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Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #266: June 14, 2021

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

  • Mask requirements, business restrictions easing in California
  • Statewide coronavirus emergency orders extended in Maine and Delaware
  • 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 Friday? Click here.

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

California (Democratic trifecta): 

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) will end the Blueprint for a Safer Economy and lift most state restrictions on business activity statewide June 15. Social distancing restrictions and all remaining capacity limits will end. Indoor events with more than 5,000 people will have to require proof of vaccination or a recent negative coronavirus test from all attendees.
  • Fully vaccinated residents will be exempt from the statewide mask mandate starting June 15. Fully vaccinated residents still have to wear masks on public transit (and in transportation hubs like airports), in indoor childcare and K-12 school settings, in healthcare settings, and in congregate settings (including prisons and homeless shelters). Masks will still be required for unvaccinated people in all indoor public settings and businesses. 

Since our last edition

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

Alaska (divided government): The state ended its participation in pandemic-related federal unemployment benefit programs June 12. Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) made the announcement May 14.

Delaware (Democratic trifecta): Gov. John Carney (D) extended the state’s coronavirus emergency order until July 13.

Iowa (Republican trifecta): The state ended its participation in pandemic-related federal unemployment benefit programs June 12. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) made the announcement May 10.

Kansas (divided government): All state government offices will return to in-person operations starting June 13. Masks will still be required in state buildings.

Maine (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Janet Mills (D) extended the state’s coronavirus emergency order until June 30. Mills said she will end the coronavirus emergency on that day. 

Mississippi (Republican trifecta): The state ended its participation in pandemic-related federal unemployment benefit programs June 12. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) made the announcement May 10.

Missouri (Republican trifecta): The state ended its participation in pandemic-related federal unemployment benefit programs June 12. Gov. Mike Parson (R) made the announcement May 11. 

North Carolina (divided government): On June 11, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) issued an executive order extending certain pandemic-related measures, including state eviction prohibitions and face-covering requirements in certain settings.

Vermont (divided government): 

  • On June 14, Gov. Phil Scott (R) lifted all remaining coronavirus restrictions in the state, including capacity restrictions and mask requirements for unvaccinated individuals. The restrictions were lifted after 80% of eligible state residents received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Reopening had initially been scheduled for July 4.
  • On June 11, Gov. Phil Scott (R) announced there would be new walk-in vaccination clinics open statewide over the weekend. A full list of vaccination sites can be found here.

Virginia (Democratic trifecta): On June 11, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced a $3 million pilot for the Return to Earn Grant Program, which would match payments from certain small businesses to provide newly hired employees with a bonus of up to $1,000.

Washington (Democratic trifecta): On June 10, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) extended a proclamation allowing for the expansion of the Family Emergency Assistance Program, allowing individuals and families without children to apply for benefits through the program.

This time last year: Monday, June 15, 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, June 15, 2020:

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • New Hampshire’s statewide stay-at-home order expired on June 15. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) issued Emergency Order #17 on March 26. The order directed individuals in the state to stay at home unless performing essential activities and placed restrictions on non-essential businesses.
  • Travel restrictions:
    • Arkansas Secretary of Health Nathaniel Smith allowed the 14-day travel quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers coming from coronavirus hot spot areas—including New York and New Jersey—to expire. 
  • Election changes:
    • United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama Judge Abdul Kallon issued a preliminary injunction barring election officials from enforcing witness and photo ID requirements for select voters casting absentee ballots in the July 14 runoff elections.


State and Local Tap: Newsom signature removal deadline passes

Intro: Our weekly summary of state & local news brings you an update on the Gavin Newsom recall effort and the statewide Democratic nominees from Virginia. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the State & Local Tap.

Ballot Measures Update

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

Three new measures were certified for the 2021 ballot last week: 

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

Six new measures were certified for the 2022 ballot last week:

Signatures have been submitted and are pending verification for three additional 2022 initiatives in California and Michigan.

States in session

Thirteen states—Arizona, California, Delaware, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire,  New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, 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:

Special Elections

Thirty-nine state legislative special elections have been scheduled in 17 states so far this year. Twenty-eight (28) specials have taken place already. Heading into those races, Democrats had previously controlled 14 seats, and Republicans previously controlled 14. No seats 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:

June 12

June 15

June 22

Jack Ciattarelli wins New Jersey gubernatorial Republican primary

Former New Jersey Assemblyman Jack Ciattarelli defeated Philip Rizzo, Hirsh Singh, and Brian Levine for the Republican nomination in New Jersey’s gubernatorial election. Ciattarelli received 49.4% of the vote, followed by Rizzo with 25.9%, Singh with 21.5%, and Levine with 3.2%.

Ciattarelli will face Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in the general election on Nov. 2, along with Gregg Mele (L), Joanna Kuniansky (Socialist Workers), Justin Maldonado (I), and David Winkler (I).

The general election will determine New Jersey’s trifecta status for the next four years. A Murphy victory would maintain Democratic trifecta control, while a Ciattarelli victory would create a divided government. Election forecasters expect the Democratic party to retain control of the state legislature.

As of June 1, two of the three major race rating outlets rated the general election as Solid Democratic, and the third rated it as Likely Democratic. Still, Republicans have had success in the state’s gubernatorial races in the recent past. Between 1992 and 2021, Republicans held the governorship for 16 years, and Democrats held the governorship for 14 years.

Newsom signature removal deadline passes; counties have until June 22 to verify the number of remaining signatures

June 8 was the deadline for voters who signed the petition to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to request their names be removed from the petitions. County election offices now have until June 22 to report the number of remaining signatures to the California Secretary of State. If at least 1,495,709 signatures remain, the recall process will move forward. Supporters turned in 1,719,943 valid signatures by the March 17 submission deadline.

If sufficient signatures remain following the removal request deadline, the recall will be certified and move to a budgeting and scheduling phase. Based on the remaining procedural steps required by state law for the recall campaign, an election is likely to take place in October or November 2021.

