Hall Pass: Your Ticket to Understanding School Board Politics, Edition #60

Welcome to Hall Pass, a newsletter written to keep you plugged into the conversations driving school board politics and governance.

In today’s edition, you’ll find:

  • On the issues: The debate over religious charter schools
  • In your district: reader replies on district reading programs
  • Share candidate endorsements with us! 
  • School board filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications
  • Judge rules Pennsylvania district must permit After School Satan Club to use school facilities
  • Extracurricular: education news from around the web
  • Candidate Connection survey

Reply to this email to share reactions or story ideas!

On the issues: The debate over religious charter schools

In this section, we curate reporting, analysis, and commentary on the issues school board members deliberate when they set out to offer the best education possible in their district.

The Oklahoma Catholic Conference (OCC) applied in February 2023 for permission to start a religious online charter school. The Statewide Virtual Charter School Board rejected the application on April 11, saying it did not meet the state’s standards for approval and giving the OCC 30 days to fix the identified problems. 

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial Board writes that religious charter schools, since they would receive public funding, would violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. The Board says taxpayers should not have to fund religious charters and that the policy would violate the principle of church-state separation.

Andy Smarick writes that Supreme Court precedent since 2017, in its ruling in Trinity Lutheran Church v. Comer, supports the idea that states cannot exclude certain schools from participating in government programs solely based on their religious nature. Smarick says religious charters would be beneficial for creating more options in the public school system.

Editorial: Taxpayers have no business funding religious instruction in public schools | The Editorial Board, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“But this isn’t just any ol’ charter school application. It proposes to cross the long-respected dividing line between church and state outlined in the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Religious conservatives insist the clause has been misinterpreted and that the Founding Fathers always intended America to be a Christian nation. … Regardless of the outcome in Oklahoma, it almost certainly won’t be the final attempt to impose Christian doctrine on public schools while demanding that taxpayers fund it. Other nations have tried state sponsorship of religion, and it doesn’t tend to go well. Once religion becomes interwoven in government, it becomes almost impossible to unweave it. And since the Constitution requires equal treatment, state funding would also have to extend to other religions, meaning taxpayers could be on the hook to pay for public schools teaching, say, Islamist doctrine. Oklahoma’s current charter regulations require schools to be nonsectarian in all instruction, admissions policies and operations — as it should be. Feeding souls are what churches, synagogues and mosques are all about. Public schools are for feeding brains, free of faith indoctrination. And they must stay that way.”

The extended case for faith-based charter schools | Andy Smarick, The Thomas Fordham Institute

“Addressing those charging that the Court was forcing states to fund religious groups, Chief Justice Roberts’s Espinoza decision explained that Montana didn’t have to create a program that funded nongovernmental organizations. But once the state did so, it couldn’t single out faith-based groups for exclusion. The same logic applies in Trinity Lutheran and Carson: States don’t have to create programs for nonprofits to resurface playgrounds or for students to attend out-of-district high schools, but once they do, they can’t single out faith-based groups for exclusion. We should expect a Roberts opinion ruling that states aren’t obligated to allow charter schools, but once they do, they can’t single out faith-based groups for exclusion. … The left’s strategy could be to simply vote “no” as this wave swells. An alternative is to support more school options and increased parental power inside a public system of transparency and accountability. That would mean sitting down at—not walking away from—the negotiating table on the issue of faith-based charters. When the Supreme Court eventually rules that states with charter school laws must permit faith-based charters, the left will be glad that they had a hand in crafting those programs instead of standing on the sidelines.”

In your district: reader replies on district reading programs

We recently asked readers the following question about the reading program in place in their local districts:

Do you think your district is using the best possible reading program?

Thank you to all who responded. Today, we’re sharing a handful of those responses. We’ll return next month with another reader question. If you have ideas for a question you’d like to see us ask, reply to this email to let us know!

A community member in Virginia wrote

Our reading program is touted as being aligned with “Science of Reading”, but the scores of our black and brown students and those who are economically disadvantaged prove it’s not working.

A school board candidate in Oregon wrote

Absolutely not! Our district, the Beaverton School District in Oregon, is still using Lucy Calkins’ Units of Study. This program has been thoroughly discredited/debunked dating back to at least 2020. Other neighboring districts, like Portland Public Schools, have removed/replaced this curriculum already given the poor outcomes it produces. However, the Beaverton School District has told the community that they will continue to use it through the 2023-24 school year. They are looking to augment it with some smaller phonics-based programs, but it is ridiculous they are still using such a terrible program and have been for years now.

Keep in mind this is not a small district that lacks resources. BSD is the 3rd largest district in Oregon and has many administrators and TOSAs (Teacher on Special Assignment) who focus on curriculum adoption, support, training, etc.

A community member from Pennsylvania wrote

Only if the district is using multiple tools of teaching, such as phonics, meanings in context, common word recognition, reading for pleasure, etc.

A school board member from Wisconsin wrote:

Test scores have been declining over the last decade. The administrator says we are using a phonics based approach to reading so why the decline is a mystery to me. I’m wondering if the hand off each year as children progress is consistent or if we are losing something in the transfer each year. 

 A teacher from Illinois wrote:

Absolutely NOT! With all the Science of Reading buzzing around, our new program is the total opposite of that!

A school board member from Michigan wrote:

No – I really wish they would explore other options such as EBLI – Evidence Based Literacy Instruction. The state needs to be putting resources directly into heavily staffing reading interventionists in elementary schools. Our elementary school children are either barely proficient or below standards.

Share candidate endorsements with us! 

As part of our goal to solve the ballot information problem, Ballotpedia is gathering information about school board candidate endorsements. The ballot information gap widens the further down the ballot you go, and is worst for the more than 500,000 local offices nationwide, such as school boards or special districts. Endorsements can help voters know more about their candidates and what they stand for. 

Do you know of an individual or group that has endorsed a candidate in your district? 

Click here to let us know.

School board update: filing deadlines, election results, and recall certifications

Ballotpedia has historically covered school board elections in about 500 of the country’s largest districts. This year, Ballotpedia is covering elections for approximately 8,750 seats in 3,211 school districts across 28 states—or about 36% of all school boards elections this year. Click here to read more about our 2023 school board coverage. 

Election results from the past week

On May 6, we covered general elections in 58 Texas school districts, including in Dallas Independent School District, the state’s second largest district by enrollment. The largest district, Houston Independent School District, will hold general elections on Nov. 7, along with some others. 

Three seats were up for election in the Dallas Independent School District. Around 154,000 students are enrolled in the Dallas Independent School District. The board consists of nine members elected to three-year terms. 

In the race for District 6, Incumbent Joyce Foreman defeated challenger Stephen Poole 77% to 23%. Foreman was first elected in 2014. 

The race for District 2 will conclude in a June 10 runoff election between Jimmy Tran and Sarah Weinberg, who advanced from the May 6 general election because neither candidate received more than 50% of the vote. Tran received 39.6%, while Weinberg received 37.1%. Kevin Malonson received 23.3%. 

Current District 2 incumbent Dustin Marshall endorsed Weinberg. 

According to The Dallas Morning News’s Valaria Olivares, Weinberg raised around $312,000 and Trans raised around $124,000. 

The race for District 8 was canceled because incumbent Joe Carreon was the only candidate to file. 

See more election results in Texas here

Upcoming school board elections


As part of our expanded coverage in 10 states, we’re covering all school board primary races in Pennsylvania on May 16. All districts in Pennsylvania are holding elections this year, with approximately half of the state’s 4,491 seats on the ballot. Pennsylvania holds school board elections every two years in odd-numbered years. 


Districts in Oregon are holding general elections on May 16. We’re covering elections in the following:

Judge rules Pennsylvania district must permit After School Satan Club to use school facilities

On May 1, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania Judge John Gallagher ruled the Saucon Valley School District, in Pennsylvania, must allow the After School Satan Club to use school facilities for meetings while the case is argued in court.  

We looked at the debate over this case in the April 19 edition of this newsletter. In February, the school district initially approved but then later denied the After School Satan Club’s request to use school facilities for meetings. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), representing the Satanic Temple, sued the district on March 30. The Satanic Temple alleged the district violated the First Amendment in refusing to approve the club’s application while permitting other religious clubs to operate in schools.     

