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

Documenting America's Path to Recovery by Ballotpedia

The next 72 hours

What is changing in the next 72 hours?

  • Connecticut (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Ned Lamont (D) announced individuals age 75 and older can begin scheduling vaccination appointments starting Jan. 18, marking the beginning of Phase 1b. Lamont said other groups included in Phase 1b will be allowed to make appointments once the supply increases and more individuals in the 75+ age group receive vaccines. Frontline essential workers, residents and staff in congregate settings, individuals between the ages of 65 and 74, and individuals with underlying health conditions are the other groups included in Phase 1b. Previously, the state focused on vaccinating healthcare workers and nursing home residents in Phase 1a.
  • Maryland (divided government): On Thursday, Jan. 14, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced the state would move to Phase 1B of its vaccine distribution plan beginning Monday, Jan. 18. In Phase 1B, all residents over the age of 75 are eligible for the vaccine. Additionally, people in assisted living facilities, teachers, daycare providers, and people in correctional facilities also become eligible. 
  • Missouri (Republican trifecta): Gov. Mike Parson (R) announced Phase 1b – Tier 2 of the state’s vaccine distribution plan will start on Jan. 18. It includes individuals age 65 or older and any adult with a high-risk condition (like COPD, cancer, type 2 diabetes, or severe obesity). Phase 1b – Tier 1 started Jan. 14, making the vaccine available to first responders and public health professionals. 

Since our last edition

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

  • Alaska (divided government): Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) extended the state’s coronavirus emergency order until Feb. 14.
  • Kentucky (divided government): Gov. Andy Beshear (D) announced a state partnership with Kroger to open regional drive-through vaccination sites starting the week of Feb. 1. The Kroger vaccination sites will provide vaccines to individuals in phases 1a, 1b, and 1c of the state’s vaccination plan. Beshear said he will announce details on participating locations and how to sign up on Jan. 28.
  • New Hampshire (Republican trifecta): On Thursday, Jan. 14, Gov. Chris Sununu (R) announced that the next phase of the state’s vaccine distribution plan will begin Jan. 26. People 65 and older will become eligible to receive the vaccine, as well as medically vulnerable people, the caregivers of medically vulnerable children, and people in correctional facilities.
     
  • New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): On Jan. 14, individuals age 65 and older and people between the ages of 16 and 64 with high-risk medical conditions (including people who smoke and individuals with type 2 diabetes, COPD, and cancer) became eligible to receive the vaccine. Previously, eligible recipients included healthcare workers, nursing home residents and staff, and first responders. Before Gov. Phil Murphy (D) expanded eligibility, individuals 75 and older and essential frontline workers were scheduled to be next in line.
  • Utah (Republican trifecta): On Thursday, Jan. 14, Gov. Spencer Cox (R) announced that Utah would continue to reserve vaccines for people age 70 and older, likely into late February. Cox said people age 65 and older would become eligible once the state had acquired a greater supply of the vaccine. 
  • Virginia (Democratic trifecta): On Thursday, Jan. 14, the Virginia Department of Education released new guidance encouraging schools to prioritize in-person learning, especially for younger students and those with disabilities.


Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: January 14, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery by Ballotpedia

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

  • Montana (Republican trifecta): Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) issued an order lifting capacity limits and the 10 p.m. curfew on restaurants, bars, and casinos starting Jan. 15. Gianforte also ended the state’s 25-person gathering limit. Former Gov. Steve Bullock (D) issued the previous restrictions on Nov. 20, 2020.

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 individuals age 65 and older are next in line for the coronavirus vaccine. Currently, the state is distributing vaccines to healthcare workers and nursing home residents. 
  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, Jan. 13, Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) announced that people age 70 and older can now register to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Previously, vaccines were reserved for those 80 and older.  
  • Maine (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Janet Mills (D) announced the state is expanding Phase 1a (the current phase) of the vaccine distribution plan to include first responders, corrections officers, and critical COVID-19 response personnel (like test manufacturers). Mills also said Phase 1b will be expanded to include residents age 70 and older and individuals with high-risk medical conditions, which the state will define at a later date.
  • Massachusetts (divided government): On Wednesday, Jan. 13, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced that employees and residents in congregate care facilities and homeless shelters, as well staff and inmates in correctional facilities, will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 18. 
  • Michigan (divided government): On Wednesday, Jan. 13, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) announced that she would ease restrictions on indoor group exercises and non-contact sports beginning Jan. 16 while leaving a ban on indoor dining in place at least through Feb. 1. The text of the new order was not immediately available. 
  • Minnesota (divided government): On Wednesday, Jan. 13, Gov. Tim Walz (D) extended the statewide coronavirus emergency an additional 30 days.  
  • New York (Democratic trifecta): New York Supreme Court Justice Henry Nowak issued a preliminary injunction allowing 90 restaurants that were part of a lawsuit against the indoor dining ban in Orange Zones to resume indoor dining at 50% capacity. The preliminary injunction is effective through Jan. 19, when Nowak will decide whether the injunction should be made permanent. New York Supreme Courts are the highest trial courts in New York State, not New York’s courts of last resort.
  • Oklahoma (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, Jan. 13, Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) extended the statewide coronavirus emergency an additional 30 days and removed a requirement that bars and restaurants close to indoor dining at 11 p.m.
  • North Carolina (divided government): On Thursday, Jan. 14, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) said that people 65 and older would soon be eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine. Cooper said more information would be forthcoming but did not give a time for when the new policy would take effect. 
  • West Virginia (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, Jan. 13, Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced the state would open up COVID-19 vaccinations to people age 70 and older. 

