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COVID-19 policy changes and events one year ago this week

Although the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020, it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout the year, states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, issued mask mandates, and changed election dates.

Here are the policy changes that happened June 15-19, 2020. This list is not comprehensive. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Monday, June 15, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • New Hampshire’s statewide stay-at-home order expired on June 15. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) issued Emergency Order #17 on March 26. The order directed individuals in the state to stay at home unless performing essential activities and placed restrictions on non-essential businesses.
  • Travel restrictions:
    • Arkansas Secretary of Health Nathaniel Smith allowed the 14-day travel quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers coming from coronavirus hot spot areas—including New York and New Jersey—to expire. 
  • Election changes:
    • United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama Judge Abdul Kallon issued a preliminary injunction barring election officials from enforcing witness and photo ID requirements for select voters casting absentee ballots in the July 14 runoff elections.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

  • Travel restrictions:
    • The Hawaii State Department of Health announced that inter-island travelers would no longer need to follow a 14-day quarantine. However, all passengers and crew would need to fill out a travel and health form before boarding.
  • Election changes:
    • As the result of a lawsuit settlement, the absentee ballot postmark deadline in Minnesota was extended to August 11 in the August 11 primary election, while the receipt deadline for absentee ballots was extended to August 13. The witness requirement for absentee ballots was suspended.
    • Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) signed SB 863 and HB2238 into law, requiring local election officials to deliver vote-by-mail applications for the Nov. 3 general election to all voters who cast ballots in the 2018 general election, the 2019 consolidated election, or the 2020 primary election.
  • Federal government responses:
    • Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf announced that the U.S. would keep restrictions limiting non-essential travel to or from Mexico and Canada in place through July 21.
    • In a joint press release, the Department of Homeland Security and the Executive Office for Immigration Review announced that Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP) hearings and in-person document services would likely resume on July 20. Under MPP, individuals seeking asylum were told to wait in Mexico until their immigration court appointment.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

  • Travel restrictions:
    • The Kansas Department of Health and Environment updated its list of states with widespread community transmission to include Alabama, Arizona, and Arkansas. Kansas residents who had traveled to those states were required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
  • Election changes:
    • The Wisconsin Election Commission voted unanimously to send absentee/mail-in ballot applications automatically to most registered voters in the Nov. 3 general election.
  • Federal government responses:
    • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration released a report for nonessential businesses planning on reopening, titled “Guidance on Returning to Work.” The guidance includes recommendations for a three-phased reopening strategy.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

  • Election changes:
    • California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed AB860 into law, requiring county election officials to mail absentee/mail-in ballots to all registered voters in the Nov. 3 general election. On May 8, 2020, Newsom had issued an executive order to the same effect.
  • Mask requirements:
    • Newsom signed an executive order requiring individuals to wear face coverings when outside the home. California was the ninth state to enact a statewide mask requirement. 

Friday, June 19, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) approved Multnomah County’s application to reopen, effectively lifting the state’s stay-at-home order. Multnomah, which includes Portland, was the last county subject to Brown’s original stay-at-home order, Executive Order No. 20-12.  
  • Election changes:
    • Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo (D) signed H7901 into law, reducing petition signature requirements for both primary and general election congressional candidates in 2020 by half.
    • The Maryland State Board of Elections and the Green Party of Maryland reached a settlement in Maryland Green Party v. Hogan. Under the terms of the settlement, the petition signature requirement for obtaining party status for the Green and Libertarian parties was reduced from 10,000 to 5,000 signatures.
  • Federal government responses:
    • The Internal Revenue Service released guidance for individuals participating in retirement plans that describes how they can take advantage of provisions in the CARES Act that related to retirement plans.
    • The Department of Defense (DoD) lifted travel restrictions on additional installations in 46 states and eight host nations, allowing military and civilian personnel to travel to those locations.

For the most recent coronavirus news, including the latest on vaccines and mask mandates, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery

Illinois, Kentucky end face-covering requirements

Two states ended statewide public mask requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated people between June 5-11.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) moved the state to Phase 5 of reopening June 11, ending the statewide mask mandate. The state still requires masks in schools, on public transit, in hospitals, and at congregate facilities like prisons and homeless shelters. Masks are also recommended in indoor public spaces for individuals who are not fully vaccinated. 

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear (D) ended the statewide mask requirement, remaining social distancing requirements, and all capacity restrictions June 11. Vaccinated and unvaccinated people still have to wear masks on public transit, at schools, and in healthcare settings.

In total, 39 states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. At the time of writing, 13 states had statewide mask orders, including 11 of the 23 states with Democratic governors and two of the 27 states with Republican governors. Of those 13 states, at least 11 exempted fully vaccinated people.

Of the 26 states that have fully ended statewide public mask requirements, 14 have Republican governors and 12 have Democratic governors. Twenty-three states ended mask requirements through executive order, two (Kansas and Utah) ended mask requirements through legislative action, and one (Wisconsin) ended its mandate through court order.

SCOTUS decides case concerning Armed Career Criminal Act in 5-4 opinion

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued an opinion in one case on June 10, Borden v. United States, which involved the use-of-force clause in the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). The case was argued during the November argument sitting.

Charles Borden Jr. pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm as a felon. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, relying on the 6th Circuit Court’s decision in United States v. Verwiebe (2017), sentenced Borden to nine years and seven months of imprisonment under the ACCA. Borden objected to his sentence, arguing the district court’s application of Verwiebe to his case violated due process protections. On appeal, the 6th Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. Borden petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review.

In a 5-4 opinion, the court reversed the 6th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that a reckless offense cannot qualify as a “violent felony” if it only requires a mens rea of recklessness—a less culpable mental state than purpose or knowledge.

Justice Elena Kagan delivered the court’s majority opinion, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Neil Gorsuch. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion. Justice Brett Kavanaugh filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Amy Coney Barrett.

To date, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued 44 opinions during the 2020-2021 term. Seven cases were decided without argument.

Additional reading:

Texas Supreme Court justice resigns, creates midterm vacancy

Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman retired from her seat on the state’s highest court effective Friday, June 11. Her resignation letter to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) did not provide a reason for her departure. Guzman’s replacement will be Gov. Abbott’s fifth nominee to the nine-member supreme court.

Under Texas law, in the event of a midterm vacancy, the governor appoints a replacement. The Texas State Senate must then confirm the nominee. Appointees serve until the next general election, in which he or she must participate in a partisan election to remain on the bench for the remainder of the unexpired term.

Guzman joined the Texas Supreme Court in 2009. She was appointed by former Gov. Rick Perry (R).

Guzman was the first Hispanic woman appointed to the state’s highest court. Upon winning election to the seat in 2010, she became the first Hispanic woman elected to statewide office in Texas. Prior to her appointment to the supreme court, Guzman served as a district judge for Texas’ 309th District Court and as an appellate judge for Texas’ Fourteenth Court of Appeals. She practiced law as a litigator in Houston before becoming a judge. Guzman earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston, a J.D. from the South Texas College of Law, and an LL.M. from Duke University School of Law.

Following Guzman’s retirement, the Texas Supreme Court includes the following members:

• Nathan Hecht, appointed by Perry in 2013

• Jimmy Blacklock, appointed by Abbott in 2018

• Debra Lehrmann, appointed by Perry in 2010

• John Devine, elected in 2012

• Rebeca Huddle, appointed by Abbott in 2020

• Jane Bland, appointed by Abbott in 2019

• Jeffrey S. Boyd, appointed by Perry in 2012

• Brett Busby, appointed by Abbott in 2019

All current members of the court identify as Republicans.

In 2021, there have been 13 supreme court vacancies in 11 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies have been caused by retirements.