Newsom was elected as California’s governor in 2018 with 61.9% of the vote. Since 1911, there have been 55 attempts to recall a sitting 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.

A recall election would present voters with two questions. The first would ask whether Newsom should be recalled from the office of governor. The second would 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. In the 2003 recall of Davis, 135 candidates ran and the winner received 48.58 percent of the vote.

South Carolina ends COVID-19 emergency orders

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) declined to extend the statewide COVID-19 state of emergency, allowing it to expire on June 6. McMaster first declared a state of emergency in response to the pandemic on March 13, 2020, and extended it every 15 days as required by South Carolina law.  

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 unavailable to them during non-emergencies, like stockpiles of medical goods and equipment, and to waive or suspend certain rules and regulations. Governors and state agencies relied on emergency power authority to enact lockdown and stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, and other restrictions on businesses and individuals.

South Carolina is the eighth state to end a statewide COVID-19 emergency. Before that, on June 4, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed Assembly, No. 5820. This bill ended the statewide public health emergency while allowing Murphy to retain some emergency power authority related to vaccination efforts, testing, and coordination of local health departments. 

Statewide mask orders end in Illinois, Kentucky

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) moved the state to Phase 5 of reopening June 11, ending the statewide mask mandate. The state still requires masks in schools, public transit, hospitals, and congregate facilities like prisons and homeless shelters. Masks are also recommended in indoor public spaces for individuals who are not fully vaccinated. 

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) ended the statewide mask requirement, remaining social distancing requirements, and all capacity restrictions June 11. However, vaccinated and unvaccinated people still have to wear masks on public transit, at schools, and in healthcare settings.

In total, 39 states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. As of June 11, 13 states had statewide mask orders, including 11 of the 23 states with Democratic governors and two of the 27 states with Republican governors. Of those 13 states, at least 11 exempted fully vaccinated people.

Virginia Democrats pick statewide nominees

Virginia Democrats picked their statewide nominees for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general on June 8. Democrats have won every statewide election in Virginia since 2012. 

Governor

Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) defeated four candidates to win the gubernatorial nomination. McAuliffe received 62% of the vote, followed by former Del. Jennifer Carrol Foy (D) and state Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D), who received 20% and 12% of the vote respectively. Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax (D) and Del. Lee Carter (D) both received less than 5% of the vote. McAuliffe will face Glenn Youngkin (R) in the general election.

McAuliffe previously served as Governor of Virginia from 2014 to 2018. Virginia’s constitution prevents the governor from running for a second consecutive term, though former governors may serve non-consecutive terms. Mills Goodwin (D), elected in 1965 and 1973, is the most recent governor to serve non-consecutive terms.

This was the fourth contested Democratic gubernatorial primary in Virginia since 1977. It was also the largest Democratic primary field for a gubernatorial nomination in the state’s history. The outcome of this race will affect Virginia’s trifecta status. In 2019, Virginia became a Democratic trifecta after winning majorities in the state House and Senate. In addition to the statewide elections, all 100 House seats are up for election this year.

Lieutenant governor

Delegate Hala Ayala (D) defeated five other candidates to win the lieutenant gubernatorial nomination, receiving 39% of the vote, followed by Del. Sam Rasoul’s 25%. No other candidate received over 15% of the vote. Ayala will face Winsome Sears (R) in the general election.

Of the four lieutenant governors elected since 2002, three were Democrats, and one was a Republican. Two of them, Tim Kaine (D) and Ralph Northam (D), later became governor. The lieutenant governor is popularly elected every four years and, unlike the governor, may seek re-election.

Attorney general

Incumbent Mark Herring (D) defeated Del. Jerrauld “Jay” Jones to win the attorney general nomination. Herring received 56.5% of the vote to Jones’ 43.5%. Herring will face Del. Jason Miyares (R) in the general election.

Voters first elected Herring to the attorney general position in 2013. He won re-election in 2017 and is seeking re-election to a third consecutive term. No Virginia attorney general has served three consecutive terms since the 1945 re-election of Abram Penn Staples (D).

Illinois enacts state legislative, supreme court maps

Illinois became the first state to enact new district maps in this redistricting cycle on June 4, when Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed into law new maps for the Illinois state Senate, the Illinois House of Representatives, and the Illinois Supreme Court.

Illinois’ five state supreme court districts were last redrawn in 1964. Cook County (home to Chicago) forms a single district, but it is allocated three seats on the seven-member court. Downstate Illinois is divided into four districts, each with one seat on the court. The state constitution allows state lawmakers to redraw supreme court districts at any time. According to The Chicago Tribune, “lawmakers have traditionally used boundaries for the circuit, appellate and Supreme Court laid out in a 1964 overhaul of the state’s court system.” 

In Illinois, the General Assembly is responsible for redistricting. On May 28, the General Assembly approved the state legislative redistricting plan (HB2777) and the supreme court redistricting plan (SB0642). 

Because the U.S. Census Bureau does not expect to deliver granular redistricting data to the states until mid-August, Illinois lawmakers used population estimates from the American Community Survey (ACS) to draft the new maps before the June 30 deadline set by the state’s constitution.

On June 9, Durkin and Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie filed suit in U.S. district court, challenging the use of ACS data during the drafting process. The plaintiffs argue that “[ACS] estimates are not intended to be, and are not, a proper substitute for the official census counts.” They go on to allege that “because it uses ACS estimates for population data, the Redistricting Plan does not ensure that the Senate and Representative Districts satisfy the constitutional mandate of substantially equal populations [among districts].” They are asking the court to declare the enacted maps unconstitutional and to appoint either a bipartisan legislative commission or a special master (an outside expert) to draft new maps. 

It is not clear when lawmakers will begin the congressional redistricting process. The state constitution sets no deadline for congressional redistricting.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman resigns

Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman resigned on June 11. Guzman’s replacement will be Gov. Greg Abbott‘s (R) fifth nominee to the nine-member supreme court. At the time of Guzman’s resignation, all nine judges on the court identified with the Republican party. 

