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Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #38

Welcome to Hall Pass, a newsletter written to keep you plugged into the conversations driving school board politics and governance.

In today’s edition, you’ll find:

  • On the issues: The debate over government-funded school lunches 
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • The seven education-related ballot measures voters decided on Nov. 8
  • Conflict election results (updated)
  • Extracurricular: education news from around the web
  • Candidate Connection survey

Reply to this email to share reactions or story ideas!

On the issues: The debate over government-funded school lunches

In this section, we curate reporting, analysis, and commentary on the issues school board members deliberate when they set out to offer the best education possible in their district.

Colorado passed a ballot measure—discussed in our review of education-related measures below—on Nov. 8 to expand government-funded lunches to all public school students. President Joe Biden (D) also proposed expanding funding for school lunches in his National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health on Sept. 28.

Baylen Linnekin writes that children from poorer families already receive discounted or free school meals. He says expanding government-funded school meals would not reduce food insecurity because it would mainly offer food to children from wealthier families. Linnekin also says the National School Lunch Program provides substandard food that even food insecure children will throw out, wasting money and food.

William Lambers writes that expanding the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs to make school lunches free for all children would reduce food insecurity and help families. Lambers says universal school lunches would save governments time and money that are spent determining which children are eligible for free or discounted school meals and prevent low-income students from falling through cracks in the bureaucratic eligibility determination process.

There’s No Good Reason To Expand Government-Funded School Lunches | Baylen Linnekin, Reason

“During most of the Covid pandemic, the USDA made universal free lunches available to public school systems around the country. Even after that lapsed, many if not most kids in Colorado (and every other state) whose families can’t afford to provide them with lunches or lunch money were already eligible to receive free- or reduced-price school lunches under the federal government’s National School Lunch Program. … I have difficulty understanding how giving free food to kids whose parents are millionaires helps students facing real food insecurity. And I’m not alone. Earlier this year, a longtime school lunchroom worker in Michigan called universal school meals “a ‘waste’ because, too often, students whose parents could afford to pay for their meals would throw it in the trash.” But even hungry kids toss their government-funded school lunches in the rubbish bin. … Indeed, the National School Lunch Program is a disaster. It wastes untold quantities of money and food.”

William Lambers: We need to be passionate about free school meals | William Lambers, The Hartford Courant

“We need to be passionate about free school meals for every child, instead of just accepting the status quo of underfunded and incomplete school meal programs. … At home in America we should make the National School Lunch and Breakfast programs free to all children. This would eliminate the costly and time consuming administrative work of determining who is eligible for the free or reduced price meals. Providing free meals to all would prevent any needy children potentially falling through the crack of bureaucracy and not receiving meals. Providing free meals for all school children would give America’s families a big boost. We give corporations plenty of perks, why not families too. … If every child were to receive free meals, we would improve the health of the country and reduce poverty.”

The seven education-related ballot measures voters decided on Nov. 8

Education was on the ballot in seven states on Nov. 8, with voters deciding measures related to college tuition, school meals, legislative oversight of state board rules, and more. In September, we previewed those seven education-related ballot measures. Here’s how each of those measures fared. 

Voters approved measures in six states and rejected one in West Virginia. There were a total of 132 statewide measures on the ballot on Nov. 8.

All results below are unofficial.

New Mexico Constitutional Amendment 1, Land Grant Permanent Fund Distribution for Early Childhood Education Amendment

Voters approved this amendment 70.35% to 29.66%.

Constitutional Amendment 1 is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that would increase the disbursements from New Mexico’s Land Grant Permanent Fund for education from 5% to 6.25%. Forty percent of the increase goes to public education, while 60% goes to a new spending category—early childhood education.

Congress will need to approve part of the amendment because federal law established the fund but did not include early childhood education as a spending category. U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and U.S. Rep. Melanie Stansbury (D-N.M.) introduced bills in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, respectively, in December 2021 to release the funds. Heinrich’s bill passed the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and is awaiting action before the Senate. 

According to Source New Mexico’s Shaun Griswold, “The fund is derived from 13 million acres of land grants from the United States under the Ferguson Act of 1898 and the Enabling Act of 1910. Revenue on these lands from sources like mineral exploration and from oil and gas industries — booming industries in New Mexico — are placed in a permanent endowment that is then invested by the State Investment Council.”

Supporters said the fund allows New Mexico to increase education funding without raising taxes. Opponents said the amendment would decrease the fund’s value and lower future returns, resulting in reduced future education funding.   

Arizona Proposition 308, In-State Tuition for Non-Citizen Residents Measure 

Voters approved this proposition 51.23% to 48.77%. 

Proposition 308 is a legislatively referred state statute that allows non-citizen students, except those considered to be nonresident aliens under federal law, to receive in-state college tuition under certain conditions. Under the law, non-citizen students can receive in-state college when a student (a) attended school in Arizona for at least two years and (b) graduated from a public school, private school, or homeschool in Arizona. Proposition 308 repeals provisions of Proposition 300, which voters approved in 2006. Proposition 300 said non-citizens could not receive certain state-subsidized services, benefits, or financial aid or in-state tuition rates.

Supporters of the measure said non-citizen students who were brought to America as children shouldn’t be punished for circumstances outside of their control and allowing them to receive in-state tuition would help Arizona retain talent. Opponents said the measure would increase costs for taxpayers and provide an unearned benefit to non-citizens.   

Massachusetts Question 1, Tax on Income Above $1 Million for Education and Transportation Amendment 

Voters approved Question 1—52.02% to 47.98%.

Question 1 is a legislatively referred constitutional amendment. Question 1 creates an additional 4% tax on income above $1 million to fund public education, roads and bridges, and public transportation. The tax is in addition to the state’s 5% flat income tax, for a total tax rate of 9% on income above $1 million. 

Supporters said the additional tax revenue will fund investments in public education and transportation that will benefit all residents, especially low-income communities. Opponents said the tax will encourage wealthy individuals and families to leave Massachusetts, leaving the state with less revenue and fewer jobs.  

West Virginia Amendment 4, Legislative Approval of the State Board of Education Rules Amendment

Voters rejected this amendment 57.86% to 42.14%.

This legislatively referred constitutional amendment would have required the State Board of Education to submit its rules or policies to the Legislature for approval, amendment, or rejection. The State Board of Education is a nine-member board with nine-year terms. The governor appoints board members and the Senate confirms them.

Supporters said the amendment would increase accountability, allowing legislators, who answer to voters, to have a say in the education rules and policies that affect taxpayers. Opponents said the amendment would further politicize education and lead to instability, since legislators are up for election every two years.

Colorado Reduce Income Tax Deduction Amounts to Fund School Meals Program Measure

Voters approved this measure 56.75% to 43.25%.

This legislatively referred state statute will reduce income tax deduction amounts for those earning $300,000 or more from $30,000 for single filers and $60,000 for joint filers to $12,000 for single filers and $16,000 for joint filers. The measure also creates and funds the Healthy School Meals for All Program to provide free school meals to all Colorado public school students, provide local food purchasing grants, and increase wages for employees who prepare and serve food.

Supporters said all children, regardless of family income, should have access to nutritional food. Opponents said taxpayers should not pay for meals for kids from affluent families.  

California Proposition 28, Art and Music K-12 Education Funding Initiative

Voters approved this initiative 64.45% to 35.55%.

This initiated state statute requires a minimum source of annual funding for arts education programs for K-12 public and charter schools. The annual minimum amount will be equal to at least 1% of the total state and local revenues that local education agencies received under 1988’s Proposition 98 during the previous fiscal year. 

Supporters said many schools lack dedicated arts and music teachers and programs and that such programs are important for students seeking jobs in entertainment and technology. Opponents said the initiative would divert funding from other academic areas. 

