Author

Ballotpedia staff

Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #284: July 27, 2021

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

  • A law banning vacproof-of-vaccination requirements in New Hampshire
  • Updated indoor masking guidance in Louisiana
  • Vaccine distribution
  • Lawsuits about state actions and policies 
  • State-level mask requirements
  • COVID-19 emergency health orders
  • COVID-19 policy changes from this time last year 

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

Since our last edition

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

California (Democratic trifecta): On Monday, July 26, the state of California announced that all state employees and healthcare workers would be required to show proof of vaccination or be tested at least once a week for COVID-19. The policy will take effect Aug. 2, for state workers, and Aug. 9, for healthcare workers. The deadline for full compliance for health care facilities is Aug. 23.

Florida (Republican trifecta): On Friday, July 23, the Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed its July 17 ruling that allowed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to enforce its coronavirus restrictions on cruise lines in Florida. For cruise ships to set sail, the CDC required they mandate that 95% of passengers and 98% of crews be fully vaccinated. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) sued the CDC in April 2021, arguing the agency overstepped its authority when it issued its four-phase plan for reopening the cruise industry. Florida Senate Bill 2006, which DeSantis signed into law on May 3, prohibits businesses from requiring proof of vaccination. On June 18, U.S. District Court Judge Steven Merryday granted Florida a preliminary injunction against the restrictions. The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit overturned that injunction on July 17.

New Hampshire (Republican trifecta): On Friday, July 23, Gov. Chris Sununu (R) signed House Bill 220, which prohibits state and local government agencies from requiring people to provide proof of vaccination to enter public facilities or receive services. 

New York (Democratic trifecta): On Monday, July 26, New York City announced that starting mid-September all government employees will be required to provide proof of vaccination or be tested weekly for COVID-19.

Kentucky (Democratic governor): On Monday, July 26, Gov. Andy Beshear (D) recommended that school districts require all students under 12, all other unvaccinated students, and all unvaccinated adults to wear masks indoors.

Louisiana (Democratic governor): On Friday, July 23, the Louisiana Department of Health issued updated guidance recommending all residents wear face coverings indoors when six feet of physical distancing is not possible.

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the July 22 edition of the newsletter. As of July 27, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

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 1,834 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 561 of those lawsuits. 

Since July 20, we have added four lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional four court orders and/or settlements. 

Details:

  • Stepien v. Murphy: On July 1, a group of New Jersey public school students and parents sued state officials in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. Plaintiffs asked the court to prohibit officials from implementing school mask mandates and “other Covid-related preventative, isolation, and segregation policies.” Plaintiffs also asked the court to bar schools from administering COVID-19 tests to students without parental consent. Plaintiffs say reimposing these COVID-19 mitigation policies would “violate the First, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution.” The plaintiffs allege mask mandates “burdens and impairs protected speech rights, inhibiting and preventing communication between students, and between students, teachers and aides.” Plaintiffs also allege mandatory nasal swab tests are “invasive and in many cases causes injury, pain, and anxiety.” The case was assigned to Judge Kevin McNulty, an appointee of Barack Obama (D).

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the July 20 edition of the newsletter. Since then, Hawaii has relaxed its outdoor face-covering requirement.

COVID-19 emergency health orders

Read more: State emergency health orders during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2021

Governors and state agencies in all 50 states issued orders declaring active emergencies in response to the coronavirus pandemic. These orders allowed officials to access resources, like stockpiles of medical goods and equipment, unavailable to them during non-emergencies and temporarily waive or suspend certain rules and regulations. 

Overview: 

  • COVID-19 emergency orders have expired in 26 states. Emergency orders remain active in 24 states.
    • Since July 29, no states have ended their statewide COVID-19 emergencies. 

This time last year: Monday, July 27, and Tuesday, July 28, 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, July 27, 2020

  • Travel restrictions:
    • As part of Phase Two of D.C.’s reopening plan, Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) ordered non-essential travelers from “high-risk” states to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in the city. Bowser defined “high-risk states” as areas where the seven-day moving average of daily new COVID-19 case rate was 10 or more per 100,000 people.
  • Election changes:
    • West Virginia Secretary of State Mac Warner (R) announced that all voters “concerned about their health and safety because of COVID-19” would be eligible to vote absentee in the Nov. 3 general election.
    • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued a proclamation extending the early voting period for the Nov. 3 general election by six days. Originally scheduled to begin on Oct. 19, the proclamation moved early voting to Oct. 13.
  • Mask requirements:
    • Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) enacted a face-covering requirement. Under the order, anyone eight years or older were required to wear a mask in indoor public spaces, commercial businesses, and transportation services. Masks were also required in outdoor public spaces when social distancing was not possible. Holcomb issued the order July 24.
  • School closures and reopenings:
    • The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education signed an agreement with the state’s teachers unions to reduce the length of the 2020-2021 school year from 180 days to 170 days.
  • State court changes:
    • The Idaho Supreme Court delayed the resumption of criminal jury trials until Sept. 14 and civil jury trials until Dec. 1.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
    • Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) closed bars and limited restaurant capacity to 25% for two weeks. Beshear also asked schools to avoid reopening for in-person instruction until the third week of August. 
  • Travel restrictions:
    • Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced that Illinois, Kentucky Minnesota, Washington D.C., and Puerto Rico had been added to the joint travel advisory, bringing the total number of states to 37. Travelers from states on the advisory were required to quarantine for 14 days.
  • Election changes:
    • U.S. District Court for the District of New Hampshire Judge Joseph Laplante reduced the number of signatures needed to qualify Libertarian Party candidates for the ballot by 35%.
  • School closures and reopenings:
    • Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) announced that schools will not reopen until Sept. 8, when school districts could decide whether to return students to physical classrooms or offer distance learning. 
    • Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) ordered all public K-12 students and staff to wear a mask in school at all times. The directive also imposed social distancing guidelines of three feet for preschools through middle schools, and six feet for high schools.
    • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced metrics that would guide school reopening decisions. Brown said counties must have 10 or fewer coronavirus cases per 100,000 people and a 7-day positivity rate of 5% or less for three consecutive weeks before in-person and hybrid instruction could resume. Brown also said the state must have a positivity rate of 5% or less for three consecutive weeks before any in-person or hybrid instruction could resume.
    • Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) released guidelines for reopening schools. The recommendations covered testing and contact tracing, immunizations, and resources necessary for returning students to classrooms or teaching remotely.

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 Monday, July 26, St. Louis, MO, enacted a mask requirement. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) has filed a lawsuit challenging the mask requirement.
  • The U.S. Veterans Administration announced that all Title 38 employees will be required to be vaccinated against COVID-19 effective in eight weeks.


Economy and Society: SEC continues internal debate about its role in ESG investing

ESG Developments This Week

In Washington, D.C.

SEC continues internal debate about its role in ESG investing

On July 20, SEC Commissioner Hester Peirce delivered an address at the Brookings Institution in which she again made the case that the SEC’s current leadership is overstepping both its regulatory mandate and the bounds of what is objectively knowable about corporations and their impact on aggregate measures of environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) well-being. Peirce’s address, which is the latest public airing of grievances on the part of SEC Commissioners, conceded that SEC Chairman Gary Gensler and his supporters on the Commission have their hearts in the right place, seeking predictability for investors, but warned that, in her view, outcomes and intentions are often at odds. As a framework for her critique of proposed new disclosure mandates, Peirce presented ten theses that she argues all interested parties must consider before the Commission votes to make new disclosures compulsory:

“I. ESG as a category of topics is ill-suited, and perhaps inherently antithetical, to the establishment of clear boundaries and internal cohesion.

II. Many ESG issues lack a clear tie to financial materiality and therefore do not warrant inclusion in SEC-mandated disclosure.

III. The biggest ESG advocates are not investors, but stakeholders.

IV. ESG rulemaking is high-stakes because so many people stand to gain from it. 

V. “Good” in ESG is subjective, so writing a rule to highlight the good, the bad, and the ugly will be hard.

VI. An ESG rulemaking cannot resolve the many debates around ESG models, methodologies, and metrics. 

VII. Emotions around ESG issues may push us to write rules outside our area of authority. 

VIII. ESG issues are inherently political, which means that an ESG rulemaking could drag the SEC and issuers into territory that is best left to political and civil society institutions.

IX. ESG disclosure requirements may direct capital flows to favored industries in a way that runs counter to our historically agnostic approach.

X. An ESG rulemaking could play a role in undermining financial and economic stability.”

Peirce concluded, arguing that the SEC’s probable contravention of its statutory bounds could be remedied, if the Commissioners decided to take a more cautious, less over-optimistic approach to its regulatory limitations:

“You have made it with me through ten theses, so I will quickly draw to a close. I do not want to do so without first offering a potential better path forward. Rather than embarking on a prescriptive ESG rule that departs from and undermines our agency’s limited, but important, role, we could work within our existing regulatory framework. We could put out updated guidance to help issuers think through how the existing disclosure regime already reaches many ESG topics and to address frequently asked questions that arise in connection with the application of the existing disclosure regime. We also might consider whether we can give any Commission-level comfort about forward-looking statements along the lines of what former Chairman Clayton, Corporation Finance Director Bill Hinman, and Office of Municipal Disclosure Director Rebecca Olsen did in connection with COVID-19. Finally, we can work with investment advisers using ESG strategies and products to ensure that investors understand what that adviser’s brand of ESG means in theory and practice. I am looking forward to hearing other suggestions in the discussion that follows.”

On Wall Street and in the private sector

European ESG assets take a tumble—by design

According to the Global Sustainable Investments Alliance, the amount of money held by Europeans in sustainable investments fell from $14 trillion to $12 trillion. Given the relative stability of the bull market and the flood of funds into ESG, that seems counterintuitive at best. But it’s not, according to a Bloomberg Green story. The drop was not caused by decreasing value or a change in priorities but by an intentional reclassification of assets. Bloomberg Green reports:

“The decline isn’t the result of dampened investor enthusiasm for ESG investments, it’s because policy makers have tightened the parameters for what can be considered a responsible investment, said Simon O’Connor, chair of the GSIA….

Europe has led the global charge into ESG investments and its banks and fund managers are most advanced in calculating the impacts of their operations on climate change and biodiversity. The bloc’s politicians also have embraced sustainability by developing the world’s most ambitious climate strategy and a suite of new rules to bring the world of finance in line with its carbon neutrality target.

The EU’s anti-greenwashing rules known as the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation, or SFDR, were introduced in March and require fund managers to evaluate and disclose the environmental, social and corporate governance features of their financial products. They require fund managers to classify funds, with Article 8 funds defined as those that actively promote environmental or social characteristics, while Article 9 funds have sustainable investment as their objective, with both categories subject to higher standards of disclosure under the SFDR.”

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world, sustainable assets continued to grow unremittingly:

“[S]ustainable investment assets in the U.S. increased to $17 trillion last year from $12 trillion two years earlier. Canada recorded the largest proportional gain in ESG assets between 2018 and 2020, with a 42% jump to $2.4 trillion.

The sustainable investment industry grew 15% in the two-year period to $35.3 trillion, and now accounts for 36% of all professionally managed assets across the U.S., Canada, Japan, Australasia and Europe, GSIA said.”

The Financial Times reports two stories of dissent

First, on July 18, FT reported that the private equity business appears, on paper at least, to have become a hub of counter-cultural investing, in which ESG issues are treated with rather less deference than they are in the world of publicly traded companies:

“Done well, private equity has a crucial role to play in modernising economies, helping companies to restructure efficiently away from the short-termist glare of public markets. Buyout firms rightly pounce on listed companies that they deem undervalued or bloated. In so doing, they keep capitalism efficient and act as a positive reactionary force.

But is private equity also reactionary in the conservative backlash sense of the word — facilitating a rebellion against some of the progressive constraints of public company existence, particularly the growing demands of complying with standards on environmental, social and governance issues? The evidence is mounting.

More freedom on governance has long been seen as a plus for private companies. As listed company governance has become stricter, so the advantage of private company status has increased. Heads at private equity owned companies relish diminished bureaucracy and the ability to earn more money without critical scrutiny from public company shareholders. Fortress’s agreed £9.5bn buyout of Morrisons this month came with a strong hint that management “incentives structures” would be boosted, only weeks after the listed UK supermarket suffered a shareholder revolt over pay….

Social issues, S of ESG, are also antithetical to much traditional private equity. Many listed companies increasingly trumpet “stakeholder value”, expressing concern for staff, customers and a company’s local area. Private equity remains a safe space for the hard-nosed. Quite rightly in some instances: public-company management may have been loath to take tough decisions on closing shops, factories or offices, and making job cuts.

But it is in the environmental field that a good chunk of the private equity industry is playing its most obviously reactionary role. When oil majors are looking to sell off stranded production assets, private equity are among the readiest bidders.”

On July 22, FT returned to the issue of ESG vs. shareholder value, with a profile of Eiji Hirano, the former chairman of the board of the Japanese Government Pension Investment Fund, the largest pension fund in the world. According to the paper: 

“Though carefully framed, Hirano’s comments highlight increasingly urgent questions over the future direction of the GPIF since the departure in March 2020 of its charismatic chief investment officer Hiromichi Mizuno.”

“The GPIF [Government Pension Investment Fund] must always go back to its investment purpose,” says Eiji Hirano, who stood down from the job three months ago. His comments reflect concerns that too great a focus on environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards can add risk, including a possible collision between the law and the investment philosophy under the GPIF’s previous regime.

According to the law under which the GPIF operates, it must invest with the sole purpose of benefiting Japanese citizens through the returns generated….”

“[A]rguably Mizuno’s boldest achievement, which he proselytised about at Davos and other global financial forums, was yoking the GPIF name to the then fledgling theme of ESG investing. The campaign included what Mizuno himself described as the “epochal” decision to mandate index-compilers FTSE and MSCI to create ESG indices for the GPIF. It sent the message that the GPIF under his stewardship would regard ESG factors as financially relevant.”

“That, says Hirano, is one key area where debate is now focused. While there is increasing evidence that some aspects of ESG-themed strategies boost returns in the long term, he thinks many ESG proponents, including Mizuno, rely on the argument that it is “common sense” that this will be the case across the board.”

EU efforts to compel greater disclosure receive pushback—months ahead of implementation

On July 6, the European Commission finalized its new banking regulation known as the green assets ratio. The regulation will go into effect in 2022, and banks will be compelled to make their first report by 2024. The GAR is designed to measure the green loans and securities a bank possesses (against its total assets). And according to Bloomberg, banks are already crying foul:

“It’s meant to be the ultimate metric for gauging how clean European banks are. But some in the industry say it will be flawed from the get-go.

The European Union’s planned Green Asset Ratio, intended to reveal how much a bank lends to climate-friendly companies and projects, will offer a distorted picture of reality, according to a Bloomberg survey of some 20 major European banks. The firms, which rely on clients for the data they need to calculate the ratio, point out that many small or international companies simply won’t provide it….

Europe is taking a more aggressive approach than the U.S. and other jurisdictions on climate change and will ultimately penalize financial firms that turn a blind eye to global warming. Banks that have long touted their green credentials are now being told to back up those claims with hard data. Lenders perceived to be laggards risk losing investors and depositors.

The European Banking Authority, which mapped out the Green Asset Ratio, says the metric will help compare banks both in terms of their exposures as well as their sustainability strategy and how they plan to mitigate climate-change related risks. The EBA “strongly believes” that the availability, quality and exchange of data can be improved with the right regulatory framework and incentives, a spokeswoman for the Paris-based authority said by email. Banks will also be allowed to use estimates for the environmental impact of their clients, she said.”

