Our weekly summary of state & local news highlights a state judge’s ruling that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s party affiliation will not appear on California’s Sept. 14 recall ballot and members of Texas’ legislature travel to Washington, D.C. ahead of an expected vote on election-related legislation. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the State & Local Tap:
California judge rules Gov. Newsom’s party affiliation will not appear on recall ballot
Sacramento County Superior Court Judge James P. Arguelles ruled on July 12 that California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) party affiliation will not appear on the September 14 recall ballot. Newsom sued Secretary of State Shirley Weber (D) on June 28 seeking to have his party affiliation added to the ballot. Weber cited Newsom’s February 2020 response to the recall petition, in which Newsom did not file a party preference form, as the reason for leaving his party affiliation off the recall ballot.
In the ruling, Judge Arguelles wrote, “First, Governor Newsom’s failure to designate a party preference will not result in a ballot identifying him as ‘Party Preference: None.’ Rather, there will be no reference to party preference next to his name one way or the other. Instead, the recall ballot will simply ask whether he should be recalled.”
The recall election will present voters with two questions. The first will ask whether Newsom should be recalled from the office of governor. The second will ask who should succeed Newsom if he is recalled. Newsom was elected as California’s governor in 2018 with 61.9% of the vote. The only successful recall of a California governor occurred in 2003, when voters recalled then-Gov. Gray Davis (D). Voters chose Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) as Davis’ replacement.
Texas Democrats leave state ahead of expected vote on election-related legislation
At least 51 Democratic state representatives in Texas left the state on July 12, traveling to Washington D.C., ahead of expected votes on election-related legislation. Supporters say the legislation includes updates to improving election integrity. Opponents say the bills amount to voter suppression.
The Texas House of Representatives requires 100 members—two-thirds of the 150 legislators—present to have a quorum. A quorum is the minimum number of members required to conduct official business. Democrats control 67 of the 150 state House seats in Texas.
It’s the second time Texas House Democrats have staged a walkout this year. The first took place on May 30, when all 67 members of the Democratic caucus left the chamber during consideration of another package of election-related legislation. This prevented the House from passing the legislation ahead of the regular session’s midnight deadline. Following the end of the legislature’s regular session, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) called a special session to resume consideration of the legislation.
Ballot Measures Update
Thirty-one (31) statewide measures have been certified for the 2021 ballot in seven states so far.
No new measures were certified for the 2021 ballot last week.
Signatures have been submitted and are pending verification for two additional 2022 initiatives in California and Michigan. One indirect initiative in Michigan was certified to the legislature last week. The initiative would repeal Michigan’s Emergency Powers of Governor Act.
Arizona ends federal pandemic unemployment insurance program; courts rule program must continue in Indiana, Maryland
Arizona ended its participation in pandemic-related federal unemployment benefit programs on July 10, and courts in two states—Indiana and Maryland—ruled those states must continue to participate in the program. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) had announced that Arizona would end its involvement in the program on May 13.
The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled on July 12 that the state must comply with Superior Court Judge John Hanley’s June 25 emergency order to resume participation in federal pandemic unemployment programs. Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) ended the state’s participation in those programs on June 19.
In Maryland, Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Fletcher-Hill ruled on July 13 that the state must continue participating in the federal pandemic unemployment program. Gov. Larry Hogan (R) had ended the state’s participation in those programs on July 3. Hogan said he would not challenge the ruling.
President Joe Biden signed the American Rescue Plan on March 11. This legislation extended federal unemployment benefit programs related to the coronavirus pandemic, including a $300 per week addition to state unemployment benefits. The programs are scheduled to end on Sept. 6.
Anna Scharf sworn in to Oregon House of Representatives District 23
Anna Scharf (R) was sworn in to the District 23 seat in the Oregon House of Representatives on July 12. Republican county commissioners in the four counties that make up the district had appointed her on July 6.
Scharf replaced former Rep. Mike Nearman (R), who was expelled from the House on June 10 after video footage surfaced in which he helped protesters enter the state Capitol building on December 21, 2020, resulting in injuries and property damage. Scharf had served as a legislative policy analyst in Rep. Nearman’s office since February 2020 and will serve the remainder of Nearman’s term, which was set to expire in January 2023.
States in session
Eight states— California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—are in regular session.
Delaware ends COVID-19 state of emergency
As of July 16, COVID-19 emergency orders have expired in 25 states. They remain active in 25 states.
Governors and state agencies in all 50 states issued orders declaring active emergencies in response to the coronavirus pandemic. These orders allowed officials to access resources unavailable to them during non-emergencies, like stockpiles of medical goods and equipment, and to waive or suspend certain rules and regulations. Governors and state agencies relied on emergency power authority to enact lockdown and stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, and other restrictions on businesses and individuals.
Michigan Supreme Court rejects independent commission’s request to extend redistricting deadlines
The Michigan Supreme Court rejected a request on July 9 by the Michigan Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission to extend the state’s constitutional deadlines for adopting new redistricting plans. This means that the constitutional deadlines–presentation to the public by Sept. 17 and adoption by Nov. 1–remain in effect.
The commission had argued that it would “not be able to comply with the constitutionally imposed timeline” due to delays in receiving detailed redistricting data from the U.S. Census Bureau. The commission had asked the state supreme court to order the commission to propose plans within 72 days of the receipt of redistricting data and to approve plans within 45 days after that.
In its unsigned order, the court said that it was “not persuaded that it should grant the requested relief.” In her concurring opinion, Justice Elizabeth Welch wrote, “The Court’s decision is not a reflection on the merits of the questions briefed or how this Court might resolve a future case raising similar issues. It is indicative only that a majority of this Court believes that the anticipatory relief sought is unwarranted.”
Maryland State Delegate Keith Haynes retires
Keith Haynes (D)—who was first elected to the state legislature in 2002—retired from the Maryland House of Delegates on July 15. Haynes most recently won re-election in 2018 after running unopposed in the primary and general elections.
“After 18 1/2 years of service, I am retiring from the Maryland House of Delegates as of July 15, 2021,” Haynes wrote in a statement to the Baltimore Sun. “I would like to thank my constituents for the opportunity to serve them.”
When a vacancy occurs in the Maryland General Assembly, the governor must appoint a replacement within 30 days after the vacancy happens. The governor selects from a list of three prospective candidates submitted by the political party that last held the vacant seat. The person appointed to the seat serves for the remainder of the unexpired term. Haynes’ term was set to expire on January 10, 2023.
Forty-six state legislative special elections have been scheduled in 18 states so far this year. Thirty-four (34) specials have already taken place. Heading into those races, Democrats had previously controlled 15 of the seats, and Republicans previously controlled 19. No seats have changed party hands as a result of the special elections.
- In special elections between 2011 and 2020, one party (either Republicans or Democrats) saw an average net gain of four seats nationally each year.
- An average of 57 seats were filled through special elections in each of the past six even years (2010: 30, 2012: 46, 2014: 40, 2016: 65, 2018: 99, 2020: 59).
- An average of 88 seats were filled through special elections in each of the past five odd years (2011: 94, 2013: 84, 2015: 89, 2017: 98, 2019: 77).
Upcoming special elections include: