Delaware and New Jersey governors lift statewide school mask requirements
On Feb. 7, two governors—Delaware’s John Carney (D) and New Jersey’s Phil Murphy (D)—issued separate announcements lifting their states’ school mask requirements for the remainder of the 2021-2022 school year. Local authorities will now have the power to issue school mask requirements in both states.
With New Jersey and Delaware’s requirements coming to an end, there are 12 other states with some form of statewide school mask requirements still in effect. Ten of those states have Democratic governors and two—Maryland and Massachusetts—have Republican governors. Seven states, all of which have Republican governors, have banned mask requirements. The remaining 31 states—12 with Democratic governors and 19 with Republicans—leave masking decisions to local authorities.
These announcements come days after a state court temporarily suspended Illinois’ statewide school mask requirement. Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge Raylene Grischow issued the ruling on Feb. 4. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) said he planned to appeal the decision. Illinois had required masks in schools since June 2020.
Two other states—Kentucky and Pennsylvania—ended their mask requirements for the current academic year.
In Kentucky, the Republican-controlled state legislature passed Senate Bill 1 (SB1) on Sept. 9, 2021, eliminating Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) school mask requirement. Beshear partially vetoed the measure but was overridden.
In Pennsylvania, the state supreme court struck down the school mask requirement on Dec. 10, 2021, ruling that Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) acting Health Secretary Alison Beam lacked the authority to issue the requirement.
Seven states still require masks: California, Connecticut, Hawaii, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Washington. Louisiana, Maryland, and Nevada require masks for specific districts, New Mexico requires them for specific individuals, and Massachusetts requires them for specific schools.
Delaware’s school mask requirement was originally set to expire today, Feb. 8, but Carney ordered it temporarily extended until March 31. New Jersey’s school mask requirement is set to end on March 7. Both states have required masks to be worn in schools since August 2020.
Vermont voters will decide constitutional amendment prohibiting slavery and indentured servitude as a form of punishment
On Feb. 4, the Vermont House of Representatives took the final vote to send Proposal 2 to voters in November. This will be the first amendment decided by Vermont voters in 12 years. Voters approved the last amendment to appear on the ballot in 2010.
This amendment would change Article 1 of Chapter I of the state constitution to read:
“[A]ll persons are born equally free and independent … therefore slavery and indentured servitude in any form are prohibited.”
Currently, the constitution allows people to be servants, slaves, or apprentices either by their own consent or “for the payment of debts, damages, fines, costs, or the like.”
This is the fourth amendment to appear before voters in recent years relating to slavery and involuntary servitude as a form of punishment. Voters in Colorado expressly forbade the practice in 2018 with 66% of the vote. In 2020, voters in Nebraska and Utah similarly amended their constitutions with 68% and 80% of the vote, respectively.
In addition to the U.S. Constitution, 10 states have constitutions with provisions prohibiting enslavement and involuntary servitude, but with the exception of criminal punishments. These provisions were added to states’ constitutions, in their original forms, between the 1850s and 1890s, and to the U.S. Constitution as the 13th Amendment in 1865.
Nine states have provisions permitting involuntary servitude, but not slavery, as a criminal punishment. Vermont is the only state to have a constitutional provision permitting involuntary servitude to pay a debt, damage, fine, or cost.
In Vermont, a constitutional amendment requires a vote in each chamber of the Vermont General Assembly in two successive legislative sessions with an election in between in order to appear on the ballot. During the first session, the amendment needs a two-thirds vote in the Senate and a simple majority in the House. During the second session, the amendment needs a simple majority in both chambers.
The proposal passed through both chambers of the legislature with bipartisan support. The Senate approved the proposal in 2019 with a 28-1 vote and in 2021 with a 29-1 vote. The House approved it in 2019 with a 145-0 vote and in 2021 with a 139-3 vote.
Nine of the 10 largest fundraisers in U.S. Senate races so far are incumbents
According to federal campaign finance reports released on Jan. 31, nine of the 10 largest fundraisers in U.S. Senate races so far are incumbents. The only non-incumbent candidate on the list—Val Demings (D)—is a member of the U.S. House.
Six of these candidates are running in states Ballotpedia has identified as battlegrounds in the upcoming election: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, New Hampshire, and Nevada.
In most cases, these totals come from reports covering Jan. 1, 2017, to Dec. 31, 2021. Warnock’s report covers from Dec. 17, 2020, to Dec. 31 of last year. Kelly’s and Demings’ reports cover from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2021.
Overall, Democratic Senate candidates have raised $305 million and Republican candidates, $300 million, so far.