Author

Jerrick Adams

Jerrick Adams is a staff writer at Ballotpedia and can be reached at jerrick.adams@ballotpedia.org

FLRA formally proposes rule change allowing federal workers to stop paying union dues after first year of membership

On March 19, the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) published a proposed rule in the Federal Register that would allow federal workers to stop paying union dues at any time after a statutory one-year period of dues payment. Up to this point, federal workers have only been permitted to rescind their union-dues assignments at one-year intervals.

What is at issue?

Section 7115(a) of the Federal Service Labor‑Management Relations Statute states, “[If] an agency has received from an employee in an appropriate unit a written assignment which authorizes the agency to deduct from the pay of the employee amounts for the payment of regular and periodic dues of the exclusive representative of the unit, the agency shall honor the assignment and make an appropriate allotment pursuant to the assignment.” The statute states that “any such assignment may not be revoked for a period of [one] year.”

In the past, the FLRA has interpreted the latter portion of the law to mean that union-dues payroll deduction authorizations can only be revoked in one-year intervals. After the Supreme Court issued its decision in Janus v. AFSCME, the Office of Personnel Management petitioned the FLRA for guidance on Janus’ applicability to § 7115(a).

On Feb. 14, the FLRA issued a 2-1 decision rejecting its earlier interpretations of § 7115(a). FLRA Chairwoman Colleen Duffy Kiko wrote the following in the decision “Although the Authority has stated that the wording in § 7115(a) ‘must be interpreted’ to mean that dues assignments may be revoked only at one‑year intervals following the first year, in fact, the Authority made a policy judgment to impose annual revocation periods after the first year of an assignment. In other words, notwithstanding previous assertions otherwise, § 7115(a) neither compels, nor even supports, the existing policy on annual revocation windows. Because it remains our privilege and responsibility to interpret the Statute in a manner that is consistent with an efficient and effective government, we cannot allow our decisions or statements of policy to merely rubber-stamp what was said in the past.”

What are the reactions?

  • On March 19, Everett Kelley, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), said, “The Authority’s proposed rule is contrary to both settled law and Congressional intent that clearly establish that dues allotments are only revocable at yearly intervals. That they would push forward with this kind of union busting in the midst of a pandemic, while front-line federal employees like VA caregivers, airport screeners, food inspectors, and other personnel are being forced to fight the administration for basic safety protocols and personal protective equipment, is truly disgraceful.”
  • On Feb. 26, Michael J. Reitz, executive vice president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said, “This ruling matters because unions often erect bureaucratic barriers to trap workers into membership, barriers the Mackinac Center has repeatedly challenged in court and won. … The end result is that federal employees, who were already in a right-to-work status, may leave the union at any time. Thus, one million federal employees could choose that opportunity.”

What comes next?

On Feb. 18, National Treasury Employees Union petitioned the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit to block the proposed rule change. The court has not yet taken up the case. In the meantime, the rulemaking process will proceed. A public comment period opened on March 19 and will close on April 9.

What we’ve been 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.

Union Station map March 27, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart March 27, 2020.png

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

Union Station partisan chart March 27, 2020.png

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • 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.
    • Senate Health and Welfare Committee reported favorably March 27.
    • Democratic sponsorship.


Delaware becomes latest state to postpone elections in response to coronavirus outbreak

On March 24, Delaware postponed its presidential preference primary election to June 2. It was originally scheduled to take place on April 28.

Delaware is the latest state to postpone elections in response to the coronavirus outbreak. To date, the following 10 states and one territory have postponed statewide primary elections:

  • Alaska: In-person voting in Democratic presidential preference primary canceled; vote-by-mail deadline extended to April 10
  • Connecticut: Presidential preference primary postponed to June 2
  • Delaware: Presidential preference primary postponed to June 2
  • Georgia: Presidential preference primary postponed to May 19
  • Indiana: Primary postponed to June 2
  • Kentucky: Primary postponed to June 23
  • Louisiana: Presidential preference primary postponed to June 20
  • Maryland: Primary postponed to June 2
  • Ohio: In-person primary voting postponed to June 2
  • Puerto Rico: Democratic presidential preference primary postponed to April 26
  • Rhode Island: Presidential preference primary postponed to June 2

Another four states have postponed primary runoffs in congressional contests:

  • Alabama: Primary runoff elections postponed to July 14
  • Mississippi: Republican primary runoff election for the state’s 2nd Congressional District postponed to June 23
  • North Carolina: Republican primary runoff for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District postponed to June 23
  • Texas: Primary runoff elections postponed to July 14


Oklahoma lawmakers advance bill barring public agencies from requiring donor information from 501(c)s

On March 3, the Oklahoma State Senate voted unanimously to approve SB1491, which would bar public agencies from requiring 501(c) nonprofits to provide them with personal information about their donors.

What does the bill propose?

SB1491 would bar any public agency from requiring a nonprofit 501(c) group to provide the agency with personal affiliation information about its donors. The legislation would also prohibit a public agency from publicly disclosing any such information it might have and exempt personal affiliation information from disclosure under the state’s open records law.

The legislation defines “public agencies” and “personal affiliation information” as follows:

  • “Public agency” definition: any state or local governmental unit.
  • “Personal affiliation information” definition: any “list, record, register, registry, roll, roster, or other compilation of data of any kind that directly or indirectly identifies a person as a member, supporter or volunteer of, or donor of financial or nonfinancial support to, any entity organized under Section 501(c) of the Internal Revenue Code.”

Under SB1491, a knowing violation of these provisions would constitute a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $1,000 fine, imprisonment for up to 90 days, or both.

What is the political context, and what comes next?

Oklahoma is a Republican trifecta, meaning Republicans control the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.

On March 4, the Senate sent SB1491 to the Oklahoma House of Representatives where it was read for the first time. On March 17, it was read for a second time and referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

Have other states considered similar legislation? What were the reactions?

Michigan lawmakers approved a similar bill, SB1176, in 2018. Governor Rick Snyder (R) vetoed it; the legislature did not override the veto.

  • In an op-ed for The Detroit News, Sean Parnell, vice-president of public policy for the Philanthropy Roundtable, wrote: “Michiganians are no stranger to anonymous giving, whether it’s the tens of millions of dollars given to support the Kalamazoo Promise or the numerous small anonymous gifts made through sites like GoFundMe.com. The Personal Privacy Protection Act ensures these and countless other acts of kindness can remain private if the giver wishes, while doing nothing to undermine Michigan’s laws regarding disclosure of campaign donations or punishing fraud by nonprofits. If Michigan wants to continue to encourage philanthropic giving, passage of this bill should be a priority..”
  • Opposing the bill, the Campaign Legal Center’s Erin Cholpak wrote, “While other states have been working to close loopholes that have allowed the increasing role of dark money in election campaigns, SB 1176 would codify those loopholes as enforceable law in Michigan. … And even if SB 1176 ultimately exempts campaign finance disclosure requirements from its broad disclosure ban, the bill will still make it easier for Michigan lawmakers to hide any conflicts of interest and could facilitate a rise of pay-to-play politics by shielding such arrangements from public scrutiny.”

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 45 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 March 24, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Disclosure Digest status chart March 24, 2020.png

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

Disclosure Digest partisan chart March 24, 2020.png

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of legislative actions taken on relevant bills since our last issue. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • Oklahoma SB1491: This bill would prohibit public agencies from requiring 501(c) entities to furnish them with personal information about donors.
    • Referred to House Judiciary Committee March 17.
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Tennessee HB2665: This bill would prohibit public agencies from requiring 501(c) entities to furnish them with personal information about donors.
    • House Constitutional Protections and Sentencing Subcommittee hearing scheduled for March 17 canceled.
    • Republican sponsorship.


States consider legislation in response to the coronavirus pandemic

In recent days, state lawmakers nationwide have taken action on legislation in response to the coronavirus outbreak. With the help of BillTrack50, we are compiling information on all of that legislation.

As of March 23, 2020, legislatures in 29 states and Washington, D.C., had taken up at least 184 bills related to COVID-19. Lawmakers in New Jersey had taken up 30 relevant bills, more than any other state and 16 percent of the nationwide total.

Of the 184 introduced bills, 40 (or 22 percent) had been enacted into law. New Jersey had enacted seven related bills, more than any other state and 18 percent of the nationwide total.

The following states and jurisdictions had enacted legislation related to the outbreak (the number of enacted bills is listed parenthetically): Alaska (1), Alabama (1), California (2), Florida (1), Hawaii (4), Kentucky (1), Massachusetts (3), Maryland (3), Maine (1), Michigan (1), Minnesota (2), New Jersey (7), New York (2), Oklahoma (2), Pennsylvania (1), Rhode Island (3), South Carolina (1), Washington (3), and Washington, D.C. (1).


