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American ESG Now a Trillion Dollar Business

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


ESG developments this week

On Wall Street and in the private sector

S&P launches new sustainability project

On April 22, S&P Global announced the formation of a new organization intended to be its one-stop-shop for information, intelligence, and data on corporate sustainability practices. The new operationnamed Sustainable1was described as follows in a company press release:

“This new centralized group represents S&P Global’s integrated sustainability offerings and is comprised of a dedicated team that provides comprehensive views on sustainability, including key ESG and climate topics. Sustainable1 brings together S&P Global’s resources and full product suite of benchmarking, analytics, evaluations, and indices that provide customers with a 360-degree view to help achieve their sustainability goals….

With the launch of S&P Global’s new ESG and sustainability organization, the Company is also debuting the S&P Global Sustainable1 Knowledge Hub. This new site is a comprehensive public resource for the markets that brings together insights and thought leadership from all four S&P Global divisions, including the centralized Sustainable1 group, to provide data and well-informed points of view on critical topics like energy transition, climate resilience, positive impact and sustainable finance.”

According to the press release, among the divisions to be integrated into Sustainable1 are “S&P Dow Jones Indices,” “S&P Global Market Intelligence” and “S&P Global Ratings.”

American ESG is now a trillion dollar business 

According to Seeking Alpha’s research director Tom Roseen, the American ESG mutual fund and ETF business now has, for the first time ever, more than $1 trillion in assets under management. In an April 24 note, Roseen wrote:

“U.S. investors pushed equity funds to their fourth consecutive quarter of plus-side performance in Q1 2021. Investors embraced the $1.9 trillion stimulus package signed into law by President Joe Biden in late March, the Federal Reserve Board’s commitment to keeping interest rates low through at least 2023, and the rollout and improving distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

All of these factors contributed to relatively strong returns for equity funds and ETFs during the quarter, with the average equity fund posting a 6.31% return, with Lipper’s Sector Equity Funds macro-classification (+8.94%) leading other macro-classifications….

Investors injected some $33.6 billion into SRI and ESG focused mutual funds and ETFs (collectively, responsible investing [RI] funds) during Q1 2021, bringing the one-year net inflows total to $121.7 billion. Assets under management for U.S. RI funds rose 7.05% from $940.5 billion on December 31, 2020, to $1.007 trillion on March 31, 2021.”

American companies join European companies in aligning management values with ESG values

As has been noted previously in Economy and Society, European (and, to a lesser extent, Canadian) corporations have taken a page out of the late 1970s shareholder primacy model of corporate behavior and have begun aligning corporate executives’ values with ESG values by linking their compensation to their ESG performance. Over the last few months, various signs appear to indicate that such an alignment transformation may be underway in American corporations as well. First, for example, is the following note, posted last Wednesday by Yahoo Finance:

“Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing is starting to make its way into executive compensation.

“Compensation is the ultimate governance mechanism that we have to make sure (that) companies are doing things right,” said Peter Reali, New York-based managing director and head of engagement for Nuveen, in a Pensions & Investments article.

“ESG issues are making their way into compensation conversations because shareholder proponents want it integrated into executive compensation design, to create accountability for executing on ESG commitments,” said Reali….

“Many European companies already incorporate ESG metrics into executive pay. In a study of 365 issuers from major indexes in continental Europe and the UK, 68 percent have at least one ESG metric in their incentive plans, according to Willis Towers Watson,” an IR Magazine article said. “But companies are under pressure to go further. Investors want to see stronger links between ESG, strategy and pay. In particular, they are pushing for significant metrics on key sustainability topics, like climate change and diversity.””

On Friday, Bloomberg followed that up with an article about changes underway at Alphabet, the parent company of Google:  

“Alphabet Inc. said it will create a bonus program for senior executives that’s partly based on their performance in supporting environmental, social and governance goals.

The program will begin in 2022, the company’s Chairman John Hennessey wrote in an annual proxy filing. ESG goals “have long been a key part of Alphabet and Google’s work,” he added in a letter to shareholders. The Google parent company will hold its annual meeting on June 2.

Hennessey also addressed diversity and workplace harassment in the letter, saying the Alphabet board agreed on a series of “principles and improvements” that incorporated input from employees and stockholders. That included the creation of a new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Advisory Council, which comprises senior company executives and external experts in the field.”

In the spotlight

Women in ESG

A recent survey of clients conducted by RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) Wealth Management showed that interest in ESG is quickly rising among RBC’s clients, and that that interest is being driven primarily by women. According to a summary of the survey published by Environment and Energy Leader, RBC’s results were as follows:

“Respondents who identified as women are more than twice as likely as men to say it is extremely important that the companies they invest in integrate ESG factors into their policies and decisions. The survey also found that 74% of women were interested in increasing their share of ESG investments in their current portfolios and were significantly more likely than men to have an interest in learning more about ESG investing.

While the survey revealed that women are leading the charge in ESG investing, more than half of male respondents (53%) also expressed interest in increasing the share of ESG in their current portfolio, and 61% of clients overall shared this position….

The results of RBC’s survey support the growing industry wide enthusiasm for ESG investing. A new report from non-profit foundation US SIF: The Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment found that at the start of 2020, $17.1 trillion was invested in responsibly invested assets in the US, up a staggering 42% from $12 trillion just two years prior. ESG investing was among most popular responsible investing strategies, accounting for a third of all managed assets in the US.”

Notable quotes

“The idea of having a return is important for the planet….Because if you really want businesses to engage, if you want business to really turn around and do this at scale … it has to be because there’s a return on that investment. Otherwise, it’s just philanthropy. And so much of what we’re doing at Apple is showing that the business of doing right by the planet is good business.”



Bold Justice: SCOTUS concludes April sitting

Bold Justice

We #SCOTUS and you can, too!

April sitting

The Supreme Court will conclude its April sitting this week, hearing arguments in seven cases for a total of six hours. 

The court will hear arguments via teleconference and will provide live audio streams to the public for each of the argument sessions. The court has not heard arguments in person during the 2020 term. 

Click the links below to read more about the specific cases before SCOTUS during the first week of its April sitting.

April 26

  • A pair of consolidated cases, Americans for Prosperity v. Becerra and Thomas More Law Center v. Becerra, concern disclosure requirements for charitable organizations’ donor lists and the Supreme Court’s decision in NAACP v. Alabama (1958). The NAACP ruling set legal precedent over membership disclosure requirements for charity groups and constitutional protections for freedom of association. 

Two conservative political advocacy groups, the Thomas More Law Center and the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, challenged a California law requiring tax-exempt §501(c)(3) charitable organizations to disclose the names and addresses of major donors. The groups argued the policy violates the First Amendment. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled in favor of the state, holding that California had a compelling state interest in donor disclosure and that the groups already filed the information with their federal tax returns. The two advocacy groups petitioned the Supreme Court for review. 

In the 1940s, the U.S. Navy built and operated the Ordot Dump landfill in Guam for the disposal of munitions, chemicals, and garbage. The landfill had no environmental safeguards. When Guam gained sovereignty in 1950, the Navy ceased to own or operate the landfill. In the 1980s, the EPA flagged the Ordot Dump as a contaminated site, ordered Guam to create containment plans, and determined the Navy was a potentially responsible party for the site.

In 2004, the EPA reached an agreement with Guam to close and cover the dump to prevent further pollution. In 2017, Guam filed CERCLA complaints in U.S. district court against the United States, seeking financial support for closing the dump and paying the civil penalties levied by the EPA. The United States argued Guam could not file CERCLA claims because of the terms of its agreement with the EPA and moved to dismiss the case. The district court denied the request. The U.S. government appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. The court reversed the district court’s ruling and remanded the case back to the lower court for dismissal. The government of Guam appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

April 27

The Clean Air Act‘s biofuels mandate to replace crude oil with renewable fuels allows the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to temporarily extend exemptions to small refineries if compliance with the law would cause disproportionate economic hardship. Three small refineries, collectively known as HollyFrontier, applied for and received extensions. A group of renewable fuels producers, collectively known as the Renewable Fuels Association, challenged the orders with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. The Renewable Fuels Association claimed the EPA’s orders caused economic injury. The 10th Circuit vacated the EPA’s orders and remanded the matters, ruling that the EPA had exceeded its authority. HollyFrontier petitioned SCOTUS for review.

Mexican national Refugio Palomar-Santiago was granted permanent residency in the United States in 1990. The following year, he was convicted of a felony offense and was later deported based on that conviction. Three years later, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit concluded that Palomar-Santiago’s conviction was not a crime of violence, and as such did not warrant deportation proceedings. 

In 2017, Palomar-Santiago was in the United States and was indicted for illegally reentering the country. Palomar-Santiago moved to dismiss the indictment, based on the 9th Circuit’s ruling. The district court ruled he met the required burden of proof and dismissed the indictment. On appeal, the 9th Circuit affirmed the ruling. The U.S. government appealed to the Supreme Court.

April 28

Mahanoy Area School District student B.L. was suspended from the school’s cheerleading team after posting a Snapchat story coaches said violated team and school rules. Snapchat is a social media platform that allows users to send private messages to other users. Snaps are temporary, disappearing after an interval of time, and cannot be accessed on the internet. The posts were made off campus.

School officials upheld the coaches’ ruling while stating that B.L. could try out for the team again the following school year. B.L. sued the school in U.S. district court, claiming the school had violated her First Amendment rights in its attempts to regulate her off-campus speech and discipline her for that speech. The district court ruled in her favor and on appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit upheld the ruling. The school district appealed to the Supreme Court.

  • The case PennEast Pipeline Co. v. New Jersey concerns jurisdictional requirements of eminent domain under the Natural Gas Act (“NGA”). Eminent domain is the prerogative of a government to take private property, including land, for public use with payment of reasonable compensation without the owner’s consent. The NGA allows private gas companies to exercise the U.S. government’s power of eminent domain if certain jurisdictional requirements are met. 

Natural gas provider PennEast Pipeline Company (“PennEast”) was scheduled to build a pipeline through part of New Jersey. PennEast obtained federal approval and sued for access to the properties in U.S. district court. New Jersey sought to dismiss the suits, arguing that PennEast did not satisfy the NGA’s jurisdictional requirements and the state was immune under the Eleventh Amendment. The District of New Jersey allowed PennEast immediate access to the properties. New Jersey appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, which ruled that New Jersey was immune and vacated the district court’s orders. PennEast appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.

Opinions

SCOTUS issued opinions in three cases since our April 19 issue. The court has issued 30 opinions to date. Six cases were decided without argument.

  • Jones v. Mississippi originated from the Mississippi Court of Appeals and was argued before SCOTUS on November 3, 2020. The case concerned sentencing juveniles to life imprisonment without parole.

When he was 15 years old, Brett Jones killed his grandfather and was tried for murder in the Circuit Court of Lee County, Mississippi. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama (2012), the Mississippi Supreme Court ordered the county circuit court to hold a sentencing rehearing. In 2017, the circuit court resentenced Jones to life in prison without parole. Brett appealed to the Mississippi Court of Appeals, the state’s intermediate appellate court, which rejected his argument to reverse the sentence. In 2018, the state supreme court held oral arguments and then dismissed the case. 

In 2019, Jones petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review. In the petition, Brett argued (1) that the issue divided state supreme courts, and (2) that without a requirement to find permanent incorrigibility before sentencing juveniles to life imprisonment without parole, SCOTUS’ precedent in Miller and Montgomery would “lose its force as a rule of law.” Incorrigibility in this case is defined as when a juvenile does not accept an adult’s authority.

On April 22, 2021, SCOTUS ruled in a 6-3 vote that the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not require a juvenile to be found as permanently incorrigible before imposing a life sentence without parole. The court upheld the Mississippi Court of Appeals’ judgment. Justice Brett Kavanaugh delivered the court’s majority opinion. Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented and was joined by Justices Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.

  • Carr v. Saul (consolidated with Davis v. Saul) concerns claimants seeking disability benefits under the Social Security Act (The Act) and whether they must raise any constitutional Appointments Clause challenges during administrative proceedings before seeking judicial review. The case was argued before SCOTUS on March 3, 2021. 

Willie Carr was denied Social Security disability benefits, appealed to the Social Security Administration (SSA), and those appeals were denied. Carr petitioned the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma for review. Carr claimed the administrative law judge (ALJ) who decided his case was unconstitutionally appointed. The SSA did not dispute Carr’s claim. The SSA argued Carr’s claim should’ve been raised during the earlier administrative proceedings, so the court could not consider his challenge. The Northern District of Oklahoma ruled in Carr’s favor. The SSA appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. The 10th Circuit reversed the district court, holding that Carr could not challenge the ALJ’s appointment for the first time in federal court.

On April 22, 2021, SCOTUS issued a unanimous opinion reversing the 10th Circuit ruling and remanding the case for further proceedings. The court held that Social Security disability claimants are not required to make Appointments Clause challenges relating to the ALJs hearing their claims at the agency level. Justice Sonia Sotomayor authored the court’s majority opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which Justices Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett joined. Justice Stephen Breyer filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.

In 2012, the FTC filed a suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada against business owner Scott Tucker and his credit-monitoring companies for violating consumer-protection statutes under The Act. The District of Nevada granted summary judgment in favor of the FTC and ordered Tucker to pay restitution. On appeal in 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld the district court’s ruling. In 2019, Tucker petitioned SCOTUS for review.

On April 22, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion reversing the 9th Circuit’s judgment and remanding the case for further proceedings. The court concluded that Section 13b of The Act does not authorize the FTC to seek equitable monetary relief like restitution or disgorgement, nor does it authorize a court to award such relief. Justice Stephen Breyer delivered the majority opinion of the court.

Grants

SCOTUS accepted one case to its merits docket since our April 19 issue. The court has granted review in a total of 11 cases for the upcoming 2021-2022 term, which is scheduled to begin on October 4, 2021. 

Hemphill v. New York originated from the New York Court of Appeals.

  • The case: Darrell Hemphill was tried in New York state court for second-degree murder in the shooting death of a child. At trial, Hemphill’s attorney introduced evidence of a different shooter. The court ruled that this defense opened the door to the prosecution presenting rebuttal evidence, including testimony provided during earlier legal proceedings barred by the Sixth Amendment’s Confrontation Clause. In practice, this clause requires criminal prosecutors to offer their evidence at trial through witnesses who are subject to cross-examination. Hemphill was convicted. 

After exhausting his appeals in the New York state courts, Hemphill appealed on constitutional grounds to the U.S. Supreme Court. Click here to learn more about the case’s background.

  • The issue: The case concerns a criminal defendant’s constitutional right to confront the witnesses against him.
  • The question presented: “Whether, or under what circumstances, a criminal defendant who opens the door to responsive evidence also forfeits his right to exclude evidence otherwise barred by the Confrontation Clause.”

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • April 26:
    • SCOTUS will release orders. 
    • SCOTUS will hear arguments in three cases.
  • April 27: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • April 28: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • April 30: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.
  • May 3: SCOTUS will release orders
  • May 4: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.

SCOTUS trivia

True or false: has a Supreme Court Justice ever been impeached from the court?

  1. True
  2. False

Choose an answer to find out!

Federal court action

Nominations and confirmations

President Joe Biden (D) announced no new nominees and the U.S. Senate has confirmed no new nominees since our April 19 issue.

To date, President Biden has nominated 10 individuals to Article III judgeships:

The nominations were announced on March 30 and were officially submitted to the U.S. Senate on April 19.  

Vacancies

The federal judiciary currently has 77 vacancies, 73 of which are for lifetime Article III judgeships. As of this writing, there were 10 pending Article III nominations.

For more information on judicial vacancies during Biden’s term, click here.

Do you love judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? We figured you might. Our monthly Federal Vacancy Count, published at the start of each month, monitors all the faces and places moving in, moving out, and moving on in the federal judiciary. Click here for our most current count.

Need a daily fix of judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? Click here for continuing updates on the status of all federal judicial nominees.

Or, keep an eye on our list for updates on federal judicial nominations.

Spotlight: Presidential nominations to federal courts

The nation’s bicentennial. The invention of the digital camera. The landslide brought us down. These happenings took place between 1974 and 1977 during the Ford Administration. This week’s edition of Bold Justice takes us back to that time to highlight President Gerald Ford’s (R) judicial nominees.

During his term in office, President Ford had 62 judges successfully nominated and confirmed to Article III judgeships. He had one nomination withdrawn and the U.S. Senate did not vote on 12 of nominees. Ford made one appointment to the Supreme Court, Justice John Paul Stevens in 1975. Stevens served on the court until June 28, 2010. 

President Ford’s first Article III nominees–12 U.S. district court judges and two U.S. circuit court judges–were confirmed as of January 1 of his second year in office. 

Of his Article III appointees, President Ford appointed 12 judges to the United States Courts of Appeal and 50 judges to U.S. district courts. He averaged 21 judicial appointments per year during his term in office.

Looking ahead

We’ll be back on May 3 with a new edition of Bold Justice. Until then, gaveling out! 

Contributions

Kate Carsella compiled and edited this newsletter, with contributions from Brittony Maag, Jace Lington, and Sara Reynolds.



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: April 26, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery

Since our last edition

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

  • Multistate news: On April 23, the FDA ended the recommended pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccine distribution. The vaccine will not be limited by age or sex, but it will come with a warning label stating a possible relationship between the vaccine and rare blood clotting disorders, especially in women between the ages of 18 and 49. The FDA paused distribution of the vaccine on April 13, and the U.S. government stopped distributing J&J vaccines through federally run vaccination sites. All 50 states paused distribution of the vaccine. At the time of this writing, at least 31 states had resumed or announced plans to resume use of the vaccine.
  • Colorado (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Jared Polis (D) announced a mobile state vaccination clinic route on the Western Slope starting April 24. The mobile clinics will offer initial doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and second doses will be available on a return trip. Appointments are encouraged but not required, and residents do not need ID or health insurance to receive free vaccinations. To learn more about scheduled stops, click here.
  • Kentucky (divided government): Gov. Andy Beshear (D) announced a state partnership with FEMA to open vaccination sites in Laurel and Henderson counties. Laurel’s vaccination site will open April 28, and Henderson’s will open April 29. Both sites will be able to administer up to 7,000 doses daily. For more information, click here.
  • North Dakota (Republican trifecta): On Friday, April 23, Gov. Doug Burgum (R) signed House Bill 1175. The law protects businesses and healthcare providers from civil liability lawsuits filed over COVID-19-related deaths or injuries. The law is retroactive to Jan. 1, 2020, and does not provide immunity from actions resulting from “reckless” or “intentional infliction of harm” or “willful and wanton misconduct.” 
  • Wisconsin (divided government): On Friday, April 23, Gov. Tony Evers (D) vetoed Assembly Bill 23 and Assembly Bill 24. Assembly Bill 23 prohibits officials from mandating COVID-19 vaccines, while Assembly Bill 24 prohibits local health officials from closing houses of worship in response to COVID-19 or any COVID-19 variant. 