In the Spotlight

Moody’s launches new ESG ratings service

Moody’s just launched an ESG ratings service for small and medium-sized companies. But because ESG data is unavailable or limited for smaller companies, Moody’s had to develop a new methodology for estimating or predicting a company’s ESG ratings, which it has done:

“Based on a model derived from Moody’s proprietary ESG scoring methodology for large-cap corporates, the ESG Score Predictor provides financial institutions with essential quantitative data for portfolio and risk management, and helps companies monitor ESG risk across their global supply chains….

Assessing companies’ exposure to ESG risks requires comparable and standardized metrics. Limitations in company disclosures continue to affect data quality and company coverage, especially in the SME space. The ESG Score Predictor leverages state-of-the-art advanced analytics to provide 56 ESG scores and sub-scores for any given company using location, sector, and size. Customers can access approximately 140 million company ESG scores on Moody’s Orbis database, Procurement Catalyst and Credit Catalyst platforms, via an application programming interface (API), or leverage the ESG Score Predictor model with their in-house data to score their portfolios.”

What this means, according to a Moody’s white paper on the subject, is that the number of companies on which it can provide estimated ESG scoring is now infinite. According to the paper, “As long as we have data on a firm’s size, location, and industry, we can use these three factors as inputs to generate predicted metrics using the SP models.”



Final candidate list released for Newsom recall

In hyperlocal news this week, we launched a Ballotpedia Store, allowing you to be a Ballotpedia evangelist from your front porch! Check out our selection of t-shirts, totes, and mugs here.

Our weekly summary of state & local news highlights the final candidate list released in the recall election of California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) and a federal court upholds the CDC’s COVID-19 cruise line restrictions. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the State & Local Tap.

Ballot Measures Update

Thirty-three statewide measures have been certified for the 2021 ballot in seven states so far.

  • No new measures were certified for the 2021 ballot last week.

Fifty-six statewide measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot in 26 states so far. 

Signatures have been submitted and are pending verification for one additional 2022 initiative in Michigan. One indirect initiative in Michigan was approved by the legislature last week. The initiative repealed Michigan’s Emergency Powers of Governor Act.

States in session

Eight states—California, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin—are in regular session.

Local Ballot Measures: The Week in Review

In 2021, Ballotpedia is providing comprehensive coverage of elections in America’s 100 largest cities by population and all state capitals. This encompasses every office on the ballot in these cities, including their municipal elections, trial court elections, school board elections, and local ballot measures. Ballotpedia also covers all local recall elections, as well as all local ballot measures in California and a selection of notable local ballot measures about elections and police-related policies. Recent and upcoming local ballot measure elections are listed below:

  • Aug. 3 – Michigan: Voters in Lansing will decide a property tax renewal. Voters in Detroit will, pending a Michigan Supreme Court ruling, decide whether to adopt a revised city charter that makes changes to policy on broadband access, police practices, healthcare, taxes and utilities, and reparations, among other topics.
  • Aug. 3 – Missouri: St. Louis Community College District voters will decide a property tax measure.
  • Aug. 3 – Washington: Voters in King County and Thurston County will decide property tax measures.

Special Elections

Forty-six state legislative special elections have been scheduled in 18 states so far this year. Thirty-four specials have taken place already. Heading into those races, Democrats had previously controlled 15 of the districts, and Republicans previously controlled 19. No districts have changed party hands as a result of the special elections.

  • In special elections between 2011 and 2020, one party (either Republicans or Democrats) saw an average net gain of four seats nationally each year.
  • An average of 57 seats were filled through special elections in each of the past six even years (2010: 30, 2012: 46, 2014: 40, 2016: 65, 2018: 99, 2020: 59).
  • An average of 88 seats were filled through special elections in each of the past five odd years (2011: 94, 2013: 84, 2015: 89, 2017: 98, 2019: 77).

Upcoming special elections include:

July 27

Aug. 3

Aug. 17

Kentucky state Rep. John “Bam” Carney dies

Kentucky state Rep. John “Bam” Carney (R) died while in office on July 17, due to long-term health issues. 

Carney was first elected to represent House District 51 in 2008. He most recently won re-election in 2020, defeating Richard Steele (D) 78.6% to 21.4%. He was elected state House majority leader in 2018 and served in that role until January 2020, when House Republicans named Rep. Steven Rudy (R) to serve as acting majority leader while Carney was ill. 

Carney was admitted to the ICU with pancreatitis in December 2019. He had spent the past year and a half in hospitals and was diagnosed with pneumonia in June 2021. He died on July 17 at age 51.

Carney is the second member of the Kentucky legislature to die this month; former state Senator Tom Buford (R) died on July 6. Kentucky is one of 25 states to fill state legislative vacancies through special elections.

Final candidate list released for Newsom recall

On July 21, California Secretary of State Shirley Weber (D) released the final list of 46 candidates that qualified for the gubernatorial recall election. The recall election seeking to remove Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) will take place on Sept. 14, 2021. Among the candidates that qualified were nine Democrats and 24 Republicans, including former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R), 2018 gubernatorial candidate John Cox (R), former U.S. Rep. Doug Ose (R), Caitlyn Jenner (R), and Larry Elder (R).

The recall election will present voters with two questions. The first will ask whether Newsom should be recalled from the office of governor. The second will ask who should succeed Newsom if he is recalled. A majority vote is required on the first question for the governor to be recalled. The candidate with the most votes on the second question would win the election, no majority required.

Since 1911, there have been 55 attempts to recall an incumbent California governor. The only successful recall campaign was in 2003 when voters recalled then-Gov. Gray Davis (D). Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) was chosen as Davis’ replacement. In that election, 135 candidates ran and the winner received 48.6% of the vote.

New Jersey state Sen. Chris Brown resigns to take new role in Murphy administration

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) appointed state Sen. Chris Brown (R) to a position in the Department of Community Affairs’ Division of Local Government Services on July 19. The position required Brown to leave the state Senate. Brown started his new job on July 20.

Brown first won election to the Senate to represent District 2 on Nov. 7, 2017, defeating incumbent Colin Bell (D) 53.52% to 46.48%. Brown had announced in February that he would not seek re-election.

Vacancies in the New Jersey legislature are filled by interim appointment by the county leadership of the party that last controlled the district. 

The New Jersey Senate is the upper chamber of the state legislature. Currently, there are 25 Democrats, 14 Republicans, and one vacancy in the Senate.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp appoints new state supreme court justice, public service commissioner

Governor Brian Kemp (R) appointed Verda Colvin to the Georgia Supreme Court and Fitz Johnson to the Georgia Public Service Commission on July 20 and 21, respectively. Colvin will fill the vacancy left by Justice Harold Melton, who retired on July 1 of this year, while Johnson will take former Commissioner Chuck Eaton’s position. Governor Kemp appointed Eaton to the Fulton County Superior Court on July 20. 

Founded in 1845, the Georgia Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort and has nine judgeships. As of July 2021, Republican governors appointed seven judges (eight once Colvin is sworn in) on the court and one was initially selected in a nonpartisan election. Judges are selected using the nonpartisan election of judges system. They serve six-year terms. When an interim vacancy occurs, the seat is filled using the assisted appointment method of judicial selection with the governor picking the interim justice from a slate provided by the Georgia Judicial Nominating Commission. 

The Georgia Public Service Commission is a quasi-executive, quasi-legislative state body responsible for regulating Georgia’s public utilities: electric, gas, telecommunications, and transportation firms. The commission is composed of five popularly elected members who serve staggered, six-year terms. If a vacancy occurs, the governor appoints a replacement to serve until the next general election. According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Johnson must win election in November 2022 to serve the remainder of Eaton’s term, which expires in 2024.

