Our weekly summary of state & local news highlights New York City’s vaccination requirement for all city employees and Gov. Abbott’s appointment of a new secretary of state. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the State & Local Tap.
Ballot Measures Update
Thirty-nine statewide measures were certified for the 2021 ballot in nine states.
- Statewide measures for 2021 are finalized.
- 24 measures are on the Nov. 2 ballot.
- 4 measures are on the Nov. 13 ballot.
- 4 measures were on the ballot on May 18 in Pennsylvania. They were approved.
- 7 bond measures were on the ballot on March 2 in Rhode Island. They were approved.
Sixty-one statewide measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot in 29 states so far.
- One new measure was certified for the 2022 ballot last week:
States in session
Seven state legislatures—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:
- Oct. 12 – Nebraska: Voters in the Ralston Public Schools District and the Westside Community Schools District approved a $83.75 million bond issue and a property tax measure, respectively.
- Nov. 2: Ballotpedia is covering over 150 local ballot measures. in 17 different states on Nov. 2. In 2021, Ballotpedia’s local measure coverage scope includes measures that appear on the ballot for voters within the top 100 largest cities in the U.S. and all state capitals, including those outside of the top 100 largest cities; a selection of notable police-related and election-related measures; and all measures in California. Below are some highlighted measures for Nov. 2:
- Voters in Austin, Texas, will decide an initiative to establish minimum police staffing requirements resulting in the city having to hire additional police officers. The initiative was also designed to require additional police officer training and create certain police hiring guidelines and incentives.
- Voters in Minneapolis will vote on an initiative to replace the city police department with a department of public safety.
- Voters in Cleveland will decide an initiative to make changes related to police oversight, discipline, and policies.
- Voters in Detroit, Michigan, will decide a measure to create a city reparations committee tasked with making recommendations for housing and economic development programs for Black Detroit residents.
- Voters in Tucson, Arizona, will decide a $15 per hour minimum wage initiative.
- Voters in both Minneapolis and St. Paul will decide measures concerning rent control.
Sixty-four state legislative special elections have been scheduled in 21 states so far this year. Forty-three specials have taken place already. Heading into those races, Democrats had previously controlled 20 of the seats, and Republicans previously controlled 23. Two seats flipped from Democratic control to Republican control, and one seat flipped from Republican control to Democratic 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:
- Georgia House of Representatives District 165
- Kentucky State Senate District 22
- Kentucky House of Representatives District 51
- Kentucky House of Representatives District 89
- Maine House of Representatives District 86
- Massachusetts House of Representatives Fourth Essex District (primary)
- Michigan State Senate District 8
- Michigan State Senate District 28
- Mississippi State Senate District 32
- Mississippi State Senate District 38
- New York State Senate District 30
- New York State Assembly District 86
- Pennsylvania House of Representatives District 113
- Pennsylvania House of Representatives District 164
- Rhode Island State Senate District 3
San Francisco school board recall elections scheduled for Feb. 15
Recall elections against three of the seven members of the San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education in California have been scheduled for Feb. 15, 2022. Petitions to recall board members Gabriela López, Alison Collins, and Faauuga Moliga were certified in October 2021.
Recall supporters said they were frustrated that schools in the district remained closed for nearly a year in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. They also said they were upset that the board had spent time voting to rename 44 buildings in the district rather than focusing on opening schools. At a board meeting on April 6, 2021, members unanimously voted to rescind the approval of the renaming process. At the same meeting, they voted to return students to full-time in-person instruction at the start of the 2021-2022 school year.
All three board members named in the recall petitions were first elected to the board on Nov. 6, 2018. They received the most votes in an at-large election, defeating 16 other candidates. The other four members of the board were not eligible for recall at the same time as López, Collins, and Moliga as they had not served in their current terms for six months. They were elected or re-elected to the board on Nov. 3, 2020.
To get the recall on the ballot, recall supporters had 160 days to collect signatures from 10% of registered voters in the city. The total number of signatures needed was 51,325 per board member, and the deadline to submit them was Sept. 7. If a majority of voters cast ballots in favor of the recall on Feb. 15, the mayor of San Francisco will appoint replacements.
Ballotpedia has tracked 82 school board recall efforts against 212 board members so far in 2021—the highest number of school board recall efforts we have tracked in one year. The next-highest year was in 2010 with 38 recall efforts against 91 school board members.
In the first half of 2021, Ballotpedia tracked 164 recall efforts against 262 officials. This was the most recall efforts for this point in the year since the first half of 2016, when we tracked 189 recall efforts against 265 officials. In comparison, we tracked between 72 and 155 efforts by the midpoints of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) appoints John Scott (R) as secretary of state
Scott replaces Ruth Ruggero Hughs, who resigned in May of 2021 after the Senate Nominating Commission would not take up her nomination.
Texas is one of nine states where secretaries of state are appointed by the governor. Scott’s appointment will have to be approved by the state Senate. The legislature adjourned on May 31 and will not convene again until Jan. 10, 2023.
Gov. Abbott has appointed five secretaries of state during his tenure as governor.