This time last year: Monday, April 27, 2020

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

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

Monday, April 27, 2020:

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) allowed the statewide stay-at-home order to expire. He first enacted it on April 3. Mississippi’s stay-at-home order was the fourth such order to expire nationwide. Alaska was the first state to end its stay-at-home order, doing so on April 24. Montana and Colorado ended their stay-at-home orders on April 26. 
  • Election changes:
    • The New York State Board of Elections canceled the Democratic presidential preference primary, which had been scheduled to take place on June 23, 2020.


Union Station: Indiana bill covering union resignations and payroll deductions signed

Holcomb signs bill allowing Indiana teachers to resign from unions at any time, requiring annual authorization for payroll deductions

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) signed Senate Bill 251 on April 22. The bill allows teachers to resign from their union at any time and requires teachers to authorize union payroll deductions on a yearly basis.  

About the bill

The Republican-sponsored bill states that school employees “[have] the right to resign from, and end any financial obligation to, a school employee organization at any time.” It also states, “Authorizations by a school employee for the withholding of school employee organization dues from the school employee’s pay shall not exceed one (1) year in duration and shall be subject to annual renewal.” 

The attorney general must notify schools of the law’s provisions, and provide them with the required authorization form, each year.

The bill passed the Senate 28-22 in February, with 12 Republicans voting against it. The House passed the bill 58-34 on April 6 and returned it to the Senate without amendments. Holcomb signed it into law on April 22. The bill goes into effect on July 1, 2021.   

Republicans have had trifecta control in Indiana since 2011. Holcomb assumed office in 2017 and was re-elected in 2020, defeating Woody Myers (D) 57-32%. 

A similar bill currently in the Florida state Senate would apply to all public employees. 

Perspectives

Supporting

Bill sponsor Rep. Chuck Goodrich (R) said the bill “gives all teachers a voice by empowering them to make their own decisions.” 

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s Workers for Opportunity initiative promoted the bill.  Senior fellow F. Vincent Vernuccio said, “Indiana is leading the nation in protecting the rights of school employees. … Sen. Philip Boots and Rep. Chuck Goodrich should be commended for ensuring that school employees across the state are made aware of their First Amendment rights and can exercise their rights at any time. This is a positive step towards protecting workers across Indiana.” 

Opposing 

Rep. Mike Andrade (D) said, “We continue to pass legislation that continues to hurt our teachers. … We are losing them by the droves in our state.”

Anderson Federation of Teachers Local 519 president Randy Harrison said, “It’s going to create more paperwork, to the tune of roughly 500 people in Anderson that are going to have to re-up as members every year. … So, it’s going to create an undue burden on not only the union office, but it will also create that on the payroll and the business office.” 

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 93 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. 

  • California AB1484: This bill would prohibit a public school employer from deducting the amount of a fair share service fee or alternative fee from a public school employee’s pay unless the employer has received permission from the employee. It would also require an employee’s authorization to only be valid for the calendar year in which it is given, unless terminated. 
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Read second time and amended April 20. Re-referred to Assembly Public Employees and Retirement Committee April 21. 
  • Florida H0835: This bill would require that unions certified as bargaining agents for educational support employees include certain information in registration renewal applications. The bill would also require such unions whose full dues-paying membership is less than 50% to petition the state for recertification.  
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Added to second reading calendar April 20.
  • Florida S1014: This bill would require that unions certified as bargaining agents for educational support employees include certain information in registration renewal applications. The bill would also require such unions whose full dues-paying membership is less than 50% to petition the state for recertification.  
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Senate Rules Committee hearing April 20. 
  • Illinois HB2521: This bill would allow electronic signatures on petitions submitted for selecting an exclusive bargaining representative. It would allow certification elections to be conducted electronically. It would also prohibit an employer from promising or taking action against an employee for participating in a strike. 
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • House Labor and Commerce Committee recommended amendment April 22. 
  • Indiana SB0251: This bill would establish that a school employee can leave a union at any time. It would also require an employee to annually authorize any payroll deductions of union dues. 
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) signed April 22. 
  • Maine LD97: This bill would bar public-sector and private-sector employers from requiring employees to join or pay dues to a union as a condition of employment. 
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Labor and Housing Committee reported “Ought Not To Pass”/”Ought To Pass As Amended.”
  • Maine LD1402: This bill would remove the authority to require public employees who do not join a union to pay service fees to the union. 
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Labor and Housing Committee hearing April 23. 
  • Missouri SB244: This bill would require employees to authorize deductions before public employers begin deducting union dues or fees from employees’ paychecks. It would also require “clear and compelling evidence that the authorization was freely given.” 
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Placed on informal calendar for perfection beginning April 26. 
  • Oregon SB580: This bill would amend the law’s definition of “employment relations” to include class size and caseload limits as mandatory collective bargaining subjects for school districts. 
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Placed on calendar for a voice vote April 26. 
  • Tennessee HJR0072: A constitutional amendment that would bar any person, corporation, or governmental entity from denying employment due to an individual’s affiliation status with a union or other employee organization. 
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Placed on regular calendar for April 26. 



