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Jerrick Adams

Jerrick Adams is a staff writer at Ballotpedia. Contact us at editor@ballotpedia.org.

Ohio state government employee asks SCOTUS to consider class-action lawsuit over refunds for previously paid union fees

Ohio state government employee asks SCOTUS to consider class-action lawsuit over refunds for previously paid union fees           

On Oct. 8, attorneys for an Ohio state employee petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take up his class-action lawsuit, in which he is seeking refunds for the dues he and other non-member employees were required to pay to the union representing their workplace.

Who are the parties to the suit?  

The plaintiff is Nathaniel Ogle, an employee of the Ohio Department of Taxation. Attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTWLDF) are representing Ogle. NRTWLDF describes itself as a nonprofit whose “mission is to eliminate coercive union power and compulsory unionism abuses through strategic litigation, public information, and education programs.” 

The defendant is the Ohio Civil Service Employee Association (OCSEA), the exclusive bargaining representative for Ohio state employees. OCSEA is an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. According to its website, OCSEA represents roughly 30,000 state and local government employees.  

What is at issue?

Ogle, who began working for the state in 2011 and was never a dues-paying member of OCSEA, was required to pay fees to support non-political union activities, including collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance arbitration. This was in keeping with the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1977 ruling in Abood v. Detroit Education Association, in which the court upheld the constitutionality of these fees, which are commonly referred to as either agency or fair-share fees.  

However, on June 27, 2018, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Janus v. AFSCME, overturning the Abood precedent. The court ruled that public-sector unions cannot compel non-member employees to pay agency fees.  

On Oct. 15, 2018, Ogle filed a class-action lawsuit against OCSEA in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Citing Janus, Ogle’s attorneys argued that “OCSEA’s seizure of fair-share fees from Ogle, and from other employees who did not affirmatively consent to paying such fees prior to their exaction, violated their First Amendment rights.” His attorneys said that, in light of Supreme Court decisions preceding Janus, “OCSEA should have known that its seizure of fair-share fees from unconsenting employees violated their First Amendment rights.” They asked that the court “refund with interest all fair-share fees that were unconstitutionally extracted from Ogle and his fellow class members.” 

How have the lower courts ruled?

On July 17, 2019, Judge George Smith granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss the lawsuit, finding that the union had acted in good faith according to the Abood precedent and was not liable to refund agency fees paid before Janus. Smith is a Ronald Reagan (R) appointee. 

Ogle appealed Smith’s ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. A three-judge panel unanimously affirmed Smith’s decision. The panel included Judges Jeffrey Sutton, John K. Bush, and Chad Readler. Sutton is a George W. Bush (R) appointee, and Bush and Readler are Donald Trump (R) appointees. 

What comes next?

On Oct. 14, the Supreme Court added Ogle v. Ohio Civil Service Employees Association to its schedule for consideration. A response from the defendants is due Nov. 13. 

Ogle is the fifth suit of its kind pending before the high court. The other four include Casanova v. International Association of Machinists, Janus v. AFSCME (not to be confused with the 2018 Janus decision), Danielson v. Inslee, and Mooney v. Illinois Education Association

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 102 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

  • Vermont S0254: This bill would require public employers to provide unions with employee contact information. It would provide for the automatic deduction of union dues from members’ paychecks, and it would permit unions to meet with new employees to provide them with information regarding union membership.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Governor signed into law Oct. 12.


Federal court rules public-sector worker not entitled to refund for previously paid dues

Third Circuit: Penn. public-sector worker not entitled to refund for previously paid dues         

On Oct. 7, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled that a former public-sector union member in Pennsylvania is not entitled to a refund for dues she paid before withdrawing from the union.

Who are the parties to the suit?  

The plaintiff is Shalea Oliver, a Pennsylvania state employee. Attorneys from the Liberty Justice Center are representing her. The Liberty Justice Center describes itself as a nonprofit that “fights for the constitutional rights of American families, workers, advocates, and entrepreneurs.”  

The defendants are the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 668 and the following individuals in their official capacities: 

  • Teresa Miller (Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services)
  • Michael Newsom (Secretary of the Pennsylvania Office of Administration)
  • Josh Shapiro (Attorney General)
  • James M. Darby, Albert Mezzaroba, and Robert H. Shoop, Jr. (members of the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board)

What is at issue?

Oliver, who was hired in 2014, voluntarily joined SEIU Local 668, the exclusive bargaining representative of her employment unit, as a dues-paying member. On June 27, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, finding that public-sector unions cannot compel the  non-member employees they represent to pay fees to cover the costs of non-political union activities. Doing so, the court determined, violates employees’ First Amendment rights. 

On Aug. 10, 2018, Oliver resigned from SEIU Local 668 and rescinded her authorization for having union dues deducted from her paychecks. SEIU Local 668 accepted Oliver’s resignation and refunded the dues withheld from her paychecks after Aug. 10, 2018. 

On Feb. 28, 2019, Oliver sued the union and state officials in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, seeking restitution for all dues paid to the union since she first joined in 2014. Oliver argued “she was forced into an unconstitutional choice between paying Local 668 as a member or paying it as a non-member.” Oliver also alleged that state officials had violated her free-speech and associational rights when they recognized SEIU Local 668 as the exclusive representative for her bargaining unit.  

On Nov. 12, 2019, Judge Gerald Austin McHugh, Jr., ruled in favor of the defendants, dismissing Oliver’s claim. McHugh was appointed to the bench by President Barack Obama (D). Oliver appealed the decision to the Third Circuit. 

How did the court rule?

The three-judge panel – Judges Brooks Smith, Theodore McKee, and Kent Jordan – unanimously affirmed the district court’s decision. Writing for the court, Smith said: 

Shalea Oliver had the choice either to become a member of the Service Employees International Union Local 668 (“the Union”)—the exclusive collective bargaining representative for her unit—by paying monthly union dues or to decline membership yet pay “fair-share” or “agency” fees. Oliver chose to become a union member.Because Oliver chose to join the Union when she was not compelled to do so, her membership was voluntary; thus, she is not entitled to a refund of membership dues. Because a   state is permitted by statute and case law to grant a labor union exclusive representation rights, and Oliver need not associate with that union, we conclude that Oliver’s free speech and free association rights were not violated. Since the District Court came to these same conclusions in granting summary judgment to the defendants, we will affirm.

Smith and Jordan are George W. Bush (R) appointees. McKeey is a Bill Clinton (D) appointee. 

About the Third Circuit

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit is a federal court that hears appeals from the district courts in Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The court has 14 authorized judicial posts and no current vacancies. The chief judge is Brooks Smith, a George W. Bush appointee. Of the court’s 14 active judges, Republicans appointed eight and Democrats appointed six. Appeals are heard in the James A. Byrne Federal Courthouse in Philadelphia.

What comes next?

Oliver’s attorneys have not said publicly whether they intended to appeal the decision. The case name and number are Oliver v. Service Employees International Union Local 668 (19-3876).

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 102 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

  • Vermont S0254: This bill would require public employers to provide unions with employee contact information. It would provide for the automatic deduction of union dues from members’ paychecks, and it would permit unions to meet with new employees to provide them with information regarding union membership.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Sent to governor Oct. 6.


In North Carolina, South Carolina, overlapping court orders modify absentee/mail-in procedures

With 27 days until Election Day, overlapping court orders in North Carolina and South Carolina have modified absentee/mail-in voting procedures.

North Carolina

On Sept. 22, the North Carolina State Board of Elections announced a series of proposed modifications to the state’s absentee/mail-in voting procedures:

  • Absentee/mail-in ballot receipt deadline extended to 5 p.m. on Nov. 12 for ballots postmarked on or before Election Day.
  • Voters allowed to submit affidavits to their county election boards to cure the following ballot issues:
    • Voter failed to sign return paperwork, or signed in the incorrect place.
    • Witness or assistant did not print name on return paperwork.
    • Witness or assistant did not print address on return paperwork.
    • Witness or assistant failed to sign return paperwork, or signed in the incorrect place.

The modifications resulted from a settlement between the state board of elections and the North Carolina Alliance for Retired Americans.

On Oct. 2, Judge Bryan Collins of the Wake County Superior Court approved the terms of the settlement.

However, on Oct. 3, Judge James Dever of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina issued a temporary restraining order blocking the settlement. Dever also consolidated three related federal lawsuits involving the state’s absentee/mail-in voting procedures and transferred them to Judge William Osteen of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.

What happens now? Dever’s temporary restraining order is scheduled to expire Oct. 16.

As of Oct. 4, the state had classified 7,272 absentee/mail-in ballots as “pending cure,” meaning that these ballots are missing some required information. These ballots would be subject to the curing provisions of the settlement agreement if it stands. According to ABC News, county elections officials have been instructed to tell voters who inquire about the status of their ballots, “Currently the cure process is being considered by the courts. We will contact you soon with more information.”

South Carolina

On Sept. 18, Judge J. Michelle Childs of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina issued an order suspending South Carolina’s witness requirement for absentee/mail-in ballots. Childs is a Barack Obama (D) appointee.

That decision was appealed to a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. On Sept. 24, the panel voted 2-1 to reverse Child’s order, reinstating the witness requirement. Judges Harvie Wilkinson and Steven Agee, Ronald Reagan (R) and George W. Bush (R) appointees, respectively, voted to reverse. Judge Robert King, a Bill Clinton (D) appointee, dissented.

The panel’s decision was appealed to the Fourth Circuit sitting en banc. The Fourth Circuit reversed the panel’s decision, suspending the witness requirement again. The vote was 9-5.

On Oct. 5, the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated the witness requirement. The court issued its order without noted dissent.

What happens now? The Supreme Court exempted ballots cast before it issued its order and those received within two days of the order. Absentee/mail-in ballots cast after that time will be subject to the reinstated witness requirement.

Political context

North Carolina is a battleground in the presidential contest. In the 2016 election, Donald Trump (R) defeated Hillary Clinton (D) in North Carolina 49.8-46.2 percent. Mitt Romney (R) carried North Carolina in 2012, defeating incumbent Barack Obama (D) 50.4-48.4 percent. Barack Obama (D) won North Carolina in 2008, defeating John McCain (R) 49.7-49.4 percent.

Although South Carolina is not considered a presidential battleground state, it does feature one battleground congressional contest: the election for South Carolina’s 1st District. Incumbent Joe Cunningham (D) was first elected in 2018, defeating Katie Arrington 51-49 percent. The U.S. Senate race between incumbent Lindsey Graham (R) and Jaime Harrison (D) is also expected to be competitive.

Absentee/mail-in voting modifications since our last issue

Since our Sept. 23 edition, we’ve tracked the following absentee/mail-in voting modifications:

  • Alabama: On Sept. 30, Judge Abdul Kallon of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama issued a ruling that made a number of modifications to Alabama’s voting laws, including waiving the absentee/mail-in ballot witness/notary requirement for voters with underlying medical conditions.
  • Arizona: On Oct 5., Judge Steven Logan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona ordered that the state’s voter registration deadline be extended to 5 p.m. on Oct. 23.
  • Georgia: On Oct. 2, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reinstated Georgia’s Nov. 3 receipt deadlines for absentee/mail-in ballots.
  • Indiana: On Sept. 29, Judge Sarah Barker of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana issued an order extending the postmark and receipt deadline for absentee/mail-in ballots in Indiana to Nov. 3 and Nov. 13, respectively.
  • Iowa:
    • On Sept. 25, state legislators approved an emergency directive, requested by Secretary of State Paul Pate (R), authorizing counties to begin processing absentee/mail-in ballots on Oct. 31, the Saturday before Election Day.
    • On Oct. 5, Judge Robert Hanson of the Polk County District Court issued an order allowing Iowa counties to send voters absentee/mail-in ballot applications with pre-filled personal information.
  • Ohio:
    • On Oct. 2, a three-judge panel of the Ohio 10th District Court of Appeals ruled that Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) could direct counties to offer multiple drop-box locations for returning absentee/mail-in ballots. The panel stopped short of requiring LaRose to do so, overturning a lower court decision to that effect.
    • On Oct. 5, Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) announced counties would be allowed to offer multiple drop-off options for returning absentee/mail-in ballots. LaRose said these options would be restricted to one site per county.
  • Texas: On Oct. 1, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) issued a proclamation limiting the number of return locations for absentee/mail-in ballots to one per county.
  • Wisconsin: On Sept. 29, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed a district court decision extending the online and mail voter registration deadline to Oct. 21 and the absentee/mail-in ballot return postmark and receipt deadlines to Nov. 3 and Nov. 9, respectively.

To date, 38 states have modified their absentee/mail-in voting procedures for the general election. These modifications can be divided into the following five broad categories:

  • Automatic mail-in ballots: Five states (California, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, and Vermont) are automatically sending absentee/mail-in ballots to all eligible voters in the general election. These states are shaded in yellow in the map below.
  • Automatic mail-in ballot applications: Eleven states (Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Wisconsin) are automatically sending absentee/mail-in ballot applications to all eligible voters in the general election. These states are shaded in dark blue in the map below.
  • Eligibility expansions: Twelve states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia) have expanded absentee/mail-in voting eligibility in the general election. These states are shaded in light blue in the map below.
  • Deadline extensions: Five states (Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Pennsylvania) have extended absentee/mail-in ballot application or return deadlines in the general election. These states are shaded in dark gray in the map below.
  • Other process changes: Five states (Arizona, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia) have made other modifications to its absentee/mail-in ballot procedures for the general election. These states are shaded in gray in the map below.
M3Ydp-general-election-absentee-mail-in-voting-procedure-modifications.png

Redistricting developments since our last issue

Since our Sept. 23 edition, we’ve tracked the following redistricting-related developments.

  • On Sept. 30, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit declined to block a lower court’s order barring the U.S. Census Bureau from concluding field operations on Sept. 30.
    • The federal government had asked the Ninth Circuit for a stay after Judge Lucy Koh of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ordered the Census Bureau to continue counting through Oct. 31.
  • Judge Johnnie B. Rawlinson, a Bill Clinton (D) appointee, wrote for the court. Judge Morgan Christen, a Barack Obama (D) appointee, joined Rawlinson in the ruling.
    • “Given the extraordinary importance of the census, it is imperative that the Bureau conduct the census in a manner that is most likely to produce a workable report in which the public can have confidence. The Bureau must account for its competing constitutional and statutory obligation to produce a fair and accurate census report. The hasty and unexplained changes to the Bureau’s operations contained in the Replan, created in just 4 to 5 days, risks undermining the Bureau’s mission.”
  • Judge Patrick J. Bumatay, a Donald Trump (R) appointee, dissented.
  • The legal deadline for delivering census results to the president is Dec. 31. The Census Bureau had initially asked Congress to extend this deadline to April 2021. The House has approved this extension, but the Senate has not.

Litigation tracking

To date, we have tracked 256 lawsuits and/or court orders involving election policy issues and the COVID-19 outbreak. In each issue of The Ballot Bulletin, we shine a spotlight on what we consider one of the more interesting recent developments in this area. Click here to view the complete list of lawsuits and court orders.

This week, we turn our attention to Texas Alliance for Retired Americans v. Hughs.

  • Case name: Texas Alliance for Retired Americans v. Hughs
  • Case number: 20-40643
  • State of origin: Texas
  • Court: U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas
  • Summary: On Sept. 28, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit temporarily stayed a lower court’s order that had reinstated Texas’ straight-ticket ballot device. The court further stayed the order on Sept. 30, effectively ensuring that the straight-ticket ballot device would not appear on general election ballots this year.
    • On Sept. 25, Judge Marina Marmolejo of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued an order preventing state officials from enforcing legislation that had rescinded Texas’ straight-ticket ballot option. Marmolejo wrote, “The Court finds that HB 25 [the legislation eliminating the straight-ticket device], especially as exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic, places a greater than minimal burden on Texans’ right to vote and right to associate.”
    • In its per curiam (i.e., unsigned) order staying Marmolejo’s ruling, the appeals panel wrote, “[Given] that thousands of ballots without straight-ticket voting have already been mailed in accordance with a law that was passed three years ago and the immense difficulty described the Secretary [of State] of managing an election with different sets of ballots for in-person and mail-in voting, the public interest weighs heavily in favor of issuing the stay.”
    • The panel included Judges Edith Clement, Jennifer Elrod, and Catharina Haynes, all George W. Bush (R) appointees.

Legislation tracking

To date, we have tracked 328 bills that make some mention of both election policy and COVID-19. States with higher numbers of relevant bills are shaded in darker blue on the map below. States with lower numbers of relevant bills are shaded in lighter blue. In states shaded in white, we have tracked no relevant bills.

Legislation related to elections and COVID-19, 2020

COVID-19 election bills October 7.png


Seventh Circuit considers whether public-sector unions can refuse to represent non-members

Seventh Circuit considers whether public-sector unions can refuse to represent non-members         

On Sept. 29, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit heard arguments in Sweeney v. Raoul, a challenge to an Illinois state law requiring public-sector unions to represent all employees within a bargaining unit, both members and non-members.

Who are the parties to the suit?  

The plaintiffs are the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150, and its president-business manager James M. Sweeney. Local 150 represents approximately 3,300 employees across 133 bargaining units.  