Saucon Valley School District is located in the eastern part of Pennsylvania, outside of Allentown. The district has approximately 2,100 students. 

The Satanic Temple describes itself as “a religious organization dedicated to the practice and promotion of individual rights. We do not subscribe to supernaturalism, so in that way we do not believe that Satan is a deity, being, or person.” According to the Satanic Temple, the organization only starts clubs if other religious groups are operating in schools. 

After School Satan Clubs exist in schools in several states, including Ohio, Illinois, and Colorado.

The district argued it rescinded its initial decision to approve the club’s application because the Satanic Temple violated its advertising policies when it put up social media posts that insinuated the district had sponsored the club: “TST’s [The Satanic Temple] actions misled community members and people across the country to think that the Club was being sponsored by the District, not just letting the Club meet in its building.” The district received calls from parents and community members, including an anonymous bomb threat on Feb. 21 that caused the district to close schools for a day.

On Feb. 24, the district announced the After School Satan Club would not be allowed to use school facilities. 

Gallagher ruled the district did not provide sufficient evidence that it rejected The Satanic Temple’s application because the group violated the district’s advertising policy. Gallagher concluded the district most likely rejected the application because of the organization’s viewpoint and the community reaction to the club: “The record does not support the District’s argument that the negative public backlash and criticism was caused by a mistaken belief ASSC [After School Satan Club] was District-sponsored. Rather, as the litany of e-mails from parents and community members to the District’s Superintendent reveal, the negative community backlash and criticism expressed a frustration with the District’s decision to permit ASSC meetings, not with a mistaken belief the District actually sponsored the ASSC.”

Gallagher’s ruling means the club will be able to meet for the remainder of the school year while litigation in the case continues. 

Extracurricular: education news from around the web

This section contains links to recent education-related articles from around the internet. If you know of a story we should be reading, reply to this email to share it with us! 

Take our Candidate Connection survey to reach voters in your district

Today, we’re looking at responses from Connie Clemens and Jeff Myers, who are running in May 16 elections for seats on the Beaverton School District school board in Oregon. Clemens is running in the general election for Zone 3 against Maham Ahmed and Melissa Potter, while Myers is running in the general election for Zone 6 against Justice Rajee. Neither Ahmed, Potter, nor Rajee completed the survey. 

Here’s how Clemens answered the question, “What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?”

  • I am very concerned about the reduction in curriculum over the years. We need to take a hard look at what’s been deleted and what’s been added and why.
  • I also am concerned about the abysmal scores of our juniors on Oregon’s state tests. We need to put academics first in policy and do everything possible to ensure students are getting a truly exceptional education.
  • Communication between the district and school board with parents and the community must be improved. One way to achieve that is to get volunteers back into the buildings. BSD has an abundance of talented and experienced people who can partner with the schools in the education process.”

Click here to read the rest of Clemens’ responses. 

Here’s how Myers answered the question, “What are the main points you want voters to remember about your goals for your time in office?”

  • Priority #1: Academics. We need to leverage proven methods and materials for our children to be and feel successful in achieving their goals. It’s time to raise the bar!
  • Priority #2: Safety. Students and staff need to feel safe and able to focus to be successful. After years of struggling with a failed approach to discipline, we need to go back to basics.
  • Priority #3: School Environment. We need to take meaningful action on the top issues impacting school staff: large class sizes, ever-increasing workloads, conflicting priorities, and responsibility without authority.

Click here to read the rest of Myers’ responses.

If you’re a school board candidate or incumbent, click here to take the survey.

Virginia’s legislative elections have most open-seat races since at least 2011

Welcome to the Wednesday, May 10, 2023, Brew. 

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Virginia’s legislative elections have most open-seat races since at least 2011
  2. Previewing Pennsylvania’s May 16 statewide primaries
  3. Twenty-four upcoming vacancies among Article III judges

Virginia’s legislative elections have most open-seat races since at least 2011

Virginia is one of four states, along with Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Jersey, that are holding regular state legislative elections this year. Now that the candidate filing period has closed, let’s see what we can learn from the candidate lists.