Idaho Income and Corporate Tax Changes and Education Funding Advisory Question

This was a non-binding question, meaning the outcome did not result in a new, changed, repealed, or rejected law or constitutional amendment. Voters approved the advisory question 79.86% to 20.14%. The advisory question is a provision of House Bill 1 (HB1). In September, during a special session, the Idaho Legislature passed HB1, creating a flat rate tax on income and corporate tax rate and allocating $410 million of the state’s sales tax revenue annually to the public school income fund. HB1 is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 3, 2023. The advisory question allowed voters to indicate their support or opposition to the tax changes and education funding enacted by the state legislature.

Click here to read more about education-related ballot measures.

Conflict election results (updated)

Last week, we brought you an update on the 1,800 Nov. 8 races we tracked in 561 school districts across 26 states where candidates took a stance on at least one of three topics—race in education, responses to the coronavirus pandemic, and sex and gender in schools.

We’ve been researching the winning candidates’ stances on those areas. We’ve now completed research on 1,454, or 81%, of the 1,800 winning candidates. Here’s an update on the results:

In the June 1, 2022, edition of this newsletter, we looked at conflict election results in the April 5 school board primaries in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. We also previously published an analysis of elections on Nov. 2, 2021. Those results are below:

You can learn more about our project tracking conflict elections here.

Extracurricular: education news from around the web

This section contains links to recent education-related articles from around the internet. If you know of a story we should be reading, reply to this email to share it with us! 


Take our Candidate Connection survey to reach voters in your district

Many school districts in Louisiana will hold runoff/general elections on Dec. 10. In Louisiana, all candidates compete in the same primary, and a candidate can win the election outright by receiving more than 50 percent of the vote. If no candidate does, the top two vote recipients from the primary advance to the general election, regardless of their partisan affiliation.

Today, we’re featuring survey responses from two candidates from the Pelican State. 

Incumbent Michael Gaudet (R) and Cathy Carmichael (D) are on the ballot in the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board District 7 general election. Carmichael completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. 

Michael Pedalino (R) and Lauren Jewett (D) are on the ballot in the Jefferson Parish School Board District 6 general election. Jewett completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. 

Here’s how Carmichael responded to the question, “Please list below 3 key messages of your campaign. What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?

  • “Represent students, not special interests.
  • Value our teachers and staff.
  • Hold the superintendent accountable for his actions.”

Click here to read the rest of Carmichael’s responses. 

Here’s an excerpt from Jewett’s response to the question, “Please list below 3 key messages of your campaign. What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?

“Mental Health of Students, Teachers, and School Staff: Student achievement and learning progress are big priorities, but they must be addressed alongside the mental and emotional health of students and teachers. Our students and educators have continued to push through extraordinary and uncertain circumstances both with COVID and Hurricane Ida as well as witness events in our constantly evolving world. I will advocate for proper and adequate resources such as more wrap-around supports and social workers/guidance counselors so that our schools can address and respond to trauma and facilitate ongoing healing.”

Click here to read the rest of Jewett’s responses. 

If there is a school board election in your community, you can share the link with candidates and urge them to take the survey!



Checks and Balances November 2022

The Checks and Balances Letter delivers news and information from Ballotpedia’s Administrative State Project, including pivotal actions at the federal and state levels related to the separation of powers, due process, and the rule of law.

This edition: 

In this month’s edition of Checks and Balances, we review the U.S. Supreme Court’s oral argument in cases concerning state regulatory authority and federal agency dynamics, as well as recent activity from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, including a decision that deemed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s funding structure unlawful.

At the state level, we take a look at Kansas voters’ rejection of a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed state legislative oversight of executive agency rules, and an Illinois legislative committee’s call for state agencies to return to normal rulemaking procedures.

We also highlight a dissent from Justice Neil Gorsuch highlighting Gorsuch’s objections to what he views as overbroad applications of Chevron deference. As always, we wrap up with our Regulatory Tally, which features information about the 141 proposed rules and 218 final rules added to the Federal Register in October and OIRA’s regulatory review activity.


In Washington

SCOTUS hears trio of constitutional challenges

What’s the story?

Since the last edition of Checks and Balances, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument in three cases concerning interstate commerce, agency structure, and final agency action. 

The court on October 11, 2022, heard oral argument in National Pork Producers Council v. Ross, a case arguing that a California regulation prohibiting the sale of certain pork products in the state unconstitutionally affects interstate commerce. The regulation requires minimum space requirements for certain farm animals and prohibits the sale of products, including pork, from animals raised in facilities that do not meet those conditions. The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) and American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) filed suit, arguing that the regulation effectively imposed California’s law on pork producers in other states in violation of the dormant commerce clause. After lower courts dismissed the case, plaintiffs appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“Both conservative and liberal justices … seemed skeptical of California’s law … even as they expressed concerns about the implications of striking it down,” observed Emily Hoeven of CalMatters. Amy Howe of SCOTUSblog noted that several justices raised questions about how the law could affect “hypothetical state efforts to ban products from out-of-state companies that employ unauthorized immigrants, forbid labor unions, or refuse to fund certain types of health care.” Justice Elena Kagan, moreover, suggested sending the case back to the lower court for a trial on the merits.

The court on November 7, 2022, went on to hear oral argument in Axon Enterprise Inc. v. Federal Trade Commission and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) v. Cochran, two cases that question whether an agency must issue a final enforcement action before an individual subject to agency enforcement can raise challenges to the agency’s structure or processes in federal court. “Members of the court’s 6-3 conservative majority appeared sympathetic to the agencies’ challengers,” according to Reuters

Want to go deeper?

Fifth Circuit finds CFPB funding structure unconstitutional, denies rehearing in ALJ challenge

What’s the story?

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on October 19, 2022, held in Community Financial Services Association of Texas Ltd. v. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that the funding structure of the CFPB is unconstitutional in violation of the appropriations clause. Judges Don Willett, Kurt Engelhardt, and Cory T. Wilson found that the agency’s funding, which flows directly from the Federal Reserve rather than congressional appropriations, unconstitutionally insulates the agency from congressional oversight and public accountability.

Two groups representing payday lenders filed suit against the CFPB in 2018 to challenge a 2017 payday lending rule that aimed to limit the frequency of lenders’ withdrawals from borrowers’ bank accounts, arguing in part that the agency itself is unconstitutionally structured. The district court ruled in favor of the agency, but the Fifth Circuit panel vacated the rule since it was enacted via what the judges found to be the agency’s unconstitutional funding scheme.

“Wherever the line between a constitutionally and unconstitutionally funded agency may be, this unprecedented arrangement crosses it,” wrote Judge Wilson in the opinion. “The Bureau’s perpetual insulation from Congress’s appropriations power, including the express exemption from congressional review of its funding, renders the Bureau ‘no longer dependent and, as a result, no longer accountable’ to Congress and, ultimately, to the people.”

U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), often credited with creating the CFPB, took to Twitter to call the opinion “a lawless and reckless decision,” adding that “extreme right-wing judges are throwing into question every rule the CFPB enforces to protect consumers and businesses alike.” In a response filed in a separate action, the CFPB argued that the “Fifth Circuit’s decision is without support in law.” The agency may choose to seek review by the full Fifth Circuit or appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The full Fifth Circuit on October 21, 2022, denied a rehearing en banc in Jarkesy v. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). A three-judge panel of the court on May 18 found that the SEC administrative law judges’ (ALJs) two layers of removal protections unconstitutionally insulate them from presidential oversight; that the agency’s adjudication proceedings violate the Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial; and that Congress unconstitutionally delegated legislative power to the SEC by failing to provide the agency with an intelligible principle to guide its enforcement actions. The SEC had yet to respond to the denial as of November 21, 2022.

Want to go deeper?

In the states

Kansas voters reject proposal seeking legislative oversight of agency rules 

What’s the story? 

Kansas voters on November 8, 2022, rejected a legislatively referred constitutional amendment that would have allowed state lawmakers to revoke or suspend agency rules. The proposed amendment would have created a new Section 1 of the state constitution granting the state legislature “oversight of state executive branch agencies and officials by providing the legislature authority to establish procedures to revoke or suspend rules and regulations,” according to a legislative summary.