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: April 23, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery

Since our last edition

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

  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Thursday, April 22, the legislature passed House Bill 1405, which includes language prohibiting state and local government agencies from requiring anyone, including employees, to show proof of vaccination. The bill does not prohibit agencies from keeping immunization records and does not apply to private companies or public schools. The House passed the bill 88-10, while the Senate passed it 48-1. It now goes to Gov. Eric Holcomb (R).
  • New York (Democratic trifecta): 
    • Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) released a list of 16 mass vaccination sites that will begin accepting walk-ins age 60 and older on April 23.
    • Spectators are allowed at horse and auto races at 20% capacity starting April 22.
  • North Dakota (Republican trifecta): On Thursday, April 22, the legislature voted to override Gov. Doug Burgum’s (R) veto of Hill Bill 1323, which prohibits statewide mask mandates. The House voted 66-27 to override the veto, while the Senate voted 32-15 to do the same. Burgum vetoed the bill on April 21. Under the law, local governments and public schools can still require masks.
  • Virginia (Democratic trifecta): On Thursday, April 22, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced a series of changes to statewide coronavirus restrictions beginning May 15. The limit on indoor gatherings will increase from 50 to 100 people, while the outdoor limit will increase from 100 to 250 people. Indoor venues will be permitted to operate at 50% capacity or 1,000 people, while outdoor venues will be permitted to operate at 50% capacity with no absolute limit on the number of people allowed in. Additionally, indoor sports venues will be permitted to allow up to 250 spectators or 50% capacity, whichever is less, while outdoor venues will be permitted to seat 1,000 people or 50% capacity, whichever is less. Restaurants will also be allowed to sell alcohol after midnight. 

This time last year: Friday, April 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.

Friday, April 24, 2020:

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) ended the statewide stay-at-home order, becoming the first state to do so. Dunleavy’s new order allowed several types of nonessential businesses to reopen with restrictions, including barbershops, tattoo parlors, and nail salons.
  • School closures:
    • North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) announced that K-12 public schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through May 15.
    • Delaware Gov. John Carney (D) announced that K-12 public schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through May 15.
  • Election changes:
    • Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear (D) issued an executive order directing all voters to use absentee voting by mail for the June 23 primary election if they were able to do so.
    • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) issued Executive Order No. 202.23, requiring that all eligible voters in the June 23 election be sent absentee ballot applications.
  • Federal government responses:
    • President Donald Trump (R) signed the $484 billion Paycheck Protection and Health Care Act Congress passed on April 23. The law included renewed funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and funding for hospitals and testing.


Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: April 21, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

Since our last edition

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

  • Kentucky (divided government): Gov. Andy Beshear (D) updated the state’s Healthy at Work requirements to apply to all businesses, eliminating the need for some industry-specific guidance. Health care facilities, wedding and funeral service venues, restaurants and bars, pools and bathing facilities, and gyms still have supplemental Healthy at Work requirements beyond the minimum guidance.
  • Nevada (Democratic trifecta): On Tuesday, April 20, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) signed a directive allowing county governments to assume control over most COVID-19 mitigation policies on May 1. Counties will be permitted to set social distancing measures and restrictions on schools and large events. The Nevada Gaming Control Board will continue to have control over mitigation in casinos until June 1, when all state mitigation policies—with the exception of the statewide mask mandate—will end. County commissioners are required to approve a Local Mitigation and Enforcement Plan and submit it to the state for approval before May 1. 
  • North Dakota (Republican trifecta): On Tuesday, April 20, Gov. Doug Burgum (R) announced a joint vaccine initiative with the government of the Canadian province of Manitoba to provide free vaccines to long-haul truckers traveling into North Dakota.
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced that effective April 23 – May 6, 23 counties will be in the state’s High Risk level, three will be at Moderate Risk, and 10 will have Lower Risk restrictions. In the current period from April 9-22, 14 counties are in the state’s High Risk level, six are at Moderate Risk, and 16 have Lower Risk restrictions. To see restrictions in a specific county or risk level, click here.
  • South Dakota (Republican trifecta): On Wednesday, April 21, Gov. Kristi Noem (R) issued an order banning government entities, including local governments and state agencies, from requiring individuals to submit proof of vaccination to access facilities or services. 

This time last year: Wednesday, April 22, 2020

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

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

Wednesday, April 22, 2020:

  • School closures:
    • Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) announced that he would rescind the statewide school closure order on May 7 but that individual districts would be allowed to decide whether to reopen for in-person instruction.
    • Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the rest of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
    • South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the rest of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
  • Election changes:
    • The Republican Party of Wisconsin postponed its state convention, originally scheduled to take place in May, to July 10-11.
    • Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) signed HB3005 into law, canceling in-person Election Day voting, in-person early voting, and in-person voter registration in the June 30 election.
  • Federal government responses:
    • President Donald Trump (R) signed an executive order temporarily suspending the issuance of new green cards. The order only covered applicants residing outside of the country at the time Trump issued the order.


Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: April 20, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery

Since our last edition

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

  • Arizona (Republican trifecta): 
    • Gov. Doug Ducey (R) ended the executive order requiring masks on all K-12 school campuses. 
    • Ducey also signed an order prohibiting all state and local government agencies from requiring individuals to provide their vaccination status to access facilities and services. Private businesses can still require proof of vaccination as a condition of service or entry.
  • Connecticut (Democratic trifecta): 
    • Gov. Ned Lamont (D) announced outdoor business restrictions will be lifted May 1. The seating limit of eight people per table will end and alcohol sales without food will be permitted outside. Indoor and outdoor businesses subject to the 11 p.m. curfew (including bars and restaurants) will be able to stay open until midnight each night.
    • All remaining business restrictions will end May 19, including movie theater capacity limits. Limits on outdoor gatherings will also end. Some individual restrictions like the indoor public mask requirement will remain in place. 
  • West Virginia (Republican trifecta): On Monday, April 19, Gov. Jim Justice (R) issued an executive order clarifying which COVID-19 orders are still in effect and updating some restrictions. For example, Justice removed the limit on social gatherings and amended the statewide indoor mask requirement to no longer require people engaged in activities like sports to wear a face covering. 
  • Wisconsin (divided government): On Tuesday, April 20, Gov. Tony Evers (D) announced $175 million for COVID-19 testing in schools. The Department of Health Services and the Department of Public Instruction will use the funds to develop a statewide testing program.

Vaccine eligibility

As of April 19, all 50 states and Washington, D.C., allowed all residents 16 and older to receive a coronavirus vaccine. Alaska was the first state to offer vaccines to all residents 16+ on March 9. Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Vermont were the last states to expand eligibility on April 19. 