School closures and reopenings

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

We last looked at schools in our Jan. 7 newsletter. Since then, no states have issued an order closing or reopening schools statewide. The current status of school restrictions in the states is as follows:

  • Two states (N.M., W.Va.) and Washington, D.C. had state- or district-ordered school closures.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 695,968 students (1.38% of students nationwide)
  • Five states (Calif., Del., Hawaii, N.C., R.I.) had state-ordered regional school closures, required closures for certain grade levels, or allowed hybrid instruction only.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 8,319,164 students (16.44% of students nationwide)
  • Four states (Ark., Fla, Iowa, Texas) had state-ordered in-person instruction.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 9,180,918 students (18.15% of students nationwide)
  • Thirty-nine states left decisions to schools or districts.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 32,391,809 students (64.03% of students nationwide)

Travel restrictions

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

  • Governors or state agencies in 13 states issued executive orders placing restrictions on out-of-state visitors. At least 14 of those orders have been rescinded.
    • Since Jan. 7, no states have implemented new, or modified existing, travel restrictions. 

Federal responses

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

  • On Jan. 12, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that, beginning Jan. 26, all travelers to the United States would need to present proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within three days of departure, regardless of vaccination status. Airlines will be required to verify that all passengers meet the requirement and deny boarding to those who cannot or will not present a test result.
  • On Jan. 12, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced the federal government was changing its vaccine distribution guidelines and recommending states expand the pool of eligible recipients to include everyone 65 and older, including people with underlying health conditions. Azar also said the federal government would begin shipping second doses to states instead of holding them in reserve. He also announced a new system for allocating vaccines to states. Instead of basing the allocation on the total adult population in a state, it will now be based on the population of people age 65 and older, as well as on how quickly states can administer vaccines.


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

Documenting America's Path to Recovery by Ballotpedia

Since our last edition

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

  • California (Democratic trifecta): The state lifted the Greater Sacramento region’s stay-at-home order on Jan. 12, marking the first time a regional stay-at-home order has ended in California. The region’s stay-at-home order began on Dec. 10. Three of the state’s five regions still have active stay-at-home orders. Counties in the Greater Sacramento region are now subject to the state’s color-coded risk level restrictions. For more information on restrictions in each county, click here
  • Idaho (Republican trifecta): Gov. Brad Little (R) announced the state is starting its next phase of vaccine distribution. Little said teachers, school staff, and first responders would be prioritized between Jan. 13-31. The first phase included frontline healthcare workers and nursing home staff and residents. Individuals age 65 and older will be able to access the vaccine starting February 1.
  • Louisiana (divided government): Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) extended the state’s modified Phase 2 reopening until Feb. 10. The modified phase limits restaurants, retailers, gyms, personal care businesses, and movie theaters to 50% capacity. Bars must close indoor service if their parish has a positivity rate greater than 5%. Bars that are permitted to open are limited to 25% capacity. All indoor and outdoor gatherings are limited to the lesser of 25% capacity or a maximum of 75 people indoors or 150 people outdoors.
  • Massachusetts (divided government): On Tuesday, Jan. 12, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced that Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots, would serve as the state’s first mass vaccination site. The site is currently equipped to administer up to 300 vaccines a day to first responders. Baker said that number will increase to 5,000 per day as more individuals become eligible. 
  • New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): On Jan. 13, Gov Phil Murphy (D) announced the state will begin offering vaccines to individuals age 65 and older “effective almost immediately, within the next day or two.”
  • New York (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) expanded Phase 1b of the state’s vaccination plan to include individuals age 65 and older and immunocompromised individuals. Previously, only individuals 75 and older were eligible.
  • Oklahoma (Republican trifecta): On Tuesday, Jan. 12, Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) announced that schools enforcing social distancing and mask-wearing will not have to quarantine students who were potentially exposed to the virus but are not showing symptoms. The new policy does not apply to students who were potentially exposed during after-school activities, including sports. Previously, schools were required to enforce a two-week quarantine for students potentially exposed to COVID-19, whether or not they exhibited symptoms.  
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): 
    • Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced that effective Jan. 15-28, 26 counties will be in the state’s Extreme Risk level, two will be at High Risk, two will be at Moderate Risk, and six will have Lower Risk restrictions. To see restrictions in a specific county or risk level, click here
    • Brown also announced individuals age 65 and older will be included in the next phase of the state’s vaccine distribution plan, starting Jan. 23, along with childcare workers and school staff. 
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): On Tuesday, Jan. 12, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) issued an order allowing statewide elected officials to be sworn in remotely, instead of at the Washington state capitol building. 

Additional activity

In this section, we feature examples of other federal, state, and local government activity, private industry responses, and lawsuits related to the pandemic. 