Governor Rick Perry (R) appointed Guzman in 2009. She was elected to a full term in 2010, becoming the first Latina woman elected to statewide office in Texas. Guzman was re-elected in 2016, defeating Democrat Savannah Robinson, 56% to 39%.

Before she was appointed to the state supreme court, Guzman served as a district judge for Texas’ 309th District Court and an appellate judge for Texas’ Fourteenth Court of Appeals.

Under Texas law, in the event of a midterm vacancy, the governor appoints a replacement. The Texas State Senate must then confirm the nominee. Appointees serve until the next general election, in which he or she must participate in a partisan election to remain on the bench for the remainder of the unexpired term.

Mike Nearman expelled from OR state House

The Oregon House of Representatives voted to expel state Rep. Mike Nearman (R) on June 10. Nearman’s colleagues expelled him due to video footage that showed him helping protesters, some of whom were armed, enter the state Capitol building on December 21, 2020. This led to a struggle between the protesters and police officers, causing injuries and property damage. 

The resolution to expel Nearman passed 59-1, with only Nearman voting against. According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, Nearman is the first person to have ever been expelled from the Oregon Legislature. 

Nearman was first elected to represent District 23 in the Oregon state House in 2014, defeating incumbent Jim Thompson (R) in the Republican primary. Before he entered politics, Nearman worked in software engineering and tech support. 

There have been 52 state legislative vacancies in 30 states so far in 2021. Thirty-seven of those vacancies have been filled. Two other state legislators have been expelled this year; Luke Simons (R-ND) and Rick Roeber (R-MO). 



Federal Tap: Senate confirms first Biden-appointed judges

Our weekly summary of federal news highlights Biden’s first judges confirmed by the U.S. Senate and Val Demings’ announcement that she’s running for the U.S. Senate seat from Florida. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the Federal Tap.

Status of the Federal Branches

Is Congress 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.

Is the Supreme Court in 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 delivered remarks to U.S. Air Force personnel and their families stationed at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, United Kingdom.
  • On Thursday, Biden participated in a bilateral meeting with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Carbis Bay, United Kingdom.

What’s the latest with the federal judiciary?

  • 83 federal judicial vacancies
  • 15 pending nominations
  • 30 future federal judicial vacancies

U.S. Supreme Court accepts case for next term

The U.S. Supreme Court issued orders on June 7 emanating from their June 3 conference. The court accepted one new case to be argued during the upcoming 2021-2022 term: Federal Bureau of Investigation v. Fazaga. The case concerns the state-secrets privilege and originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. 

Three residents of Southern California who practice Islam filed a class-action lawsuit in U.S. district court against the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). They alleged that the FBI paid a confidential informant to surveil Muslims based solely on their religious identity for more than a year as part of a counterterrorism investigation and that the program included unlawful searches and anti-Muslim discrimination. The FBI asserted the state-secrets privilege and moved to dismiss the case. The district court dismissed all but one of the plaintiffs’ claims. On appeal, the 9th Circuit upheld in part and reversed in part the district court’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings to review the case’s evidence for privilege.

To date, the court has accepted 19 cases for argument next term. Including FBI v. Fazaga, the court has granted review in four cases originating from the 9th Circuit. 

SCOTUS issues rulings in two cases

The U.S. Supreme Court has issued rulings in two cases. Sanchez v. Mayorkas was decided on Monday, June 7, and Borden v. United States was decided by the court on Thursday, June 10.

Sanchez v. Mayorkas concerned grants of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to non-citizens. In a unanimous ruling, SCOTUS upheld the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit’s ruling, holding that a TPS recipient who unlawfully entered the country is not eligible for lawful-permanent-resident (LPR) status solely based on their TPS grant. Justice Elena Kagan authored the court’s majority opinion. 

Borden v. United States concerned the “use of force” clause in the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). In a 5-4 opinion, the court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that a reckless offense cannot qualify as a “violent felony” if it only requires a mens rea of recklessness–a less culpable mental state than purpose or knowledge. Justice Elena Kagan delivered the court’s majority opinion, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Neil Gorsuch. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion. Justice Brett Kavanaugh filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Amy Coney Barrett.

To date, the court has decided 44 cases, and 21 are yet to be decided this term.

Senate confirms first Biden-appointed judges

Last week, the U.S. Senate confirmed three of President Joe Biden’s (D) federal judicial nominees to Article III courts, marking the first federal judicial confirmations of the Biden administration. Two were confirmed on June 8, and one nominee was confirmed on June 10.

  • Julien Xavier Neals, U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, by a 66-33 vote.
  • Regina Rodriguez, U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado, by a 72-28 vote.
  • Zahid Quraishi, U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, by an 81-16 vote.

The three confirmed nominees were officially nominated by Biden on April 19 and had their nomination hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee on April 28. Each of the nominees was rated as well qualified by the American Bar Association.

The confirmed nominees will join their respective courts upon receiving their judicial commissions and taking their judicial oaths.

Ballotpedia’s polling index shows presidential approval at 53%, congressional approval at 26%

Ballotpedia’s polling index showed President Joe Biden (D) at 53% approval and 41% disapproval as of June 11. At this time last month, his approval rating was also at 53%.

The highest approval rating Biden has received during his tenure is 55%, last seen on May 26. The lowest approval rating he has received is 51% on March 29.

Congressional approval is at 26%, and disapproval is at 60%, according to our index. At this time last month, congressional approval was at 30%.

The highest approval rating the 117th Congress has received is 30%, last seen on May 11. The lowest approval rating it has received is 20%, last seen on March 3.

At this time during the tenure of former President Donald Trump (R), presidential approval was at 42%, and congressional approval was at 18%. To see more comparisons between Biden and Trump administration polling, click here.

Demings announces run for U.S. Senate from Florida

U.S. Rep. Val Demings (D) officially announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate on June 9. Demings currently represents Florida’s 10th Congressional District. Marco Rubio (R) is Florida’s incumbent U.S. Senator who is up for election in 2022. He was first elected to the Senate in 2010.

