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Our weekly summary of state & local news highlights the final candidate list released in the recall election of California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and a federal court upholds the CDC’s COVID-19 cruise line restrictions. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the State & Local Tap.
Ballot Measures Update
Thirty-three 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.
Fifty-six statewide measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot in 26 states so far.
- One new measure was certified for the 2022 ballot last week:
Signatures have been submitted and are pending verification for one additional 2022 initiative in Michigan. One indirect initiative in Michigan was approved by the legislature last week. The initiative repealed Michigan’s Emergency Powers of Governor Act.
States in session
Eight states—California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—are in regular session.
Local Ballot Measures: The Week in Review
In 2021, Ballotpedia is providing comprehensive coverage of elections in America’s 100 largest cities by population and all state capitals. This encompasses every office on the ballot in these cities, including their municipal elections, trial court elections, school board elections, and local ballot measures. Ballotpedia also covers all local recall elections, as well as all local ballot measures in California and a selection of notable local ballot measures about elections and police-related policies. Recent and upcoming local ballot measure elections are listed below:
- Aug. 3 – Michigan: Voters in Lansing will decide a property tax renewal. Voters in Detroit will, pending a Michigan Supreme Court ruling, decide whether to adopt a revised city charter that makes changes to policy on broadband access, police practices, healthcare, taxes and utilities, and reparations, among other topics.
- Aug. 3 – Missouri: St. Louis Community College District voters will decide a property tax measure.
- Aug. 3 – Washington: Voters in King County and Thurston County will decide property tax measures.
Forty-six state legislative special elections have been scheduled in 18 states so far this year. Thirty-four specials have taken place already. Heading into those races, Democrats had previously controlled 15 of the districts, and Republicans previously controlled 19. No districts 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:
Kentucky state Rep. John “Bam” Carney dies
Kentucky state Rep. John “Bam” Carney (R) died while in office on July 17, due to long-term health issues.
Carney was first elected to represent House District 51 in 2008. He most recently won re-election in 2020, defeating Richard Steele (D) 78.6% to 21.4%. He was elected state House majority leader in 2018 and served in that role until January 2020, when House Republicans named Rep. Steven Rudy (R) to serve as acting majority leader while Carney was ill.
Carney was admitted to the ICU with pancreatitis in December 2019. He had spent the past year and a half in hospitals and was diagnosed with pneumonia in June 2021. He died on July 17 at age 51.
Carney is the second member of the Kentucky legislature to die this month; former state Senator Tom Buford (R) died on July 6. Kentucky is one of 25 states to fill state legislative vacancies through special elections.
Final candidate list released for Newsom recall
On July 21, California Secretary of State Shirley Weber (D) released the final list of 46 candidates that qualified for the gubernatorial recall election. The recall election seeking to remove Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) will take place on Sept. 14, 2021. Among the candidates that qualified were nine Democrats and 24 Republicans, including former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R), 2018 gubernatorial candidate John Cox (R), former U.S. Rep. Doug Ose (R), Caitlyn Jenner (R), and Larry Elder (R).
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. A majority vote is required on the first question for the governor to be recalled. The candidate with the most votes on the second question would win the election, no majority required.
Since 1911, there have been 55 attempts to recall an incumbent California governor. The only successful recall campaign was in 2003 when voters recalled then-Gov. Gray Davis (D). Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) was chosen as Davis’ replacement. In that election, 135 candidates ran and the winner received 48.6% of the vote.
New Jersey state Sen. Chris Brown resigns to take new role in Murphy administration
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) appointed state Sen. Chris Brown (R) to a position in the Department of Community Affairs’ Division of Local Government Services on July 19. The position required Brown to leave the state Senate. Brown started his new job on July 20.
Brown first won election to the Senate to represent District 2 on Nov. 7, 2017, defeating incumbent Colin Bell (D) 53.52% to 46.48%. Brown had announced in February that he would not seek re-election.
Vacancies in the New Jersey legislature are filled by interim appointment by the county leadership of the party that last controlled the district.
The New Jersey Senate is the upper chamber of the state legislature. Currently, there are 25 Democrats, 14 Republicans, and one vacancy in the Senate.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp appoints new state supreme court justice, public service commissioner
Governor Brian Kemp (R) appointed Verda Colvin to the Georgia Supreme Court and Fitz Johnson to the Georgia Public Service Commission on July 20 and 21, respectively. Colvin will fill the vacancy left by Justice Harold Melton, who retired on July 1 of this year, while Johnson will take former Commissioner Chuck Eaton’s position. Governor Kemp appointed Eaton to the Fulton County Superior Court on July 20.
Founded in 1845, the Georgia Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has nine judgeships. As of July 2021, Republican governors appointed seven judges (eight once Colvin is sworn in) on the court and one was initially selected in a nonpartisan election. Judges are selected using the nonpartisan election of judges system. They serve six-year terms. When an interim vacancy occurs, the seat is filled using the assisted appointment method of judicial selection with the governor picking the interim justice from a slate provided by the Georgia Judicial Nominating Commission.
The Georgia Public Service Commission is a quasi-executive, quasi-legislative state body responsible for regulating Georgia’s public utilities: electric, gas, telecommunications, and transportation firms. The commission is composed of five popularly elected members who serve staggered, six-year terms. If a vacancy occurs, the governor appoints a replacement to serve until the next general election. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Johnson must win election in November 2022 to serve the remainder of Eaton’s term, which expires in 2024.
Federal court upholds CDC COVID-19 cruise line restrictions
On July 17, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit overturned a lower court order that blocked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) restrictions on the cruise industry, allowing the restrictions to stay in place.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) sued the CDC in April, arguing the agency overstepped its authority when it issued its four-phase plan for reopening the cruise industry. U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday sided with DeSantis on June 18, granting Florida a preliminary injunction against the restrictions.
The CDC’s plan requires 95% of passengers and 98% of crews to be fully vaccinated. Florida’s Senate Bill 2006, which DeSantis signed into law on May 3, prohibits businesses in the state from requiring proof of vaccination.
DeSantis said he would appeal the ruling.
New Jersey chief justice asks political parties to submit consensus candidate for congressional redistricting commission
On July 20, New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner asked Democrats and Republicans to reconvene and select a consensus candidate as the 13th member of the state’s congressional redistricting commission.
According to state law, 12 of the 13 commissioners are appointed by the majority and minority leaders of the legislature and the chairs of the state’s two major political parties. These 12 commissioners then appoint the last commission member. If they cannot agree on an appointment, the commissioners must submit two names to the state supreme court and the court must then appoint the final commissioner.
According to The New Jersey Globe, “This is the first time the two parties haven’t agreed on a thirteenth member for congressional redistricting. The Supreme Court option wasn’t involved in 1991, 2001 and 2011.” Chief Justice Rabner gave the commissioners until July 30 to respond with a consensus candidate. If they do not, the state supreme court will pick a tie-breaker candidate by Aug. 10.