- President Donald Trump (R) signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act into law. The U.S. House approved the relief package earlier in the day by a voice vote. The legislation includes $2 trillion in relief funds, and a $1,200 payment to individuals making less than $75,000 per year.
- Trump announced that he would use the Defense Production Act to compel General Motors to produce ventilators.
- Fifteen states and one territory changed state-level primary or general election dates. Six states changed municipal election dates on a statewide basis.
- Six states adjusted their candidate filing procedures.
- Twelve states implemented changes to their voting procedures.
- Political parties in nine states made changes to party events on a statewide basis.
- Montana – Gov. Steve Bullock (D) issued a directive authorizing counties to conduct upcoming elections entirely by mail.
- Ohio – Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed HB 197 into law, rescheduling the state’s primary election for April 28.
- Pennsylvania – Gov. Tom Wolf (D) signed a bill into law postponing the state’s primary election to June 2. It was originally scheduled for April 28.
- Utah – Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signed an executive order authorizing candidates and/or their campaigns to send petition sheets to voters electronically. The order also authorized voters to return signed petition sheets electronically or by mail.
- Ballotpedia has tracked 14 statewide initiative petition drives that suspended signature gathering.
- Three states changed ballot measure procedures.
- Arizona – The campaign for an initiative to establish a right to know the original source of campaign media spending suspended its signature drive. At least two other previously active Arizona initiative petition drives have suspended signature gathering as well: one concerning voting and campaign finance policies, and one to enact hospital worker minimum wage and insurance regulations.
- Oklahoma – The Oklahoma Secretary of State officially paused the signature gathering window for initiative petitions until the governor lifts the state’s emergency declaration.
- Oregon – The campaign for an initiative to decriminalize drugs and establish an addiction treatment program suspended in-person signature gathering efforts.
- To date, 261 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
- Thirty-one significant bills have been enacted into law, about 12 percent of the total number that have been introduced. This total omits ceremonial resolutions and legislation providing for procedural changes to legislative business.
- Twenty-three state legislatures suspended their sessions. Two of those (New York and Vermont) have since reopened.
- Thirteen legislatures have either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year.
- Seven state legislatures are in regular session. One state (Arkansas) is in a special session.
- One state (Minnesota) has partially suspended legislative activity.
- Arkansas – Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) issued a proclamation convening a special session of the state legislature to begin March 26 and continuing indefinitely.
- Thirty-four states suspended in-person proceedings statewide.
- Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings on the local level.
- Wyoming – Effective March 23, the Wyoming Supreme Court suspended in-person proceedings through at least April 10, except in certain specified instances. The court encouraged judges to use video or telephone when possible, and to reschedule civil trials and criminal trials “subject to the requirement that defendants be provided speedy trials as required by law.”
- Idaho – The Idaho Supreme Court ordered only emergency hearings and proceedings be conducted, suspended civil trials, and delayed criminal trials at least 30 days from their original start date.
- Kentucky – The Kentucky Supreme Court extended their original order limiting in-person court proceedings through April 24.
- Michigan – In a joint statement by Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget McCormack and the Executive Director of the Michigan Sheriff’s Association, judges, law enforcement, and prosecutors are encouraged to coordinate the expanded use of appearance citations and summons, when appropriate and legally permissible, rather than custodial arrests and arrest warrants to proactively reduce the risk posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
- Maine – The Maine Supreme Court has suspended all grand and petit jury proceedings for the months of April and May.
- Mississippi – The Mississippi Supreme Court ordered the suspension of a criminal procedure rule that prohibited the use of interactive equipment for probation violation hearings and felony sentencing.
- So far, 23 states issued statewide stay-at-home orders. Five of those orders are set to last until modified or rescinded by the governor, while the other 18 announced end dates.
- Oklahoma – Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) issued a safer at home order, effective March 25 to April 15. Schools were already closed through the end of the academic year so they were not impacted by this order.
- Forty-seven states ordered a statewide school closure. The remaining states are leaving school closures up to local officials. Those 47 states served 49.6 million students during the 2016-2017 school year, accounting for 98% of the 50.6 million public school students in the United States.
- Five states closed schools for the remainder of the academic year: Alabama, Kansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Virginia.
- Alabama – Gov. Kay Ivey (R) announced that schools statewide would remain closed for the remainder of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were scheduled to reopen on April 6.
- New Mexico – Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced that schools would be closed for the remainder of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were scheduled to reopen on April 6.
- Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC)
- Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL)
- Rep. Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (D-TX)
- Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA)
- State Rep. Matthew Gambill (R-GA)
- State Rep. Tyrone Carter (D-MI)
- State Sen. Bruce Thompson (R-GA)
- All 56 members of the Georgia State Senate.