Additional reading:

Special election primary to be held in Wisconsin Assembly district

A special election primary is being held on June 15 for District 37 of the Wisconsin State Assembly. Cathy Houchin, Steve Kauffeld, Nick Krueger, Jennifer Meinhardt, William Penterman, Nathan Pollnow, Jenifer Quimby, and Spencer Zimmerman are running in the Republican primary. Pete Adams is unopposed in the Democratic primary. Stephen Ratzlaff Jr. is running as an independent candidate. The general election will take place on July 13, and the winner of the special election will serve until January 2023.

The seat became vacant on April 23 after John Jagler (R) was sworn into the Wisconsin State Senate. He won a special election for state Senate District 13 on April 6. Jagler had represented District 37 since 2013. He won re-election in 2020 with 56% of the vote.

Heading into the special election, Republicans have a 60-38 majority in the Wisconsin Assembly with one vacancy. Wisconsin has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

As of June, 39 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 17 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. Wisconsin held 19 state legislative special elections from 2011 to 2020.

Additional reading:

Early voting begins in NYC mayoral primary on June 12

Thirteen candidates are running in the Democratic primary for mayor of New York City on June 22, 2021. Early voting began on June 12.

This election features the first use of ranked-choice voting for a mayoral primary in the city’s history. Under this system, voters will be able to rank up to five candidates on their ballot in order of preference. A candidate must receive a majority of votes cast to win the election, and votes for eliminated candidates are redistributed based on the next preference on the ballot.

On June 10, five Democrats discussed gun violence, policing, legal marijuana, and historical landmarks in the final primary debate before early voting:

* Eric Adams, Brooklyn borough president

* Kathryn Garcia, former New York City Sanitation Commissioner

* Scott Stringer, New York City comptroller

* Maya Wiley, former mayoral counsel

* Andrew Yang, entrepreneur and 2020 presidential candidate

Adams led in an Emerson College poll released this week with 23% support in the first round of voting. Wiley, whose candidacy was boosted by the endorsement of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) on June 5, came in second with 17%.

Yang, Garcia, and Stringer followed with 15%, 12%, and 9% respectively. Yang received an endorsement from the Uniformed Firefighters Association last week, while Garcia was backed by Citizens Union (CU). Adams and Stringer were the second and third choices for CU.

Two candidates are running in the Republican primary: New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers founder Fernando Mateo and Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa.

Incumbent Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) is not running for re-election due to term limits. De Blasio was first elected in 2013 and won re-election in 2017 with 66% of the vote. Including de Blasio, four of the previous six mayors were Democrats.

The NYC race you may not have heard about—for comptroller

On June 22nd, New York City will vote in primaries not only for mayor, but for other city offices as well, including comptroller. The comptroller performs audits of city agencies and manages five public pension funds, among other responsibilities. As of March, the pension funds totaled $253 billion in assets. The next comptroller will also be responsible for overseeing the use of federal stimulus money issued in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Ten candidates are running in the Democratic primary for a chance to succeed Scott Stringer, who is running in the Democratic primary for mayor. Republican and Conservative Party primaries were canceled as only one candidate was on the ballot in each.

Seven Democratic primary candidates have been mentioned by media outlets as leading candidates. Each has argued that their background equips them for the office. 

• Brian Benjamin, a state senator, previously worked for a housing developer and in financial management for Morgan Stanley. 

• Michelle Caruso-Cabrera was a financial analyst for CNBC. 

• Zachary Iscol served in the Marines and is a business and nonprofit founder. 

• Corey Johnson is speaker of the New York City Council. 

• Brad Lander, also a city councilman, co-founded the council’s Progressive Caucus. 

• Kevin Parker, a state senator, previously worked for investment banking firm UBS PaineWebber and as project manager for the New York State Urban Development Corporation. 

• David Weprin, a state assemblyman, previously served on the city council, where he was chair of the Finance Committee for eight years.