The chart below shows the cumulative number of states with 16+ vaccine eligibility between March 9 and April 19 by the governor’s party. 

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 1,767 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 531 of those lawsuits. 
    • Since April 13, we have added seven lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional three court orders and/or settlements. 

Details:

  • Catchings v. Wilson: On April 15, Maryland officials reached a settlement with detainees of Baltimore’s Chesapeake Detention Facility, establishing COVID-19 safety protocols and a vaccination schedule for the prison. In their complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, the detainees sued Warden Calvin Wilson and Robert Green, secretary of Maryland’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (MDPSCS), alleging that official inaction had led to a COVID-19 outbreak at the facility. Under the settlement, the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services will provide educational materials on COVID-19, enforce mask-wearing and social distancing among staff and inmates, enact sanitization protocols for common areas “in full compliance with CDC guidelines,” and “ensure that all detainees/residents, staff, and contracted staff” are tested for COVID-19 weekly. The defendants will isolate and quarantine inmates who test positive, and the Chesapeake Detention Facility agreed to provide COVID-19 vaccines to all detainees and staff by May 1. Plaintiff counsel John Fowler with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said, “This settlement is a huge victory that is going to save lives.” MDPSCS representative Mark Vernarelli said the settlement “reinforces the Department’s long-standing commitment to protecting its employees and the incarcerated men and women.” The settlement will remain in force for 180 days after the state’s COVID-19 emergency ends.

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the April 13 edition of the newsletter. Since then, New Hampshire’s statewide public face-covering requirement expired.

Diagnosed or quarantined politicians identified by Ballotpedia

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

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

Since April 13, two state senators and one state representative have tested positive for COVID-19.

Details:

  • On April 14, Wisconsin state Sen. Chris Larson (D) announced he tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • On April 14, Illinois state Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D) announced she tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • On April 15, Pennsylvania state Rep. Bryan Cutler (R) announced he tested positive for COVID-19. 

This time last year: Tuesday, April 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.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020:

  • Travel restrictions
    • Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) extended the 14-day quarantine requirement for international and out-of-state travelers through May 19.
  • School closures:
    • Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) announced public and private schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the rest of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
    • Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced public and private schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the rest of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through May 1.
    • West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced public and private schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the rest of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
  • Federal government responses:
    • The U.S. Senate passed the $484 billion Paycheck Protection and Health Care Act. The package included renewed funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and funding for hospitals and testing.


Disclosure Digest: April 20, 2021

Arkansas General Assembly considers bill barring state agencies from imposing donor disclosure requirements on nonprofits    

Earlier this month, the Arkansas Senate approved a bill that would bar state agencies and officials from imposing disclosure requirements on nonprofits that are “more stringent, restrictive, or expansive” than those already in force. It would also bar state and local public agencies from requiring, requesting, or disclosing information about a nonprofit’s donors. The bill is currently pending in the Arkansas House of Representatives.

What the bill would do

SB535 would bar state agencies and officials from imposing annual filing or reporting requirements on nonprofits that are “more stringent, restrictive, or expansive than the requirements authorized by state statute,” except as required or authorized by federal law. This provision would not apply to: 

  • State grants and contracts
  • Fraud investigations
  • “Regulation or licensing of entities by the Department of Human Services”
  • “Regulation or licensing by the Department of Labor and Licensing” 

The bill would also prohibit public agencies (defined as state and local government entities) from: 

  • Requiring a person to provide a public agency with personal information (defined as a “list, record, register, registry, roll, roster, or other compilation of data that identifies a person as a member, supporter, volunteer of, or donor of financial or nonfinancial support to” a tax-exempt nonprofit).
  • Requiring a nonprofit to provide a public agency with personal information.
  • Releasing, publishing, or otherwise disclosing any personal information a public agency already has.
  • Requesting or requiring a current or prospective contractor to provide a public agency with information about the contractor’s financial or nonfinancial support of a nonprofit. 

These provisions would not apply to the disclosure of personal information:

  • “Required under a specific requirement relating to reporting campaign contributions, campaign expenditures, lobbying disclosures, or lobbying expenditures.” 
  • As part of a public comment in a public meeting or “in another manner that is publicly accessible.” 
  • In accordance with a warrant or court order.
  • Used in a legal proceeding. 
  • Used by the Department of Finance and Administration for the “administration of tax or motor vehicle laws.”
  • Used by any public agency “with oversight function over a government program for the purpose of an audit specific to the grant program,” provided that the “information accessed is limited to information related to the public agency grant program or grant program funds.” 
  • Used by the State Securities Department for administration of the Arkansas Securities Act.

Legislative history   

State Sen. Breanne Davis (R) and Reps. David Ray (R) and Austin McCollum (R) introduced SB535 in the Senate on March 15. The Senate approved the original version of the bill 29-1 on April 7 (Sen. Stephanie Flowers (D) cast the lone dissenting vote). 

The House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee recommended the House approve an amended version of the bill. The House has not yet taken a final vote on the bill.

The original version of the bill was substantively similar to the current version. The two differ primarily in the types of exceptions they make. For example, both versions bar state agencies and officials from imposing annual filing or reporting requirements on nonprofits that are “more stringent, restrictive, or expansive” than those already authorized by statute. The original version of the bill specifies that this provision does not apply “to state grants and contracts, fraud investigations, and shall not restrict enforcement actions against specific nonprofit organizations.” The current version strikes the last of these three, replacing it with several specific exempt regulatory actions (e.g., “regulation or licensing of entities by the Department of Human Services”). 

Political context: Arkansas is a Republican trifecta, meaning Republicans control the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. Arkansas has been a Republican trifecta since 2015.

What other states are doing

State lawmakers in Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming are considering similar legislation this year. Five of these states are Republican trifectas (the sixth, North Carolina, has a divided government, with a Democratic governor and Republican majorities in both chambers of the state legislature). 

South Dakota, a Republican trifecta, was the first state to enact similar legislation this year.