  • On Tuesday, Jan. 12, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar announced the federal government was changing its vaccine distribution guidelines and recommending states expand the pool of eligible recipients to include everyone 65 and older, including people with underlying health conditions. Additionally, Azar said the federal government would begin shipping second doses to states instead of holding them in reserve. He also announced a new system for allocating vaccines to states. Instead of basing the allocation on the total adult population in a state, the allocation will now be based on the population of people age 65 and older, as well as on how quickly states can administer vaccines.


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

Documenting America's Path to Recovery by Ballotpedia

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

  • South Carolina (Republican trifecta): Gov. Henry McMaster (R) announced all individuals age 70 or older can begin scheduling appointments to receive a vaccine starting Jan. 13.

Since our last edition

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

  • Maryland (divided government): On Monday, Jan. 11, Gov. Larry Hogan announced a $1 billion COVID-19 relief bill he plans to introduce in the spring legislative session. The bill includes $267 million in direct payments to low- and moderate-income residents and $180 million in tax relief for those who were laid off in the pandemic. The bill also includes sales tax credits for small businesses.
  • Massachusetts (divided government): On Monday, Jan. 11, first responders, including police officers, firefighters, and EMTs, became eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Michigan (divided government): On Monday, Jan. 11, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar requesting permission to buy 100,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine directly from Pfizer to speed up distribution. 
  • Nevada (Democratic trifecta): 
    • On Monday, Jan. 11, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) extended statewide coronavirus restrictions an additional 30 days. Restrictions include a requirement that businesses like restaurants, bars, and casinos operate at no more than 25% capacity. 
    • On Jan. 11, Sisolak also announced the state will prioritize vaccinations for people age 70 and above. Previously, the minimum age for seniors had been 75.  
  • New York (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced all individuals in Phase 1b of the state’s vaccine distribution plan could begin scheduling appointments starting Jan. 11. Phase 1b includes individuals age 75 and older, first responders who were not included in Phase 1a, school staff, and correctional and congregate living facility staff and residents. Cuomo said the state is still prioritizing members of Phase 1a (including frontline healthcare workers and nursing home staff and residents), so individuals in Phase 1b should expect appointments up to 14 weeks out from the day they schedule an appointment.
  • West Virginia (Republican trifecta): On Monday, Jan. 11, Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced that 100% of the COVID-19 vaccine doses the state received from the federal government had been administered or were scheduled to be administered this week. 

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 1,361 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 424 of those lawsuits. 
    • Since Jan. 5, we have added 25 lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional 11 court orders and/or settlements. 

Details:

  • Chew v. Bedke: On Jan. 7, two Idaho state lawmakers sued Idaho House of Representatives Speaker Scott Bedke (R), alleging that the absence of COVID-19 safety measures at the state capitol violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The plaintiffs are Reps. Sue Chew (D) and Muffy Davis (D), both of whom are at greater risk of serious danger from COVID-19 due to pre-existing medical conditions. They seek “accommodations, including remote participation and a self-contained office if the legislature leadership and Governor aren’t going to reasonably institute COVID-19 protections and control those with bad intentions who enter our Capitol.” Bedke said, “Though it’s unfortunate that negotiations have taken this turn, I will continue to move forward in good faith toward a solution workable for all members.” The case is pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Idaho. It has been assigned to Chief Judge David C. Nye, an appointee of President Donald Trump (R).

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the Jan. 5 edition of the newsletter. Since then, no new states have adopted a statewide public mask mandate or let a face-covering requirement expire.

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
    • Two federal officials have died of COVID-19.
    • Fifty-two members of Congress have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Forty-one federal officials have quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • State
    • Eight state-level incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • One-hundred and sixty-six state-level incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19
    • Eighty-four 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 36 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 Jan. 5, seven U.S. representatives, four state representatives, one state senator, and one city council member announced positive COVID-19 test results. One lieutenant governor and one mayor announced negative results. 

Details:

  • On Jan. 4, South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Mitchell Spearman (R) announced she tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • On Jan. 5, Pennsylvania state Rep. Summer Lee (D) announced she tested positive for COVID-19.
  • On Jan. 5, Nashville, TN, Mayor John Cooper announced he tested negative for COVID-19. 
  • On Jan. 6, Mesa, AZ, city council member Francisco Heredia announced he tested positive for COVID-19.
  • On Jan. 6, Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-Fl.) announced he tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • On Jan. 6, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) announced he tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • On Jan. 7, Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Calif.) announced she tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • On Jan. 7, Rep. Jacob LaTurner (R-Kan.) announced he tested positive for COVID-19.
  • On Jan. 8, Michigan state Rep. Abdullah Hammoud (D) announced he tested positive for COVID-19.  
  • On Jan. 8, Montana state Rep. David Bedey (R) announced he tested positive for COVID-19.
  • On Jan. 10, Florida state Sen. Kathleen Passidomo (R) announced she tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • On Jan. 11, Montana state Rep. Fiona Nave (R) announced she tested positive for COVID-19.
  • On Jan. 11, North Dakota Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford (R) announced he tested negative for COVID-19. His wife tested positive for the virus on Jan. 7.
  • On Jan. 11, Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) announced she tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • On Jan. 11, Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) announced she tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • On Jan. 12, Rep. Brad Schneider (D-Ill.) announced he tested positive for COVID-19.


Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: January 11, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery by Ballotpedia

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) announced individuals age 75 and older and first responders (including police officers and firefighters) will be eligible to receive a vaccine starting Jan. 18. Ivey said the change was not a full expansion into Phase 1b. Phase 1a currently includes healthcare workers and long-term care residents and staff.
  • Delaware (Democratic trifecta): Gov. John Carney (D) extended the state’s stay-at-home advisory and mask requirements until further notice. Carney allowed the 10 p.m. curfew for bars and restaurants to expire on Jan. 8.
  • Florida (Republican trifecta): On Sunday, Jan. 10, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) announced the state had opened seven new vaccine distribution centers in partnership with local churches and worship centers.
  • Iowa (Republican trifecta): On Friday, Jan. 8, Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) ended limits on the number of spectators at high school sports and recreational events. Previously, no more than two spectators were allowed per athlete.  
  • Massachusetts (divided government): On Friday, Jan. 8, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced a pooled testing initiative that will begin next month for school districts providing in-person and hybrid learning. The initiative will involve analyzing batches of COVID-19 test samples from individual schools on a weekly basis. If COVID-19 is not detected in the batch, then everyone in the school is presumed to be negative for the virus.
  • Minnesota (divided government): Gov. Tim Walz (D) is easing coronavirus restrictions on Jan. 11. Bars and restaurants can reopen to indoor dining at 50% capacity, and the maximum capacity at outdoor entertainment venues is increasing to 250 (or 25% capacity, whichever is less). Indoor entertainment venues, such as bowling alleys, can reopen at 25% capacity. Youth sports games can resume on Jan. 14 with spectators, so long as social distancing is enforced. Indoor private events (such as weddings) that serve food are limited to 10 people from a maximum of two households. Outdoor events are limited to three households or 15 people.
  • Pennsylvania (divided government): Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced changes to the state’s vaccine distribution plan based on recommendations from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. The changes included adding people aged 75 and older to Phase 1B (the next phase) of the plan and creating Phase 1C, which will include people between the ages of 65 and 74 and individuals with high-risk conditions (like COPD, cancer, and some heart conditions).
  • Utah (Republican trifecta): Effective Monday, Jan. 11, school teachers and staff, and adults 70 and older are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Gov. Spencer Cox (R) made the announcement Jan. 8. The state says it hopes to vaccinate all healthcare workers, nursing home staff and residents, first responders, tribal health frontline workers, school teachers and staff, and adults 70 and older by the end of February.
     
  • Virginia (Democratic trifecta): Effective Monday, Jan. 11, the next phase of the state’s vaccine rollout begins in 11 health districts, according to a Jan. 8 Health Department announcement. The new phase allows essential frontline workers, people age 75 and older, and people living in correctional facilities and homeless shelters to receive the vaccine.
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D) Healthy Washington plan for lifting coronavirus restrictions is effective Jan. 11. The new two-phased plan divides the state into eight regions and replaces the current county-level reopening plan. Each region begins in Phase 1, which limits capacity at gyms and prohibits indoor dining and at-home indoor gatherings with people outside the household. Phase 2 eases restrictions, which includes allowing restaurants to reopen at 50%.
  • Wyoming (Republican trifecta): Gov. Mark Gordon (R) eased coronavirus restrictions on Jan. 9. Bars and restaurants are now permitted to resume serving alcohol between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Gyms are permitted to hold fitness classes with up to 25 people, up from 10 under the previous restrictions.


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

Documenting America's Path to Recovery by Ballotpedia

The next 72 hours

What is changing in the next 72 hours?

  • Minnesota (divided government): Gov. Tim Walz (D) will ease coronavirus restrictions on Jan. 11. On that day, bars and restaurants can reopen to indoor dining at 50% capacity, and the maximum capacity at outdoor entertainment venues will increase to 250 (or 25% capacity, whichever is less). Indoor entertainment venues, such as bowling alleys, can reopen at 25% capacity. Youth sports games can resume on Jan. 14 with spectators, so long as social distancing is enforced. Indoor private events (such as weddings) that serve food are limited to 10 people from a maximum of two households. Outdoor events are limited to three households or 15 people. On Thursday, Jan. 7, Walz issued executive orders aimed at protecting federal COVID-19 relief payments. The first order protects those payments from garnishment for consumer debt, while the second prohibits the payments from being counted as income for federal assistance programs. 
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Jay Inslee’s (D) Healthy Washington plan for lifting coronavirus restrictions will go into effect Jan. 11. The new two-phased plan divides the state into eight regions and replaces the current county-level reopening plan. Each region begins in Phase 1, which limits capacity at gyms and prohibits indoor dining and at-home indoor gatherings with people outside the household. Phase 2 eases restrictions, which includes allowing restaurants to reopen at 50%.
  • Wyoming (Republican trifecta): Gov. Mark Gordon (R) will ease coronavirus restrictions on Jan. 9. Bars and restaurants will be permitted to resume serving alcohol between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Gyms will also be permitted to hold fitness classes with up to 25 people, up from 10 under the current restrictions.