On March 19, the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) published a proposed rule in the Federal Register that would allow federal workers to stop paying union dues at any time after a statutory one-year period of dues payment. Up to this point, federal workers have only been permitted to rescind their union-dues assignments at one-year intervals.
What is at issue?
Section 7115(a) of the Federal Service Labor‑Management Relations Statute states, “[If] an agency has received from an employee in an appropriate unit a written assignment which authorizes the agency to deduct from the pay of the employee amounts for the payment of regular and periodic dues of the exclusive representative of the unit, the agency shall honor the assignment and make an appropriate allotment pursuant to the assignment.” The statute states that “any such assignment may not be revoked for a period of [one] year.”
In the past, the FLRA has interpreted the latter portion of the law to mean that union-dues payroll deduction authorizations can only be revoked in one-year intervals. After the Supreme Court issued its decision in Janus v. AFSCME, the Office of Personnel Management petitioned the FLRA for guidance on Janus’ applicability to § 7115(a).
On Feb. 14, the FLRA issued a 2-1 decision rejecting its earlier interpretations of § 7115(a). FLRA Chairwoman Colleen Duffy Kiko wrote the following in the decision “Although the Authority has stated that the wording in § 7115(a) ‘must be interpreted’ to mean that dues assignments may be revoked only at one‑year intervals following the first year, in fact, the Authority made a policy judgment to impose annual revocation periods after the first year of an assignment. In other words, notwithstanding previous assertions otherwise, § 7115(a) neither compels, nor even supports, the existing policy on annual revocation windows. Because it remains our privilege and responsibility to interpret the Statute in a manner that is consistent with an efficient and effective government, we cannot allow our decisions or statements of policy to merely rubber-stamp what was said in the past.”
What are the reactions?
- On March 19, Everett Kelley, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), said, “The Authority’s proposed rule is contrary to both settled law and Congressional intent that clearly establish that dues allotments are only revocable at yearly intervals. That they would push forward with this kind of union busting in the midst of a pandemic, while front-line federal employees like VA caregivers, airport screeners, food inspectors, and other personnel are being forced to fight the administration for basic safety protocols and personal protective equipment, is truly disgraceful.”
- On Feb. 26, Michael J. Reitz, executive vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said, “This ruling matters because unions often erect bureaucratic barriers to trap workers into membership, barriers the Mackinac Center has repeatedly challenged in court and won. … The end result is that federal employees, who were already in a right-to-work status, may leave the union at any time. Thus, one million federal employees could choose that opportunity.”
What comes next?
On Feb. 18, National Treasury Employees Union petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to block the proposed rule change. The court has not yet taken up the case. In the meantime, the rulemaking process will proceed. A public comment period opened on March 19 and will close on April 9.
What we’ve been reading
- The College Fix, “UC San Diego workers file class action lawsuit to fight mandatory union dues,” March 26, 2020
- KTUU, “Alaska’s largest public sector union sues state to compel COVID-19 protections,” March 25, 2020
- Fox KTVU, “Unions asking for 15% COVID-19 hazard pay; some call that ‘ridiculous,'” March 24, 2020
- The National Law Review, “COVID-19: FAQs on Federal Labor and Employment Laws,” March 9, 2020
The big picture
Number of relevant bills by state
We are currently tracking 93 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.
Number of relevant bills by current legislative status
Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)
Recent legislative actions
Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.
- Vermont S0254: This bill would require public employers to provide unions with employee contact information. It would provide for the automatic deduction of union dues from members’ paychecks, and it would permit unions to meet with new employees to provide them with information regarding union membership.
- Senate Health and Welfare Committee reported favorably March 27.
- Democratic sponsorship.
On March 26, 2020, the statewide filing deadline passed to run for elected office in Virginia. Candidates filed for congressional offices only, as no state-level offices are up for election in Virginia in 2020.
• U.S. Senate: One Class II Senate seat is up for election. The incumbent, Mark Warner (D), announced his intention to seek re-election for the seat.
• U.S. House of Representatives: All 11 of Virginia’s congressional district seats are up for election. Virginia has not yet released its candidate list, so an official listing of filed candidates is not currently available to the public. As of the publication of this article, seven of the 11 incumbents announced their intention to seek re-election to their seats, leaving four open seats. These numbers may change once the official candidate list is released.
The primary is scheduled for June 9, and the general election is scheduled for November 3, 2020.
Virginia’s statewide filing deadline was the 25th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next statewide filing deadlines are on March 30 in New Jersey and South Carolina.
