The Daily Brew: Democratic presidential debates, Round 2

Today’s Brew previews the next set of Democratic presidential primary debates + the upcoming primaries for governor of Mississippi and Seattle city council  
The Daily Brew

Welcome to the Tuesday, July 30, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Second set of Democratic presidential debates begins tonight
  2. One week until August 6 Mississippi gubernatorial and Seattle city council primaries
  3. Thirty-one school board members have faced recall efforts in 2019

Second set of Democratic presidential debates begins tonight

The second set of Democratic presidential primary debates begins tonight in Detroit, Michigan. Twenty candidates will participate over the course of two debates on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren will appear in the center of the debate stage on July 30 due to their polling performance. The other participants tonight are Steve Bullock, Pete Buttigieg, John Delaney, John Hickenlooper, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, and Tim Ryan. Bullock is the only candidate participating who did not appear in the June presidential primary debate.

On the second night, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will appear in the middle of the candidate stage. Michael Bennet, Bill de Blasio, Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Tulsi Gabbard, Kirsten Gillibrand, Jay Inslee, and Andrew Yang round out the lineup on July 31. 

Dana Bash, Don Lemon, and Jake Tapper will moderate the event, which will be broadcast by CNN and streamed on Unlike the first debates held in June, there will be no questions requiring a show of hands or one-word, down-the-line answers. Candidates who repeatedly interrupt other speakers will have their speaking time reduced. Candidates will also be allowed to make opening and closing statements.

No debates are scheduled in August. The third presidential debate is scheduled in Houston on September 12 and 13. Candidates will need to receive 2% support or more in four national or early state polls and receive donations from at least 130,000 unique donors to qualify. Seven candidates have already achieved both thresholds—Biden, Booker, Buttigieg, Harris, O’Rourke, Sanders, and Warren.

Also, we asked you—our Brew readers—whether you would be watching this week’s debates. Here are your responses: 

Are you watching the debate?

 For highlights of the debates and all the presidential election news you need every weekday morning, sign up to subscribe to our Daily Presidential News Briefing—it’s free!

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Presidential News Briefing

One week until August 6 Mississippi gubernatorial and Seattle city council primaries 

We’re covering 47 battleground elections in 2019, including four over the next week. Incumbent David Briley faces nine challengers in the nonpartisan election for mayor of Nashville, Tennessee, later this week on August 1. There are also a trio of battleground elections one week from today on August 6. Here’s a quick rundown of what to expect next week. 


Only one of the three 2019 gubernatorial elections is an open-seat race as Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) is term-limited. Republican and Democratic party primaries will be held to select each party’s gubernatorial nominee.

Three candidates are running for the Republican nomination—Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr., and state Rep. Robert Foster. Each has identified different policy priorities. Reeves—who was endorsed by Bryant—says he has a record of experience in state government and will oppose tax increases. Waller has received endorsements from four former state party chairmen and says he would focus on repairing the state’s roads and bridges. Foster emphasizes his status as a political outsider and says he would focus on agricultural policy.

On the Democratic side, state Attorney General Jim Hood, Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith, and six other candidates are competing to be the nominee. The last Democrat to win election as governor of Mississippi was Ronnie Musgrove in 1999. If no candidate wins a majority in either primary, the top two finishers will advance to a runoff on August 27. 

Bryant won the past two general elections with more than 60% of the vote. Two of three election forecasters tracked by Ballotpedia rate the November 5 general election as “Leans Republican” and the other rated it as “Likely Republican.”


Seattle is holding primary elections for the seven district representatives on its city council. The top two vote recipients from each primary will compete in the November 5 general election.

Three incumbents are seeking re-election and four seats are open. The local Chamber of Commerce PAC—which has received contributions from local businesses, including Amazon—has spent more than $300,000 in support of nine candidates, including two challengers to incumbents Lisa Herbold and Kshama Sawant. In 2018, the city council passed and then repealed a head tax on businesses to fund affordable housing programs.

This year’s election also features a public campaign financing program in which residents distribute $25 vouchers to candidates of their choosing. Through the program, $1.4 million has been distributed among 35 participating candidates so far. Fifty-five candidates are running across the seven races. In 2015, 37 candidates ran for the same seven council seats.

Thirty-one school board members have faced recall efforts in 2019

We’ve recently told you about recall efforts against governors, state legislators, and city officials, so today let’s take a look at another down-ballot office—school boards.  

Ballotpedia has tracked 13 recall efforts targeting 31 school board members so far in 2019. Three of those recalls have been certified to proceed to an election:

  • One recall election of two school board members was held February 19 and both were recalled. 

  • A recall election against one board member was scheduled for July 16, but it was put on hold pending court action. 

  • A third recall election targeting three board members is scheduled for August 27. 

Recall efforts against 13 school board members are still in progress, while efforts against nine board members have ended and will not be going to a vote. Three board members resigned after recall efforts were initiated against them. 

As of this time last year, four recall elections had been held against seven school board members. Six members were recalled in those elections and one was retained. Overall, 33 school board recall efforts targeting 74 board members nationwide were covered by Ballotpedia in 2018.

Twenty-five percent of elected officials targeted by recall efforts in 2018 were members of school boards. In 2017, 15% of elected officials targeted by recall efforts were school board members.

Ballotpedia covered 206 recall efforts against 299 elected officials in 2018. Of the 123 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 77 were recalled for a rate of 62.6 percent. That was higher than the 56.9 percent rate and 56.3 percent rate for 2017 and 2016 recalls, respectively.



New Jersey donor disclosure law faces legal challenges

New Jersey donor disclosure law faces legal challenges

On June 25, Americans for Prosperity filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court alleging New Jersey S150, which amended the New Jersey Campaign Contributions and Expenditures Reporting Act, violates the First Amendment. 

