CategoryFederal

COVID-19 policy changes and events one year ago this week

Although the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020, it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout the year, states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, issued mask mandates, and changed election dates.

Here are the policy changes that happened June 15-19, 2020. This list is not comprehensive. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Monday, June 15, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • New Hampshire’s statewide stay-at-home order expired on June 15. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) issued Emergency Order #17 on March 26. The order directed individuals in the state to stay at home unless performing essential activities and placed restrictions on non-essential businesses.
  • Travel restrictions:
    • Arkansas Secretary of Health Nathaniel Smith allowed the 14-day travel quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers coming from coronavirus hot spot areas—including New York and New Jersey—to expire. 
  • Election changes:
    • United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama Judge Abdul Kallon issued a preliminary injunction barring election officials from enforcing witness and photo ID requirements for select voters casting absentee ballots in the July 14 runoff elections.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

  • Travel restrictions:
    • The Hawaii State Department of Health announced that inter-island travelers would no longer need to follow a 14-day quarantine. However, all passengers and crew would need to fill out a travel and health form before boarding.
  • Election changes:
    • As the result of a lawsuit settlement, the absentee ballot postmark deadline in Minnesota was extended to August 11 in the August 11 primary election, while the receipt deadline for absentee ballots was extended to August 13. The witness requirement for absentee ballots was suspended.
    • Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) signed SB 863 and HB2238 into law, requiring local election officials to deliver vote-by-mail applications for the Nov. 3 general election to all voters who cast ballots in the 2018 general election, the 2019 consolidated election, or the 2020 primary election.
  • Federal government responses:
    • Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf announced that the U.S. would keep restrictions limiting non-essential travel to or from Mexico and Canada in place through July 21.
    • In a joint press release, the Department of Homeland Security and the Executive Office for Immigration Review announced that Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP) hearings and in-person document services would likely resume on July 20. Under MPP, individuals seeking asylum were told to wait in Mexico until their immigration court appointment.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

  • Travel restrictions:
    • The Kansas Department of Health and Environment updated its list of states with widespread community transmission to include Alabama, Arizona, and Arkansas. Kansas residents who had traveled to those states were required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
  • Election changes:
    • The Wisconsin Election Commission voted unanimously to send absentee/mail-in ballot applications automatically to most registered voters in the Nov. 3 general election.
  • Federal government responses:
    • The Occupational Safety and Health Administration released a report for nonessential businesses planning on reopening, titled “Guidance on Returning to Work.” The guidance includes recommendations for a three-phased reopening strategy.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

  • Election changes:
    • California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed AB860 into law, requiring county election officials to mail absentee/mail-in ballots to all registered voters in the Nov. 3 general election. On May 8, 2020, Newsom had issued an executive order to the same effect.
  • Mask requirements:
    • Newsom signed an executive order requiring individuals to wear face coverings when outside the home. California was the ninth state to enact a statewide mask requirement. 

Friday, June 19, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) approved Multnomah County’s application to reopen, effectively lifting the state’s stay-at-home order. Multnomah, which includes Portland, was the last county subject to Brown’s original stay-at-home order, Executive Order No. 20-12.  
  • Election changes:
    • Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo (D) signed H7901 into law, reducing petition signature requirements for both primary and general election congressional candidates in 2020 by half.
    • The Maryland State Board of Elections and the Green Party of Maryland reached a settlement in Maryland Green Party v. Hogan. Under the terms of the settlement, the petition signature requirement for obtaining party status for the Green and Libertarian parties was reduced from 10,000 to 5,000 signatures.
  • Federal government responses:
    • The Internal Revenue Service released guidance for individuals participating in retirement plans that describes how they can take advantage of provisions in the CARES Act that related to retirement plans.
    • The Department of Defense (DoD) lifted travel restrictions on additional installations in 46 states and eight host nations, allowing military and civilian personnel to travel to those locations.

For the most recent coronavirus news, including the latest on vaccines and mask mandates, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery



SCOTUS decides case concerning Armed Career Criminal Act in 5-4 opinion

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) issued an opinion in one case on June 10, Borden v. United States, which involved the use-of-force clause in the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA). The case was argued during the November argument sitting.

Charles Borden Jr. pleaded guilty to possessing a firearm as a felon. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, relying on the 6th Circuit Court’s decision in United States v. Verwiebe (2017), sentenced Borden to nine years and seven months of imprisonment under the ACCA. Borden objected to his sentence, arguing the district court’s application of Verwiebe to his case violated due process protections. On appeal, the 6th Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling. Borden petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for review.

In a 5-4 opinion, the court reversed the 6th Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that a reckless offense cannot qualify as a “violent felony” if it only requires a mens rea of recklessness—a less culpable mental state than purpose or knowledge.

Justice Elena Kagan delivered the court’s majority opinion, joined by Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Neil Gorsuch. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a concurring opinion. Justice Brett Kavanaugh filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Samuel Alito and Amy Coney Barrett.

To date, the U.S. Supreme Court has issued 44 opinions during the 2020-2021 term. Seven cases were decided without argument.

Additional reading:



Federal Register weekly update: 87 new final rules

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The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s overall regulatory activity, accounting for both regulatory and deregulatory actions.

From June 7 through June 11, the Federal Register grew by 1,296 pages for a year-to-date total of 31,426 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 543 documents:

• 406 notices

• 13 presidential documents

• 37 proposed rules

• 87 final rules

One proposed rule concerning hazardous air pollutants and two final rules regarding the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) pilot records database and grants authorized under the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules. The Biden administration has issued 20 significant proposed rules and 12 significant final rules as of June 11.

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.

Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017: Changes to the Federal Register 

Additional reading:

Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018: Historical additions to the Federal Register, 1936-2018



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #265: June 11, 2021

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:

  • Mask requirements ending in Illinois and Kentucky
  • Pandemic-related unemployment benefits ending in Alaska, Iowa, Mississippi, and Missouri
  • COVID-19 policy changes from this time last year 

We are committed to keeping you updated on everything from mask requirements to vaccine-related policies. We will keep you abreast of major developments—especially those affecting your daily life. Want to know what we covered yesterday? Click here.

The next 72 hours

What is changing in the next 72 hours?

Alaska (divided government): The state will stop participating in pandemic-related federal unemployment benefit programs starting June 12. Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) made the announcement May 14.

Iowa (Republican trifecta): The state will stop participating in pandemic-related federal unemployment benefit programs starting June 12. Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) made the announcement May 10.

Kansas (divided government): All state government offices will return to in-person operations starting June 13. Masks will still be required in state buildings.

Mississippi (Republican trifecta): The state will stop participating in pandemic-related federal unemployment benefit programs starting June 12. Gov. Tate Reeves (R) made the announcement May 10.

Missouri (Republican trifecta): The state will stop participating in pandemic-related federal unemployment benefit programs starting June 12. Gov. Mike Parson (R) made the announcement May 11. 

Vermont (divided government): On June 11, Gov. Phil Scott (R) announced there would be new walk-in vaccination clinics open across the state over the weekend. A full list of vaccination sites can be found here.

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

Illinois (Democratic trifecta): The state is entering Phase 5 of reopening June 11. The statewide mask requirement is ending, and all remaining businesses and events can expand to full capacity.

Kentucky (divided government):

  • Gov. Andy Beshear (D) is ending the statewide mask requirement, remaining social distancing requirements, and all capacity restrictions June 11. 
  • Senior centers in the state will reopen at full capacity on June 11.

North Carolina (divided government): On June 10, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) announced a vaccine incentive program that will run from June 23 to Aug. 4. Adults who receive a vaccination starting on June 10 will be entered into four drawings for a $1 million cash prize, and people between the ages of 12 and 17 will be entered into four drawings for a $125,000 scholarship prize towards the post-secondary education of their choice.

Pennsylvania (divided government): 

  • The General Assembly voted to end Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) coronavirus emergency declaration June 10. HR106 passed 30-20 in the state Senate June 10. The state House voted 121-81 to approve the Senate version later in the day. The change is effective immediately. Wolf already ended all remaining mitigation measures May 31 except the requirement for unvaccinated individuals to wear masks indoors. HR106 does not affect the health secretary’s authority to require masks. 
  • Voters passed two ballot measures on May 18 to limit a governor’s emergency powers. Pennsylvania governors can now only issue 21-day state of emergency orders. After 21 days, the General Assembly can extend or end emergency orders through a majority vote. Previously, the legislature needed a two-thirds majority to overturn an emergency order.

Rhode Island (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Dan McKee (D) extended the state’s coronavirus emergency order until July 9.

This time last year: Thursday, June 11, 2020

The first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020. But it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout March and April, many states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. Each week, we’ll look back at some of the defining policy responses of the early coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what happened this time last year. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Thursday, June 11, 2020:

  • Travel restrictions
    • Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D) extended the quarantine requirement for out-of-state and returning travelers through July 31. Ige first issued the two-week quarantine requirement on March 17.
  • Election changes:
    • Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) signed HB167 into law, extending the deadline for a ballot-qualified party to notify the state of its presidential nominee from Aug. 18 to Aug. 25.


Val Demings announces she’s running for U.S. Senate from Florida

U.S. Rep. Val Demings (D) officially announced her candidacy for the U.S. Senate on June 9. Demings currently represents Florida’s 10th Congressional District. Marco Rubio (R) is Florida’s incumbent U.S. Senator who is up for election in 2022. He was first elected to the Senate in 2010.

Demings announced she was running in a three-minute video in which she discussed how her upbringing and experiences had given her “tireless faith that things can always get better.” Demings said in the video, “I have never tired of representing Florida. Not for one single moment.”

Before her time in Congress, Demings served as chief of police for Orlando, Florida. Demings first ran for Florida’s 10th Congressional District seat in 2012, losing to incumbent Daniel Webster (R), 51% to 48%. She didn’t run for the U.S. House in 2014 but ran again in 2016 to represent District 10 after Webster decided to run in the 11th District. Demings defeated Thuy Lowe (R), 65% to 35% in 2016. She was re-elected in 2018 and 2020.

Demings is the 12th member of the House of Representatives to announce they are retiring or seeking another office. Six of those are Democrats, and six are Republicans. Demings is one of four members who are seeking a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Additional reading:



U.S. Supreme Court issues opinion in case regarding grants of Temporary Protected Status to non-citizens

Image of the front of the United States Supreme Court building.

The U.S. Supreme Court issued orders on June 7 emanating from their June 3 conference and issued an opinion in one case.

The court accepted one new case to be argued during the upcoming 2021-2022 term, Federal Bureau of Investigation v. Fazaga. The case concerns the state-secrets privilege and originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit.

To date, the court has accepted 19 cases for argument next term. Including FBI v. Fazaga, the court has granted review in four cases originating from the 9th Circuit. 

The court decided one case, Sanchez v. Mayorkas, on June 7. The case was argued in April and concerned grants of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to non-citizens. In a unanimous ruling, the court upheld the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit’s ruling, holding that a TPS recipient who entered the United States unlawfully is not eligible for lawful-permanent-resident (LPR) status because of their TPS grant. Justice Elena Kagan authored the court’s majority opinion. 

To date, the court has decided 43 cases this term, nine of which originated from the 9th Circuit. 

Additional reading:



Exploring the history of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996

You may have heard about Section 230, but what exactly is it? Section 230 is a federal law passed as part of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) which contains two provisions that prevent internet service providers and website companies from being held liable for most content created by users of their services, including content that could be considered false or defamatory.

At the time of the bill’s passage, household internet usage was limited but rapidly growing. Societal concerns over access to pornography and sexually explicit materials by minors accompanied the rapid growth of internet usage and became notable political issues in the 1980s and 1990s. Congress sought to address concerns over pornography through legislation, including the passage of the Communications Decency Act, which became Title V of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Shortly after passage, the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the constitutionality of the CDA on the grounds that it violated the First Amendment and Fifth Amendment. In a unanimous decision in 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Reno v. ACLU that the Act violated the First Amendment. The decision invalidated much of the CDA with the exception of the language of Section 230, which was not the subject of the ACLU’s legal challenge, thus Section 230 was left intact and remained federal law.

The legal and social relevance of Section 230 has grown in the 21st century as internet use has expanded, causing the provision to attract both critics and defenders. Critics have argued that the law has exempted online companies from a legal responsibility to moderate what they view as harmful content and that it has protected companies that discriminate or censor content. Supporters of Section 230 have argued that it serves to promote and protect free speech and user choice on the internet.

On May 28, 2020, President Donald Trump (R) signed Executive Order 13925: Preventing Online Censorship which included a provision asking the Secretary of Commerce and Attorney General to, acting through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), file a petition for rulemaking with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requesting that the FCC clarify certain rules for the application of Section 230. The Department of Justice, on September 23, 2020, sent a letter to Congress proposing four areas for amendments to Section 230. One month later, on October 15, the FCC Chairman announced the Commission would work on clarifying the meaning of Section 230. On May 19, 2021, President Biden (D) signed Executive Order 14029: Revocation of Certain Presidential Actions and Technical Amendment, which included a provision to revoke Executive Order 13925. In addition to these actions, multiple bills have been proposed since the beginning of 2020 in Congress to amend Section 230.

Additional reading:



Federal Register weekly update: Year-to-date total tops 30,000 pages

Photo of the White House in Washington, D.C.

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s overall regulatory activity, accounting for both regulatory and deregulatory actions.

From May 31 through June 4, the Federal Register grew by 958 pages for a year-to-date total of 30,130 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 389 documents:

• 299 notices

• four presidential documents

• 32 proposed rules

• 54 final rules

One final rule from the Bureau of Industry and Security implementing a court ruling on jurisdictional changes to certain software and technology products was deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules. The Biden administration has issued 19 significant proposed rules and 10 significant final rules as of June 4.

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.

Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017: Changes to the Federal Register 

Additional reading:

Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018: Historical additions to the Federal Register, 1936-2018



Ballotpedia releases federal judicial vacancy count for May 2021

In this month’s federal judicial vacancy count, Ballotpedia tracked nominations, confirmations, and vacancies in Article III courts from May 1 to June 1. Ballotpedia publishes the federal judicial vacancy count at the start of each month.

HIGHLIGHTS

• Vacancies: There have been six new judicial vacancies since the April 2021 report. There are 81 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions on courts covered in this report. Including the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and the U.S. territorial courts, 85 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.

• Nominations: There were six new nominations since the April 2021 report.

• Confirmations: There have been no new confirmations since the April 2021 report.

Six judges left active status, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies, since the previous vacancy count. As Article III judicial positions, vacancies must be filled by a nomination from the president. Nominations are subject to confirmation on the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.

• Judge Ursula Ungaro assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

• Judge Thomas Thrash assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

• Judge Evan Wallach assumed senior status on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

• Judge Anthony Trenga assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.

• Judge Petrese Tucker assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

• Judge Denny Chin assumed senior status on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

U.S. Court of Appeals vacancies

The following chart tracks the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals from the inauguration of President Joe Biden (D) to the date indicated on the chart.

File:BKYS4-u-s-court-of-appeals-vacancies(6-1-21).png

The following maps show the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals at the inauguration of President Joe Biden (D) and as of June 1.

File:UUbHy-court-of-appeals-vacancies-biden-inauguration-.png
File:T7YhD-court-of-appeals-vacancies-june-1-2021-.png

New nominations

President Joe Biden (D) has announced six new nominations since the April 2021 report.

• Gustavo Gelpí, to the United States Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit

• Eunice Lee, to the United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit

• Veronica Rossman, to the United States Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit

• Angel Kelley, to the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts

• Karen Williams, to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey

• Lauren King, to the United States District Court for the Western District of Washington

New confirmations

As of June 1, there have been no federal judicial confirmations during the Biden administration.

Additional reading:



Democrat Melanie Ann Stansbury wins special election in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District

Melanie Ann Stansbury (D) defeated Mark Moores (R) and four other candidates in New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District special election. Stansbury received 63% of the vote to Moore’s 33%.

The election took place after the U.S. Senate confirmed incumbent Debra Haaland (D) as secretary of the on March 15, 2021.

Stansbury served in the New Mexico House of Representatives since 2019. She led the race in fundraising and spending. According to reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, as of May 12 she had $1,348,453 in receipts and $874,861 in disbursements. Moores had raised $595,423 and spent $469,868.

Christopher Manning (L), Aubrey Dunn (I), write-in Laura Olivas (I), and write-in Robert Ornelas (I) also ran.

The outcome of this race affected partisan control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 117th Congress. Leading up to the election, Democrats had a 219 to 211 majority over Republicans. When Stansbury is sworn in, Democrats will have expanded their majority to 220-211.

As of June 1, 2021, seven special elections have been called during the 117th Congress. From the 113th Congress to the 116th Congress, 50 special elections were held.

To read more about New Mexico’s 1st Congressional District special election, click here.