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Iowa state representative changes party affiliation to Democratic, cites Trump and Republican Party direction

Iowa State Representative Andy McKean changed his party affiliation from Republican to Democratic on Tuesday.
 
McKean said President Trump and changes in the party as a whole prompted this change. “I feel, as a Republican, that I need to be able to support the standard bearer of our party…Unfortunately, that’s something I’m unable to do,” McKean said in a news conference. He added that “the [Republican] party has veered very sharply to the right.” The Des Moines Register stated McKean had been the longest-serving Republican in the state House.
 
House Minority Leader Todd Prichard (D) commented on McKean’s move: “We’re pleased to have Andy’s experience and ideas as part of our discussion when we go to caucus.”
 
House Speaker Linda Upmeyer (R) said, “This will not distract us from moving forward with the conservative agenda that Iowans have tasked us with…As a majority of 53 strong Republicans, we are committed to completing our work and wrapping up the session.”
 
As of April 2019, Ballotpedia tracked 122 state legislators who have switched parties since 1994. Seventy-one lawmakers changed from Democrat to Republican, and 19 lawmakers switched from Republican to Democrat.
 
McKean’s switch did not change the Republican majority in the state House; the partisan balance is now 53-47. In 2016, Republicans gained a Republican trifecta in the state, meaning they hold the governor’s office and have majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.
 


Arkansas governor signs bill prohibiting sanctuary policies

Last week Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed a bill to prohibit sanctuary policies in Arkansas.
 
Senate Bill (SB) 411 amends Arkansas Code Title 14, Chapter 1, Subchapter 1, to include a provision prohibiting municipalities from adopting sanctuary policies. It also established that municipalities determined to be in violation of the law would be ineligible to receive state funds or grants until the policy was repealed. SB 411 defined a sanctuary policy as “an order, ordinance, or law enforcement policy, whether formally enacted or informally adopted by custom or practice” that limits municipal officials from cooperating with federal agencies to verify immigration status or from complying with federal detainer requests.
 
The legislation is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 2020.
 
Hutchinson said he opposed sanctuary cities but did not “see any change in policy going forward that would be disruptive to our society.” Arkansas had no sanctuary cities as defined by the bill at the time of its passage.
 
Supporters of the bill said it was meant to prevent cities in Arkansas from adopting sanctuary policies. Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R) said, “This is more a proactive measure to ward off something, some city in Arkansas saying, ‘hey, we’re going to set ourselves up as a sanctuary city.'” Opponents said the bill would damage the relationship between local law enforcement and the immigrant community.
 
Arkansas is one of 22 Republican trifectas.
 


9th Circuit panel unanimously upholds California law on federal immigration enforcement compliance

On April 18, 2019, Judges Milan Smith, Paul Watford, and Andrew Hurwitz of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit unanimously ruled that Senate Bill (SB) 54, California’s sanctuary state law, did not conflict with federal law.
 
Writing for the panel, Smith wrote that SB 54 “makes the jobs of federal immigration authorities more difficult” but “does not directly conflict with any obligation” that federal law imposes on state or local governments. Smith also wrote against a provision in AB 103. “Only those provisions that impose an additional economic burden exclusively on the federal government are invalid,” he said.
 
Smith was appointed to the court by President George W. Bush (R). Watford and Hurwitz were appointed by President Barack Obama (D).
 
The decision upheld U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California Judge John Mendez’s July 2018 ruling.
 
The Trump administration brought the lawsuit in March 2018. The lawsuit challenged three California statutes: SB 54, AB 450, and AB 103.
 
As passed, SB 54 established the following provisions:
  • Exempting state prisons from provisions prohibiting state law enforcement agencies from cooperating with federal immigration agents.
  • Permitting law enforcement officials to notify ICE of the release of certain individuals and share database information with immigration agents.
  • Allowing federal immigration agents to interview jailed individuals suspected of violating federal immigration law.
AB 103 established restrictions on state and local agencies, preventing them from contracting with the federal government to detain immigrants. AB 450 included a provision requiring employers to notify employees about immigration inspections.
 
The U.S. Department of Justice did not respond to the ruling. The government could seek en banc review from an 11-member panel of 9th Circuit judges or petition the Supreme Court of the United States for review.
 


National Democratic and Republican party committees report March fundraising figures

Campaign committees associated the Democratic and Republican parties reported increased fundraising in March, according to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission Saturday.
 
The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) raised $13.0 million in March, an 86% increase over the $7.0 million it raised in February. It spent $11.5 million, including paying off all $5.75 million in debt it owed at the end of February.
 
The NRCC’s Democratic counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) raised $13.5 million in March, a 16% increase over February. It spent $9.1 million, including paying off just under half of the $12 million debt it owed at the end of February.
 