Unofficial results as of November 15, pending certification, found that 50.48% of Kansas voters rejected the amendment while 49.52% voted in its favor.

Attorney General Derek Schmitt (R) had previously argued that the proposal would strengthen legislative oversight of administrative agency rules. State Representative Dennis “Boog” Highberger (D), an opponent of the proposal, had referred to the amendment as “election-year grandstanding,” according to the Kansas Reflector.

Want to go deeper?

Illinois lawmakers object to emergency rule, call for return to normal rulemaking procedures

What’s the story? 

The Illinois General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) on October 18, 2022, passed a voice vote objecting to an emergency rule issued by the state Department of Public Health (IDPH). The rule aimed to address a shortage of forensic pathologists by waiving visa requirements to allow certain foreign forensic pathologists to practice in the state. 

The state legislature passed a law in 2021, which took effect on January 1, 2022, that waived visa requirements for forensic pathologists in order to address a shortage of qualified practitioners in the state. IDPH on September 18, 2022, issued an emergency rule to implement the law. JCAR members objected to the rule, arguing that the agency had sufficient time since the law’s enactment to issue the regulation through the standard rulemaking process, rather than through a last-minute emergency rule.

“The pandemic is over,” said state Rep. Steven Reick (R). “It is time for us to get back to normal way of doing business, and the normal rulemaking process should be the one that is used instead of emergency rulemaking when the time is available to do that.”

No JCAR members dissented to the voice vote, according to Capitol News Illinois. The agency must respond to the objection within 90 days.

Want to go deeper?

____________________________________________________________________________

Gorsuch argues against broad applications of Chevron deference

Justice Neil Gorsuch on November 7, 2022, dissented from the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision not to take up Buffington v. McDonough, a case concerning veterans’ benefits issued by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA). In his dissent, Gorsuch “suggested that the Chevron [deference] doctrine had been expanded well beyond its original intent, and as a result gives too much power to bureaucrats, at the expense of ‘ordinary Americans,’” according to SCOTUSblog analyst Amy Howe.

The following excerpt from Gorsuch’s dissent illustrates what Gorsuch considers to be the problems that arise for individuals when courts apply Chevron deference too broadly:

“Today, administrative law doesn’t confine itself to the regulation of large and sophisticated entities. Our administrative state ‘touches almost every aspect of daily life.’ Free Enterprise Fund v. Public Company Accounting Oversight Bd., 561 U. S. 477, 499 (2010). And often it is ordinary individuals who are unexpectedly caught in the whipsaw of all the rule changes a broad reading of Chevron invites. Mr. Buffington’s case illustrates the impact on disabled veterans. Those who left active service before the VA changed its rule received all their promised benefits; those who served later do not. Not because of any change in law, only a change in an agency’s view. So many other individuals who interact with the federal government have found themselves facing similar fates—including retirees who depend on federal social security benefits, immigrants hoping to win lawful admission to this country, and those who seek federal health care benefits promised by law.”

Want to go deeper

  • Click here to read the full text of Gorsuch’s dissent. 

____________________________________________________________________________

Regulatory tally

Federal Register

Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)

OIRA’s October regulatory review activity included the following actions:

  • Review of 43 significant regulatory actions. 
  • Five rules approved without changes; recommended changes to 35 proposed rules; three rules withdrawn from the review process.
  • As of November 1, 2022, OIRA’s website listed 116 regulatory actions under review.
  • Want to go deeper? 


ICYMI: Top stories of the week

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2.6% of state legislative incumbents lost on Nov. 8, with 343 races uncalled

Based on preliminary results, at least 121 state legislative incumbents—73 Democrats, 45 Republicans, and three independent or minor party officeholders—have lost. That amounts to 2.6% of incumbents running for re-election.

This figure is expected to increase. There are currently 343 races featuring incumbents that remain uncalled.

Read more

Where things stand in America’s Pivot Counties

Pivot Counties are the 206 counties that voted for Barack Obama (D) in 2008 and 2012 before voting for Donald Trump (R) in 2016. This year, 98 U.S. House districts overlapped with at least one Pivot County. As of Nov. 14, Republicans won 60 of those districts and Democrats won 35. Among the three uncalled races, Republicans lead in two.

Read more

Five states elected a U.S. Senator and governor from a different party (so far)

Twenty-six states held elections for governor and U.S. Senate on Nov. 8. As of this writing, we have results for 24 of them. The race in Alaska is, as of this writing, uncalled. The U.S. Senate race in Georgia is headed for a Dec. 6 runoff and isn’t included in this analysis. 

Five of those 24 states elected a U.S. Senator and governor from a different party:

  • Kansas: Incumbent Gov. Laura Kelly (D) and incumbent U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran (R) won re-election. 
  • Wisconsin: Incumbent Gov. Tony Evers (D) and incumbent U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R) won re-election. 
  • New Hampshire: Incumbent Gov. Chris Sununu (R) and incumbent U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan (D) won re-election. 
  • Vermont: Incumbent Gov. Phil Scott (R) and U.S. Senate candidate Peter Welch (D) won their elections. 
  • Nevada: Incumbent U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D) and gubernatorial candidate Joe Lombardo (R) won their elections.

Read more

A combined 2,998 candidates ran for president in 2016 and 2020

On Nov. 15, former President Donald Trump (R) announced he would run for a second term—and filed the paperwork to make it official.

Anyone can file to run for president with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC). In 2016 and 2020, a combined 2,998 individuals filed to run for president with the FEC. In 2016, 1,786 candidates filed with the FEC, while in 2020, that figure was 1,212. 

Of the candidates who filed in 2016:

  • 228 filed as Democratic candidates
  • 288 filed as Republican candidates
  • 56 filed as Libertarian candidates
  • 14 filed as Green candidates.

Of the candidates who filed in 2020:

  • 323 filed as Democratic candidates
  • 164 filed as Republican candidates
  • 65 filed as Libertarian candidates
  • 23 filed as Green candidates

Read more

Tracking school board conflicts by the numbers

Since 2021, we’ve tracked school board elections where topics regarding race in education, coronavirus responses, or sex and gender in schools come into play. 561 school districts across 26 states held elections on Nov. 8 featuring at least one of the three conflict topics with 1,800 seats up for election.

As part of our research, we label each winner as either supporting or opposing the three conflict topics. If we cannot determine a stance, we mark the winner unclear. Click the link below to see the results from our work so far.


Read more



Ballot Bulletin November 16, 2022

Welcome to The Ballot Bulletin, where we track developments in election policy at the federal, state, and local levels. In this month’s issue:

  1. Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules on absentee ballots
  2. New York enacts election administration bill
  3. Legislation update: Legislation activity in October 2022

Have a question/feedback/or just want to say hello? Respond to this email!

Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules on absentee ballots

On Nov. 1, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a ruling ordering local officials not to count any ballots mailed inside undated or incorrectly dated envelopes in this year’s general election. The ruling requires officials to set these ballots aside and retain them pending a review of the date requirement’s validity.  

The law in question

Pennsylvania Code 25 P.S. § 3146.6 regulates procedures for absentee voting. Section § 3146.6 (a) requires voters to place absentee ballots into an envelope “on which is printed the form of declaration of the elector, and the address of the elector’s county board of election and the local election district of the elector.” Voters “shall then fill out, date and sign the declaration printed on such envelope.” 

The parties to the lawsuit and their arguments

The plaintiffs in the case included the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and the Republican Party of Pennsylvania. The defendants were Pennsylvania Secretary of State Leigh Chapman (D) and the boards of elections in all 67 Pennsylvania counties. 

In an Oct. 16 filing, the plaintiffs alleged the “straightforward mandate that any voter who uses an absentee or mail-in ballot ‘shall . . . fill out, date and sign the declaration’ is valid under state and federal law.” The plaintiffs asked the court to prohibit county boards of elections from counting any undated or incorrectly dated absentee or mail-in ballot and to segregate these ballots from others. 