The defendants are Attorney General Kwame Raoul (D) and Illinois Labor Relations Board Executive Director Kimberly Stevens, both in their official capacities.

What is at issue?

The Illinois Public Labor Relations Act establishes that, if a majority of employees in a bargaining unit support a union, the union is the exclusive representative of that unit for collective bargaining agreements. The law requires such unions to represent all employees within the bargaining unit, both members and non-members. 

In Janus v. AFSCME, decided in 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled public-sector unions cannot compel non-member employees they represent to pay fees to cover the costs of non-political union activities. To do so, the court determined, would constitute a violation of employees’ First Amendment rights.

In light of Janus, Local 150 modified its complaint in an existing federal lawsuit, arguing that requiring unions to represent non-members violates their First Amendment rights: 

Unions and union members have the right under the First Amendment to refuse to associate with free-riding nonmembers. These free-riders increase the financial burden on dues-paying members and adversely affect the members [sic] ability to pursue collective efforts.

On Nov. 12, 2019, Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois rejected Local 150’s arguments and granted the defendants’ motion to dismiss. Coleman cited a 2019 decision by the Seventh Circuit that “unions designated as exclusive representatives were (and still are) obligated to represent all employees, union members or not, ‘fairly, equitably, and in good faith.'”

What are the arguments?

In their Jan. 21 brief filed with the Seventh Circuit, attorneys for the plaintiffs summarized their argument as follows: 

This case presents an issue that is the mirror image of Janus: Whether the Union and its individual dues-paying members can be compelled by the State to subsidize the speech of nonmembers and/or associate with them in processing grievances? The holding in Janus is therefore controlling[.] …

That same Illinois law which compels Local 150 and its public sector members over their objections to subsidize the speech of nonmembers and associate with them in processing grievances and representing them in arbitrations is likewise unconstitutional.

In their June 25 response brief, the defendants said: 

This court should affirm summary judgment for defendants because Janus did not undermine the constitutionality of the duty of fair representation, including the requirement that a union that chooses to accept the designation of an exclusive representative also agrees to represent nonmembers in grievance proceedings. The principle of exclusive representation and the corresponding duty of fair representation were constitutional before Janus and nothing in that decision changed that conclusion. On the contrary, the Supreme Court emphasized that its invalidation of compulsory fair-share fees did not imperil any other aspect of the exclusive representation framework and clarified that States could keep their systems exactly as they were except with regard to fees.

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the Service Employees International Union, and Illinois affiliates of these unions filed an amicus brief in favor of the defendants. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation also filed an amicus brief in favor of the defendants. Martin Malin, a professor and co-director of the Institute for Law and the Workplace at Chicago-Kent College of Law, said, “This may be the first time in history that AFSCME and the National Right to Work Foundation are on the same side.” 

What comes next?

It is not known when the court might issue a ruling. The panel considering the case includes Judges Ilana Diamond Rovner, Michael Scudder, and Amy St. Eve. Rovner is a George H. W. Bush (R) appointee, and Scudder and St. Eve are both Donald Trump (R) appointees.  

The case name and number are Sweeney v. Raoul (19-3413).

What we’re reading

 

 

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 102 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

  • Vermont S0254: This bill would require public employers to provide unions with employee contact information. It would provide for the automatic deduction of union dues from members’ paychecks, and it would permit unions to meet with new employees to provide them with information regarding union membership.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Senate approved House amendment, delivered bill to governor Sept. 25.


Ohio lawmakers consider five donor disclosure bills in wake of Householder arrest

Ohio lawmakers consider five donor disclosure bills in wake of Householder arrest

Between July 27 and Sept. 21, Ohio state lawmakers introduced at least five separate bills dealing with disclosure requirements for donors to select nonprofit entities. All of the bills propose expanding donor disclosure requirements for select groups making political expenditures, although the specific thresholds for disclosure vary between bills.

Lawmakers introduced the legislation after the arrest of then-Speaker Larry Householder (R), who is accused of conspiring to participate in a racketeering scheme.

The proposed legislation

Three of the bills have been introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives:

  • Ohio HB737: This bill would require entities making independent expenditures to “identify the source of any amounts … received during the period since the most recently filed statement that, in the aggregate, exceed $5,000 and that were not received in the ordinary course of business and were not received in exchange for goods or services.”
    • Sponsor(s): The primary sponsors are Gayle Manning (R) and Jessica Miranda (D). Fifteen representatives have signed on as co-sponsors: four Democrats and 11 Republicans.
    • Current status: Introduced on July 27, the bill is currently pending before the House State and Local Government Committee.
    • Documents: bill textbill analysis.
  • Ohio HB739: This bill would require any entity making political expenditures to report identifying information about those who make donations explicitly for political purposes and those whose donations are directed toward the entity’s general fund (if the general fund is used to make political expenditures).
    • Sponsor(s): Democrats Bride Rose Sweeney and Allison Russo are the primary sponsors. Twenty-five representatives, all Democrats, are co-sponsors.
    • Current status: Introduced on July 27, the bill is currently pending before the House State and Local Government Committee.
    • Documents: bill textbill analysis.
  • Ohio HB762: This bill would require any entity making political expenditures to report identifying information about donors who make contributions for political purposes. An entity would not be required to disclose identifying information for other donors.
    • Sponsor(s): Republicans Diane Grendell and Mark Fraizer are the primary sponsors. Nine representatives, all Republicans, have signed on as co-sponsors
    • Current status: Grendell and Fraizer introduced the bill on Sept. 21. It has yet to be assigned to a committee.
    • Documents: bill text.