Since our last edition

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

  • Iowa (Republican trifecta): On Thursday, Jan. 7, Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) issued an order lifting spectator limits on sporting and recreational events, including high school sports. The order also extended some restrictions, such as requiring people to wear masks when social distancing isn’t possible, through Feb. 6.
  • Kansas (divided government): Gov. Laura Kelly (D) announced a finalized vaccine distribution order for the state. Healthcare workers and long-term care residents and staff are being vaccinated in Phase 1 (the current phase). In Phase 2, the vaccine will be available to individuals over the age of 65, high-contact essential workers (including police officers, grocery store workers, and school staff), and congregate care workers and residents (including in prisons and homeless shelters). Phase 3 will include individuals with state-defined high-risk pre-existing conditions (including cancer, chronic kidney disease, and type 2 diabetes) and other essential workers who cannot work remotely. Phase 4 will include individuals with state-defined lower-risk pre-existing conditions (including asthma, type 1 diabetes, and obesity). Phase 5 will include the remaining population.
  • Massachusetts (divided government): On Thursday, Jan. 7, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) extended statewide coronavirus restrictions through Jan. 24. The restrictions include capacity limits on businesses and gathering limits on indoor and outdoor events.
  • New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced firefighters and police officers are now eligible to receive the coronavirus vaccine.
  • North Dakota (Republican trifecta): On Thursday, Jan. 7, Gov. Doug Burgum (R) issued an order easing coronavirus restrictions on restaurants, bars, and gatherings. Effective Jan. 8, restaurants and bars can operate at 65% capacity, with a total limit of 200 patrons.
  • Ohio (Republican trifecta): On Thursday, Jan. 7, Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced the second phase of Ohio’s vaccine distribution plan would begin Jan. 19, at which point the state would begin vaccinating people age 80 and older. The state will provide vaccines to school teachers on Feb. 1. 
  • South Carolina (Republican trifecta): Gov. Henry McMaster (R) extended the state’s coronavirus emergency order until Jan. 22.


Union Station: Federal court rejects challenge to Wisconsin union regulations

Seventh Circuit rejects challenge to Wisc. Act 10   

On Dec. 17, 2020, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rejected a challenge to Wisconsin Act 10, omnibus legislation enacted in 2011 that introduced new requirements and regulations for public-sector labor unions.

The parties to the suit  

The plaintiffs are the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 139, and two of its members: Karen Erickson and Heath Hanrahan. IUOE Local 139 is an affiliate of AFL-CIO. According to its most recent filing with the U.S. Department of Labor, IUOE Local 139 has 10,223 members. 

The defendants are James Daley, chairman of the Wisconsin Employment Relations Commission, and the Wisconsin Legislature. 

What is at issue, and how the lower court ruled  

On Aug. 26, 2019, the plaintiffs filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. They alleged the following Act 10 provisions violated their constitutional rights:

  • Collective bargaining subject restrictions: Act 10 prohibited municipal government employers from bargaining collectively with public-sector unions over any condition of employment except wages.
    • The plaintiffs alleged that “Act 10 has been interpreted and applied by the WERC to preclude any agreements between Unions and municipalities over any issues besides wages, even if not ‘collectively bargained.’ … Such an interpretation and application of Act 10 imposes an arbitrary restriction [on] Unions’ ability to negotiate and/or contract with municipal employers on matters of significant public concern, outside of the collective bargaining context, in violation of the First Amendment and/or Fourteenth Amendment.”
  • Prohibition against payroll dues deductions: Act 10 prohibited municipal government employers from deducting union dues from union members’ paychecks.
    • The plaintiffs alleged that “Act 10’s blanket prohibition on wage deductions for Union dues constitutes a content based restriction on public employees’ First Amendment rights.”
  • Recertification elections: Act 10 required annual recertification elections for unions, with a requirement that at least 51 percent of all workers in the bargaining unit vote to recertify.
    • The plaintiffs alleged that “by counting a non-vote as a ‘no’ vote, Act 10 violates the First Amendment rights of public employee non-voters to remain silent in the recertification process.” 

In two separate orders (the first in March 2020 and the second in April 2020), U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Stadtmueller, a Ronald Reagan (R) appointee, dismissed these arguments. Stadtmueller ruled that the union lacked standing to challenge Act 10’s recertification requirements and bargaining subject limitations. He dismissed the plaintiffs’ challenge to the prohibition against payroll dues deductions on the merits, citing a 2013 Seventh Circuit ruling (Wisconsin Education Association Council (WEAC) v. Walker) that upheld such prohibitions.  

The plaintiffs appealed to the Seventh Circuit, which held oral argument on Nov. 13, 2020. 

How the Seventh Circuit ruled  

The three-judge panel – Judges Joel Flaum, Ilana Rovner, and Michael B. Brennanunanimously affirmed the lower court’s decision. Regarding the plaintiffs’ dues deduction claim, Flaum, writing for the court, cited two U.S. Supreme Court precedents:

  • Ysursa v. Pocatello Education Association, a 2009 decision upholding a law prohibiting payroll dues deductions because “[the First Amendment] does not confer an affirmative right to use government payroll mechanisms for the purpose of obtaining funds for expression.” 
  • Janus v. AFSCME, a 2018 decision establishing that public-sector unions cannot require non-member employees to pay fees covering the costs of non-political union activities. 