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 38 pieces of legislation dealing with donor disclosure. 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

For complete information on all of the bills we are tracking, click here

  • Arkansas SB535: This bill would prohibit a public agency from disclosing identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Amendment read and adopted in the House on April 15.
  • California AB236: This bill would require campaign finance committees to report the name of “each individual who owns or controls, or controls the contributions and expenditures of, a limited liability company or a foreign limited liability company from which the committee received a campaign contribution.”
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • The Assembly Elections Committee reported the bill favorably and sent it back to the Assembly Appropriations Committee on April 15.
  • Idaho H0245: This bill would prohibit foreign contributions, independent expenditures, and electioneering in Idaho election campaigns.
    • Sponsorship not specified.
    • Signed into law on April 16.
  • Iowa HF309: This bill would prohibit a public agency from disclosing identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors.
    • Sponsorship not specified.
    • The Senate approved the bill on April 13.
  • Maine LD1284: This bill would repeal a law requiring that independently financed communications include a statement listing the top three funders of the entity paying for the communications. It would also specify that only party committees and political action committees, and not individuals, are required to file reports of independent expenditures aggregating in excess of $250 during any one candidate’s election.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Tabled at a work session on April 14.

Thank you for reading! Let us know what you think! Reply to this email with any feedback or recommendations. 



SEC Commissioner argues against integrating ESG concerns into its mission

ESG developments this week

In Washington, D.C.

New SEC Chair sworn in

On April 14, Gary Gensler was confirmed by the U.S. Senate (in a mostly party-line 53-45 vote) as the new chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). He was sworn in April 17 by Maryland Senator Ben Cardin (D) in a small ceremony in Baltimore.

According to a press release issued by the SEC, Gensler said:

“I feel incredibly privileged to join the SEC’s team of remarkable public servants. As Chair, every day I will be animated by our mission: protecting investors, facilitating capital formation, and promoting fair, orderly, and efficient markets. It is that mission that has helped make American capital markets the most robust in the world…

I’m honored that President Biden nominated me, and I’m grateful to Vice President Harris and the Senate for their support. I’d like to thank Acting Chair Allison Herren Lee for her leadership the last few months and all of my fellow Commissioners for being so generous with their time and advice.”

Among the key issues that Gensler will deal with as the new chair are reporting standards for ESG metrics and definition of materiality as it relates to ESG matters.

Commissioner argues against integrating ESG concerns into SEC mission 

On April 14, the same day as now-Chairman Gensler was confirmed by the Senate, Commissioner Hester Peirce, one of two Republicans on the SEC, released a statement (also published in the April 2021 edition of Views – the Eurofi Magazine) in which she argued against the Commission’s plans to integrate ESG concerns into its mission. “The challenge we face in addressing the ever-increasing number of issues underlying E, S, and G is daunting,” Commissioner Peirce conceded, but “The task before us is to find a way to bring about lasting, positive change to our countries on a range of issues without sacrificing in the process the very means by which so many lives have been enriched and bettered.” She continued:

“At first glance, everything sounds good—common metrics demonstrating a joint commitment to a better, cleaner, well governed society. Common disclosure metrics, however, will drive and homogenize capital allocation decisions. A single set of metrics will constrain decision making and impede creative thinking. Unlike financial accounting, which lends itself to a common set of comparable metrics, ESG factors, which continue to evolve, are complex and not readily comparable across issuers and industries. The result of global reliance on a centrally determined set of metrics could undermine the very people-centered objectives of the ESG movement by displacing the insights of the people making and consuming products and services.

Hampering the ability of the markets to collect, process, disseminate, and respond to price signals by boxing them in with preset, government-articulated metrics will stifle the people’s innovation that otherwise would address the many challenges of our age. Moreover, converging standards would be antithetical to our existing disclosure framework, which is rooted in investor-oriented financial materiality and principles-based requirements to accommodate the wide variety of issuers.

The European concept of “double materiality” has no analogue in our regulatory scheme and the addition of specific ESG metrics, responsive to the wide-ranging interests of a broad set of “stakeholders,” would mark a departure from these fundamental aspects of our disclosure framework. The strength of our capital markets can be traced in part to our investor-focused disclosure rules and I worry about the implications a stakeholder-focused disclosure regime would have. Such a regime would likely expand the jurisdictional reach of the Commission, impose new costs on public companies, decrease the attractiveness of our capital markets, distort the allocation of capital, and undermine the role of shareholders in corporate governance.

Let us rethink the path we are taking before it is too late.”

On Wall Street and in the private sector

Top holdings in BlackRock’s new ESG Fund are tech-focused

In the previous edition of this newsletter, we noted BlackRock’s launch, two weeks ago, of its U.S. Carbon Transition Readiness ETF (ticker LCTU), which attracted $1.25 billion in its first day of trading, a record in the history of exchange-traded funds. While investors flocked to the new offering from the largest asset management firm in the world, Bloomberg Green’s Claire Ballentine noted on April 14 that the ETF suffers, in her view, from the same perceived problem that plagues many other funds in the ESG arena, namely, it is less E, S, or G-focused than it is tech-focused. She wrote:

“As the biggest launch in the history of ETFs, it’s a ringing endorsement of all things ESG. But beyond its billion-dollar debut, BlackRock Inc.’s new fund might feel awfully familiar to most investors.

The top holdings in the U.S. Carbon Transition Readiness ETF (ticker LCTU) — which lured about $1.25 billion in its first day on Thursday — turn out to be Apple Inc., Microsoft Corp., Amazon.com Inc., Alphabet Inc. and Facebook Inc.

The same five companies, in the same order, are the top stakes in the largest environmental, social and governance ETF on the market, the $16.5 billion iShares ESG Aware MSCI USA ETF (ESGU). That’s also from BlackRock with a fee of 0.15%, half the price of LCTU.

In fact, those tech megacaps form the bedrock of many exchange-traded funds, both in the ESG space and beyond. For example, four of them also are among the five largest holdings of the $167 billion Invesco QQQ Trust Series 1 ETF (QQQ), which is simply tracking the Nasdaq 100….

The record launch comes while many questions linger in the still-maturing ESG sector. A report released Friday by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission cautioned that some firms are mis-characterizing their products as ESG, possibly even violating securities laws in the process. The agency didn’t name any companies.”