  • 43 districts—or 31% of the state’s 140-member General Assembly—are open-seat races as the incumbent is not running for election. 
    • This is the most open state legislative seats in Virginia – which does not have term limits – since at least 2011, when 20 districts, or 14.3%, were open.
    • Of the retiring incumbents, 22 are Democrats, and 21 are Republicans. Two districts have incumbent versus incumbent primaries this year:
      • House District 47, with a Republican primary between Reps. Marie March (R) and Wren Williams (R); and,
      • Senate District 18, with a Democratic primary between Sens. Louise Lucas (D) and Lionell Spruill (D).

This is Virginia’s first state legislative elections using district boundaries adopted after the 2020 census. The Virginia Supreme Court unanimously approved legislative district maps for both chambers after the Virginia Redistricting Commission missed its deadline for approving map proposals. The number of open districts tends to increase after redistricting.

In addition to the increase in open districts, other competitiveness metrics—like the number of contested primaries—increased compared to previous election cycles. This year, there are 47 contested primaries, representing 20.9% of all possible primaries, up from 14.5% in 2021. These figures do not include the 55 districts that Ballotpedia has identified that are holding non-primary nominating contests, like conventions, all for Republicans. In Virginia, local party committees can choose to hold conventions instead of primaries to select nominees for office.

Overall, 279 major party candidates are running for state legislative offices in Virginia—154 Democrats and 125 Republicans.

Virginia has had divided government since Republicans won the governorship and the House of Delegates in 2021. Republicans currently have a 50-46 majority in the House with four vacancies. Democrats hold a 22-18 majority in the Senate.

Virginia’s state legislative primaries are on June 20.

Keep reading

Previewing Pennsylvania’s May 16 statewide primaries 

Pennsylvania is one of eight states electing statewide offices in 2023 and one of three—along with Washington and Wisconsin—where judicial races are at the top of the ballot. The state is holding party primaries on May 16 for one seat on the state supreme court, two judgeships on the Pennsylvania Superior Court, and one seat on the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. 

Voters will also decide special elections in two state House districts that could determine partisan control of the chamber, as well as local primaries.

Pennsylvania’s primaries for judicial and municipal offices are closed, meaning only voters registered with a particular party may vote in them. Independent and unaffiliated voters can vote on ballot measures and in special elections.

Here’s all of what’s on Pennsylvania’s ballot on May 16.

State Supreme Court

We previewed the Democratic and Republican primaries for one seat on the state supreme court on Monday. The outcome of this election will not affect the court’s governing majority. But it will set the stage for the upcoming 2025 elections when three judges’ terms—all Democrats—are set to expire. If Democrats retain the vacant seat this year, Republicans would need to win at least two of the three seats in 2025 to gain a majority. If Republicans win this year, they would only need to win one seat in 2025.

Democrats have controlled the Pennsylvania Supreme Court since 2015, when they established a 5-2 majority. Both of this year’s primaries have two candidates.

Other statewide courts

The Pennsylvania Superior Court and Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court are the state’s two intermediate appellate courts.

Two Pennsylvania Superior Court judges face retention elections, and another two seats on that court are up for partisan election this year. The Democratic primary for the two seats up for partisan election has three candidates, and the Republican primary has two candidates. The Pennsylvania Superior Court reviews most of the civil and criminal cases that are appealed from the courts of common pleas in the state’s 67 counties. 

One judgeship on the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court is also up for partisan election. Both of this year’s primaries have two candidates. Cases heard by the Commonwealth Court are generally determined by what the case is about and the identity of the parties to the lawsuit. The Commonwealth Court usually takes cases involving state and local government and regulatory agencies and cases involving certain specific topics, such as banking, taxation, and elections.

Judges on all of Pennsylvania’s appellate courts, including the state supreme court, run initially in partisan elections for 10-year terms. After a judge’s first term, he or she must run in a retention election to serve subsequent terms. Pennsylvania is one of eight states that uses partisan elections for both its supreme court and intermediate appellate courts.

Mayor of Philadelphia

As we previewed on April 17, nine candidates are running in the Democratic primary for mayor of Philadelphia. The winner will face David Oh—the only candidate seeking the Republican nomination—in the Nov. 7 general election. Philadelphia has not elected a Republican mayor since Bernard Samuel, whose term ended in 1952. Incumbent Jim Kenney (D), first elected in 2015, is term-limited.

