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Jerrick Adams

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

Tax deduction for union dues included in budget plan

Union Station

Tax deduction for union dues included in budget plan 

A federal tax deduction for union dues is part of Democrats’ budget plan for fiscal year 2022. 

About the union dues tax deduction

On Sept. 15, the House Ways and Means Committee approved its portion of Democrats’ budget reconciliation package, the Build Back Better Act. Section 138514 of Subtitle I, titled “Allowance of Deduction for Certain Expenses of the Trade or Business of Being an Employee,” says, “The provision allows for up to $250 in dues to a labor organization be claimed as an above-the-line deduction. The provision is effective for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2021.”

Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee opposed the deduction. An amendment sponsored by Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.) to strike the deduction was defeated 25-18 along party lines. 

Before 2017, union dues were a work-related expense that could be included in an itemized (“below-the-line”) deduction of expenses exceeding 2% of the employee’s adjusted gross income. Republicans removed most work-related itemized deductions in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). 

About the 2022 budget 

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced the budget resolution for fiscal year 2022 on Aug. 9. A budget resolution outlines instructions for Congress to use in drafting its spending plan. Passing a budget resolution is a necessary requirement before Congress may use the reconciliation process for a final budget package. The reconciliation process allows the Senate to pass a budget with a simple majority instead of the 60 votes necessary to invoke cloture and override the filibuster

The Senate approved the budget resolution on Aug. 11, and the House of Representatives approved it on Aug. 24. House and Senate committees then had until Sept. 15 to draft their legislation for the reconciliation package.

The deadline for Congress to pass a budget and avoid government shutdown is Sept. 30, as fiscal year 2022 begins on Oct. 1. On Sept. 21, the House voted 220-211 to pass a temporary continuing resolution to fund the government through Dec. 3. The bill went to the Senate on Sept. 22, where it requires 60 votes to pass. 

Democrats have a 220-212 majority in the House. The Senate is split 50-50 with Vice President Kamala Harris (D) having the tie-breaking vote.

Perspectives 

Support for union dues deductions 

In April 2021, Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) said of a similar piece of proposed legislation, “Unions are the backbone of the middle class, supporting workers, wage growth and fair economic conditions. In 2017, Republicans eliminated tax deductions for workers and instead gave massive tax cuts for large, profitable corporations. [The Tax Fairness for Workers Act] would put money back in the pockets of working families by reinstating deductions for union dues and other unreimbursed employee expenses.” 

A 2020 Center for American Progress Action Fund brief stated, “This type of [above-the-line] deduction would allow union members to deduct the costs of earning their income and result in the tax code more accurately measuring individuals’ ability to pay.”

Opposition to union dues deductions

Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, said, “In effect, they’ve forced the 90% of workers in America who aren’t in a union to subsidize the dues of those who are.”

Dominic Pino, a fellow at the National Review Institute, wrote, “By making union dues tax deductible, Democrats are essentially making it more financially viable for people to contribute to organizations that help elect Democrats.”

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 99 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

No public-sector union bills saw activity this week.



North Carolina court strikes down voter ID law as unconstitutional

On Sept.17, 2021, a three-judge panel of the Wake County Superior Court ruled 2-1 that North Carolina’s voter ID law violates the state constitution. As a result, the court blocked enforcement of the law.

The court found that “the evidence at trial [is] sufficient to show that the enactment of [the voter ID law] was motivated at least in part by an unconstitutional intent to target African American voters.” The court also ruled that “[o]ther, less restrictive voter ID laws would have sufficed to achieve the legitimate nonracial purposes of implementing the constitutional amendment requiring voter ID, deterring fraud, or enhancing voter confident.” Judges Michael O’Foghludha and Vince M. Rozier Jr. formed the majority. Judge Nathaniel J. Poovey dissented. Sam Hayes, general counsel for House Speaker Tim Moore (R), said Moore would appeal the ruling.

The court’s order represents its final judgment on the matter. The court had previously issued a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the law on a temporary basis, pending resolution on the merits.

This ruling is the most recent in a series of legal developments involving North Carolina’s voter ID law. On Nov. 6, 2018, North Carolina voters approved a state constitutional amendment establishing a photo identification requirement for voters. The state legislature, with Republican majorities in both chambers, approved implementing legislation (SB 824) in December of that year, overriding Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s veto. Lawsuits immediately followed, both in federal and state-level courts. In December 2019, a federal district court temporarily enjoined SB 824, but this ruling was subsequently overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. The state lawsuit giving rise to the Sept. 17 order has been ongoing since 2019.



Public-sector union responses to COVID-19 vaccine mandates

Exploring public-sector union responses to COVID-19 vaccine mandates

Public-sector unions have issued a range of responses to federal and state mandates requiring government workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine. However, most unions state that they should have input on how such policies are implemented. 

Public-sector union responses to federal vaccine mandate

On Sept. 9, President Joe Biden (D) announced a new COVID-19 plan, including “an emergency rule to require all employers with 100 or more employees … to ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated or show a negative test at least once a week.” The same day, Biden signed Executive Order 14043, which states that in order to promote workforce health and safety, “it is necessary to require COVID-19 vaccination for all Federal employees, subject to such exceptions as required by law.” 

Representatives from major public-sector unions responded:     

  • AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said on Sept. 10, “The resurgence of COVID-19 requires swift and immediate action, and we commend President Biden for taking additional steps to help put an end to this crisis. Everyone should be vaccinated—as one step in stopping the pandemic. Workers and unions should have a voice in shaping these policies.” 
  • On Sept. 9, American Federation of Government Employees President Everett Kelley said, “Since the vaccines first became widely available, we have strongly encouraged all our members to take one of the several safe, effective vaccines against COVID-19. … Likewise, since President Biden made his first major announcement about changing COVID-19 protocols for the federal workforce in response to the surging Delta variant, we have said that changes like this should be negotiated with our bargaining units where appropriate. … Neither of these positions has changed. We expect to bargain over this change prior to implementation, and we urge everyone who is able to get vaccinated as soon as they can do so.”
  • American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said on Sept. 9, “The AFT wants to beat the pandemic, and that means now we must work together as a community. That’s why we stand in complete support of this plan and of the administration’s effort to protect as many people as possible.” 
  • On Sept. 9, Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association President Larry Cosme said, “The Biden-Harris Administration’s action to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine for all federal employees is ill conceived. … This executive order villainizes employees for reasonable concerns and hesitancies and inserts the federal government into individual medical decisions. People should not be made to feel uncomfortable for making a reasonable medical choice.”
  • On Sept. 15, the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) stated, “Currently, it is unclear how the executive orders and [emergency rule for employers with over 100 employees] will affect letter carriers and the Postal Service. As more information becomes available, NALC will review and bargain over any rulings that affect our members.” The American Postal Workers Union (APWU) stated on Sept. 10 that Biden’s executive orders “do not expressly apply to Postal Service Employees,” and that the union was waiting for more information on the emergency rule. In July, the union stated, “While the APWU leadership continues to encourage postal workers to voluntarily get vaccinated, it is not the role of the federal government to mandate vaccinations for the employees we represent.” 

Public-sector union responses to state vaccine mandates

Twenty states have issued COVID-19 vaccine requirements for state employees. Here are how some unions responded in four states: California, Hawaii, Vermont, and Washington.  

California

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced on July 26 that all state employees would be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing. 

Some unions, including SEIU Local 1000, the International Union of Operating Engineers, and  Cal Fire Local 2881, filed complaints following the mandate. SEIU Local 1000 sent a cease and desist letter to the California Department of Human Resources that said, “This is a change in the terms and working conditions of our represented employees and requires meeting and conferring with the union prior to implementing the change.” Tim Edwards, president of Cal Fire Local 2881, said, “We oppose mandating vaccinations and believe the state has a contractual obligation to meet and confer with labor over any possible impacts to the employees.”

Other unions expressed more support for the mandate. Glen Stailey, president of the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, said: “Newsom’s new vaccine policy is a reasonable compromise that we can get behind. It provides for regular testing at work for those who have chosen not to get vaccinated — this will prevent the spread of the virus among correctional officers and incarcerated individuals alike.” The California Statewide Law Enforcement Association said the union was “in the process of confirming that testing will be done at no cost to the employee and on State time and how employees will be compensated for self-quarantine if mandated to do so.”  

Hawaii

Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) issued a proclamation on Aug. 5 requiring state and county employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 or undergo regular testing. The same day, six public-sector unions—the Hawaii State Teachers Association, the Hawaii Fire Fighters Association, Hawaii Government Employees Association, the State of Hawaii Organization of Police Officers, the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, and the United Public Workers—released a joint statement responding to the mandate. The unions said they had contacted the governor’s office “to initiate discussions about the vaccine mandate” but had been denied. The statement continued: “The emergency proclamation will impact our members’ working conditions and the employer must bargain those impacts with the appropriate collective bargaining units. Details on how tests will be administered, how results will be kept confidential, and how the state will fund this mandate will need to be negotiated with the state and we look forward to having those discussions right away.”

Vermont

On Sept. 8, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) announced that the state’s vaccine requirement would be expanded to all state executive branch employees. Vermont State Employees Association (VSEA) President Steve Howard said, “The low hanging fruit is maybe requiring it of state employees. … The tougher part, which requires some leadership, is to say to the public, ‘You have to do your part.’”  

Washington

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced a vaccine requirement for state workers on Aug. 9. Washington Federation of State Employees/AFSCME Council 28 (WFSE)’s initial attempts to reach a bargaining agreement with the state over the mandate were unsuccessful, and WFSE filed an unfair labor practice lawsuit in the Thurston County Superior Court on Aug. 26. A press release from the union said: “[Inslee’s] proclamation impairs the union’s right to bargain on behalf of employees and impairs the ability to ensure a fair and reasonable exemption process. The lawsuit alleges an unfair labor practice for refusal to bargain in good faith.”

