Lawsuit raises new challenge to Trump’s civil service executive orders

A chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) representing U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs employees in Buffalo, New York, filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Western District of New York on August 13, 2019, arguing that President Donald Trump’s (R) three civil service executive orders exceed the president’s constitutional authority and violate the Civil Service Reform Act.
President Trump issued the civil service executive orders (E.O. 13837, E.O. 13836, and E.O.13839) in May 2018. The orders include proposals aimed at facilitating the removal of poor-performing federal employees and streamlining collective bargaining procedures.
The lawsuit follows a July 16 decision by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that unanimously reversed and vacated a lower court decision blocking provisions of the executive orders. The judges held that the lower court did not have jurisdiction and that the plaintiffs—a coalition of union groups—should have brought the case before the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) as required by the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute (FSLMRS).
The new lawsuit claims that the district court has jurisdiction over the case in part because FLRA has lacked a general counsel for almost two years—preventing the agency from hearing unfair labor practice complaints.
The [[United States Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit]] has appellate jurisdiction over the [[United States District Court for the Western District of New York]]. As such, the D.C. Circuit’s July decision upholding the civil service executive orders is not controlling on the case.

Andrew Yang becomes second candidate to reach 100,000 pageviews, leads all candidates for second straight week

Each week, we report the number of pageviews received by 2020 presidential campaigns on Ballotpedia. These numbers show which candidates are getting our readers’ attention.
Andrew Yang’s campaign page on Ballotpedia received 5,590 pageviews for the week of August 18-24. Yang’s pageview figure represents 8.9% of the pageviews for all Democratic candidates during the week. Joe Biden had 8.6% of the pageviews for the week, followed by Elizabeth Warren with 6.9%. This is Yang’s second consecutive week with the most pageviews among Democrats.
Every noteworthy Democratic candidate other than Yang had more Ballotpedia pageviews last week than the week before. The three largest week-over-week increases were Wayne Messam (43.7%), Kirsten Gillibrand (30.4%), and Joe Sestak (29.0%).
The leader in overall pageviews this year is Pete Buttigieg with 105,981. Buttigieg is followed by Andrew Yang with 100,717 and Kamala Harris with 94,574.
On the GOP side, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld had 16,246 pageviews to President Trump’s 2,053.

Pennsylvania state employee files class-action lawsuit for refund of agency fees

On Aug. 7, Pennsylvania state employee Catherine Kioussis filed a class-action lawsuit against the Service Employees International Union Local 668 seeking restitution for agency fees paid to the union in 2017 and 2018.
Who are the parties to the suit?
Kioussis, the plaintiff, works for the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services. She is represented by the Liberty Justice Center, a nonprofit public-interest law firm that represented Mark Janus in Janus v. AFSCME (2018). The defendant is the Service Employees International Union Local 668, which represents public- and private-sector social service workers at both the state and municipal levels of government. According to a federal disclosure report, SEIU Local 668 comprised 16,507 dues-paying members and 361 agency fee payers as of Dec. 31, 2018.
What’s at issue?
Kioussiss alleges “SEIU should have known that its seizure of [agency fees] from non-consenting employees likely violated the First Amendment.” Kioussiss seeks a refund of all agency fees she and other non-member employees paid to the union from Aug. 7, 2017, to June 27, 2018, the period permitted under Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations. According to the Liberty Justice Center, should the case be decided in Kioussiss’ favor, approximately 2,000 workers could receive as much as $1 million in restitution.
What are the reactions?
Brian Kelsey, an attorney with the Liberty Justice Center, said, “It’s unfortunate [Kioussiss’] constitutional rights were violated. We’re going to make sure she can get her money back now, or at least as much as we can gather that she paid over the last couple years.”
SEIU Local 669 President Steve Catanese said, “The Liberty Justice Center, along with other anti-union organizations such as the Fairness Center, is being funded by millions of dollars in dark money donations from billionaires and corporations. The sole purpose of these organizations and investments in them is to file frivolous litigation against labor unions and undermine the ability of workers to have a voice at the workplace.”
What comes next?
The case is pending before Judge John E. Jones III of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. President George W. Bush (R) appointed Jones in 2002. The case name and number are Kioussis v. Service Employees International Union Local 668, 1:19-cv-01367.

Seth Moulton suspends his presidential campaign

Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) suspended his presidential campaign on Friday, August 23, making him the sixth notable Democrat to do so. “I think it’s evident that this is now a three-way race between Biden, Warren and Sanders, and really it’s a debate about how far left the party should go,” he said in an interview with The New York Times.
His campaign suspension left 23 notable candidates—21 Democrats and two Republicans—actively campaigning for president in 2020. Moulton’s exit left two U.S. Reps. in the Democratic field, along with seven U.S. Senators, two mayors, and one governor.
President Donald Trump (R) is seeking re-election. He defeated Hillary Clinton (D) in 2016 with 304 electoral votes to Clinton’s 227. Clinton received 48.3 percent of the popular vote while Trump received 46.2 percent of the popular vote.

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.) announces resignation

Wisconsin Rep. Sean Duffy (R) announced his resignation from the U.S. House August 26, effective at the end of September. In a post to his Facebook page, Duffy cited the need to spend more time with his family as he and his wife expected the birth of their ninth child.
“With much prayer, I have decided that this is the right time for me to take a break from public service in order to be the support my wife, baby and family need right now. It is not an easy decision – because I truly love being your Congressman – but it is the right decision for my family, which is my first love and responsibility.”
Duffy will be the second member of the 116th Congress to resign this year. Former Rep. Tom Marino (R) resigned his seat in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District in January. As of August 26, 15 representatives said they will not seek re-election to their U.S. House seats. That number includes three Democratic and 12 Republican members.

Early voting begins in NC-03 special election

The special election for North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District will be held on September 10, 2019. Early voting began on Wednesday, August 21, and will continue through September 6. The district’s former incumbent, Rep. Walter Jones (R), died earlier this year. Greg Murphy (R), Allen Thomas (D), Tim Harris (L), and Greg Holt (Constitution Party) are running for the seat.
Murphy, who defeated Joan Perry in the Republican primary runoff on July 9, has campaigned on his support of President Donald Trump (R) and has described himself as a consistent conservative. He has highlighted his work as a doctor and state legislator.
Thomas won the April 30 Democratic primary and has emphasized economic development, small-town revitalization, and improving access to healthcare.
The 2017 Cook Partisan Voter Index for this district was R+12, meaning that in the previous two presidential elections, this district’s results were 12 percentage points more Republican than the national average. This made North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District the 108th-most Republican nationally.

Early voting begins in NC-09 special election

A special election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District will be held on September 10, 2019, and early voting began Wednesday. Voters will be able to cast early ballots until September 6.
The state board of elections called a new election following allegations of absentee ballot fraud in the 2018 race. Dan Bishop (R), Dan McCready (D), Jeff Scott (L), and Allen Smith (G) are running for the U.S. House seat. Unofficial returns from the 2018 election showed Mark Harris (R) leading McCready, who was also the Democratic candidate in 2018, by 905 votes.
Bishop describes himself as a pro-life, pro-gun, pro-wall conservative. He says McCready would fall in line with Democrats in Congress such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rep. Ilhan Omar, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who Bishop calls radical socialists. McCready says he’d seek bipartisan legislation on healthcare, education, and taxes in the House. He emphasizes his plan to lower prescription drug prices while criticizing Bishop’s voting record on the issue.
The race has seen satellite spending from a number of groups, including the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC). The NRCC has released three ads opposing McCready; the group had reserved $2.6 million in airtime as of July 31. The DCCC spent $626,000 on an ad opposing Bishop that began airing August 16. The group also announced spending more than $2 million on nonadvertising efforts, such as increasing voter turnout among African Americans and members of the Lumbee tribe in the district.
Other groups spending and advertising in the district include Club for Growth, Congressional Leadership Fund, Environmental Defense Fund, and House Majority Forward.

Castro becomes 10th candidate to qualify for September and October presidential primary debates, Steyer and Gabbard on the bubble

Julián Castro became the 10th candidate to qualify for the September and October presidential primary debates Tuesday.
Unlike the first two debates this summer, candidates must reach both a grassroots fundraising threshold and a polling threshold. They need 130,000 unique contributors with 400 unique donors per state in at least 20 states. Candidates also need to receive 2 percent support or more in four national or early state polls—Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, and/or Nevada—publicly released between June 28, 2019, and August 28, 2019.
In addition to Castro, the following nine candidates have reached both thresholds: Joe Biden, Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Andrew Yang.
Four candidates have crossed the fundraising bar only: Jay Inslee, Tulsi Gabbard, Tom Steyer, and Marianne Williamson. To make the stage, Steyer needs one more qualifying poll and Gabbard two. Neither Inslee nor Williamson has a single qualifying polling.
The next debate is scheduled on September 12-13, 2019, in Houston, Texas. Candidates have one more week to qualify.

Ninth Circuit panel limits nationwide injunction of Trump administration immigration rule

On August 16, a panel of judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a federal district court went too far when it granted a nationwide injunction against a new federal immigration rule.
What happened?
The Ninth Circuit upheld the injunction, which blocks enforcement of a rule, within the bounds of the Ninth Circuit (Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington) but held that the nationwide scope of the injunction was not supported by the record. The panel said that the district court did not explain why it believed a nationwide injunction was necessary in this case.
How did we get here?
On July 24, 2019, Judge Jon Tigar, on United States District Court for the Northern District of California, issued a nationwide injunction to block a Trump administration rule while court challenges to the rule move forward.
The interim final rule, issued by the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on July 16, aims to deny asylum to people who travel through another country and fail to file for asylum there before applying in the United States.
The agencies argued that immigration enforcement challenges on the southern border allowed them to issue the new asylum rule under the Administrative Procedure Act’s (APA) good cause exception to notice-and-comment procedures. The good cause exception allows agencies to issue rules without waiting for public comment if those procedures would be “impracticable, unnecessary, or contrary to the public interest.” The agencies also argued that they could skip notice-and-comment procedures because the rule involved a “foreign affairs function of the United States” and procedural delay could have negative international consequences.
Judge Tigar argued that the agencies did not show that a public comment period would have undesirable international consequences and that the rule fails the arbitrary-or-capricious test. Under that test, judges invalidate rules that are an abuse of discretion or not in accordance with law.
What happens next?
The Ninth Circuit panel asked the district court to reconsider the reasons supporting a nationwide injunction and scheduled future arguments in the case for December 2019.

This time next year, we will be between Democratic and Republican National Conventions

In just under a year, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) will hold its presidential nominating convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, from July 13-16, 2020. A little over a month later, the Republican National Committee (RNC) will meet in Charlotte, North Carolina, from August 24-27, 2020. At both conventions, delegates will select their party’s presidential nominee and vote to adopt a platform outlining the party’s priorities and values.
Between now and then, Democratic and Republican primaries and caucuses will be held across the country, with the first caucus event taking place in Iowa on February 3, 2020. New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina will also hold primaries in February.
Super Tuesday, the day when the largest number of states and territories hold a presidential primary or caucus, will be March 3, 2020. States with more than one-third of the U.S. population are expected to vote on Super Tuesday.
The last primary elections will be held at the beginning of June 2020.