Two of the bills have been introduced in the Ohio Senate:

  • Ohio SB347: Like HB737, this bill would require entities making independent expenditures to disclose identifying information about any donor who gives more than $5,000 during a filing period if the donation is not “received in the ordinary course of business or in exchange for goods and services.”
    • Sponsor(s): Nathan Manning (R) is the bill’s primary sponsor. Nine senators, all Republicans, are co-sponsors.
    • Current status: Introduced on July 30, the bill is currently pending before the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee.
    • Documents: bill textbill analysis.
  • Ohio SB349: Similar to HB739, this bill would require any entity making political expenditures to report identifying information about those who make donations explicitly for political purposes and those whose donations are directed toward the entity’s general fund (if the general fund is used to make political expenditures).
    • Sponsor(s): Teresa Fedor (D) is the bill’s primary sponsor. Four senators have signed on as co-sponsors: three Democrats and one Republican.
    • Current status: Introduced on Aug. 4, the bill is currently pending before the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee.
    • Documents: bill textbill analysis.

The context

On July 21, Larry Householder (R), then-Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives, was arrested and charged with conspiracy to participate in a racketeering scheme. Householder is accused of collecting more than $60 million in exchange for legislation that would bail out two nuclear plants. The bail-out was valued at $1.5 billion. Four other people, including former Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges, were also arrested.

The federal government filed a criminal complaint against Householder and the others in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. In that complaint, Special Agent Blaine J. Wetzel (Federal Bureau of Investigation) alleged Householder received payments through a 501(c)(4) nonprofit:

To summarize, while operating together—and functioning as Householder’s ‘team’—the Defendants enriched themselves and increased Householder’s political power by: engaging in a scheme to defraud the public of the honest services of Householder, involving the receipt of millions of dollars in secret bribe payments through Householder’s 501(c)(4) account in return for Householder taking official action to help pass a legislative bailout for two nuclear power plants; bribing and attempting to bribe individuals working on behalf of the Ballot Campaign in an attempt to receive inside information and defeat the Ballot Campaign; and concealing the scheme, their illegal activity, and the source of the funds by transferring the Company A-to-Generation-Now payments through other controlled entities and knowingly engaging in monetary transactions with the proceeds.[1]

501(c)(4)s are tax-exempt nonprofits under the Internal Revenue Code. They are commonly referred to as social welfare organizations. Examples include Americans for Prosperity and Organizing for Action.

On July 30, the Ohio House voted unanimously to remove Householder from the speakership. He remains a member of the House.

On Sept. 3, Householder entered a “not guilty” plea.

What comes next?

As noted above, none of the five bills have yet advanced beyond committee.

Ohio is a Republican trifecta, meaning Republicans control the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. Republicans outnumber Democrats in the Senate 24-9 and in the House 61-38.

What we’ve been reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 53 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.

Disclosure Digest map September 28, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Disclosure Digest status chart September 28, 2020.png

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

Disclosure Digest partisan chart September 28, 2020.png
Click here to learn more.


Ninth Circuit rejects challenge to dues deduction practices for public-sector union members in Washington

Welcome to Union Station, our weekly newsletter that keeps you abreast of the legislation, national trends, and public debate surrounding public-sector union policy.

Ninth Circuit rejects challenge to dues deduction practices for public-sector union members in Washington

On Sept. 16, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected a challenge to a Washington state statute and collective bargaining agreement that restrict the terms under which union members can resign their membership and cease paying dues.

Who were the parties to the suit?

The plaintiffs are Melissa Belgau, Michael Stone, Richard Ostrander, Miriam Torres, Katherine Newman, Donna Bybee, and Gary Honc, all of whom are Washington state employees. Attorneys from the Freedom Foundation, a non-profit whose mission “is to advance individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited, accountable government,” represent the plaintiffs.

The defendants are the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE), and several state executives in their official capacities, including Gov. Jay Inslee (D).

WFSE, an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), has 32,649 dues-paying members, according to its most recent annual report to the U.S. Department of Labor.

What was at issue?

After the U.S. Supreme Court issued its Janus v. AFSCME ruling in 2018, the plaintiffs notified the state and WFSE in writing of their desire to resign from the union and cease payment of dues. The defendants continued to deduct dues from the plaintiffs’ paychecks, citing the dues deduction authorization forms the plaintiffs had signed. These forms state that “authorization for the deductions will automatically renew annually unless the employee revokes the authorization between 10 and 20 days prior to the anniversary of the day” the employee signed the authorization.

The plaintiffs filed a class-action in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington on Aug. 2, 2018. They allege the state statute (RCW 41.80.100) and collective bargaining agreement (CBA) providing for this dues deduction system violate their First Amendment rights to free speech and association. The plaintiffs’ attorney wrote the following in their complaint:

RCW 41.80.100, Amended 2017-2019 CBA Art. 40.2, 40.3, and/or 40.6, other cited provisions of the CBA, and Defendants’ actions pursuant thereto violate Plaintiffs’ and class members’ First Amendment right to the freedom of association, as secured against state infringement by the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Consent to fund union advocacy cannot be presumed and neither Plaintiffs nor class members waived their constitutional right to not fund union advocacy. No compelling state interest justifies this infringement on Plaintiffs’ and class members’ First Amendment right to freedom of association.[1]

On Feb. 15, 2019, Judge Robert Bryan dismissed the suit, writing: “The plain language of RCW 41.80.100 and the CBA do not compel involuntary dues deductions and do not violate the First Amendment.” On Feb. 20, 2019, the plaintiffs appealed Bryan’s ruling to the Ninth Circuit, which heard oral arguments on Dec. 10, 2019.

Relevant precedents

In Janus v. AFSCME, decided in 2018, the court ruled that public-sector unions cannot compel non-member employees they represent to pay fees to cover the costs of non-political union activities. To do so, the court determined, would constitute a violation of employees’ First Amendment rights

How did the Ninth Circuit rule?

Judges M. Margaret McKeownMorgan Christen, and M. Douglas Harpool unanimously affirmed the lower court’s decision. McKeown wrote the court’s opinion.

