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Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: April 16, 2021 #Edition #227

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:

  • New Hampshire’s expiring mask mandate
  • Changes in vaccine eligibility in Massachusetts
  • COVID-19 policy changes from this time last year 

We are committed to keeping you updated on everything from mask requirements to curfews to vaccine-related policies. We will keep you abreast of major developments—especially those affecting your daily life. Want to know what we covered yesterday? Click here.

The next 72 hours

What is changing in the next 72 hours?

  • New Hampshire (Republican trifecta): 
    • Everyone 16 and older, including residents of other states, will be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine starting April 19.
    • All K-12 public schools must offer full-time, in-person instruction by April 19. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said parents will still have the option of requesting remote learning.
    • On Thursday, April 15, Sununu announced he would end the statewide mask mandate Friday, April 16. 
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): 
    • All residents 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination starting April 19.
    • Oregon public schools have to open for hybrid or full-time in-person instruction for grades 6-12 by April 19. Gov. Kate Brown (D) issued the requirement on March 12. Previously, elementary schools had to reopen no later than March 29 for hybrid or full-time in-person instruction.
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): Public schools have to offer all K-12 students at least 30% in-person instruction every week by April 19. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed the proclamation March 15. Previously, elementary schools had to provide students at least two partial days of in-person instruction by April 5.

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Thursday, April 15, the Indiana Senate voted 36-8 to override Gov. Eric Holcomb’s (R) veto of House Bill 1123, hours after the House voted 59-26 to do the same. The bill now becomes law. House Bill 1123 allows the legislature to call a special session during an emergency. Holcomb said he vetoed the bill because the Indiana Constitution gives the governor the sole authority to convene special sessions of the legislature.  

This time last year: Friday, April 17, 2020

The first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020. But it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout March and April, many states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. Each week, we’ll look back at some of the defining policy responses of the early coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what happened this time last year. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Friday, April 17, 2020:

  • School closures:
    • The Hawaii Department of Education closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
    • Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
    • Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
    • Maryland Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon extended the statewide school closure from April 24 through May 15.
    • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through May 4.
  • Election changes:
    • The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued an order extending the candidate filing deadlines for district and county races to May 5, 2020, and June 2, 2020, respectively. The high court reduced candidate petition signature requirements to 50 percent of their statutory level. The court also authorized candidates to collect petition signatures electronically.
    • Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) postponed the state’s presidential preference primary from June 2 to Aug. 11, 2020.


Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: April 15, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): 
    • Gov. Jay Inslee (D) will move Cowlitz, Pierce, and Whitman counties back to Phase 2 of reopening on Friday, April 16. Currently, all counties in the state are in Phase 3 of reopening. On April 9, Inslee announced that counties would be moved backward if they failed two metrics on new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Previously, a county only needed to fail one metric to move backward in reopening. Under Phase 2, the indoor capacity limit for restaurants, worship services, gyms, and retail stores is 25%. The Department of Health evaluates counties on their metrics every three weeks.
    • Residents 16 and older are eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine on April 15.

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

  • California (Democratic trifecta):  
    • Indoor venues can reopen for events beginning April 15. Capacity limits are based on the county’s color tier and whether the event has testing and vaccination requirements.
    • All residents age 16 and older are eligible for vaccination starting April 15.
  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Thursday, April 15, the Indiana House of Representatives voted 59-26 to override Gov. Eric Holcomb’s (R) veto of House Bill 1123. The bill would allow the legislature to call a special session during a state of emergency. Holcomb vetoed the bill on April 9, saying the Indiana Constitution gives the governor the sole authority to convene a special session. The House first passed the bill 64-33 on April 5, and the Senate passed it 37-10 the same day. It now goes to the Senate for a veto override vote.  
  • New York (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced spectators will be allowed at horse and auto races at 20% capacity starting April 22.

Vaccine eligibility

Note: This section may not reflect the most recent stories in today’s The next 24 hours and Since our last edition sections above. This section details eligibility for different age groups in each state. 

We last looked at vaccine eligibility in our April 13 newsletter. As of April 14, at least one county in each state allowed vaccinations for the following age groups:

  • Ages 16+: 44 states and Washington, D.C.
  • Ages 30+: One state
  • Ages 40+: One state
  • Ages 55+: Two states
  • Ages 60+: One state
  • Ages 65+: One state

For more details on vaccine distribution, including the eligibility of grocery store workers, food service employees, and people with underlying conditions, click here.

In some states, vaccine eligibility can vary by county. The data above details the loosest restrictions in each state. For example, if one county in a state allows vaccines for anyone 55 or older, the state is marked as 55+, even if every other county limits vaccinations to people 65 or older. To see what states allow eligibility for groups in specific counties, check out the New York Times article here.

School closures and reopenings

    Read more: School responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic during the 2020-2021 academic year

  • Two states (Del., Hawaii) and Washington, D.C. had state-ordered regional school closures, required closures for certain grade levels, or allowed hybrid instruction only.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 403,664 students (0.80% of students nationwide)
  • Eight states (Ark., Fla., Iowa, N.C., N.H., N.M., Texas, W.Va.) had state-ordered in-person instruction.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 11,521,986 students (22.78% of students nationwide)
  • Four states (Ariz., Ore., Wash., Mass.) had state-ordered in-person instruction for certain grades.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 3,768,309 students (7.45% of students nationwide)
  • Thirty-six states left decisions to schools or districts.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 34,893,900 students (68.98% of students nationwide)

Travel restrictions

    Read more: Travel restrictions issued by states in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • Since the start of the pandemic, governors or state agencies in 27 states and the District of Columbia issued executive orders placing restrictions on out-of-state visitors. At least 21 of those orders have been rescinded. 
    • Since April 8, one state has modified its travel restrictions. 

Details:

  • Vermont – On April 9, Gov. Phil Scott (R) updated the state’s travel restrictions to no longer require a 14-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors and returning residents. Travelers must test negative for COVID-19 in their home state three days before arriving in Vermont. Travelers who stay overnight at hotels, campsites, or short-term rentals must complete a certificate of compliance to demonstrate they’ve tested negative or been fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated people and people who have recovered from COVID-19 within the last three months do not need to test negative.