After further negotiations with the state, WFSE members ratified an agreement on Sept. 9 outlining an exemption process and conditions of employment. WFSE President Mike Yestramski said: “Our union was able to achieve what we set out for—a victory for public health and due process. … Now, we have an agreement that incentivizes vaccination and helps ensure a fair process for workers requesting a medical or religious exemption.” Since an agreement has been reached, WFSE is dropping the lawsuit. 

For more information about the 20 states that have issued vaccine requirements for state employees, click here

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 99 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking. 

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

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

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. 

  • Delaware HB237: This bill grants select law enforcement officers the right of organization and representation.  
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Governor signed Sept. 10. 



Union Station: Biden, AFSCME include Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act in Labor Day statements

Biden, AFSCME include Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act in Labor Day statements

Over Labor Day weekend, President Joe Biden (D) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) each reiterated their endorsements of the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act (PSFNA), congressional legislation originally introduced in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 decision in Janus v. AFSCME

Biden issued a Labor Day proclamation on Sept. 3 that said, “American workers should make their own decisions –- free from coercion and intimidation — about organizing with their co-workers to have a stronger voice in their workplaces, their communities, and their government. That is why I strongly support the Protecting the Right to Organize [PRO] Act and the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act.” (The PRO Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives in March, would amend federal labor laws for private sector workers.) 

AFSCME President Lee Saunders said in a Labor Day statement that the PSFNA would “empower public employees nationwide with collective bargaining rights, giving us the seat at the table we deserve.” AFSCME also highlighted its support for the act on its blog and Facebook page over the weekend. 

About the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act 

First introduced the day of the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME, and reintroduced a year later, the PSFNA would “[set] a minimum nationwide standard for collective bargaining rights that all states must provide to public sector workers,” according to the bill’s fact sheet.  

Versions of the bill were introduced and referred to committee in June 2018, during the 115th Congress, and in June 2019, during the 116th Congress. Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-Pa.) sponsored the bill both years. Neither version of the bill made it to a vote.

The 2019 bill says, “Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, the [Federal Labor Relations Authority] shall issue rules and take such actions that the Authority determines appropriate to establish and administer collective bargaining rights and procedures that substantially provide for the rights and procedures described in [the section of the act outlining federal minimum standards for collective bargaining rights].” The Federal Labor Relations Authority is the entity that administers federal labor relations.

The bill would establish the following rights for public employees: 

(A) to self-organization;

(B) to form, join, or assist a labor organization or to refrain from any such activity;

(C) to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing; and

(D) to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid (including the filing of joint class or collective legal claims) or protection.

For more information about each version of the bill on Congress.gov, click here.

Perspectives

Support

  • In August 2020, a report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) said: “Currently more than half of the states lack comprehensive collective bargaining laws for public-service workers like teachers. Public-service workers deserve the right to join together in unions to fight for stronger safety and health protections, better pay, and better working conditions.” The EPI describes its mission as “to inform and empower individuals to seek solutions that ensure broadly shared prosperity and opportunity.”  
  • A fact sheet for the Communications Workers of America’s June 2020 legislative-political conference said, “Since the outrageous, anti-worker Supreme Court decision in Janus vs. AFSCME, public service workers across the country work under this unfair free rider law. It’s time to level the playing field by establishing federal protections to guarantee public service workers the right to join together and collectively bargain.” 
  • An October 2019 AFL-CIO legislative alert said, “Unlike the private sector, there is no federal law that protects the freedom of state and local public service workers to join in a union and collectively bargain for fair wages, hours, and working conditions. … It’s time to even the playing field for working people and public servants by passing the Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act.”  
  • A June 2019 legislative report from AFSCME said the PSFNA was “needed to unrig a system that favors the wealthy over working people. It marks another big step forward in the growing political and grassroots momentum behind unions after years of attacks on workers from right-wing special interests and politicians.”
  • In June 2019, American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said, “The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act closes the chasm in public sector bargaining rights, ensuring minimum standards are in place across the nation, while retaining flexibility for states to write and administer their own laws. … [T]his bill helps public workers achieve together what would be impossible alone—better and more-efficient services, dignity and a voice at work, and fair compensation and benefits for the work they do. We are proud to support it.” 