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) raised $5.9 million, up 53% from February. It spent $4.3 million, including $1.9 million on its debt. The group reported $19.1 million in debt at the end of March.
 
The DSCC’s Republican equivalent, the NRSC (National Republican Senatorial Committee), raised $7.5 million, up 18% from February. It spent $5.0 million, $3.0 million of which went towards paying off debts, leaving it with $9.0 million in debt.
 
As in 2018, the Republican National Committee (RNC) outraised and outspent the Democratic National Committee (DNC). The RNC raised $15.5 million and spent $13.5 million in March. It does not have any debt. The DNC raised $8.2 million and spent $6.3 million in March. The group’s debt increased by $2.0 million to $6.6 million.
 
So far in 2019, the DNC, DCCC, and DSCC have raised a combined $67.1 million and spent a combined $50.6 million. The RNC, NRCC, and NRSC have raised a combined $90.5 million and spent a combined $73.9 million.
 


Louisiana House passes constitutional amendment on abortion; needs Senate approval to appear on 2019 ballot

On April 23, 2019, the Louisiana House of Representatives voted 81-10 to pass a constitutional amendment stating that “nothing in this constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.” At least 70 votes were needed. State Rep. Katrina Jackson (D-16) is the lead legislative sponsor of the amendment, and Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) also supports the amendment. House Republicans, along with half of House Democrats, voted to pass it.
 
The constitutional amendment will need to receive 26 votes in the 39-member Senate. Republicans hold 25 seats and Democrats hold 14 seats in the Senate. Approval in both the House and Senate would refer the constitutional amendment to the ballot for October 12, 2019—the same day as Louisiana’s top-two primary election for governor and other offices.
 
The Louisiana proposal follows two ballot measures in 2018—Alabama Amendment 2 and West Virginia Amendment 1—designed to ensure that the state’s constitution could not be used to allow abortions. In West Virginia, the measure received 51.7 percent of the vote. In Alabama, the measure received 59.0 percent of the vote.
 
Louisiana’s 2019 legislative session is expected to run through June 6, 2019, during which time the legislature can refer constitutional amendments to the ballot. An average of five constitutional amendments appeared on odd-year ballots in Louisiana between 1995 and 2018.
 


Runoff elections determine winners in three Tampa City Council races

Tampa held general runoff elections for mayor and three of seven city council seats on April 23, 2019. Runoffs were required for these four races after no candidate received a majority of the general election vote on March 5.
 
In the city council’s District 1 race, Joseph Citro defeated Walter Smith with 57.4% of the unofficial election night vote total. In District 3, John Dingfelder defeated Stephen Lytle with 64.0% of the vote, and in District 5, Orlando Gudes defeated Jeffrey Rhodes with 50.8% of the vote.
 
Races in Districts 2, 4, 6, and 7 were all decided in the general election. Incumbents Charlie Miranda, Guido Maniscalco, and Luis Viera won the Districts 2, 6, and 7 races, respectively. The District 4 election did not feature an incumbent and was won by Bill Carlson. 
 
In the mayoral runoff election, unofficial results showed Jane Castor defeating David Straz with 73.1% of the vote. FOX 13 identified both candidates as members of the Democratic Party. Castor had received 48.0% of the vote in the general election, and Straz received 15.5%.
 


Castor wins Tampa mayoral runoff

Former police chief Jane Castor defeated philanthropist David Straz 73-27 in the runoff election for Tampa’s open mayoral seat. Mayor Bob Buckhorn (D) was term-limited and unable to run for re-election.
 
Castor is a member of the Democratic Party, so the mayor’s office will not change partisan hands. Tampa is one of 20 cities with a Democratic mayor with elections in 2019, while there are seven with a Republican mayor and four with independent mayors also holding elections.
 
The two candidates initially advanced from a field of seven candidates in the March 5 general election. In that contest, Castor earned 48 percent of the vote while Straz earned 15 percent. In that election, Castor won 101 of the city’s 103 precincts.


60 state legislative vacancies so far in 2019

Since January 2019, 60 state legislative vacancies have been created. Thirty-seven of those vacancies have been filled through appointments or special elections. In the 23 vacancies still left to be filled, three will be filled through appointments and 20 will be filled through special elections.
 
Before the vacancies were created, Democrats controlled 32 of the seats and Republicans controlled the other 28. In the 37 vacancies that have been filled so far, Democrats took 21 seats, Republicans took 15 seats, and an independent took one seat. So far in 2019, six state legislative seats have changed partisan control in special elections. Four seats flipped from Democrat to Republican, one seat flipped from Republican to Democrat, and one seat flipped from Republican to independent.
 