Jeff Brown, Allan Domb, Helen Gym, Cherelle Parker, and Rebecca Rhynhart lead in fundraising and media attention. 

Philadelphia voters will also decide partisan primaries for the register of wills, sheriff, city council, city commissioners, court of common pleas judges, and municipal court judges. In addition, there are also four local ballot measures. More information about the elections for the municipal offices can be found here, and information on the local ballot questions is here

State legislative special elections

Voters in two Pennsylvania House of Representatives districts will decide special elections that will determine partisan control of that legislative chamber. These elections will fill vacancies after the resignations of Lynda Schlegel Culver (R) and Michael Zabel (D). Culver ran unopposed in every election since 2018, including most recently in her 2022 re-election bid, while Zabel won re-election in 2022 with 64.3% of votes. We previewed these races in the Brew on April 25.

Other municipal elections

Ballotpedia is also covering primaries for controller and city council in Pittsburgh, city council primaries in the state’s capital of Harrisburg, and primaries for the following offices in Allegheny County—where Pittsburgh is located: County chief executive, controller, district attorney, treasurer, county council, court of common pleas judges, and magisterial district judges.

As part of our expanded coverage in 10 states, we’re covering all school board primary races in Pennsylvania on May 16. All districts in Pennsylvania are holding elections this year, with approximately half of the state’s 4,491 seats on the ballot. Pennsylvania holds school board elections every two years in odd-numbered years.

Keep reading 

Twenty-four upcoming vacancies among Article III judges

There are 24 total announced upcoming vacancies for Article III judgeships, according to the latest data from U.S. Courts. This is in addition to the 76 current federal judiciary vacancies out of the 870 such judgeships. 

These positions are not yet vacant but will be at some point in the future, with every judge having announced his or her intent to either leave the bench or assume senior status. In the meantime, these judges will continue to serve in their current positions. The president does not need to wait for a seat to become vacant before starting the confirmation process for a successor. 

The next upcoming scheduled vacancy will take place on May 15, 2023, when U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas Judge Barbara Lynn assumes senior status.

Article III judgeships refer to federal judges who serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of International Trade, or one of the 13 U.S. courts of appeal or 94 U.S. district courts. These are lifetime appointments made by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

President Biden has nominated 160 individuals to federal judgeships on Article III courts. As of May 3, 121 have been confirmed, and 34 are going through the confirmation process. Of those going through the confirmation process, 22 are awaiting a vote in the U.S. Senate, seven are awaiting a committee vote, and five are awaiting a committee hearing. Since Reagan, presidents have made an average of 103 judicial appointments through May 1 of their third year in office. President Bill Clinton (D) made the most appointments through May 1 of his third year with 137. President George H.W. Bush (R) made the fewest with 74.

Keep reading 

Florida governor signs bill opposing ESG

Economy and Society is Ballotpedia’s weekly review of the developments in corporate activism; corporate political engagement; and the Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) trends and events that characterize the growing intersection between business and politics.

ESG developments this week

In the states

Florida governor signs bill opposing ESG

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed legislation on May 2 prohibiting the use of ESG criteria in the investment of public funds. According to Reuters:

The bill is one of the furthest-reaching efforts yet by U.S. Republicans against sustainable investing efforts, and a clear political message from DeSantis, a likely presidential candidate.

Republicans, including some from energy-producing states, say many executives and investors have lost their focus on returns as they take growing account of issues like climate change and workforce diversity.

“We want them to act as fiduciaries. We do not want them engaged on these ideological joyrides,” said DeSantis just before he signed the bill at a webcast event.

Analysts said the legislation goes further than other state anti-ESG bills, even as business groups worry the efforts pose financial risks….

The law also outlaws the sale of ESG bonds, a popular way to fund renewable energy projects or lower debt costs for borrowers if they meet gender diversity or greenhouse gas emissions targets.