  • Who are the parties to the suit?
    • Americans for Prosperity, the plaintiff, is a 501(c)(4) political advocacy group that describes itself as “an organization of grassroots leaders who engage citizens in the name of limited government and free markets on the local, state and federal levels.” The defendants are New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal (D) and the commissioners of the Election Law Enforcement Commission: Eric Jaso, Stephen Holden, and Marguerite Simon.
  • What is at issue?
    • Attorneys for Americans for Prosperity wrote. “The First Amendment safeguards individuals’ rights to associate privately and advocate anonymously throughout the United States. … Protecting the integrity of elections may be a sufficiently important reason to justify, under exacting scrutiny, regulation of electioneering communications, but the same is not true of issue advocacy. Rammed through in a rush to exact political revenge, [S150] obliterates this fundamental distinction and oversteps constitutional bounds by subjecting issue advocacy to the formidable regulations and burdens properly reserved for electioneering.”
  • What does the legislation do? 
    • S150 defines an independent expenditure committee as any person or group organized under sections 501(c)(4) or 527 of the Internal Revenue Code that spends $3,000 or more annually to influence or provide political information about any of the following:
      • “the outcome of any election or the nomination, election, or defeat of any person to any state or local elective public office”
      • “the passage or defeat of any public question, legislation, or regulation”
      • Independent expenditure committees will be required to disclose all expenditures exceeding $3,000. These committees will also be required to disclose the identities of their donors who contribute $10,000 or more.
      • Political context: New Jersey is a Democratic trifecta, meaning Democrats control the governorship and both chambers of the state Legislature.
  • How have the defendants responded?
    • Neither the attorney general nor the Election Law Enforcement Commission have commented publicly on the litigation. 
  • The case, Americans for Prosperity v. Grewal (case number 3:19-cv-14228), was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. 

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We’re currently tracking 72 pieces of legislation dealing with donor disclosure. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

Number of relevant bills by state

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

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

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

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of legislative actions taken on relevant bills in the past two weeks. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number. Know of any legislation we’re missing? Please email us so we can include it on our tracking list.

  • New Hampshire SB105: This bill would establish disclosure requirements for certain contributions made to inaugural committees.
    • Enacted July 15.
  • New Hampshire SB156: This bill would require that political contributions made by limited liability companies be allocated to individual members in order to determine whether individuals have exceeded contribution limits.
    • Vetoed July 15.

Delaney proposes mandatory national service program

Ballotpedia's Daily Presidential News Briefing

July 29, 2019: John Delaney proposed a mandatory national service program. Cory Booker reached the donor threshold to qualify for the third Democratic presidential debate.

There are eight new candidates running since last week, including two Republicans. In total, 799 individuals are currently filed with the FEC to run for president.

Notable Quote of the Day

“U.S. politics is not a national contest. Victories in Congress, state politics and the Electoral College all depend on winning majorities or hefty pluralities in heartland states and areas that are not big cities. Hillary Clinton lost in 2016 mainly because she was whomped in non-urban areas where Obama had lost by far smaller margins. Media commentators and lefty advocates often speak as if the United States is one big national polity, where appeals to one demographic slice or another are decisive. But it just isn’t so. Piling up votes on the liberal coasts matters not at all, if party candidates lose in Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Carolina.”

– Theda Skocpol, Harvard University professor of government and sociology


  • Michael Bennet spoke about healthcare and his rural policy while campaigning in Iowa. He also discussed the death penalty in an interview on The Insiders with Dave Price.
  • Joe Biden released lists of new endorsements in Florida and Tennessee.
  • Cory BookerPete Buttigieg, and Julián Castro spoke at forums hosted by the New Leaders Council Convention Friday and Saturday in Des Moines, Iowa.
  • Booker passed the 130,000-donor threshold for the third presidential debate, reaching both the grassroots fundraising and polling requirements to qualify.
  • In an interview on Up with David GuraSteve Bullock discussed Democratic party leadership and said he did not support impeachment at this time.
  • Buttigieg campaigned in Michigan, speaking in Detroit about racial justice, climate change, and education.
  • John Delaney announced a plan to establish a mandatory national service program for Americans turning 18 years old or graduating from high school. They would receive at least two years of free tuition at a public college or university or tuition for vocational or technical training. The plan would apply to those born after 2006 and would be phased in.
  • The Washington Post profiled Tulsi Gabbard, including her candidacy, lawsuit against Google, and campaign messaging.
  • Kamala Harris released a plan to spend $10 billion on laboratories and other infrastructure at historically black colleges and universities and $50 billion in scholarships, internships, and curriculum in STEM fields. Harris also called for spending $12 billion on entrepreneurship programs.
  • John Hickenlooper wrote an op-ed about gun violence and mass shootings for
  • Jay Inslee issued his community climate justice platform focused on climate inequality. His plan includes tracking pollution hotspots and climate change effects, establishing an Office of Environmental Justice, spending $1.2 trillion on frontline communities, and creating a universal clean energy service fund to address energy insecurity.
  • Amy Klobuchar met with AFSCME Council 61 members while campaigning in Iowa over the weekend.
  • Seth Moulton participated in a meet and greet in the Hamptons as part of the Common Good’s presidential candidate series Saturday.
  • CNN profiled Beto O’Rourke’s political journey from city council to 2020 presidential candidate.
  • Fletcher Smith and Brandon Brown, who helped lead Biden’s 2008 presidential campaign in South Carolina, announced they were endorsing Tim Ryan.
  • Ryan released his industrial and manufacturing plan on Saturday. He called for doubling union membership, expanding apprenticeship programs, raising the minimum wage to $15, and increasing infrastructure funding.
  • Bernie Sanders appeared on Pod Save America Friday to discuss democratic socialism, Medicare for All, and the Israeli government.
  • Sanders joined Type 1 diabetes patients traveling to Canada for cheaper insulin Sunday and criticized pricing in the pharmaceutical industry.
  • Joe Sestak held a campaign event focused on Iran and national security in Iowa Saturday.
  • Tom Steyer advocated impeachment on NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday.
  • CNN published a video profile of Elizabeth Warren on her law professor years and transition from conservative to progressive.
  • USA Today interviewed Marianne Williamson about her performance in the Miami debate.
  • Andrew Yang wrote an op-ed on about why he started Venture for America and his support for a universal basic income.


  • The Washington Post reported on Jared Kushner’s role in Donald Trump’s re-election campaign, describing him as a “de facto campaign manager.”
  • Bill Weld criticized Trump’s rhetoric in an interview on MSNBC’s Weekends with Alex Witt.

What We’re Reading

Flashback: July 28, 2015

Politico examined the fundraising and organizational challenges faced by Rand Paul’s presidential campaign.


The Daily Brew: New York City to consider ranked-choice voting this year

 Today’s Brew highlights the five charter amendment questions Big Apple voters will decide in 2019 + Idaho continues changes to its state rulemaking process  
The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Monday, July 29, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. New York City voters to decide ranked-choice voting for primaries, other charter amendments
  2. Idaho Governor seeks further simplification of state regulations
  3. We’re looking for you…to apply to our fall internship program


New York City voters to decide ranked-choice voting for primaries, other charter amendments

New York City voters will decide on five separate ballot questions November 5 that encompass 19 different charter amendment proposals. Voters will decide in favor or against all proposals grouped within a given question. The 2019 New York City Charter Revision Commission gave final approval last week to the five ballot questions, which relate to the following topics: 

  • Elections—three proposals

  • Civilian Complaint Review Board—five proposals

  • Ethics and Government—five proposals

  • City Budget—four proposals

  • Land Use—two proposals

The elections proposals would implement ranked-choice voting for primary and special elections beginning in 2021 for the offices of mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough president, and city council. It would not apply to any regular general elections. It would also change the timing of special elections to fill vacancies and for city council redistricting.

The second question would make changes to the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB)—which investigates complaints and recommends disciplinary actions against police officers. The ballot measure would expand the board, establish a minimum budget, and make changes to the board’s authority and powers. 

The 15-member New York City Charter Commission of 2019 was established in April 2018. The city last created such a commission to do a full review of the city’s charter in 1989 and voters approved all revisions proposed by that commission. Other charter revision commissions have also been created to propose amendments for specific issues. New York City voters approved three charter amendments in November 2018. 

You can read about the other three ballot measures—as well as the timeline of the charter review process and composition of the charter review commission—by clicking the link below.  

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Idaho Governor seeks further simplification of state regulations 

President Trump (R) issued a January 2017 executive order that instituted a regulatory cap on federal agencies and required that agencies eliminate two old regulations for each new regulation issued. The federal Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs reported in 2018 that the administration’s actions on rulemaking produced an anticipated savings of $686.6 million annually. Some state governments have also undertaken efforts to change how they issue and administer regulations. For example, I brought you the story in May that the Idaho Legislature did not pass legislation before it adjourned for the year to reauthorize all state regulations.

State agencies were required to resubmit all state regulations for temporary approval. Additionally, Idaho Governor Brad Little (R) announced four changes to the state rulemaking process last week.

  • The state will post all notices and schedules for public hearings during the rulemaking process on one website.

  • Citizens may now subscribe to a state newsletter informing them when new rules are published.

  • Agencies will have to include a cover sheet with new rules explaining the purpose of the rule, who is covered by the rule, and who to contact for more information.

  • Agencies will consolidate the chapters of rules they administer to make them easier for the public to understand.

Little said his goal was to simplify up to 60% of the state’s regulations by the end of 2019. He also directed agencies to eliminate duplication and not change fundamental policies—which he said is the responsibility of the state legislature.

You can learn more about what other state governments have done regarding rulemaking and the regulatory process by clicking the link below. And to stay up to date on actions at the federal and state level related to rulemaking, the separation of powers, and due process, subscribe to our free monthly Checks and Balances newsletter.

We’re looking for you…to apply to our fall internship program

We’re looking for undergraduate and graduate students to join our Fall internship program.

It’s a great job that pays (yes—a paid internship—and we can arrange school credit for your work too). It’s not a “make coffee and change the toner” internship, either. 

You’ll learn a lot along the way—taking an active role, working alongside our Editorial, Communications, Tech or Outreach teams.

You’ll publish articles on our website…learn how to spot (and stop) bias..and something else, too: 

You will be making a difference in the social and civil fabric of our nation.  

Our Fall 2019 internship program will run from Monday, August 26 through Friday, December 13. Interns will work approximately 20 hours per week depending on their availability.  

You can apply and find more information at the link below.



Trump administration proposes union dues cancellation rule


On July 3, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) asked the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) to issue a rule change that would allow federal employees to resign from their unions, and revoke dues payroll deductions, at any time after the first year of membership.  

  • What is the current policy? Section 7115(a) of the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations Statute states any “written assignment which authorizes the agency to deduct from the pay of the employee amounts for the payment of regular and periodic dues” cannot be revoked for a period of one year. FLRA has construed this statute to mean that dues deductions can only be revoked at one-year intervals. 
  • What is the proposed policy? OPM has asked FLRA to issue the following statement of policy: 
    • “The constitutional principles clarified in Janus have general applicability to agencies and labor organizations in the area of federal employees’ requests to revoke union-dues assignments under Section 7115(a) of the Statute.”
    • “Consistent with Janus, upon receiving an employee’s request to revoke a previously authorized union-dues assignment, an agency should process the request as soon as administratively feasible, if at least one year has passed since the employee initially authorized union-dues assignment from the employee’s pay.”
  • What comes next? FLRA issued a request for comment on the proposed rule change in the July 12 edition of the Federal Register. Comments are due on or before Aug. 12, 2019. 


Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 101 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)


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

  • Massachusetts H3854: This bill would authorize employers to disclose personal employee information to unions. It would also permit unions to require non-members to pay for the costs associated with grievance and arbitration proceedings. It would require employers to provide unions with access to employees, and it would allow for dues deduction authorizations to be irrevocable for a period of up to one year. 
    • House rejected governor’s proposed amendments July 22.

2020 Dems release union, climate change, and housing policies

Ballotpedia's Daily Presidential News Briefing
July 26, 2019: Several 2020 Democratic candidates released major policy proposals on unions, climate change, housing, and indigenous communities. Elizabeth Warren received her millionth donation.

Each Friday, we’ll highlight a presidential candidate’s key campaign staffer.

Daily Presidential News Briefing Staffer Spotlight - Justin Buoen

Justin Buoen is a longtime Democratic campaign staffer who worked on two of Klobuchar’s Senate campaigns

Previous campaign work:

  • 2014 Mark Dayton Minnesota gubernatorial campaign
  • 2012 Amy Klobuchar U.S. Senate campaign, campaign manager
  • 2010 Mark Dayton Minnesota gubernatorial campaign
  • 2008 Tim Walz U.S. House campaign
  • 2008 John Edwards presidential campaign
  • 2006 Amy Klobuchar U.S. Senate campaign
  • 2004 John Kerry presidential campaign, field organizer

Other experience:

  • 2013-2019: New Partners, partner

What he said in 2018 about Klobuchar:

“Many people have approached Amy about running for president but right now she is still thanking people who helped her lead a major winning ticket in Minnesota. Her support in rural counties and ability to get things done are the reasons most often mentioned to me.”

Notable Quote of the Day

“Yang and Williamson might not have found supporters in the pre-podcast era, said Yphtach Lelkes, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania.

‘Some have called this the hidden primary,’ Lelkes said. ’The ability to easily share podcasts and other forms of new media allow fans to also act as conduits of information, getting past gatekeepers.’”

– Omar Sanchez, The Wrap


  • CNN will host a climate change town hall on Sept. 4 in New York City. Candidates must have reached at least 2 percent support in four eligible polls by Aug. 28.
  • Michael Bennet will campaign in Iowa on Saturday and Sunday. He also participated in the NowThisNews “20 Questions for 2020” series, discussing education, social mobility, and discrimination.
  • In a radio interview Thursday, Joe Biden discussed his debate performance, civil rights, and mass incarceration.
  • Following a rise in cycling fatalities in New York City in 2019, Bill de Blasioannounced a $58 million bike safety plan that would create a citywide network of protected bike lanes.
  • Cory Booker wrote an op-ed on about antitrust, agribusiness, and food mergers.
  • Steve Bullock spoke about emerging technology jobs at the National Governors Association summer meeting in Salt Lake City Thursday.
  • Pete Buttigieg released a workers policy plan Friday that would allow all workers, including gig economy workers, to form a union; seek to establish gender pay equity; and set the minimum wage at $15.
  • Julián Castro expanded his campaign staff Thursday, bringing on former Arizona Democratic Party finance director Joseph Czajkowski and two other finance team members. He also hired a digital director, creative director, and two deputy communications directors.
  • Castro also issued an indigenous communities policy proposal that would create tribal advisory committees within top government agencies and increase spending on healthcare, economic, and other programs for indigenous communities.
  • Tulsi Gabbard filed a lawsuit against Google Thursday, alleging the company violated her First Amendment rights by suspending her advertising account in the hours following the first Democratic presidential debate.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand and Kamala Harris will speak at a presidential forum Friday hosted by the National Urban League in Indianapolis, Indiana.
  • The New York Times profiled John Hickenlooper’s presidential campaign and messaging.
  • Jay Inslee announced his platform on unions and workers Friday. In addition to a $15 minimum wage, guaranteed paid family leave, and banning right-to-work laws, Inslee called for barring companies to hold meetings with individual workers to discourage them from unionizing or asking prospective employees for their salary history.
  • In her housing plan released Thursday, Amy Klobuchar said she would raise the capital gains tax rate for households making more than $400,000 to help fund additional spending on housing vouchers, rural housing assistance grants, and other housing programs.
  • WBUR News profiled Seth Moulton’s presidential campaign, military record, and four tours in Iraq.
  • Beto O’Rourke opened a South Carolina field office in Columbia.
  • Bernie Sanders posted a social media ad Thursday focused on women who support his campaign.
  • Tom Steyer issued his $2.3 trillion climate change platform focused on five pillars: reach a 100 percent clean energy economy by 2045, create a Civilian Climate Corps, provide assistance to communities dependent on the extraction economy, invest in infrastructure, and improve national security and disaster prevention processes.
  • The Elizabeth Warren campaign announced Friday it has received more than 1 million donations. Sanders is the only other candidate to have crossed this threshold in the 2020 election cycle.
  • Marianne Williamson will campaign in South Carolina Friday and Saturday.
  • Andrew Yang discussed A.I. technology and universal basic income in an interview on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah.


  • Donald Trump held a meeting in the White House Thursday to discuss the Democratic primary, small donor platform WinRed, and field operations. Party and campaign officials identified Biden, Harris, and Warren as top challengers.
  • Bill Weld appeared on The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell Thursday night.

What We’re Reading

Flashback: July 26, 2015

Hillary Clinton called for an increase in renewable energy production, including the installation of more than half a billion solar panels nationwide during her first term if elected.

The Daily Brew: Oregon voters to decide cigarette tax increases

Today’s Brew highlights an Oregon measure raising cigarette taxes for healthcare programs + an optometry-related veto referendum in Arkansas  
The Daily Brew
Welcome to the Friday, July 26, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Oregon amendment that would increase cigarette taxes goes to voters in 2020
  2. Arkansas group attempts to qualify 2020 referendum on bill that allows optometrists to perform surgical procedures
  3. What’s the tea?

Oregon amendment that would increase cigarette taxes goes to voters in 2020

Oregon voters will decide a state constitutional amendment in 2020 that would increase the tax on cigarettes and create a new tax on e-cigarettes to fund healthcare-related programs. The new tax revenue would be appropriated to the Oregon Health Authority for medical and healthcare-related programs such as the state’s Medical Assistance Program, mental health programs, and other programs concerning tobacco and nicotine health issues.

If approved by voters, the state would apply the following taxes beginning Jan. 1, 2021:

  • Increase the cigarette tax from $1.33 per pack to $3.33 per pack;

  • Impose a tax on inhalant delivery systems (such as e-cigarettes) at a rate of 65% of the wholesale price; and

  • Increase the cap on cigar taxes from $0.50 to $1.00.

Oregon’s current tax rate on cigarettes of $1.33 per pack is the 32nd highest rate in the country. 

The measure was introduced at the request of Gov. Kate Brown (D). The state House passed the amendment 39 to 21, largely along party lines. Most Democrats voted for the proposal, while most Republicans opposed it. One Democratic representative voted against the measure, and two Republican representatives voted in favor. The Senate passed the measure 18-8, also along party lines. Four Republican senators were absent or excused. In Oregon, legislature-referred statutes are not subject to gubernatorial veto and do not require the governor’s signature.

The last state to vote on a cigarette tax measure was Montana, in 2018, where voters defeated that measure, 52.7% to 47.3%. That measure would have raised taxes on tobacco products, including cigarettes, electronic cigarettes and vaping products, and chewing tobacco. The state would have used the revenue to extend and fund expanded eligibility of Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act as well as other healthcare-related programs.

Cigarette tax rates vary from state to state and, sometimes, between localities within a state. Cigarettes are also subject to a federal excise tax of approximately $1.00 per pack. Washington, D.C. has the highest cigarette tax rate of $4.50 per pack and Missouri levied the lowest state-imposed cigarette tax of $0.17 per pack. Eighteen states, including Oregon, levy a tax rate ranging from $1.00 to $1.98 per pack.  

Cigarette tax by state

E-cigarette (vapor) taxes are levied by state or local governments and vary by method. Some authorities tax a percentage of the wholesale price, while others tax per unit or milliliter of e-liquid. Eighteen states have enacted a tax on vapor products. Washington, D.C., has the highest vapor tax at 96% of the wholesale price. Oregon has not enacted a tax on e-cigarettes or vapor products.

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Arkansas group seeks 2020 referendum on bill allowing optometrists to perform surgical procedures

In other ballot measure news, an Arkansas group—Safe Surgery Arkansas—submitted more than 84,000 signatures in support of a veto referendum in 2020 regarding HB1251, a bill that allows optometrists to perform surgical procedures. 

Petitioners were required to submit 53,491 signatures—6% of votes cast for governor in the last gubernatorial election—by July 23 to qualify the veto referendum for the ballot.

Safe Surgery Arkansas seeks to overturn HB 1251 and are advocating for a ‘no’ vote on the referendum. HB 1251 amended the definition of “practice of optometry” in Arkansas law to allow optometrists to perform certain surgical procedures, such as injections, removal and biopsy of skin lesions with low risk of malignancy, and specific laser procedures that are sometimes required after cataract surgery or are related to the treatment of glaucoma. 

The state House approved HB 1251 by a vote of 70-19. Fifty-seven Republicans joined 13 Democrats in approving the measure and 11 Republicans and eight Democrats voted against. The state Senate passed the bill 25-8, with 20 Republicans joining five Democrats in favor and five Republicans joining three Democrats in opposition. 

Safe Surgery Arkansas states on its website that the bill “jeopardizes patient safety and lowers the quality of surgical eye care in the state of Arkansas. This new law would allow optometrists— who are not medical doctors or trained surgeons— to perform delicate surgery on the eye and surrounding tissues using scalpels, lasers, and needles.”

Arkansans for Healthy Eyes is leading the opposition to the veto referendum effort and advocating for a ‘yes’ vote. A representative from the group said the bill “gives Arkansas patients better access to quality care by allowing optometrists to perform more of the procedures we are absolutely qualified to safely perform.”

Since the state’s first veto referendum in 1934, 10 such measures have appeared on the ballot in Arkansas. The most recent referendum was decided by voters in 2004. In all but one instance, the referendum efforts resulted in the targeted law being repealed or overturned.

Nationwide, 521 veto referendums have appeared on the ballot in 23 states since the first veto referendum in 1906. Voters have repealed 340—or 65.3 percent—of the targeted laws. The states with the most veto referendums were North Dakota (75), Oregon (68), and California (48). The states that allowed for veto referendums but had the fewest number of them were Wyoming (1), Nevada (2), and New Mexico (3).

What's the tea?

We’re debuting a new feature in the Brew—”What’s the tea?”—where I’ll ask a question about a political topic and you can tell us what you think.

All you need to do is read the question and click on the answer that most closely matches your opinion. That’s it. We’ll generally do this at the end of the week and share the results with you the following week.

Sound good? Let’s get started.

Will you be watching next week’s Democratic presidential debates?



Gillibrand calls for excise and carbon taxes to address climate change

 Ballotpedia's Daily Presidential News Briefing

July 25, 2019: Kirsten Gillibrand introduced a $10 trillion climate change proposal. Five Democrats will speak at a presidential forum hosted by the National Urban League.        

Daily Presidential News Briefing - Poll One (July 9 - 18)

Daily Presidential News Briefing - Poll Two (July 9 - 18)

Notable Quote of the Day

“Self-funded candidates have had mixed track records. Political scientist Jennifer Steen look at success rates of self-funders in congressional races in her 2006 book, Self-Financed Candidates in Congressional Elections.

She found that, on average, candidates’ odds of winning actually decreased as they spent more on their campaigns, even among candidates who had political experience.

A prominent counterexample, of course, is President Donald Trump, who gave $66 million to his 2016 campaign, though he also raised an additional $130 million from individual donors.
But in 2018, 41 candidates ultimately self-funded to the tune of at least $1 million. Only nine of them won.

Many of the candidates who rely on self-funding are, like Trump, wealthy political outsiders. For them, personal money is a useful buoy until donors begin to take their campaign seriously. Candidates who self-fund typically list their personal contributions as loans to their campaign, though many never raise enough from donors to pay themselves back. Given their poor electoral chances, self-funders also run the risk of losing big in more ways than one.”

– Jessica Piper, Center for Responsive Politics


  • Joe BidenCory BookerJohn DelaneyAmy Klobuchar, and Tim Ryan will speak at a presidential forum Thursday hosted by the National Urban League in Indianapolis, Indiana.
  • Bill de Blasio said he supported forming a commission to examine reparations for black Americans affected by slavery.
  • Booker and Beto O’Rourke held campaign events in Flint, Michigan, following appearances at the NAACP national convention.
  • Steve Bullock wrote an op-ed in Sioux City Journal on Social Security, Medicare, and pharmaceutical costs.
  • Pete Buttigieg discussed his military service in the final episode of the Reclaiming Patriotism podcast. He also attended at least two fundraisers in the Bay Area in California Wednesday.
  • Julián Castro spoke about decertifying police officers involved in shootings of unarmed civilians and Ben Carson’s performance as secretary of housing and urban development in an interview on The Clay Cane Show.
  • Kirsten Gillibrand introduced a $10 trillion climate change proposal Thursday. Gillibrand called for net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, an excise tax on fossil fuel production, and a $52 per metric ton carbon tax, among other policies.  
  • Michael Kempner, who helped raise more than $3 million for Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign as a bundler, will host a fundraiser for Kamala Harris in August.
  • John Hickenlooper will campaign Thursday in Sigourney, Iowa. 
  • Seth Moulton introduced the Automatic Listening and Exploitation Act, which would allow the FTC to penalize companies whose smart devices record user conversations without prompting.
  • In a newly released plan on racial inequality in educationO’Rourke called for increasing diversity among educators, ending disparities in disciplinary actions, and offering student debt relief for teachers.
  • Bernie Sanders released a plan to increase the number of black healthcare professionals, which includes expanding the National Health Service Corps and related programs in underserved areas; increasing the number of nurses, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants; and canceling student debt.
  • Joe Sestak will meet with the Des Moines Register editorial board Thursday.
  • Tom Steyer posted a digital ad calling on Nancy Pelosi to cancel the upcoming congressional recess and conduct oversight of Trump.
  • Marianne Williamson tweeted she opposed the Mauna Kea telescope project in Hawaii.


  • Donald Trump vetoed three joint resolutions that would have prohibited certain arms sales in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, and Italy.

What We’re Reading

Flashback: July 25, 2015

The New York Times profiled Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign and ground game in Iowa.

The Daily Brew: Checking in on the PredictIt presidential race market

Today’s Brew highlights the prices for the presidential nominees on PredictIt as of yesterday + summarizes mid-year fundraising by each party’s campaign committees  
The Daily Brew

Welcome to the Thursday, July 25, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Trump (R), Harris (D) lead PredictIt markets for their respective party’s presidential nomination
  2. Republican and Democratic national party committees have raised over $300 million through June
  3. Know students interested in interning with us? Let’s connect!

Trump (R), Harris (D) lead PredictIt markets for their respective party’s presidential nomination

Kamala Harris led the Democratic primary for president as of yesterday afternoon according to PredictIt, an online political futures market in which users purchase shares relating to the outcome of political events using real money. Last election cycle we partnered with PredictIt to share their information with our readers. Throughout the 2020 cycle, we’re bringing Ballotpedia readers periodic updates on what we’re learning from PredictIt.

Ballotpedia is tracking PredictIt markets relating to the 2020 presidential election, including the general election and Democratic and Republican primaries. Here’s a crash course in how PredictIt’s market works:

  • PredictIt has established markets that correspond to real-world events, such as elections.

  • Investors can buy shares in those markets reflecting a particular outcome, such as whether a candidate will win an election. 

  • The price of a share in each contract rises and falls based on market demand.

  • An investor makes money if more and more people also believe that the same outcome will occur, causing the price of the shares he or she owns to increase. 

  • In election markets, the higher the current price of the contract that corresponds to a particular candidate, the more likely the market believes that candidate will win.

Services such as PredictIt are also being used to gain insight into trends over the lifetime of an election and the event’s probable outcome. 

In the Democratic primary market, only five candidates were priced at 10 cents or more as of July 24—Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Biden, Sanders, and Pete Buttigieg. As of the same time, Donald Trump was priced at 89 cents per contract. Here is a screenshot of the pricing for the Democratic presidential nominee market as of yesterday afternoon:

Predict It Widget 

PredictIt has also created markets to allow people to invest in which candidate will win the Democratic caucus or primary in four early presidential contests—Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina. As of yesterday afternoon, Bernie Sanders was the favorite to win the New Hampshire primary and Joe Biden was the leading candidate in the other three states.

Click the link below for an overview of the PredictIt markets relating to the 2020 presidential election, including the general election, Democratic primary, and Republican primary.

Learn more

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Checks and Balances

Republican and Democratic national party committees have raised over $300 million through June  

The Republican National Committee (RNC) outraised the Democratic National Committee (DNC) by more than 2-to-1 for the third straight month, according to July filings with the Federal Election Commission. Republicans led in national and Senatorial committee fundraising while Democrats led in House committee fundraising.

Democrats and Republicans each have three major party committees—a national committee, one dedicated to U.S. Senate elections, and one dedicated to U.S. House elections. National party committees plan their presidential nominating conventions, promote the party’s platform, and raise funds to support candidates for all offices. Each party’s Senate and House campaign committees are dedicated to electing members to their respective bodies through recruiting candidates and providing campaign and financial support.  

The table below shows each committee’s receipts, disbursements, cash on hand, and debts owed through the end of June 2019: 

Party fundraising 

These six committees have raised a combined $310.1 million from January 1 to June 30 for the 2020 election cycle. The three Republican committees raised $176.3 million and the Democratic ones have raised $133.8 million.

Know students interested in interning with us? Let’s connect!

Are you a college or university professor with undergraduate or graduate students passionate about politics, communications, or technology? If so, we want to connect with them for our Fall 2019 internship program.

Our interns assist in a variety of duties on our Editorial, Communications, Tech, or Outreach teams. They’ll learn how to publish content on Ballotpedia, learn about all we do to prevent and detect bias in our resources, and work alongside current staff members.

All interns are paid and work remotely and Ballotpedia is also happy to facilitate credit for internship experience. Our Fall 2019 internship program will run from Monday, August 26 through Friday, December 13. Interns will work approximately 20 hours per week depending on their availability.  

Help spread the word about Ballotpedia’s Fall Internship Program! Students can apply and find more information at the link below.



Trump to collect citizenship information through executive order instead of 2020 census

The Checks and Balances Letter delivers news and information from Ballotpedia’s Administrative State Project, including pivotal actions at the federal and state levels related to the separation of powers, due process and the rule of law.

This edition:

In this edition, we review President Donald Trump’s (R) move to acquire citizenship information after federal judges blocked administration efforts to add citizenship status to the 2020 census; an upcoming United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) case challenging the Trump administration’s efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program; and a recent SCOTUS ruling that both upheld and limited Auerdeference.

At the state level, we highlight a new Indiana law that moves the state’s administrative law judges (ALJs) from agency control to a centralized panel, as well as a ruling from the Wisconsin Supreme Court upholding the state’s regulatory reform. We also present The Wall Street Journal’s interview with Judge Andrew Oldham of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on his forthcoming paper examining the Anti-Federalists’ prescience on the rise of the administrative state.

As always, we wrap up with our Regulatory Tally, which features information about the 174 proposed rules and 262 final rules added to the Federal Register in June and OIRA’s regulatory review activity.

The Checks and Balances Letter

Key readings.jpg

In Washington

Trump to collect citizenship information through executive order instead of 2020 census

What’s the story? President Trump announced on July 11, 2019, that his administration would cease efforts to add a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. census and instead direct federal agencies through executive order to provide the information to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross approved the citizenship question for the 2020 U.S. census as necessary to improve enforcement of the Voting Rights Act. The proposed question would have asked, “Is this person a citizen of the United States?”
The citizenship question was blocked by three federal district court judges on grounds that it violated the Constitution’s Enumeration Clause and the Census Act, and that the administration failed to follow proper procedure.
By a vote of 5-4, the United States Supreme Court affirmed the legality of a citizenship question on the census but effectively barred the administration from including it by remanding the case, Department of Commerce v. New York, to the agency for review.
The ruling invoked precedent from Citizens to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe (1971) to evaluate agency decisions beyond the scope of the administrative record.
The dissenting justices argued that the exception opens a new legal avenue for challengers to contest administrative actions based solely on alleged pretextual reasoning by agency decision-makers outside of the administrative record.
Want to go deeper?

SCOTUS agrees to decide whether administrative procedures must be followed to eliminate improperly issued rules

What’s the story? The United States Supreme Court will determine whether the Trump administration can end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program through a memorandum rather than rulemaking procedures after it granted certiorari on June 28 in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California.
The case could clarify whether federal agencies must follow the Administrative Procedure Act’s (APA) rulemaking procedures to end programs that were created without following APA procedures. Oral argument is scheduled for November 12, 2019.
The Obama administration created DACA in 2012 to prevent the deportation of young people who were unlawfully brought into the country as children. The program was established through a memorandum rather than APA rulemaking procedures.
The Trump administration on September 5, 2017, rescinded DACA, arguing that the program was unlawful because the Obama administration failed to follow APA rulemaking procedures.
Regents of the University of California sued the administration for failing to follow the APA in rescinding the program.
DHS argued, in part, that the decision to end DACA was exempt from APA rulemaking because it was improperly created.
The United States District Court for the Northern District of California barred the administration from rescinding DACA. The administration appealed to the United States Supreme Court.
Want to go deeper?

SCOTUS upholds and limits Auer deference

What’s the story? The United States Supreme Court on June 26 unanimously (with concurring opinions) upheld Auerdeference—the practice of federal courts deferring to administrative agencies’ interpretations of ambiguous regulations. However, the ruling also limited application of the principle.
The opinion written by Justice Kagan set the following parameters for Auer deference:
  • 1. Auer deference applies only when a regulation is ambiguous. Courts must first consider the text, structure, history, and purpose of a regulation before deferring to an agency’s reasonable interpretation.
  • 2. Whether the reasonable agency interpretation of a regulation is an authoritative or official position of the agency.
  • 3. Auer deference is only appropriate for regulatory matters that fall within agency expertise.
  • 4. An agency’s interpretation must be a “fair and considered judgment” that does not create unfair surprise for those subject to the regulation. Moreover, courts should not defer to agency interpretations that were only adopted in order to assist the agency in a lawsuit.
Justice Gorsuch authored a concurring opinion, joined by Justices Thomas, Alito, and Kavanaugh, that criticized the court for not invalidating Auer altogether, noting the court’s responsibility “to say what the law is and afford the people the neutral forum for their disputes that they expect and deserve.”
The case Kisor v. Wilkie involved a marine veteran who challenged a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) interpretation of a regulation that determined the effective date of retroactive disability benefits. The United States Supreme Court unanimously vacated and remanded the judgment of the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, which had failed to consider whether the VA’s regulation had more than one reasonable meaning. The court instructed the Federal Circuit to reconsider its application of Auer deference in the case.
Want to go deeper?

In the States

Indiana moves ALJ supervision to centralized panel

What’s the story? A new Indiana law shifted oversight of the state’s administrative law judges (ALJs) from state agency supervision to the Office of Administrative Law Proceedings (OALP), housed under the State Personnel Office.
Proponents of Senate Enrolled Act 1223 say that the change protects the independence of ALJs by removing them from agency control.
The OALP has the authority to hire and train ALJs, assign them to cases, and create and enforce a judicial code of conduct.
Eleven agencies have ALJ systems that are governed by separate statutes and, therefore, are exempt from the change.
Want to go deeper?

Wisconsin Supreme Court affirms state REINS Act

What’s the story? The Wisconsin Supreme Court on June 25 ruled 4-2 in Koschkee v. Taylor to affirm that the state’s Department of Public Instruction (DPI) must submit new rules to the governor for approval before they take effect.
Wisconsin’s Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, the first state-level REINS Act signed into law in August 2017 by Governor Scott Walker (R), requires state agencies to obtain gubernatorial approval for proposed regulations.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) sued former Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers (D) and the DPI in November 2017 for allegedly violating the state REINS Act by failing to submit statements of scope for proposed rules to the State Department of Administration for approval.
Evers and DPI argued that the state superintendent is a constitutional office not subject to gubernatorial control under the REINS Act.
Koschkee v. Taylor affirmed that DPI exercises delegated legislative power when it promulgates rules and, therefore, its rulemaking activities are subject to control by the state legislature. By passing the REINS Act, the state legislature required DPI to obtain gubernatorial approval prior to promulgating new rules.
Want to go deeper?

How the Anti-Federalists foretold the rise of the administrative state

Judge Andrew Oldham of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit spoke to The Wall Street Journal for a July 3 article examining the Anti-Federalists’ views on the evolution of executive power. The Anti-Federalists, Oldham explained, were uneasy about far-reaching executive power. Oldham argues that, in many ways, the Anti-Federalists foresaw the development of the administrative state:

“Judge Oldham is impressed by the prescience of Anti-Federalist concerns ‘about the way executive power would evolve over time.’ In a forthcoming paper for the New York University Journal of Law & Liberty, he quotes the Anti-Federalist Cato (thought to be future Vice President George Clinton), who wrote that the presidency would ‘create a numerous train of dependents’ in the executive branch, so that the president would end up ‘surrounded by expectants and courtiers’—an aristocracy, which might be compared to today’s Washington elite.
“No one in the 18th century could predict the form the federal bureaucracy would take in the 20th century. Yet the Anti-Federalists’ concerns are telling. They worried about ‘the capaciousness of executive power,’ Judge Oldham says, comparing it to ‘the abuses of the past that they’d seen in England.’ The Federalists countered that the separation of powers would prevent any part of the new federal government from becoming too powerful. The legislative, executive and judicial branches were coequal and would check and balance one another.
“Yet in recent decades, as Christopher DeMuth has written, ‘Congress has delegated its lawmaking powers: voting by lopsided margins for goals such as clean air and equality of the sexes, while leaving the hard choices—the real legislating—to specialized executive-branch agencies.’ These administrative agencies not only make rules but enforce and adjudicate them—carrying out the functions of all three governmental branches with nary a check.”

Click here to read the full article.

Regulatory Tally

Federal Register

  • The Federal Register in June reached 31,170 pages. The number of pages at the end of each June during the Obama administration (2009-2016) averaged 37,979 pages.
  • The Federal Register included 174 proposed rules and 262 final rules during June 2019. The regulations included new car title loan regulations, restrictions on flights to Cuba, and updated international mail prices, among other rules.
Want to go deeper?

Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)

OIRA’s June regulatory review activity included:
  • Review of 37 significant regulatory actions. Between 2009-2016, the Obama administration reviewed an average of 47 significant regulatory actions each June.
  • Recommended changes to 36 proposed rules.
  • Agencies withdrew one rule from the review process.
  • As of July 1, 2019, the OIRA website listed 125 regulatory actions under review.
Want to go deeper?