Federal court upholds CDC COVID-19 cruise line restrictions

On July 17, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit overturned a lower court order that blocked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) restrictions on the cruise industry, allowing the restrictions to stay in place. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) sued the CDC in April, arguing the agency overstepped its authority when it issued its four-phase plan for reopening the cruise industry. U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday sided with DeSantis on June 18, granting Florida a preliminary injunction against the restrictions.

The CDC’s plan requires 95% of passengers and 98% of crews to be fully vaccinated. Florida’s Senate Bill 2006, which DeSantis signed into law on May 3, prohibits businesses in the state from requiring proof of vaccination. 

DeSantis said he would appeal the ruling. 

New Jersey chief justice asks political parties to submit consensus candidate for congressional redistricting commission

On July 20, New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner asked Democrats and Republicans to reconvene and select a consensus candidate as the 13th member of the state’s congressional redistricting commission

According to state law, 12 of the 13 commissioners are appointed by the majority and minority leaders of the legislature and the chairs of the state’s two major political parties. These 12 commissioners then appoint the last commission member. If they cannot agree on an appointment, the commissioners must submit two names to the state supreme court and the court must then appoint the final commissioner. 

According to The New Jersey Globe, “This is the first time the two parties haven’t agreed on a thirteenth member for congressional redistricting. The Supreme Court option wasn’t involved in 1991, 2001 and 2011.” Chief Justice Rabner gave the commissioners until July 30 to respond with a consensus candidate. If they do not, the state supreme court will pick a tie-breaker candidate by Aug. 10.



Voters to decide runoff election in Texas’ 6th Congressional District

The Federal Tap

This week Ballotpedia launched its first-ever store! Now you can share your love of informed voting by rocking our gear. See what we have in store for you!

Our weekly summary of federal news highlights the runoff election in the special election for Texas’ 6th Congressional District and the primaries for the special election for Ohio’s 15th Congressional District. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the Federal Tap.

Congress is in session

Both the House and Senate are in session next week. Click here to see the full calendar for the first session of the 117th Congress.

SCOTUS is out of session

The Supreme Court will not hear oral arguments next week. To learn about the 2020-2021 term, click here.

Where was the president last week?

On Monday and Tuesday, Biden remained in Washington, D.C. 

On Wednesday, Biden participated in a CNN town hall in Cincinnati, Ohio. 

On Thursday, Biden remained in Washington, D.C. 

On Friday, Biden departed Washington, D.C., for Wilmington, Delaware. 

Federal Judiciary

  • 82 federal judicial vacancies
  • 22 pending nominations
  • 31 future federal judicial vacancies

Ballotpedia’s polling index shows presidential approval at 51%, congressional approval at 23%

Ballotpedia’s polling index showed President Joe Biden (D) at 51% approval and 43% disapproval as of July 22. At this time last month, his approval rating was at 52%.

The highest approval rating Biden has received during his tenure is 55%, last seen on May 26. This week’s approval rating matches his lowest of 51% on March 29.

Congressional approval is at 23% and disapproval is at 56%, according to our index. At this time last month, congressional approval was at 19%.

The highest approval rating the 117th Congress has received is the 36% received last week (July 15). The lowest approval rating it has received is 19%, last seen on June 23.

At this time during the tenure of former President Donald Trump (R), presidential approval was at 41% and congressional approval was at 19%. To see more comparisons between Biden and Trump administration polling, click here.

Voters to decide runoff election in Texas’ 6th Congressional District on July 27

Texas’ 6th Congressional District will hold a special election runoff on July 27. Jake Ellzey (R) and Susan Wright (R) are running to fill the vacancy left by Rep. Ronald Wright (R), who died from COVID-19 related complications on Feb. 7. The district is located in the northeastern portion of the state and includes Ellis and Navarro counties and an area of Tarrant County.

Susan Wright is Ronald Wright’s widow. Former President Donald Trump (R) endorsed her on April 26. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) endorsed Ellzey.

Since both runoff candidates are Republicans, the district will not change party hands as a result of the election. The two advanced from a 23-candidate special election on May 1. Wright received 19.2% of the vote, while Ellzey received 13.8% of the vote.

Three special elections to the 117th Congress have taken place so far in 2021. The election in Texas’ 6th is one of four more currently scheduled.

New Jersey chief justice asks political parties to submit consensus candidate for congressional redistricting commission

On July 20, New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner asked Democrats and Republicans to reconvene and select a consensus candidate as the 13th member of the state’s congressional redistricting commission

According to state law, 12 of the 13 commissioners are appointed by the majority and minority leaders of the legislature and the chairs of the state’s two major political parties. These 12 commissioners then appoint the last commission member. If they cannot agree on an appointment, the commissioners must submit two names to the state supreme court and the court must then appoint the final commissioner. 

According to The New Jersey Globe, “This is the first time the two parties haven’t agreed on a thirteenth member for congressional redistricting. The Supreme Court option wasn’t involved in 1991, 2001 and 2011.” Chief Justice Rabner gave the commissioners until July 30 to respond with a consensus candidate. If they do not, the state supreme court will pick a tie-breaker candidate by Aug. 10.

Primaries for the special election to Ohio’s 15th Congressional District on Aug. 3

Ohio’s primary on Aug. 3 is less than two weeks away, and in the state’s 15th Congressional District, four Republican candidates are leading media attention and endorsements: Mike Carey, Ruth Edmonds, Jeff LaRe, and Bob Peterson

The Republican nominee will face the winner of the Democratic primary in a special election on Nov. 2, 2021. Greg Betts and Allison Russo are running in the Democratic primary.

The special election will fill the vacancy left by Steve Stivers (R), who resigned to become the president and CEO of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce, effective May 16, 2021. Stivers had held the district since 2011 and won his last re-election in 2020 with a 26.8 point margin-of-victory against Joel Newby (D).

Carey, past president and chairman of the Ohio Coal Association and U.S. Army National Guard veteran, has said he will “bring back America First policies and rebuild the American economy.” He was endorsed by former President Donald Trump (R).

Endorsed by the Right Women PAC, Edmonds is an ordained minister and former president of the Ohio NAACP. She has said she is “Committed to Life [and] to ending the hateful rhetoric around race.”

Private security executive and member of the Ohio state legislature, LaRe has said his “top priority is keeping our communities and our families safe.” He was endorsed by the previous officeholder, Steve Stivers.

Peterson was endorsed by the Ohio Right to Life PAC. A farmer and member of the Ohio state legislature, he has said he is a “tireless advocate for faith, family and freedom.” 

The seven other candidates also running in the primary are: John Adams, Eric M. Clark, Thad Cooperridder, Ron Hood, Tom Hwang, Stephanie Kunze, and Omar Tarazi.

As of July 2021, the Ohio House delegation consisted of three Democrats and 11 Republicans, with two seats up for special election this year. The overall partisan composition of the U.S. House is 220 Democrats and 211 Republicans. The general election is rated as Solid Republican by Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales.

Campaign finance data has not yet been released on the race, but on July 14, Politico cited advertising data to report that Rep. Stivers had “spent nearly $300,000 in remaining funds from his campaign account” on LaRe’s campaign, while the Protect Freedom PAC had reserved $216,000 in advertising time for Hood.

To learn more about the candidates’ platforms or to find out what other races are on your ballot, check out Ballotpedia’s Sample Ballot Lookup tool.

Vice President Harris casts eighth tie-breaking vote in Senate

Vice President Kamala Harris (D) cast her eighth tie-breaking vote in the Senate on July 21 to confirm Jennifer Ann Abruzzo as general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board. The Senate voted 50-50 along party lines.

Harris previously cast tie-breaking votes related to the confirmation processes of Kiran Ahuja for director of the Office of Personnel Management and Colin Kahl for under secretary of defense for policy.

In the past four decades, vice presidents have cast a total of 40 tie-breaking votes. Vice President Mike Pence (R) cast the most during this time period with 13 tie-breaking votes.