Ballotpedia has compiled biographical information, key messages, endorsements, and more related to the Democratic primary for comptroller. We also provide information on ranked-choice voting, which New York City is using this year for the first time. Voters will be able to rank up to five candidates on their ballots.

Additional reading:

New Yorker voters will decide five constitutional amendments related to voting, redistricting, and the environment in November 

The New York State Legislature voted to send five constitutional amendments to voters for the general election on November 2, 2021, and one bond issue to voters for the general election on November 8, 2022. The state Legislature adjourned on June 10, 2021.

On January 20, 2021, the first constitutional amendment was referred to the ballot. The amendment is designed to make several changes to the redistricting process in New York. Legislative votes were largely along party lines, with Democrats supported the amendment and Republicans opposing it. The ballot measure would repeal the higher vote threshold for adopting redistricting plans when the legislature is controlled by a single party. In other words, a simple majority vote would be required for the legislature to adopt plans regardless of party control. Currently, both chambers of the New York State Legislature are controlled by Democrats.

The second constitutional amendment was referred on February 8. The ballot measure would add a right to clean water, clean air, and a healthful environment to the New York Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Senate Democrats supported the proposal, and Senate Republicans were divided 6 to 14. Assembly Democrats, along with the chamber’s one Independence Party member, supported the proposal, while Assembly Republicans split 17-25.

On May 11, 2021, the legislature referred two constitutional amendments related to voting policy. One amendment would authorize the state legislature to pass a statute for no-excuse absentee voting. No-excuse absentee voting would allow any registered voter to request and vote with an absentee ballot. As of 2021, the New York Constitution requires voters to be absent from their home county, ill, or physically disabled to vote with an absentee ballot. Democrats in both chambers supported the amendment, while Republicans were divided 7-13 in the Senate and 13-30 in the Assembly. 

The second May 11 amendment would repeal the requirement that persons must register to vote at least ten days before an election, thus authorizing the state legislature to pass a statute for same-day voter registration. Same-day voter registration enables voters to register and vote at the same time. In the Senate, Democrats supported and Republicans opposed the amendment. In the Assembly, Democrats and one Republican supported it, while the remaining 42 Republicans opposed the proposal.

On the final day of the legislative session, the legislature approved a fifth constitutional amendment in a unanimous vote in both chambers. The amendment would increase the New York City Civil Court’s jurisdiction over lawsuits involving claims for damages from $25,000 to $50,000.

The 2022 bond measure is a proposal that was originally set for the November 2020 ballot but was withdrawn due to financial concerns surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. Officially called the Restore Mother Nature Bond Act, the ballot measure would issue $3.00 billion in general obligation bonds for projects related to the environment, natural resources, water infrastructure, and climate change mitigation. It was included as a provision of the state’s budget. Most Democrats (38 of 43 in the Assembly and 88 of 107 in the Senate) voted to approve the budget. All Assembly and Senate Republicans voted against the bill.

In New York, constitutional amendments require a simple majority vote in each legislative chamber in two successive legislative sessions with an election for state legislators in between. All of the constitutional amendments approved in 2021 were previously approved in 2019.

Between 1995 and 2020, the legislature referred an average of 1.7 constitutional amendments to the odd-yer ballot. The highest number during this period was 6 in 2013. Voters approved 76% of the referred amendments. 

Additional reading:

Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #266: June 14, 2021

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:

  • Mask requirements, business restrictions easing in California
  • Statewide coronavirus emergency orders extended in Maine and Delaware
  • COVID-19 policy changes from this time last year 

We are committed to keeping you updated on everything from mask requirements to vaccine-related policies. We will keep you abreast of major developments—especially those affecting your daily life. Want to know what we covered Friday? Click here.