Demings announced she was running in a three-minute video in which she discussed how her upbringing and experiences had given her “tireless faith that things can always get better.” Demings said in the video, “I have never tired of representing Florida. Not for one single moment.”

Demings first ran for Florida’s 10th Congressional District seat in 2012, losing to incumbent Daniel Webster (R), 51% to 48%. She ran again in 2016 to represent District 10 after Webster decided to run in the 11th District. Demings defeated Thuy Lowe (R), 65% to 35% in 2016. She was re-elected in 2018 and 2020.

Demings is the 12th member of the House of Representatives to announce they are retiring or seeking another office. Six of those are Democrats, and six are Republicans. Demings is one of four members who are seeking a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Biden makes first overseas trip to Europe as president

President Joe Biden (D) began his first trip abroad as president on June 9 with a trip to the United Kingdom, where he met British Prime Minister Boris Johnson the following day. Biden will remain overseas until June 16. Here’s the rest of his schedule:

  • June 11-13: Biden will attend the G7 summit and hold bilateral meanings with other G7 leaders. He will also meet with Queen Elizabeth II.
  • June 14: Biden will be in Brussels, meeting with NATO leaders and holding a private session with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
  • June 15: Biden will continue to attend NATO meetings before flying to Geneva.
  • June 16: Biden will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #265: June 11, 2021

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

  • Mask requirements ending in Illinois and Kentucky
  • Pandemic-related unemployment benefits ending in Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi, and Missouri
  • 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 yesterday? Click here.

The next 72 hours

What is changing in the next 72 hours?

Alaska (divided government): The state will stop participating in pandemic-related federal unemployment benefit programs starting June 12. Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) made the announcement May 14.

Iowa (Republican trifecta): The state will stop participating in pandemic-related federal unemployment benefit programs starting June 12. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) made the announcement May 10.

Kansas (divided government): All state government offices will return to in-person operations starting June 13. Masks will still be required in state buildings.

Mississippi (Republican trifecta): The state will stop participating in pandemic-related federal unemployment benefit programs starting June 12. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) made the announcement May 10.

Missouri (Republican trifecta): The state will stop participating in pandemic-related federal unemployment benefit programs starting June 12. Gov. Mike Parson (R) made the announcement May 11. 

Vermont (divided government): On June 11, Gov. Phil Scott (R) announced there would be new walk-in vaccination clinics open across the state over the weekend. A full list of vaccination sites can be found here.

Since our last edition

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

Illinois (Democratic trifecta): The state is entering Phase 5 of reopening June 11. The statewide mask requirement is ending, and all remaining businesses and events can expand to full capacity.

Kentucky (divided government):

  • Gov. Andy Beshear (D) is ending the statewide mask requirement, remaining social distancing requirements, and all capacity restrictions June 11. 
  • Senior centers in the state will reopen at full capacity on June 11.

North Carolina (divided government): On June 10, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) announced a vaccine incentive program that will run from June 23 to Aug. 4. Adults who receive a vaccination starting on June 10 will be entered into four drawings for a $1 million cash prize, and people between the ages of 12 and 17 will be entered into four drawings for a $125,000 scholarship prize towards the post-secondary education of their choice.

Pennsylvania (divided government): 

  • The General Assembly voted to end Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) coronavirus emergency declaration June 10. HR106 passed 30-20 in the state Senate June 10. The state House voted 121-81 to approve the Senate version later in the day. The change is effective immediately. Wolf already ended all remaining mitigation measures May 31 except the requirement for unvaccinated individuals to wear masks indoors. HR106 does not affect the health secretary’s authority to require masks. 
  • Voters passed two ballot measures on May 18 to limit a governor’s emergency powers. Pennsylvania governors can now only issue 21-day state of emergency orders. After 21 days, the General Assembly can extend or end emergency orders through a majority vote. Previously, the legislature needed a two-thirds majority to overturn an emergency order.

Rhode Island (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Dan McKee (D) extended the state’s coronavirus emergency order until July 9.

This time last year: Thursday, June 11, 2020

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

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

Thursday, June 11, 2020:

  • Travel restrictions
    • Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) extended the quarantine requirement for out-of-state and returning travelers through July 31. Ige first issued the two-week quarantine requirement on March 17.
  • Election changes:
    • Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) signed HB167 into law, extending the deadline for a ballot-qualified party to notify the state of its presidential nominee from Aug. 18 to Aug. 25.


New York mayoral primaries preview – The Daily Brew for 06/11/21

Welcome to the Friday, June 11, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Previewing the New York mayoral race
  2. Ruth Ruggero Hughs resigns as Texas secretary of state
  3. #Fridaytrivia

Previewing the New York mayoral race

The New York mayoral primaries are on June 22—less than two weeks away. As the date approaches, let’s take a look at what we know about the races.

Sixteen Democrats and three Republicans are running in the primary elections. There will be both Democratic and Republican primaries. The winners will advance to the general election on Nov. 2.

The primary election will feature the first use of ranked-choice voting (RCV) for a mayoral primary in the city’s history. Voters will be able to rank up to five candidates on their ballot in order of preference. A candidate must receive a majority of votes cast to win the election, and votes for eliminated candidates are redistributed based on the next preference on the ballot. Official tabulations are not expected until the week of July 12, due to the deadlines for voters to submit absentee ballots and fix mistakes they may make on their ballots, such as forgetting to sign them.

Among the Democratic candidates, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, former New York City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, former Wall Street executive Raymond McGuire, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, former mayoral counsel Maya Wiley, and entrepreneur Andrew Yang have received the most media attention and noteworthy endorsements.

The three Republicans are the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers founder Fernando Mateo, retired NYPD officer William Pepitone, and financier Sara Tirschwell.