In response to the plaintiffs’ First Amendment claims, McKeown wrote:

The First Amendment does not support the Employees’ right to renege on their promise to join and support the union. This promise was made in the context of a contractual relationship between the union and its employees. When ‘legal obligations are self-imposed,’ state law, not the First Amendment, normally governs.[1]

McKeown then addressed the plaintiffs’ claims within the context of Janus:

Janus did not alter these basic tenets of the First Amendment. The dangers of compelled speech animate Janus. The Court underscored that the pernicious nature of compelled speech extends to ‘[c]ompelling individuals to mouth support for views they find objectionable’ by forcing them to subsidize that speech. For that reason, the Court condemned the practice of ‘automatically deduct[ing]’ agency fees from nonmembers who were ‘not asked’ and ‘not required to consent before the fees are deducted.’Employees, who are union members, experienced no such compulsion. Under Washington law, Employees were free to ‘join’ WFSE or ‘refrain’ from participating in union activities.[1]

Christen and Harpool are Barack Obama (D) appointees. McKeown is a Bill Clinton (D) appointee.

What are the reactions, and what comes next?

Judith Rivlin, general counsel for AFSCME, supported the ruling, comparing it to other federal court rulings that “continue to reject these attempts by corporate interests to manipulate the judiciary against working people and trample on their rights and freedom to join together in a union.”

James Abernathy, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said he would appeal the decision, either to the Ninth Circuit sitting en banc or the Supreme Court. Abernathy criticized the panel’s ruling, saying it effectively held “the First Amendment does not apply to employees who choose to pay union dues.”

The case name and number are Belgau v. Inslee (19-35137).

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 102 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.

Union Station map September 25, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart September 25, 2020.png

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

Union Station partisan chart September 25, 2020.png

Recent legislative actions

  • Vermont S0254: This bill would require public employers to provide unions with employee contact information. It would provide for the automatic deduction of union dues from members’ paychecks, and it would permit unions to meet with new employees to provide them with information regarding union membership.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • House approved with proposal of amendment Sept. 24. Sent to Senate Sept. 25.


Absentee/mail-in voting witness requirements in the 2020 general election

Heading into the Nov. 3 general election, six states are expected to require absentee/mail-in voters to obtain the signature of a witness or notary in order to have their ballots counted. They are:

  • Alabama: Two witnesses or one notary
  • Alaska: One witness
  • Mississippi: Notary or other officer authorized to administer oaths
  • Missouri: Notary or other officer authorized to administer oaths
  • North Carolina: One witness
  • Wisconsin: One witness

Six states have suspended, reduced, or otherwise modified statutory or regulatory witness/notary requirements, as election officials prepare for an anticipated record-high number of absentee/mail-in ballots. They are:

  • Minnesota
  • North Carolina (reduced from two witnesses to one)
  • Oklahoma (voters can submit copies of their identification in lieu of having their ballots notarized)
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Virginia

Witness/notary requirements have been subject to litigation throughout 2020. Further changes to these procedures are possible as the general election approaches.

Additional reading
Changes to election dates, procedures, and administration in response to COVID-19
Changes to absentee/mail-in voting procedures in response to COVID-19



Pennsylvania modifies several mail-in voting procedures

In the last two weeks, a court order and a settlement have resulted in modifications to several mail-in voting procedures in Pennsylvania.

State directs counties not to reject ballots due to signature mismatch

On Sept. 14, the League of Women Voters and the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh dropped a lawsuit against the state after election officials issued guidance directing counties not to reject a mail-in ballot due solely to a perceived mismatch between the signature on the return envelope and the signature on the voter’s registration record.

The guidance, released Sept. 11, lays out the following directions for county officials (emphasis added):

If the Voter’s Declaration on the return envelope is signed and the county board is satisfied that the declaration is sufficient, the mail-in or absentee ballot should be approved for canvassing unless challenged in accordance with the Pennsylvania Election Code.The Pennsylvania Election Code does not authorize the county board of elections to set aside returned absentee or mail-in ballots based solely on signature analysis by the county board of elections.[1]

State supreme court extends mail-in ballot receipt deadlines, authorizes drop-box returns

On Sept. 17, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an order extending the mail-in ballot receipt deadline and authorizing the use of drop boxes for returning mail-in ballots in the general election. Mail-in ballots postmarked on or before Nov. 3, and ballots lacking any indication they were sent after this date, would be accepted if received by 5 p.m. on Nov. 6.

Writer for the court’s majority, Justice Max Baer said:

Under our Extraordinary Jurisdiction, this Court can and should act to extend the received-by deadline for mail-in ballots to prevent the disenfranchisement of voters. … We additionally conclude that voters’ rights are better protected by addressing the impending crisis at this point in the election cycle on a statewide basis rather than allowing the chaos to brew, creating voter confusion regarding whether extensions will be granted, for how long, and in what counties.[1]

The high court declined to bar officials from rejecting mail-in ballots submitted without secrecy envelopes (sometimes referred to as “naked ballots”). State authorities had previously advised counties that they should count naked ballots.

Justices Debra Todd, Kevin M. Dougherty, and David N. Wecht joined Baer’s opinion. Chief Justice Thomas Saylor and Justices Sallie Mundy and Christine Donohue dissented in part from the majority opinion. Baer, Donohue, Wecht, Dougherty, and Todd are Democrats. Saylor and Mundy are Republicans.

Political context

Pennsylvania is a key battleground in the presidential contest. In the 2016 election, Donald Trump (R) defeated Hillary Clinton (D) in Pennsylvania 48.2-47.5 percent. Barack Obama (D) carried Pennsylvania in both 2008 and 2012, defeating John McCain (R) in 2008 54.5-44.2 percent and Mitt Romney (R) in 2012 52-46.6 percent.

Ballotpedia has identified four of Pennsylvania’s 18 congressional districts as battlegrounds in the general election: the 1st, 7th, 8th, and 17th districts. A Republican represents the 1st District. Democrats represent the other three. Overall, Pennsylvania’s current U.S. House delegation is split evenly between Democrats and Republicans.