Flaum wrote: 

Plaintiffs-appellants’ contention that we should revisit WEAC because Janus overruled Ysursa fares no better. Janus held that the First Amendment prohibits compelled speech in the form of mandatory agency fees. It did not mention Ysursa, let alone overrule its holding that states have no obligation to provide any payroll deductions. Plaintiffs-appellants concede that ‘Janus did not have the opportunity to have directly overruled or altered the framework of Ysursa.’ Given that the Supreme Court does not normally overturn or dramatically limit its precedents sub silentio [i.e., under silence, or implicitly], we conclude that Ysursa — and by extension, WEAC — still controls.

Flaum, Rovner, and Brennan are Reagan, George H.W. Bush (R), and Donald Trump (R) appointees, respectively. 

What comes next  

The plaintiffs have not said whether they will appeal the Seventh Circuit’s decision. The case and number are International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 139 v. Daley (appellate court: 20-1672, 20-1724; district court: 2:19-cv-01233).

What we’re reading


The big picture

Number of relevant bill by state

We are currently tracking 10 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking. 

Number of relevant bill by current legislative status

Number of relevant bill by partisan status of sponsor(s) 

Recent legislative actions

  • Maryland SB9: This bill would make revisions to the collective bargaining process for employees of the University System of Maryland.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • First reading in Senate Finance Committee scheduled for Jan. 13.
  • New Hampshire HB206: This bill would establish that collective bargaining strategy discussions in which only one party is involved would not be subject to the state’s right-to-know law.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Introduced and referred to House Judiciary Committee Jan. 6.
  • New York A00243: This bill would allow public-sector labor unions to reconsider and re-vote on written agreements that were initially voted down.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Referred to Assembly Governmental Employees Committee Jan. 6.
  • Washington SB5055: This bill would prohibit law enforcement personnel from entering into collective bargaining agreements that prevent, prohibit, or otherwise alter local government ordinances or charters providing for “civilian review of law enforcement personnel.”
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Pre-filed for introduction Jan. 4.


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

Documenting America's Path to Recovery by Ballotpedia

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

  • California (Democratic trifecta): The Department of Health will review the Bay Area’s regional stay-at-home order Jan. 8—the final day of the required three-week minimum length of the order. The region’s current ICU availability is 5.9%. Restrictions will remain effective until the region’s four-week projected available ICU capacity is equal to or greater than 15%.

Since our last edition

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

  • Illinois (Democratic trifecta): Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced Phase 1B of the state’s vaccination plan will include individuals 65 years of age and older, non-medical essential frontline workers (including first responders, school staff, and grocery store workers), and inmates. The press release did not include a target date for Phase 1B to begin.
  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, Jan. 6, the Department of Health added 10 counties to the red category of its county infection map, bringing the total number of counties in the highest risk category of COVID-19 spread to 57. Red indicates that the 7-day positivity rate for tests is 15% or greater and that weekly coronavirus cases are growing at 200 or more new cases per 100,000 residents. The remaining 35 counties are classified as yellow, the next highest risk classification.
  • Minnesota (divided government): On Jan. 6, Gov. Tim Walz (D) announced he would ease coronavirus restrictions on Jan. 11. On that day, bars and restaurants can reopen to indoor dining at 50% capacity, and the maximum capacity at outdoor entertainment venues will increase to 250 (or 25% capacity, whichever is less). Indoor entertainment venues, such as bowling alleys, can reopen at 25% capacity. Youth sports games can resume on Jan. 14 with spectators, so long as social distancing is enforced. Private parties (such as weddings) that serve food are limited to two households, or 10 people, if the event is held indoors. Outdoor events are limited to 3 households or 15 people.
  • Montana (Republican trifecta): Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) announced that after healthcare workers are vaccinated, the state’s distribution plan will prioritize residents over the age of 70, individuals with preexisting conditions, and Native Americans. Previously, the plan prioritized certain frontline essential workers and individuals in congregate care and correctional facilities in Phase 1B.
  • North Carolina (divided government): On Wednesday, Jan. 6, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) extended the statewide curfew requiring people to stay at home from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. through Jan. 29. 
  • West Virginia (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, Jan. 6, Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced operation “Save Our Wisdom.” The effort aims to vaccinate all adults aged 80 and older, as well as Pre-K-12 school faculty age 50 and older, through a series of 10 clinics that will be held later in the week in different parts of the state.  

School closures and reopenings

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

Overview:

We last looked at schools in our Dec. 17 newsletter. Since then, four states lifted partial closure orders, and two states implemented temporary full closures. The current status of school restrictions in the states is as follows:

  • Two states (N.M., W.Va.) and Washington, D.C. had state- or district-ordered school closures
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 695,968 students (1.38% of students nationwide)
  • Five states (Calif., Del., Hawaii, N.C., R.I.) had state-ordered regional school closures, required closures for certain grade levels, or allowed hybrid instruction only.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 8,319,164 students (16.44% of students nationwide)
  • Four states (Ark., Fla, Iowa, Texas) had state-ordered in-person instruction
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 9,180,918 students (18.15% of students nationwide)
  • Thirty-nine states left decisions to schools or districts
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 32,391,809 students (64.03% of students nationwide)

Details:

  • Kentucky The state’s Healthy at School guidelines became mandatory and middle and high schools were allowed to reopen for in-person instruction on Jan. 4.
  • Michigan – Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) allowed public and private high schools to reopen starting Dec. 21.
  • New Mexico – Schools in the state are prohibited from providing in-person instruction from Jan. 4 -15 to mitigate virus spread.
  • New York – On Jan. 4, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced schools can remain open in communities with 9% or greater positivity rates if positivity among students and school staff is lower than positivity in the surrounding community. Previously, the state required schools to close in communities where the positivity rate was 9% or greater. 
  • Oregon – The state’s school reopening metrics, which previously determined when schools could open, became advisory instead of mandatory on Jan. 1.
  • West Virginia – On Dec. 30, Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced that all elementary and middle schools would reopen for full-time, in-person instruction beginning Jan. 19. Justice also announced that most high schools would reopen unless they were located in counties classified as Red (25+ cases per 100,000 people) in the Department of Health and Human Resources County Alert System. On Jan. 4, schools began a two-week period of state-ordered remote-only learning to prepare for the move to in-person instruction.

Travel restrictions

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

Overview:

  • Governors or state agencies in 13 states issued executive orders placing restrictions on out-of-state visitors. At least 14 of those orders have been rescinded.
    • Since Dec. 17, no states have implemented or modified travel restrictions. 

Details:

  • California – On Dec. 31, 2020, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health issued an order requiring anyone entering the county from outside the Southern California Region to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival. The order took effect Jan. 1, 2021, and will remain in effect until the regional stay-at-home order expires. According to the California Department of Public Health, the Southern California Region includes the following counties: Imperial, Inyo, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura. 

Federal responses

Read more: Federal government responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020-2021

  • On Jan. 6, 2021, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the federal government would accelerate a program to allocate COVID-19 vaccines to pharmacies this week. Azar said the partnership includes 40 pharmacy chains and would allow the government to eventually distribute vaccines to around 40,000 locations.
  • On Dec. 27, 2020, President Donald Trump (R) signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act into law. The bill included the $900 billion COVID-19 relief package. 
  • On Dec. 21, 2020, the U.S. Senate and U.S. House passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act.


The Runoff Report: With Ossoff and Warnock wins, Democrats will control the Senate

In today’s final regular edition of The Runoff Report, we bring you the latest results and analysis of the Georgia Senate runoffs. Originally intended for yesterday, Jan. 6, we postponed the edition following the protests and riots surrounding Congress’ certification of the presidential election. For more, see today’s edition of The Transition Tracker.

Democrats win control of the Senate

Democrats won control of the U.S. Senate following Georgia’s two runoff elections on Tuesday. Jon Ossoff (D) defeated David Perdue (R) in the regular runoff election. Raphael Warnock (D) defeated Kelly Loeffler (R) in the special runoff election. Georgia’s last Democratic senator, Zell Miller, left office in 2005.

In the regular runoff election, Ossoff had 50.4% of the vote to Perdue’s 49.6% as of Thursday morning. Ossoff will be the state’s first Jewish senator. 

Warnock won with 50.8% of the vote to incumbent Kelly Loeffler’s (R) 49.2% as of Thursday morning. Warnock will be the first Black U.S. senator from Georgia. 

Once sworn in after runoff results are certified, Ossoff and Warnock will bring the Democratic caucus to 50 members, splitting the chamber with 50 Republicans. The vice president—Kamala Harris (D) as of Jan. 20—has the tie-breaking vote in the chamber. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) has until Jan. 22 to certify runoff results.

Perdue was elected to the Senate in 2014, and his term ended Jan. 3. Gov. Brian Kemp (R) appointed Loeffler after Johnny Isakson (R) resigned at the end of 2019 for health reasons. Once sworn in, Warnock will serve the remaining two years of the term Isakson won in 2016.

Democrats last controlled the Senate from 2007 to 2015. Democrats currently hold a majority of 222-211 in the U.S. House. 

Turnout

Around 4.5 million people voted in Georgia’s runoffs, compared to 5 million during the November election. That’s a turnout decrease of 10%. 

Before this year, Georgia had held two runoffs for U.S. Senate: one in 2008 and one in 1992. In 2008, turnout between the general and runoff elections decreased by 43%. In 1992, turnout decreased by 44%.

The New York Times reported the following estimated runoff turnout breakdown:

Over all, turnout reached a remarkable 92 percent of 2020 general election levels in precincts carried by Mr. Biden in November, compared with 88 percent of general election levels in the precincts carried by Mr. Trump. These tallies include Upshot estimates of the remaining uncounted vote by precinct, and it suggests that nearly all of the Democratic gains since the November election can be attributed to the relatively stronger Democratic turnout.