Alaska state workers sue union over paycheck dues deduction practices

On March 12, two Alaska state employees filed a federal lawsuit against the Alaska State Employees Association, alleging that the union has continued to deduct dues from their paychecks against their express wishes.

Who are the parties to the suit?

The plaintiffs are Linda Creed, an employee of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and Tyler Riberio, an employee of the Alaska Department of Transportation. Attorneys from the Alaska Policy Forum and the Liberty Justice Center represent the plaintiffs.

The defendants are the Alaska State Employees Association, an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, and Kelly Tshibaka, in her official capacity as commissioner of the Department of Administration.

What is at issue?

Alaska’s Public Employment Relations Act (PERA) allows the automatic deduction of union dues or fees from an employee’s paycheck upon his or her written authorization. The dues deduction authorization form used by the Alaska State Employees Association establishes the following restrictions on rescinding the authorization:

This voluntary authorization and assignment shall be irrevocable, regardless of whether I am or remain a member of ASEA, for a period of one year from the date of execution or until the termination date of the collective bargaining agreement (if there is one) between the Employer and the Union, whichever occurs sooner, and for year to year thereafter unless I give the Employer and the Union written notice of revocation not less than ten (10) days and not more than twenty (20) days before the end of any yearly period.[1]

On June 27, 2018, the Supreme Court of the United States issued its ruling in Janus v. AFSCME, finding that public-sector unions cannot compel workers to pay fees to support non-political union activities (contract administration, grievance arbitration, etc.).

On Aug. 27, 2019, Alaska Attorney General Kevin Clarkson (R) issued a formal opinion establishing that, in light of Janus, the state must obtain affirmative consent from all employees in order to deduct dues or fees from their paychecks.

On September 26, 2019, pursuant to Clarkson’s opinion, Governor Mike Dunleavy (R) issued an administrative order directing Tshibaka to secure consent from employees in order to continue dues deductions. Creed and Riberio withdrew their consent, and the state stopped deducting dues from their paychecks.

On Oct. 3, 2019, a state trial court issued a temporary restraining order barring implementation of Dunleavy’s order. Dues deductions resumed for both Creed and Riberio.

The plaintiffs argue the existing restrictions violate their First Amendment rights. They are asking for an injunction against the restrictions. They also seek restitution for dues paid to the union prior to Janus, arguing their “consent to dues collection was not ‘freely given’ because it was given on an unconstitutional choice of either paying the union as a member or paying the union agency fees as a non-member.”

What are the reactions?

Daniel Suhr, attorney at the Liberty Justice Center, said, “These workers represent thousands of Alaska state employees who were finally given the right to stop paying union dues only to swiftly have that right stripped again. The Supreme Court was clear in Janus; it’s time for unions to honor workers’ rights and respect their decisions.” Alaska State Employees Association has not commented publicly on the suit as of March 20. In response to the court order enjoining Dunleavy’s order, Jake Metcalfe, executive director of the Alaska State Employee Association, said, “Our position is the right position. The governor was trying to take rights away from his own employees and that’s never a good thing.”

What comes next?

The case was filed in the United States District Court of the District of Alaska. It has been assigned to Judge H. Russel Holland, appointed to the court by President Ronald Reagan (R). The case name and number are Creed v. Alaska State Employees Association (3:20-cv-00065) .

What we’ve been 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.

Union Station map March 20, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart March 20, 2020.png

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

Union Station partisan chart March 20, 2020.png

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • California AB2307: This bill would require public-sector employers to provide union representatives paid release time to conduct certain union activities.
    • Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Committee hearing (scheduled for March 18) postponed on March 16.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • California SB1173: Existing law requires public employers to provide unions with contact information for all employees within the bargaining unit. Existing law also requires that public employers provide unions with contact information for new employees within 30 days of hire. This bill would impose liability on employers who violate these provisions 3 or more times in a 12-month period.
    • Senate Labor, Public Employment, and Retirement Committee hearing (scheduled for March 25) postponed on March 18.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Florida H0001: This bill would require employees who wish to join a union to sign a membership authorization form. It would require unions to revoke an employee’s membership upon his or her written request. It would also require a signed authorization to deduct dues from an employee’s salary.
    • Indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration March 14 (dead).
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Florida S0804: This bill would require employees who wish to join a union to sign a membership authorization form. It would require unions to revoke an employee’s membership upon his or her written request. It would also require a signed authorization to deduct dues from an employee’s salary.
    • Indefinitely postponed and withdrawn from consideration March 14 (dead).
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • New Jersey S2124: This bill would payroll deduction of union dues from wages or salaries of public employees.
    • Introduced and referred to Senate Labor Committee March 16.
    • Republican sponsorship.