Oklahoma treasurer announces 13 financial institutions can’t do business with the state over ESG policies

Oklahoma State Treasurer Todd Russ (R) on May 3 issued a list of 13 financial institutions that are ineligible to do business with the state under a 2022 law because, according to Russ’s office, they engage in energy boycotts that hurt the state’s economy. The listed institutions cannot manage state pension funds or enter into certain other contracts with public entities:

Oklahoma State Treasurer Todd Russ is planning to announce the sweeping measure Wednesday morning which represents one of the most aggressive actions any state has taken against banks pursuing so called environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives. The move ultimately blocks the banks from managing billions of dollars in Oklahoma pensions, investments and other state entities.

“The energy sector is crucial to Oklahoma’s economy, providing jobs for our residents and helping drive economic growth,” Russ said in a statement. “It is essential for us to work with financial institutions that are focused on free-market principles and not beholden to social goals that override their fiduciary duties.”

The ban impacts some of the largest asset managers and banks in the country including BlackRock, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America and State Street. BlackRock alone reported in April that it has a staggering $9.1 trillion in assets under management.

Oklahoma’s actions come three months after Russ sent a letter and questionnaire to dozens of banks and financial institutions on Feb. 1, asking about their climate and energy investment policies. Russ noted at the time that BlackRock manages more than 60% of the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System.

Under a 2022 law passed by the state’s legislature last year, the state’s treasurer is mandated to probe the investment policies of banks it does business with and assemble a list of companies determined to be engaged in a boycott of the energy sector. Russ’ office said it received almost 160 responses which helped inform the decision Wednesday….

Overall, as of 2022, Oklahoma’s oil and gas industry and its component sectors sustained 4,000 businesses, produced $19 billion in state gross domestic product, provided state households with $16.5 billion in earnings and created 85,050 jobs, according to state data. The state is the nation’s sixth-largest crude oil producer and fifth-largest producer of marketed natural gas.

ESG standards pursued by major financial institutions, though, prioritize environmental investments, boosting green energy projects once deemed risky, over traditional oil and gas investments as well as corporate social priorities such as boardroom diversity initiatives.

Alabama regional banks push back against bill opposing ESG

A bill in the Alabama Senate aimed at opposing ESG in state investments has stalled. According to 1819 News, several regional banks that support ESG are lobbying legislators to oppose the bill:

Just as State Sen. Dan Roberts’ (R-Mountain Brook) anti-ESG (environmental, social and governance) bill was gaining momentum in the Alabama Legislature, its hearing before the Senate Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee, chaired by State Sen. Garlan Gudger (R-Cullman), was delayed until at least next week.

Sources familiar with the issue told 1819 News on Wednesday that Birmingham-based Regions Financial and the company’s lobbyist, senior vice president and head of state government affairs and economic development Jason Isbell, were behind the pushback against the bill that would prohibit government entities from contracting with companies that use ESG criteria to discriminate in business practices and leverage economic power for political and ideological objectives….

Over the past few years, Regions has defended the ESG agenda used by large asset management companies like BlackRock Inc. and other banks to push social and ideological agendas.

According to its website, Regions believes ESG contributes to its success….

In Regions’ 2022 Proxy Statement and Notice, Chair of the bank’s Board of Directors Charles D. McCrary touted its ESG report and adherence to standards set by the controversial World Economic Forum….

According to the Claremont Institute, Regions has promised $14,600,000 to BLM and related causes….

Regions is not the only entity within Alabama’s business elite pushing back against the anti-ESG legislation. According to an email from the Business Council of Alabama’s manager of Governmental Affairs William Newman to the council’s Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee, the BCA also opposed the Senate bill.

On Wall Street and in the private sector

Insurers re-evaluate ESG standards

Insurers are re-evaluating their affiliations with international climate change organizations and their acceptance of ESG standards, citing legal threats from governments. While the governments in question have not been named specifically, some observers think state opposition to ESG could be contributing to the re-calculation:

Insurers are being forced to rethink their approach to climate change as they assess the risk of being sued for antitrust violations.

Munich Re, the world’s biggest reinsurer, recently backed out of the Net Zero Insurance Alliance citing what it called the “material” legal risks it would face if it remained. The defection was followed by two more high-profile departures, with Zurich Insurance Group AG and Hannover Re also leaving. All three said they’ll still pursue net zero goals, just not in coordination with an alliance.