A majority of Georgia’s Democratic voters are Black — they are roughly 30 percent of the overall electorate — and it was these voters who drove the stronger Democratic turnout. Over all, turnout reached 93 percent of 2020 levels in precincts where Black voters represented at least 80 percent of the electorate. In comparison, turnout fell to 87 percent of general election levels in white working-class precincts.

Pivot and Reverse-Pivot County voting

Last month, we looked at voting patterns in Georgia’s Pivot and Reverse-Pivot counties. Here’s how they voted in the Senate runoffs compared to the Senate races in November based on unofficial results available Thursday morning. Republican candidates won all Pivot Counties, and Democratic candidates won all Reverse-Pivot Counties. Below, we’re focusing on differences in the number of votes between November and January in each county.

Georgia’s five Pivot Counties voted for Barack Obama (D) in 2008 and 2012, then Donald Trump (R) in 2016. All five voted for Trump again in 2020. 

Georgia’s three Reverse-Pivot Counties voted for John McCain (R) in 2008 and Mitt Romney (R) in 2012 and then for Hillary Clinton (D) in 2016. All three supported Biden (D) in 2020.

The middle two columns show vote totals from the runoff election. The difference between runoff votes and general election votes are in parentheses. For example: Ossoff received 624 votes in Baker County in the runoff. That was 24 fewer votes than he received in the county in November.

The column on the right shows the difference between votes lost per county. Colors show which party lost fewer votes. For example, in Baker County, Ossoff lost 39 fewer votes than Perdue.



Transition Tracker: Biden picks Merrick Garland to lead Justice Department

Prior to taking office on January 20, 2021, President-elect Joe Biden (D) and his team must prepare for the transition between presidential administrations, including selecting senior White House staff and appointees to top government positions.

In 2016, there were 1,714 government positions subject to presidential appointment: 1,242 positions required Senate confirmation and 472 did not. The new administration is also responsible for filling thousands of other positions across the federal government, including in operations and policy. Every weekday, Ballotpedia is tracking potential Cabinet nominees, appointments, and news related to the Biden presidential transition.

Congress Counts Electoral Votes, Declares Biden Winner

Congress convened a joint session on Wednesday to count electoral votes by state and confirm the result of the presidential election.

As president of the Senate, Vice President Mike Pence (R) presided over the proceedings. To object to a state’s count, one member each from the House and Senate had to submit a written objection after the body read the vote count from a particular state or D.C. After time for debate—a maximum of two hours—both chambers voted by a simple majority to concur or reject the objection.

Thousands of supporters of President Donald Trump (R) went to the Capitol Building as Congress was in its joint session. Around 2:15 p.m. ET, both chambers recessed as the group breached the Capitol and the building went into lockdown. The group trespassed through several security barriers, leading to altercations with police and other security officials. Hundreds reached the interior of the Capitol and vandalized the building. Pence and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) were evacuated. Other members of Congress evacuated or sheltered in place. Four people died, including one woman shot and killed by Capitol Police.

After the Capitol was secured, Congress reconvened after 8 p.m. ET to continue with the count. Members submitted objections for six states. Two objections were formally presented by a Senate and House member:

  • Arizona: The Senate voted against sustaining the objection to Arizona’s electoral votes by a vote of 6-93. The House voted against sustaining this objection by a vote of 121-303.
  • Pennsylvania: The Senate voted against sustaining the objection to Pennsylvania’s electoral votes by a vote of 7-92. The House voted against sustaining the objection by a vote of 138-282.

Four states were counted following incomplete objections presented by a U.S. House member without a U.S. senator:

  • Georgia
  • Michigan
  • Nevada
  • Wisconsin

At 3:40 a.m. ET, Pence declared Biden the winner of the presidential election with 306 electoral votes and concluded the joint session.

Since the 1887 passage of the Electoral Count Act, there have been two instances of congressional objections. In 1969, an objection was raised against the North Carolina electoral votes, which was rejected 58-33 in the Senate and 228-170 in the House. In 2005, an objection was raised to the Ohio vote. It was rejected 74-1 in the Senate and 267-31 in the House.

Appointments and Nominations

Merrick Garland, U.S. attorney general

Biden announced on Thursday that he had selected Merrick Garland, a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, as his nominee for U.S. attorney general. Garland previously worked at the Department of Justice, where he led prosecutions related to the Oklahoma City bombings and the Unabomber case. He was a deputy assistant attorney general for the Criminal Division and a principal associate deputy attorney general. 

Garland was previously nominated by President Barack Obama (D) to the Supreme Court.

Biden announced three other Department of Justice nominations:

  • Lisa Monaco, deputy attorney general
  • Vanita Gupta, associate attorney general
  • Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for civil rights

News

  • Operation Warp Speed leader Moncef Slaoui will continue to work in the Biden administration as a consultant. He said on Wednesday, “I will continue to support as needed, I think we are getting close to the point where my value add is more limited and therefore I’ll expect my activity to decrease gradually after January 21.” 
  • Biden is expected to name the National Security Agency’s director of cybersecurity, Anne Neuberger, to a newly created position on the National Security Council focused on cybersecurity. 

What We’re Reading



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