Federal responses

Read more: Political responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • On April 9, pharmaceutical company Pfizer and biotechnology company BioNTech requested the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) amend its emergency use authorization to allow children ages 12 to 15 to receive their COVID-19 vaccine. The original emergency use authorization restricted the vaccine to those 16 and older.
  • On April 13, the FDA and CDC recommended all state and local vaccine providers stop administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, effective immediately. At the time of the announcement, the federal government was expected to stop distributing Johnson & Johnson vaccines through federally run vaccination sites. The recommendation came after six recipients in the United States developed blood clots within two weeks of vaccination. All six recipients were women between the ages of 18 and 48. One recipient died, and three are still hospitalized. About seven million people have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
  • On April 14, members of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices postponed making a decision about whether to reinstate the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after saying it needed more information.

This time last year: Thursday, April 16, 2020

The first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020. But it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout March and April, many states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. Each week, we’ll look back at some of the defining policy responses of the early coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what happened this time last year. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Thursday, April 16, 2020:

  • School closures:
    • New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through May 1.
    • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced schools would be closed until at least May 15. Before the announcement, schools had been under an indefinite closure since March 18.
    • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) extended the state’s stay-at-home order through May 15 and extended the statewide school closure.
    • Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through April 23.
  • Federal government responses:
    • The White House released the Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, offering guidance to state and local officials on a three-phase approach to reopening their economies.


Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: April 13, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

  • Multistate news: On April 13, the FDA and CDC recommended all state and local vaccine providers stop administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, effective immediately. The federal government is expected to stop distributing Johnson & Johnson vaccines through federally run vaccination sites. The recommendation came after six recipients in the United States developed blood clots within two weeks of vaccination. The CDC’s outside advisory committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday to investigate the link between the vaccine and the blood clot cases. As of the time of this writing, at least 20 states have suspended the administration of the vaccine.  
  • Kentucky (divided government): Gov. Andy Beshear (D) announced the state will lift capacity restrictions and social distancing requirements on most businesses once 2.5 million residents are vaccinated. Once the number is reached, capacity restrictions will be lifted for businesses and venues where fewer than 1,000 people gather. The 12 a.m. curfew on restaurants and bars will also end. Mass gatherings and events with more than 1,000 people will still be restricted. The public mask requirement will remain in effect.
  • New York (Democratic trifecta):
    • Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced graduation and commencement ceremonies will be permitted with capacity restrictions starting May 1. To read the state’s full guidance, click here.
    • Cuomo also announced the state is allocating 35,000 vaccines for college students. 21,000 of those vaccines are reserved for State University of New York system students, and 14,000 are reserved for students at private institutions.
    • On April 8, a state appellate court issued an order requiring about 90 restaurants and bars suing the state to comply with Cuomo’s 11 p.m. curfew order for food and drink establishments. On Feb. 27, state Supreme Court Justice Timothy Walker issued a preliminary injunction temporarily allowing the 90 bars and restaurants suing the state to stay open past 11 p.m. every night. 
  • North Dakota (Republican trifecta): On Monday, April 12, the North Dakota House of Representatives voted 67-24 to accept Senate changes to House Bill 1323, which prohibits statewide mask mandates. The House originally passed the bill 50-44 on Feb. 22. The Senate passed the bill 30-17 on April 7, but amended it to prohibit only state officials, including the governor, elected state officials, and the state health officer, from issuing a mask mandate. It left cities, counties, school districts, and businesses free to require masks. The bill now goes to Gov. Doug Burgum (R). 
  • Pennsylvania (divided government): All residents 16 and older are eligible for vaccination starting April 13. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) made the announcement on April 12. 
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): On Monday, April 12, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced that he was moving Cowlitz County, Pierce County, and Whitman County back to Phase 2 of reopening on Friday, April 16. Currently, all counties are in Phase 3 of reopening. On April 9, Inslee announced that counties would be moved backward if they failed two metrics on new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Previously, a county only needed to fail one metric to move backward in reopening. Under Phase 2, the indoor capacity limit for restaurants, worship services, gyms, and retail stores is 25%. Counties are evaluated on their metrics every three weeks. 

Vaccine eligibility

Note: This section may not reflect the most recent stories in today’s The next 24 hours and Since our last edition sections above. This section details eligibility for different age groups in each state. 

We last looked at vaccine eligibility in our April 8 newsletter. As of April 12, at least one county in each state allowed vaccinations for the following age groups:

  • Ages 16+: 43 states and Washington, D.C.
  • Ages 30+: One state
  • Ages 40+: One state
  • Ages 55+: Two states
  • Ages 60+: One state
  • Ages 65+: Two states

For more details on vaccine distribution, including the eligibility of grocery store workers, food service employees, and people with underlying conditions, click here.

In some states, vaccine eligibility can vary by county. The data above details the loosest restrictions in each state. For example, if one county in a state allows vaccines for anyone 55 or older, the state is marked as 55+, even if every other county limits vaccinations to people 65 or older. To see what states allow eligibility for groups in specific counties, check out the New York Times article here.

Lawsuits about state actions and policies

Read more: Lawsuits about state actions and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,760 lawsuits in 50 states dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 528 of those lawsuits. 
    • Since April 6, we have added eight lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional 11 court orders and/or settlements. 

Details:

  • Tandon v. Newsom: On April 9, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down California’s prohibition against religious gatherings of people from more than three households. In an unsigned decision, the court found that “California treats some comparable secular activities more favorably than at-home religious exercise.” The Supreme Court also ruled the state had not explained “why it could not safely permit at-home worshipers to gather in larger numbers while using precautions used in secular activities.” Citing its earlier decision lifting New York’s attendance limits on places of worship, the court said California “has not shown that ‘public health would be imperiled’ by employing less restrictive measures.” Although the decision was unsigned, Chief Justice John Roberts said he would have denied the application. Associate Justice Elena Kagan wrote a dissent, joined by Associate Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Kagan wrote, “California limits religious gatherings in homes to three households. If the State also limits all secular gatherings in homes to three households, it has complied with the First Amendment. And the State does exactly that[.]”

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the April 6 edition of the newsletter. Since then, Utah and Alabama have let statewide public face-covering requirements expire.

In total, 39 states issued statewide mask mandates during the coronavirus pandemic. Twelve of those 39 states have ended statewide requirements, including two states with Democratic governors and 10 states with Republican governors.