Absentee/mail-in voting modifications since our last issue

Since our Sept. 9 edition, we’ve tracked the following absentee/mail-in voting modifications:

  • Arizona: On Sept. 10, Judge Douglas Rayes of the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona ordered election officials to give voters until 5:00 p.m. on the fifth business day after the election to sign their vote-by-mail ballot envelopes if they failed to sign at the time they submitted the ballots.
  • Louisiana: On Sept. 16, Chief Judge Shelly Deckert Dick of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana ordered election officials to make available to voters in the Nov. 3 and Dec. 5 elections the same COVID-19 absentee/mail-in ballot application used in the state’s summer elections. This application offers COVID-19-specific reasons for requesting an absentee/mail-in ballot.
  • Michigan: On Sept. 18, Judge Cynthia Stephens of the Michigan Court of Claims issued a ruling extending the absentee/mail-in ballot receipt deadline to Nov. 17 for ballots postmarked on or before Nov. 2. Stephens also authorized voters to allow anyone of their choosing to return their ballots between 5:01 p.m. on Oct. 30 and the close of polls on Nov. 3.
  • Mississippi: On Sept. 18, the Mississippi Supreme Court reversed a lower court ruling that had extended absentee/mail-in voting eligibility to individuals with “pre-existing conditions that cause COVID-19 to present a greater risk of severe illness or death.”
  • New York: On Sept. 18, the League of Women Voters reached a settlement agreement with New York election officials over ballot curing provisions for the general election.
  • Ohio: On Sept. 11, Judge Stephen L. McIntosh of Ohio’s Franklin County Court of Common Pleas barred Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) from rejecting absentee/mail-in ballot applications submitted via fax or email.
  • Rhode Island: On Sept. 11, Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea (D) announced that her office would send absentee/mail-in ballot applications to all active registered voters in the general election.
  • South Carolina:
    • On Sept. 18, Judge J. Michelle Childs of the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina issued a preliminary injunction barring election officials from enforcing South Carolina’s witness requirement for absentee/mail-in ballots in the general election.
    • On Sept. 16, Gov. Henry McMaster (R) signed H5305 into law, extending absentee/mail-in voting eligibility to all qualified electors in the general election. The legislation also established Oct. 5 as the start date for in-person absentee voting (i.e., early voting).
  • Wisconsin: On Sept. 21, Judge William M. Conley of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin issued an order extending the absentee/mail-in ballot receipt deadline in Wisconsin to Nov. 9 for ballots postmarked on or before Election Day. Conley immediately stayed his ruling, giving defendants seven days to file an emergency appeal.

To date, 38 states have modified their absentee/mail-in voting procedures for the general election. These modifications can be divided into the following five broad categories:

  • Automatic mail-in ballots: Five states (California, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, and Vermont) are automatically sending absentee/mail-in ballots to all eligible voters in the general election. These states are shaded in yellow in the map below.
  • Automatic mail-in ballot applications: Eleven states (Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, New Mexico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Wisconsin) are automatically sending absentee/mail-in ballot applications to all eligible voters in the general election. These states are shaded in dark blue in the map below.
  • Eligibility expansions: Twelve states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia) have expanded absentee/mail-in voting eligibility in the general election. These states are shaded in light blue in the map below.
  • Deadline extensions: Five states (Georgia, Maine, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Pennsylvania) have extended absentee/mail-in ballot application or return deadlines in the general election. These states are shaded in dark gray in the map below.
  • Other process changes: Five states (Arizona, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Virginia) have made other modifications to its absentee/mail-in ballot procedures for the general election. These states are shaded in gray in the map below.
General election absentee voting changes September 23.png

Redistricting developments since our last issue

Since our Sept. 9 edition, we’ve tracked the following redistricting-related developments.

  • On Sept. 10, a three-judge panel of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York struck down a presidential memorandum from President Donald Trump (R) directing census officials to “exclude from the apportionment base aliens who are not in a lawful immigration status.”
  • In its per curiam (unsigned) opinion, the panel ruled that the president’s memorandum violated federal census and apportionment laws as follows:
    • “First, pursuant to the virtually automatic scheme established by these interlocking statutes, the Secretary [of Commerce] is mandated to report a single set of numbers — ‘[t]he tabulation of total population by States’ under the decennial census — to the President, and the President, in turn, is required to use the same set of numbers in connection with apportionment. By directing the Secretary to provide two sets of numbers, one derived from the decennial census and one not, and announcing that it is the policy of the United States to use the latter in connection with apportionment, the Presidential Memorandum deviates from, and thus violates, the statutory scheme.”
    • “Second, the Presidential Memorandum violates the statute governing apportionment because, so long as they reside in the United States, illegal aliens qualify as ‘persons in’ a ‘State’ as Congress used those words.”
  • The panel included Judges Richard Wesley, Peter Hall, and Jesse Furman. Wesley and Hall are George W. Bush (R) appointees. Furman is a Barack Obama (D) appointee.
  • On Sept. 16, the Department of Justice filed its notice of appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has yet to take up the matter.

Litigation tracking

To date, we have tracked 236 lawsuits and/or court orders involving election policy issues and the COVID-19 outbreak. In each issue of The Ballot Bulletin, we shine a spotlight on what we consider one of the more interesting recent developments in this area. Click here to view the complete list of lawsuits and court orders.

This week, we turn our attention to Ohio Democratic Party v. LaRose.

