The Daily Brew: New York’s $3 billion environment bond measure

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

Welcome to the Thursday, April 22, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. New York voters will decide $3 billion environment and climate change projects bond measure in 2022
  2. 2021’s third special congressional election is next Saturday, May 1 
  3. South Dakota’s new Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources 

New York voters will decide $3 billion environment and climate change projects bond measure in 2022 

New York voters will head to the polls next year to decide a $3 billion environment and climate change projects bond measure. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed legislation on April 19 that referred the measure to the November 2022 ballot. It was originally put on the 2020 ballot but was withdrawn in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The measure would authorize the issuance of $3 billion in general obligation bonds for projects related to the environment, natural resources, water infrastructure, and climate change, as stated in the legislation. A bond issue is when a state government asks voters to approve or deny additional proposed spending. Revenue from the bonds would be distributed as stated in the bill as follows:

  • not less than $1 billion for flood risk reduction, coastal rehabilitation, shoreline restoration, and ecological restoration projects;
  • up to $700 million for projects designed to mitigate the impacts of climate change, such as those related to green buildings, carbon sequestration, urban forest and habitat restoration, reduce the urban heat island effect, reduce and eliminate air pollution in what the legislation refers to as environmental justice communities, and reduce and eliminate water pollution in those communities;
  • up to $550 million for land conservation and recreation plans, programs, and projects, and fish hatcheries; and
  • not less than $550 million for projects related to wastewater, sewage, and septic infrastructure, lead service line replacement, riparian buffers, stormwater runoff reduction, agricultural nutrient runoff reduction, and addressing harmful algal blooms.

The measure would define environmental justice communities as “minority or low-income [communities] that may bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, municipal, and commercial operations or the execution of federal, state, local, and tribal programs and policies.”

Between 1990 and 2020 in New York, voters decided seven statewide bond measures, approving three and rejecting four. Two issues were for projects related to the environment. A $1.975 billion measure was defeated in 1990. Voters approved a $1.75 billion bond issue in 1996.

Twenty-five statewide ballot measures have been certified in 15 states for the 2022 ballot so far. From 2012 through 2020, the average number of statewide measures certified for the ballot by the third week in April of the previous year was 21.

Read on

2021’s third special congressional election is next Saturday, May 1 

The third special election of the 117th Congress takes place on May 1 in Texas’ 6th Congressional District. Twenty-three candidates are running to succeed former Rep. Ronald Wright (R), who died from complications related to COVID-19 in February. A runoff will occur (the exact runoff date, if one is needed, has not been scheduled and would be decided after the preliminary election) if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote. 

In the 2020 general election, Wright defeated Stephen Daniel (D) 53%-44%, while Trump carried the district 51%-48%. Wright won re-election in 2018 with 53% of the vote and in 2016 with 58% of the vote.

According to the Texas Tribune, the race is likely to head to a runoff. The Tribune identified seven prominent candidates in the race—three Democrats and four Republicans. Each of the Republican candidates has campaigned on policies related to firearms, immigration, border issues, deregulation, and abortion. Each of the three Democrats has emphasized economic issues, education, and expanding affordable medical care as key parts of their platform.

Here’s a look at major Republican endorsements:

  • Jake Ellzey, a Navy veteran, received endorsements from former Gov. Rick Perry, the Texas Farm Bureau, and the War Veterans Fund.
  • Brian Harrison, the chief of staff to former Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, has endorsements from more than 100 members of the Trump administration, including Azar, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and Administrator of the Small Business Administration Linda McMahon.
  • Sery Kim, a former Small Business Association official, received endorsements from Reps. Young Kim and Michelle Steel. Kim and Steel rescinded their endorsements in early April following comments Sery Kim made about Chinese immigrants.
  • Susan Wright, the widow of Ronald Wright, received endorsements from five members of Congress, the state party executive committee, and the mayor of Fort Worth. 

Major Democratic endorsements include the following:

  • Lydia Bean, a former teacher, received endorsements from the county and state AFL-CIO and the local branch of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. 
  • Shawn Lassiter, also a teacher, was endorsed by two local school board members, a former state board of education member, the 314 Action Fund, and the Voter Protection Project. 
  • Jana Lynne Sanchez, a communications consultant, was endorsed by state Rep. Michelle Beckley, two Arlington City Council members, and the campaign arm of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

Four special election candidates completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Survey. Click the link below to read their responses.

Read on 

South Dakota’s new Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources 

Hunter Roberts assumed office on Apr. 19 as secretary of the newly-formed South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Governor Kristi Noem (R) appointed Roberts to the position in August 2020.

The Department of Agriculture and Department of Environment and Natural Resources officially merged on Apr. 19. South Dakota also has an elected state office—commissioner of school and public lands—that is responsible for supervising lands designated for educational use by the federal government.

Agriculture commissioners are elected in 12 states and appointed in 38, while natural resources commissioners are appointed in 44 states and elected in five. Of those five states, three (Arkansas, New Mexico, and South Dakota) have both an appointed and elected officeholder responsible for natural resource management. Wyoming is the only state without a natural resources commissioner. 

There are 37 nonpartisan agriculture commissioners, 11 Republicans, one Democrat, and one vacancy (in Wisconsin, where ​the state Senate has not yet voted on Secretary-designee Randy Romanski’s confirmation). There are 47 nonpartisan natural resources commissioners, three Republicans, and two Democrats.

Read on