CategoryNewsletters

Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: March 30, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery by Ballotpedia

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

  • Arkansas (Republican trifecta): Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) announced he will lift the state’s mask requirement March 31. The mandate first took effect July 20, 2020.
  • New Hampshire (Republican trifecta): Residents 30 and older will be eligible for vaccination starting March 31. Previously, residents 40 and older were eligible since March 25.
  • North Carolina (divided government): The rest of Group 4 will be eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine on March 31. Group 4 includes a range of essential workers, some of whom were eligible March 17.

Since our last edition

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

  • Colorado (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Jared Polis (D) announced all residents 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination starting April 2. All residents 50 and older have been eligible since March 19.
  • Delaware (Democratic trifecta): Gov. John Carney (D) announced the limit on outdoor gatherings will expand from 50 to 150 people effective April 1. Outdoor gatherings larger than 150 people require approval from the Division of Public Health. Indoor gatherings are still limited to 25 people or 50% occupancy (whichever is less).
  • Florida (Republican trifecta): On Monday, March 29, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a bill that gives businesses, governments, and healthcare providers limited liability protection against COVID-19 lawsuits. The law is retroactive to the beginning of the pandemic and requires plaintiffs to show that an organization purposely ignored COVID-19 guidelines.    
  • New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Phil Murphy (D) announced the general outdoor gathering limit will expand from 50 to 200 people starting April 2. Large venues (like sports stadiums and concert halls) with seating capacity 2,500 or greater will also be able to operate at 20% capacity indoors or 30% outdoors. Previously, only large venues capable of seating 5,000 or more people could operate at 10% capacity indoors or 15% outdoors. Indoor gatherings are still limited to 25 people.
  • New York (Democratic trifecta): 
    • On March 29, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced all residents age 30 and older are eligible for vaccination starting March 30. Cuomo also said residents 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination starting April 6. Previously, people 50 and older were eligible.
    • On March 26, Cuomo announced the launch of Excelsior Pass, an app that provides digital proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test. The app is optional for individuals and businesses that require such proof to allow people to enter (like wedding reception, concert, or sports venues). Individuals can download the app now, and businesses will be able to start using it to verify vaccinations and negative tests starting April 2. Individuals can still provide other documents as proof of vaccination.
  • Nevada (Democratic trifecta): Effective March 30, full-contact and close-contact sports organizations, clubs, associations, and leagues can resume practices and competitions if they implement a Preparedness and Safety Plan. Full-contact sports organizers must also implement a COVID-19 testing and mitigation plan.
  • Wisconsin (divided government): On Monday, March 29, Gov. Tony Evers (D) vetoed SB 183, a bill that would have given the legislature more control over the distribution of federal COVID-19 relief funds. Evers vetoed a similar proposal in February. 

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 March 25 newsletter. As of March 29, at least one county in each state allowed vaccinations for the following age groups:

  • Ages 16+: 18 states
  • Ages 18+: Four states
  • Ages 30+: One state
  • Ages 40+ or 45+: Four states 
  • Ages 50+ or 55+: Eight states
  • Ages 60+ or 65+: 15 states and Washington, D.C.

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 1,741 lawsuits in 50 states dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 512 of those lawsuits. 
    • Since March 23, we have added 10 lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional two court orders and/or settlements. 

Details:

  • A.A. v. Newsom: On March 17, a San Diego County judge temporarily blocked the enforcement of various school reopening provisions across California after a group of public school parents filed suit. Under the state’s school reopening plan, middle and high schools located in purple counties (i.e., counties with between seven and 10 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents) were prohibited from reopening. The plaintiffs challenged the plan’s requirement that reopened schools maintain at least four feet between students in classrooms. The plaintiffs argued these provisions violated California’s constitutional and statutory guarantees of quality education, education equality, separation of powers, and due process. In her order, San Diego County Superior Court Judge Cynthia A. Freeland said the state’s school reopening plan is “selective in its applicability, vague in its terms, and arbitrary in its prescriptions.” California Health and Human Services Agency representative Rodger Butler said that the state would “continue to lead with science and health as we review this order and assess our legal options with a focus on the health and safety of California’s children and schools.” Scott Davidson, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the ruling was “a huge validation of our position that remote learning is a failure, that education is a constitutional right and that these kids have been denied their right to an education with remote learning.” Another hearing on the reopening plan is scheduled for March 30.

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the March 23 edition of the newsletter. Since then, no new states have adopted a statewide public mask mandate or let a face-covering requirement expire.

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-four 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-four state-level incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Eighty-four 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 March 23, two state representatives have tested positive for COVID-19. One governor self-quarantined and tested negative. 

Details:

  • On March 23, New York state Rep. Carl Heastie (D) announced he tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • On March 29, Pennsylvania state Rep. Brian Smith (R) announced he tested positive for COVID-19. 
  • On March 29, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s (R) office announced he had entered a self-quarantine after being exposed over the weekend to someone who tested positive for COVID-19. Kemp tested negative March 29. 

COVID-19 policy changes: Tuesday, March 31, 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. Over the course of this week, we’ll look back at some of the defining policy responses to the 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, March 31, 2020:

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • Executive Order 22 took effect in Tennessee. The order directed individuals to stay home except for essential activities and closed nonessential businesses. Gov. Bill Lee (R) issued the order March 30.
    • Executive Order 2020-18 took effect in Arizona. The order directed individuals to stay home except for essential activities and closed nonessential businesses. Gov. Doug Ducey (R) issued the order March 30.
  • Travel restrictions
    • West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) issued an executive order requiring all non-residents traveling to West Virginia from areas with substantial community spread to self-quarantine for two weeks. The order instructed West Virginia State Police to monitor roadways for such possible travelers.
  • School closures:
    • Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) extended the statewide school closure from April 7 to April 30.
    • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) extended the statewide school closure from April 3 to May 4.
  • Election changes:
    • Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) announced his office would send absentee ballot applications to all active registered voters in the state before the June 2, 2020, primary election.


South Dakota governor signs bill barring public agencies from collecting or releasing nonprofit donor information


South Dakota governor signs bill barring public agencies from collecting or releasing nonprofit donor information   

On March 21, the South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem (R) SB103 into law, barring public agencies from requiring individuals or groups to disclose identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors. 

South Dakota is the first – and to date only – state that has enacted donor disclosure legislation in 2021. It is one of seven states that have passed laws explicitly barring public entities from collecting or releasing information about a nonprofit’s donors (the others are Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah, and West Virginia)

What the bill does

SB103 prohibits any public agency (including state and municipal government units and courts) from:

  • Requiring a tax-exempt nonprofit to provide a public agency with “personal affiliation information,” defined as “any list, record, register, registry, roll, roster, or other compilation of any kind that directly or indirectly identifies a natural person as a member, supporter, volunteer, or donor of financial or nonfinancial support to any nonprofit corporation.” 
  • Publicly disclosing any such information a public agency may already possess. 
  • Requiring a current or prospective contractor to provide a public agency with a list of the nonprofits “to which it has provided financial or nonfinancial support.” 

The legislation does not bar public agencies from furnishing personal information about a nonprofit’s donors, supporters, etc., for:

  • Campaign finance reporting requirements.
  • A lawful warrant for personal affiliation information.
  • A lawful request for discovery of personal affiliation information in litigation, if the requestor “demonstrates a compelling need” for the information and “obtains a protective order barring disclosure” of information to anyone not named in the litigation.
  • A sales or use tax audit of a nonprofit by the Department of Revenue.
  • An audit, examination, or investigation of a nonprofit corporation conducted under state law.

Other states considering similar legislation: Arkansas (SB535), Iowa (HF309, HSB28, and SSB1036), Nebraska (LB370), and Tennessee (HB0159 and SB1608). All four states are Republican trifectas. The map below shows these states in light green. States shaded in dark green have enacted laws to this effect.

Legislative history   

Sens. Casey Crabtree and James Bolin and Reps. Kirk Chaffee, Tim Goodwin, and Tim Reed – all Republicans – introduced SB103 on Jan. 26. The state Senate approved the bill on Feb. 17, sending it to the South Dakota House of Representatives. On March 3, the House approved an amended version of the bill 55-13, with 55 Republicans voting in favor and eight Democrats and five Republicans voting against it. The Senate unanimously agreed to the amendments on March 8. Noem signed SB103 into law on March 21.

Political context: South Dakota is a Republican trifecta, meaning Republicans control the governorship and both chambers of the state legislature. South Dakota has been a Republican trifecta since 1995.

Other relevant legislation in South Dakota

HB1079, signed into law on March 3, prohibits any executive branch entity (e.g., the governor, the secretary of state, etc.) from requiring “any annual filing or reporting of a nonprofit corporation or charitable trust that is more stringent, restrictive, or expansive than that required by state or federal law.” It does not apply to information required “to determine eligibility for or compliance with a state grant or contract.” The bill also exempts information required for, or obtained during, a state fraud investigation or enforcement action.

Support and opposition

Support

  • Mark Miller, an attorney for Noem, said the following in support of HB1079: “What is this bill about? It’s really about the American way of life. … It’s also meant to return us to the traditional role of anonymity in support for certain causes that one believes in.” 
  • Dale Bartscher, executive director of South Dakota Right to Life, wrote in an op-ed for the Rapid City Journal: “With the passage of this legislation the privacy of South Dakota citizens would be protected, and information about the causes we support – whether it’s a church, local food bank, or social issue organization such as South Dakota Right to Life.  This legislation would assure that our protected private information – would be kept away from the prying eyes of government officials, the media, and activists who want to target us for our beliefs.”

Opposition

  • Rep. Ryan Cwach (D), who voted against both SB103 and HB1079, said, “We expect accountability and we expect transparency from our government, and so the idea that we want to try and keep how people are influencing our government anonymous goes against the whole bedrock of our society.”
  • Michael Beckel, research director of Issue One, said, “State agencies seeking to investigate politically active dark money groups would have less information available about such groups if there is no reporting of these groups’ donors to the state. Without being able to see the money flowing into these groups, it could be harder for investigators to connect the dots or to see the networks of wealthy individuals and special interests pumping cash into these groups.”

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 36 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 current legislative status

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

Recent legislative actions

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

  • Illinois HB3735: This bill would require a political committee to include a list of the committee’s top contributors (i.e., those who give $50,000 or more) on specified advertisements and communications.
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • Re-referred to the House Rules Committee on March 27.
  • Iowa HF309: This bill would prohibit a public agency from disclosing identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors.
    • Sponsorship not specified.
    • Senate Judiciary Committee reported favorably on March 24.
  • Maine LD1284: This bill would repeal a law requiring communications financed by independent expenditures include a statement listing the top three funders of the entity making the independent expenditure. It would also specify that only party committees and political action committees, and not individuals, are required to file reports of independent expenditures aggregating in excess of $250 during any one candidate’s election.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Introduced and referred to the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee on March 25.
  • Tennessee SB1608: This bill would prohibit a public agency from disclosing identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Senate State and Local Government Committee hearing scheduled for March 30.

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



SEC announces all-agency approach to ESG

Environment, Social, and Corporate Governance by Ballotpedia

ESG developments this week

In Washington, D.C.

SEC announces all-agency approach to ESG

Last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission launched a new page on its website, a page dedicated to ESG and to tracking the Commission’s action on the subject. According to the site: “As investor demand for climate and other environmental, social and governance (ESG) information soars, the SEC is responding with an all-agency approach.”

The announcementand the page launchcame roughly a week after the SEC announced that it was requesting public input on ESG matters from “investors, registrants, and other market participants on climate change disclosure,” and three weeks after the announcement of the launch of a new task force on ESG matters, to be located in the Commission’s Enforcement Division. 

Republican Senator presses SEC on ESG goals

On March 25, the office of Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), the Ranking Member on the Senate Banking Committee, and opponent of what he sees as the SEC’s shift in mission away from financial regulation to a policy-oriented role, released the contents of a letter sent to acting-Chair Allison Herren Lee, asking her to brief him on her and the Commission’s climate-change-related plans. The Hill reported the story as follows:

“The top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee is pressing the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for more information about the agency’s climate change agenda.

In a letter to the SEC released Thursday, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) asked the agency’s acting chief for a briefing on its plans for a new task force and enforcement priorities regarding climate-related financial risks.

“These announcements appear to presage major changes in longstanding practices on disclosure and enforcement matters at the SEC. Such changes would be premature,” Toomey wrote in a letter dated March 24 to acting SEC Chairwoman Allison Herren Lee, a Democrat.

“In order to better understand the scope and intention of this new task force and the SEC’s ‘enhanced focus’ on climate and ESG-related priorities, I am requesting a staff briefing on this subject by no later than the week of April 5, 2021,” he continued.”

In the states   

ESG pushback in energy-producing states

Pew Trusts reported on an effort among legislators in several states to highlight what they see as ESG’s role in the increasing cost of business insurance in their states. The legislators mostly Republicanspropose legislation that would cut ties with businesses that shift to ESG-heavy energy plans, asset managers that demand sustainability planning from the companies they hold, and banks that, in their view, punish energy companies with punitive rates or that are declining their business altogether. Pew Trusts reported as follows:

“In Alaska, North Dakota, Texas and other energy-producing states where fossil fuel taxes support state budgets, some lawmakers are introducing legislation that would force states to stop investing in companies that use sustainable strategies to make financial decisions and to cut ties with asset managers, banks and insurers that are doing the same.

The mostly GOP lawmakers argue that investment decisions should be made solely based on the likely financial returns, not so-called ESG—the environmental, social and governance criteria that socially conscious investors use. Instead of embracing ESG, several states want to double down on investments in oil, gas and coal. Otherwise, they say, the very industries they depend on face collapse.

It’s already difficult for fossil fuel projects to find insurance, financing and other backing if they don’t meet some of the sustainability standards, said state Sen. Jessica Bell, a Republican in North Dakota who has sponsored one of the bills that would keep her state from making ESG-driven investments.

“They’re denied access to capital. They are denied access to loans. They are refusing to do business with them. Our insurance rates have gone up,” Bell said. “I mean, you name it, ESG has already negatively affected us.”…

James Leiman, the new commissioner of the North Dakota Department of Commerce, said his department is neutral on the legislation. But he did tell North Dakota’s Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that the ESG movement represents “the greatest challenge to the North Dakota economy since the Great Depression.”

North Dakota’s energy and agricultural sectors can’t grow if they can’t borrow money or access insurance because they don’t meet ESG standards, Leiman said. Coal plants in North Dakota are closing because of market shifts as well as regulatory changes driven by other states that have established goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. North Dakota also faces a new federal regulatory environment, as the Biden administration is much less friendly to the fossil fuel industry than the Trump administration was.”

On Wall Street and in the private sector

Vanguard further ramps up ESG efforts

Vanguard, the largest passive asset manager in the world and the second-largest asset manager overall, has been slower than its passive-investment competitorsnamely BlackRock and State Street—to embrace ESG and to make it a focus of its investment operations. But that appears to be changing.

Earlier this month, Barron’s reported that Vanguard has been increasing up its ESG-related hiring, in an attempt to catch up to its competitors:

“Kaitlyn Caughlin, who oversees the firm’s portfolio review, wouldn’t say whether or when to expect new products, but noted the firm is doing “a lot of additional research right now.”

The firm recently created an ESG product category team in the U.S. with two dedicated ESG product managers and three support staff. In Europe there is a head of ESG strategy who leads a group of product specialists who are largely, though not solely, dedicated to ESG. Those teams will collaborate with others in Vanguard, both related to ESG product and ESG integration in conventional products.”

Last week, ETF Strategies reported that Vanguard has now also launched its first ESG ETF in Europe:

“The Vanguard ESG Global All Cap UCITS ETF is designed to serve as a core building block for ESG-aware portfolios, providing broad diversification while screening out undesirable issuers based on FTSE Russell’s ‘Choice’ framework.

An ESG guide for Annual Meeting Season

Over the weekend, The Financial Times identified the ESG shareholder-proposals to watch during the upcoming Annual General Meeting season. The paper identified one activist shareholder group that is focusing its energy this year on a strategy targeting large asset management firms for past voting records and encouraging them to be more ESG-friendly:

“PepsiCo, Amazon and Citigroup have been named alongside a small group of global companies to watch during this year’s annual meeting season, as investors demand businesses step up on issues from climate change to employing diverse workforces.

ShareAction, the responsible-investment charity, said the “13 most important ESG resolutions” of 2021 included a proposal calling on General Motors to disclose its lobbying around climate change, a resolution calling on the board of Walt Disney to strengthen oversight of workforce equality issues including racial and gender pay equity, and a vote on biodiversity at Amazon.

The list comes at a time of intense scrutiny over how asset managers vote at annual meetings, with widespread concern that big investors often proclaim their ESG credentials but fail to back resolutions on issues such as climate change.

“Shareholder voting works. Resolutions can deliver everything from decarbonisation targets to healthy eating strategies,” said Guy Opperman, minister for pensions and financial inclusion in the UK.

[T]the group argued the resolutions on its list for 2021 were “high quality, high-impact proposals” and called on asset owners and asset managers to back the proposals. The list also includes resolutions on climate change at Barclays, the UK bank, healthy eating at supermarket group Tesco and on human rights at Wendy’s International, the fast-food chain.

Citi said it was “acutely focused on addressing racial inequity, especially in terms of the wealth gap it creates”….

General Motors said it “believes climate change is real and we are advocates for climate action”.”

In the spotlight

ESG and Bitcoin on a collision course?

Over the weekend, HedgeWeek reported on comments made recently by Robert Furdak, the chief investment officer for ESG at Man Group about what he sees as the inevitable conflict between Bitcoin and ESG. The two, Furdak argues, are not merely the two hottest investment trends but also, in his view, all but guaranteed to crash into one another at some point in the not-too-distant future:

“The two major investment trends looming large over the hedge fund and asset management world – bitcoin’s stratospheric surge and investors’ rush towards responsible investing across all mandates – are now set for a “head-on clash”, Furdak said.

Hedge funds are continuing to profit from the ongoing surge in the cryptocurrency sector, as more managers pour money into digital assets’ record rise this year. At the same time, though, an increasingly large number of investors are calling for hedge funds to take a sustainability-based stance and implement ESG-compliant factors in their portfolios.

In an in-depth market commentary this week, Furdak – ESG CIO at London-listed global hedge fund and alternative investments giant Man – explored how bitcoin is already bumping against the range of environmental, social and governance factors that investors increasingly look for in their allocations.

On the environmental theme, Furdak noted how bitcoin mining will continue to require substantial energy consumption for as long as the digital currency’s price remains high, both in absolute and relative terms. He added that the majority of bitcoin mining takes place in south-east Asia, where coal-fired power stations remain dominant.

“Currently, one bitcoin transaction requires the same energy as processing 500,000 Visa transactions,” Furdak observed, highlighting a study by the University of Cambridge’s Centre for Alternative Finance which estimated that bitcoin mining energy now exceeds the annual consumption of countries such as the Netherlands and the United Arab Emirates, and is approaching that of Norway and Pakistan.”



Biden announces first 11 judicial nominees

March 30, 2021: President Joe Biden (D) announced his first 11 judicial nominees on Tuesday for federal circuit and district court seats and the Superior Court for the District of Columbia

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

  • There are no committee hearings scheduled Monday. The Senate stands adjourned until April 12 for a full session.

News

  • Biden announced his first 11 judicial nominees on Monday. The White House said in a statement, “This group also includes groundbreaking nominees, including three African American women chosen for Circuit Court vacancies, as well as candidates who, if confirmed, would be the first Muslim American federal judge in U.S. history, the first AAPI woman to ever serve on the U.S. District Court for the District of D.C., and the first woman of color to ever serve as a federal judge for the District of Maryland.”
  • The 11 judicial nominees are listed below:
    • Ketanji Brown Jackson for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to fill the seat left vacant by Merrick Garland
    • Tiffany Cunningham for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
    • Candace Jackson-Akiwumi for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit
    • Deborah Boardman for the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland
    • Lydia Griggsby for the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland
    • Julien Neals for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey
    • Florence Pan for the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
    • Zahid Quraishi for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey
    • Regina Rodriguez for the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado
    • Margaret Strickland for the U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico
    • Rupa Ranga Puttagunta for the Superior Court of the District of Columbia
  • Biden called on governors and mayors to reinstate mask mandates. He also said 90% of American adults would be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine by April 19. For more information about state level mask requirements, click here.
  • Biden issued two notices marking the continuation of national emergencies with respect to South Sudan and malicious cyber activity.

Transition in Context: Judicial Nominations During First Year in Office

The president of the United States nominates judges to the Supreme Court, courts of appeals, and district courts. While there are no specific requirements for nominees, the Senate must confirm them to serve.

President Ronald Reagan (R) made the most appointments through his first year in office with 41. President Barack Obama (D) made the fewest with 13.

The following chart shows the number of appointments each president, between 1981 and 2021, made in his first year in office and cumulatively through his fourth year.

What We’re Reading



The Daily Brew: Biden’s 15 main Cabinet members all confirmed

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

  1. Final update on pace of Cabinet confirmations
  2. Georgia voters to decide 2022 measure that would suspend salaries of officials under felony indictment
  3. 77 million people can’t be wrong!

An update on pace of Cabinet confirmations

When we updated you on President Joe Biden’s Cabinet nominations three weeks ago, the Senate had confirmed 10 of 15 main Cabinet members. We define main cabinet members as those in the presidential line of succession. Now, the Senate has confirmed all 15. By the same point in their respective presidencies, the Senate had confirmed 13 of Barack Obama’s and Donald Trump’s main Cabinet nominees each.

The Senate confirmed former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as secretary of labor on March 22, completing Biden’s main Cabinet. That was 61 days after Biden took office. 

Secretary of labor was also the final position filled in President Trump’s main Cabinet. In 2017, the Senate confirmed Alexander Acosta 97 days after Trump took office. Trump’s first pick for that position, Andrew Puzder, withdrew from consideration on Feb. 15, 2017.

On Obama’s 63rd day as president in 2009, the Senate confirmed his 14th main Cabinet member, Gary Locke, as commerce secretary. The Senate confirmed his final main Cabinet member, Kathleen Sebelius, as secretary of health and human services on Obama’s 98th day in office.

The Cabinet is a group of senior federal officials who advise the president on the issues and activities of their respective departments. The group is not necessarily limited to the 15 department heads in the presidential line of succession. Positions considered Cabinet-level can vary by administration. 

Biden identified 23 nominees for his Cabinet, 21 of whom have been confirmed. In addition to the ones listed in the charts above, Cabinet-rank positions requiring Senate confirmation in Biden’s administration are:

  • United Nations ambassador
  • Environmental Protection Agency administrator
  • Office of Management and Budget director
  • U.S. trade representative
  • National Intelligence director
  • Small Business Administration administrator 
  • Council of Economic Advisers chair
  • Office of Science and Technology Policy director 

Read on 

Georgia to vote in 2022 on suspending pay for officials indicted for felony

Here’s a piece of election news you may not have heard from the Peach State. Georgia voters will decide in 2022 whether to amend the state constitution to withhold the salaries of state legislators and most state executive officials suspended from office due to a felony indictment. Both chambers of Georgia’s Legislature must pass a proposed amendment by a two-thirds majority to send it to the ballot. The Senate passed this amendment 51-1 on March 8. The House passed it 169-0 on March 23. 

The proposed amendment applies to the following officeholders:

  • Members of the General Assembly
  • Governor
  • Lieutenant governor
  • Secretary of state
  • Attorney general
  • State school superintendent
  • Commissioner of insurance
  • Commissioner of agriculture
  • Commissioner of labor

In late January, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck had been receiving pay and benefits since being indicted for federal wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering charges in May 2019. Beck has said he is innocent of the charges. Gov. Brian Kemp (R) suspended Beck—who was first elected in 2018—in May 2019. 

Georgia has been paying the salaries of Beck and John King—Kemp’s appointment to fill the position—during Beck’s suspension. Under the state’s constitution, assembly members and public officials who are suspended from office due to a felony indictment still receive compensation until they are convicted. According to the proposed amendment, officials who are reinstated to their position would receive pay withheld during the suspension.

This is the only measure currently certified for Georgia’s 2022 ballot. Twelve measures have been certified for the 2022 ballot across nine states.

Read on 

77 million people can’t be wrong! 

Thanks to Ballotpedia supporters, we were able to reach nearly 1 in 2 voters in 2020. But we want to do more! With local elections coming up next week, we need your help providing voters access to trustworthy and reliable political information as they are deciding how to cast their ballots!

When you join our monthly donor program, the Ballotpedia Society, you will ensure that voters in America always have access to trustworthy and neutral information, free of any partisan spin. As a member, you will receive regular updates on the latest from Ballotpedia, and insider access to webinars with our staff of political experts. And new this year—your cumulative gift totaling $100 or more will qualify you for membership in Ballotpedia’s Donor Clubs, which will include various benefits designed with you in mind. Help us deliver unbiased content to all! 

Join



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: March 29, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery by Ballotpedia

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24 hours?

  • New York (Democratic trifecta): 
    • On March 29, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced all residents age 30 and older will be eligible for vaccination starting March 30. Cuomo also said residents 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination starting April 6. Currently, people 50 and older are eligible.
    • On March 26, Cuomo announced the launch of Excelsior Pass, an app that provides digital proof of vaccination or a negative coronavirus test. The app is optional for individuals and businesses that require such proof to allow people to enter (like wedding reception, concert, or sports venues). Individuals can download the app now, and businesses will be able to start using it to verify vaccinations and negative tests starting April 2. Individuals can still provide other documents as proof of vaccination.

Since our last edition

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

  • Connecticut (Democratic trifecta): Connecticut’s limit on early childhood class sizes is increasing from 16 to 20 children on March 29. Gov. Ned Lamont (D) made the announcement March 4.
  • Hawaii (Democratic trifecta): Residents age 60 and older are eligible for vaccination starting March 29. Previously, people 65 and older were eligible to receive vaccines. 
  • Kentucky (divided government): Kentucky public schools must offer at least two days of in-person instruction each week starting March 29. The requirement is the result of HB 208, which Gov. Andy Beshear (D) signed on March 4. The bill passed the state Senate 28-8 on March 3 and the House 81-15 on March 4. Parents can still keep their children in fully remote learning.
  • Louisiana (divided government): All residents 16 and older are eligible for vaccinations starting March 29. Previously, anyone 65 and older, or 16 and older with a state-defined essential job or underlying conditions, was eligible for the vaccine.
  • Missouri (Republican trifecta): All residents in Phase 2 (including construction workers, higher education faculty and staff, and homeless people) are eligible for vaccinations starting March 29.
  • New Hampshire (Republican trifecta): Residents 40 and older are eligible for vaccination starting March 29. Residents 30 and older will be eligible March 31. Residents 16 and older will be eligible April 2.
  • New Jersey (Democratic trifecta): On March 29, vaccine eligibility expands to include agriculture workers, warehouse employees, clergy, and elections personnel. Starting April 5, all residents aged 55-64, residents 16 and older with intellectual and developmental disabilities, educators, and other state-defined essential frontline workers will be eligible. To see a full list of eligible groups, click here.
  • Ohio (Republican trifecta): Effective March 29, residents 16 and older are eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine. On March 22, DeWine allowed healthcare providers to administer vaccines to people 16 and older when there were unfilled appointments.  
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): 
    • All counties can start vaccinating people in Phase 1B, Group 6, on March 29. Gov. Kate Brown (D) announced people in Phase 1B, Group 7, will be eligible for vaccinations starting April 5. Previously, Phase 1B, Group 7, was not scheduled to become eligible until April 19. On May 1, everyone age 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination.
    • Public elementary schools must reopen no later than March 29 for hybrid or full-time in-person instruction. Parents can still keep their children in fully remote instruction.
  • Vermont (divided government): On March 29, vaccine eligibility expands to include people 50 and older. Previously, everyone 60 and older became eligible for vaccination on March 25.

This time last year: Monday, March 30, 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. Over the course of this week, we’ll look back at some of the defining policy responses to the 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.

Monday, March 30, 2020:

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) issued Executive Order 55, which directed individuals in Virginia to stay home except for essential activities and closed nonessential businesses.
    • Executive Order 121 took effect in North Carolina. The order directed individuals to stay home except for essential activities and closed nonessential businesses. Gov. Roy Cooper (D) issued Executive Order 121 on March 27.
  • Travel restrictions
    • Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) ordered residents to self-quarantine for any out-of-state travel unless they traveled to care for a person in need, bought groceries or necessary supplies, went to work, were required to travel by court order, or obtained healthcare.
    • Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) ordered residents and non-residents traveling to Montana, except those traveling for work, to self-quarantine for two weeks. The order also instructed the Montana National Guard to conduct temperature checks and exposure risk inquiries at airports and rail stations in the state. 
  • School closures:
    • Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) announced schools would be closed for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were scheduled to reopen on April 13.
    • Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced the statewide school closure would last indefinitely. It was previously scheduled to end on April 8.
  • Election changes:
    • Idaho Governor Brad Little (R) and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney (R) announced the state’s May 19 primary election would be conducted entirely by mail.
    • Vermont Governor Phil Scott (R) signed H0681 into law, making a series of temporary changes to the state’s election laws in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Federal government responses:
    • Glenn Fine, the acting inspector general of the Department of Defense, was selected to lead the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, which oversaw the implementation of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The other eight members, who were all inspectors general of various federal departments and agencies, elected Fine.


Bold Justice: SCOTUS concludes March sitting

Bold Justice by Ballotpedia

We #SCOTUS and you can, too!

Court announcements

On March 19, the court postponed hearing the case Terry v. United States, removing it from the April argument session. The Biden administration had changed the U.S. Department of Justice’s position in the case, so the court appointed a lawyer to argue in place of the U.S. government and rescheduled the oral argument.

On March 25, the court rescheduled argument in Terry for May 4, the only case to be argued during the court’s May sitting.

March sitting

The Supreme Court continues its March argument session this week, hearing cases remotely and streaming live argument audio to the public. The court is conducting proceedings this way in accordance with public health guidance in response to COVID-19. 

SCOTUS will hear arguments in four cases for a total of three hours of oral argument. Click the links below to read more about these cases:

March 29

Between 2006 and 2010, Goldman Sachs Group (“Goldman”), a multinational investment banking firm, made public statements about its business practices. A group of Goldman shareholders (“Shareholders”) alleged in U.S. district court that the statements were false because Goldman made them while knowing it had several undisclosed conflicts of interest. According to the 2nd Circuit opinion in the case, Goldman was publicly marketing risky financial products as ordinary asset-backed securities while internally, the company was allowing a hedge fund client access to create the products. Then, both Goldman and the client bet against the products, meaning that they would profit off of the transaction performing poorly or failing. Meanwhile, the shareholders experienced financial losses on the transactions. 

In 2010, Goldman disclosed its conflicts of interest. In 2011, the Shareholders filed a class action complaint against Goldman. On remand for further proceedings from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit, the district court certified the class, allowing the complaint to continue. Goldman requested the certification be reversed. On appeal, the 2nd Circuit affirmed the district court’s judgment.

The questions presented: 

“1. Whether a defendant in a securities class action may rebut the presumption of classwide reliance recognized in Basic Inc. v. Levinson, 485 U.S. 224 (1988), by pointing to the generic nature of the alleged misstatements in showing that the statements had no impact on the price of the security, even though that evidence is also relevant to the substantive element of materiality.

“2. Whether a defendant seeking to rebut the Basic presumption has only a burden of production or also the ultimate burden of persuasion.”

March 30

Sergio Ramirez acted as a representative for a class action lawsuit against credit report agency TransUnion. Ramirez alleged that TransUnion willfully violated the Fair Credit Reporting Act when the company indicated on his credit report that his name appeared on a government list of individuals prohibited from conducting business in the United States. 

A jury in U.S. district court awarded more than $60 million in damages to the class members. On appeal, the 9th Circuit upheld the district court’s judgment but reduced the per-member punitive damages amount. TransUnion appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The questions presented: Whether Article III of the U.S. Constitution or Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Procedure authorize a damages class action lawsuit where the majority of the class was not actually injured, even if the class representative suffered an atypical injury.

March 31

National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston (Consolidated with American Athletic Conference v. Alston) came to the court from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The cases concern federal antitrust law and the NCAA’s compensation rules. 

In 2014, a class of Division 1 (“D1”) student-athletes, collectively referred to as “Alston” and as “student-athletes”, filed several antitrust complaints against the National Collegiate Athletic Association (“NCAA”) and 11 D1 conferences with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California challenging the NCAA’s compensation rules for student-athletes. The NCAA claimed the challenge was settled in O’Bannon v. NCAA. The Northern District of California ordered the NCAA to make its compensation rules less restrictive for student-athletes and concluded the compensation rules were unlawful restraints of trade under the Sherman Act. On appeal, the 9th Circuit affirmed the district court’s conclusion, its injunction, and its assessment of liability. The NCAA appealed to the Supreme Court. 

The questions presented: 

  • In NCAA v. Alston: Whether the 9th Circuit erred in its ruling that the NCAA eligibility rules for student-athletes’ compensation violate federal antitrust law.
  • In American Athletic Conference v. Alston: “Whether the Sherman Act authorizes a court to subject the product-defining rules of a joint venture to full Rule of Reason review, and to hold those rules unlawful if, in the court’s view, they are not the least restrictive means that could have been used to accomplish their procompetitive goal.”

Opinions

SCOTUS issued two opinion(s) since our March 22 issue. The court has issued 21 opinions so far this term. Four cases were decided without argument.

On March 25, the court issued an opinion in the consolidated cases Ford Motor Company v. Montana Eighth Judicial District Court and Ford Motor Company v. Bandemer, which originated from the Montana and Minnesota Supreme Courts, respectively. These cases concerned state court jurisdiction related to the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause.

In both cases, plaintiffs were involved in car accidents in Ford vehicles (one in Montana and one in Minnesota) and later filed liability claims against the manufacturer. Ford filed for dismissal in the cases, arguing the state courts didn’t have jurisdiction to hear the cases. Both the Minnesota and Montana state supreme courts ruled that state courts were an appropriate forum for the cases. Ford appealed to SCOTUS for review.

In an 8-0 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed the state courts’ rulings, holding that the connection between the plaintiffs’ liability claims in the two cases and Ford’s activities in both states allowed the state courts to have jurisdiction. Justice Elena Kagan delivered the majority opinion, her first of the term. Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch filed concurring opinions. Justice Clarence Thomas joined Gorsuch’s concurrence. Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the consideration or decision of the case since the case was argued prior to her joining the court. Click here to read more about the outcome of these cases.

The court also issued an opinion in Torres v. Madrid, a case originating from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit that concerned a claim of excessive force against police officers and whether the use of physical force to restrain a person constitutes a seizure under the Fourth Amendment

While attempting to arrest an individual at an Albuquerque apartment complex, New Mexico state police officers Richard Williamson and Janice Madrid approached Roxanne Torres in the parking lot to discover her identity. Thinking the police were carjackers, Torres got in her car and attempted to drive away. The officers ordered her to halt and shot her twice. Torres drove from the scene and was treated at a hospital for her injuries. Later, Torres was arrested and pleaded no contest to three crimes related to the event. Torres filed a civil lawsuit against the officers in U.S. district court claiming they had used excessive force and violated her Fourth Amendment rights. The district court ruled the officers were entitled to qualified immunity and there had been no seizure because the detention was unsuccessful–i.e., Torres left the scene. The 10th Circuit affirmed the district court’s ruling, joining an existing circuit split on this question of law.

In a 5-3 opinion, SCOTUS vacated the 10th Circuit’s judgment and remanded the case for further proceedings, ruling that using physical force on an individual with the intent to restrain is a seizure, even if the individual does not submit and is not subdued. Chief Justice John Roberts delivered the majority opinion. Justice Neil Gorsuch filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the consideration or decision of the case. Click here for more information about the ruling.

Grants

SCOTUS accepted two cases since our March 22 issue which will be scheduled for argument during the upcoming October 2021-2022 term. The court has granted review in 10 cases for the term, which is scheduled to begin on October 4, 2021. 

In 2013, brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev detonated two homemade bombs at the Boston Marathon. Tamerlan died days later in a confrontation with police. In 2015, Dzhokhar was indicted on and convicted of 30 criminal charges related to the bombings. He was sentenced to death for several of the offenses.

Dzhokhar appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit, alleging the jury- and venue-selection processes in his case violated his constitutional rights to due process, an impartial jury, and a reliable sentencing ruling. He also claimed that the U.S. district court judge erred in applying the death penalty for some of the convictions. The 1st Circuit affirmed in part, reversed in part, and vacated in part the district court’s ruling. The court rescinded the death sentences and remanded the case back to the lower court for further proceedings.

The questions presented to the court are: 

“1. Whether the court of appeals erred in concluding that respondent’s capital sentences must be vacated on the ground that the district court, during its 21-day voir dire, did not ask each prospective juror for a specific accounting of the pretrial media coverage that he or she had read, heard, or seen about respondent’s case.

“2. Whether the district court committed reversible error at the penalty phase of respondent’s trial by excluding evidence that respondent’s older brother was allegedly involved in different crimes two years before the offenses for which respondent was convicted.”

  • Servotronics, Inc. v. Rolls-Royce PLC concerns private, commercial arbitration proceedings outside of the United States and whether such proceedings are considered a foreign or international tribunal under the law. Three federal circuit courts have ruled they are not considered an international tribunal and two have ruled that they are, creating a circuit split. The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. Justice Samuel Alito, who has disclosed owning Boeing stock, was recused from the case.

Rolls-Royce PLC (“Rolls-Royce”) manufactured and sold an engine to the Boeing Company (“Boeing”) that was incorporated into Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner aircraft. During testing, an engine malfunction damaged the plane. Boeing sought compensation from Rolls-Royce and the parties settled. Rolls-Royce, in turn, sought compensation from the engine valve manufacturer, Servotronics, Inc. (“Servotronics”), in an arbitration court in Birmingham, England.

Servotronics filed a subpoena–an order requiring testimony or information–with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to compel Boeing to provide documents for the arbitration proceedings. The Northern District of Illinois at first granted and then voided the subpoena, after Boeing and Rolls-Royce petitioned the court to deny the request. On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit upheld the ruling, holding that U.S. district courts are not authorized to compel discovery, i.e. grant a subpoena, in private foreign arbitrations. 

The questions presented to the court are: “Whether the discretion granted to district courts in 28 U.S.C. §1782(a) to render assistance in gathering evidence for use in ‘a foreign or international tribunal’ encompasses private commercial arbitral tribunals, as the Fourth and Sixth Circuits have held, or excludes such tribunals without expressing an exclusionary intent, as the Second, Fifth, and, in the case below, the Seventh Circuit, have held.”

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • March 29: 
    • SCOTUS will release orders. 
    • SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • March 30: SCOTUS will hear arguments in one case.
  • March 31: SCOTUS will hear arguments in two cases.
  • April 2: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.

SCOTUS trivia

SCOTUS has released 21 opinions so far this term. SCOTUS issued its first opinion in 1791–what was the name of that case? 

a) Best v. Warms

b) Barnes v. West

c) West v. Barnes

d) Kramer v. Kramer

Choose an answer to find out!

Federal court action

Nominations and confirmations

President Biden announced no new nominees and the U.S. Senate has confirmed no new nominees since our March 22 issue.

President Biden has not yet made any federal judicial nominations during his term. 

In comparison to previous presidential administrations, Presidents Donald Trump (R) and George H.W. Bush (R) made their first Article III judicial appointments by June 1 of the first year of their presidencies. Presidents George W. Bush (R) and Ronald Reagan (R) made their first appointments by August 1, and Presidents Barack Obama (D) and Bill Clinton (D) made their first Article III judicial appointments by October 1 of their first years in office. These figures do not include appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Vacancies

The federal judiciary currently has 72 vacancies. As of publication, there were no pending nominations.

For more information on judicial vacancies during Biden’s term, click here.

Do you love judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? We figured you might. Our monthly Federal Vacancy Count, published at the start of each month, monitors all the faces and places moving in, moving out, and moving on in the federal judiciary. Click here for our most current count.

Need a daily fix of judicial nomination, confirmation, and vacancy information? Click here for continuing updates on the status of all federal judicial nominees.

Or, keep an eye on our list for updates on federal judicial nominations.

Spotlight: Presidential nominations to federal courts

Put on your best grunge flannels and cue up Peter Gabriel’s classic “In Your Eyes” on the boombox, because it’s time to travel back to a bygone era known as 1989 to 1993. This edition of Bold Justice takes a look at President George H.W. Bush’s (R) judicial nominees.

During his term of office, President Bush made 197 successful judicial appointments where the nominee joined the court. Of those appointments, 188 were Article III judges. Among the most notable of these are Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and David Souter.

When President Bush assumed office in January 1989, he inherited 37 life-term vacancies out of 757 total Article III judgeships (4.89%), the lowest vacancy percentage of all presidents since the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan (R) in January 1981. 

Of his Article III appointees–not including Supreme Court nominations–Bush appointed 42 judges to the United States Courts of Appeal, 148 judges to U.S. district courts, and one judge to the U.S. Court of International Trade.



The Daily Brew: One year ago this week, SCOTUS postponed oral arguments

Welcome to the Monday, March 29, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. COVID-19 policy changes and events – one year ago this week
  2. SCOTUS grants review to two more cases for 2021-2022 term
  3. Ohio governor appoints new utility commission chair

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

One year ago as of this week, the U.S. Supreme Court postponed oral arguments for eight cases scheduled for its April sitting in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, we kicked off a series looking back at policy changes and other significant events related to the coronavirus pandemic from one year ago that week. We’re following suit today, highlighting stay-at-home orders, school closures, travel restrictions, changed election dates, and more from a year ago.

On April 3, the U.S. Supreme Court postponed oral arguments scheduled for its April sitting. The court was scheduled to hear eight cases from April 20 to April 29. The court resumed hearing arguments on May 4 via telephone conference call and is still meeting virtually in 2021.

Here’s a collection of other coronavirus-related responses from one year ago.

The specifics of each stay-at-home (SAH) order varied from state to state, but generally, a SAH order closed certain categories of businesses and required people to stay home unless doing activities designated as essential. 

  • On March 30, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) issued a stay-at-home order. North Carolina‘s order, issued March 27, went into effect.
  • Tennessee‘s and Arizona‘s stay-at-home orders, both issued March 30, went into effect on March 31.
  • Travel restrictions
    • On March 30, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) issued an order requiring residents to self-quarantine for any out-of-state travel, unless they traveled for specific reasons including caring for a person in need or working. 
    • The same day, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) issued an executive order requiring residents and non-residents traveling to Montana, except those traveling for work, to self-quarantine for two weeks. The order also instructed the Montana National Guard to conduct temperature checks and exposure risk inquiries at airports and rail stations in the state.
  • School closures:
    • On March 30, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) announced schools would be closed for the remainder of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were scheduled to reopen on April 13. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced the statewide school closure would last indefinitely. It was previously scheduled to end on April 8.
    • On March 31, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) extended the statewide school closure from April 7 to April 30. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) extended the statewide school closure from April 3 to May 4.
    • Nebraska and Maine became the last states to close schools statewide on April 1 and April 2, respectively.
  • Election changes:
    • On March 30, Gov. Brad Little (R) and Secretary of State Lawerence Denney (R) announced that Idaho‘s May 19 primary election would be conducted entirely by mail. Vermont Governor Phil Scott (R) signed H0681 into law, making a series of temporary changes to the state’s election laws.
    • On March 31, Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) announced that his office would send absentee ballot applications to all active registered voters in the state in advance of the June 2, 2020, primary election.
  • Federal government responses:
    • On April 1, the Bureau of Prisons announced it was instituting a 14-day lockdown of all prison inmates.

For the most recent coronavirus news, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery

Read on 

SCOTUS grants review to two more cases for 2021-2022 term

Speaking of SCOTUS, on March 22, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted two cases for review during its 2021-2022 term. The court has agreed to hear 10 cases during the term, scheduled to begin on Oct. 4, 2021. Here is a summary of those two new cases.

United States v. Tsarnaev concerns sentencing for the Boston Marathon bombings. Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev detonated two homemade bombs at the marathon on April 15, 2013. Three people died and more than 250 people were injured. Tamerlan died in a confrontation with police officers on April 18.

  • In 2015, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was indicted on and convicted of 30 criminal charges related to the bombings. He received the death sentence for several offenses. On July 31, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit vacated Tsarnaev’s death sentences. Acting solicitor general on behalf of the United States Jeffrey B. Wall appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. 
  • The questions before the court in this case are:
  • “1. Whether the court of appeals erred in concluding that respondent’s capital sentences must be vacated on the ground that the district court, during its 21-day voir dire, did not ask each prospective juror for a specific accounting of the pretrial media coverage that he or she had read, heard, or seen about respondent’s case;” 
  • “2. Whether the district court committed reversible error at the penalty phase of respondent’s trial by excluding evidence that respondent’s older brother was allegedly involved in different crimes two years before the offenses for which respondent was convicted.”

The second case the court recently agreed to hear, Servotronics, Inc. v. Rolls-Royce PLC, concerns whether current federal law gives U.S. district courts subpoena power in private foreign commercial arbitration tribunals. Federal law allows district courts to assist with evidence gathering in foreign or international tribunals.

  • After a monetary settlement with Boeing, Rolls-Royce sought compensation from Servotronics for a valve that allegedly contributed to an engine fire on a Boeing aircraft. The dispute went to binding arbitration in Birmingham, England. Servotronics petitioned a U.S. district court to subpoena relevant documents from Boeing, but after objections from Rolls-Royce and Boeing, the district judge held that federal law does not grant district courts jurisdiction in private foreign commercial arbitration tribunals.
  • Circuit courts have split on the matter. The 2nd, 5th, and 7th Circuits have held in different cases that a private foreign tribunal is not a foreign or international tribunal within the meaning of federal law. The 4th and 6th Circuits found the opposite.

The Supreme Court is currently hearing oral arguments as part of its 2020-2021 term. Forty-two cases have been argued this term through March 22. Nineteen more cases are currently scheduled to be argued starting March 29.

Read on

Ohio governor appoints new utility commission chair

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) appointed former county judge Jenifer French as chairwoman of the state’s public utilities commission on March 19. If the state Senate confirms her appointment, French’s term will run through April 10, 2024. The position has been vacant since former Chairman Sam Randazzo resigned in November. 

French was a judge on the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas from 2015 to 2021. She lost her re-election bid on Nov. 3 after running unopposed in the Republican primary. Although the general election for the court was nonpartisan, candidates ran in partisan primaries. The public utilities commission office is officially nonpartisan.

The Ohio Public Utilities Commission is a five-person state executive board that regulates electric and gas utilities, water and wastewater companies, telecommunication companies, and railroads.

Ohio is one of 37 states in which the governor appoints utility commission members. The position is elected in 11 other states. In two—South Carolina and Virginia—the legislature appoints members.

Read on 



Teacher sues LA union over ‘defund the police’ stance

Teacher sues Los Angeles union over ‘defund the police’ stance

On March 16, a Los Angeles teacher filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against his former union over its support for removing school police officers.

Parties to the suit

The plaintiff is Los Angeles public school teacher Glenn Laird. Attorneys from the Freedom Foundation, which says its mission is “to advance individual liberty, free enterprise, and limited, accountable government,” represent the plaintiff. 

The defendants are United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the Los Angeles Unified School District, and the attorney general of California. 

What is at issue

According to Laird’s complaint, UTLA “joined a public campaign to ‘defund the police’ and remove officers from campus,” a stance he morally opposed. Laird’s attorneys said he had “witnessed students strangled, stabbed, and even shot to death,” and that “[i]n many cases, the ready presence of campus police officers was the difference between life and death.” After one incident in which a student was killed, Laird “fiercely supported keeping a continued police presence on campus to be able to deal with threats to student safety on a moment’s notice.”

A June 2020 statement from the UTLA Board of Directors said: 

As the Board of Directors of UTLA, an ethnically and racially diverse body, we believe that we do not need armed police roaming our halls, we need counselors who are provided with resources, nurses with sufficient medical supplies, and librarians with enough books. That is why we voted to call for the elimination of the LAUSD school police budget and redirect resources to student needs, with a particular focus on the needs of Black students.

Laird, who had been a member of the union since 1983, attempted to resign his membership and end his dues authorization starting in June 2020. UTLA refused to end his membership until December 2020, during the union’s opt-out period, and continued collecting dues through January 2021. In February 2018, UTLA modified its authorization agreement to implement an opt-out window during which members could revoke deduction authorization. However, Laird’s attorneys argue that because he struck out the relevant portion of his authorization agreement, which UTLA accepted in 2018, the opt-out period did not apply to him. 

Laird’s attorneys argue that the union violated his First and Fourteenth Amendment rights and ask the court for declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and damages.   

Reactions to the suit

Freedom Foundation CEO Aaron Withe said, “We don’t believe the ‘escape window’ would be constitutional under any circumstances. … But it’s even more unenforceable if the worker clearly did not agree to be bound by it in the first place.”

UTLA officials have not commented publicly on the lawsuit.

What comes next? 

The case is currently assigned to Judge Fernando Aenlle-Rocha, a Donald Trump appointee. No hearings have been scheduled yet. The case name and number are Glenn Laird v. United Teachers Los Angeles et al., 2:21-cv-02313.   

What we’re reading

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 84 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. 

  • Arizona SB1268: This bill would establish annual disclosure requirements for public-sector unions.
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • House Commerce Committee reported favorably March 23.  
  • Arkansas SB341: This bill would prohibit collective bargaining on the part of public-sector employees.
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • House passed amended bill, transmitted back to the Senate and re-referred to Senate Public Health, Welfare, and Labor Committee March 22.    
  • 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 percent to petition the state for recertification. 
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee substitute bill read for the first time March 23. 
  • Illinois HB2521: This bill would allow electronic signatures on petitions submitted for selecting an exclusive bargaining representative. It would allow certification elections to be conducted electronically. It would also prohibit an employer from promising or taking action against an employee for participating in a strike.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • House Labor and Commerce Committee hearing March 26. 
  • Illinois HB3891: This bill would establish that police union contracts no longer supersede state law.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • House Labor and Commerce Committee hearing March 26. 
  • Illinois HB3892: This bill would limit peace officer contract negotiations to the subject of wages only.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • House Labor and Commerce Committee hearing March 26. 
  • Maine LD52: This bill would allow educational policies related to preparation and planning time and transfer of teachers to be subjects of collective bargaining negotiations.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Education and Cultural Affairs Committee hearing scheduled for March 29.  
  • Maine LD97: This bill would bar public-sector and private-sector employers from requiring employees to join or pay dues to a union as a condition of employment.
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • Labor and Housing Committee hearing March 24.  
  • Maryland SB138: This bill would extend collective bargaining rights to employees of the Baltimore County Public Library.  
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Second reading passed with amendments March 24. 
  • Maryland SB746: This bill would establish collective bargaining rights for certain community college employees.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Senate passed March 19, referred to House Appropriations Committee March 20.  
  • Maryland SB9: This bill would make revisions to the collective bargaining process for employees of the University System of Maryland.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Senate passed March 18, House Appropriations Committee hearing scheduled for April 1.  
  • New Hampshire SB61: This bill would prohibit collective bargaining agreements that require employees to join a labor union.
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • House Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee hearing March 25. Executive session scheduled for March 30.   
  • Oklahoma SB634: This bill would require annual authorizations for payroll dues deductions for school employees.
    • Republican sponsorship. 
    • Second reading in the House March 22, referred to Rules Committee.  
  • Oregon HB3029: This bill would require the Employment Relations Board to develop procedures for authorizations designating bargaining unit representatives.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • House Business and Labor Committee work session scheduled for April 5. 
  • Oregon SB580: This bill would amend the law’s definition of “employment relations” to include class size and caseload limits as mandatory collective bargaining subjects for school districts.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • Senate Education Committee work session scheduled for March 31.   
  • 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 Subcommittee hearing March 24. 
  • Washington SB5133: This bill amends the definition of a “confidential employee” for the purposes of collective bargaining.
    • Democratic sponsorship. 
    • House Appropriations Committee hearing scheduled for March 30.  



Ballotpedia’s Weekly Transition Tracker: March 20-26, 2021

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

  • The Senate confirmed Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as secretary of labor on Monday by a vote of 68-29. All 29 votes against his nomination came from Republicans. Kim Janey, a member of the Boston City Council, became the acting mayor of Boston.
  • The Senate confirmed Shalanda Young as the deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget on Tuesday by a vote of 63-37.
  • The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations held a confirmation hearing for Samantha Power for administrator of the United States Agency for International Development on Tuesday.
  • The Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works held a meeting on Wednesday to consider the nominations of Brenda Mallory to be a member of the Council on Environmental Quality and Janet McCabe to be deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is holding a confirmation hearing for Deanne Criswell to be the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Executive Actions

  • Biden issued a proclamation on Tuesday to honor the victims of the March 22 Boulder mass shooting. Biden also called on Congress to “ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in this country once again.”

Other News

  • Biden nominated Lina Khan, an associated professor at Columbia Law School focused on antitrust law, to lead the Federal Trade Commission on Monday. 
  • Biden is expected to appoint Jeffrey Feltman, a former senior United Nations official, as the special envoy for the Horn of Africa. The newly created position would focus on the armed conflict in Ethiopia.
  • The Biden administration named career foreign service officer Ricardo Zúñiga as the special envoy for the Northern Triangle countries: Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The State Department said, “He also will hold our partners accountable for their commitments to address root causes of migration and the increase in arrivals of unaccompanied children at the U.S. southern border.” 
  • The Washington Post reported that Asian American advocacy groups have coalesced around Nani Coloretti as a potential nominee for director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Shalanda Young, the newly confirmed deputy director of the OMB, is considered the frontrunner for the position. Ann O’Leary withdrew from consideration on Monday.
  • The Biden administration announced on Tuesday that it was extending the special enrollment period deadline for the federal health insurance marketplace from May 15 to August 15.
  • Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said on Tuesday they would withhold support for any future Biden nominees until Biden had more Asian American representation in his administration. They reversed this position after the White House announced it was adding a senior-level Asian American Pacific Islander liaison.
  • Thirteen states, led by Louisiana, filed a lawsuit against Biden on Wednesday challenging a Jan. 27 executive order, which paused new oil and natural gas leases on public lands. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) called it an abuse of presidential power. Wyoming separately filed a lawsuit on the same issue on Wednesday.
  • Biden announced on Wednesday that Vice President Kamala Harris (D) would oversee the White House’s efforts to address an increase in migrants at the southern border on Wednesday. Her assignment includes working with Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries on the root issues of migration.
  • Biden participated in a European Council meeting virtually on Thursday, marking the first time a president has addressed an EU summit since 2009.
  • Biden held his first news conference on Thursday, where he discussed voting rights legislation, economic recovery, immigration and the filibuster. He said he intended to run for reelection in 2024 with Harris. He also doubled his vaccination goal from 100 million to 200 million doses administered in his first 100 days in office.
  • Biden is expected to announce the details of his infrastructure bill in Pittsburgh on Mar. 31. Reuters reported the bill could cost up to $4 trillion. 

Transition in Context: Executive Orders

The following table compares the number of executive orders issued by each of the four most recent presidents during his first two months in office. 

Biden issued more executive orders during this time period than his three predecessors. He issued 32 executive orders in his first month and five in his second.

President Donald Trump (R) issued the most executive orders per year on average: 55.

Transition in Context: What are special envoys?

Special envoys are agents appointed as the personal representative of the president or the secretary of state. They are often appointed in response to congressional or public attention to a particular region or issue.

President George Washington made the first such temporary diplomatic appointment in 1789, naming a private agent focused on normalizing diplomatic relations with Britain.

Special envoys can operate outside of the typical reach of an ambassador to address complex, multilateral issues. Critics of special envoys say they undercut the State Department.

Since they are responsive to the needs of each administration, there is no set number of special envoys. Biden, for example, created a new position when he appointed former Secretary of State John Kerry as the special presidential envoy for climate.

Transition in Context: Pace of Confirmations

The following chart compares the pace of Senate confirmations for the main Cabinet members—the 15 agency heads in the presidential line of succession—following the inaugurations of Presidents Barack Obama (D), Donald Trump (R), and Joe Biden (D). It does not include Cabinet-rank officials that vary by administration.

Nine weeks after their respective inaugurations, Biden had all 15 of these secretaries confirmed. Obama had 14. One of these Obama Cabinet members—Secretary of Defense Robert Gates—was held over from the Bush administration.

Trump had 13 confirmed. His secretaries of agriculture and labor had not yet been confirmed.

Transition in Context

Here’s what Democratic and Republican leaders have said about gun ownership laws.

  • “I’m not trying to perfectly equate these two, but we have a lot of drunk drivers in America that kill a lot of people. We ought to combat that too. But I think what a lot of people on my side are saying is we ought not to get rid of all the sober drivers.” – Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.)
  • “If a measure [extending background checks] that has 90 percent to 95 percent public support can’t pass the Senate just because of our rules — not because it doesn’t get the majority of support in the Senate — then something’s really wrong here. Democracy dies when things that have the majority of support in Congress, the support of the president and 90 percent public support can’t become a law.” – Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.)
  • “Every time there’s a shooting, we play this ridiculous theater, where this committee gets together and proposes a bunch of laws that would do nothing to stop these murders. … When you disarm law-abiding citizens, you make them more likely to be victims.” – Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
  • “Compromise is hard when Republican colleagues give speeches about how all these proposals are just trying to take away guns, seize your firearm from law-abiding citizens, which in fact, none of these proposals would do. So it sort of indicates that we have to overcome a gap that is created by the personal or political divide, not substantive disagreement.” – Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)

What We’re Reading