The process for filling vacancies varies among the states. Twenty-five states fill state legislative vacancies through special elections, 22 states fill vacancies through appointments, and three states fill vacancies through a hybrid system that uses both appointments and special elections. The most common reasons for a state legislative vacancy include officeholders resigning, dying, leaving for a new job, being elected or appointed to a different office, or receiving a legal conviction.
 
Ballotpedia completes a count of the partisan balance of state legislatures at the end of every month. March’s partisan count of the 7,383 state legislators shows 52 percent of all state legislators are Republicans and 47 percent are Democrats. Republicans held 3,861 of the 7,383 state legislative seats in the country—1,082 state Senate seats and 2,779 state House seats. Democrats held 3,462 of the 7,383 state legislative seats—877 state Senate seats and 2,585 state House seats. Independent or third-party legislators held 32 seats, and 28 seats were vacant.
 


Washington legislature approves Janus response bill

The Washington State Legislature sent legislation to the governor’s desk that would amend state labor union law.
 
On April 18, the Washington House of Representatives approved an amended version of HB1575, which the Washington State Senate adopted on April 12. This bill would declare that public employers and public-sector unions are not liable for claims involving agency fees paid to unions prior to Janus. It would repeal statutes requiring employees to join unions or pay dues as a condition of employment. It would also amend dues deduction authorization laws, allowing authorizations to be initiated via electronic, voice, or written communications. A written request to the union would be required to discontinue dues deductions.
 
The House voted 56-38, and the Senate voted 25-21. The votes in both chambers split largely along party lines, with most Democrats voting in favor of the bill and most Republicans voting against it. The bill now goes to Governor Jay Inslee (D).
 
Sen. Rebecca Saldana (D) said the following in support of the bill during floor debate: “It is a bill that aligns our current statutes with the Janus decision and clearly defines the relationship between the union and the employee.” The Washington State Labor Council (AFL-CIO) also supported the bill, making the following statement via its news service, The Stand: “The Washington State Senate on Friday approved landmark collective bargaining legislation that brings state laws into compliance with last year’s Janus decision by the U.S. Supreme Court and provides clarity and consistency for public employee union membership in Washington state.”
 
During floor debate, Sen. Curtis King (R) criticized the bill with respect to its position on Janus: “The Janus ruling was not an anti-union decision, it was a ruling about rights, it was a ruling about freedom. It said the individual can decide what they want to do. You cannot be forced to join a union to get a public job. It’s about freedom. That’s all it was about.” Maxford Nelsen, the Freedom Foundation’s director of labor policy, said the following in a press release: “Union-backed lawmakers in Olympia are establishing quite a track record of passing illegal and unconstitutional laws to benefit their political allies at the expense of public employees’ civil liberties.”
 
On June 27, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that public sector unions cannot require non-member employees to pay fees covering the costs of non-political union activities. This overturned precedent established in the 1977 case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education.
 


Californians could address a second rent control initiative in 2020

In 2020, Californians could see an initiative to expand rent control on their ballots—two years after 59 percent of voters rejected Proposition 10. Unlike Proposition 10, which would have allowed local governments to adopt rent control on any type of rental housing, the 2020 proposal would make exceptions for housing units first occupied within the last 15 years and owners of one or two residential units.
 
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) co-sponsored Proposition 10, and an AHF division called Housing Is A Human Right is leading the campaign in support of the 2020 ballot initiative.
 
The campaigns surrounding Proposition 10 raised a combined $96.66 million. Opponents of Proposition 10 out-raised the support campaign by about 3-to-1. The Coalition for Affordable Housing led the campaign in support of the initiative. The coalition and allied committees raised $25.30 million, with AHF providing $22.52 million. The California Apartment Association (CAA) and the California Rental Housing Association (CalRHA) each organized a PAC to oppose Proposition 10. An additional three PACs formed to oppose the ballot initiative. Together, the five opposition committees raised a combined $71.37 million. The largest contributors included the California Association of Realtors Issues Mobilization PAC ($8.00 million), Blackstone Property Partners, L.P. and affiliated holdings ($5.81 million), and Essex Property Trust, Inc. ($5.62 million).
 
Michael Weinstein, president of AHF, said the 2020 campaign wished to enter into negotiations with officials and real estate representatives to avoid a ballot initiative but was prepared to work to place the initiative on the ballot. René Moya, director of Housing Is A Human Right, stated, “rent control is still very much a popular policy” and that the amount of money opponents spent against Proposition 10 was one reason for its failure in 2018.
 
The campaign for the initiative needs to collect 623,212 valid signatures within 180 days. Signature gathering can begin when the attorney general prepares the petition language, which had not occurred as of April 22. In 2018, proponents of Proposition 10 spent about $5.42 per signature but fewer signatures—365,880—were required.
 


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