Opposition

  • In March 2021, National Right to Work Committee (NRTWC) President Mark Mix wrote, “A federal power grab introduced in the 2019-20 Congress as H.R.3464/S.1970, and strongly endorsed by Biden … would, by federal fiat, foist union monopoly bargaining on state and local fire fighters and other public-sector workers in all 50 states.” NRTWC describes itself as “a coalition of 2.8 million workers and concerned Americans fighting to break the chains of forced unionism.”
  • A January 2021 report from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy said, “The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act represents another tremendous threat to worker freedom. This act, while incapable of overriding the Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus v. AFSCME decision … would nevertheless drastically limit state’s [sic] abilities to manage government employees. … Most notably, the PSFNA would force all states to adopt collective bargaining with almost no limitation.” The Mackinac Center describes itself as “a nonprofit research and educational institute that advances the principles of free markets and limited government.” 
  • In September 2019, Empire Center for Public Policy fellow Ken Girardin said, “While supporters claim the proposed law merely intends to protect union bargaining rights, it would represent a major change in the federal government’s long-standing neutrality towards state and local labor relations. … Requiring binding arbitration, as opposed to simply allowing parties to come to terms directly, would be a one-way street to inflexible and expensive labor deals.” The Empire Center, a New York–based think tank, says its mission is to “Make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government.”  
  • In July 2018, Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) policy analyst Trey Kovacs wrote, “The more concerning aspect of the bill is it grants broad power to the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA), which currently governs only federal employee labor relations, to enforce the legislation and to determine whether states are in compliance with its requirements. … The FLRA’s regulations will essentially override current state labor relations law and establish collective bargaining procedures for the state.” CEI’s mission is to “promote both freedom and fairness by making good policy good politics.”

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 99 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

No public-sector union bills saw activity this week.




Louisiana Secretary of State announces delayed fall election date

On Sept. 8, Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin (R) announced that Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) had agreed to postpone the state’s fall elections. According to Ardoin, the first-round and second-round elections will now take place on Nov. 13 and Dec. 11, respectively. The first-round and second-round elections were originally scheduled to take place on Oct. 9 and Nov. 13. The governor’s office has not yet confirmed the change. 

In a Sept. 7 press release outlining his recommendation for the postponements, Ardoin said, “A number of issues stemming from Hurricane Ida’s devastation, including questions about nursing home operations, postal service delivery, extensive power outages, polling location damages, and election commissioners and staff members still displaced, would make holding the election on its original dates virtually impossible without impairing the integrity of the election.”

The fall ballot includes three special state legislative elections, municipal elections in New Orleans, four constitutional amendments, and several local ballot initiatives. Additional announcements regarding election-related deadlines are expected in the coming days. 

The Louisana majority-vote system differs from those used in the other 49 states. In Louisiana, all candidates running for a local, state, or federal office appear on the same ballot in either October (in odd-numbered years) or November (in even-numbered years), regardless of their partisan affiliations. If a candidate wins a simple majority of all votes cast for the office (i.e., 50%, plus one vote), he or she wins the election outright. If no candidate meets that threshold, the top two finishers, regardless of their partisan affiliations, advance to a second election in December. In that election, the candidate who receives the greatest number of votes wins.

Additional reading:



Federal appeals court rejects claim that Georgia requirement that voters pay postage for absentee/mail-in ballots amounts to a poll tax

On Aug. 27, 2021, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit unanimously affirmed a lower court’s decision finding that a Georgia law requiring voters to pay the price of postage for returning absentee/mail-in ballots does not constitute an illegal poll tax. The plaintiffs had argued that requiring absentee/mail-in voters to pay the price of postage amounted to levying a poll tax, violating the Fourteenth and Twenty-Fourth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The defendants (state and local election officials) moved to dismiss. A U.S. District Court granted the motion to dismiss, citing “[t]he fact that any registered voter may vote in Georgia on election day without purchasing a stamp, and without undertaking any ‘extra steps’ besides showing up at the voting precinct and complying with generally applicable election regulations.” The plaintiffs then appealed to the Eleventh Circuit.

The Eleventh Circuit panel—comprising Judges Elizabeth Branch (a Donald Trump (R) appointee), Britt Grant (another Trump appointee), and Edward Carnes (a George H.W. Bush (R) appointee)—unanimously affirmed the lower court’s ruling. Branch, writing for the court, said, “While voting often involves incidental costs like transportation, parking, child care, taking time off work, and—for those who choose to vote absentee by mail—the cost of a postage stamp, those incidental costs do not mean that Georgia has imposed an unconstitutional poll tax or fee on its voters.”

In response to the ruling, Sean Young, legal director for the Georgia affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union (which was involved in the suit on behalf of the plaintiffs), said, “We are disappointed in the outcome. The ACLU of Georgia will continue to protect the sacred fundamental right to vote.” Regarding the possibility of an appeal to the Supreme Court of the United States, Young said, “All legal options remain on the table.”

Additional reading:



Union Station: Lawyers file class action complaint against State Bar of Texas

Lawyers file class action complaint against State Bar of Texas

On Aug. 30, three members of the State Bar of Texas filed a class action complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas alleging that the bar is violating their First Amendment rights. 

About the complaint 

The plaintiffs are attorneys Robert S. Bennett, Nachael Foster, and Andrew Bayley. Their complaint is a class action suit on behalf of “all Texas-licensed attorneys, past or present, and on either active or inactive status, who have endured First Amendment violations because of the Texas Bar’s relevant unlawful conduct.” Richard A. Robins, who runs the website texasbarsunset.com, represents the plaintiffs. The complaint names the Texas Bar “and culpable officials within it” as defendants. 

The complaint references the Fifth Circuit’s July 2021 ruling in McDonald v. Longley. In that case, a three-judge panel ruled that because the Texas Bar engaged in ideological activities that were not relevant to its core functions, compelling lawyers to join the bar violated their First Amendment rights. 

