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Elisabeth Moore

Elisabeth Moore is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

New Maryland superintendent of schools took office on July 1

Mohammed Choudhury took office as the new Maryland superintendent of schools on July 1. He replaces Karen Salmon, who stepped down at the end of her term on June 30.

The state board of education appointed Choudhury to a four-year term on May 29. “When we set out on our search for Maryland’s next superintendent, our goal was to identify and hire the highest caliber candidate to build the future of education for all Maryland children. Considering Mr. Choudhury’s outstanding transformative accomplishments, we are completely confident that we have hired the right person, one who deeply cares about children,” said Board President Clarence Crawford.

Choudhury previously served in various roles in the San Antonio and Dallas school districts. He also worked as a teacher in Los Angeles. He earned his M.Ed. from UCLA and completed graduate work at California State University in Northridge.

Salmon’s term was originally set to end on June 30, 2020, but it was extended for one year due to the pandemic.

The superintendent of schools is a statewide office responsible for overseeing and coordinating the state’s elementary and secondary schools. The position exists in all 50 states; it is elected in 12 and appointed in the remaining 38. Of those 38 states, the state board of education appoints the superintendent in 18, the governor appoints the position in 18, and the state board of regents appoints the superintendent in two.

Additional reading:

Maryland Superintendent of Schools

Superintendent of Schools (State Executive Office)



Ohio governor appoints new utility commission chairwoman

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) appointed former county judge Jenifer French as chairwoman of the state’s public utilities commission on March 19. French will fill a position that has been vacant since November, when former Chairman Sam Randazzo resigned. If confirmed by the state Senate, French’s term will run through April 10, 2024.

French was a judge on the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas from 2015 to 2021. She lost a re-election bid in the nonpartisan race on November 3, 2020, after running in the Republican primary unopposed. Although the general election for the court was nonpartisan, candidates ran in partisan primaries.

The Ohio Public Utilities Commission is a five-person state executive board that regulates electric and gas utilities, water and wastewater companies, telecommunication companies, and railroads.

Ohio is one of 37 states in which utility commission members are appointed by the governor. The position is elected in 11 other states and in two (South Carolina and Virginia) they are appointed by the legislature.

Additional reading:



August breakdown of state legislative party membership: 52.0% Republicans, 46.8% Democrats

Ballotpedia’s latest analysis of the partisan affiliation of all 7,383 state legislators in the United States shows 46.8% of state legislators are Democrats and 52.0% are Republicans. The partisan composition of state legislators stayed consistent as compared with July 2020.

Every month, Ballotpedia analyzes the partisan composition of state legislatures—1,972 state Senate seats and 5,411 state House seats. In August, Democrats and Republicans each lost one seat. Vacancies increased by one seat.

As of August 2020, the Democratic Party holds 875 state Senate seats nationwide and the Republican Party holds 1,081. In state Houses, Democrats hold 2,579 districts to Republicans’ 2,758. There are currently 56 vacant seats and 34 that are held by independent and third-party officials.

At the time of the 2018 elections, 7,280 state legislators were affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties. There were 3,257 Democratic state legislators, 4,023 Republican state legislators, 35 independent or third-party state legislators, and 68 vacancies.


Nationwide partisan breakdown of state legislators shows 52.2% Republicans and 46.9% Democrats

According to Ballotpedia’s nationwide analysis, the partisan affiliation of state legislators at the end of April is 52.2% Republican and 46.9% Democrat.

There are 7,383 state legislative offices—1,972 state senate seats and 5,411 state representative seats. Republicans hold 3,857 state legislative seats—1,083 senate seats and 2,774 house seats. Democrats hold 3,460 state legislative seats—872 senate seats and 2,588 house seats. Independent or third-party legislators hold 33 seats. Thirty-four seats are vacant—an increase of eight from last month’s 26 seats.

Republicans lost seven seats since the last monthly count. Democrats hold the same amount.

Republicans hold a majority in 61 chambers, and Democrats hold a majority in 37. One chamber—Alaska’s state House—has a power-sharing agreement between the two parties.

At the time of the 2018 elections, 7,280 state legislators were affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties. There were 3,257 Democratic state legislators, 4,023 Republican state legislators, 35 independent or third-party state legislators, and 68 vacancies.


March 2020 breakdown of state legislative party membership: 52.3% Republicans, 46.9% Democrats

March’s partisan count of the 7,383 state legislators across the United States shows 52.3% are Republicans and 46.9% are Democrats.

There are 7,383 state legislative offices—1,972 state senate seats and 5,411 state representative seats. Republicans hold 3,864 state legislative seats—1,085 senate seats and 2,779 house seats. Democrats hold 3,457 state legislative seats—874 senate seats and 2,586 house seats. Independent or third-party legislators hold 33 seats. Twenty-six seats are vacant.

Both Democrats and Republicans gained five seats since the last monthly state legislative count.