The plaintiffs said:

  • The court had already ruled “the date requirement is mandatory, and any ballot that does not comply with it may not be counted in any election after the 2020 general election.”
  • A federal materiality provision, which prevents denial of the right to vote based on errors or omissions if those errors are not material in determining a voter’s eligibility, does not preempt state enforcement of a date requirement. The “[a]pplication of these rules does not deny the right to vote,” is not relevant to whether an elector is qualified to vote, and “casting a ballot constitutes the act of voting, not an application, registration, or other act requisite to voting.”
  • Secretary of State Chapman’s guidelines directing counties to count undated ballots “are not binding on the county boards of elections.”
  • Segregation of undated ballots is necessary because “a county board of elections that counts undated or incorrectly dated ballots cannot remove non-compliant ballots from its certified election results if this Court upholds the General Assembly’s date requirement.”

In an Oct. 19 response to the filing, Chapman said, “Commonwealth and federal courts have held three times that a timely received absentee or mail-in ballot cannot be set aside merely because the voter neglected to hand write an inconsequential date on the return envelope.” Chapman’s attorney said the plaintiffs’ argument was “a position that has no legal support, that has never been considered by any court and that, in any event, would be impossible to implement because county boards have no means of determining the ‘correct’ date.”

Chapman said: 

  • A ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would “upset the interests of all voters” who had already applied for or submitted an absentee ballot.
  • Provisions in the state’s election code “all confirm that omitting a handwritten date from the declaration of a voter’s ballot return envelope is not a disqualifying defect.”
  • Even if the court determined a date was required under state law, “federal law still prohibits county boards from setting aside a ballot on the basis that the voter omitted a date from the return envelope’s declaration.”

How the court ruled

In its Nov. 1 order, the court ordered election officials not to count any undated or incorrectly dated absentee and mail-in ballots. In the unsigned order, the court said: “The Pennsylvania county boards of elections are hereby ORDERED to refrain from counting any absentee and mail-in ballots received for the November 8, 2022 general election that are contained in undated or incorrectly dated outer envelopes.” The court cited § 3146.6(a) of the Pennsylvania code as the basis for the order. 

The court split 3-3 on whether not counting undated absentee ballots would violate federal law. Chief Justice Debra Todd (D) and Justices Christine Donohue (D) and David Wecht (D) considered the exclusion of undated ballots a violation of federal law, while Justices Kevin M. Dougherty (D), Sallie Mundy (R), and Kevin Brobson (R) did not. 

In a supplemental order the court released on Nov. 5, it clarified that “incorrectly dated outer envelopes” are defined as “(1) mail-in ballot outer envelopes with dates that fall outside the date range of September 19, 2022, through November 8, 2022; and (2) absentee ballot outer envelopes with dates that fall outside the date range of August 30, 2022, through

November 8, 2022.”

What comes next

Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D), the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania on Nov. 7 asking the court to overturn the state court’s decision and count undated ballots. The plaintiff’s attorneys said, “The Date Instruction imposes unnecessary hurdles that eligible Pennsylvanians must clear to exercise their most fundamental right, resulting in otherwise valid votes being arbitrarily rejected without any reciprocal benefit to the Commonwealth.”

New York enacts election administration bill

On Oct. 18, Gov.  Kathy Hochul (D) signed into law a bill modifying New York’s election administration laws.

  • A07748: This bill amends Section 5-508 of the state election laws to allow voting registration records for victims of sex offenses and crimes under Article 130 of the penal law to remain confidential. Victims must sign a written statement affirming they were a victim of a crime and that, because of the threat of physical or emotional harm, their registration record needs to be kept confidential.
    • Final state Senate vote (May 31): 63-0 (43 Democrats and 20 Republicans in favor).
    • Final state House vote (May 18): 138-0 (99 Democrats and 39 Republicans in favor).

Legislation update: Legislation activity in October 2022

In October, legislatures in five states took action on 12 election bills.

The chart below identifies the 10 most common policy areas of bills lawmakers addressed in October. The number listed on the blue portion of each bar indicates the number of Democratic-sponsored bills dealing with the subject in question. The number listed on the red portion of the bar indicates the number of Republican-sponsored bills. The purple and gray portions of the bar indicate the number of bipartisan-sponsored bills and bills with unspecified sponsorship, respectively. Note that the total number of bills listed will not equal the total number of enacted bills because some bills deal with multiple subjects.

Democrats sponsored two of the 12 bills acted on in October (17%). Republicans sponsored 4 (33%). Bipartisan groups sponsored six (50%). 

This information comes from Ballotpedia’s Election Administration Legislation Tracker, which went live on June 29. This free and accessible online resource allows you to find easy-to-digest bill tags and summaries—written and curated by our election administration experts! We update our database and bill-tracking daily. Using our powerful interactive search function, you can zero in on more than 2,500 bills (and counting) covering these topics:

  • Absentee/mail-in voting and early voting policies
  • Ballot access requirements for candidates, parties, and ballot initiatives
  • Election dates and deadlines
  • Election oversight protocols
  • In-person voting procedures
  • Post-election procedures (including counting, canvassing, and auditing policies)
  • Voter ID
  • Voter registration and eligibility

To make your search results more precise, we first place bills into one of 22 parent categories. We then apply to each bill one or more of the 88 tags we’ve developed. 

If you don’t want to immerse yourself in the world of election legislation quite that often, we have a free, weekly digest that goes straight to your inbox and keeps you caught up on the week’s developments.



Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #37

Welcome to Hall Pass, a newsletter written to keep you plugged into the conversations driving school board politics and governance.

In today’s edition, you’ll find:

  • On the issues: The debate over declining National Assessment of Educational Progress scores 
  • Conflict election results: a preliminary review 
  • School board battleground election results
  • Extracurricular: education news from around the web
  • Candidate Connection survey

Reply to this email to share reactions or story ideas!

On the issues: The debate over declining National Assessment of Educational Progress scores 

In this section, we curate reporting, analysis, and commentary on the issues school board members deliberate when they set out to offer the best education possible in their district.

On Oct. 24, the National Center for Education Statistics released scores from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The assessment, which is congressionally mandated, is often referred to as the Nation’s Report Card. The assessment documented a decline in both reading and math scores among fourth and eighth graders in most states. The national reading proficiency average came in at 31% for eighth graders and 33% for fourth graders. In math, 36% of fourth graders and 26% of eighth graders had proficient scores. All of the national scores were down from the previous report in 2019.

U.S. Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) writes that school closures because of COVID-19 caused many students, especially lower-income students and students of color, to fall behind academically between 2019 and 2022. Banks says teacher’s unions continued lobbying for school closures even after the CDC released guidance on remote learning risks. He also says the Biden administration, other Democrats, and teacher’s unions need to be held accountable for learning loss before progress will be possible.

The Los Angeles Times Editorial Board writes that the COVID pandemic disrupted learning and caused some predictable learning losses, but says underinvestment in schools also contributed to declining NAEP scores. The Editorial Board says the NAEP data suggests schools need more resources to provide extended instruction time and offer tutoring programs for struggling students. The Editorial Board also says California, which kept schools closed longer than most states, experienced smaller NAEP declines than the national average.

Blame Democrats and union bosses for failing school report card | Jim Banks, Fox News

“We know how we got here: Students in public K-12 schools in the United States have had to learn remotely in some form or another for nearly three years. Forcing kids to sit at home in front of a computer screen has been disastrous because kids and teens require the ability to watch, listen, explore, experiment and ask questions in order to learn. This requires their physical presence in classroom with a teacher, surrounded by peers. For those of us who were sounding the alarm from the beginning about remote learning, these results, while not surprising, are no less alarming. The CDC, long an avid proponent of forcing insane COVID-19 restrictions and mandates on Americans even when they’d been proven ineffective, to their credit admitted last spring “[virtual learning] might present more risks than in-person instruction related to child and parental mental and emotional health and some health-supporting behaviors.”  … Powerful teachers’ unions like the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) continued lobbying the Biden administration and Democrats to keep remote learning in place. In blue cities like Chicago, New York and Milwaukee for example, union efforts to keep remote learning in place were particularly forceful.”