Ohio Democratic Party sues Ohio Secretary of State over primary election postponement

On March 17, 2020, the Democratic Party of Ohio and Kiara Sanders, a registered voter in Franklin County, filed suit against Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose (R) in the state supreme court, alleging that LaRose was “patently and unambiguously without jurisdiction and legal authority to suspend, move, or set the date of Ohio’s 2020 presidential primary election.” They argued instead that the legal authority to set the date of the primary election rested with the state legislature.

The plaintiffs asked the court to do the following:
• Bar the secretary of state from setting a date for the 2020 primary election
• Order election administrators to accept and process absentee voting applications until 12:00 p.m. on April 25, 2020
• Order election administrators to direct local boards of elections to accept and count all valid absentee ballots postmarked on or before April 28, 2020, and received on or before May 8, 2020
• Order election administrators to accept and count all valid absentee ballots delivered personally by a voter or his or her family member on or before April 28, 2020
• Order the secretary of state to provide for prepaid postage for all absentee ballots and applications

Earlier this week, LaRose ordered the postponement of the primary from March 17, 2020, to June 2, 2020, after Ohio Health Director Dr. Amy Acton ordered the closure all polls on March 17 in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

This lawsuit is the latest in a series of actions surrounding the postponement of Ohio’s primary. On March 16 (before LaRose moved the state’s primary date) a group of private citizens filed suit in the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas at the request of Governor Mike DeWine (R)seeking a postponement of the state’s primary election.

Judge Richard Frye declined to postpone the primary. Frye said, “There are too many factors to balance in this unchartered territory to say that we ought to take this away from the legislature and elected statewide officials, and throw it to a common pleas court judge in Columbus 12 hours before the election.”

In a joint press release issued shortly after 9:00 p.m., DeWine and LaRose said, “Logistically, under these extraordinary circumstances, it simply isn’t possible to hold an election tomorrow that will be considered legitimate by Ohioans. They mustn’t be forced to choose between their health and exercising their constitutional rights.” Shortly after 10:00 p.m., DeWine announced that polls would be closed on March 17 by Acton’s order.

In response to this announcement, a candidate for office in Wood County, Ohio, filed suit in the state supreme court, alleging that the postponement violated state election laws. Shortly before 4:00 a.m., the court rejected this argument, allowing the postponement to stand.

LaRose then issued a directive to election administrators postponing in-person voting to June 2, 2020. The absentee ballot application deadline was extended to May 26, and the postmark deadline was extended to June 1. The voter registration deadline, originally February 18, was left unchanged. All ballots already cast, either by mail or in person, would be counted as usual.



Federal judge strikes down New Jersey donor disclosure law

On March 11, Judge Brian R. Martinotti, of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, signed orders permanently barring New Jersey from enforcing a state law requiring select nonprofits to disclose identifying information about their donors.

Multiple organizations challenged the law in court, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Americans for Prosperity, and the Illinois Opportunity Project challenged the legislation in court. President Barack Obama (D) appointed Martinotti to the court in 2016.

What is at issue? Under the law enacted 2019, 501(c)(4) and 527 entities that spent $3,000 or more annually to influence or provide political information about the outcome of any election or policy proposal were required to disclose the identities of their donors who contributed $10,000 or more.

What are the reactions?