Diagnosed or quarantined politicians identified by Ballotpedia

Read more: Politicians, candidates, and government officials diagnosed with or quarantined due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • Federal
    • Three federal officials have died of COVID-19.
    • Sixty-five members of Congress have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Forty-one federal officials have quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • State
    • Ten state-level incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • Two hundred twenty-five state-level incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Eighty-six state-level incumbents or candidates have quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • Local
    • At least five local incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • At least 42 local incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • At least 26 local incumbents or candidates have quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.

Since April 6, one state senator and one state representative have self-quarantined due to COVID-19.

Details:

  • On April 12, Pennsylvania state Rep. Bryan Cutler (R) announced he would self-quarantine at his home after being exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • On April 13, Michigan state Sen. Lana Theis (R) announced she would self-quarantine after she was exposed to COVID-19.

This time last year: Tuesday, April 14, 2020

The first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020. But it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout March and April, many states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. Each week, we’ll look back at some of the defining policy responses of the early coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what happened this time last year. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020:

  • School closures:
    • Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through April 17.
    • Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through May 1.
  • Election changes:
    • Judge Bradley B. Cavedo of Virginia’s 13th Judicial Circuit extended the deadline for the Republican Party of Virginia to select its nominee for the 7th Congressional District election from June 9 to July 28, 2020.
    • Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) issued Proclamation Number 46 JBE2020, postponing the state’s presidential preference primary election to July 11, 2020.
    • The Democratic Party of Indiana announced it would cancel its in-person state convention, which had been scheduled for June 13, 2020. Instead, the party opted to conduct convention business virtually and by mail.
  • Federal government responses:
    • President Donald Trump (R) announced the U.S. was suspending funding to the World Health Organization, pending a review of the group’s actions in response to the coronavirus.


Economy and Society: SEC review finds potentially misleading ESG fund practices

ESG developments this week

In Washington, D.C.

SEC investment fund review reveals potentially misleading ESG practices

On April 9, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced that its recently enhanced examinations of the investment community’s use of and adherence to ESG investment principles has yielded results. The Commission set out to find whether investment companies were keeping the promises they were making to investors. And it learned that, in some cases, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, they aren’t:

“The Securities and Exchange Commission said Friday it has found some investment firms that tout socially responsible investing were potentially misleading investors, part of the agency’s enhanced review of funds that claim to support environmentally friendly policies but don’t adhere to them.

These funds broadly market themselves as trying to invest in companies that pursue strategies addressing environmental, social or governance issues from climate change to corporate diversity.

The SEC didn’t disclose the names of firms or how many were involved in the review.

The regulator found instances in which investment firms were making potentially misleading statements about their ESG investment processes as well as their adherence to global ESG frameworks. It has also seen cases where portfolio managers weren’t consistently disclosing their ESG strategies and where their proxy voting on shareholder proposals didn’t align with advisers’ stated stance on socially responsible issues.

Several firms didn’t have proper policies and procedures in place to address ESG or reasonably prevent violations on such matters, the SEC said, finding controls inadequate to ensure clients’ ESG-related investing preferences were reflected. Some firms also lacked compliance programs that could reasonably guard against inaccurate ESG-related disclosures and marketing materials, the agency said.”

On Wall Street and in the private sector

BlackRock ESG ETF launch biggest ever

On April 8, BlackRock launched a new ESG ETF (exchange-traded fund) that became the biggest fund launch in the 30-year history of the ETF business, securing more than $1 billion in its first day of trading: 

“Investors poured about $1.25 billion into the BlackRock U.S. Carbon Transition Readiness ETF (ticker LCTU) on Thursday, making it the biggest launch in the ETF industry’s three-decade history, according to data compiled by Bloomberg….

LCTU’s eye-catching debut comes amid a broad boom for ETFs focused on investments that meet environmental, social and governance standards. They attracted a record $31 billion in 2020, almost four times the prior year. About $6.3 billion was added in January, also the most ever, as investors bet the Democrats clean sweep of the U.S. government would usher in a swath of green policies.

That’s all taken ESG ETF assets to a record $74.8 billion, up from less than $10 billion two years ago. The largest ETF in the space is also from BlackRock. The iShares ESG Aware MSCI USA ETF, with $16.3 billion of assets, is trading at an all-time high after returning more than 50% in the past 12 months.”

BlackRock joins ESG credit-line trend

Last week, BlackRock also became the latest large, high-profile corporation to sign on to an ESG-directed credit facility. According to the Wall Street Journal, the new credit deal was disclosed in a regulatory filing made public last week and was signed on March 31:

“The firm struck a financing deal with a group of banks that links its lending costs for a $4.4 billion credit facility to its ability to achieve certain goals, like meeting targets for women in senior leadership and Black and Latino employees in its workforce.

The firm plans to boost the share of Black and Latino people in its U.S. workforce 30% by 2024, a spokesman said. It aims to increase the share of women in its senior leadership ranks by 3% each year.

BlackRock’s progress on growing assets in funds focused on companies with high environmental, social and governance ratings will also impact its lending costs. The firm aims to grow the roughly $200 billion it manages in so-called sustainable strategies to $1 trillion by 2030….

BlackRock is best known for its sprawling lineup of funds that trade rapidly and track indexes. The firm and its CEO, Larry Fink, have pushed companies its funds invest in to be more attentive to environmental and social risks—and to increase workforce diversity….

Going forward, the new lending facility will impose a cost on the asset manager for missing its workplace-improvement and other goals.”

Europe’s biggest oil producer goes green

In an interview conducted by Bloomberg on April 9, Norwegian Finance Minister Jan Tore Sanner described his country’sand, by extension, its massive sovereign wealth fund’s intention to invest heavily in sustainability-related investment vehicles. “We must have the highest possible return on our money,” Sanner told the financial news organization, “but we also want to know that it is invested in a responsible way.” Bloomberg continued:

“The goal is “to increase the competence related to climate risk, investment opportunities, the consequences associated with the transition to the low-emission society,” Sanner said. “This is because this will be perhaps the most important framework condition for large investors in the next 10-20 years.”

Western Europe’s biggest oil nation is now trying to use its giant wealth fund to steer the planet toward a greener future. Its chief executive, Nicolai Tangen, has said he will use his clout to try to force companies to act more responsibly.