John Adams cast the first tie-breaking vote on July 18, 1789. In total, there have been 276 tie-breaking votes from 37 vice presidents. Twelve vice presidents, including Joe Biden (D) and Dan Quayle (R), never cast a tie-breaking vote during their time in office.



Union Station: Minnesota Court dismisses challenge to state collective bargaining agreement

Minnesota District Court dismisses Republican legislators’ challenge of state collective bargaining agreement   

On July 19, Minnesota’s Second Judicial District Court dismissed a lawsuit that two Minnesota Republicans brought against the state’s office of management and budget. The legislators alleged that the state’s collective bargaining agreement violated state law because it was implemented without being ratified by both chambers of the state legislature.    

Parties to the suit

The plaintiffs are Minnesota state Rep. Marion O’Neill (R) and state Sen. Mark Koran (R) in their official and individual capacities. Attorneys from the Upper Midwest Law Center (UMLC) represent the plaintiffs. The UMLC says its “mission is to initiate pro-freedom litigation to protect against government overreach, special interest agendas, Constitutional violations, and public union corruption and abuses.” 

The defendants are Minnesota Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter in his official capacity and Minnesota Management and Budget, which is “responsible for producing the state budget, economic forecast, payroll, and human resource policies for the state enterprise.” State attorneys represented the defendants. 

What’s at issue 

The plaintiffs filed their complaint on December 30, 2020, in the Second Judicial District Court. The UMLC said: “Under Minnesota law, a majority vote of both the House and Senate must approve the state employee union bargaining agreements for them to be legally implemented. In this case, MMB implemented the agreement even though the Senate failed to approve the bill. Representative O’Neill and Senator Koran seek a writ of quo warranto or declaratory judgment to have the invalid bargaining agreements set aside.”

In a March 30 memorandum in support of their motion to dismiss, the defendants’ attorneys said, “Two legislators seek to overturn lawfully bargained-for and legislatively approved pay raises for approximately 50,000 State employees. … As a legal matter, however, this case is simple. Petitioners Representative Marion O’Neill and Senator Mark Koran do not have standing to pursue these claims.” State employee organizations filed an amicus curiae brief on April 7. The groups said that “by waiting until the challenged collective bargaining agreements (“CBAs”) have been in effect for many months before filing suit, Petitioners have ensured that granting the requested relief would have the maximum disruptive impact on established CBA terms and on the collective bargaining process under the Public Employment Labor Relations Act … Accordingly, Petitioners’ unreasonable delay in asserting their purported rights would result in significant prejudice to the bargaining parties and to the public if the requested relief were granted.” 

A hearing was held on April 27. 

How the court ruled

On July 19, Judge Lezlie Ott Marek, who Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) appointed in 2010, wrote:

Legislator standing is extremely narrow. Members of a legislature have standing to sue in their capacity as legislators only when they demonstrate injuries that are personal to them, as opposed to institutional injuries to the legislative body as whole. … Where a legislator fails to establish personal standing via vote nullification, the alleged injury is institutional. … Here, the Petitioners allege an injury that belongs to the legislature as whole—not to them as individuals. …

No Minnesota court has ever found that individual taxpayers have standing to seek an Order enjoining the implementation of negotiated collective bargaining agreements. Here, extending the doctrine of taxpayer standing on the facts of this case would make bad public policy on labor relations. The purpose of [the Public Employment Labor Relations Act] is to “promote orderly and constructive relationships between all public employers and their employees.” … The amicus brief filed by the unions correctly notes that allowing this lawsuit to proceed would interfere with the ”delineation of separate and distinct roles for the Commissioner and for the Legislature to establish an orderly and constructive system on collective bargaining.” …

For all of the reasons stated herein, Petitioners lack standing to bring this lawsuit, either as legislators or taxpayers, and the Petition must be dismissed on this threshold ground alone. Because the motion to dismiss has been granted, Petitioners’ motion for temporary injunction has been mooted and does not require ruling.

The case name and number are O’Neill v. Schowalter (62-CV-20-5865). Case documents can be viewed here.

Responses

Julie Bleyhl, executive director of AFSCME Council 5, said, “We are pleased that the courts have dismissed the harmful and egregious lawsuit … that would have directly harmed tens of thousands of state employees and our rights as workers. … As many thousands of our members are currently negotiating their next contract, it is clear that our union members will continue to fight for contracts that treat all workers with the respect and dignity they deserve and demand and lift up all workers throughout our state.”

James V. F. Dickey, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said, “We respectfully disagree with Judge Marek’s decision. … It’s unclear how any taxpayer in Minnesota could ever challenge illegal government spending based on the decision.” Dickey said the plaintiffs plan to appeal the ruling. An appeal would go to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.  

About Minnesota’s Second Judicial District Court 

The Minnesota district court system handles criminal, civil and family cases in each of Minnesota’s 87 counties. The counties are divided into ten judicial districts. The Second Judicial District encompasses Ramsey County. There are 29 judges on the court. 

The Minnesota Court of Appeals hears appeals from the state’s district courts, and the Minnesota Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort.  

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 98 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 bills by current legislative status

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

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. 

  • Maine LD449: Existing law requires public employers and collective bargaining agents to meet within 10 days of receiving written notice of a request for a bargaining meeting.  This applies only if the parties have not otherwise agreed in an earlier contract. This bill would eliminate that exception.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Carried over to the next session on July 19.
  • Maine LD555: This bill would grant most public-sector employees the right to strike. Select public safety and judicial employees would not be allowed to strike. 
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Carried over to the next session on July 19.



$15 per hour minimum wage initiative qualifies for November ballot in Tucson, Arizona

On July 22, 2021, the Tucson City Clerk confirmed that enough signatures were submitted for an initiative backed by Tucson Fight for $15 to qualify for the November 2 ballot.

On July 2, Tucson Fight for $15, the campaign behind a local minimum wage increase, submitted 29,526 raw signatures to the city’s clerk office.

In Tucson, Arizona, petitioners needed to submit 14,826 valid signatures by July 2, 2021, to qualify for the November 2021 ballot. The signature requirement was based on 15% of the votes cast for mayoral candidates in the previous mayoral election. After signatures are certified for an initiative in Tucson, the measure goes before the city council. The city council has two options: approve the initiative, precluding an election, or send the initiative to the ballot.

The initiative would amend the city code to incrementally increase the city’s minimum wage from $12.15 (the state’s minimum wage) to $15 by January 1, 2025, and increase it every January thereafter by the rate of inflation rounded to the nearest multiple of $0.05. The minimum wage would increase by the following increments:

  1. $13 by April 1, 2022,
  2. $13.50 by January 1, 2023,
  3. $14.25 by January 1, 2024, and
  4. $15.00 by January 1, 2025.

The initiative would also establish a Department of Labor Standards by April 1, 2022. The department would be authorized to receive complaints from employees, investigate employers, and educate workers about their rights under the initiative. A violation of the initiative would be a civil infraction with a civil penalty of up to $100 per employee affected by the violation paid to the city. If multiple violations occur, the city may revoke, suspend, or decline to renew any licenses of the employer.

Tucson Fight for $15 filed the initiative on February 27, 2021. Billy Peard, the co-author and co-organizer of Tucson Fight for $15, said, “Tucson’s has one of the fastest-growing rents and housing costs in the country. Tucson is the second poorest city in the southwestern United States, as measured by per capita income. There’s simply no way that a family, or even an individual without children, can pay a one-bedroom apartment these days on the current minimum wage of $12.15.”

Tucson Business Owners Inc. is leading the campaign in opposition to the measure. Carlos Ruiz, owner of HT Metals in Tucson and a member of Tucson Business Owners, said the initiative is more than just about raising the minimum wage to $15. He said, “Interested parties can initiate actions against businesses and if successful those interested parties get 30% of the fines and penalties that are assessed against that business. And the city of Tucson gets 70% of the fines. So there’s an incentive for outside parties becoming activists to go after employers in the city of Tucson.”