Garcia topped an Emerson College poll of 570 likely voters conducted May 23-24 with 21% support in the first round and 55% support in the eleventh and final round of ranked-choice voting. The margin of error was 4.1%. Adams and Yang, who led in earlier polls, rounded out the final three.

Garcia’s performance in polling has improved following endorsements from The New York Times and the New York Daily News. Other recent key endorsements in the race include Rep. John Liu (D-N.Y.) for Yang, Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) for Wiley, and Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) for Adams.

Stringer, who lost endorsements following allegations of sexual misconduct that Stringer denied, received a boost from the United Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers in May through a $4 million television and digital ad campaign.

Additional key spending in the race includes $500,000 from investor George Soros to a pro-Wiley super PAC and $1 million from oil executive John Hess to a pro-McGuire group.

Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) is not running for re-election. De Blasio was first elected in 2013 and won re-election in 2017 with 66% of the vote. Including de Blasio, four of the previous six mayors were Democrats.

Mayoral elections are being held in 31 of the 100 largest U.S. cities in 2021. The mayors of 64 of the country’s 100 largest cities are currently affiliated with the Democratic Party.

Keep reading

Ruth Ruggero Hughs resigns as Texas secretary of state

Ruth Ruggero Hughs resigned as Texas secretary of state effective May 31, after the Nominations Committee of the Texas State Senate did not take up her nomination for another term. Since Texas is one of eight states where the governor selects the secretary of state, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) will appoint Hughs’ successor. Abbott has appointed four secretaries of state so far since he took office in 2015.

Governor Abbott appointed Hughs on August 19, 2019, to succeed David Whitley (R) after he did not receive enough confirmation votes from the state Senate to remain in office. At least two-thirds of the Senate must vote in favor of a secretary of state’s nomination in order for a nominee to be confirmed. Hughs previously served as the chair of the Texas Workforce Commission.

The Texas secretary of state serves as the chief election officer, assists election officials at the county level, and ensures that election laws are uniform throughout Texas. Additionally, the secretary publishes government rules and regulations and commissions notaries public.

Here are a few fun facts about the office of secretary of state:

  • The secretary of state is a state-level position in 47 of the 50 states.
  • The position does not exist in Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah.
  • In Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, the office is called the secretary of the commonwealth and differs only in name.
  • Voters directly elect the secretary of state in 35 states. In the other 12, the secretary is appointed by either the governor or the state legislature.

Keep reading 

#Fridaytrivia

We’ve been keeping you up-to-date on the status of redistricting following the 2020 U.S. Census results. I recently wrote about how Illinois lawmakers approved revised maps for the Illinois state Senate, the Illinois House of Representatives, and the Illinois Supreme Court. Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) signed legislation on June 4 establishing the new maps. In that edition, I told you about the last time Illinois redrew state supreme court districts.

So for today’s question, I’m asking: When was the last time state supreme court districts were redrawn in Illinois?

  1. 1964
  2. 1991
  3. 2011
  4. 1983


Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #264: June 10, 2021

Recommended subject line: Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #264: June 10, 2021

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

  • Changes in coronavirus restrictions in Kentucky
  • The end of social distancing in Maine schools
  • Vaccine distribution
  • School closures and reopenings
  • Travel restrictions
  • 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 yesterday? Click here.

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

Illinois (Democratic trifecta): The state will enter Phase 5 of reopening June 11. On that day, the statewide mask requirement will end, and large events and gatherings can expand to full capacity.

Kentucky (divided government):

  • Gov. Andy Beshear (D) will end the statewide mask requirement for everyone (including unvaccinated people) on June 11.
  • Senior centers in the state will reopen at full capacity on June 11.

Since our last edition

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

Maine (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Janet Mills (D) announced all social distancing requirements will be lifted for schools in Fall 2021. Mills said she expected all schools to offer full-time, in-person instruction when the requirement ends. 

Washington (Democratic trifecta): On Wednesday, June 9, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) confirmed that venues that can hold 10,000 or more people will still be restricted to 75% capacity once the state lifts most COVID-19 restrictions. Inslee said he would lift most restrictions once 70% of eligible residents get vaccinated. 

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the June 8 edition of the newsletter. As of June 9, 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 June 3. Since then, no states changed school reopening guidelines.

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.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 403,664 students (0.80% of students nationwide)
  • Thirteen states had state-ordered in-person instruction.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 15,432,755 students (30.51% of students nationwide)
  • One state (Ariz.) had state-ordered in-person instruction for certain grades.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 1,123,137 students (2.22% of students nationwide)
  • Thirty-four states left decisions to schools or districts.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 33,628,303 students (66.48% 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 June 3, one state has announced plans to alter its travel restrictions.   

Details:

  • Hawaii – Governor David Ige (D) announced that fully vaccinated travelers who have been vaccinated in Hawaii will be able to bypass the quarantine or test requirement when flying in from out of state beginning June 15. He also announced all inter-county travel restrictions will end on June 15.

Federal responses

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

  • On June 8, Department of Defense (DoD) press secretary John Kirby announced the DoD would close three mass vaccination sites, leaving five in operation around the country. The DoD and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) operated 35 sites earlier in the year when demand for vaccines was highest.
  • On June 3, President Joe Biden (D) announced the U.S will share 25 million coronavirus doses with foreign countries. Nineteen million will go to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVAX initiative, while the remainder will go directly to countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

This time last year: Friday, June 12, 2020

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

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

Friday, June 12, 2020:

  • Election changes:
    • North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) signed HB1169 into law, reducing the witness signature requirement on completed absentee ballots from two to one.
    • California Judge Perry Parker of the Sutter County Superior Court issued a temporary restraining order suspending Executive Order N-67-20, which authorized counties to consolidate polling places in the Nov. 3 general election, provided the counties offered three days of early voting.


What comes next in the Newsom recall effort: Today in the Daily Brew (06/10/21)

Welcome to the Thursday, June 10, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. What’s next in the recall effort of California Gov. Gavin Newsom?
  2. Redistricting review: Illinois enacts state legislative, supreme court maps
  3. Legislative term explained: What is a Christmas tree bill?