United States Senate election in Virginia, 2020
United States House of Representatives elections in Virginia, 2020
Ballot access for major and minor party candidates
United States Senate elections, 2020
United States House of Representatives elections, 2020
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Wisconsin will be the fourteenth state to vote on a Marsy’s Law amendment on April 7. The amendment would add 14 additional rights to the existing list of crime victims’ rights in section 9m of Article I of the state Constitution. The additional enumerated rights include a right to privacy; a right to the protection of information; a right to be present at all criminal proceedings and hearings; a right to reasonable protection from the alleged criminal; a right to be notified of the release, escape, or death of the alleged criminal in a timely manner; a right to speak in any hearing related to the rights of the victim; a right to submit information about the case to authorities; a right to refuse an interview, deposition, or other discovery request made by the alleged criminal; and a right to be informed of all rights and protections granted by the constitutional amendment and related laws.
Marsy’s Law for Wisconsin is leading the campaign in support of the ballot measure. As of February 10, 2020, the committee reported receiving over $500,000 in loans from Marsy’s Law for All, the national foundation that has funded 13 statewide Marsy’s Law ballot measure campaigns. It was founded in 2009 by Henry Nicholas, the co-founder of Broadcom Corp. Nicholas was the sponsor of the first Marsy’s Law, which was on the ballot in California as Proposition 9 in 2008. The legislation is named after Henry Nicholas’ sister Marsy Nicholas, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 1983. All 13 campaigns received majority voter approval; however, two of those amendments were overturned in Montana and Kentucky. The 2019 election results in Pennsylvania have not been certified because of a pending court case regarding the constitutionality of the amendment.
Sen. Van Wanggaard (R-21), a legislative sponsor of the amendment, said, “Crime victims should have a voice in the criminal justice process. … Marsy’s Law will help level the legal playing field while still preserving a fair justice system.” The ACLU of Wisconsin opposes the measure. In legislative testimony, the ACLU said, “Victim’s rights cannot be equated to the rights of the accused because they serve very different roles. Defendants’ rights are in the constitution because they are rights against the state, not because they are valued more by society than are those of victims.”
From 2006 to 2019, a total of five legislatively referred constitutional amendments appeared on Wisconsin ballots. All but one were approved.
Ballotpedia is also covering two local ballot measures in Wisconsin. Milwaukee Public Schools voters will decide on a referendum that would incrementally increase its annual revenue limit by a total of $87 million over four years and maintain that level thereafter with an estimated property tax of $1,118 per $100,000 of assessed property value (an increase of $160). The 1993-1994 school year was the first year Wisconsin enforced school revenue limits across the state. A revenue limit is the maximum amount of revenue the district is allowed to raise via property taxes according to state law. In 2018, 157 school districts placed similar referendums on Wisconsin ballots, and 90 percent passed.
Milwaukee County voters will be voting on a nonbinding advisory question regarding redistricting procedures in Wisconsin. Support for the question advises the Wisconsin State Legislature to create a nonpartisan redistricting plan for state legislative and congressional boundaries. Six other towns and six other counties in Wisconsin are featuring similar nonbinding redistricting questions on ballots in April.
The deadline for online voter registration was extended to March 30 by a district court ruling. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is April 2. Wisconsin allows same-day voter registration. All polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Central Time on election day.
Maryland and New York are the only states in the nation that do not call its court of last resort the supreme court, but that could change after November 3, 2020.
On March 13, 2020, the Maryland Senate passed Senate Bill 0393 by a vote of 45-1. If the bill is passed by the General Assembly, it will appear on the November 3, 2020, ballot as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment.
Maryland’s court of last resort is currently called the Maryland Court of Appeals. The bill seeks to make the following changes:
- Rename the Maryland Appellate Court to be the Supreme Court of Maryland,
- Rename the Court of Special Appeals to be the Maryland Appellate Court,
- Change the title of a Judge of the Court of Appeals to be a Justice of the Supreme Court of Maryland, and
- Change the name of the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals to be the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Maryland.
In order to add a legislatively referred constitutional amendment to the ballot in Maryland, it must be approved by at least 60% of both houses of the legislature.
The Senate bill was sponsored by Sen. Douglas Peters (D), Sen. Jill Carter (D), Sen. Brian Feldman (D), Sen. Guy Guzzone (D), Sen. Nancy King (D), Sen. Susan Lee (D), Sen. William Smith (D), Sen. Jeff Waldstreicher (D), and Sen. Chris West (R).
- Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said the House would move to approve the third coronavirus relief package on Friday. The U.S. Senate passed the legislation by a 96-0 vote on Wednesday night. The legislation includes $1,200 in direct payments to individuals making up to $75,000 annually.
- Fourteen states and one territory changed state-level primary or general election dates. Six states changed municipal election dates on a statewide basis.
- Five states adjusted their candidate filing procedures.
- Eleven states implemented changes to their voting procedures.
- Political parties in nine states made changes to party events on a statewide basis.
- The Indiana Election Commission authorized the temporary suspension of the state’s statutory absentee voting eligibility requirements, allowing all voters to cast their ballots by mail in the June 2 primary election.
- On Wednesday, Ohio lawmakers unanimously approved legislation extending mail-in voting in the state’s primary election to April 28 and canceling in-person voting entirely. The governor indicated he intends to sign the bill into law. Ohio’s primary was originally scheduled for March 17.
- Also on Wednesday, Pennsylvania lawmakers unanimously approved a bill postponing the state’s primary election, originally scheduled for April 28, to June 2. The governor said he intends to sign the bill.
- Ballotpedia tracked 10 statewide initiative petition drives that suspended signature gathering.
- Three states changed ballot measure procedures.
- Oregon – Henry Wessinger, who filed an initiative petition on behalf of State of Safety Action, announced that the campaign would not circulate its initiative petition targeting the 2020 ballot due to the coronavirus pandemic. The initiative would have provided regulations regarding firearms and firearm storage.
- To date, 253 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
- Twenty-nine significant bills have been enacted into law, about 11 percent of the total number that has been introduced. This total omits ceremonial resolutions and legislation providing for procedural changes to legislative business. For a complete list of enacted legislation, see here.
- Twenty-three state legislatures suspended their sessions.
- Two states (Maine and Maryland) adjourned early.
- Four states implemented partial suspensions.
- The Connecticut State Legislature extended its suspension, originally set to expire at the end of this month, to April 13.
- The Minnesota State Legislature reconvened its session on March 26. The session was previously suspended through April 14.
- Thirty-three states suspended in-person proceedings statewide.
- Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings on the local level.
- One state had no change to their court schedule.
- The Maryland Court of Appeals extended its previous March 13 order restricting in-person proceedings and jury trials through May 1.
- The Tennessee Supreme Court extended its original March 14 order through April 30. They further ordered local presiding judges to develop a written plan to address issues regarding the incarceration of nonviolent offenders to reduce the jail population by March 30.
- The Vermont Supreme Court extended restrictions for public access to court proceedings.
- So far, 22 of the 50 states issued statewide shutdown orders. Six of those orders are set to last until modified or rescinded by the governor, while the other 16 announced end dates.
- Colorado – Gov. Jared Polis (D) issued a stay-at-home order, effective from March 26 to April 11. This does not affect the statewide school closure, which lasts through April 17.
- Minnesota – Gov. Tim Walz (D) issued a stay-at-home order, effective from March 27 to April 10. The statewide school closure, initially scheduled to end March 27, was extended.
- New Hampshire – Gov. Chris Sununu (R) issued a stay-at-home order, effective from March 27 to May 4. The statewide school closure, initially scheduled to end April 3, was extended.
- 46 of 50 states ordered a statewide school closure. The remaining states are leaving school closures up to local officials. Those 46 states served 48.7 million students during the 2016-2017 school year, accounting for 96.2% of the 50.6 million public school students in the United States.
- Georgia – Gov. Brian Kemp (R) announced that the statewide school closure, scheduled to end March 31, was extended through April 24.
- Massachusetts – Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced that the statewide school closure, scheduled to end April 6, was extended through May 4.
- Minnesota – Gov. Tim Walz (D) announced that the statewide school closure, scheduled to end March 27, was extended through May 1.
- New Hampshire – Gov. Chris Sununu (R) issued a stay-at-home order, extending the statewide school closure through May 1. Prior to the order, schools were scheduled to reopen on April 6.
- The Oklahoma Department of Education announced that schools would remain closed for the remainder of the academic year. It became the third state to close schools for the rest of the year.
- West Virginia – Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced that all schools would remain closed through April 20. The school closure was initially announced to be indefinite.
- Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA)
- Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-NM)
- Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY)
- State Rep. Michael Day (D-MA)
- State Rep. Clinton Calabrese (D-NJ)
- State Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick (R-GA)
- State Sen. William Ligon (R-GA)
- State Sen. Bill Cowsert (R-GA)
- State Sen. Frank Ginn (R-GA)
- State Sen. Carden Summers (R-GA)
- Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn (D-CA)
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