Learning loss is bad everywhere, and demands immediate action | The Editorial Board, The Los Angeles Times

“The results are hardly surprising given the unprecedented disruption in schooling caused by the pandemic, but they offer concrete proof that K-12 students need more focused attention and resources in the form of tutoring or extended instruction time, depending on specific circumstances. More than just a snapshot in time of how students are faring, the results offer clues for educators, policymakers and parents of how we can better help students. The larger declines in math could mean that students need more support, perhaps one-on-one tutoring or more teacher instruction. … U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said the poor performance isn’t just the result of school closures during the pandemic but also a reflection of “decades of underinvestment in our students.” … It’s clear that a multi-pronged approach to boosting student performance will be necessary, but state and local educators and policymakers should ensure that decisions about how to allocate resources are driven by data and other evidence. … The data released this week show the urgency of remediating the learning loss exacerbated by the pandemic. Now that educators have the funds and the data to help guide them, they should use that money wisely. Our children’s future depends on it.”

Conflict election results: a preliminary review

We identified 1,800 Nov. 8 races in 561 school districts across 26 states where candidates took a stance on at least one of three topics—race in education, responses to the coronavirus pandemic, and sex and gender in schools

You can learn more about our project tracking conflict elections here.

We are currently researching the winning candidates’ stances on the three conflict topics using media reporting, campaign websites, debates, and more. For each of the three conflict issues, winning candidates are labeled either supporting or opposing (you can learn more about our label descriptions here). If no stance can be determined, they are labeled unclear. 

We have completed our research on 1,081, or 60%, of the 1,800 winning candidates.

The results are as follows:

In the June 1, 2022, edition of this newsletter, we looked at conflict election results in the April 5 school board primaries in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. We also previously published an analysis of elections on Nov. 2, 2021. The results are below:

We’ll bring you more updates on school board conflict election results when we have final numbers. 

School board battleground election results

Most school board elections are officially nonpartisan. But in races across the country, organizations and individuals with partisan ties endorsed, trained, and funded candidates in the Nov. 8 general elections. In the Oct. 19, Oct. 26, and Nov. 2 editions of this newsletter, we previewed battleground elections in nine districts in California, Texas, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, and Kentucky. 

Results from the elections are not certified, and some races remain too close to call. All of the following races appeared on our list of conflict elections. 

Jefferson County Public Schools, Kentucky

Four of the board’s seven seats were up for election—Districts, 1, 3, 5, and 6. Incumbents in all four districts—Diane Porter (District 1), James Craig (District 3), Linda Duncan (District 5), and Corrie Shull (District 6)—won re-election. Better Schools Kentucky PAC, an arm of the Jefferson County Teachers Association (JCTA), endorsed the incumbents. The Jefferson County Republican Party endorsed challengers in all four races. 

The incumbents’ victories mean the board’s partisan makeup will remain unchanged. 

Frederick County Public Schools, Maryland

Four out of the district’s seven at-large seats were up for election. The seven candidates divided themselves into two slates—the Students First Slate and the Education Not Indoctrination (ENI) slate. The Students First Slate consisted of incumbent Karen Yoho, Ysela Bravo, Rae Gallagher, and Dean Rose. The ENI slate consisted of Olivia Angolia, Nancy Allen, and Cindy Rose.  The Students First Slate said it was committed to “Safe, welcoming schools for all,” a “Diverse, well-trained staff,” and “Family & community involvement.” The ENI slate said it was running to “ensure that feelings don’t define truth, that academically-sound curricula are adopted, that decision-making is transparent, and that parents are respected.”

As of this writing, the election is too close to call. The latest results show the following:

  • Allen (ENI): 15.2% 
  • Yoho (Students First): 14.89%
  • Gallagher (Students First): 14.82%
  • Dean Rose (Students First): 14.43%
  • Cindy Rose (ENI): 13.93%
  • Angolia (ENI): 12.93%
  • Bravo (Students First): 12.89%

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, North Carolina

Six of the nine seats were up for election, and we included the races for Districts 1 and 4 on our battleground list. 

In the District 1 race, Melissa Easley defeated incumbent Rhonda Cheek, and challengers Ro Lawsin, Bill Fountain, and Hamani Fisher. Easley completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. Click here to read her responses. 

Cheek is a registered Republican, while Easley is a registered Democrat. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Association of Educators (CMAE), the county’s largest teacher organization, endorsed Cheek and Easley. The African American Caucus also endorsed Easely.

In the District 4 race, Stephanie Sneed defeated incumbent Carol Sawyer and challengers Clara Kennedy Witherspoon. Sneed completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. Click here to read her responses. 

Round Rock Independent School District, Texas

Four seats were up for general election and one seat was up for a special election. All five incumbents ran for re-election. 

All three of the candidates the Round Rock Democrats Club endorsed won their races—Estevan Zarate (Place 1; special election), Alicia Markum (Place 4), and incumbent Tiffanie Harrison (Place 6). All five candidates the Republican Party of Texas and the 1776 Project Pac endorsed lost—John Keagy (Place 1; special election), Orlando Salinas (Place 3), Jill Farris (Place 4), Christie Slape (Place 5), and Don Zimmerman (Place 6). The Republican Party of Texas-backed candidates had run as a slate. 

Leander Independent School District, Texas

Five of seven seats—Places 1,2, 5, 6, and 7—were up for election. Incumbents Trish Bode (Place 1), Gloria Gonzales-Dholakia (Place 2), and Sade Fashokun (Place 5) won re-election. Fashokun completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection Survey. Click here to read her responses. Francesca Romans won in Place 6 (the incumbent did not file for re-election). Paul Gauthier won in Place 7, defeating incumbent Elexis Grimes and Joseph Gorordo. Gauthier was one of four candidates who ran on removing books they said were inappropriate in schools, and he was the only one of them to win election. 

Polk County Public Schools, Florida

Four seats were up for election, and we included the race for District 7 on our list of battlegrounds. 

Incumbent Lisa Bone Miller defeated Jill Sessions. 

Seminole County Public Schools, Florida

Three of five seats were up for election. Incumbent Kristine Kruas won her election for District 1 outright in the Aug. 23 primaries. 

In District 2, Kelley Davis defeated Sean Cooper. In District 5, Autumn Garick defeated Dana Fernandez. Both Garick and Fernandez completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey, and we featured both candidates in the Sept. 14 edition of this newsletter. 

Brevard Public Schools, Florida

Three seats were up for election, but the races for Districts 1 and 5 were won outright in the Aug. 23 primaries. 

In the District 2 race, Gene Trent defeated Erin Dunne. The Brevard Republican Executive Committee had endorsed Trent, while the Brevard Democratic Party had endorsed Dunne. 

 San Diego Unified School District, California

Two seats were up for election, and we included the race for District C on our list of battlegrounds. 

Cody Petterson and Becca Williams ran in the election for District C. Although the race has not been called, as of this writing Petterson leads Williams 56.09% to 43.91%. The San Diego Education Association endorsed Petterson, while the Community Leadership Coalition backed Williams. 

Both Petterson and Williams completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. 

Extracurricular: education news from around the web

This section contains links to recent education-related articles from around the internet. If you know of a story we should be reading, reply to this email to share it with us! 

Take our Candidate Connection survey to reach voters in your district

So far in 2022, 375 school board candidates in 232 districts completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. Throughout the year, we’ve featured many of these responses in this newsletter, giving you a look at the issues animating candidates and the themes around which these local elections have revolved. 