  • Jeanne LoCicero, legal director for the New Jersey chapter of the ACLU, said, “This court order halts the enforcement of a law that hindered the freedom of assembly, hampered the right to petition government, and compromised privacy rights. All nonprofits should be able to communicate about issues of public concern without fear of being subject to invasive disclosure rules.”
  • Patrick Hughes, president of the Liberty Justice Center, which represented the Illinois Opportunity Project, said, “Adopted under the guise of transparency, these laws are designed to allow opponents of advocacy groups to intimidate and harass the organizations’ supporters. All Americans should be free to support causes they believe in without an invasion into their privacy through excessive government reporting requirements or retribution from their opponents.”
  • In a statement issued March 4, in anticipation of Martinotti’s order, Senator Troy Singleton (D) and Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker (D) said, “We have already begun working with the legislative leadership on the next steps and we believe there is a clear path forward. With the presidential and congressional elections later this year, we expect tens of millions of ‘dark money’ dollars to be spent in an attempt to influence the outcomes. We will continue to fight to ensure that those organizations that accept anonymous large donations are forced to disclose their sources. We must shine a light on who is working secretly to change the course of our elections. The people of New Jersey deserve nothing less than the fairness and transparency our legislation will provide.”

What comes next? It is unclear whether an appeal will be filed. At the time of Martinotti’s order, both the governor’s office and the office of the attorney general declined to comment.

Additional coverage:

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 45 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 March 16, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Disclosure Digest status chart March 16, 2020.png

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

Disclosure Digest partisan chart March 16, 2020.png

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of legislative actions taken on relevant bills since our last issue. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • New Hampshire HB1525: This bill would alter the definition of a political advocacy organization for the purposes of campaign finance reporting.
    • House Election Law Committee approved March 12.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Tennessee HB2665: This bill would prohibit public agencies from requiring 501(c) entities to furnish them with personal information about donors.
    • House Constitutional Protections and Sentencing Subcommittee scheduled March 17.
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Virginia SB979: This bill extends the applicability of the state’s campaign finance disclosure act to candidates for directors or soil and water conservation districts.
    • Delivered to governor March 12. Governor’s action deadline April 11.
    • Republican sponsorship.


Virginia lawmakers approve bill allowing local governments to bargain collectively with employees

On March 8, the Virginia General Assembly approved legislation to repeal Virginia’s prohibition against public-sector collective bargaining. This measure would allow local governments to bargain collectively with their employees upon adopting an authorizing ordinance or resolution.

The approved legislation, SB939, is the product of a joint conference committee compromise between two competing bills: SB939 and HB582.

As introduced, HB582 proposed:

  • Repealing the current prohibition against collective bargaining by public-sector workers.
  • Establishing the Public Employee Relations Board to designate bargaining units and providing for certification and decertification elections for unions.
  • Requiring employers and unions certified as exclusive bargaining representatives “to meet at reasonable times to negotiate in good faith with respect to wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment.”
  • Repealing a 2013 law stipulating that, in certification and decertification elections, “the right of an individual employee to vote by secret ballot is a fundamental right that shall be guaranteed from infringement.”

By contrast, SB939, as introduced, proposed allowing local governments to bargain collectively with their workers at their discretion and upon adopting an authorizing ordinance or statute.

The joint conference committee amended SB939 to require any municipality that has not done so to vote on an authorizing ordinance or resolution within 120 days of receiving certification that a majority of workers wish to form a collective bargaining unit.

On March 8, the Virginia House of Delegates voted 51-44 in favor of the conference committee report. Fifty-one House Democrats voted in favor of the bill. Forty-three Republicans and one Democrat voted against it. The Virginia State Senate approved the report 21-18 on the same day. All Senate Democrats voted for the bill and all Republicans present voted against it.

What comes next?

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) has not indicated whether he intends to sign the legislation into law. Virginia is a Democratic trifecta, meaning Democrats hold the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the General Assembly.

What are the reactions?

Support

  • Jim Livingston, president of the Virginia Education Association (VEA), said, “This new law means that educators will have a seat at the table. VEA members across the state will be working their tails off to make sure their school board understands how students will benefit from contract negotiations. And what board wants to deny children an advocate?”
  • Sen. Majority Leader Dick Saslaw (D), the bill’s sponsor, said, “When I got elected in ’76, [localities bargaining with unions] was permitted, and what happened, I think, in the very first year, the Virginia Supreme Court said that without legislation from the General Assembly, they could not do this, and essentially that’s where it’s been until 2020.”

Opposition

  • John Kalb, vice-president of the National Right to Work Committee, said, “Monopoly bargaining in any workplace – public or private – forces all employees in a workplace to accept the one-size-fits-all representation of union bosses whether they are union members or not. The fact that, under this bill, public-sector union bosses will be able to coerce employees into accepting their monopoly representation they oppose is an attack on workers’ rights. Even convicted criminals are entitled to choose their own representation, yet, under this bill, government employees would be denied that right and forced into union monopoly ranks against their will.”
  • Sen. Mark Peake (R) said, “I think this is a very, very bad idea for the whole commonwealth of Virginia.”