JPMorgan Chase to invest in ESG

JPMorgan Chase & Co., the biggest bank in the United States and the second biggest in the world, announced last Thursday that the bank will invest significant amounts in ESG efforts over the next decadea potential blow to fossil fuel energy companies. Reuters reported the story as follows:

“JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) aims to lend, invest and provide other financial services for up to $2.5 trillion of banking business to be done for companies and projects tackling climate change and social inequality over the next decade.

In a statement on Thursday, JPMorgan said green initiatives will account for $1 trillion of that total – the largest environmental, sustainable and governance (ESG) financing target announced by a U.S. bank to date.

That could mean lending or investing in companies that develop clean-energy technology for the trucking, aviation or industrial manufacturing sectors, the bank’s head of sustainability, Marisa Buchanan, told Reuters in an interview….

JPMorgan is among the leading U.S. lenders to fossil fuel companies, having provided $317 billion of lending and underwriting since 2016, according to a recent study by environmental activist group Rainforest Action network….

JPMorgan pledged to share more details about its ESG initiatives, including its work establishing emission targets for companies in its financing portfolio, in its next climate report, due out this spring.”

In the spotlight

Report: Are ESG ETF’s sustainable?

Impact Cubed, a sustainability analytics and research company based in London and partnered with some of the oldest activist asset management firms, released a report late last month, examining the impact of some of the biggest passively managed ESG funds in the world. According to Impact Cubed many such funds are, in its view, falling short of the impact achieved by actively managed funds. And some, it claims, are making sustainability matters worse:

“Passive ESG funds are designed to avoid ESG risk, but do they have positive impact? 

Impact Cubed turned its model onto some popular passive ESG funds to peel back the marketing and look under the hood. Top findings include:

·         Some passive ESG funds actually have an overall negative impact. 

·         ESG performance varies four-fold between the ‘best’ and ‘worst’.  

·         Smart investors who know what to look for can find a passive ESG fund with positive impact and lower tracking error. 

Many passive funds still have ESG growing pains and will need to measure impact if they are to improve and attract investor interest. 

Larry Abele, CIO of Impact Cubed and report co-author, advises “As ESG investing becomes more mainstream, passive ESG fund managers who want to secure a proper perch in the pecking order for capital allocation will need to be more transparent about the impact provided by their approach.””

Notable quotes

“Proponents have filed at least 435 shareholder resolutions on environmental, social and sustainability issues for the 2021 proxy season, with 313 pending as of February 19. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) staff have allowed the omission of 24 proposals so far in the face of company challenges; companies have lodged objections to at least 74 more that have yet to be decided—12 more than at this time last year. Proponents have already withdrawn about 90 proposals, however, up from 78 at this time last year and 71 in mid-February 2019.

Annual totals are down from a bit from the all-time high of just under 500 in 2017. About 40 percent of filed resolutions have gone to votes each year since 2018, around 45 percent have been withdrawn and between 13 and 16 percent omitted.

The tumultuous events of 2020 prompted a slew of new shareholder proposals investors will consider in 2021. New angles are most apparent in the big increase in resolutions about racial justice and equal opportunity, but proponents also are raising fresh ideas about worker safety, climate transition planning and lobbying.”



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: April 19, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery

Since our last edition

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

  • Idaho (Republican trifecta): Gov. Brad Little (R) vetoed House Bill 135 and Senate Bill 1136, which limit executive emergency powers. The bills would allow governors to issue restrictions through a disaster declaration for up to 60 days. After 60 days, governors would have to get legislative approval to extend disaster emergency restrictions. Governors could still extend emergency declarations beyond 60 days to secure federal government funds, even if the legislature rejects restrictions accompanying an order. Both bills passed the state House and Senate with more than the two-thirds majority needed to override the veto. Every Democrat in both chambers voted against the bills, except for two who abstained from the vote on HB 135. Republicans have a 58-12 majority in the House and a 28-7 majority in the Senate. 
  • New Hampshire (Republican trifecta): 
    • Residents of other states age 16 and older are eligible for a coronavirus vaccine starting April 19.
    • All K-12 public schools must offer full-time, in-person instruction by April 19. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said parents still have the option of requesting remote learning.
    • On Friday, April 16, Sununu ended the statewide mask mandate and extended the statewide coronavirus state of emergency.
  • North Dakota (Republican trifecta): On Friday, April 16, the North Dakota House of Representatives voted 85-3 to pass House Bill 1118. The bill requires the governor to call a special session of the legislature within one week of issuing a state of emergency. If the governor does not call a special session within one week, the state of emergency would automatically end after 30 days. The bill would also allow the legislature to extend or end a state of emergency during a special session. The Senate passed the bill 47-0 on April 12. It now goes to Gov. Doug Burgum (R).
  • New York (Democratic trifecta): Erie County Supreme Court Justice Timothy Walker rejected a request from 93 restaurants and bars for a permanent injunction exempting them from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) 11 p.m. curfew order. Walker’s decision upheld a state appellate court order issued April 8 requiring the restaurants and bars suing the state to comply with Cuomo’s 11 p.m. curfew order for food and drink establishments. On Feb. 27, Walker issued a preliminary injunction temporarily allowing the bars and restaurants suing the state to stay open past 11 p.m. every night.
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): 
    • All residents 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination starting April 19.
    • Oregon public schools must open for hybrid or full-time in-person instruction for grades 6-12 by April 19. Gov. Kate Brown (D) issued the requirement on March 12. Previously, elementary schools had to reopen no later than March 29 for hybrid or full-time in-person instruction.
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): Public schools must offer all K-12 students at least 30% in-person instruction every week by April 19. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed the proclamation March 15. Previously, elementary schools had to provide students at least two partial days of in-person instruction by April 5.

This time last year: Monday, April 20, 2020

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

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

Monday, April 20, 2020:

  • School closures:
    • Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the rest of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through May 1.
    • Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the rest of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through May 1.
  • Election changes:
    • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan Judge Terrence Berg issued an order reducing the petition signature requirements for primary candidates in Michigan to 50 percent of their statutory level. Berg also extended the filing deadline from April 21 to May 8 and directed election officials to develop procedures allowing for the collection and submission of electronic petition signatures.
  • Federal government responses:
    • Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf announced that travel restrictions with Canada and Mexico would be extended another 30 days. The restrictions, implemented in agreement with Canada and Mexico in late March, prohibited nonessential travel.