What’s next in the recall effort of California Gov. Gavin Newsom?

Tuesday—June 8—was the deadline for voters who signed a petition to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to request to have their signatures removed. County election offices now have 10 business days—until June 22—to report the number of remaining signatures to the California secretary of state. If after that period, at least 1,495,709 signatures remain, the recall election will proceed to a budgeting phase. Recall organizers submitted 1,719,943 valid signatures. 

According to Sacramento-based TV station KCRA-TV, the California Department of Finance will have 30 days to develop estimated costs of a recall election. Once that estimate is complete, the state’s Joint Legislative Budget Committee will review it and report back to the secretary of state’s office. After that, the lieutenant governor—Eleni Kounalakis (D)—is required to schedule a recall election between 60 and 80 days after the signatures are certified. By law, she may choose to consolidate the recall with the next regularly scheduled election if that election occurs within 180 days of certification.

These steps don’t have to take the full amount of time allotted to them; each phase could be completed sooner, which would start the time allocated to the next part of the process. This means that the recall election could occur between August and November.

A recall election would present voters with two questions. The first would ask whether Newsom should be recalled from office. The second would 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 with no majority required. Newsom was elected as California’s governor in 2018 with 61.9% of the vote. 

If Newsom is recalled, his replacement would serve the remainder of his current term, which expires on Jan. 2, 2023. The next regularly scheduled election on Nov. 8, 2022, would determine the state’s next governor.

Keep reading

Redistricting review: Illinois enacts state legislative, supreme court maps 

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed legislation on June 4 establishing new maps for the state Senate, the state House of Representatives, and the state Supreme Court. Illinois is the first state to enact new district maps in this redistricting cycle.

The General Assembly approved the redistricting plans on May 28. In both chambers, the vote split along partisan lines, with all Democrats voting ‘yea’ and all Republicans present voting ‘nay.’ Illinois is a Democratic trifecta, meaning that Democrats control the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly.

Because the U.S. Census Bureau does not expect to deliver granular redistricting data to the states until mid-August, and in light of the state constitution’s June 30 deadline for state legislative redistricting, Illinois lawmakers used population estimates from the American Community Survey to draft the new maps. The state constitution sets no deadline for congressional redistricting.

In 33 states, state legislatures play the dominant role in state legislative redistricting. Commissions draw state legislative district lines in 14 states. In three states, hybrid systems are used.

Keep reading 

What is a Christmas tree bill?

Do you know the meaning and history of the term, Christmas tree bill? You may have seen it in news stories in recent months. I didn’t, so here’s a brief explanation. 

The U.S. Senate glossary defines the term Christmas tree bill as “informal nomenclature for a bill on the Senate floor that attracts many, often unrelated, floor amendments. The amendments which adorn the bill may provide special benefits to various groups or interests.”

The first use of the term Christmas tree bill is attributed to Sen. Clinton Anderson (D), who represented New Mexico from 1949 to 1973. In 1956, Anderson used the term to refer to a farm bill with over one hundred amendments. “This bill gets more and more like a Christmas tree,” Anderson said, “there’s something in it for nearly everyone.” 

Amending a bill at the end of a legislative session, or just before extended breaks or holiday recesses, can be a strategy to accelerate the approval of a bill that has broad consensus. The result is a bill that is an end-of-session catch-all for policies, regulations, and fiscal measures that would otherwise not advance.

Want to read more? Click the link below for more history, some examples, and instances of how the term is used in politics and popular culture.

Keep reading 



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #263: June 9, 2021

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

  • A vaccination campaign in Wisconsin
  • Changes in coronavirus restrictions in Oregon
  • 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 yesterday? Click here.

Since our last edition

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

Oregon (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced that effective June 11, 11 counties will be in the state’s High Risk level, four will be at Moderate Risk, and 21 will have Lower Risk restrictions. In the current period from June 4 -10, 13 counties are in the state’s High Risk level, four are at Moderate Risk, and 19 have Lower Risk restrictions. To see restrictions in a specific county or risk level, click here.

South Carolina (Republican trifecta): Gov. Henry McMaster (R) allowed the statewide coronavirus emergency order to expire June 7. McMaster declared the emergency March 13, 2020. 

Wisconsin (divided government): On Tuesday, June 8, Gov. Tony Evers (D) announced he was re-launching the “You Stop the Spread” campaign to encourage people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The campaign will include television, radio, and billboard ads. The campaign was initially launched in September 2020 to encourage people to wear a mask and practice social distancing. 

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, June 8, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published data showing that half of people 12 and older are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 


Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #262: June 8, 2021

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

  • Changes in coronavirus restrictions in Hawaii and New York
  • A law prohibiting proof-of-vaccination requirements in Texas
  • Vaccine distribution
  • Lawsuits about state actions and policies 
  • State-level mask requirements
  • Diagnosed or quarantined public officials
  • 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 yesterday? Click here.

Since our last edition

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

Hawaii (Democratic trifecta): 

  • Gov. David Ige (D) announced social gathering limits will expand to 25 people indoors and 75 outdoors when 60% of state residents are fully vaccinated. Restaurants will also be able to expand to 75% capacity.
  • Ige said all social gathering and capacity restrictions will end once 70% of state residents are fully vaccinated.

New York (Democratic trifecta): 

  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced most coronavirus restrictions will end once 70% of adults 18 and older receive at least one dose of a vaccine. New York Forward guidance will be optional for businesses like restaurants, retailers, and gyms. Masks will still be required for unvaccinated residents, and restrictions will remain in place for large event venues, correctional facilities, and healthcare facilities. 
  • Cuomo also announced school districts can choose to end the indoor mask requirement. 

Texas (Republican trifecta): On Monday, June 7, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed a bill prohibiting state and local government agencies from issuing COVID-19 documentation that could be used to verify a person’s vaccination status. The bill also prohibits government agencies and businesses from requiring proof of vaccination to receive services or enter the premises. Abbott previously issued an executive order prohibiting state agencies and businesses that receive state funding from requiring proof of vaccination. 