What we’ve been reading

Presidential candidates on labor policy

We recently compiled candidate statements on a number of labor policy issues. These statements were collected from candidate websites, editorials, speeches, and interviews. See the articles below for more:

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 92 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 March 13, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart March 13, 2020.png

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

Union Station partisan chart March 13, 2020.png

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • California AB3096: Existing law prohibits public employers from deterring or discouraging public employees or applicants from becoming or remaining members of a union. This bill would extend that provision to the University of California.
    • Amended and re-referred to Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Committee March 10.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Louisiana HB572: This bill would allow teachers and other school employees to cease withholding union dues from their wages at any time upon submitting a written or email request.
    • Read and referred to the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee March 9.
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Maine LD1960: This bill would make communications between municipal/state workers and their unions confidential in proceedings before the Maine Labor Relations Board.
    • Died (placed in legislative files) March 10.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Maine LD900: This bill authorizes certain classes of public-sector employees to strike.
    • Marked as “unfinished business” March 10.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Maryland HB775: This bill would grant collective bargaining rights to certain faculty at Baltimore City Community College.
    • House Appropriations Committee reported unfavorably. Withdrawn March 9.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Missouri HB2341: This bill would require public employees to provide annual written or electronic authorization for payroll deductions of union dues.
    • House Workforce Development Hearing scheduled March 9.
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Virginia SB939: This bill would permit local governments to recognize unions as bargaining agents for public-sector workers.
    • House and Senate agreed to conference committee report March 8.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Washington HB2017: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for administrative law judges.
    • Delivered to governor March 9.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Wisconsin AB945: This bill would allow most public-sector workers to bargain collectively over any increase in wages. This bill would change the vote threshold for establishing a union as a unit’s bargaining agent from 51% of all employees in the unit to a simple majority of all employees voting in the unit. It would also repeal an existing annual union recertification requirement.
    • Fiscal estimate received March 9.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
  • Wisconsin SB854: This bill would allow most public-sector workers to bargain collectively over any increase in wages. This bill would change the vote threshold for establishing a union as a unit’s bargaining agent from 51% of all employees in the unit to a simple majority of all employees voting in the unit. It would also repeal an existing annual union recertification requirement.
    • Fiscal estimate received March 9.
    • Democratic sponsorship.


Ballot Bulletin March 2020

Virginia General Assembly passes bill allowing localities to use ranked-choice voting in some municipal elections 

On Feb. 27, the Virginia State Senate voted 22-18 to approve HB1103, which would allow local governments to implement ranked-choice voting (RCV) for select municipal elections. All of the Senate’s 21 Democrats and one Republican voted in favor of the legislation. Eighteen Republicans voted against it. The same bill had passed the Virginia House of Delegates on Feb. 7 by a vote of 57-42. Fifty-four House Democrats and three Republicans voted in favor of HB1103. Forty-two Republicans voted against it (one Democratic member did not vote). HB1103 now goes to Gov. Ralph Northam (D) for his action.  

If enacted, HB1103 would allow local governments to implement RCV in elections for county boards of supervisors and city councils. The state board of elections would be authorized to “promulgate regulations for the proper and efficient administration of elections determined by ranked-choice voting, including (i) procedures for tabulating votes in rounds, (ii) procedures for determining winners in elections for offices to which only one candidate is being elected and to which more than one candidate is being elected, and (iii) standards for ballots.” Localities would be liable for any implementation costs incurred by the state. The Department of Planning and Budget has estimated those costs at approximately $1.3 million.

What have been the reactions? 

