Intro: Our weekly summary of state & local news highlights the resignation of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and the swearing in of successor Kathy Hochul (D) and new mask requirements in Illinois and Oregon. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the State & Local Tap.
Ballot Measures Update
Thirty-eight statewide measures have been certified for the 2021 ballot in nine states so far.
- Two initiatives were certified for the ballot in Colorado last week:
- Signatures were submitted and are pending verification for one additional initiative in Colorado.
Fifty-six statewide measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot in 26 states so far.
- No new measures were certified for the 2022 ballot last week.
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 approved a property tax renewal. Voters in Detroit rejected a revised city charter that would have changed policy on broadband access, police practices, healthcare, taxes and utilities, and reparations, among other topics.
- Aug. 3 – Missouri: St. Louis Community College District voters approved a property tax measure.
- Aug. 3 – Washington: Voters in King County and Thurston County decided property tax measures. Both measures were ahead according to election night results.
Fifty-two state legislative special elections have been scheduled in 19 states so far this year. Thirty-five specials have taken place already. Heading into those races, Democrats had previously controlled 16 of the seats, and Republicans previously controlled 19. One seat flipped from Democratic control to Republican control.
- 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:
- Alabama House of Representatives District 78
- New Hampshire House of Representatives Cheshire 9 District (primary)
- New Hampshire House of Representatives Hillsborough 7 District
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigns, Hochul sworn in as successor
Immediately after Cuomo’s resignation took effect, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul (D) was sworn in as the 57th governor of New York. Hochul is the first female to serve as governor in the state. She will serve the remainder of Cuomo’s term, which ends on Jan. 1, 2023. New York’s next gubernatorial election will take place in November 2022.
On Aug. 25, Hochul announced her selection of state Sen. Brian Benjamin (D) to succeed her as lieutenant governor. Hochul stated he would be sworn in after Labor Day. Benjamin was first elected to the state Senate in 2017.
New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) released a report on Aug. 3 that said Cuomo sexually harassed current and former state employees. James began the investigation in February.
The New York State Assembly had initiated impeachment proceedings against Cuomo in March, examining the allegations of sexual misconduct, among other accusations of impeachable conduct.
Cuomo has repeatedly denied these allegations. On August 23, in his final public address as governor, he said, “The attorney general’s report was designed to be a political firecracker on an explosive topic and it worked. There was a political and media stampede, but the truth will out in time.”
Cuomo is the ninth governor of New York to resign. Six resigned to take another office, and three resigned following allegations of misconduct.
Special election to be held in Texas House district
A special election will be held on Aug. 31 for District 10 of the Texas House of Representatives. The candidate filing deadline was Aug. 12. Pierina Otiniano (D), Kevin Griffin (R), Brian Harrison (R), Susan Hayslip (R), Clark Wickliffe (R), John Wray (R), Matt Savino (L), and Scott Goodwin (I) are running in the general election. A general election runoff will be scheduled if no candidate earns at least 50% of the vote. The winner will serve until January 2023.
The District 10 seat became vacant after Jake Ellzey (R) won a special election to Texas’ 6th Congressional District on July 27. Ellzey had represented District 10 since January 2021.
Heading into the special election, Republicans have an 82-67 majority in the Texas House with one vacancy. Texas has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.
As of August, 52 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 19 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. Texas held 28 state legislative special elections from 2011 to 2020.
Kentucky legislator Robert Goforth resigns
Goforth was the target of a January 2021 impeachment effort. The petition listed domestic violence charges, allegations of abuse of office for personal and financial gain, and allegations of financial misconduct as reasons for his impeachment. According to the Courier Journal, Goforth said voters “overwhelmingly re-elected me last November despite a nearly constant assault upon my character. I am focused on the work of this session that the people who sent me here expect me to fulfill.” The House impeachment committee dismissed the petition on Feb. 11, 2021.
Goforth was arrested on several domestic violence-related charges at a private home in London, Kentucky, on April 21, 2020. He posted a $25,000 bond to be released from jail later that day. On June 1 of the same year, Goforth pleaded not guilty to three charges of strangulation, assault, and terroristic threatening. On Sept. 18, 2020, a Laurel County grand jury charged Goforth with one count of first-degree strangulation and one count of fourth-degree assault.
Legislators sworn in to Maryland House of Delegates, Oregon House of Representatives
Christine Goodwin (R) was sworn in to the Oregon House of Representatives to represent the 2nd District on Aug. 25. Republican county commissioners in the three counties that make up the 2nd District (Douglas, Jackson, and Josephine Counties) appointed Goodwin to the seat on Aug. 12 to replace Gary Leif (R).
Both Prettyman and Goodwin will serve the remainder of their predecessors’ terms.
So far in 2021, there have been 88 state legislative vacancies in 37 states. Three of those vacancies occurred in Maryland, and five occurred in Oregon.
Illinois, Oregon announce new statewide mask requirements
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced on Aug. 26 a new statewide public indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and vaccinated individuals, which will go into effect on Aug. 30. Illinois’ first mask mandate began on May 1, 2020, and was lifted on June 11, 2021, lasting 407 days.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced an expansion of the state’s mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals on Aug. 24. Effective Aug. 27, vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals will be required to wear masks in public outdoor spaces. Brown had previously reinstated Oregon’s public indoor mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals on Aug. 13.
As of Aug. 26, three states had statewide mask orders for unvaccinated individuals, and six states had statewide mask orders for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. All nine of the states had Democratic governors.
In total, 39 states have issued statewide mask requirements. Thirty-two states (16 states with Republican governors and 16 states with Democratic governors) have allowed statewide orders to expire. Two states (Louisiana and Oregon) that allowed a statewide order to fully expire later reinstated a mask order.
Idaho Supreme Court overturns 2021 law that would have increased the state’s distribution requirement for ballot initiatives
On Aug. 23, the Idaho Supreme Court ruled that Senate Bill 1110 (SB 1110) was unconstitutional. The law was designed to change the state’s distribution requirement to require signatures from 6% of voters from all 35 legislative districts for ballot initiatives and veto referendums instead of the existing requirement of 6% of voters from 18 of the state’s legislative districts.
The court ruled that the state had no compelling interest to increase the distribution requirement. The court said the law “would result in a scheme that squarely conflicts with the democratic ideals that form the bedrock of the constitutional republic created by the Idaho Constitution, and seriously undermines the people’s initiative and referendum powers enshrined therein.” By overturning the law, the court reinstated the 18-district distribution requirement.
The lawsuit was filed by Reclaim Idaho, the campaign behind two 2022 initiatives related to initiative signature requirements and taxes for public school funding.
House Speaker Scott Bedke (R), who supported the law, said, “These changes to the voter referendum/initiative process would’ve served to increase voter involvement and inclusivity, especially in the corners of the state too often forgotten by some.”
Seventeen states have a distribution requirement law for initiative or veto referendum signatures.
In 2019, the Idaho Legislature passed a pair of bills that were designed to increase the state’s initiative signature requirement and its distribution requirement, among other changes. Governor Brad Little (R) vetoed the bills. In 2021, both chambers of the legislature passed SB 1110 by more than the two-thirds majority required to override a veto: 26-9 in the Senate and 51-18 in the House. Governor Little signed SB 1110.
Between 1996 and 2020, an average of three measures have appeared on even-numbered election year ballots in Idaho.