New York City to require vaccination for all city employees
On Oct. 20, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) announced that the city’s coronavirus vaccine requirement would extend to all city employees. Previously, the city had vaccine requirements in place for education and healthcare workers.
City employees will be required to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1. De Blasio also announced that those who receive their first dose before 5 p.m. on Oct. 29 will receive a $500 bonus on their paycheck.
Prior to this announcement, New York state had required state employees to either be vaccinated or receive regular coronavirus testing by Sept. 27. Three states—Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington—have state employee vaccination requirements without a testing option.
Nelson (R) and Eisner (D) advance to New Hampshire Rockingham 6 special general election
A special primary was held on Oct. 19 for the Rockingham 6 District seat in the New Hampshire House of Representatives. Jodi Nelson (R) and Mary Eisner (D) advanced to the general election. Nelson defeated Neil Wetherbee and Thomas Cardon in the Republican primary. Eisner was unopposed in the Democratic primary.
The general election is scheduled for Dec. 7. The candidate filing deadline passed on Aug. 27.
The special election was called after Anne Copp (R) left office due to moving out of the district on Aug. 5. Copp served from December 2020 to August 2021. She had previously served in the Merrimack 1 District from 2016 to 2018.
As of Oct. 19, five state legislative special elections have been scheduled in New Hampshire in 2021. Special elections were held for the Hillsborough 21 District on April 13, the Merrimack 23 District on June 8, and the Hillsborough 7 District on Sept. 7. A special election is scheduled for the Cheshire 9 District on Oct. 26.
New Hampshire held 29 special elections between 2010 and 2020. The most held in one year during that period was 10 in 2017.
Federal court invalidates Illinois’ June legislative maps
A three-judge panel in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois ruled on Oct. 19 that Illinois’ legislative maps enacted in June were unconstitutional and violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The Illinois legislature initially enacted state legislative maps on June 4 using data from the American Community Survey (ACS), a demographics survey program conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau but distinct from the decennial census. Two sets of plaintiffs—Illinois’ House and Senate Republican leaders and the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund—filed lawsuits challenging the state’s legislative redistricting plans, arguing that the maps were malapportioned since they were based on ACS, rather than official census data.
After the state received data from the Census Bureau in August 2021, the legislature reconvened and adopted revised maps that Gov. J. B. Pritzker (D) signed into law on Sept. 24. The June maps were never explicitly repealed. Both sets of plaintiffs filed amended complaints on Oct. 1, arguing that the September maps violated the Voting Rights Act since they reduced the number of Latino opportunity districts—where Latinos make up more than 50% of the population—despite the growth in the state’s Latino population over the preceding decade.
The three-judge panel ruled that the maps the state adopted in June were invalid and set a November hearing schedule regarding the plaintiffs’ amended complaints challenging the September redistricting plans.
Connecticut Reapportionment Commission selects final member
The Connecticut Reapportionment Commission selected former state Auditor Kevin Johnston (D) as its ninth member on Oct. 19. Johnston joins four Democratic and four Republican state legislators on the commission, which is now responsible for developing the state’s congressional and legislative redistricting plans. Johnston also served on the Reapportionment Commission after the 2010 census.
Redistricting in Connecticut was originally the responsibility of the eight-member Reapportionment Committee, which was disbanded after it failed to meet a Sept. 15 deadline for redrawing the state’s districts due to delays in the release of census data.
The Reapportionment Commission must develop congressional and legislative redistricting maps by Nov. 30. These maps must be certified by at least five commission members and are not subject to legislative approval. If the commission cannot reach an agreement on maps, the responsibility for redistricting falls to the Connecticut Supreme Court, which was also responsible for redistricting after the 2010 census.
Texas voters to decide on an increase to the homestead exemption from school district property taxes in May 2022
On Oct. 18, the Texas state legislature voted to refer to the ballot a constitutional amendment that would increase the homestead exemption for school district property taxes from $25,000 to $40,000. Voters will decide the measure on the May 2022 ballot. It would take effect for the 2022 tax year. The Legislative Budget Board estimated that the increase would cost the state $355 million in fiscal year 2023.
The amendment was filed as Senate Joint Resolution 2 (SJR 2) on Oct. 18, the last day of the legislature’s third special session this year. It was approved by both chambers unanimously. The enabling legislation, Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), also received final approval on the last day of the session.
Texas voters last approved an increase to the homestead tax exemption in 2015 with the passage of Proposition 1. The amendment increased the exemption from $15,000 to $25,000. It was approved by a margin of 86.4% to 13.6%.
This was the second amendment the legislature referred to the ballot for the election on May 7, 2022. Texas voters will also decide on an amendment that would authorize the state legislature to reduce the limitation on total ad valorem taxes imposed on the homesteads of elderly or disabled residents for school maintenance and operations to reflect any statutory reduction from the preceding tax year. The two ballot measures are the first to be featured on an even-numbered year statewide ballot since 2014. Between 1985 and 2020, 10 ballot measures have appeared on even-numbered year Texas ballots compared to 251 ballot measures on odd-numbered year statewide ballots during that same period.