Author

James McAllister

James McAllister is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Debate over federal aid to states in response to the coronavirus pandemic

Coronavirus-related business closures and job losses reduced state income and sales tax revenues. State budget shortfalls resulting from lost tax revenue are projected to total between $41 billion and $110 billion in fiscal year 2020. In FY 2021, shortfalls are projected between $121 billion and $290 billion.

Between March and August 2020, Congress and President Donald Trump (R) appropriated funds to assist state and local governments with revenue shortfalls caused by decreased tax revenue twice.

Historical data shows:
• As of 2019, 30.7% of total state spending was derived from federal funds.
• The number of federal programs through which aid is appropriated—more than 1,300 as of May 2019—tripled between the 1980s and 2020.
• Between FY 2017 and FY 2019, total state spending increased at the fastest rate since the Great Recession.

Advocates for increased assistance for states have called on Congress and President Trump to appropriate additional federal funds to offset declines in tax revenue and budget shortfalls. A group of directors of seven nonpartisan governmental associations wrote, “If we want our nation’s health and economy to recover, state and local governments must be part of the solution.” The commentary criticized the HEALS Act introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) for not providing state or local funding.

Opponents of increased assistance acknowledge that the economic consequences of COVID-19 are substantial, but say reckless state spending—enabled by increased federal aid over time—exacerbated the economic fallout from COVID-19. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said, “The president is not going to bail out Chicago and New York and other states that prior to the coronavirus were mismanaged.”



Thirty-four states have statewide mask orders—what are the restrictions in your state?

Thirty-four states have statewide orders requiring individuals to wear masks in indoor or outdoor public spaces, as of August 6. All 24 states with a Democratic governor have statewide mask orders, while 10 out of 26 Republican states require face coverings.

The mask requirements have been issued across five months:
Three orders have been issued in August.
13 orders were initially issued in July.
Four orders were initially issued in June.
Six orders were initially issued in May.

Eight orders were initially issued in April.

No states have allowed their mask orders to expire. Georgia is the only state where a statewide executive order prohibits localities from implementing mask restrictions.



Massachusetts enters second phase of reopening

Massachusetts is entering its second phase of reopening on June 8, allowing retail stores and outdoor dining to reopen with capacity and distancing restrictions. Phase Two also allows hotels, amateur and professional sports, personal services (like house cleaning and tutoring services), driving and flight schools, outdoor historical attractions; funeral homes, warehouses, outdoor recreation facilities (like playgrounds and pools), post-secondary schools, day camps, and public libraries to reopen. Businesses like barbershops and salons will remain closed.

The state started reopening on May 18 by allowing manufacturing facilities, construction sites, and places of worship to resume operations.



Garcia (R) defeats Smith (D) in special election for California’s 25th Congressional District

Mike Garcia (R) won the May 12, 2020, special election for California’s 25th Congressional District after Christy Smith (D) conceded on May 13.

He will fill the U.S. House vacancy left by Katie Hill (D), who resigned the seat on November 1, 2019, amid allegations of extramarital relationships with staffers. The remainder of the term will expire on January 3, 2021.

Smith and Garcia will run again in a regular general election on November 3, 2020, for a full, two-year term. At the time Smith conceded, Garcia had 56% of the vote to Smith’s 44%.

Six special elections have been held during the 116th U.S. Congress—the current meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives. Three such elections were held in 2019, and three more are scheduled during the rest of this year.

Voters decided 136 congressional special elections between 1985 and 2012—19 in the Senate and 117 in the House of Representatives. In those elections, nine seats changed partisan hands, with Republicans gaining six seats and Democrats gaining three.



Eastman (D) advances to general election rematch against Bacon (R) in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District

Kara Eastman defeated Ann Ashford and Gladys Harrison in the Democratic primary for Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District on May 12, 2020. Eastman received 61.8% of the vote, followed by Ashford with 31.6% and Harrison with 6.6%. She faces incumbent Don Bacon (R) in the November 3 general election, as she did in 2018. In 2018, Bacon defeated Eastman 51% to 49%.

Democrats have a 233-196 advantage over Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. There is one Libertarian member, and there are five vacancies. Currently, if Republicans win 19 Democratic-controlled districts in the November general elections, they will win control of the House. If Democrats hold as many districts, they will maintain their control of the chamber.

Additional reading:


Mfume (D) defeats Klacik (R) in special general election for Maryland’s 7th Congressional District

Kweisi Mfume (D) defeated Kimberly Klacik (R) in the special general election for Mayland’s 7th Congressional District. He will fill the vacancy left by Elijah Cummings (D), who died in October 2019. As of Wednesday morning, Mfume led with 72.5% of the vote to Klacik’s 26.5%. Mfume cannot be sworn into office until after results are certified by the Maryland Board of Elections, which could happen as early as May 8.

Four special elections have been held during the 116th U.S. Congress—the current meeting of the Senate and House of Representatives. Three such elections were held in 2019, and five more are scheduled during the rest of this year.