Under Sanner’s proposal, which still needs parliamentary approval, about 25-30% of portfolio companies will be cut. Though that sounds like a lot, it only represents about 2% of the fund’s total market value. Sanner says he wants to avoid investments in new emerging markets because they tend to have “weaker institutions, weaker protection of minority shareholders, less openness.”

The changes will make it easier to manage the vast portfolio, and reduce complexity and risk, Sanner said.

The fund, which returned 10.9%, or $123 billion, on its total investments last year, has followed strict ethical guidelines, including bans on certain weapons, tobacco and most exposure to coal, since 2004.”

Oil and gas stocks continue to heat up

In a April 9 piece, Oilprice.com noted the perceived incongruence of the ESG push in the markets and the concomitant fossil fuel-stock rebound:

“In the year to date, the energy sector on the S&P 500 has gained 29.4 percent, Palash Ghosh reported for Forbes. This makes energy the best-performing sector on the S&P 500, followed by finance as a distant second, with a gain of 17.6 percent.

The rally in oil stocks came on the back of improving oil prices, and oil prices improved on the back of, mostly, hopes that economies will soon begin returning to normal. Mass vaccinations in key oil markets did a lot to fuel this post-pandemic optimism about oil, pushing benchmarks above $60 a barrel and drawing investors to oil stocks.

Vaccines were, of course, not the only factor. OPEC+ also kept its production limited for longer than it had initially planned. The cartel decided at its last meeting to raise production gradually and the fact that this decision did not send prices plunging shows that expectations of a demand rebound are really strong right now….

All this is happening as pressure continues to mount on oil and gas companies to basically stop being oil and gas companies. What the surge in oil stocks is demonstrating, however, is that a lot of investors still prefer returns to clean energy promises. One early proof of this was BP’s share price drop after CEO Bernard Looney last year announced perhaps the most ambitious energy transition plan among Big Oil majors….

ESG investing may be all the rage these days, and solar stocks may be favorites among the ESG crowd, but oil hasn’t fallen out of grace yet.”

In the spotlight

Is ESG necessary? Research examines how climate risks are priced into markets 

In an article published April 9, Institutional Investor magazine reported on a new study conducted by Dimensional Fund Advisors that purports to show that the “E” portion of ESG is unnecessary and that marketsbeing in their view efficienthave already priced climate and transition risks into asset prices, across various investment-vehicle types:

“Although evidence is accumulating about the effect of climate change on everything from weather patterns to human health, scientists can still only paint a partial picture of the future. Nonetheless, stock, corporate and municipal bond, futures, and options markets are doing a good job of incorporating climate risks into asset prices, despite the complexity and uncertainty.

In recent research, which includes a review of outside academic studies, Dimensional Fund Advisors sought to address the question of whether and how well climate risks are priced into different markets. Dimensional looked at how the markets priced both physical risks and transitional risk, which arises as economies move away from fossil fuels and to a low carbon economy….

“Many of the effects are hard to predict, hard to quantify, hard to bring to the present in terms of value or cost,” Savina Rizova, the firm’s global head of research, told Institutional Investor. “First, financial markets do pay attention to these risks, despite the complexity and even the longer run effects of climate change. Second, companies have incentives provided by competitive financial markets to better manage their exposure to climate risks if they want to have a lower cost of capital.”…

Investors interested in owning securities that don’t contribute to climate risk may not need to own funds with an ESG label.”

Notable quotes

“Based on the Fama and French analysis this implies that if investors have a preference for highly rated ESG stocks then those stocks will offer lower average excess returns. Note that this conclusion is contrary to the views of many ESG advocates in the investment profession. For instance, Blackrock CEO Larry Fink (2020) states that, “Our investment conviction is that sustainability and climate integrated portfolios can provide better risk-adjusted returns to investors.” We find little support for this conviction in either the theory or empirical evidence. On the other hand, there is some good news for high ESG companies in that those lower expected returns mean lower discount rates and lower discount rate produce greater valuations.”

Bradford Cornell and Aswath Damodaran, “Valuing ESG: Doing Good or Sounding Good?” March 20, 2020.


Checks and Balances: State lawmakers press for oversight of emergency powers

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 six resolutions of disapproval filed under the Congressional Review Act that could nullify regulations issued in the final months of the Trump administration. We also review judicial activity affecting federal employee removal protections and applications of Chevron deference to agency interpretations of criminal statutes. 

At the state level, we take a look at a Connecticut judge’s opinion supporting legislative oversight of executive emergency powers; a veto override from the Ohio General Assembly enacting legislation limiting the governor’s emergency powers; a legislative proposal in Idaho that would allow state lawmakers to veto certain federal government actions; and new limits on judicial deference in Georgia tax cases. 

We also highlight a new paper examining the recent increase in agency leadership positions held by former congressional staff. As always, we wrap up with our Regulatory Tally, which features information about the 262 proposed rules and 277 final rules added to the Federal Register in March and OIRA’s regulatory review activity.


In Washington

Democrats file six CRA resolutions aiming to block Trump-era agency rules

  • What’s the story? Democratic members of Congress introduced six resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) prior the April 4 deadline. The resolutions create a path for lawmakers to review federal rules issued during the final months of the Trump administration (after August 21, 2020) and vote to reject them.
  • To reject a rule, both chambers of Congress must pass a resolution disapproving the rule and President Joe Biden (D) must sign the resolution into law.  
  • The CRA authorizes the U.S. Senate to fast-track the resolutions through the legislative process. In order to avoid any legislative delay tactics, senators must take action to fast-track the resolutions before the deadline, estimated to occur in mid-to-late May according to The George Washington University’s Regulatory Studies Center. 
  • The six resolutions of disapproval seek to block the following agency regulations:
  • An October 2020 rule from the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) that aims to determine when banks are the true lender in situations where banks provide the money for third-party organizations to extend credit to borrowers. 
  • A November 2020 rule from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that changed regulations governing shareholder proposal submissions. 
  • An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule from September 2020 that reversed the Obama administration’s methane standards. 
  • An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rule changing the conciliation process (an alternative to litigation). 
  • A sunset rule from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that sets expiration dates for HHS regulations unless the agency reviews those regulations according to Regulatory Flexibility Act requirements.
  • A November 2020 rule from the Social Security Administration that aims to clarify when administrative appeals judges on the Social Security Administration Appeals Council may hold hearings and issue decisions.