Referring to that decision, the complaint states that the Fifth Circuit “ruled that the Defendants have impermissibly, unlawfully and enduringly spent attorney members’ coercively extracted annual dues on ideological and political endeavors that are not germane to regulating or improving the practice of law here in Texas.” The plaintiffs allege the bar has “continued demanding full dues payments from the membership by no later than [August 31, 2021]. As of the date of this filing, they have also offered no refunds for their already sufficiently proven and established transgressions. They continue proceeding callously, resulting in further damage to the Class.” 

The plaintiffs allege that by requiring members to pay dues, the bar violates their freedoms of association, speech, and—in some cases—religion.

Reuters reports: “Texas Bar spokesman Amy Starnes said the association is committed to complying with the 5th Circuit decision in a timely manner, and is taking steps to update its policies and procedures. She said the new complaint is being reviewed.” 

The case name and number are Bennett v. Texas (4:21-cv-02829).

About McDonald v. Longley

On March 6, 2019, plaintiffs Tony McDonald, Joshua Hammer, and Mark Pulliam filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas claiming mandatory membership in the State Bar of Texas violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The plaintiffs alleged that the bar’s opt-out process was “inadequate to ensure that members are not coerced into funding the Bar’s political and ideological activities.”

On May 29, 2020, the U.S. District Court ruled in the state bar’s favor. The plaintiffs appealed to the Fifth Circuit in June 2020.  

On July 2, 2021, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit—Judges Don Willett, Jerry E. Smith, and Stuart Kyle Duncan—overturned the district court’s ruling and returned the case to the lower court, saying the bar “engaged in non-germane activities, so compelling the plaintiffs to join it violates their First Amendment rights.” The Fifth Circuit blocked the state bar from requiring membership or dues of the plaintiffs while the case is pending in the lower court. President Donald Trump (R) appointed Willett and Duncan, and President Ronald Reagan (R) appointed Smith.  

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 99 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking. 

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

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

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of relevant legislative actions taken since our last issue. 

  • Illinois HB2521: This bill allows electronic signatures on petitions submitted for selecting an exclusive bargaining representative. It allows certification elections to be conducted electronically. It also prohibits an employer from promising or taking action against an employee for participating in a strike.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Governor approved Aug. 27; effective immediately. 
  • New York S07355: This bill would prevent public employers from firing or disciplining public employees who were selected to represent an employee organization or who commented on related matters.
    • Democratic sponsorship.  
    • Referred to Senate Rules Committee Aug. 30. 



U.S. Census Bureau releases block-level population data

Welcome to The Ballot Bulletin, where we track developments in election policy at the federal, state, and local level. In this month’s issue:

  1. Redistricting round-up: U.S. Census Bureau releases block-level population data (and other news)
  2. U.S. District Court temporarily suspends Georgia voting law barring photographs of voted ballots
  3. Legislation update

Have a question/feedback/or just want to say hello? Respond to this email, or drop me a line directly at Jerrick@Ballotpedia.org.


Redistricting round-up: U.S. Census Bureau releases block-level population data (and other news)

In today’s round-up, we take a look at the following recent developments: 

  • The U.S. Census Bureau released the block-level data that most states use in their redistricting processes. 
  • Alaska has adopted a timeline for state legislative redistricting.
  • The Texas Legislature has adopted a bill that would postpone the 2022 primary if redistricting is delayed. 
  • Virginia has adopted a timeline for congressional and state legislative redistricting. The state’s redistricting commission has also hired data consultants and technical advisers. 

U.S. Census Bureau releases block-level data from the 2020 census

On Aug. 12, the U.S. Census Bureau released block-level data from the 2020 census. The data include county-level demographic information on the ethnic, racial, and age makeup of neighborhoods across the country. Release of the block-level data has prompted some states to begin redrawing their congressional and state legislative district maps in earnest.

Here are some findings from the Bureau’s press release:

  • “The population of U.S. metro areas grew by 9% from 2010 to 2020, resulting in 86% of the population living in U.S. metro areas in 2020, compared to 85% in 2010.”
  • “The 2020 Census used the required two separate questions (one for Hispanic or Latino origin and one for race) to collect the races and ethnicities of the U.S. population. … Building upon our research over the past decade, we improved the two separate questions design and updated our data processing and coding procedures for the 2020 Census. These changes reveal that the U.S. population is much more multiracial and more diverse than what we measured in the past.”
  • “The 2020 Census showed that the adult (age 18 and older) population group grew 10.1% to 258.3 million people over the decade.”

The Bureau is expected to release a tabulated version of the dataset by Sept. 30. 

Alaska: Redistricting commission adopts timeline for state legislative redistricting 

On Aug. 23, Alaska’s redistricting commission adopted a schedule for state legislative redistricting. Under that schedule, Aug. 12 is treated as the starting point for the 90-day process. The commission must publish its proposal by Sept. 11. It must adopt a final plan by Nov. 10. 

About redistricting in Alaska: Because Alaska has only one congressional district, congressional redistricting is not necessary. A non-politician commission draws state legislative district lines. In place since 1998, Alaska’s redistricting commission has five members. The governor appoints two members, the House and Senate majority leaders appoint one member each, and the state supreme court’s chief justice appoints the final member. State law mandates that commissioners “be chosen without regard to party affiliation.” One commissioner must be selected from each of the state’s judicial districts.

The Alaska Constitution requires state legislative districts to be contiguous and compact. Every district must also contain a “relatively integrated socio-economic area.” Each state legislative district has one state senator and two state representatives.

For more information about the current redistricting cycle in Alaska, click here.

Texas: State legislature adopts bill providing for postponement of 2022 primary and filing deadlines

The Texas Legislature has adopted a bill (SB 13) that would provide for the postponement of the state’s 2022 primary election and associated candidate filing deadlines if new district maps are not in place by the March 1, 2022 primary date. 

  • If a redistricting plan is adopted on or before Nov. 15, 2021, the primary date and candidate filing deadline will remain unchanged. 
  • If a redistricting plan is adopted after Nov. 15, 2021, and on or before Dec. 28, 2021, the primary will be postponed to April 5, 2022. The candidate filing deadline will be Jan. 24, 2022. 
  • If a redistricting plan is adopted after Dec. 28, 2021, and on or before Feb. 7, 2022, the primary will be postponed to May 24, 2022. The candidate filing deadline will be March 7, 2022. 

On Aug. 27, the Texas House of Representatives voted 96-25 in favor of the final legislation. On Aug. 29, the Texas Senate followed suit, voting 30-1 in favor of the bill.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is expected to sign the bill into law. 

About redistricting in Texas: In Texas, the state legislature draws both congressional and state legislative district maps. These maps are subject to gubernatorial veto. If the legislature is unable to approve a state legislative redistricting plan, a backup commission must draw the lines (the backup commission is not involved in congressional redistricting).

For more information about the current redistricting cycle in Texas, click here.

Virginia: Redistricting commission officially begins work on new district maps

On Aug. 16, Virginia’s redistricting commission voted to start the state’s redistricting process on Aug. 26. The commission hired an outside consultant to reformat the raw data that the U.S. Census Bureau released on Aug. 12 for use in the redistricting process. 

On Aug. 23, the commission voted 12-4 to draft entirely new maps rather than use the existing maps as a guide. The commission also hired two analysts “to help with the technical aspects” of drafting new maps. Republicans on the commission selected John Morgan, who worked with Republicans in the General Assembly during the 2010 redistricting cycle. Meanwhile, Democrats tapped Ken Strasma, CEO of HaystaqDNA, an analytics firm that describes itself as the developer of “the predictive analytics that helped the [Barack] Obama campaign make history in 2008.”

About redistricting in Virginia: On Nov. 3, 2020, Virginia voters approved a constitutional amendment establishing a commission-driven congressional and state legislative redistricting process. The 16-member commission has eight legislators and eight non-legislator members. Leaders of the General Assembly’s two largest political parties select legislators to serve on the commission. General Assembly leaders recommend the eight citizen members. A panel of five retired circuit court judges selects the citizen members from those recommendations. The commissioners themselves select one of the eight citizens to chair the commission. District maps are subject to the following consensus requirements:

  • Congressional maps: Approval by 12 commissioners, including six legislators and six non-legislators.
  • Virginia Senate: Approval by 12 commissioners, including six legislators (with three state senators) and six non-legislators.
  • Virginia House of Delegates: Approval by 12 commissioners, including six legislators (with three state delegates) and six non-legislators.

The commission submits its maps to the General Assembly, which can vote to approve the maps or reject them. The General Assembly cannot amend the maps. If the General Assembly rejects a map, the commission must draft a second map. If the General Assembly rejects that map, the Virginia Supreme Court is tasked with enacting a new map.

For more information about the current redistricting cycle in Virginia, click here.


U.S. District Court temporarily suspends Georgia voting law barring photographs of voted ballots

On Aug. 20, Judge Jean-Paul Boulee, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, issued a preliminary injunction against a Georgia law prohibiting photographs of voted ballots. The preliminary injunction bars enforcement of the disputed provision, pending resolution of the case. Boulee, a Donald Trump (R) appointee, wrote: “[The photography rule’s] broad sweep prohibits any photography or recording of any voted ballot in public and nonpublic forums alike. … Even if the Court accepts State Defendants’ argument that [the rule] serves the compelling interests of preserving ballot secrecy and preventing fraud, they have neither argued that it is narrowly tailored to serve those interests nor rebutted Plaintiffs’ assertion that the rule is a blanket prohibition on recording any voted ballot under any circumstances.” In granting the injunction, Boulee said that the plaintiffs were “substantially likely to succeed on the merits of their First Amendment challenge” to the rule, and therefore granted the injunction. 