Voters decided 136 congressional special elections between 1985 and 2012—19 in the Senate and 117 in the House of Representatives. In those elections, nine seats changed partisan hands, with Republicans gaining six seats and Democrats gaining three.


Ashford, Eastman, and Harrison competing in May 12 Democratic primary for Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District

Ann Ashford, Kara Eastman, and Gladys Harrison are running in the Democratic primary for Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District on May 12, 2020. Eastman and Ashford have launched television ads and lead in fundraising and endorsements, but Harrison has shared in the race’s media coverage.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, every eligible primary voter will receive an absentee ballot application in the mail. In-person voting locations are expected to remain open as planned.

Health care is a distinguishing issue in the race. Eastman says a Medicare-for-All healthcare plan “would increase efficiencies, reduce overhead costs, allow individuals to choose their provider instead of having to stay in network, eliminate premiums and deductibles, and free employers from having to administer healthcare plans.” Ashford criticized Eastman’s healthcare policy and said it could not pass in a divided Congress. She says she supports strengthening the Affordable Care Act and offering Medicare on the market as a public option. Harrison said Medicare for All might detract from union-negotiated benefits and also supports a public Medicare option.

Former Nebraska governors and U.S. senators Ben Nelson and Bob Kerrey endorsed Ashford. In a statement, Nelson said Ashford would take a “realistic approach when working for the benefit of all of us.” Groups like Justice Democrats and Democracy for America endorsed Eastman. Justice Democrats Executive Director Alexandra Rojas said Eastman was “part of a new generation of Democrats who will fight for Medicare for All, a Green New Deal, free college, and ending mass incarceration and deportation.”

Eastman was the 2018 Democratic nominee. In the general election, Eastman lost to incumbent Don Bacon (R) 51% to 49%. In 2016, Bacon defeated then-incumbent Brad Ashford (D) 48.9% to 47.7%.

The 2017 Cook Partisan Voter Index for this district was R+4, meaning that in the previous two presidential elections, this district’s results were four percentage points more Republican than the national average.

Additional reading:


Smith (D) and Garcia (R) competing in May 12 special election for California’s 25th Congressional District

Christy Smith (D) and Mike Garcia (R) are running in a special general election on May 12, 2020, for California’s 25th Congressional District. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order providing for all-mail ballots for special election voters. The election will fill the vacancy left by Katie Hill (D), who resigned the seat on November 1, 2019. Smith received 35.8% of the vote to Garcia’s 25.1% in the March 3 top-two primary.

In the 2018 general election, Hill defeated incumbent Steve Knight (R) 54% to 46%. In 2016, Knight defeated Bryan Caforio (D) 53% to 47%. The 2017 Cook Partisan Voter Index for this district was even, meaning that in the previous two presidential elections, this district’s results were within one percentage point of the national average.

As of April 7, 2020, nine special elections have been called during the 116th Congress. Seven of those were called for seats in the U.S. House, and two were called for seats in the U.S. Senate. From the 113th Congress to the 115th Congress, 40 special elections were held.

Additional reading:


Seigel and Gandhi competing in July 14 Democratic runoff in Texas’ 10th Congressional District

Mike Siegel and Pritesh Gandhi will compete in the Democratic primary runoff for Texas’ 10th Congressional District on July 14, 2020. The runoff was originally scheduled for May 26, 2020, but Governor Greg Abbott (R) postponed the election due to the coronavirus pandemic. The winner will advance to the general election on November 3. Siegel received 44.0% of the vote to Gandhi’s 33.1% in the March 3 primary election.

Gandhi was endorsed by the Austin American-Statesman editorial board, which said, “District 10 Democrats have a tough choice, but in our view Gandhi has the greatest potential to move the needle in Congress.” The Austin Chronicle and The Houston Chronicle endorsed Siegel. The Houston Chronicle’s editorial board cited Siegel’s 2018 campaign, his environmental platform, and his experience as a teacher and assistant city attorney in Austin as the reasons for their endorsement.

In the 2018 general election, incumbent Michael McCaul (R) defeated Siegel (D) 51% to 47%. In 2016, McCaul defeated Tawana Cadien (D) 57% to 38%. The 2017 Cook Partisan Voter Index for this district was R+9, meaning that in the previous two presidential elections, this district’s results were nine percentage points more Republican than the national average.

Additional reading:


Jacobs (D) and Gomez (D) advance to general in California’s 53rd Congressional District

Sara Jacobs (D) and Georgette Gomez (D) advanced from a top-two primary election in California’s 53rd Congressional District after Chris Stoddard (R) conceded. The candidates will compete in the November 3 general election. The election marks the first time two Democratic candidates advanced to a general election in the district since California began using top-two primaries in 2012. At the time the election was called, Jacobs led with 29.1% of the vote, followed by Gomez with 20.4% and Stoddard with 13.5%.

Democrats have a 232-197 advantage over Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives. There is one independent member, and there are five vacancies. Currently, if Republicans win 18 Democratic-controlled districts in the Nov. general, they will win control of the House. If Democrats hold as many districts, they will maintain their control of the chamber.



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