Sixth Circuit narrows Chevron deference 

  • What’s the story? A divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on March 25 limited applications of Chevron deference in the criminal context in its Gun Owners of America v. Garland decision, which invalidated the Trump administration’s bump stock ban. 
  • The court declined to apply Chevron deference to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearm’s statutory interpretation supporting the agency’s rule that allowed bump stocks to be classified as machine guns. The court held that Chevron deference did not apply because the law in question was a criminal statute. The court also found that the district court should have permitted the plaintiffs’ request for an injunction to block the rule.
  • “Consistent with our precedent and mandated by separation-of-powers and fair-notice concerns,” wrote Judge Alice Batchelder in the opinion, “we hold that an administering agency’s interpretation of a criminal statute is not entitled to Chevron deference.”
  • Judge Eric Murphy joined Judge Batchelder in the opinion. Judge Helene White dissented.
  • Judge White disagreed with the court’s limitation on Chevron deference. “The Supreme Court has applied Chevron in the criminal context in three binding decisions—Chevron itself, Babbitt, and O’Hagan—and has never purported to overrule those cases,” she wrote.
  • The court remanded the case to the district court and eliminated the possibility of a nationwide injunction by limiting any subsequent injunctions to the four states within the Sixth Circuit.
  • Want to go deeper?

Federal Circuit raises standard to remove federal employees

  • What’s the story? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on March 11 set a new bar for firing federal agency employees in the case Santos v. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
  • The court found that NASA failed to provide justification for placing its employee, Fernando Santos, on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). An agency generally issues a PIP as a signal to a poor performing employee before initiating disciplinary action. 
  • The three-judge panel (Judges Kathleen O’Malley, William Bryson, and Todd Hughes) ruled that federal law requires agencies to justify the issuance of a PIP when a fired employee challenges a PIP-based removal. Prior to the court’s decision, agencies had not been required to justify the use of a PIP.
  • “Allowing a PIP to serve as the pre-removal notice required by Section 4303 is not the  same as allowing the mere fact of a PIP to create a presumption that the pre-PIP conduct  was actually unacceptable,” wrote Judge O’Malley in the opinion. “Thus, we  hold that, once an agency chooses to impose a post-PIP termination, it must prove by substantial evidence that the employee’s unacceptable  performance  ‘continued’—i.e., it  was  unacceptable before the PIP and remained so during the PIP.”
  • The judges remanded the case to the Merit Systems Protection Board for further proceedings.
  • Want to go deeper?

In the states

Connecticut judge calls for legislative oversight of governor’s emergency powers

  • What’s the story? Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher on March 8 issued a decision that upheld the state’s mask mandate for school children while also calling for legislative oversight of the governor’s emergency actions.
  • Moukawsher stated that, in his view, the Connecticut Constitution does not allow the Connecticut General Assembly to delegate legislative power—including emergency power—to the governor without placing limits on such authority. 
  • Moukawsher claimed that state law must include a method for the general assembly to disapprove of the governor’s orders, that the general assembly must ratify or reject the governor’s existing orders, and that current law requires the general assembly to renew the governor’s emergency authority after six months.
  • The effect of Moukawsher’s decision depends on the Connecticut Supreme Court’s forthcoming written opinion in the December 2020 case Casey v. Lamont, in which the court upheld Governor Ned Lamont’s (D) executive order on bar closures. The court had yet to issue a written opinion in the case as of April 7, but its anticipated opinion is expected to include guidance that could affect Moukawsher’s holding.
  • “This court believes that the Governor likely cannot continue to carry out his emergency orders without some form of ratification and control from the General Assembly,” wrote Moukawsher, “But matters affecting this issue are currently before the Connecticut Supreme Court. Whether this court may act in any way on this question or what way it may act will doubtless be influenced by the pending decision.”
  • Lamont indicated that he would allow his emergency powers to expire after April 20 and would work with legislators to continue any executive orders deemed necessary. “Right now my EO’s are in place,” said Lamont at a news conference. “If anyone wants to counter them, I’m willing to listen, and then on April 20 the legislature will step in and make some determinations.” 
  • Want to go deeper?

Ohio lawmakers override governor’s veto to implement legislative oversight of emergency actions

  • What’s the story? The Ohio General Assembly on March 24 voted to override Governor Mike Dewine’s (R) veto of a law aimed at increasing legislative oversight of the governor’s emergency powers.
  • Senate Bill 22 places a 90-day limit on states of emergency. It also authorizes lawmakers to pass resolutions to terminate a state of emergency after 30 days and to reject any executive orders related to the emergency.
  • The House of Representatives approved the veto override by a 62-35 vote. The Senate approved the veto override by a 23-10 vote. Both votes occurred largely along party lines with three Republicans joining Democrats in opposition.
  • Dewine expressed concerns about the legislation in his March 23 veto statement, including what he views as the potential unconstitutionality of reversing executive orders through resolutions and the potential prevention of  local health boards from quarantining people exposed to deadly diseases.
  • Speaker of the House Bob Cupp (R) stated that the Ohio legislation updates the state statute to align with similar processes in 26 other states. “We have a very old statute, and the pandemic sort of brought that to light,” said Cupp. “And so we are just adjusting and modernizing our statute.”
  • Democrats, including House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D), voted against the legislation. “You all are great at a lot of things,” Sykes told her colleagues on the House floor. “You are brilliant orators, lawyers, business owners, farmers, and more, but you are not good at public health.”
  • Want to go deeper?

Idaho legislative committee advances bill allowing for veto of federal actions 

  • What’s the story? Idaho state Representative Sage Dixon (R), co-chair of the state legislature’s Committee on Federalism, on March 10 introduced legislation in the House State Affairs Committee that aims to allow state lawmakers to veto federal actions.
  • The bill would allow any state legislator to make a complaint concerning federal actions, such as executive orders, acts of Congress, or federal court rulings, that they consider to be beyond the scope of federal authority. 
  • After receiving a complaint, the members of the federalism committee would determine whether the complaint has merit. If so, a public hearing would be scheduled and, after the hearing, the committee would submit a report to the full legislature recommending whether to pass legislation nullifying the federal action.
  • Dixon told lawmakers that the nation has “experienced the gradual drifting away from the founding principles of a limited federal government that stayed within the powers granted to it in the Constitution to a place where states are often merely enforcement vehicles of federal policy.”
  • The House State Affairs Committee advanced the bill to the full House for possible amendments.
  • Idaho Deputy Attorney General Cory M. Carone issued an opinion on March 19 claiming that the legislation wasn’t unconstitutional on its face, but that lawmakers’ actions pursuant to the legislation could face constitutional challenges.
  • Want to go deeper?