In 2016, Arizona passed Proposition 206, which increased the minimum wage to $10 in 2017, and then incrementally to $12 by 2020, and created a right to paid sick time off from employment. It was approved by a margin of 58.33% to 41.67%.



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #284: July 22, 2021

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

  • The closure of four mass vaccination sites in New York
  • Updated mask guidance for schools in North Carolina and Virginia
  • Vaccine distribution
  • School closures and reopenings
  • Travel restrictions
  • State proof-of-vaccination requirements and policies
  • Federal responses
  • COVID-19 policy changes from this time last year 

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

Upcoming news

What is changing in the next four days?

New York (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced that mass vaccination sites in Johnson City, Middletown, Queensbury, and Southampton will cease operations on July 26. The closures are part of a planned downscaling of operations first announced on June 18 after the state reported that 70% of adults had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Virginia (Democratic trifecta): On Wednesday, July 21, the Virginia Department of Health and Education released guidance for the upcoming school year. The K-12 mask mandate, which applies to both public and private schools, expires July 25, at which point local districts will decide their own mask policies. The guidance says schools should require elementary students to wear masks, but that middle and high schools should only require masks for unvaccinated students.

Since our last edition

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

Missouri (Republican trifecta): On July 21, Gov. Mike Parson (R) launched a vaccine incentive program, MO VIP. Parson said that 900 Missourians who had been vaccinated or who get vaccinated over the next three months will be eligible to receive cash or education savings account prizes worth $10,000. Drawings begin Aug. 13 and will continue every two weeks until Oct. 8.

North Carolina (divided government): On Wednesday, July 21, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) released updated guidance for school districts. The new guidance takes effect July 30, and says districts should require students in kindergarten through eighth grade to wear masks indoors. The guidance says only unvaccinated high school students should be required to wear masks indoors.  

Michigan (divided government): 

  • On Tuesday, July 20, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) vetoed House Bill 4434, which would have ended the state’s participation in federal pandemic unemployment programs. 
  • On Wednesday, July 21, the Michigan House of Representatives voted 60-48 in support of an initiative petition that repeals the Emergency Powers Act of 1945. Gov. Whitmer relied on that act to declare a COVID-19 emergency and issue subsequent restrictions, like the stay-at-home order. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled the act violated the Michigan constitution on Oct. 5, 2020. The state Senate voted to repeal the act on July 15, meaning that Whitmer cannot veto the petition. The initiative will go into effect 90 days after the legislature ends its current session.   

Washington (Democratic trifecta): On Tuesday, July 21, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) repealed two COVID-19 orders. The orders waived deadlines related to judicial protection orders, mandated that agricultural businesses implement a paid leave program for workers, and prohibited deductions for lump sum unemployment payments. 

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the July 20 edition of the newsletter. As of July 22, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

School closures and reopenings

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

We last looked at school closures and reopenings on July 15. There have been no changes since then.

Nationwide:

  • 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.

2019-20 enrollment: 410,896 students (0.81% of students nationwide)

  • Thirteen states had state-ordered in-person instruction.

2019-20 enrollment: 15,697,460 students (30.96% of students nationwide)

  • One state (Ariz.) had state-ordered in-person instruction for certain grades.

2019-20 enrollment: 1,152,586 students (2.27% of students nationwide)

  • Thirty-four states left decisions to schools or districts.

2019-20 enrollment: 33,449,499 students (65.96% 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 24 of those orders have been rescinded. 
    • Since July 15, no state has ended or changed its travel restrictions.  

State proof-of-vaccination requirements and policies

Read more: State government policies about proof-of-vaccination (vaccine passport) requirements

As COVID-19 vaccination rates have increased, state governments have enacted various rules around the use of proof-of-vaccination requirements. In some cases, lawmakers have banned state or local governments from requiring that people show proof-of-vaccination. Other states have supported the creation of digital applications—sometimes known as vaccine passports—that allow people to prove their vaccination status and, in some cases, bypass COVID-19 restrictions.  

Overview:

  • Twenty states have passed legislation or issued orders prohibiting proof-of-vaccination requirements at some or all levels of government. 
  • Four states have backed the creation of digital vaccination status applications. Those applications allow fully vaccinated individuals to bypass COVID-19 restrictions in some circumstances.

Since July 15, no state has enacted a proof-of-vaccination policy. No state has enacted new digital vaccination status applications. 

Federal responses

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

  • On July 20, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services extended the nationwide COVID-19 public health emergency an additional 90 days.
  • On July 21, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security extended restrictions on nonessential travel to and from Mexico and Canada through August 21.

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 July 20, the Board of County Commissioners in Clark County, Nev., home to Las Vegas, approved an order requiring all employers to mandate masks for employees working in public spaces. Employees in enclosed offices or cubicles are exempted when in those areas, but must wear masks in other public spaces. The order went into effect on July 21 and will run through Aug. 18, the date of the next county commission meeting. Democrats hold all seven seats on the county commission.
  • On July 21, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) announced that five states and one U.S. territory had been placed on the city’s travel restriction list. On July 19, Lightfoot reinstated travel restrictions for unvaccinated people traveling to Chicago from Arkansas and Missouri. Lightfoot added Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to the list. An unvaccinated person visiting Chicago from these areas must either quarantine for ten days upon arrival or report a negative COVID-19 test within three days.

This time last year: Wednesday, July 22, Thursday, July 23, and Friday, July 24, 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, July 22, 2020

  • Travel restrictions:

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) issued a travel advisory that asked travelers from states reporting positive coronavirus testing rates of 15% or higher to self-quarantine for 14 days. DeWine said the advisory was not a mandate. The advisory affected Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Nevada, South Carolina, and Texas.

  • Federal government responses:

Pharmaceutical company Pfizer and biotechnology company BioNTech announced that they had entered into a $1.95 billion deal with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense to supply 100 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine to Americans by the end of 2020.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

  • Federal government responses:

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar renewed the federal public health emergency originally issued in late January. The health emergencies last for 90 days.

  • Mask requirements: 

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) signed an order requiring individuals over the age of 10 to wear face coverings in indoor, non-residential locations and outdoors when unable to practice social distancing.

  • School closures and reopenings:

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) ordered public schools to reopen for on-site learning on Aug. 17 for students who need somewhere to go during the day. Superintendent Kathy Hoffman clarified that the order meant each school district must open at least one site for students to attend, but did not have to open every school or require every teacher to work in-person.

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) announced schools will not be able to open for in-person instruction until after September 7. However, after that date, the decision to resume in-person instruction was left up to individual school districts.

Friday, July 24, 2020 

  • Travel restrictions:

The Pennsylvania Department of Health added Wyoming and Missouri to the state’s travel advisory, bringing the total number of states on the list to 20. Travelers from states on the list were advised to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.

  • Federal government responses:

A federal eviction ban expired. The ban was part of the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act approved in March. The ban applied only to tenants in federally assisted properties.

  • Mask requirements:

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) updated the statewide mask mandate to include children five years and older. 

  • Lawsuits about state actions and policies:

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a Nevada church’s request for permission to hold in-person services larger than those allowed under Gov. Steve Sisolak’s (D) executive order. The court split 5-4 in the decision.  

For the most recent coronavirus news, including the latest on vaccines and mask mandates, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery.



Dartmouth study evaluates tone of Ballotpedia’s COVID-19 coverage

Earlier this year, a team of researchers at Dartmouth developed a method to evaluate the tone of news articles written about Covid-19. Using standard sentiment indicators, the Dartmouth team assessed the text of 42,000 articles from dozens of U.S. and international news sources.