Republicans hold a majority in 61 chambers, and Democrats hold a majority in 37. One chamber (Alaska’s state House) has a power-sharing agreement between the two parties.

At the time of the 2018 elections, 7,280 state legislators were affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties. There were 3,257 Democratic state legislators, 4,023 Republican state legislators, 35 independent or third-party state legislators, and 68 vacancies.


Trump signs third coronavirus relief package

President Donald Trump signed the coronavirus aid relief and economic security act — or CARES Act — March 27, following the U.S. House approving the legislation earlier that day by a voice vote. The U.S. Senate voted 96-0 to pass the package March 25.
The $2 trillion package is the third bill signed in response to the coronavirus outbreak. It includes funds for assisting large and small businesses, state and local government programs, and aid in the form of individual payments.


Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) announces resignation

Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy (R) announced his resignation from the U.S. House August 26, effective at the end of September. In a post to his Facebook page, Duffy cited the need to spend more time with his family as he and his wife expected the birth of their ninth child.
 
“With much prayer, I have decided that this is the right time for me to take a break from public service in order to be the support my wife, baby and family need right now. It is not an easy decision – because I truly love being your Congressman – but it is the right decision for my family, which is my first love and responsibility.”
 
Duffy will be the second member of the 116th Congress to resign this year. Former Rep. Tom Marino (R) resigned his seat in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District in January. As of August 26, 15 representatives said they will not seek re-election to their U.S. House seats. That number includes three Democratic and 12 Republican members.
 


Wisconsin Supreme Court rules legislature’s lame-duck session was constitutional

In a 4-3 decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Friday that the state legislature’s December 2018 lame duck session was not unconstitutional. The League of Women Voters, plaintiffs in the case, had argued that the state’s constitution did not allow lawmakers to call an extraordinary session, making the December session and all actions resulting from it unconstitutional.
 
Judge Jessica Bradley authored the court’s majority opinion, stating: “We hold that extraordinary sessions do not violate the Wisconsin Constitution because the text of our constitution directs the Legislature to meet at times as ‘provided by law,’ and Wis. Stat. § 13.02(3) provides the law giving the Legislature the discretion to construct its work schedule, including preserving times for it to meet in an extraordinary session.”
 
Judge Rebecca Dallet wrote a dissenting opinion: “The Legislature’s ability to determine the rules of its proceedings pursuant to Article IV, Section 8 does not swallow up the meeting requirements of Article IV, Section 11 or allow it to wield unbridled power.”
 
During the December 2018 session, Wisconsin lawmakers voted to limit the ability of the governor to remove Wisconsin from a multi-state lawsuit to challenge the Affordable Care Act, limit early voting in Wisconsin, and give more power over the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to state lawmakers.
 
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) responded to the ruling: “The state constitution is clear. It limits when the legislature can meet to pass laws. Our framers knew that no good comes from lawmakers rushing laws through at the last minute without public scrutiny. The lame-duck session proves the framers were right. This was an attack on the will of the people, our democracy, and our system of government.”
 
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald called the decision “common sense.” “The Court upheld a previously non-controversial legislative practice used by both parties for decades to enact some of the most important laws in the state,” they wrote.


Trump picks Melania’s spokeswoman for new press secretary

Donald Trump chose Melania Trump spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham to serve as his White House press secretary Tuesday. Grisham will replace Sarah Huckabee Sanders, whose last day will be Friday.
 
The First Lady said in a tweet: “I am pleased to announce @StephGrisham45 will be the next @PressSec & Comms Director! She has been with us since 2015 – @potus & I can think of no better person to serve the Administration & our country. Excited to have Stephanie working for both sides of the @WhiteHouse.”
 
Grisham is Melania Trump’s deputy chief of staff for communications and will continue to serve in that role when she becomes press secretary. She was a member of Trump’s presidential transition team and worked on former presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign.
 


Acting Texas Secretary of State David Whitley (R) resigns

Acting Texas Secretary of State David Whitley (R) resigned May 27 just before the end of the Texas legislative session. Whitley was appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on December 17, 2018, but needed to receive confirmation from two-thirds of the state Senate—21 out of 31 senators—to continue serving in a permanent capacity through 2021.
 
Whitley was supported by all 19 Republicans in the Senate, but all 12 Democrats announced their opposition to his confirmation earlier this year.
 
The secretary of state in Texas is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state Senate, and Abbott will nominate Whitley’s replacement. The office of secretary of state exists in 47 states and is directly elected in 35 of them. Texas is one of nine states where the governor appoints the secretary of state; in three states, he or she is appointed by the state legislature. In 37 states, the secretary of state is the chief elections officer with ultimate oversight over state elections and voter registration.
 
Whitley thanked Abbott in his resignation letter, writing, “Thank you for giving me the opportunity to serve Texas. Working alongside the employees in the secretary of state’s office, county election officials, and representatives of our #1 trading partner, Mexico, has been my distinct honor and privilege.