb. 1.

>Read on 



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: February 23, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery by Ballotpedia

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

  • North Carolina (divided government): On Wednesday, Feb. 24, teachers and staff, including bus drivers and custodial staff, can register to receive a coronavirus vaccine. 

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

  • Arizona (Republican trifecta): Gov. Doug Ducey (R) announced the state is opening a vaccination site at Chandler-Gilbert Community College on March 3. At full capacity, the site will administer 12,000 vaccinations a day.
  • Connecticut (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Ned Lamont (D) announced a schedule for the state’s age-based distribution expansion. Lamont also said clinics will open in March to focus on vaccinating teachers. The state will release more details on school staff vaccinations closer to the clinics’ opening. The age-based expansion is scheduled as follows:
    • Eligibility expands to individuals ages 55 to 64 on March 1, 2021
    • Eligibility expands to individuals ages 45 to 54 on March 22, 2021
    • Eligibility expands to individuals ages 35 to 44 on April 12, 2021
    • Eligibility expands to individuals ages 16 to 34 on May 3, 2021
  • New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): On Feb. 22, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced religious services can operate at 50% of a room’s capacity. Previously, religious services were limited to the lesser of 35% capacity or 150 individuals. Murphy also said up to two parents per student can attend collegiate sports practices and competitions, as long as the number of spectators does not exceed 35% of the event room’s capacity (if the event is indoors). Sports stadiums and entertainment venues with a capacity of 5,000 people or more can operate at 10% capacity indoors or 15% outdoors. The changes were effective immediately.
  • New York (Democratic trifecta): 
    • Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced billiard halls statewide and movie theaters in New York City will be allowed to reopen starting March 5. Billiard halls will open at 35% capacity in NYC and 50% capacity in the rest of the state. NYC movie theaters will open at 25% capacity, with a maximum of 50 people per screen.
    • The governor also said the state will release detailed guidance for weddings and other catered events, which are scheduled to resume on March 15. Venues will be restricted to the lesser of 50% capacity or 150 people.
    • State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker released full nursing home visitation guidance and requirements on Feb. 22. Nursing homes will be able to expand visitation under the rules starting Feb. 26. 
  • North Dakota (Republican trifecta): 
    • On Monday, Feb. 22, Gov. Doug Burgum (R) ended several coronavirus executive orders issued between March 25, 2020, and July 29, 2020. Among other things, the orders suspended the eligibility requirements for funeral directors applying for workers compensation and allowed state agencies to transfer surplus property, such as medical supplies and personal protective equipment, to other agencies. 
    • On Monday, Feb. 22, the state House passed a bill 50-44 that would prohibit state and local officials from mandating masks. The bill now goes to the Senate. 
  • Tennessee (Republican trifecta): On Monday, Feb. 22, the Tennessee state Senate voted 27-5 to pass SB 0103, a bill that would give the governor authority to reopen public schools to in-person instruction during a state of emergency. The bill specifies that in the absence of an order from a local health board or the governor, school boards determine whether to open or close schools during emergencies. The bill goes to the House for consideration. 
  • Utah (Republican trifecta): On Monday, Feb. 22, the state House voted 66-2 to pass HB308, a bill that would prohibit state agencies from requiring employees to receive a coronavirus vaccine. The bill goes to the Senate for consideration.
  • Vermont (divided government): On Friday, Feb. 19, Gov. Phil Scott (R) announced that fully vaccinated residents who travel to another state will no longer need to quarantine when returning to Vermont beginning Feb. 23. Fully vaccinated residents will receive cards that they can display upon request when traveling in or out of the state. Scott also said that fully vaccinated out-of-state travelers will not need to quarantine if they can provide proof of vaccination. Additionally, Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith announced that fully vaccinated residents at long-term care facilities where there is no outbreak may participate in congregate activities if the facility is within the federal guidance for COVID-19 positivity rates.  

Lawsuits about state actions and policies

Read more: Lawsuits about state actions and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,664 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 483 of those lawsuits. 
    • Since Feb. 16, we have added 12 lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional three court orders and/or settlements. 

Details:

  • Chase v. Republican Party of Virginia: On Feb. 19, Judge Margaret Spencer of the Richmond Circuit Court dismissed a lawsuit that sought to prevent Virginia’s Republican Party from using in-person nominating conventions to select gubernatorial and other candidates. State Sen. Amanda Chase (R), a gubernatorial candidate, filed the lawsuit, arguing that the party’s plan to host a nominating convention would violate state coronavirus restrictions. Spencer ruled from the bench that Chase lacked standing to sue because she was not authorized to enforce Virginia’s COVID-19 restrictions. Chase posted on Twitter that, “Apparently the Richmond Circuit Court is going to hand the noose to the [Republican Party of Virginia] so they can go hang themselves. Sadly, the people of Virginia lost today.” Chase has yet to decide whether she will file an appeal.

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the Feb. 16 edition of the newsletter. Since then, no new states have adopted a statewide public mask mandate or let a face-covering requirement expire.

Diagnosed or quarantined politicians identified by Ballotpedia

Read more: Politicians, candidates, and government officials diagnosed with or quarantined due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • Federal
    • Three federal officials have died of COVID-19.
    • Fifty-eight members of Congress have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Forty-one federal officials have quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • State
    • Eight state-level incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • Two-hundred and seven state-level incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19
    • Eighty-four state-level incumbents or candidates have quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • Local
    • At least five local incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • At least 43 local incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • At least 26 local incumbents or candidates have quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.

Since Feb. 16, two state senators and one state representative have tested positive for COVID-19. One governor tested negative for the virus.

Details:

  • On Feb. 15, South Dakota state Rep. Hugh Bartels (R) announced he tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • On Feb. 16, Idaho state Sen. Steve Bair (R) announced he tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • On Feb. 22, New York state Sen. Susan Serino (R) announced she tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • On Feb. 22, Florida state Rep. Dan Daley (D) announced he tested positive for COVID-19.
  • On Feb. 22, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) announced he tested negative for COVID-19 after coming into contact with someone who later tested positive for the virus. Dunleavy said he would work from home over the next seven days. 

ICYMI: Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day

Each weekday, Ballotpedia publishes Scott Rasmussen’s Number of the Day, which explores interesting and newsworthy topics at the intersection of culture, politics, and technology.

In today’s edition: 

Thirty-nine percent (39%) of voters now believe the worst of the coronavirus pandemic is behind us. A Scott Rasmussen national survey found that 31% disagree and believe the worst is still to come.

Rasmussen has been tracking this question throughout the pandemic, and this is the first time ever that a plurality offered a positive view.

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