Georgia legislature approves limits on judicial deference 

  • What’s the story? The Georgia House of Representatives on March 22 voted 164-4 to send legislation to the governor’s desk that would limit judicial deference in the state by ending deference to certain tax regulations. The state Senate unanimously approved the legislation on March 1. 
  • Senate Bill 185, sponsored by state Senator Bo Hatchett (R) and six Republican cosponsors, requires state courts and the Georgia Tax Tribunal to decide all questions of law without deference to the regulations or policy interpretations of the state’s Department of Revenue, among other provisions.
  • Georgia lawmakers failed to approve similar legislation last year before the close of the legislative session.
  • Georgia joins a group of other states that have addressed judicial deference practices in recent years. Since 2008, Wisconsin, Florida, Mississippi, Arizona, and Michigan have taken executive, judicial, or legislative action to prohibit or limit judicial deference to state agencies.
  • Want to go deeper?

____________________________________________________________________________

Examining the “Congress-to-commission” pathway

“Congress’s Commissioners,” a recent paper in the Yale Journal on Regulation by administrative law scholars Brian D. Feinstein and M. Todd Henderson, examines Congress’ growing practice of placing former legislative staff members in agency leadership positions. The authors found that the practice has increased nearly fourfold since the 1980s. Half of all current commissioners and board members on eleven major multi-member agencies examined by the authors previously served as legislative staff.

The authors argue that:

“[T]he Congress-to-commission pathway likely changes the way in which the administrative state operates. To the extent that former staffers take the culture of, and their connections to, Capitol Hill with them to their new jobs, then some of Congress’s pathologies may inhibit agency functioning. On the other hand, linking commissions with the legislative branch may increase democratic accountability, provide meaningful oversight, and improve commissions’ understanding of congressional objectives.”

  • Want to go deeper

Regulatory tally

Federal Register

Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)

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

  • Review of 28 significant regulatory actions. 
  • Three rules approved without changes; recommended changes to 25 proposed rules.
  • As of April 9, 2021, OIRA’s website listed 38 regulatory actions under review.
  • Want to go deeper? 


Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: April 12, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

  • Hawaii (Democratic trifecta): 
    • Gov. David Ige (D) extended the state’s coronavirus emergency order through June 8. The updated order did not include the Recovery Navigator phases chart. Hawaii has officially remained at the yellow Act With Care level since the framework was released in May 2020. Gov. Ige has allowed counties to set looser or stricter rules with his approval over the last year, depending on county-level data. 
    • Oahu residents age 50 and older are eligible for vaccinations starting April 12. 
  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Friday, April 9, Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) vetoed House Bill 1123, which would allow the legislature to call a special session during a state of emergency. Holcomb said he vetoed the bill because the Indiana Constitution gives the governor the sole authority to convene special sessions. The House passed the bill 64-33 on April 5, and the Senate passed the bill 37-10 the same day. The legislature can override Holcomb’s veto with simple majorities in both chambers.  
  • Illinois (Democratic trifecta): All residents age 16 and older are eligible for vaccinations starting April 12. Previously, everyone 65 and older was eligible for vaccination.
  • Maryland (divided government): All providers are permitted to offer vaccines to residents 16 and older starting April 12. Previously, residents 16 and older could only get vaccinated at mass vaccination sites.
  • Utah (Republican trifecta): House Bill 294 took effect April 10, ending the statewide mask mandate. It also set conditions for ending other restrictions based on case rates, percentage of occupied hospital beds, and vaccine supply. The law eliminates all restrictions on July 1, even if none of the conditions have been met. Gov. Spencer Cox (R) signed the bill into law on March 24. 
  • Vermont (divided government): 
    • All residents 30 and older are eligible for vaccination starting April 12. Previously, residents 40 and older were eligible.
    • The state’s phased reopening plan started April 9 with an easing of the statewide travel restrictions. Additionally, businesses in Group A, which includes outdoor businesses, retail operations, and low or no contact professional services, are no longer required to follow sector-specific guidance. Instead, those businesses must follow universal guidance, which includes keeping employees home if they are sick and requiring that all employees wear masks. 
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): On Friday, April 9, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) changed the guidelines that determine if a county moves back to a more restrictive phase in the state’s reopening plan. Previously, counties could be moved backward if they failed one of two metrics on new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Now, counties must fail both criteria to be moved back. Large and small counties have different requirements for new cases and hospitalizations. Currently, all counties are in Phase 3 of reopening. 

This time last year: Monday, April 13, 2020

The first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020. But it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout March and April, many states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. Each week, we’ll look back at some of the defining policy responses of the early coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what happened this time last year. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Monday, April 13, 2020:

  • Travel restrictions
    • The Pennsylvania Department of Health recommended that out-of-state travelers, especially those from areas with high rates of infection or community spread, self-quarantine for 14 days.
  • School closures:
    • Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
  • Federal government responses:
    • The U.S. Supreme Court announced it would hear 13 cases by teleconference in May. The court announced it would broadcast live audio of the proceedings to the public for the first time in history.


Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: April 9, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery

The next 72 hours

What is changing in the next 72 hours?

  • Illinois (Democratic trifecta): All residents age 16 and older will be eligible for vaccinations starting April 12. Currently, everyone 65 and older is eligible for vaccination.
  • Maryland (divided government): All providers will be permitted to offer vaccines to residents 16 and older starting April 12. Currently, residents 16 and older can only get vaccinated at mass vaccination sites.
  • Utah (Republican trifecta): House Bill 294 will take effect April 10, ending the statewide mask mandate. It also sets conditions for ending other restrictions based on case rates, percentage of occupied hospital beds, and vaccine supply. The law eliminates all restrictions on July 1, even if none of the conditions have been met. Gov. Spencer Cox (R) signed the bill into law on March 24. 
  • Vermont (divided government): 
    • All residents 30 and older will be eligible for vaccination starting April 12. Currently, residents 40 and older are eligible.
    • The state’s phased reopening plan will begin April 9 with an easing of the statewide travel restrictions. Additionally, businesses in Group A, which includes outdoor businesses, retail operations, and low or no contact professional services, will no longer be required to follow sector-specific guidance. Instead, those businesses must follow universal guidance, which includes keeping employees home if they are sick and requiring that all employees wear masks. 