The photography rule was implemented as part of SB202, an election policy omnibus bill Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed into law on March 25. SB202 enacted a series of changes to Georgia’s election administration procedures, including the following: 

  • Absentee/mail-in voting:
    • Absentee/mail-in ballots verified on the basis of driver’s license numbers instead of voter signatures (the last four digits of a Social Security number, and date of birth, permissible in lieu of a driver’s license number).
    • Ballot drop boxes made available only inside early voting locations during business hours.
    • Ballot application deadline fixed at 11 days before Election Day.
  • Early voting:
    • For general elections, counties are required to offer early voting on two Saturdays. Counties are authorized, but not required, to offer early voting on two Sundays.
    • For runoff elections, early voting period limited to a minimum of one week.
  • Other election administration matters:
    • State Election Board authorized to remove county election boards and replace them with interim election managers.
    • Counties required to certify election results within six days instead of 10.
    • Prohibited the use of “photographic or other electronic monitoring or recording devices … to photograph or record a voted ballot.”

The full text of the enacted bill can be accessed here. Boulee declined to grant the plaintiff’s motions for preliminary injunctions of several other parts of the law, including the modified deadline for submitting an absentee/mail-in ballot application.

Also in Georgia, federal appeals court rejects claim that requiring voters to pay postage for absentee/mail-in ballots amounts to a poll tax 

On Aug. 27, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit unanimously affirmed a lower court’s decision finding that a Georgia law requiring voters to pay postage for returning absentee/mail-in ballots is not an illegal poll tax. The plaintiffs alleged that requiring absentee/mail-in voters to pay the price of postage amounted to levying a poll tax, violating the Fourteenth and Twenty-Fourth Amendments. The defendants (state and local election officials) moved to dismiss. A U.S. District Court granted the motion, citing “[t]he fact that any registered voter may vote in Georgia on election day without purchasing a stamp, and without undertaking any ‘extra steps’ besides showing up at the voting precinct and complying with generally applicable election regulations.” The plaintiffs then appealed to the Eleventh Circuit.

The Eleventh Circuit panel—comprising Judges Elizabeth Branch (a Donald Trump (R) appointee), Britt Grant (another Trump appointee), and Edward Carnes (a George H.W. Bush (R) appointee)—unanimously affirmed the lower court’s ruling. Writing for the court, Branch, said, “While voting often involves incidental costs like transportation, parking, child care, taking time off work, and—for those who choose to vote absentee by mail—the cost of a postage stamp, those incidental costs do not mean that Georgia has imposed an unconstitutional poll tax or fee on its voters.”

Sean Young, legal director for the Georgia affiliate of the American Civil Liberties Union (which was involved in the suit on behalf of the plaintiffs), said, “We are disappointed in the outcome. The ACLU of Georgia will continue to protect the sacred fundamental right to vote.” Regarding a possible appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Young said, “All legal options remain on the table.” 


Legislation update: Redistricting, electoral systems, and primary systems bills 

Redistricting legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 197 redistricting-related bills up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Redistricting legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of Sept. 1, 2021

Electoral systems legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 145 bills dealing with electoral systems that are up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Electoral systems legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of Sept. 1, 2021

Primary systems legislation: So far this year, we’ve tracked at least 20 bills dealing with primary systems that are up for consideration in state legislatures. 

Primary systems legislation in the United States, 2021 
Current as of Sept. 1, 2021



North Carolina General Assembly passes bill limiting nonprofit donor disclosure

Welcome to the monthly edition of The Disclosure Digest! Keep an eye out for our September issue at the end of next month. 

North Carolina General Assembly passes bill limiting nonprofit donor disclosure

On August 25, 2021, the North Carolina Senate voted 25-19 to approve S636, a bill that would make donations to nonprofit corporations confidential. The bill now heads to Gov. Roy Cooper (D).

What the bill proposes

 S636 prohibits the public disclosure of names or identifying information of donors to nonprofit organizations. The bill language reads:“The identity of any person donating monies or other tangible goods to the nonprofit corporation shall not be disclosed by the nonprofit corporation if the person has notified the nonprofit corporation, in writing prior to or at the time of the donation, not to disclose the person’s identity.” It would also make nonprofit membership private: “Without consent of the board of directors, a membership list or any part thereof shall not be obtained or used by any person for any purpose unrelated to a member’s interest as a member.”    

The bill also says donor information cannot be considered a public record, and: “It is unlawful for any officer or employee of the State or an officer or employee of any of its political subdivisions to use or disclose in any way confidential information gained in the course of their official capacity.” Government employees who disclose such information would be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Reactions

The bill’s supporters say it will protect donors from harassment or discrimination based on the organizations they choose to support. People United for Privacy lobbyist Susan Vick said donations “are often deeply personal and potentially put us at odds with what family members or friends believe is a worthy cause. This bill simply protects donor lists from being required for disclosure under the guise of state action as we’ve seen in other states.” Some, like State Sen. Norm Sanderson (R), who sponsored the bill, pointed to a recent Supreme Court decision regarding a California policy that required nonprofits to disclose their donors’ identities to the state’s attorney general. Sanderson compared S636 to “having suspenders and a belt,” supporting the Supreme Court decision. 

Supporters also say that the bill does not change current campaign disclosure laws in North Carolina, and that investigators would still be able to get donor records with a subpoena. “It does not change any law that is currently in North Carolina,” Sanderson said. 

Opponents say the bill would decrease transparency around political campaign contributions and allow politically active nonprofits to hide their donors. Melissa Price Kromm, director of the North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections Coalition,  said the bill “protects wealthy special interest and dark money groups,” and state Sen. Natasha Marcus (D) said: “This bill would allow politically active 501(c)(4) organizations to hide major donors while using their money to support or oppose candidates and political issues.” 

In response to bill supporters who say it protects donors’ free speech and privacy, state Rep. Marcia Morey (D) said “We talked about free speech; We talked about free assembly. That’s not what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about money… money that has power to influence and oftentimes money that has power to corrupt.”

What comes next

Cooper has not indicated publicly whether he intends to sign S636 into law. If Cooper vetoes the bill, lawmakers must have a three-fifths majority vote in both chambers of the state legislature to override the veto. Neither party currently has a veto-proof majority in either chamber of the North Carolina General Assembly. 

Arkansas, Nebraska, Tennessee and Wyoming are considering similar legislation this session.

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 39 pieces of legislation dealing with donor disclosure and privacy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking. 

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

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

Recent legislative actions

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

  • California SB686: This bill would require a limited liability company that qualifies as a committee or a sponsor of a committee under the state’s campaign finance laws to file a statement of members with the secretary of state. The statement of members must include a list of all persons who have a membership interest in the limited liability company of at least 10% or who made a cumulative capital contribution of at least $1,000 to the company after it qualified as a committee or sponsor of a committee, or within the 2 calendar years before it qualified.
    • Primary emphasis: Disclosure
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • The bill passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee in a 12-4 vote on Aug. 26.  
  • North Carolina S636: This bill would provide that, except as specifically required by state or federal law, the identity of any person giving money or other tangible goods to a nonprofit corporation or furthering any charitable purpose of that nonprofit corporation is confidential.
    • Primary emphasis: Privacy
    • Bipartisan sponsorship.
    • The bill was approved by the North Carolina Senate in a 25-19 vote on Aug. 25.

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



Union Station: Biden appoints 10 members to Federal Service Impasses Panel

Biden appoints 10 members to Federal Service Impasses Panel

On Aug. 23, President Joe Biden (D) announced the names of 10 individuals he planned to appoint to the Federal Service Impasses Panel (FSIP), which has been vacant since shortly after Biden took office. The FSIP is an entity of the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA). 

Biden asked the 10 FSIP members who were on the panel when he took office to resign in February, ultimately firing two who did not resign. This move was considered routine: Barack Obama (D) discharged the George W. Bush (R) administration’s panel in March 2009 and Donald Trump (R) discharged the Obama administration’s panel in May 2017. 

According to U.S. Code, the FSIP’s function is “to provide assistance in resolving negotiation impasses between agencies and exclusive representatives.” 

Everett Kelley, president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), responded to the appointments: “AFGE strongly supports President Biden’s selections to the Federal Service Impasses Panel. We are confident that these members will fairly resolve labor disputes between unions and agencies and restore dignity and fairness to the panel and its important work on behalf of federal employees.” The AFL-CIO affiliated AFGE is the country’s largest federal workers’ union. 

AFGE filed multiple lawsuits against the Trump administration panel which alleged—among other complaints—that members of the panel should have been confirmed by the Senate. They based this on the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Some of these lawsuits have been dismissed. However, Judge Richard J. Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia wrote that another pending case “may well be a meaningful avenue to review [the AFGE’s] Appointments Clause challenge.” George W. Bush nominated Leon to the court. 

According to Reuters, FSIP appointees “are traditionally not confirmed by the Senate because the panel is subordinate to the Federal Labor Relations Authority.” Biden did not seek Senate confirmation for his appointees. 

Obama named seven new appointees to the panel in September 2009, and Trump named his first seven appointees in July 2017. 

About the Federal Service Impasses Panel

Title 5 Section 7119 of the U.S. Code says, “The Panel shall be composed of a Chairman and at least six other members, who shall be appointed by the President, solely on the basis of fitness to perform duties and functions involved, from among individuals who are familiar with Government operations and knowledgeable in labor-management relations.” Members serve five-year terms unless appointed to fill a vacancy, in which case they serve the predecessor’s unexpired term. 

The panel investigates requests for assistance in resolving disputes between federal agencies and unions and may make recommendations or guide the parties through dispute resolution steps. According to the panel’s website, “If the parties still are unable to reach a voluntary settlement after the use of these procedures, the Panel may take whatever action it deems necessary to resolve the dispute.” This includes setting contract terms that are not able to be appealed. 

Past FSIP decisions can be viewed here.  

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 98 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

No public-sector union bills saw activity this week.