  • Case name: Ohio Democratic Party v. LaRose
  • Case number: 20CV-5634
  • State of origin: Ohio
  • Court: Franklin County Court of Common Pleas, Ohio Court of Appeals for the Tenth Appellate District
  • Summary: On Sept. 15, Judge Richard Frye of the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas ruled that Secretary of State Frank LaRose’s (R) order directing counties to provide no more than one absentee/mail-in ballot drop box per county “lacked a legitimate basis in evidence” and was “unreasonable and unlawful.” Frye initially stopped short of suspending the order, noting that LaRose had previously said he supported “additional drop boxes if they are legal.”
    • In response to the ruling, Maggie Sheehan , a representative for LaRose, said, “Today’s ruling didn’t change anything, and the secretary’s directive remains in place.”
    • On Sept. 16, Frye enjoined the order. However, anticipating LaRose would appeal, Frye immediately stayed his injunction. On Sept. 21, LaRose filed his appeal with the Ohio Court of Appeals for the Tenth Appellate District.

Legislation tracking

To date, we have tracked 314 bills that make some mention of both election policy and COVID-19. States with higher numbers of relevant bills are shaded in darker blue on the map below. States with lower numbers of relevant bills are shaded in lighter blue. In states shaded in white, we have tracked no relevant bills.

Legislation related to elections and COVID-19, 2020

COVID-19 election bills September 23.png


SEIU settles class-action lawsuit over dues deductions for home healthcare workers

SEIU settles class-action lawsuit over dues deductions for home healthcare workers                   

Earlier this month, the Service Employees  International Union, Healthcare Illinois and Indiana agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit over dues deduction practices as applied to home healthcare workers.

Who were the parties to the suit?  

The plaintiff was Hydie Nance, a home-based healthcare provider in Illinois. The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation represented Nance. The group describes itself as a nonprofit whose “mission is to eliminate coercive union power and compulsory unionism abuses through strategic litigation, public information, and education programs.” 

The defendant was the Service Employees  International Union, Healthcare Illinois and Indiana (SEIU-HCII). According to its most recent federal report the union’s membership is 61,637. SEIU-HCII represents healthcare, child-care, home-care, and nursing home workers in Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, and Kansas.

What was at issue?

Illinois’ Home Services Plan “provides services to individuals with severe disabilities so they can remain in their homes and be as independent as possible.” The Illinois Department of Human Services administers the program, which uses Medicaid funds to pay for a variety of services, including personal assistance, homemaker services, and others. 

Nance provides home-based healthcare under the Home Services Plan.  She alleged that the Illinois Department of Human Services “deducted union dues from the subsidies of home healthcare providers without informing them that ‘that they have a First Amendment right not to financially support SEIU-HCII.'”

Nance twice requested that SEIU-HCII stop deducting dues from her subsidies. After her second request, SEIU-HCII officials told her that a valid photo ID was needed in order to process these requests. Nance subsequently filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleging the dues deduction system “impedes and burdens personal assistants’ First Amendment right to stop subsidizing SEIU-HCII and its speech.” Nance also argued that the photo ID requirement “impinges on personal assistants’ right to privacy and exposes them to the threat of identity theft.” 

Relevant precedents

Nance’s attorneys cited two U.S. Supreme Court decisions, Harris v. Quinn and Janus v. AFSCME

In Harris v. Quinn, decided in 2014, the court struck down an Illinois statute compelling a specific class of home healthcare workers to pay fees to the Service Employees International Union. 

In Janus v. AFSCME, decided in 2018, the court ruled that public-sector unions cannot compel non-member employees they represent to pay fees to cover the costs of non-political union activities. To do so, the court determined, would constitute a violation of employees’ First Amendment rights

What were the terms of settlement?

Under the terms of the settlement, SEIU-HCII agreed to

  • Refund Nance $245 in dues deducted from her subsidies after she requested the union stop deducting dues. 
  • Accept requests to end dues deductions without requiring employees to provide photo identification.
  • “Identify from its records providers whose requests to resign their union membership” were rejected due to their failure to provide photo identification and process those requests. 
  • Accept dues deduction requests made on forms provided by third-party organizations.

What were the reactions?

National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said, “Though this settlement puts an end to this blatantly unconstitutional arrangement, it is outrageous that over two years after Janus was decided and over eight years after Harris was decided, union bosses still refuse to respect, and devise ways to circumvent, the constitutional rights of those they claim to represent.” 

SEIU-HCII has not made a public statement on the settlement and declined to respond to requests for comment from other media outlets. 

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 102 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

  • Vermont S0254: This bill would require public employers to provide unions with employee contact information. It would provide for the automatic deduction of union dues from members’ paychecks, and it would permit unions to meet with new employees to provide them with information regarding union membership.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Senate approved Sept. 4. Referred to House General, Housing, and Military Affairs Committee Sept. 8. Committee hearing scheduled Sept. 17.


Federal judge finds Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 orders unconstitutional

On September 14, 2020, Judge William Stickman IV, of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, struck down some of Penn. Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) COVID-19 orders as violations of rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Various Pennsylvania counties, businesses, and elected officials brought the lawsuit County of Butler v. Wolf, which challenged restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings, the continued closure of “non-life-sustaining” businesses, and prolonged stay-at-home orders. In his decision, Stickman wrote the “liberties protected by the Constitution are not fair-weather freedoms,” and the “Constitution cannot accept the concept of a ‘new normal’ where the basic liberties of the people can be subordinated to open-ended emergency mitigation measures.” President Donald Trump (R) appointed Stickman to the federal bench.

Stickman found “(1) that the congregate gathering limits … violate the right of assembly enshrined in the First Amendment; (2) that the stay-at-home and business closure components of defendants’ orders violate the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment; and (3) that the business closure components of defendants’ orders violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.” Stickman limited remedy to the plaintiff individuals and businesses, dismissing the counties for lacking standing to sue.

Thomas E. Breth, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said, “You can’t tell 13 million Pennsylvanians that they have to stay home. That’s not America. It never was. That order was horrible.” Lyndsay Kensinger, Wolf’s press secretary, indicated that Wolf would seek to stay the decision while seeking an appeal, adding that the “ruling does not impact any of the other mitigation orders currently in place including … mandatory telework, mandatory mask order, worker safety order, and the building safety order.”

Additional reading:


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