The following is a sample of the commentary surrounding HB1103: 

  • Del. Sally Hudson (D), the bill’s chief sponsor, said, “It’s a benefit to communities like mine in Charlottesville that tend to have very low-turnout primaries in the summer and then local elections in the fall that often have multiple candidates running for a handful of open seats. You end up with really split elections and less certainty about which candidate has majority support from the community.”    
  • Del. Chris Runion opposed the bill, saying, “It confuses the voter, and it complicates the process. I would prefer that a voter goes in and makes his decision, casts their ballot and goes back and knows this is who they voted for and that’s who they support and they go home satisfied with that result.”
  • Elizabeth Melson, president of FairVote Virginia, which has advocated in favor of the bill, said, “With ranking, if a candidate meets a voter who favors an opponent, the conversation need not end; it can shift to second choices and areas of mutual concern. In places with ranked choice already implemented, candidates sometimes even campaign in groups of two or three and ask to be second or third choices. It could lead to more civilized and issue-based campaigns and less mud-slinging.”
  • Quentin Kidd, a professor at Christopher Newport University, said, “So if you had a city or a county that was 50-50 split, ranked-choice voting could really mix things up and make for some really healthy political competition. But in a county that’s really rural and really Republican, Democrats would almost be locked out. In a city that’s really Democratically-oriented, Republicans would almost be locked out.” 

What other jurisdictions have implemented RCV? 

Maine is the only state that has implemented RCV for federal and state-level elections. Nine states have jurisdictions with RCV at the local level. On the map below, these states are shaded in gold. Another four states have jurisdictions that have adopted, but have not yet implemented, RCV. These states are shaded in blue. A complete list of implementation sites is available here

In other RCV news …

On March 3, citizens in Portland, Maine, approved a charter amendment extending the use of ranked-choice voting to all city council and school board elections. Previously, ranked-choice voting only applied to mayoral elections. The charter amendment passed with 81 percent of the vote.  

Virginians to decide constitutional amendment transferring redistricting power from legislature to commission 

On March 5, the Virginia House of Delegates voted 54-46 to approve a resolution placing a redistricting-related constitutional amendment on the ballot for Nov. 3, 2020. The ballot measure would transfer the authority to draft the state’s congressional and legislative district plans from the Virginia General Assembly to a 16-member redistricting commission comprising eight state legislators and eight citizens. 

What does the constitutional amendment propose? 

Under the amendment, the commission would draft the maps and the Virginia General Assembly would vote either to approve or reject them. The Virginia General Assembly would be prohibited from amending the maps. If the Virginia General Assembly were to reject a map, the redistricting commission would draft a new one. If the second map is rejected, the state supreme court would enact a district map.

Maps would require approval by 12 of 16 (75 percent) commission members, including six of eight legislator-members and six of eight citizen-members. Leaders of the legislature’s two largest political parties would select members to serve on the commission. Based on the current composition of the General Assembly, the commission’s legislative members would include two Senate Democrats, two Senate Republicans, two House Democrats, and two House Republicans. The commission’s eight citizen members would be recommended by legislative leaders and selected by a committee of five retired circuit court judges.

How did the amendment make it to the ballot, and what comes next? 

In order to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, a majority vote in each chamber, in two successive legislative sessions, is required. In 2019, the House and Senate, with Republican majorities, approved the amendment. Democrats won control of both legislative chambers in November 2019. This year, the Senate approved the amendment 38-2. In the House, nine Democrats and all 45 Republicans voted to advance the amendment; 46 Democrats voted against the amendment. In November, a simple majority vote is required to enact the constitutional amendment. 

For more information on the support and opposition arguments on this amendment, click here

For more information about the legislative process that put the amendment on the ballot, click here.

Are other states considering similar measures this year? 

This is the first ballot measure certified for 2020 related to redistricting. Measures might also be on the ballot in Arkansas, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Oregon. In 2018, five states — Colorado, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, and Utah — voted on initiatives to alter redistricting procedures or establish redistricting commissions. Voters approved all of them.

Ballot access requirements for U.S. Senate candidates in 2020 

Thirty-three seats in the United States Senate are up for election in 2020. How do prospective candidates get on the ballot in their respective states?

Generally speaking, a candidate must pay a filing fee, submit petition signatures, or both in order to appear on the ballot. Filing requirements vary from state to state. Filing requirements also vary according to a candidate’s partisan affiliation. Candidates of the major political parties are sometimes subject to different filing requirements than unaffiliated candidates. 

Petition signature requirements exist on a broad spectrum. For example, Kentucky requires partisan primary candidates to submit two petition signatures (candidates are also liable for a $500 filing fee). This petition requirement is the lowest in the nation for Senate candidates in 2020. By contrast, Texas requires unaffiliated candidates to submit 83,717 petition signatures, 1 percent of all votes cast for governor in the last election. This petition requirement is the highest in the nation. 