The study found that U.S.-based news sources used significantly more negative language than the international outlets studied. 87% of major U.S. media stories were negative in tone compared to 50% of non-U.S. sources. The international sample included articles from the U.K.’s BBC, Canada’s CBC, and Australia’s ABC; each country’s dominant news source, all publicly owned. The U.S. outlets analyzed in the study are privately owned with more competitors within the country’s borders than the international outlets studied. The political leaning of the outlets made no difference in their usage of negative language.

The Dartmouth research team cross-checked the negative sentiment indicators of articles in the international and U.S. press against the extent of COVID spread in the relevant countries. They found that there was no correlation between the number of COVID cases in a particular country and the extent of negative tone in the country’s news sources.

Ballotpedia submitted several hundred articles from its coverage of Covid-19 to find how it would compare to the articles in the study. The Dartmouth team found Ballotpedia used significantly fewer negative sentiment indicators in its language choices compared to the major U.S. media outletsBallotpedia articles were .92 standard deviations less negative than the average of all other sources analyzed.



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #284: July 20, 2021

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

  • The latest decision in an ongoing legal battle over cruise ships in Florida 
  • A court ruling upholding a COVID-19 vaccine requirement at a university in Indiana
  • Vaccine distribution
  • Lawsuits about state actions and policies 
  • State-level mask requirements
  • COVID-19 emergency health orders
  • COVID-19 policy changes from this time last year 

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

Since our last edition

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

Florida (Republican trifecta): On Saturday, July 17, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit overturned a lower court order that blocked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) restrictions on the cruise industry. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) sued the CDC in April 2021, arguing the agency overstepped its authority when it issued its four-phase plan for reopening the cruise industry. U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday granted Florida a preliminary injunction against the restrictions on June 18. 

Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Monday, July 19, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana Judge Damon Leichty upheld the University of Indiana’s vaccination requirement for the fall semester. Eight students sued the University, arguing the requirement to get a COVID-19 vaccine violated their 14th Amendment rights. According to the University policy, students who don’t get vaccinated “can see their class registration cancelled, CrimsonCard access terminated, access to IU systems (Canvas, email, etc.) terminated, and will not be allowed to participate in any on-campus activity.”

Michigan (divided government): On Thursday, July 15, the state Senate voted 20-15 to repeal the Emergency Powers of Governor Act. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) relied on the Act to declare a COVID-19 emergency and issue subsequent restrictions, like the stay-at-home order. If the House approves the initiative, Whitmer would be unable to veto it. If the House doesn’t approve the initiative, it would go on the Nov. 2022 ballot. 

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the July 15 edition of the newsletter. As of July 20, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

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 1,830 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 557 of those lawsuits. 
    • Since July 13, we have added no additional lawsuits to our database, and we have added no additional court orders and/or settlements. 

Details:

  • Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Ltd. v. Rivkees: On July 13, Norwegian Cruise Line’s holding company sued Florida’s surgeon general, challenging the state’s ban against businesses asking for proof of COVID-19 vaccination. In the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, the cruise line alleged federal law preempts Florida’s prohibition on proof-of-vaccination requirements. The cruise line also alleged the law is unconstitutional. The cruise line says the law, which imposes fines up to $5,000 per violation against businesses that require proof of vaccination, will force it to be “either on the wrong side of health and safety and the operative federal legal framework, or else on the wrong side of Florida law.” Norwegian says Florida’s law “blocks communications between a business and its customers, in violation of the First Amendment” and violates the due process rights of the company, its employees, and its customers. Norwegian is seeking a preliminary injunction allowing it to resume sailing with its CDC-compliant safety protocols in place and to invalidate the Florida law. The case is assigned to Judge Kathleen M. Williams, an appointee of Barack Obama (D).

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the July 13 edition of the newsletter. Since then, there have not been any updates.

COVID-19 emergency health orders

Read more: State emergency health orders during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2021

Governors and state agencies in all 50 states issued orders declaring active emergencies in response to the coronavirus pandemic. These orders allowed officials to access resources, like stockpiles of medical goods and equipment, unavailable to them during non-emergencies and temporarily waive or suspend certain rules and regulations. 

Overview: 

  • COVID-19 emergency orders have expired in 25 states. Emergency orders remain active in 25 states.
  • Since July 13, no states have ended their statewide COVID-19 emergencies. 

This time last year: Monday, July 20, and Tuesday, July 21, 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, July 20, 2020:

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) reduced the limit on gatherings in counties in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan from 50 people to 10. Inslee also issued a statewide ban on live music, including drive-in concerts and music in restaurants.

  • Travel restrictions:

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) announced that all incoming travelers must fill out an online travel health form before arriving. Lamont said visitors could be subject to a $1,000 fine if they fail to fill out the form or quarantine.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) issued a travel advisory requesting that visitors from nine states self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Officials said the advisory was not a requirement. The nine states in the advisory were: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Nevada, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas.

  • Election changes:

Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos (D) issued a directive that a mail-in ballot be sent automatically to every active registered voter in the Nov. 3 general election.

United States District Court for the District of Maryland Judge Richard Bennett ordered that the nomination petition signature requirement for unaffiliated candidates in Maryland be reduced by 50 percent.

  • Federal government responses:

President Donald Trump (R) announced that he would resume his daily coronavirus briefings. Trump discontinued the briefings in late April.

  • Mask requirements:

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed an executive order that required individuals to wear masks in public when social distancing was not possible.

  • School closures and reopenings:

The Colorado Department of Education released guidance for reopening public schools for the 2020-2021 school year. The guidelines contained separate criteria for elementary schools and secondary schools, but left decisions about start dates and remote learning to local districts.

  • State court changes:

North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley extended emergency directives that included the suspension of jury trials for another 30 days.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

  • Travel restrictions:

Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced that Alaska, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia, and Washington had been added to the joint travel advisory. Travelers from those states were required to quarantine for 14 days upon entering Connecticut, New Jersey, or New York. The governors removed Minnesota from the list, bringing the total to 31 states.

Evictions and foreclosure policies:

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) extended the statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures an additional 60 days. The moratorium was set to expire on Oct. 17.



Utilities’ ESG ratings tracked

Economy and Society

ESG Developments This Week

In Washington, D.C., and around the world

Saudi sovereign wealth fund reportedly seeking ESG framework 

In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the nation’s sovereign wealth fund reportedly has begun the process of developing ESG reporting standards that will, presumably, allow it to raise greater funds in the global debt market. According to Reuters:

“The Public Investment Fund (PIF) sent a request for proposals to banks last month, said the four sources with direct knowledge of the matter, speaking anonymously because the matter is private.

PIF – at the centre of Saudi de facto ruler and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 that aims to wean the economy off oil – has been funding itself in recent years with tens of billions of dollars in loans.

One of the sources said developing an ESG framework was likely a precursor for a multibillion dollar bond sale, which would be the Saudi wealth fund’s first.

Once an ESG framework is developed, PIF may need credit ratings and an audit of its finances before it can issue bonds, the source said, adding the fund could sell bonds in the fourth quarter if “all goes smoothly.””

Reuters notes that the Kingdom’s hand is forced here, both by what is described as “growing awareness among international investors about ESG risks” and the fact that the sovereign fund is “the cornerstone investor in NEOM, a futuristic development in Saudi Arabia whose flagship project is a zero-carbon city.” 

In the States

Utilities’ ESG ratings tracked

On July 12, Visual Capitalist noted that the National Public Utilities Council (NPUC) had put together a series of graphics designed to demonstrate how American Inventor Owned Utilities (IOUs) are performing in terms of various ESG metrics. This report card was designed to measure what metrics the IOUs report, how consistently those metrics are reported across the various companies, and what disclosures could be improved to increase across-the-board comparison:.

“To complete the assessment of U.S. utilities, ESG reports, sustainability plans, and company websites were examined. A metric was considered tracked if it had concrete numbers provided, so vague wording or non-detailed projections weren’t included.