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

  • Alabama (Republican trifecta): Gov. Kay Ivey (R) issued a Safer Apart order that takes effect April 9 and runs through May 5. It replaces the Safer at Home order, which was extended and modified several times since it was implemented on April 30, 2020. The Safer Apart order lifts most restrictions on businesses and individuals, including the statewide mask requirement. The order recommends people continue mitigation practices like wearing masks in public and social distancing. The mask order took effect July 16, 2020. For more information on the Safer Apart order, click here.
  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Thursday, April 8, the Indiana state Senate voted 36-10 to pass Senate Bill 263, which says “The state, a political subdivision, or an officer or employee of the state or a political subdivision may not restrict the right of the people to worship or to worship in person during a disaster emergency.” The bill does allow governments to require houses of worship to comply with generally applicable laws that are no more restrictive than those other organizations and businesses are required to follow. Senate Bill 263 passed the House 74-20 on April 6 and now goes to Gov. Eric Holcolmb (R) to sign or veto. 
  • Michigan (divided government): On Friday, April 9, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) asked people in the state to refrain from eating indoors for two weeks to reduce the number of coronavirus cases. Whitmer also asked schools to pause youth sports and implement remote learning instruction for two weeks.
  • New Hampshire (Republican trifecta): On Thursday, April 8, Gov. Chris Sununu (R) announced that all people, including residents of other states, will be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine on April 19.  

This time last year: Friday, April 10, 2020

The first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020. But it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout March and April, many states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. Each week, we’ll look back at some of the defining policy responses of the early coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what happened this time last year. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Friday, April 10, 2020:

  • Election changes:
    • Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) signed B23-0733 into law, directing the District’s election officials to send absentee ballot applications to all registered voters in advance of the June 2, 2020, primary election.
    • New Hampshire Secretary of State William Gardner (D) and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald (R) told election officials that any voter in the Sept. 8, 2020, primary or Nov. 3, 2020, general election could request an absentee ballot based on concerns related to COVID-19.
    • Maine Gov. Janet Mills (D) issued Executive Order No. 39 FY 19/20, postponing the statewide primary election from June 9 to July 14.
  • Federal government responses:
    • President Donald Trump (R) announced he was forming a new council to discuss the process of reopening the U.S. economy. The President called the group the Opening Our Country Council and said a list of members would be announced on April 14.


Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: April 8, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

  • Alabama (Republican trifecta): Gov. Kay Ivey (R) issued a Safer Apart order that takes effect April 9 and runs through May 5. It replaces the Safer at Home order, which has been extended and modified several times since it first took effect on April 30, 2020. The Safer Apart order will lift most restrictions on businesses and individuals, including the statewide mask requirement. The mask order took effect July 16, 2020. The order recommends people continue mitigation practices like wearing masks in public and social distancing. For more information on the Safer Apart order, click here.
  • Vermont (divided government): The state’s phased reopening plan will begin April 9 with an easing of the statewide travel restrictions. Additionally, businesses in Group A, which includes outdoor businesses, retail operations, and low or no contact professional services, will no longer be required to follow sector-specific guidance. Instead, those businesses must follow universal guidance, which includes keeping employees home if they are sick and requiring that all employees wear masks. 

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

  • Idaho (Republican trifecta): Gov. Brad Little (R) signed an executive order prohibiting any state government entities from requiring COVID-19 vaccination proof for citizens to access public services or facilities. 
  • North Dakota (Republican trifecta): On April 7, the North Dakota Senate voted 30-17 to pass House Bill 1323, which would prohibit statewide mask mandates. The Senate added an amendment allowing local governments, businesses, and schools to require masks. If the House votes to accept the change, it will go to Gov. Doug Burgum (R) to sign. The House first passed the bill 50-44 on Feb. 22.

Vaccine eligibility

Note: This section may not reflect the most recent stories in today’s The next 24 hours and Since our last edition sections above. This section details eligibility for different age groups in each state. 

We last looked at vaccine eligibility in yesterday’s newsletter. As of April 7, at least one county in each state allowed vaccinations for the following age groups:

  • Ages 16+: 42 states
  • Ages 40+: One state
  • Ages 50+ or 55+: Three states
  • Ages 60+ or 65+: Four states and Washington, D.C.

For more details on vaccine distribution, including the eligibility of grocery store workers, food service employees, and people with underlying conditions, click here.

In some states, vaccine eligibility can vary by county. The data above details the loosest restrictions in each state. For example, if one county in a state allows vaccines for anyone 55 or older, the state is marked as 55+, even if every other county limits vaccinations to people 65 or older. To see what states allow eligibility for groups in specific counties, check out the New York Times article here.

School closures and reopenings

    Read more: School responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic during the 2020-2021 academic year

  • Two states (Del., Hawaii) and Washington, D.C. had state-ordered regional school closures, required closures for certain grade levels, or allowed hybrid instruction only.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 403,664 students (0.80% of students nationwide)
  • Eight states (Ark., Fla., Iowa, N.C., N.H., N.M., Texas, W.Va.) had state-ordered in-person instruction.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 11,521,986 students (22.78% of students nationwide)
  • Four states (Ariz., Ore., Wash., Mass.) had state-ordered in-person instruction for certain grades.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 3,768,309 students (7.45% of students nationwide)
  • Thirty-six states left decisions to schools or districts.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 34,893,900 students (68.98% of students nationwide)

Travel restrictions

    Read more: Travel restrictions issued by states in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • Since the start of the pandemic, governors or state agencies in 27 states and the District of Columbia issued executive orders placing restrictions on out-of-state visitors. At least 21 of those orders have been rescinded.
    • Since April 1, two states have modified their travel restrictions. 

Details:

  • New Jersey – On April 5, Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced updated travel guidance reflecting the most recent CDC recommendations. The new guidance says fully vaccinated individuals do not need to test negative or quarantine after interstate travel. 
  • Washington – On April 6, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) updated his travel proclamation to clarify that all types of travel, including domestic and international, should follow CDC guidelines.

