The Daily Brew: A year ago this week, Alaska became first state to lift stay-at-home order

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

Welcome to the Monday, April 19, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. COVID-19 policy changes and events – one year ago this week
  2. Who’s running for New Jersey governor
  3. Maryland legislature sends two amendments to the ballot at end of session

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

One year ago this week, Alaska became the first state to lift a stay-at-home (SAH) order that was imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) ended the order on April 24, allowing several types of businesses—including barbershops, tattoo parlors, and nail salons—to reopen with restrictions. Alaska had a SAH order in effect for 27 days. The longest SAH order was in California. We classified California’s order as active until Dec. 3—for 259 days—because Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) original order did not have an expiration date, and he issued regional orders on Dec. 3. 

In total, 43 states issued stay-at-home orders—closing certain categories of businesses and requiring people to stay home unless doing activities designated as essential—between March 19 (California) and April 7 (South Carolina). Seven states never issued stay-at-home orders.

Today, we continue our one-year lookback at policy changes and events related to the coronavirus pandemic. Here is a sampling of events.

At this point in the pandemic one year ago, states were extending school closures from their original dates through the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. All 50 states closed schools to in-person instruction statewide by April 2, 2020. Forty-eight states eventually closed schools for the remainder of the school year.

  • On April 20, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) and Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced that schools in their respective states would not reopen for in-person instruction for the rest of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through May 1 in both states.
  • On April 21, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D), Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R), and West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the rest of the academic year. Before the announcements, Colorado and West Virginia schools were closed through April 30, and Massachusetts schools were closed through May 1.
  • Election changes:
    • On April 20, U.S. District Court Judge Terrence Berg issued an order reducing the petition signature requirements for primary candidates in Michigan to 50% of their statutory requirements. Berg also extended the filing deadline from April 21 to May 8 and directed election officials to develop procedures allowing for the collection and submission of electronic petition signatures.
    • On April 22, The Republican Party of Wisconsin postponed its state convention, originally scheduled to take place in May, to July 10-11. Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signed HB3005 into law, canceling in-person Election Day voting, in-person early voting, and in-person voter registration in the June 30 primary election.
  • Travel restrictions
    • On April 21, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy extended the 14-day quarantine requirement for international and out-of-state travelers through May 19.
  • Federal government responses:
    • On April 20, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf announced that travel restrictions with Canada and Mexico would be extended another 30 days. The restrictions, implemented in agreement with Canada and Mexico in late March, prohibited nonessential travel.
    • On April 24, President Donald Trump signed the $484 billion Paycheck Protection and Health Care Act, a package that increased funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The bill also included funding for hospitals and testing. The Senate passed it on April 21, and the House passed it on April 23.

For the most recent news about policy responses to the coronavirus pandemic, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery

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Who’s running for New Jersey governor

Last week, we discussed the candidate field for this year’s election for governor of Virginia. Today let’s look at who’s running for the top office in New Jersey—the only other state with a regularly scheduled gubernatorial election in 2021. 

Incumbent Gov. Phil Murphy (D) faces no opposition in the Democratic primary on June 8. Lisa McCormick and Roger Bacon were disqualified from the ballot on April 13 due to insufficient numbers of valid signatures. McCormick announced on April 13 she is running as a write-in candidate.

Four candidates are running in the Republican primary: Jack Ciattarelli, Brian Levine, Philip Rizzo, and Hirsh Singh. Ciattarelli and Singh both ran for governor in 2017. Then-lieutenant governor Kim Guadagno received 47% of the vote in the Republican primary that year to become the party’s nominee. Ciattarelli finished second and received 31% of the vote and Singh was third with 10%.

Four other candidates have also filed to run in the general election: 

  • Gregg Mele  (Libertarian Party)
  • Joanne Kuniansky  (Socialist Workers Party)
  • Justin Maldonado  (Independent)
  • David Winkler  (Independent)

As of April 13, two of the three major election forecasters Ballotpedia tracks rated the general election as Solid Democratic and the third rated it as Likely Democratic. Between 1992 and 2021, Republicans held the governorship for 16 years and Democrats held the governorship for 14 years.

New Jersey is currently a Democratic trifecta, with a Democratic governor and Democratic majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. New Jersey was last under divided government in 2017, when Democrats controlled the legislature and Chris Christie (R) was governor. Murphy won the 2017 election with 57% of the vote to Guadagno’s 42%. The state is also holding legislative elections this year.

Since New Jersey’s and Virginia’s gubernatorial offices were last up for election in 2017, 10 governors’ offices have changed party hands. Eight of those changes were from Republicans to Democrats, one was from Democrat to Republican, and one was from independent to Republican.

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Maryland legislature sends two amendments to the ballot at end of session

This is the time of year when state legislators pass bills that send measures before voters. As I wrote last week, the Maryland legislature referred a constitutional amendment on April 6 that would rename the state’s highest appeals courts. Here are a few other instances. 

The West Virginia legislature just referred three amendments to the 2022 ballot on the final days of its session—April 9 and 10. The Maryland legislature sent two constitutional amendments to the 2022 ballot on April 12—its last day in session. Today, we’ll take a look at Maryland’s other proposed amendments.

One measure would amend the state constitution to increase the minimum amount in dispute that guarantees a right to a jury trial in civil cases. Currently, if a plaintiff files a case where the amount in controversy is greater than $15,000, the defendant may request a trial by jury in the circuit court. The amendment would change the minimum to $25,000.

The other amendment would require that, starting in January 2024, state legislative candidates maintain a primary place of abode in the district they wish to represent for at least six months before the election. Currently, the state constitution requires that a candidate has resided in the district for six months before the election. It would also change all gendered language in the amended sections of the state constitution to gender-neutral language.

So far, 23 statewide ballot measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot in 13 states.

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