School board elections aren’t over for the year. Many districts in Louisiana will hold runoffs on Dec. 10

Today, we’re highlighting survey responses from two candidates who won in the Nov. 8 general elections. Justin Cook defeated Rae Parker in the general election for Rochester Public Schools Seat 2 in Minnesota. Adaline Villneurve Rutherford (R) defeated Rebecca Stogner in the election for St. Tammany Parish School Board District 3 in Louisiana. 

Here’s how Cook responded to the question, “What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?

“I am passionate about public education generally. I see public education as the single best way to harness the latent potential of a community, and help it become the best version of its future self. Public education should certainly provide a robust instruction in the essential academic subjects, and I will insist on that. But an excellent public education should also allow for liberal exploration of diverse topics. The point is to provide an idea environment conducive to success by giving students opportunities to identify and pursue their passions. Once we get that part right – connecting students with their passions and giving them the support necessary to pursue them – then our community will benefit immensely with a far more robust, resilient, and diverse economy and through the contributions to civics and the arts that those students will provide.”

Click here to read the rest of Cook’s answers. 

Here’s how Rutherford responded to the question, “Please list below 3 key messages of your campaign. What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?

  • “Our children deserve better! We need to get back to being the best! At one time the St. Tammany Parish School System was TOP, but now we are ranked 18th. Clearly, we are not utilizing our supportive community resources to maximize our teachers’ potential. I want to see CHANGE!
  • We need to address teacher and substitute shortages. We need to work harder to retain our teachers. We also need to quickly do background checks and get people signed up to substitute. We can’t have this continue the way it is.
  • Accountability and transparency are key. My priorities would be to hold the school board accountable fiscally, to be an accessible voice for my constituents and district employees, and move forward in a positive direction.”

Click here to read the rest of Rutherford’s answers.



Economy and Society, November 15, 2022: Former BlackRock senior adviser expresses concerns with ESG

Economy and Society is Ballotpedia’s weekly review of the developments in corporate activism; corporate political engagement; and the Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) trends and events that characterize the growing intersection between business and politics.


ESG Developments This Week

In the States

State Financial Officers Foundation holds a conference and makes an announcement

This week, the State Financial Officers Foundation—a nonprofit organization aimed at encouraging fiscal responsibility among state treasurers and auditorsheld its semi-annual meeting in Washington, DC. The event—attended by more than two-dozen state officials—focused on election results, and included one stand-alone speech and three expert-panel discussions dedicated to ESG and the various impacts that it may have on states.

Additionally, SFOF and its state financial official members held a press conference to announce the launch of its new retail-oriented, constituent-targeted ESG campaign and website called “Our Money, Our Values”. The SFOF press release on its new campaign read as follows:

Today, the State Financial Officers Foundation (SFOF) announced a new campaign titled “Our Money, Our Values” that will educate American public on the dangers of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG).

The “Our Money, Our Values” campaign, which officially launched during the SFOF National Meeting in Washington, D.C., builds on the work of state financial officers from across the nation who have taken significant actions to prevent ESG from harming the citizens of their respective states.

“As SFOF members continue to fight for their constituents, it’s important the American people have an honest understanding of what ESG really is,” said SFOF CEO Derek Kreifels. “Our money should not be used to push policies that don’t align with our values and have nothing to do with maximizing the value of our retirements and pensions. We are launching ‘Our Money Our Values’ to help educate Americans everywhere who are being used by massive corporations like BlackRock, Vanguard, and StateStreet.”

As part of the campaign, SFOF debuted a new website that provides resources to everyday Americans so they can learn the truth about ESG and how it impacts their pocketbooks, livelihoods, and how it pushes a progressive agenda that often runs counter to American values….

To ensure the website is seen by as many Americans as possible, SFOF will begin a six-figure digital marketing effort.

On Wall Street and in the private sector 

Investors withdraw from ESG funds

Reuters reported on November 11 that ESG investment funds have seen an uptick in fund withdrawals over the last several months. In a piece titled “Money before climate; market downturn spurs ESG fund exodus,” the newswire said the following:

Funds adhering to environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) principles have been hit by unprecedented outflows in the market downturn, as investors prioritize capital preservation over goals such as tackling climate change.

ESG, a classification applied to fund assets currently worth an estimated $6.5 trillion, is being tested by a drop in market values fuelled by concerns that central banks hiking interest rates to fight rampant inflation will trigger an economic recession.

Investors souring on ESG funds could pose a challenge to governments seeking to enlist them in the fight against climate change. Policymakers at the COP27 climate talks in Egypt are trying this week to secure more financing from the private sector to help lower carbon emissions.

Data from research service Refinitiv Lipper shows that funds of equities, debt and other asset types dedicated to responsible investing posted net outflows globally of $108 billion this year to the end of September, the first time investors withdrew money from them over such a long period since Refinitiv started tracking them in late 2017.

Moreover, investors pulled money out of responsible investment funds – defined as such because they use criteria like ESG or religious values in their investment decisions – faster, relative to their size, than broader market funds for all but two months of 2022 through September, the data shows….

Only 31% of actively managed ESG equity funds beat their benchmarks in the first half of 2022, compared to 41% of conventional funds, according to Refinitiv Lipper.

This represents a reversal of fortunes compared to the previous years.

Former Vice President Al Gore argues ESG investing is consistent with fiduciary duties of money managers

Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore (D) has previously defended ESG investing, and he re-emerged November 8 with an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal arguing that ESG investing is consistent with investment managers’ fiduciary duties. Gore, along with his Generation Investment Management partner David Blood, wrote:

We co-founded Generation Investment Management with five other partners nearly 19 years ago as a pure-play sustainable-investment manager. We agree with much of the recent criticism of the way some investors have claimed to use environmental, social and governance factors. We are unsurprised by the recent backlash against the multiple definitions and confusing terminology, the overreliance on checklists, the potentially misleading marketing campaigns, and the frequent lack of rigor and accountability. But these criticisms are by no means evidence that sustainable investing and ESG are failed concepts. Instead, they are welcome challenges to ensure that sustainable investing and the incorporation of ESG factors are carefully defined, clearly understood and effectively practiced.

Sustainable investing is about investing in businesses that are driving toward a world with low greenhouse-gas emissions that is also prosperous, equitable, healthy and safe. It is consistent with the fiduciary duty that investment professionals owe their clients. Those who don’t take sustainability factors into account aren’t fulfilling that duty.

Widespread marketing and greenwashing campaigns have contributed to confusion in the financial marketplace about what ESG is and what it is not. Put simply, ESG analysis is a tool to advance sustainable investing; it isn’t an outcome in itself. We see environmental, social and governance factors as critical inputs into decisions about where to invest money. Investors should take ESG factors into account alongside more-traditional measures such as expected cash flow….

Since all businesses affect social and environmental issues, for good or ill, all investment must consider risk, return and impact as part of fiduciary duty. Negative environmental and social effects are headwinds on future business success; positive effects are tailwinds. Developing comparable data sets on impact, robust standards, and measurement and reporting norms should be the highest priority for sustainable investors. Accountability is essential.

We acknowledge that sustainable investing is hard. Not everything is a win-win. And not all businesses that are sustainable are good investments, because the fundamentals of finance still apply. Yet we believe sustainable investing is the best investment approach and will increasingly be recognized as such. Banning consideration of ESG factors would not only lead to poor investment outcomes; it would constitute a clear dereliction of fiduciary duty.

Former BlackRock senior adviser expresses concerns with ESG

Over the weekend, The Wall Street Journal published Angel Au-Yeung’s review of the new book “Sustainable: Moving Beyond ESG to Impact Investingby Terrence Keeley. A former BlackRock senior adviser, Keely wrote the book to express his concerns with the ESG investing model. Last year, Tariq Fancy, the former director of sustainable investing for BlackRock made headlines when he argued that ESG was a marketing tactic that had little or no impact on corporate sustainability or the environment. From the review:

Terrence Keeley had been at BlackRock Inc. for about a decade when he reached a contrarian conclusion: ESG doesn’t work. 