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

California (Democratic trifecta): 

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) will end the Blueprint for a Safer Economy and lift most state restrictions on business activity statewide June 15. Social distancing restrictions and all remaining capacity limits will end. Indoor events with more than 5,000 people will have to require proof of vaccination or a recent negative coronavirus test from all attendees.
  • Fully vaccinated residents will be exempt from the statewide mask mandate starting June 15. Fully vaccinated residents still have to wear masks on public transit (and in transportation hubs like airports), in indoor childcare and K-12 school settings, in healthcare settings, and in congregate settings (including prisons and homeless shelters). Masks will still be required for unvaccinated people in all indoor public settings and businesses. 

Since our last edition

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

Alaska (divided government): The state ended its participation in pandemic-related federal unemployment benefit programs June 12. Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) made the announcement May 14.

Delaware (Democratic trifecta): Gov. John Carney (D) extended the state’s coronavirus emergency order until July 13.

Iowa (Republican trifecta): The state ended its participation in pandemic-related federal unemployment benefit programs June 12. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) made the announcement May 10.

Kansas (divided government): All state government offices will return to in-person operations starting June 13. Masks will still be required in state buildings.

Maine (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Janet Mills (D) extended the state’s coronavirus emergency order until June 30. Mills said she will end the coronavirus emergency on that day. 

Mississippi (Republican trifecta): The state ended its participation in pandemic-related federal unemployment benefit programs June 12. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) made the announcement May 10.

Missouri (Republican trifecta): The state ended its participation in pandemic-related federal unemployment benefit programs June 12. Gov. Mike Parson (R) made the announcement May 11. 

North Carolina (divided government): On June 11, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) issued an executive order extending certain pandemic-related measures, including state eviction prohibitions and face-covering requirements in certain settings.

Vermont (divided government): 

  • On June 14, Gov. Phil Scott (R) lifted all remaining coronavirus restrictions in the state, including capacity restrictions and mask requirements for unvaccinated individuals. The restrictions were lifted after 80% of eligible state residents received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Reopening had initially been scheduled for July 4.
  • On June 11, Gov. Phil Scott (R) announced there would be new walk-in vaccination clinics open statewide over the weekend. A full list of vaccination sites can be found here.

Virginia (Democratic trifecta): On June 11, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced a $3 million pilot for the Return to Earn Grant Program, which would match payments from certain small businesses to provide newly hired employees with a bonus of up to $1,000.

Washington (Democratic trifecta): On June 10, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) extended a proclamation allowing for the expansion of the Family Emergency Assistance Program, allowing individuals and families without children to apply for benefits through the program.

This time last year: Monday, June 15, 2020

The first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020. But it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout March and April, many states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. Each week, we’ll look back at some of the defining policy responses of the early coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what happened this time last year. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Monday, June 15, 2020:

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • New Hampshire’s statewide stay-at-home order expired on June 15. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) issued Emergency Order #17 on March 26. The order directed individuals in the state to stay at home unless performing essential activities and placed restrictions on non-essential businesses.
  • Travel restrictions:
    • Arkansas Secretary of Health Nathaniel Smith allowed the 14-day travel quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers coming from coronavirus hot spot areas—including New York and New Jersey—to expire. 
  • Election changes:
    • United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama Judge Abdul Kallon issued a preliminary injunction barring election officials from enforcing witness and photo ID requirements for select voters casting absentee ballots in the July 14 runoff elections.

Federal Register weekly update: 87 new final rules

Image of the south facade of the White House.

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s overall regulatory activity, accounting for both regulatory and deregulatory actions.

From June 7 through June 11, the Federal Register grew by 1,296 pages for a year-to-date total of 31,426 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 543 documents:

• 406 notices

• 13 presidential documents

• 37 proposed rules

• 87 final rules

One proposed rule concerning hazardous air pollutants and two final rules regarding the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) pilot records database and grants authorized under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules. The Biden administration has issued 20 significant proposed rules and 12 significant final rules as of June 11.

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.

Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017: Changes to the Federal Register 

Additional reading:

Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018: Historical additions to the Federal Register, 1936-2018