Filing fees are similarly variable. Kansas requires unaffiliated candidates to pay a $20 administrative fee. This fee is the smallest in the nation for Senate candidates in 2020. By contrast, Arkansas Republican candidates are liable for a $20,000 filing fee, a larger filing fee than that imposed in any other state this cycle.    

We have compiled complete filing requirements for major-party and unaffiliated Senate candidates in 2020. To peruse the data, click here

Legislation tracking 

Redistricting legislation

The map below shows which states have taken up redistricting policy legislation this year. A darker shade of red indicates a greater number of relevant bills. 

Redistricting legislation in the United States, 2020 

Current as of March 9, 2020

Electoral systems legislation

The map below shows which states have taken up electoral systems legislation this year. A darker shade of red indicates a greater number of relevant bills. 

Electoral systems legislation in the United States, 2020 

Current as of March 9, 2020

Primary systems legislation

The map below shows which states have taken up electoral systems legislation this year. A darker shade of red indicates a greater number of relevant bills. 

Primary systems legislation in the United States, 2020 

Current as of March 9, 2020



Gov. Cuomo includes donor disclosure requirements in New York state budget proposal

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) has included amendments to New York’s nonprofit donor disclosure laws in his fiscal year 2021 budget proposal.

Part UU of the executive budget proposes that a nonprofit group disclose the following for any donation of $1,000 or more earmarked to pay, in whole or in part, for political communications: the name and address of the donor, the date and amount of the donation, and a description of any restriction placed on the donation.

The amendments come in response to a federal court order striking down portions of A10742, donor disclosure laws enacted by the state legislature in 2016. On Sept. 30, 2019, Judge Denise Cote, of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, struck down Section 172-f of the law, which required nonprofits to disclose the identities of donors who contributed more than $1,000 if the nonprofit spent $10,000 or more per calendar year on political communications. Cote wrote, “Section 172-f sweeps far more broadly than any disclosure law that has survived judicial scrutiny.” President Bill Clinton (D) appointed Cote to the court in 1994.

What are the reactions?

  • Jason Conwall, a spokesman for the governor, said, “The public has a right to know who is backing these organizations so voters can better understand the sources for their positions and make decisions with full knowledge of the facts. Everyone supports transparency until it shows up at their own front door. The proposal advanced in the Executive Budget is more narrowly tailored [than the 2016 law] and we are confident it will withstand judicial scrutiny.”
  • Chai Jindasurat, policy director at Nonprofit New York, said, “Donors have legitimate and personal reasons for why they wouldn’t want to be disclosed or labeled [and] why they would want to give anonymously. If it is a problem, we’re happy to try and figure out a way to address transparency for all types of nonprofits. We just don’t know if it’s actually an issue.”

What comes next? Cuomo’s proposal is part of the larger budgeting process. With the governor having submitted his executive budget proposal, it now falls to the state legislature to assemble and adopt a final budget. The governor can execute line-item vetoes on the budget adopted by the legislature. New York’s new fiscal year begins April 1. Negotiations between lawmakers and the governor are currently ongoing. New York is a Democratic trifecta; Democrats hold the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 45 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 March 9, 2020.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Disclosure Digest status chart March 9, 2020.png

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

Disclosure Digest partisan chart March 9, 2020.png

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of legislative actions taken on relevant bills since our last issue. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • Connecticut HB05406: This bill would establish disclosure requirements for independent expenditures supporting or opposing incumbents before they form committees.
    • House Government Administration and Elections hearing scheduled March 6.
    • Committee sponsorship.
  • Connecticut HB05410: This bill would increase disclosure of independent expenditures and prohibit such expenditures by foreign-influenced entities.
    • House Government Administration and Elections hearing scheduled March 6.
    • Committee sponsorship.
  • New Hampshire HB1525: This bill would alter the definition of a political advocacy organization for the purposes of campaign finance reporting.
    • House Election Law Committee approved March 4.
    • Bipartisan sponsorship.
  • Oklahoma SB1491: This bill would prohibit public agencies from requiring 501(c) entities to furnish them with personal information about donors.
    • Senate approved March 3. First House reading March 4.
    • Republican sponsorship.
  • Virginia SB979: This bill extends the applicability of the state’s campaign finance disclosure act to candidates for directors or soil and water conservation districts.
    • House approved March 7 (Senate approved Jan. 27) .
    • Republican sponsorship.


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