Mr. Keeley spent much of his time at the asset manager overseeing a group that nurtured relationships with central banks, finance ministries, family offices and sovereign-wealth funds. Under pressure from politicians and activists, some of these investors were looking to distance themselves from companies that fall short on environmental, social and governance factors. BlackRock obliged, helping clients funnel money toward companies whose values they share.

Mr. Keeley said the strategy has proved to be neither a reliable generator of returns nor a real catalyst for change. In his new book, “Sustainable: Moving Beyond ESG to Impact Investing,” he argues that investors should shift money away from ESG indexes toward “companies with persistent environmental and social problems and engaging them to change.”…

Mr. Keeley retired from BlackRock in July, and the asset manager isn’t likely to abandon the ESG model soon. Still, the book hints at a quiet debate within a firm that has embraced the sustainable-investing movement. And it comes as the world’s largest investor is taking heat from government officials on both sides of the climate debate—for doing too much to discourage investment in fossil-fuel companies and for not doing enough….

Mr. Keeley isn’t the first former BlackRock executive to break with the company on the merits of ESG investing.

The promise of ESG “lured me to join BlackRock to begin with,” Tariq Fancy, the firm’s former chief investment officer for sustainable investing, wrote in an August 2021 post on Medium. Mr. Fancy left BlackRock in 2019 convinced that the asset-management industry’s ESG push was “leading the world into a dangerous mirage, an oasis in the middle of the desert that is burning valuable time.” 

Mr. Fancy has said governments, not investors, must take the lead on climate change. Mr. Keeley believes the markets will play a major role—just not the way they are now.



ICYMI: Where election results stand

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Where elections stand: U.S. Senate

Partisan control of the chamber has not yet been determined, in part because races in Arizona, and Nevada remain uncalled (Alaska’s U.S. Senate election is also uncalled at this time, but the two candidates in the ranked-choice runoff with the most votes are Republicans, including the incumbent, Sen. Lisa Murkowski). The U.S. Senate election in Georgia is headed to a Dec. 6 runoff.

Read more

Where elections stand: U.S. House

Republicans needed to gain a net of five districts to win a majority in the U.S. House. Partisan control of the chamber is currently unknown because, according to our race calling policy, 31 races remain uncalled. As of this writing, eight incumbents have been defeated. These members include six Democrats and two Republicans.


Read more

Where elections stand: Governors

Thirty-six states held elections for governor, including 20 with a Republican governor and 16 with a Democratic governor going into the elections. The gubernatorial elections in Alaska, Arizona, Nevada, and Oregon remain uncalled. Of the races already called, two states—Maryland and Massachusetts—saw partisan control change from Republican to Democrat.

Read more

A post-election ballot measures round-up

On Nov. 8, voters decided on 132 statewide ballot measures in 37 states. As of this writing, 81 (61.36%) statewide ballot measures were approved, 36 (27.27%) were defeated, and 15 (11.36%) remained uncalled. Some highlights:

  • Voters approved ballot measures establishing a state constitutional right to abortion in California, Michigan, and Vermont.
  • Voters in Maryland and Missouri approved marijuana legalization ballot measures. Voters in Arkansas, North Dakota, and South Dakota rejected their measures.
  • In Nebraska, voters approved Initiative 432, which added language to the state constitution requiring photo identification to vote.
  • In Nevada, Question 3 would adopt open top-five primaries and ranked-choice voting for general elections. Approval of Question 3 in 2022 would require a second vote in 2024 before the measure would become law. As of Nov. 11, ‘yes’ was leading with 52%.

Click here to watch our Nov. 10 webinar summarizing what happened on the ballot measure front with Editor in Chief, Geoff Pallay, and Managing Editor for Ballot Measures, Ryan Byrne.

Read more

Key takeaways from state legislative elections

In Tuesday’s state legislative elections, Democrats gained four chambers and four trifectas, while Republicans expanded their margins in several states. 

Democrats flipped chambers in Michigan and Minnesota, creating new trifectas there. Both states previously had divided governments. Democrats also gained trifectas in Maryland and Massachusetts where the party maintained legislative majorities but gained control of governorships.

While Republicans have not yet gained control of any new chambers this cycle, the party has expanded its control in several states. In Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Wisconsin, Republicans gained veto-proof majorities in at least one chamber.

Read more



Economy and Society, November 10, 2022: Congressional Republicans discuss ESG and SEC oversight plans

Economy and Society is Ballotpedia’s weekly review of the developments in corporate activism; corporate political engagement; and the Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) trends and events that characterize the growing intersection between business and politics.


ESG Developments This Week

In Washington, D.C.

Congressional Republicans discuss plans to investigate ESG and expand SEC oversight if they win majorities

According to the Washington Post, congressional Republicans are planning to spend time in the next Congress investigating ESG and trying to inhibit other efforts to promote what they call woke capitalism if they gain majorities in either legislative chamber. Republican leadership has also expressed interest in expanding legislative oversight of the SEC and its planned climate disclosure regulations:  

“Less than a week before the midterm elections, Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill are already gearing up to investigate what they see as “woke capitalism,” a reference to Wall Street firms that treat climate change as an economic risk.

Polls suggest the GOP will retake the House, and Republicans there are preparing to grill the chief executives of big financial firms as well as Gary Gensler, the Democratic chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, about their efforts to curb climate change. In the Senate, where polls show a toss-up battle for control of the chamber, key senators are pushing legislation to punish businesses that prioritize environmental, social and governance causes — known as ESG — rather than pure profits.

Rep. Garland “Andy” Barr (R-Ky.) said in an interview that ESG principles “will be one of the major focuses of oversight of a Republican majority” on the House Financial Services Committee, which oversees the nation’s banking, insurance and real estate sectors.

“My view is that ESG investing is a cancer within our capital markets,” Barr said. “It is a fraud on American investors.”

The SEC “is a target of our oversight because of this 534-page monstrosity of a climate disclosure regulation,” he added, referring to a proposed rule that would require all publicly traded companies to disclose their greenhouse gas emissions and the risks they face from climate change.

Not everyone is convinced that the Wall Street firms face a real threat from a Republican takeover of Congress. Some see the GOP moves as political theater intended to satisfy the party’s base and fuel the nation’s ongoing culture wars.

The GOP is engaged in “a lot of political hay making,” said Ivan Frishberg, chief sustainability officer at Amalgamated Bank, which does not do business with fossil fuel companies. “But I don’t think this is changing what asset managers or banks are doing in terms of their approach to either their stewardship of assets in a changing climate, or participation in the climate initiatives that they’re a part of.”

Yet supporters of sustainable investing are bracing for intense scrutiny if Democrats fare badly in the midterms, leading to high-profile hearings and grilling of administration officials.

Rep. Frank D. Lucas (R-Okla.) said he would prefer to seek the testimony of Gensler and other Biden administration officials before hauling in the chief executives of big financial firms such as BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager. Lucas said he would recommend this approach to Rep. Patrick T. McHenry (R-N.C.), who would become chair of the Financial Services Committee if the chamber changes hands.

And Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.) said he hopes to call in the heads of the three big investment advisers — BlackRock, Vanguard and State Street — that have used their economic power to curb climate change and advance other causes that are popular among liberals….

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) has accused BlackRock and other Wall Street firms of “acting like a climate cartel” and contributing to high gas prices. But there is no evidence that sustainable investing has affected gas prices, which have gone up for a variety of reasons, including tightening global oil markets and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Larry Fink, the chief executive of BlackRock, has defended his firm’s push to hold companies accountable for environmental and social progress. In his annual letter to corporate America in January, he argued that focusing on ESG principles does not conflict with making money.

“We focus on sustainability not because we’re environmentalists, but because we are capitalists and fiduciaries to our clients,” Fink wrote in the letter, adding, “Capitalism has the power to shape society and act as a powerful catalyst for change. But businesses can’t do this alone, and they cannot be the climate police.””