Of the 50 IOU parent companies analyzed, 46 have headquarters in the U.S. while four are foreign-owned, but all are regulated by the states in which they operate.

For a few of the most agreed-upon and regulated measures, U.S. utilities tracked them almost across the board. These included direct scope 1 emissions from generated electricity, the utility’s current fuel mix, and water and waste treatment.

Another commonly reported metric was scope 2 emissions, which include electricity emissions purchased by the utility companies for company consumption. However, a majority of the reporting utilities labeled all purchased electricity emissions as scope 2, even though purchased electricity for downstream consumers are traditionally considered scope 3 or value-chain emissions….

Even putting aside mixed definitions and labeling, there were many inconsistencies and question marks arising from utility ESG reports.

For example, some utilities reported scope 3 emissions as business travel only, without including other value chain emissions. Others included future energy mixes that weren’t separated by fuel and instead grouped into “renewable” and “non-renewable.”

The biggest discrepancies, however, were between what each utility is required to report, as well as what they choose to. That means that metrics like internal energy consumption didn’t need to be reported by the vast majority.

Likewise, some companies didn’t need to report waste generation or emissions because of “minimal hazardous waste generation” that fell under a certain threshold. Other metrics like internal vehicle electrification were only checked if the company decided to make a detailed commitment and unveil its plans.”

Visual Capitalist concluded that “many of these inconsistencies are roadblocks to clear and direct measurements and reduction strategies.” 

On Wall Street and in the private sector

ESG’s effectiveness questioned

On July 13, Bloomberg Green became the latest high-profile media source to feature Tariq Fancy, the former head of sustainable investing for asset-management giant BlackRock, in a profile of former ESG-insiders. Fancy has created quite a stir among financial professionals in the several weeks since he went public with his frustrations and regrets, and it appears that he is not alone:

“Inside the booming world of sustainability, a small but growing cohort of disillusioned veterans are speaking out against efforts by corporations and investors to address an overheating planet, income inequality and other big societal problems. Environmental degradation has worsened, while the gap between the rich and poor has widened. The overemphasis on measuring and reporting sustainability has delayed, and displaced, the urgent action needed to tackle those challenges, they say. Environmental, social and governance investing, or “ESGlalaland,” suffers from “cognitive dissonance,” sustainability veteran Ralph Thurm said in a March report titled “The Big Sustainability Illusion.” ESG ratings only explain “who is best in class of those that say that they became less bad,” he said.

“The bigger problem than greenwash is greenwish,” Duncan Austin, a former partner at Al Gore’s Generation Investment Management, said, referring to greenwashing where environmental benefits are exaggerated or misrepresented. “The win-win belief at the heart of ESG has led to widespread wishful thinking that we’re making more progress on sustainability than we really are.”

Corporations around the world have been clamoring to green their businesses. Hundreds have announced net-zero emissions targets and poured billions of dollars into solar and wind projects, while chief sustainability officers have become ubiquitous in C-suites. In April, Amazon.com Inc. signed deals to add more than 1.5 gigawatts of power to its green energy efforts. Last month, Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc said it will make some plane engines compatible with using sustainable fuels, while Tyson Foods Inc., America’s biggest meat company, pledged to go carbon neutral by 2050.

The veterans acknowledge they were complicit and benefited from the boom in sustainability that got underway in the 1990s. And much good was created along the way, they say. But now they’re coalescing under one message: More aggressive government policies are needed to address the planet’s problems.

“The 20-year focus on corporate social responsibility reporting and the current frenzy on ESG investing have created an impression that more is happening to address social and environmental challenges than is really happening,” said Ken Pucker, a former chief operating officer at Timberland who had worked on the company’s sustainability projects. “Markets alone aren’t sufficient to solve these problems.””

Academic argues lower ESG returns are normal and expected

On July 17, Vikram Gandhi, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and the man who developed and teaches the school’s first course on impact investing, penned a piece for MarketWatch in which he made the case that ESG’s below-market returns this year are to be expected. Moreover, he argued that this is, in fact, the way that ESG investing should be. He wrote:

“[I]nvestors seeking to make positive environmental and social impact with their capital may have noticed something else: Since Biden took office on Jan. 20, many ESG-focused stock funds have been trailing the broad U.S. market. 

The FTSE4Good U.S. Select Index, which screens for U.S. stocks based on environmental, social, and governance factors, was up 11.6% since Jan. 20 through June 30, while the S&P 500 rose 12.3%, according to investment researcher Morningstar. It’s the same story globally. For example, the MSCI ACWI Sustainable Impact Index was up less than 1% since Biden took office, while the MSCI All-Country World Index gained 8.5%.

In the energy sector, the results were even more pronounced. Traditional oil-related stocks in the S&P 500 gained more than 25% from Jan. 20 through June 30, but shares of sustainable companies in the S&P Global Clean Energy Index — which includes solar, wind, and smart grid exposure — fell almost 25%.”

This, he continues, is exactly what should be expected and that above-market expectations for ESG were always misplaced:

“Is the market sending ESG investors a signal? Actually, no. Such counterintuitive performance was to be expected, and it’s welcome as it demonstrates the normalization of ESG considerations….

Bouts of ESG underperformance are actually a positive development, as it underscores the fact that ESG isn’t some gimmick or silver bullet when it comes to investing. Instead, this shows the natural evolution of sustainable investing from novel idea to thematic tactic to a core strategy that is subject to the same fundamental market forces that affect all other mainstream, long-term holdings.”

Demand for ESG assets increasing

On July 14, Reuters reported that:

“The rush to invest in exchange-traded funds focusing on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues jumped in the first half of 2021, with monthly turnover more than tripling to nearly 3 billion euros from a year ago, Deutsche Boerse said on Wednesday.

ESG assets are increasingly in demand among investors as companies that perform well on a range of issues from climate change to boardroom diversity are seen as better long-term investments than peers lagging in these areas.

On its Frankfurt-based electronic trading platform Xetra, German stock exchange operator Deutsche Boerse said ESG ETFs now account for more than 16% of total ETF trading turnover on Xetra compared to 6% a year ago.”

On July 18, Reuters reported that:

“Sustainable investments total $35.3 trillion, or more than a third of all assets in five of the world’s biggest markets, a report from the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance on Monday showed.

Investors are increasingly driven by environmental, social and governance-related (ESG) factors that traditionally have not been captured in a company’s balance sheet, but that can influence future returns.

The GSIA, whose member bodies track growth in their region, said professionally managed assets, using a broad gauge of what it means to invest sustainably, account for 36% of total assets under management….

The biennial industry survey looked at assets in the United States, Europe, Australasia, Japan and Canada, using data from end-2019 for all regions except Japan, where the data was to end-March 2020.

Since the last report, total assets across the markets had risen 15%, the report said.

“This growth is being fuelled by rising consumer expectations, strong financial performance and the increasing materiality of social and environmental issues….”

Finally, on July 15, MarketWatch reported that:

“A new Goldman Sachs exchange traded fund is entering the crowded environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing class hoping to stand out: It’s actively managed, transparent about its holdings, invests in global companies of all sizes and isn’t based on an index.

The New York-based investment bank Thursday launched Goldman Sachs Future Planet Equity ETF GSFP, -0.88%, which is investing in companies that are working on environmental problems aligned with five themes: clean energy, resource efficiency, sustainable consumption, the circular economy and water sustainability….

The bank started the ETF because, it says, “we are on the cusp of a sustainability revolution that could have the scale of the industrial revolution and the speed of the digital revolution,” [Katie Koch, co-head of fundamental equity at investment unit Goldman Sachs Asset Management] says, adding that Goldman sees alignment between global governments, corporations and consumers on sustainability.

“We know that the millennial consumer is very committed to a sustainable planet and actually willing to pay a premium for products and services that are aligned with a sustainable planet,” she says.”