There are now concerns that more exits may follow. A spokesman for Scor SE said the firm’s NZIA membership is currently “being reviewed by the group’s executive committee and board.” Spokespeople for Allianz SE and Swiss Re AG both said the companies are “monitoring” developments.

Though Munich Re was unique in its explicit reference to legal risks, NZIA’s sudden loss of three key members has left the insurance industry looking like a casualty of the anti-ESG movement in the US. Insurers’ extra sensitivity about antitrust issues may be tied to the sector’s “occupational habit” of trying to anticipate risks, said Maurits Dolmans, a partner at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP who advises Race to Zero, a group that’s affiliated with NZIA and other climate alliances.

Alec Burnside, a partner at Dechert LLP in Brussels who specializes in competition law, says the firms most susceptible to the threat of litigation are those with large US operations….

“Companies that are exiting climate alliances have a practical interest in not getting into an ESG-wokeism slanging match with antitrust as one of the weapons that’s used against them,” Burnside said. “One way to keep your head down amid all the backlash against ESG is to say ‘we remain wedded to sustainability goals, but we are pursuing them unilaterally.’”

ESG shareholder proposals fail to gain support

The Financial Times reported on May 6 that shareholder resolutions supporting ESG (like proposals aimed at ending bank financing of fossil fuel projects) are failing to gain support this shareholder meeting season:

This year, shareholder resolutions at Citi and BofA demanding the banks stop financing new fossil fuel projects won less support than they did in 2022.

The shift echoes a broader trend in other types of climate-related votes. Across corporate America, there are signs of scepticism over so-called Say on Climate votes asking shareholders to approve climate transition strategies, says Glass Lewis, a shareholder advisory firm. It says while shareholders of US companies were among the first to propose a Say on Climate vote in 2021, none of these proposals were approved, with support ranging from 7 per cent to 39 per cent.

“That scepticism appears to have turned to indifference, as there were no shareholder proposals on this topic at US companies in 2022,” it said in a report in March. “It is likely that the momentum around this issue has essentially ceased for the time being at North American companies.”

At this point in the annual meetings season, it is too soon to know whether support for other types of climate shareholder proposals has been sapped this year. But two years after the tiny hedge fund Engine No. 1 shocked the world with a victory to elect directors to the board of ExxonMobil, the early voting results suggest climate advocacy by shareholders is not the force it was in 2021.

At the same time, investors have cooled on dedicated funds that invest with environmental, social and governance mandates. In April, Goldman Sachs was warned that one of its ESG equity funds might be delisted because it had not attracted enough investors. And more generally investors have pulled billions from sustainable funds this year.

This is partly because of performance. For a decade, US ESG large-cap equity funds were among the best performers in the stock market. But this year, ESG funds globally have underperformed the market as “ESG darlings” in clean energy have suffered amid a flight to safety, AllianceBernstein said in a May 3 report.

In the spotlight

Warren Buffett remains dubious of ESG

In a guest op-ed in The New York Times, Roger Lowenstein, a financial journalist and biographer of Warren Buffett, explained why the famed investor has rejected and continues to reject the ideas of ESG:

[A]s the Berkshire faithful gather for their annual meeting in Omaha on Saturday, Mr. Buffett is decidedly out of step with the progressive orthodoxy in corporate boardrooms. To Mr. Buffett, boards’ rightful role is, as ever, to serve the shareholders who have risked their capital. Institutional investors such as BlackRock’s Larry Fink have pushed E.S.G. — or environmental, social and governance — investing to turn corporations into agents of progressive change.

Scores of corporations have in the last few years adopted climate and diversity policies. The Business Roundtable, a chief executives group, proclaimed it no longer believed that corporations exist principally to serve shareholders. This is a little like the Communist Party dropping its primary allegiance to workers.