Federal responses

Read more: Political responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • On April 1, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized Moderna to include up to 15 vaccine doses per vial. The previous limit was 10 doses per vial.
  • On April 2, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its domestic travel guidance for fully vaccinated individuals. The CDC guidelines say “people who are fully vaccinated with an FDA-authorized vaccine can travel safely within the United States” and do not need to get tested or self-quarantine. The CDC recommends fully vaccinated travelers wear a mask, practice social distancing, and frequently wash their hands.
  • On April 6, President Joe Biden (D) set an April 19 deadline for states to make all adult Americans eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine. Biden’s previous deadline for full vaccine access was May 1.
  • On April 6, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters there would not be a federal vaccine database or mandate to obtain a vaccination credential.

This time last year: Thursday, April 9, 2020

The first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020. But it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout March and April, many states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. Each week, we’ll look back at some of the defining policy responses of the early coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what happened this time last year. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Thursday, April 9, 2020:

  • Travel restrictions
    • Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) ordered all people traveling to Arizona from areas of the country with widespread COVID-19 cases to self-quarantine for 14 days. The order specifically mentioned Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey as areas with significant community spread. 
  • School closures:
    • Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through May 1.
    • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools had been closed indefinitely from March 16.
  • Election changes:
    • Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) postponed Georgia’s statewide and presidential primaries to June 9, 2020, and its primary runoff to August 11. The state had previously postponed its presidential primary to May 19, the original date of its statewide primary.


Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: April 7, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

  • California (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced he is targeting June 15 to fully reopen the economy statewide. If Blueprint for a Safer Economy restrictions are lifted on June 15, masks will still be required. Newsom said the state will reopen if the vaccine supply is sufficient for anyone who wants a vaccine to get an appointment within two weeks and the state considers hospitalizations stable and low. To read more about reopening and the state’s criteria, click here.
  • Georgia (Republican trifecta): Gov. Brian Kemp (R) will ease restrictions on businesses and individuals starting April 7. Once the order takes effect, there will no longer be a ban on gatherings or any social distance requirements in businesses like bars, movie theaters, or gyms. Additionally, Kemp’s order prohibits law enforcement from closing businesses and organizations that do not comply with COVID-19 restrictions.
  • North Carolina (divided government): All residents 16 and older are eligible for vaccination starting April 7. Previously, all of Group 4 was eligible for vaccination.
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): 
    • Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced all residents 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination starting April 19. 
    • Brown also announced that effective April 9-22, 14 counties will be in the state’s High Risk level, six will be at Moderate Risk, and 16 will have Lower Risk restrictions. In the current period from March 26 – April 8, two counties are in the state’s Extreme Risk level, six are at High Risk, 14 are at Moderate Risk, and 14 have Lower Risk restrictions. To see restrictions in a specific county or risk level, click here.

Correction: vaccine eligibility

Note: This section may not reflect the most recent stories in today’s The next 24 hours and Since our last edition sections above. This section details eligibility for different age groups in each state. 

In yesterday’s edition, we looked at vaccine eligibility. Some of our data were misordered, causing problems with the map and context. We apologize for this error. Here’s a correction of that feature, as of April 6:

  • Ages 16+: 40 states
  • Ages 18+: One state
  • Ages 40+: One state
  • Ages 50+ or 55+: Four states
  • Ages 60+ or 65+: Four states and Washington, D.C.

For more details on vaccine distribution, including the eligibility of grocery store workers, food service employees, and people with underlying conditions, click here.

In some states, vaccine eligibility can vary by county. The data above details the loosest restrictions in each state. For example, if one county in a state allows vaccines for anyone 55 or older, the state is marked as 55+, even if every other county limits vaccinations to people 65 or older. To see what states allow eligibility for groups in specific counties, check out the New York Times article here.

This time last year: Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020. But it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout March and April, many states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. Each week, we’ll look back at some of the defining policy responses of the early coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what happened this time last year. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020:

  • Travel restrictions
    • Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) ordered all people traveling to Arizona from areas of the country with widespread COVID-19 cases to self-quarantine for 14 days. The order specifically mentioned Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey as areas with significant community spread. 
  • School closures:
    • Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through May 1.
    • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools had been closed indefinitely from March 16.
  • Election changes:
    • Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) postponed Georgia’s statewide and presidential primaries to June 9, 2020, and its primary runoff to Aug. 11. The state had previously postponed its presidential primary to May 19, the original date of its statewide primary.


Transition Tracker: Biden announces bipartisan SCOTUS commission

Every weekday, Ballotpedia is tracking key presidential appointments, executive actions, and policy developments from the Biden administration.

  • There are no committee hearings scheduled Monday. The Senate will reconvene for a full session on Monday at 3:00 p.m. after being adjourned since March 25. 

News

  • Biden issued an executive order on Friday to convene a bipartisan commission on the role and operation of the Supreme Court. Yale Law School professor Cristina Rodríguez and Biden campaign legal strategist Bob Bauer will co-chair the 36-member commission.
  • Biden is expected to nominate Jen Easterly as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and Chris Inglis as the newly established national cyber director. Easterly is a former senior counterterrorism and cybersecurity official who worked in the Obama administration. Inglis is the former deputy director of the National Security Agency.
  • In an interview on Sunday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Biden “wants to see major action in Congress and real progress by Memorial Day” for the infrastructure bill.
  • Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris (D) are meeting with a bipartisan group of Congress members to discuss the American Jobs Plan on Monday.
  • Cindy McCain is under consideration for ambassador to the U.N. World Food Programme, which is based in Rome. If nominated, she would be Biden’s first Republican appointee for a position requiring Senate confirmation.

Transition in Context: Flashback to Trump’s First Year in Office

Here’s a look at what President Donald Trump (R) was doing this week during his first year in office.

  • April 12, 2017: The Washington Post reported that the Trump administration was considering developing a nationwide deportation force program.
  • April 13, 2017: Trump signed into law a bill that undid an Obama administration rule prohibiting state and local governments from withholding federal funding for qualified health providers offering family planning services related to contraception and other reproductive issues.
  • April 14, 2017: The Trump White House announced it would not release its visitor logs.
  • April 15, 2017: Tax Day protests were held in Washington, D.C., West Palm Beach, Florida, and other cities calling on Trump to release his personal tax returns. 
  • April 16, 2017: Trump attended an Easter service in Palm Beach, Florida.

What We’re Reading