Washington (Democratic trifecta): On June 7, the Washington State Liquor and Cannabis Board announced “Joints for Jabs,” an initiative to encourage adults 21 and older to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Under the initiative, adults who receive at least one dose of a vaccine are eligible to get a free marijuana joint from a state-licensed dispensary. 

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the June 3 edition of the newsletter. As of June 7, 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 1,804 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 541 of those lawsuits. 
    • Since June 1, we have added no new lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked no additional court orders and/or settlements. 

Details:

  • Noem v. Haaland: On June 2, Chief Judge Roberto A. Lange of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota rejected South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem’s (R) attempt to hold a fireworks display at Mount Rushmore to commemorate the Fourth of July. Lange, an appointee of President Barack Obama (D), denied Noem’s request for a preliminary injunction after the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) denied the fireworks display. The Interior Department cited the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and other environmental, cultural, and safety concerns. Noem alleged DOI’s permit rejection letter was “a patchwork of vague and speculative purported concerns” that violated a memorandum of understanding between the state and the Trump administration. Noem said the 2020 fireworks display “was a rousing success, and not a single COVID-19 case was traced back to it.” Lange wrote that “under governing law, the State is unlikely to succeed on the merits of its claims and has not met the requirements” to prove DOI acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner. Noem said she would appeal the decision: “[w]e will continue fighting to once again return fireworks to Mount Rushmore.”

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the June 1 edition of the newsletter. Since then, Ohio’s statewide mask mandate ended June 2. 

Diagnosed or quarantined politicians identified by Ballotpedia

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

  • Federal
    • Three federal officials have died of COVID-19.
    • Sixty-five members of Congress have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Forty-one federal officials have quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • State
    • Ten state-level incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • Two hundred thirty-three state-level incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Eighty-six state-level incumbents or candidates have quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • Local
    • At least five local incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • At least 43 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 June 1, no candidates or officeholders have been diagnosed with, died from, or quarantined because of COVID-19.

This time last year: Tuesday, June 9, 2020

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

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2020:

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) ended the state’s stay-at-home order. Murphy first issued the order on March 21. 
  • Federal government responses:
    • The Department of Defense announced it was lifting travel restrictions on installations in 38 states, Washington D.C., and five countries (Bahrain, Belgium, Germany, the U.K., and Japan). Service members could travel between those areas without needing permission. The Department maintained travel restrictions for a dozen states.


Economy and Society: SEC halts enforcement of proxy advisory amendments


ESG Developments This Week

In Washington, D.C.

SEC halts enforcement of proxy advisory amendments

In July 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission amended several rules under the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, codifying 2019 regulatory guidance requiring greater scrutiny of Proxy Advisory Services. The amendments went into effect in November 2020 and were scheduled to begin mandatory compliance on December 1, 2021. Last week, newly installed SEC Chairman Gary Gensler issued a statement directing Commission staff to reconsider the guidance and the amendments, which, in turn, caused the Commission’s Division of Corporate Finance to issue its own statement, effectively halting enforcement of the amendments:

“Gary Gensler, the new chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, released a statement on June 1, 2021, directing SEC staff to consider revisiting its interpretation and guidance from September 2019 regarding the application of the proxy rules to proxy advisors (the 2019 Guidance), and the amendments that it adopted in July 2020 that modified Rules 14a-1(l), 14a-2(b) and 14a-9 under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the 2020 Amendments)….

In response to Chairman Gensler’s directive, the Division of Corporation Finance issued a public statement that it would consider recommending that the SEC revisit the 2019 Guidance and the 2020 Amendments. Notably, the Division of Corporation Finance also stated that it would not recommend enforcement action based on the 2019 Guidance or the 2020 Amendments while the SEC considers further regulatory action. In addition, the Division confirmed that, in the event that the 2020 Amendments remain in place with the current December 1, 2021 compliance date, the staff will not recommend any enforcement action based on those conditions for a reasonable period of time after any resumption by ISS of its litigation challenging the 2020 Amendments and the 2019 Guidance.

It is uncertain how or when the SEC will move forward to review and perhaps revise the 2019 Guidance and 2020 Amendments, although it appears that a majority of SEC members do not support them. In the interim, for however long that interim period may be, the Division of Corporation Finance’s refusal to seek to enforce the 2019 Guidance, and 2020 Amendments once they become applicable, would seem to be tantamount to their suspension or repeal.”

The ESG impact of the SEC’s decisions is potentially significant, as the two largest proxy advisory servicesInstitutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and Glass-Lewisare considered ESG allies in many proxy ballot measures, recommending their clients vote their proxies in favor of what are deemed ESG-friendly petitions and executive and director decisions.

SEC Commissioner and former acting-Chair, Allision Herren Lee also recommended that Commission staff examine and consider revisions to another amendment approved during the Trump administration, one dealing with the amount of stock that must be held and for how long it must be held before filing a first-time shareholder proposal. Commissioner Gensler has yet to announce his plans for this amendment.

On Wall Street and in the private sector

Activist hedge fund wins third seat on Exxon board

As noted in last week’s edition of this newsletter, the activist hedge fund Engine No. 1 challenged three seats of Exxon’s board of directors on this year’s proxy statement and, as of Exxon’s annual meeting (on May 26) and last week’s publication date (on June 1), it was clear that the activist upstarts had won two of those three seats. On Wednesday, June 2, Exxon updated the vote count, resulting in a larger victory for Engine No. 1:

“Exxon Mobil Corp (XOM.N) shareholders elected a third director nominated by hedge fund Engine No. 1 to the oil company’s board, the company said on Wednesday, extending the firm’s upset victory at one of America’s top energy corporations.

The election was a shock to an energy industry struggling to address growing investor concerns about global warming and a warning to Exxon managers that years of weak returns were no longer acceptable.

Engine No. 1 nominee Alexander Karsner, a strategist at Google owner Alphabet Inc , won the fund’s third seat out of its 12-member board, according to a regulatory filing.”

That same day, Ursula Burns, an Exxon director who was retained, spoke remotely to the Dallas Federal reserve and called the vote a watershed moment in shareholder activism and acknowledging that, in her words, “the timing was perfect” for such an effort by an environmentally focused activist group like Engine No. 1.

ESG: hot job sector

According to The Financial Times, the rapid growth of ESG as an investment scheme and a business-pressure tactic has turned those deemed to possess expertise in Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance matters into the hottest commodity in the job market. In so doing, ESG is proving to be impactful well beyond the bounds of corporate finance:

“More than one in five of the world’s largest companies have made some form of commitment to reaching net zero emissions and investors are sharpening their focus on the social impact of companies they back, creating a boom in the market for specialists in corporate sustainability.

“The bottom line is demand far outstrips supply and so there is going to be a real war for talent and that will include compensation,” said Sarah Galloway, co-leader of recruiter Russell Reynolds Associates’ sustainability practice.

Demand for ESG experts is booming across professional services, including at management consultancies, boutique advisory firms and property companies, recruiters and executives said….

Experts are also being lured by private equity funds to fill roles as chief sustainability officer and head of ESG with salaries varying widely, recruiters said.

“Private equity has realised you can’t IPO a business unless it’s got a really strong sustainability or ESG story so they are all hiring heads of ESG or sustainability at very senior levels . . . to oversee their portfolios,” said Galloway….

Growing expectations that auditors will scrutinise non-financial metrics as well as companies’ accounts are also driving demand for new expertise at accounting firms, which are recruiting specialists and providing training to auditors.

“ESG metrics and reporting are fast becoming a business imperative, particularly due to increased scrutiny from investors, and we intend to move ahead of regulatory reforms by expanding our capability and capacity in this area,” said Scott Knight, head of audit at BDO, the UK’s fifth-largest accounting firm.”

Chinese ESG?

Over the weekend, the South China Morning Post argued that the ESG movement in Asia, which has been hot, but not as hot as in Europe and the United States, would, in its words, take off:

“Environment, social and governance disclosures by mainland China-listed companies have improved but remain short of the needs of international fund managers, who are increasingly pushed by asset owners to embed ESG considerations into investment decisions, according to asset managers.

Engagement by foreign investors has already seen some companies enhance disclosures, while impending regulatory requirements would improve it further, they said….

Funds managed with strategies linked to companies’ ESG performance doubled in Asia to US$25 billion last year from US$12 billion in 2019, according to JPMorgan.

“We believe this could quite possibly double again this year, judging by the amount of investor interest and momentum we are seeing,” said Elaine Wu, head of ESG and utilities research in Asia excluding Japan at JPMorgan. ESG funds focusing on the region have outperformed global ESG funds by 2 to 5 percentage points in the past two years, she added.

Currently, mainland-listed firms are encouraged by the CSRC to voluntarily publish annual sustainability or social responsibility reports. These disclosures focus mostly on environmental sustainability and philanthropic contributions.

Over 1,000 or 27 per cent of these companies issued ESG reports in 2020, with 86 percent of the largest 300 mainland-listed stocks by market value doing so – up from 49 per cent in 2010, said Felix Lam, head of investment stewardship for Asia-Pacific excluding Japan at JP Morgan Asset Management.”

ESG down under

ESG is booming in Europe, in the United States, in Asia, and now, apparently, in Australia as well. Bloomberg reported last week on Australian Ethical Investment, Ltd., noting the company’s good fortunes of late and the concomitant boom in Australian ESG:

“There’s been a seismic shift in the interest and demand for this style of investing,” John McMurdo, chief executive officer at Australian Ethical Investment Ltd., said in an interview in Sydney Thursday. “There is significant momentum.”…

Funds and strategies that focus on environmental, social and governance factors are booming worldwide amid an uptake from investors and companies to own more sustainable investments. McMurdo says the addressable market — the audience — for his funds shot up to between 60%-80% of the Australian population, up from around 15% just two years ago….

“There’s a sort of myth that you have to give up investment performance to invest in an ethical way,” McMurdo said. “That myth has been well and truly busted.”

In the spotlight

Alignment theory in ESG, again

In several past issues, this newsletter has reported on various efforts to connect executive compensation to ESG performancemostly in Canada and the EU but occasionally in the United States as well. Last Tuesday, The Wall Street Journal reported on private equity firms that are trying, despite complications, to link compensation to ESG performance metrics, which would change the business in significant ways:

“Private-equity investors are considering a novel strategy to make sure the firms they back are good corporate citizens: Tie their promises to their pay.

More institutions are weighing whether to link asset managers’ compensation to performance on environmental, social and governance issues, say people who consult with investors and help private-equity firms raise money.

These efforts—which are more advanced in Europe than in the U.S.—would represent a radical change in how private-equity managers get paid. For decades, buyout managers have received their main compensation through a 20% share of the profits when an investment is sold, referred to as a manager’s carried interest.

Advocates of linking pay to ESG say it shows firms mean business. Private-equity firms regularly talk up their ESG policies, but there is little data on how well the industry as a whole performs on these issues.

“Our carry-link shows we put our money where our mouth is,” Vishesh Srivastava, managing partner of Future Business Partnership, a European consumer-specialist impact-investing firm, wrote in an email….”

Notable quotes

“My sources inside BlackRock say that over the past year, Fink has transformed the place into an ESG cultural center. Fink talks ESG nonstop at company town halls. Seminars on ESG investing seem to take place every week. An executive named Brian Deese was promoted to push money managers to consider ESG in all their investment decisions.

Deese is now one of several BlackRock officials who hold key positions in the Biden administration, as director of the president’s National Economic Council.”

Charles Gasparino, “BlackRock’s ‘No. 1’ goal in ‘woke’ investing: Huge ESG-funds haul,” The New York Post, June 5, 2021