New York Post business columnist Charles Gasparino confirms the Washington Post’s reporting, saying that his sources are telling him many of the same things about a potential GOP agenda on ESG. He also says Republicans have plans to try and prevent SEC Chairman Gary Gensler from becoming treasury secretary if Janet Yellen steps down from the position:

“Gary Gensler, a former Wall Street banker and academic, is the chair of the agency, appointed by Sleepy Joe nearly two years ago supposedly to protect investors from scammers.

Instead, Gensler is transforming the SEC in ways not even moderate Dems on Wall Street had ever imagined….

He and his Dem colleagues on the commission approved a cockamamie set of standards imposed by the Nasdaq stock market that is intended to make every listed company disclose and meet progressive board-diversity mandates. (Noticeably exempted: All those Chinese companies listed on the exchange as Nasdaq slipped in a loophole where they can skip appointing members of the country’s oppressed ethnic minorities.)

Now he wants to make the Nasdaq model de rigueur across corporate America. In documents to investors, Gensler wants public companies to make sweeping disclosures on how they are reducing their carbon footprint, on top of revealing the racial and ethnic makeup of their workforce….

Gensler is angling to be Treasury secretary when the current occupant, Janet Yellen steps down as expected next year.

A Republican congressional sweep ­negates the Gensler Treasury possibility, I am told. The Senate will hold hearings on what the GOP believes is his radical transformation of the agency….

In the Senate, plans are also in place to put so-called riders on must-pass spending bills to zero out Gensler’s ESG/diversity stuff. Biden will have a choice of either agreeing to the partial defunding of SEC activities and signing spending bills, or face a legislative stalemate.

Another set of hearings will target the corporate enablers of the Dems’ progressive economic agenda. Retiring Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Pat Toomey has been requesting information from companies involved in Environmental Social Governance investing, which is a big moneymaker on Wall Street but, he believes, anti-consumer and politically fraught.

Toomey and top Republicans believe this investment method has forced companies to adopt progressive positions on the environment and other contentious issues at the worst possible time. By late 2021, inflation and gas prices in particular were already spiking because of Biden’s anti-drilling energy agenda while pandemic lockdowns ended.

The subsequent war in Ukraine further eroded oil inventories and added more price pressure. Asset managers pushing ESG mandates made a bad situation exponentially worse by threatening to direct money away from energy producers that didn’t further cut back production.

Once in the majority, Republicans will have subpoena power over massive asset managers, and to compel Wall Street firms to turn over the information and defend their practices at public hearings — which I am told is the plan.”

On Wall Street and in the private sector

Agricultural companies and organizations push back against proposed SEC rule on emissions

Late last month, farmers and agricultural companies began to push back against the SEC’s proposed climate disclosure rule. Trade groups including the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Corn Growers Association argue that, in their view, the imposition of greenhouse gas disclosure requirements could harm America’s farms and agricultural capacity. According to the Wall Street Journal:

“Big agricultural groups say a proposal from the Securities and Exchange Commission requiring companies to report their carbon footprint could drive small farmers out of business.

Skeptics say it is more likely to be a boon for the consulting business.

The proposal, unveiled by the SEC in March and not yet finalized, would require publicly traded companies to disclose their greenhouse-gas emissions, as well as the risks their business faces from climate change. Most controversially, some large companies would also have to provide an estimate of the emissions from their suppliers and consumers.

Agriculture companies and farm groups have said the burden of generating those estimates would get passed on to small private farmers and drive up food costs. Supporters say those claims are misleading, and that large public companies will likely rely on consultants to crunch the numbers.

The SEC proposal is backed by environmentalists and some fund managers who hope more transparency about climate data will help people make more informed investment decisions.

The agriculture industry’s pushback aligns it with some other sectors opposed to the SEC proposal, including auto manufacturers and oil producers. Other industries with a smaller carbon footprint and more liberal-leaning workforce, including the tech and financial industries, have been broadly supportive of the proposal….

Meanwhile, trade groups including American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Corn Growers Association are rallying their members against the rule. They say requiring companies to calculate such emissions is a daunting task given the nature of farming.

“A farm isn’t a smokestack,” said Mary-Thomas Hart, chief counsel at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “You can’t put a monitor in and get steady emissions data.””

Notable quotes

ESG funds experience largest outflow since Q4 2000

In the October 28 edition of its EPFR (Emerging Portfolio Fund Research) Chartbook, Informa (a financial intelligence company) noted that ESG equity funds experienced their largest weekly outflow since EPFR started tracking their performance in 2000:

“Going into the final days of October, Equity Funds with socially responsible (SRI) or environmental, social and governance (ESG) mandates posted their biggest weekly outflow since EPFR started tracking them in 4Q00.”



All candidates for Nevada State Assembly District 22 complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey

Both of the candidates running in the November 8, 2022, general election for Nevada State Assembly District 22 — incumbent Melissa Hardy (R) and Rick Ramos (D) — completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. These survey responses allow voters to hear directly from candidates about what motivates them to run for office.

Eighty-eight of the country’s 99 state legislative chambers will hold regularly scheduled elections in 2022. The Democratic Party controls both chambers of Nevada’s state legislature. Nevada is one of 14 states with a Democratic trifecta.

Here are excerpts from candidates’ responses to the question: What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?

Hardy:   

  • “A quality education in Nevada should not be available only to those with the right zip code. That is why I am a strong supporter of school choice.”
  • “Right now, Southern Nevada is facing an unprecedented crime wave and we need leaders ready to go to Carson City and make sure that the rule of law is being enforced and existing laws are strengthened to punish offenders.”
  • “We must continue to diversify our economy. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the fragility of our current economy and while we have taken steps in the past toward this goal, much work remains.”

Ramos:       

  • “We need to address out of control spending and skyrocketing inflation.”
  • “Womens choice should not be suppressed or taken away. The government should not interfere in this area between a woman and her dr.”
  • “School safety for teachers and students”

Click on candidates’ profile pages below to read their full responses to this and other questions.

We ask all federal, state, and local candidates with profiles on Ballotpedia to complete a survey and share what motivates them on political and personal levels. Ask the candidates in your area to fill out the survey.

Additional reading:



All candidates for Nevada State Assembly District 2 complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey

All three of the candidates running in the November 8, 2022, general election for Nevada State Assembly District 2 — incumbent Heidi Kasama (R), Nick Christenson (D), and Jason Bednarz (L) — completed Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey. These survey responses allow voters to hear directly from candidates about what motivates them to run for office.

Eighty-eight of the country’s 99 state legislative chambers will hold regularly scheduled elections in 2022. The Democratic Party controls both chambers of Nevada’s state legislature. Nevada is one of 14 states with a Democratic trifecta.

Here are excerpts from candidates’ responses to the question: What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?

Kasam:       

  • “To support the our small business owners, and all business owners to create a vibrant and active economy.”
  • “Our schools rank near the bottom nationally so I support our new per pupil funding for transparency and accountability. I also favor changes to our current school boards.”
  • “We have an alarming lack of health care workers in our state and I want to support policies that incentivize growth of health care professionals.”

Christenson:           

  • “We need to move Las Vegas along a path to long term sustainability.”
  • “We are facing additional crises in several key areas, including housing, education, and health care. We need to move aggressively and creatively to address these.”
  • “We need to continue to diversify the valley’s economy. We have abundant opportunities to promote Las Vegas as a center for technology, clean energy, and outdoor recreation as well as in other fields.”

Bednarz:       

  • “Get the government out of our lives!”
  • “End the wars.”
  • “End the FED.”

Click on candidates’ profile pages below to read their full responses to this and other questions.

We ask all federal, state, and local candidates with profiles on Ballotpedia to complete a survey and share what motivates them on political and personal levels. Ask the candidates in your area to fill out the survey.

Additional reading: