CategoryNewsletters

Union Station: Arkansas enacts bill prohibiting collective bargaining by state public-sector employees

Arkansas enacts bill prohibiting collective bargaining by state public-sector employees

Arkansas Senate Bill 341, which prohibits collective bargaining on the part of state public-sector employees, was enacted on April 8. 

About the bill 

The Republican-sponsored bill adds the following text to Arkansas Code Title 21:

(a) A public employer shall not recognize a labor union or other public employee association as a bargaining agent of public employees.

(b) A public employer shall not collectively bargain or enter into any collective bargaining contract with a labor union or other public employee association or its agents with respect to any matter relating to public employees, public employees’ employment with a public employer, or public employees’ tenure with a public employer.

The bill also makes public employee strikes illegal and requires public employers to fire an employee who strikes. It permits employee associations “for the purpose of promoting the public employees’ interests before a public employer.”

Public safety officers, including law enforcement and firefighters, and employees of Federal Transit Administration grant recipients are exempted from the law. 

The bill first passed the Senate 24-6 along party lines on March 9. On March 22, the House voted 62-22 in favor of the bill, with one Democrat supporting and four Republicans voting against it. After the Senate passed the amended House bill on April 5, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed it on April 8.       

Republicans have had trifecta control of Arkansas state government since 2015. 

North Carolina and South Carolina prohibit all public-sector collective bargaining. Like Arkansas, some states prohibit public-sector collective bargaining but make exceptions for police, firefighters, or teachers. 

Perspectives

Supporting

Bill sponsor Sen. Bob Ballinger (R) said, “If they are walking off the job, they are walking off the job that is basically tax payers. … If they are opposing something their employers do, they are actually opposing the tax payers.”

Rep. Jim Dotson (R) said, “This is specifically directed toward public employees who would try to physically impede … the activity or operations of a public employer and through that process strike, if they’re part of a union.”

Opposing 

Arkansas Education Association executive director Tracey-Ann Nelson said, “Already in this state we have limited access to bargaining. … Arkansas educators have been meeting what’s been asked of them for several years now and deserve to be treated as professionals. They deserve the same rights as other esteemed public employees and the same opportunity to have their voices heard.” 

Fayetteville Education Association president Anna Beaulieu said, “I have a lot of difficulty understanding why we would need legislation to keep educators from advocating for public schools, public education safe and fair working conditions.” 

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 93 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking. 

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. 

  • Arkansas SB341: This bill would prohibit collective bargaining on the part of public-sector employees. 
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • Enacted April 8. 
  • Florida H0835: This bill would require that unions certified as bargaining agents for educational support employees include certain information in registration renewal applications. The bill would also require such unions whose full dues-paying membership is less than 50% to petition the state for recertification.   
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • House State Affairs Committee reported favorably with committee substitute April 15. 
  • Florida H0947: This bill would require that public employees sign membership authorization cards in order to have dues deducted from their paychecks. It would also require a union to revoke that membership upon the employee’s request. 
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • House State Affairs Committee reported favorably with committee substitute April 15. 
  • Florida S0078: This bill would require that public employees sign membership authorization cards in order to have dues deducted from their paychecks. It would also require a union to revoke that membership upon the employee’s request.
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • Senate Rules Committee hearing April 14. 
  • Florida S1014: This bill would require that unions certified as bargaining agents for educational support employees include certain information in registration renewal applications. The bill would also require such unions whose full dues-paying membership is less than 50% to petition the state for recertification.  
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • Senate Rules Committee hearing April 14. 
  • Indiana SB0251: This bill would establish that a school employee can leave a union at any time. It would also require an employee to annually authorize any payroll deductions of union dues. 
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • Senate president pro tempore signed April 12 and speaker of the House signed April 13. 
  • Maine LD1402: This bill would remove the authority to require public employees who do not join a union to pay service fees to the union. 
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • Labor and Housing Committee hearing scheduled for April 23. 
  • Maryland SB138: This bill would extend collective bargaining rights to employees of the Baltimore County Public Library. 
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Passed both chambers April 12.
  • Maryland SB556: This bill would establish a separate collective bargaining unit for teachers at the Maryland School for the Deaf. 
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Passed both chambers April 12.
  • Nevada SB13: This bill would establish that local governments’ ending fund balances of up to 25% would not be subject to negotiation during collective bargaining.
    • Died April 10. 
  • Nevada SB373: This bill would authorize collective bargaining between state professional employers and professional employees. 
    • Referred to Senate Finance Committee April 12.
  • Tennessee HJR0072: A constitutional amendment that would bar any person, corporation, or governmental entity from denying employment due to an individual’s affiliation status with a union or other employee organization. 
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • House Finance, Ways, and Means Committee hearing scheduled for April 20. 
  • Washington SB5133: This bill amends the definition of a “confidential employee” for the purposes of collective bargaining.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Senate president signed April 10. 

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



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: April 16, 2021 #Edition #227

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

  • New Hampshire’s expiring mask mandate
  • Changes in vaccine eligibility in Massachusetts
  • COVID-19 policy changes from this time last year 

We are committed to keeping you updated on everything from mask requirements to curfews 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?

  • New Hampshire (Republican trifecta): 
    • Everyone 16 and older, including residents of other states, will be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine starting April 19.
    • All K-12 public schools must offer full-time, in-person instruction by April 19. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said parents will still have the option of requesting remote learning.
    • On Thursday, April 15, Sununu announced he would end the statewide mask mandate Friday, April 16. 
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): 
    • All residents 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination starting April 19.
    • Oregon public schools have to open for hybrid or full-time in-person instruction for grades 6-12 by April 19. Gov. Kate Brown (D) issued the requirement on March 12. Previously, elementary schools had to reopen no later than March 29 for hybrid or full-time in-person instruction.
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): Public schools have to offer all K-12 students at least 30% in-person instruction every week by April 19. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed the proclamation March 15. Previously, elementary schools had to provide students at least two partial days of in-person instruction by April 5.

Since our last edition

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

  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Thursday, April 15, the Indiana Senate voted 36-8 to override Gov. Eric Holcomb’s (R) veto of House Bill 1123, hours after the House voted 59-26 to do the same. The bill now becomes law. House Bill 1123 allows the legislature to call a special session during an emergency. Holcomb said he vetoed the bill because the Indiana Constitution gives the governor the sole authority to convene special sessions of the legislature.  

This time last year: Friday, April 17, 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.

Friday, April 17, 2020:

  • School closures:
    • The Hawaii Department of Education closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
    • Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
    • Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
    • Maryland Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon extended the statewide school closure from April 24 through May 15.
    • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through May 4.
  • Election changes:
    • The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued an order extending the candidate filing deadlines for district and county races to May 5, 2020, and June 2, 2020, respectively. The high court reduced candidate petition signature requirements to 50 percent of their statutory level. The court also authorized candidates to collect petition signatures electronically.
    • Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) postponed the state’s presidential preference primary from June 2 to Aug. 11, 2020.


Ballotpedia’s Weekly Transition Tracker: April 10-16, 2021

Each week, Ballotpedia is tracking key presidential appointments, executive actions, and policy developments from the Biden administration. We will publish two more editions of the Weekly Transition Tracker for the remaining two weeks of Biden’s first 100 days in office.

  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to advance the nomination of Samantha Power for administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development by voice vote on Thursday.

Executive Actions

  • The Biden administration announced several sanctions against Russia on Thursday in response to its cyberattacks and efforts to influence elections. After June 14, U.S. financial institutions will not be able to purchase bonds from or lend to the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, the National Wealth Fund of the Russian Federation, or the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation. Additionally, 10 members of the Russian diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C., are being expelled, and six Russian tech companies and 32 individuals are being sanctioned.
  • Biden is planning to issue an executive order requiring some federal agencies to consider climate risk assessments in how they regulate industry and lend federal funds, according to Politico.

Other News

  • In an interview on Sunday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Biden “wants to see major action in Congress and real progress by Memorial Day” for the infrastructure bill.
  • Biden announced his intent to nominate Jen Easterly as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and Chris Inglis as the newly established national cyber director on Monday. Easterly is a former senior counterterrorism and cybersecurity official who worked in the Obama administration. Inglis is the former deputy director of the National Security Agency.
  • Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris (D) met with a bipartisan group of Congress members to discuss the American Jobs Plan on Monday.
  • Cindy McCain is under consideration for ambassador to the U.N. World Food Programme, which is based in Rome. If nominated, she would be Biden’s first Republican appointee for a position requiring Senate confirmation.
  • Biden announced nominees for two key immigration posts on Monday: Ur Jaddou for director of Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) and Chris Magnus for commissioner of Customs and Border Control. Jaddou previously worked at the CIS as the chief counsel during the Obama administration. Magnus is the police chief of border city Tucson, Arizona.
  • Biden sent several previously announced nominations to the Senate, including David Chipman for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and Robin Carnahan for administrator of general services.
  • Biden selected Christine Wormuth as his nominee for secretary of the Army. If confirmed, she would be the first woman to hold that position.
  • Biden domestic policy advisor Susan Rice said the Biden administration would not pursue a White House commission on policing. She said, instead, “The Biden-Harris Administration strongly supports the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act and is working with Congress to swiftly enact meaningful police reform that brings profound, urgently needed change.”
  • Biden announced on Tuesday that he had selected Robert Santos as his nominee for director of the U.S. Census Bureau.
  • Biden is scheduled to deliver his first address to a joint session of Congress on April 28, accepting an invitation from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday.
  • Biden announced on Wednesday that the U.S. will withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by September 11, 2021. This is after the May 1 deadline the Trump administration set as part of an agreement with the Taliban.
  • The Biden administration will pursue a proposed $23 billion arms sale to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) initiated by the Trump administration after the UAE agreed to develop diplomatic relations with Israel.
  • Biden will appear with former President Barack Obama in an hour-long special on NBC to promote COVID-19 vaccinations. To learn more about vaccine distribution by state, click here.
  • Biden announced he had selected Erika Moritsugu as the Asian American and Pacific Islander senior liaison and deputy assistant to the president.
  • Biden announced nine Senior Foreign Service career members for ambassadorships on Thursday:
    • Larry Edward André, Jr. – Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Somalia
    • Elizabeth Moore Aubin – Ambassador to the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria
    • Steven C. Bondy – Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain
    • Maria E. Brewer – Ambassador to the Kingdom of Lesotho
    • Marc Evans Knapper – Ambassador to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
    • Christopher John Lamora – Ambassador to the Republic of Cameroon
    • Tulinabo S. Mushingi – Ambassador to the Republic of Angola and the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome & Principe
    • Michael Raynor – Ambassador to the Republic of Senegal and the Republic of Guinea-Bissau
    • Eugene S. Young – Ambassador to the Republic of the Congo
  • The Biden administration requested the Supreme Court decline to take up a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of an all-male military draft. Elizabeth Prelogar, the acting solicitor general, said Congress was reviewing whether women should be required to register for the draft, making consideration of the lawsuit premature.

Transition in Context: Flashback to Trump’s First Year in Office

Here’s a look at what President Donald Trump (R) was doing this week during his first year in office.

  • April 12, 2017: The Washington Post reported that the Trump administration was considering developing a nationwide deportation force program.
  • April 13, 2017: Trump signed into law a bill that undid an Obama administration rule prohibiting state and local governments from withholding federal funding for qualified health providers offering family planning services related to contraception and other reproductive issues.
  • April 14, 2017: The Trump White House announced it would not release its visitor logs.
  • April 15, 2017: Tax Day protests were held in Washington, D.C., West Palm Beach, Florida, and other cities calling on Trump to release his personal tax returns. 
  • April 16, 2017: Trump attended an Easter service in Palm Beach, Florida.

Transition in Context: Flashback to Obama’s First Year in Office

Here’s a look at what President Barack Obama (D) was doing this week during his first year in office.

  • April 13, 2009: Obama hosted the annual White House Easter Egg Roll.
  • April 14, 2009: Obama delivered remarks on the economy at Georgetown University.
  • April 15, 2009: The Obama administration declined to call China a currency manipulator in a report on international currency practices.
  • April 16, 2009: Obama discussed investing $8 billion in high-speed rail development.
  • April 17, 2009: Obama attended the Summit of the Americas, where he said the United States would seek a new beginning with Cuba.

Transition in Context: Presidential Approval Rating

The following chart compares the presidential approval ratings of Presidents Donald Trump (R) and Joe Biden (D) on a week-over-week basis. This number is taken from the 30-day average of polls conducted by a select list of polling organizations and outlets. Click here to read the list of polling organizations used.

President Biden’s approval rating for the 11th week of his term was 53.5%, up 1.6 percentage points from the week before. President Trump’s approval rating at the same point in his term was 41%, down 1.3 percentage points from the week before.

Transition in Context: Congressional Approval Rating

The following chart compares congressional approval ratings during the administrations of Presidents Donald Trump (R) and Joe Biden (D) on a week-over-week basis. This number is taken from the 30-day average of polls conducted by a select list of polling organizations and outlets. Click here to read the list of polling organizations used.

Congress’ approval rating during the 11th week of President Biden’s term was 24.2%, down 0.4 percentage points from the week before. At the same point in President Trump’s term, Congress’ approval rating was 15.8%, down 2.7 percentage points from the week before.

Transition in Context: In Their Words…

Here’s what Democratic and Republican leaders have said about the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court.

  • “With today’s executive order, the Biden Administration has pledged to study potential reforms to the Supreme Court.  This deliberative approach will be led by two highly renowned attorneys and legal scholars – Bob Bauer and Cristina Rodriguez – and I have full faith that they will lead this Commission with an open mind and a commitment to hearing many perspectives. I look forward to the Commission’s report and to discussions about important potential reforms.” – Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • “Of course, this is just another example of the liberal preference for attacking norms and institutions, rather than working within them. When Democrats lose a floor vote, it’s time to change Senate rules. When they lose a presidential election, it’s time to abolish the Electoral College. And when activists’ cases fall flat against the rule of law, it’s time to ignore Justices Ginsburg and Breyer and pack the Supreme Court.” – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
  • “I welcome President Biden’s announcement, but after years of Republicans upending precedent, breaking their own rules, and stealing seats on the Supreme Court in order to use it as a political pawn, we need more than a commission to restore integrity to the court. We need to abolish the filibuster and expand the Supreme Court.” – Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)
  • “I share Justice Breyer and the late Justice Ginsburg’s view that nine is the right number of seats on the Supreme Court. If every new administration decides they can just pack the courts, there will be no limit to how many seats you could end up with. I think an Executive Branch commission that investigates and analyzes the work of the Supreme Court challenges the balance of power between the Executive and Judicial Branches, and puts the Court in a much more partisan and political place than it should be.” – Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)

What We’re Reading



Biden plans exec order on climate-related financial risk

April 16, 2021: President Joe Biden (D) is planning to issue an executive order on climate-related financial risk.

Every weekday, Ballotpedia is tracking key presidential appointments, executive actions, and policy developments from the Biden administration.

This is the last daily edition of The Transition Tracker. We will publish weekly editions each Friday for the remaining two weeks of Biden’s first 100 days in office.

  • The Senate Foreeign Relations Committee voted to advance the nomination of Samantha Power for administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development by voice vote.

News

  • Biden is planning to issue an executive order requiring some federal agencies to consider climate risk assessments in how they regulate industry and lend federal funds, according to Politico.
  • Biden announced nine Senior Foreign Service career members for ambassadorships on Thursday:
    • Larry Edward André, Jr. – Ambassador to the Federal Republic of Somalia
    • Elizabeth Moore Aubin – Ambassador to the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria
    • Steven C. Bondy – Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain
    • Maria E. Brewer – Ambassador to the Kingdom of Lesotho
    • Marc Evans Knapper – Ambassador to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam
    • Christopher John Lamora – Ambassador to the Republic of Cameroon
    • Tulinabo S. Mushingi – Ambassador to the Republic of Angola and the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome & Principe
    • Michael Raynor – Ambassador to the Republic of Senegal and the Republic of Guinea-Bissau
    • Eugene S. Young – Ambassador to the Republic of the Congo
  • The Biden administration requested the Supreme Court decline to take up a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of an all-male military draft. Elizabeth Prelogar, the acting solicitor general, said Congress was reviewing whether women should be required to register for the draft, making consideration of the lawsuit premature.

Transition in Context: In Their Words…

Here’s what Democratic and Republican leaders have said about the Presidential Commission on the Supreme Court.

  • “With today’s executive order, the Biden Administration has pledged to study potential reforms to the Supreme Court.  This deliberative approach will be led by two highly renowned attorneys and legal scholars – Bob Bauer and Cristina Rodriguez – and I have full faith that they will lead this Commission with an open mind and a commitment to hearing many perspectives. I look forward to the Commission’s report and to discussions about important potential reforms.” – Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee
  • “Of course, this is just another example of the liberal preference for attacking norms and institutions, rather than working within them. When Democrats lose a floor vote, it’s time to change Senate rules. When they lose a presidential election, it’s time to abolish the Electoral College. And when activists’ cases fall flat against the rule of law, it’s time to ignore Justices Ginsburg and Breyer and pack the Supreme Court.” – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.)
  • “I welcome President Biden’s announcement, but after years of Republicans upending precedent, breaking their own rules, and stealing seats on the Supreme Court in order to use it as a political pawn, we need more than a commission to restore integrity to the court. We need to abolish the filibuster and expand the Supreme Court.” – Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.)
  • “I share Justice Breyer and the late Justice Ginsburg’s view that nine is the right number of seats on the Supreme Court. If every new administration decides they can just pack the courts, there will be no limit to how many seats you could end up with. I think an Executive Branch commission that investigates and analyzes the work of the Supreme Court challenges the balance of power between the Executive and Judicial Branches, and puts the Court in a much more partisan and political place than it should be.” – Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)

What We’re Reading



The Daily Brew: All U.S. adults eligible for coronavirus vaccine starting April 19

Welcome to the Friday, April 16, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. All U.S. adults to be eligible for coronavirus vaccine starting April 19
  2. Join our State of Redistricting briefing April 21
  3. Nebraska governor appoints new Insurance director

All U.S. adults to be eligible for coronavirus vaccine starting April 19

Beginning Monday—April 19—everyone 16 and older will be eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Alaska was the first state to offer vaccines to all residents 16+ on March 9. 

The final seven states that will open eligibility to all adults between today and April 19 are:

  • Virginia (April 18)
  • Hawaii (April 19)
  • Massachusetts (April 19)
  • New Jersey (April 19)
  • Oregon (April 19)
  • Rhode Island (April 19)
  • Vermont (April 19)

Five of those states have Democratic governors, and two (Massachusetts and Vermont) have Republican governors. 

Currently, all residents 16 and older are eligible for a vaccine in 43 states. Of those 43, 18 have Democratic governors and 25 have Republican governors.

On April 13, the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended all state and local vaccine providers stop administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.  By that evening, every state and Washington, D.C., had paused distribution of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. The recommendation came after six recipients in the United States developed blood clots within two weeks of vaccination.  All six recipients were women between the ages of 18 and 48. One recipient died, and three are still hospitalized. 

On April 14, the CDC announced its advisory panel needed at least a week to investigate the blood clot connection before determining whether to lift the pause recommendation. As of April 15, this pause had not caused any states to roll back or delay vaccine eligibility for everyone 16 and older. 

Want daily updates about changes to government policies regarding vaccine eligibility, travel restrictions, and more? Our Documenting America’s Path to Recovery newsletter delivers the latest coronavirus-related updates to subscribers’ inboxes each weekday. Click here to subscribe.

Read on

Join our State of Redistricting briefing April 21

On Tuesday, we looked at congressional and state legislative redistricting deadlines in each state. With the Census Bureau scheduled to release congressional apportionment counts by April 30, our redistricting team is gearing up to review that data and what it means for states. We’ve also been following how states are responding to expected delays in getting detailed, local data from the Census Bureau due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Next Wednesday, April 21, join our election policy and redistricting expert Jerrick Adams and staff writer Amée LaTour for a briefing on the state of redistricting following the 2020 census. They will touch on the most recent developments, including:

  • State lawsuits against the Census Bureau 
  • State-specific proposals to postpone or condense the redistricting process 
  • Efforts in some state legislatures, such as Texas, to postpone primary elections and candidate filing deadlines

The briefing will take place at 11 a.m. Central Time on April 21. You can click here to register, or follow the link below. If you sign up but can’t watch live, we’ll send you a link to the recording when it’s available so you can watch it whenever it works for you. I hope you’ll join us! 

In the meantime, check out our page listing apps and software that provide access to population and election data and allow users to create, modify, and share district maps based on criteria such as competitiveness and demographics. Some of these programs are designed for state governments to use, while others are geared toward the general public, but they’re all really interesting to see in action!

Read on 

Nebraska governor appoints new Insurance director

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) appointed Eric Dunning on April 2 to serve as the state’s Department of Insurance director. Dunning starts his new job on Monday—April 19—and succeeds Bruce Ramge, Nebraska’s longest-serving Department of Insurance director, who retired on April 9. Former Gov. Dave Heineman (R) appointed Ramge in November 2010. 

The insurance commissioner or director is a state-level position in all 50 states. The duties of the position vary from state to state, but the office generally serves as a consumer protection advocate and insurance regulator. The nation’s longest-serving current insurance commissioner is Mike Kreidler, Washington’s commissioner since 2001. 

The position is elected in 11 states and appointed in 39. The office is nonpartisan in 38 states. The 12 states in which the position is partisan include the 11 states where the insurance commissioner is elected, as well as Ohio. Currently, Republicans hold the office in nine states where it is partisan, and Democrats hold it in three.

Read on



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: April 15, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): 
    • Gov. Jay Inslee (D) will move Cowlitz, Pierce, and Whitman counties back to Phase 2 of reopening on Friday, April 16. Currently, all counties in the state are in Phase 3 of reopening. On April 9, Inslee announced that counties would be moved backward if they failed two metrics on new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Previously, a county only needed to fail one metric to move backward in reopening. Under Phase 2, the indoor capacity limit for restaurants, worship services, gyms, and retail stores is 25%. The Department of Health evaluates counties on their metrics every three weeks.
    • Residents 16 and older are eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine on April 15.

Since our last edition

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

  • California (Democratic trifecta):  
    • Indoor venues can reopen for events beginning April 15. Capacity limits are based on the county’s color tier and whether the event has testing and vaccination requirements.
    • All residents age 16 and older are eligible for vaccination starting April 15.
  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Thursday, April 15, the Indiana House of Representatives voted 59-26 to override Gov. Eric Holcomb’s (R) veto of House Bill 1123. The bill would allow the legislature to call a special session during a state of emergency. Holcomb vetoed the bill on April 9, saying the Indiana Constitution gives the governor the sole authority to convene a special session. The House first passed the bill 64-33 on April 5, and the Senate passed it 37-10 the same day. It now goes to the Senate for a veto override vote.  
  • New York (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced spectators will be allowed at horse and auto races at 20% capacity starting April 22.

Vaccine eligibility

Note: This section may not reflect the most recent stories in today’s The next 24 hours and Since our last edition sections above. This section details eligibility for different age groups in each state. 

We last looked at vaccine eligibility in our April 13 newsletter. As of April 14, at least one county in each state allowed vaccinations for the following age groups:

  • Ages 16+: 44 states and Washington, D.C.
  • Ages 30+: One state
  • Ages 40+: One state
  • Ages 55+: Two states
  • Ages 60+: One state
  • Ages 65+: One state

For more details on vaccine distribution, including the eligibility of grocery store workers, food service employees, and people with underlying conditions, click here.

In some states, vaccine eligibility can vary by county. The data above details the loosest restrictions in each state. For example, if one county in a state allows vaccines for anyone 55 or older, the state is marked as 55+, even if every other county limits vaccinations to people 65 or older. To see what states allow eligibility for groups in specific counties, check out the New York Times article here.

School closures and reopenings

    Read more: School responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic during the 2020-2021 academic year

  • Two states (Del., Hawaii) and Washington, D.C. had state-ordered regional school closures, required closures for certain grade levels, or allowed hybrid instruction only.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 403,664 students (0.80% of students nationwide)
  • Eight states (Ark., Fla., Iowa, N.C., N.H., N.M., Texas, W.Va.) had state-ordered in-person instruction.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 11,521,986 students (22.78% of students nationwide)
  • Four states (Ariz., Ore., Wash., Mass.) had state-ordered in-person instruction for certain grades.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 3,768,309 students (7.45% of students nationwide)
  • Thirty-six states left decisions to schools or districts.
    • 2016-17 enrollment: 34,893,900 students (68.98% of students nationwide)

Travel restrictions

    Read more: Travel restrictions issued by states in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • Since the start of the pandemic, governors or state agencies in 27 states and the District of Columbia issued executive orders placing restrictions on out-of-state visitors. At least 21 of those orders have been rescinded. 
    • Since April 8, one state has modified its travel restrictions. 

Details:

  • Vermont – On April 9, Gov. Phil Scott (R) updated the state’s travel restrictions to no longer require a 14-day quarantine for out-of-state visitors and returning residents. Travelers must test negative for COVID-19 in their home state three days before arriving in Vermont. Travelers who stay overnight at hotels, campsites, or short-term rentals must complete a certificate of compliance to demonstrate they’ve tested negative or been fully vaccinated. Fully vaccinated people and people who have recovered from COVID-19 within the last three months do not need to test negative.

Federal responses

Read more: Political responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • On April 9, pharmaceutical company Pfizer and biotechnology company BioNTech requested the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) amend its emergency use authorization to allow children ages 12 to 15 to receive their COVID-19 vaccine. The original emergency use authorization restricted the vaccine to those 16 and older.
  • On April 13, the FDA and CDC recommended all state and local vaccine providers stop administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, effective immediately. At the time of the announcement, the federal government was expected to stop distributing Johnson & Johnson vaccines through federally run vaccination sites. The recommendation came after six recipients in the United States developed blood clots within two weeks of vaccination. All six recipients were women between the ages of 18 and 48. One recipient died, and three are still hospitalized. About seven million people have received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
  • On April 14, members of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices postponed making a decision about whether to reinstate the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine after saying it needed more information.

This time last year: Thursday, April 16, 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, April 16, 2020:

  • School closures:
    • New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through May 1.
    • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced schools would be closed until at least May 15. Before the announcement, schools had been under an indefinite closure since March 18.
    • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) extended the state’s stay-at-home order through May 15 and extended the statewide school closure.
    • Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through April 23.
  • Federal government responses:
    • The White House released the Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, offering guidance to state and local officials on a three-phase approach to reopening their economies.


Biden admin announces sanctions, expulsions against Russia

April 15, 2021: The Biden administration announced several sanctions against Russia on Thursday in response to its cyberattacks and efforts to influence elections. 

Every weekday, Ballotpedia is tracking key presidential appointments, executive actions, and policy developments from the Biden administration.

We will publish The Transition Tracker daily through April 16, followed by weekly editions each Friday for the remaining two weeks of Biden’s first 100 days in office.

  • The following committee hearings are scheduled on Thursday:
    • The Senate Finance Committee is holding confirmation hearings for Andrea Palm for deputy secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and Chiquita Brooks-LaSure for administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
    • The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions is holding a confirmation hearing for James Kvaal for under secretary of education.
    • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will vote on the nomination of Samantha Power for administrator of the United States Agency for International Development.

News

  • The Biden administration announced several sanctions against Russia on Thursday in response to its cyberattacks and efforts to influence elections. After June 14, U.S. financial institutions will not be able to purchase bonds from or lend to the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, the National Wealth Fund of the Russian Federation, or the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation. Additionally, 10 members of the Russian diplomatic mission in Washington, D.C., are being expelled, and six Russian tech companies and 32 individuals are being sanctioned.
  • Biden announced he had selected Erika Moritsugu as the Asian American and Pacific Islander senior liaison and deputy assistant to the president.

Transition in Context: Congressional Approval Rating

The following chart compares congressional approval ratings during the administrations of Presidents Donald Trump (R) and Joe Biden (D) on a week-over-week basis. This number is taken from the 30-day average of polls conducted by a select list of polling organizations and outlets. Click here to read the list of polling organizations used.

Congress’ approval rating during the 11th week of President Biden’s term was 24.2%, down 0.4 percentage points from the week before. At the same point in President Trump’s term, Congress’ approval rating was 15.8%, down 2.7 percentage points from the week before.

What We’re Reading



State legislatures considering 124 bills governing ballot measures

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

Here’s an updated look at this year’s proposed legislation regarding ballot measures

We regularly provide updates in the Brew regarding individual ballot measures from across the country. Today, let’s take a look at how states are considering changes to the direct democracy process. Ballotpedia tracks legislative proposals regarding the ballot measure process—that is, state action regarding how initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recalls can appear before voters. 

At least 124 proposals have been introduced this year in the legislative sessions of 34 states. We have tracked eight bills approved so far. The chart below displays the number of legislative proposals relating to ballot measures and recalls by year. The number of legislative proposals in 2021 is not final, as more bills may still be filed in current legislative sessions.

I asked Josh Altic, our ballot measures expert, for his opinion on the most interesting bills so far. Here are six of the most notable changes to laws regarding ballot measures that were either passed or proposed in 2021:

  • Utah enacted a proposal to ban pay-per-signature as a method of compensating signature gatherers who collect signatures for ballot initiatives and veto referendums. Utah’s legislation also made other changes to the initiative process.
  • The South Dakota Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would require a 60% supermajority vote for future ballot measures that increase taxes or fees or that require the state to appropriate $10 million or more in the first five fiscal years.
  • Legislation to enact or increase supermajority requirements for ballot measures was introduced this year in seven states: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. These proposed requirements range from 60% to two-thirds (66.67%) of voters in favor for approval. Some of these proposals apply only to citizen-initiated measures but not referrals, some to constitutional amendments—both citizen-initiated and legislatively referred, and some to measures proposing tax increases or certain levels of funding allocation.
  • The Idaho Legislature passed a bill to change the state’s distribution requirement to require signatures from 6% of voters from all 35 legislative districts for ballot initiatives and veto referendums instead of the existing requirement of 6% of voters from 18 of the state’s legislative districts. In 2019, the Idaho Legislature passed but the governor vetoed a pair of bills that were designed to increase the state’s initiative signature requirement and its distribution requirement, among other changes. 
  • Bills to increase initiative and referendum signature requirements or signature distribution requirements were introduced in Idaho, Missouri, Montana, and Oklahoma.
  • Proposals to establish statewide initiative, referendum, or recall processes were introduced in Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The last state to establish a statewide process for initiatives that didn’t have one previously was Mississippi, which adopted its process in 1992.

Read on

Eight states have enacted laws that limit governors’ emergency power authority since 2020

There’s another area where we’re tracking activity in state legislatures this year—those relating to laws limiting governors’ emergency powers. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, governors and state agencies in all 50 states relied on emergency power authority to enact lockdown and stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, and other restrictions on businesses and individuals.

Since March 2020, legislators across the country have sponsored bills to give the legislative branch more oversight of governors’ emergency powers. Out of the hundreds of bills sponsored in 2020 and 2021 aimed at increasing legislative oversight of governors’ emergency powers, 10 bills in eight states have been enacted into law: Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah. Additionally, voters in Pennsylvania will decide a statewide measure on May 18 that would limit the governor’s emergency powers.

State laws generally allow legislators to terminate emergency declarations and orders or restrict a governor’s authority to regulate city- and county-level public health decisions. 

The political control breakdown of these states is as follows. (A trifecta is when one political party holds the governorship, and majorities in both chambers of a state’s legislature.)

  • Republican trifectas: Arkansas, Ohio, Utah
  • Democratic trifectas: Colorado, New York
  • Divided governments (Democratic governor, Republican majorities in House and Senate): Kansas, Kentucky, Pennsylvania

Here’s a rundown of three newly enacted laws.

  • In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly (D) signed Senate Bill 50 into law on March 24. Under the law, anyone burdened by an executive order, school board policy, or county health directive can file a lawsuit, and courts must respond to the lawsuit within 72 hours to determine if the order or policy is narrowly tailored to the emergency. 
  • In Ohio, Republican majorities in the General Assembly voted on March 24 to override Gov. Mike DeWine’s (R) veto of Senate Bill 22, which placed a 90-day limit on states of emergency and authorized lawmakers to pass resolutions to terminate a state of emergency after 30 days.
  • In Kentucky, Republican majorities in the General Assembly voted to override Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) vetoes of Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 2. The bills limit the governor’s emergency orders to 30 days unless extended by the legislature and grant legislative committees more oversight of the governor’s emergency administrative regulations. 
    • Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd temporarily blocked parts of both bills from taking effect on March 3, after Beshear filed a lawsuit arguing the bills would undermine public health measures meant to protect people in Kentucky from the coronavirus pandemic. Those injunctions remain in effect.

Read on 

It’s Tax Day—in some states

Today, April 15, is Tax Day…in some states. Last year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Treasury Department extended payment and filing deadlines to July 15 for 2019 taxes. This year, the deadline is extended to May 17.

Forty states have followed suit, extending both payment and filing deadlines to May 17. Seven states do not have an income tax. Iowa extended its deadline to June 1, and Maryland extended its deadline to July 15. 

Three of the states which have state income tax did not extend either the filing or payment deadlines. In Alabama, the filing deadline was postponed but the payment deadline was not; interest has not been waived and will accrue between April 15 and May 17. In Hawaii and New Hampshire (NH has no state income tax but does have interest and dividends taxes), neither the filing nor the payment deadlines were postponed. This means that state residents have different due dates for their federal and state taxes.

Just for fun, here are a few facts about the history of Tax Day.

  • The first Tax Day was on March 1, 1914. Congress instituted it following the ratification of the 16th Amendment, which gave Congress the power to collect income tax.
  • The initial income tax exemption was $3,000 for single filers and $4,000 for married couples
  • The Revenue Act of 1918 moved Tax Day to March 15 to give taxpayers more time to file
  • In 1954, the yearly income tax filing date was changed from March 15 to April 15

Read on



The Daily Brew: Who’s running in Virginia’s gubernatorial race

Ballotpedia's Daily Brew

Welcome to the Wednesday, April 14, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Who’s running for Virginia governor
  2. April 6 election updates: Omaha and Anchorage mayoral races
  3. West Virginia to join 41 other states with intermediate appellate courts

Who’s running for Virginia governor

Virginia is one of two states—along with New Jersey—holding a regularly scheduled gubernatorial election in 2021. (Signatures on a recall of California Gov. Gavin Newsom are also being verified. If it makes the ballot, the recall will be voted on sometime this fall.) Virginia’s incumbent Gov. Ralph Northam (D) is unable to seek re-election due to term limits. The Virginia Republican Party will hold a nominating convention to determine its candidate on May 8. A Democratic primary will be held on June 8. The general election is on Nov. 2.

Democrats have won four of the five most recent gubernatorial elections, as well as all 13 statewide elections in Virginia since 2012. Northam defeated Ed Gillespie (R) 54%-45% in the 2017 gubernatorial election. The last Republican governor was Bob McDonnell (2010-2014).

Let’s take a look at who’s running. Note: Candidate lists are unofficial and may be incomplete. 

Democratic primary

At least five candidates are running in the Democratic primary, all current or former officeholders: Del. Lee Carter, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, former Del. Jennifer Carroll Foy, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, and state Sen. Jennifer McClellan. This is the largest number of Democrats running in a gubernatorial primary in Virginia’s history. 

Here are some noteworthy endorsements for the three candidates leading in endorsements and fundraising:

  • Carroll Foy: Clean Virginia, Democracy for America, and three members of the General Assembly
  • McAuliffe: Northam, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and 34 members of the General Assembly (including the House speaker and Senate majority leader)
  • McClellan: New Virginia Majority, Care in Action, and 12 members of the General Assembly

Republican convention

At least seven candidates are competing in the Republican convention. Commentary on the Republican convention has focused on four candidates: state Sen. Amanda Chase, Del. Kirk Cox, 2013 lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Pete Snyder, and former global investment firm co-CEO Glenn Youngkin. 

Some noteworthy endorsements for those four candidates are listed below.

  • Chase: former White House national security advisor Michael Flynn
  • Cox: former Govs. Bob McDonnell (R) and George Allen (R) and 24 General Assembly members
  • Snyder: former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) and five General Assembly members
  • Youngkin: commentator and talk show host Hugh Hewitt (R) and Del. John McGuire (R)

Due to coronavirus crowd-size restrictions, the unassembled Republican convention will be held across 37 locations. Unlike previous conventions in the state, there will be no limit on how many delegates can participate. Delegates are voting members who register as representatives of their local voting units ahead of the convention. Each voting unit is allocated a set number of delegate votes, which are then equally divided among the delegates representing that voting unit. Delegates will cast a single ballot using ranked-choice voting to determine a winner, rather than using multiple rounds of voting. This is the first time the party is using ranked-choice voting for a convention.

Other Virginia elections

Virginia is also holding elections for lieutenant governor, attorney general, and House of Delegates in 2021. All 100 House districts are up for election. This is one of three state legislative chambers—along with New Jersey’s Assembly and Senate—with regularly scheduled elections in 2021.

In 2019, Democrats won majorities in both the state House and Senate, making Virginia a Democratic trifecta for the first time since 1994.

Read on

April 6 election updates: Omaha and Anchorage mayoral races

Last week, I highlighted some April 6 election results out of Wisconsin and Missouri. I’m following up today with results of the Omaha, Nebraska, and Anchorage, Alaska, mayoral races.

Omaha mayoral election

Incumbent Jean Stothert (R) and RJ Neary (D) advanced from the top-two mayoral primary to a May 11 general election. Stothert received 57% of the vote followed by Neary with 16%. Third-place finisher Jasmine Harris (D) received 14%. Though the race was officially nonpartisan, we determined candidates’ party affiliations through the Nebraska Voter Information Lookup

Stothert has been mayor for eight years, making her the city’s longest-serving Republican mayor since 1906, when Frank E. Moores (R) died in office after serving for nine years. Before Stothert’s election in 2013, Democrats had held Omaha’s mayorship from 2001 to 2013.

Anchorage mayoral election

David Bronson and Forrest Dunbar advanced to a May 11 runoff election, as neither candidate won more than 45% of the vote. As of April 12, Bronson had received 33% of the vote to Dunbar’s 31%. No other candidate had received more than 15% of the vote.

Incumbent Ethan Berkowitz (D) resigned from office in October. The Anchorage Assembly selected Austin Quinn-Davidson to serve as acting mayor and did not seek a full term.  Former Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell (R) endorsed Bronson. Planned Parenthood endorsed Dunbar and two other candidates.

Read on 

West Virginia to join 41 other states with intermediate appellate courts

As I alluded to in Monday’s Brew, Gov. Jim Justice (R) signed a bill into law on April 9 that provides guidelines for creating the West Virginia Intermediate Court of Appeals. Currently, the Supreme Court of Appeals is the state’s only appellate court. Intermediate appellate courts serve as an intermediate step between the trial courts and the courts of last resort in a state.

West Virginia is one of nine states without an intermediate appellate court.  Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming do not have intermediate appellate courts. The Superior Court of Delaware serves as both a trial court and an intermediate appellate court. 

West Virginia’s intermediate appellate court will consist of three judges set to assume office on July 1, 2022. The first three judges will be appointed—one each to a term ending in December 2024, December 2026, and December 2028. The Judicial Vacancy Advisory Commission will submit a list of recommendations to the governor, who will nominate judges from the list. Nominees are subject to state Senate confirmation. 

Nonpartisan elections for the position will be held beginning in 2024. Judges will be elected to 10-year terms.

Twelve other states hold nonpartisan elections for intermediate appellate court judges. Seven states hold partisan elections. Twenty states use various appointment methods. In two states—Virginia and South Carolina—state legislators elect judges.

Read on 



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: April 13, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery

Since our last edition

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

  • Multistate news: On April 13, the FDA and CDC recommended all state and local vaccine providers stop administering the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, effective immediately. The federal government is expected to stop distributing Johnson & Johnson vaccines through federally run vaccination sites. The recommendation came after six recipients in the United States developed blood clots within two weeks of vaccination. The CDC’s outside advisory committee is scheduled to meet Wednesday to investigate the link between the vaccine and the blood clot cases. As of the time of this writing, at least 20 states have suspended the administration of the vaccine.  
  • Kentucky (divided government): Gov. Andy Beshear (D) announced the state will lift capacity restrictions and social distancing requirements on most businesses once 2.5 million residents are vaccinated. Once the number is reached, capacity restrictions will be lifted for businesses and venues where fewer than 1,000 people gather. The 12 a.m. curfew on restaurants and bars will also end. Mass gatherings and events with more than 1,000 people will still be restricted. The public mask requirement will remain in effect.
  • New York (Democratic trifecta):
    • Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced graduation and commencement ceremonies will be permitted with capacity restrictions starting May 1. To read the state’s full guidance, click here.
    • Cuomo also announced the state is allocating 35,000 vaccines for college students. 21,000 of those vaccines are reserved for State University of New York system students, and 14,000 are reserved for students at private institutions.
    • On April 8, a state appellate court issued an order requiring about 90 restaurants and bars suing the state to comply with Cuomo’s 11 p.m. curfew order for food and drink establishments. On Feb. 27, state Supreme Court Justice Timothy Walker issued a preliminary injunction temporarily allowing the 90 bars and restaurants suing the state to stay open past 11 p.m. every night. 
  • North Dakota (Republican trifecta): On Monday, April 12, the North Dakota House of Representatives voted 67-24 to accept Senate changes to House Bill 1323, which prohibits statewide mask mandates. The House originally passed the bill 50-44 on Feb. 22. The Senate passed the bill 30-17 on April 7, but amended it to prohibit only state officials, including the governor, elected state officials, and the state health officer, from issuing a mask mandate. It left cities, counties, school districts, and businesses free to require masks. The bill now goes to Gov. Doug Burgum (R). 
  • Pennsylvania (divided government): All residents 16 and older are eligible for vaccination starting April 13. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) made the announcement on April 12. 
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): On Monday, April 12, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced that he was moving Cowlitz County, Pierce County, and Whitman County back to Phase 2 of reopening on Friday, April 16. Currently, all counties are in Phase 3 of reopening. On April 9, Inslee announced that counties would be moved backward if they failed two metrics on new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. Previously, a county only needed to fail one metric to move backward in reopening. Under Phase 2, the indoor capacity limit for restaurants, worship services, gyms, and retail stores is 25%. Counties are evaluated on their metrics every three weeks. 

Vaccine eligibility

Note: This section may not reflect the most recent stories in today’s The next 24 hours and Since our last edition sections above. This section details eligibility for different age groups in each state. 

We last looked at vaccine eligibility in our April 8 newsletter. As of April 12, at least one county in each state allowed vaccinations for the following age groups:

  • Ages 16+: 43 states and Washington, D.C.
  • Ages 30+: One state
  • Ages 40+: One state
  • Ages 55+: Two states
  • Ages 60+: One state
  • Ages 65+: Two states

For more details on vaccine distribution, including the eligibility of grocery store workers, food service employees, and people with underlying conditions, click here.

In some states, vaccine eligibility can vary by county. The data above details the loosest restrictions in each state. For example, if one county in a state allows vaccines for anyone 55 or older, the state is marked as 55+, even if every other county limits vaccinations to people 65 or older. To see what states allow eligibility for groups in specific counties, check out the New York Times article here.

Lawsuits about state actions and policies

Read more: Lawsuits about state actions and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,760 lawsuits in 50 states dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 528 of those lawsuits. 
    • Since April 6, we have added eight lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional 11 court orders and/or settlements. 

Details:

  • Tandon v. Newsom: On April 9, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down California’s prohibition against religious gatherings of people from more than three households. In an unsigned decision, the court found that “California treats some comparable secular activities more favorably than at-home religious exercise.” The Supreme Court also ruled the state had not explained “why it could not safely permit at-home worshipers to gather in larger numbers while using precautions used in secular activities.” Citing its earlier decision lifting New York’s attendance limits on places of worship, the court said California “has not shown that ‘public health would be imperiled’ by employing less restrictive measures.” Although the decision was unsigned, Chief Justice John Roberts said he would have denied the application. Associate Justice Elena Kagan wrote a dissent, joined by Associate Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor. Kagan wrote, “California limits religious gatherings in homes to three households. If the State also limits all secular gatherings in homes to three households, it has complied with the First Amendment. And the State does exactly that[.]”

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the April 6 edition of the newsletter. Since then, Utah and Alabama have let statewide public face-covering requirements expire.

In total, 39 states issued statewide mask mandates during the coronavirus pandemic. Twelve of those 39 states have ended statewide requirements, including two states with Democratic governors and 10 states with Republican governors.

Diagnosed or quarantined politicians identified by Ballotpedia

Read more: Politicians, candidates, and government officials diagnosed with or quarantined due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • Federal
    • Three federal officials have died of COVID-19.
    • Sixty-five members of Congress have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Forty-one federal officials have quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • State
    • Ten state-level incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • Two hundred twenty-five state-level incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Eighty-six state-level incumbents or candidates have quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • Local
    • At least five local incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • At least 42 local incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • At least 26 local incumbents or candidates have quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.

Since April 6, one state senator and one state representative have self-quarantined due to COVID-19.

Details:

  • On April 12, Pennsylvania state Rep. Bryan Cutler (R) announced he would self-quarantine at his home after being exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • On April 13, Michigan state Sen. Lana Theis (R) announced she would self-quarantine after she was exposed to COVID-19.

This time last year: Tuesday, April 14, 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.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020:

  • School closures:
    • Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through April 17.
    • Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through May 1.
  • Election changes:
    • Judge Bradley B. Cavedo of Virginia’s 13th Judicial Circuit extended the deadline for the Republican Party of Virginia to select its nominee for the 7th Congressional District election from June 9 to July 28, 2020.
    • Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) issued Proclamation Number 46 JBE2020, postponing the state’s presidential preference primary election to July 11, 2020.
    • The Democratic Party of Indiana announced it would cancel its in-person state convention, which had been scheduled for June 13, 2020. Instead, the party opted to conduct convention business virtually and by mail.
  • Federal government responses:
    • President Donald Trump (R) announced the U.S. was suspending funding to the World Health Organization, pending a review of the group’s actions in response to the coronavirus.