Mr. Buffett is having none of it. He is socially conscious and over the years has expressed concerns on topics as varied as inflation and nuclear proliferation. But he is dismissive of social governance warriors seeking to hijack the corporate mission. Most such critics represent institutions. Mr. Fink, mutual fund groups like Vanguard and state pension funds manage other people’s money — they advocate their opinions, not their purses. Mr. Buffett feels a greater allegiance to shareholders who purchased stock as he did — with their own cash.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Buffett has become a target for progressive institutional investors. At last year’s annual meeting, shareholders solicited proxy votes to force Berkshire to adopt four new policies, mostly on climate and diversity. They lost handily. (A resolution calling for Mr. Buffett to step down as board chairman, though not as C.E.O., fared the worst.) This year, Mr. Buffett faces six proxy challenges related to climate, diversity and corporate governance….

How did Wall Street’s wealthiest liberal come to be a refusenik? The simple answer is that Mr. Buffett hasn’t changed even as the political climate has….

If form holds, at Saturday’s meeting Mr. Buffett — and his sidekick, the curmudgeonly vice chairman Charlie Munger — will get plenty of questions related to corporate governance and even politics. Neither is likely to change his mind, and most shareholders seem to like it that way. Last year, assuming the dissident votes came from institutions, individual holders overwhelmingly backed management. Mr. Buffett may not conform to the fashionable standards of the Business Roundtable, but he is still in good graces with one group — individuals who trust him to manage their savings.

Looking back at Saturday’s elections

Welcome to the Tuesday, May 9, Brew. 

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. A roundup of May 6 Texas election results
  2. Twenty state executive officials have left office early in 2023
  3. 37 candidates filed for federal and statewide offices last week

A roundup of May 6 Texas election results

Last week, we previewed local elections taking place across Texas on Saturday, May 6. Those elections have come and gone, so let’s take a broad look at what happened, beginning with ballot measures.

Ballot measure elections 

In total, we covered 47 ballot measures on May 6. That was nearly three times more than we covered in May Texas elections in 2019 and 2021, mainly due to an increase in bond measures and charter amendments this year.  

We’re still collecting results for some of the 47 measures (as of this writing, not all have been officially called). Those that received the most media attention were voted on in San Antonio, El Paso, and Austin.

San Antonio

Voters rejected Proposition A 71.63% to 28.37%. The amendment, a citizen-initiated measure, would have made the following changes: 

  • Established a city justice director appointed by the mayor and city council; 
  • Prohibited police from issuing citations or making arrests for certain misdemeanor marijuana possession offenses;
  • Prohibited police from enforcing criminal abortion laws;
  • Banned law enforcement use of no-knock warrants and chokeholds; and

The San Antonio Police Officers Association opposed the measure. President Danny Diaz said, “This wasn’t a party issue. This was a community issue. The work doesn’t stop tonight. The work continues so that we go out into the community so that they understand what we’re doing as police officers for them to make sure they are safe.”

Act 4 SA led the effort to get the measure on the ballot. Its Executive Director, Ananda Thomas, criticized the measure opponents, saying, “lies and the misinformation that were put out there backed by over $2 million. We know at the end of the day, in the long run, the people will always win over big-money interests.”

El Paso

Voters decided 11 charter amendments, including Proposition K, a citizen initiative related to the climate. Voters rejected Proposition K 83.5% to 16.47%. 

Among other things, Proposition K would have established the Climate Department and the Climate Director, which would have carried out the amendment’s three policy goals—“to reduce the City’s contribution to climate change; second, to invest in an environmentally sustainable future; and third, to advance the cause of climate justice.” 

El Paso Matters’s Diego Mendoza-Moyers said, “the Climate Charter sparked fierce opposition – and heavy campaign spending – from business groups such as the El Paso Chamber and the Houston-based Consumer Energy Alliance, which collectively poured over $1 million into television and web advertisements and campaign mailers urging voters to oppose the measure. Supporters of the Climate Charter spent about $30,000 in the election.”


Voters decided two competing initiatives related to police oversight. Voters supported Proposition A 79.86% to 20.14% and rejected Proposition B 81.09% to 18.91%. Equity Action sponsored Proposition A, while the Austin Police Association-backed Voters for Oversight and Police Accountability sponsored Proposition B. 

Proposition A authorizes the Office of Police Oversight to investigate anonymous complaints, gather evidence and directly interview witnesses, and conduct a preliminary investigation of every complaint and determine whether a full investigation is warranted. The measure allows the Office of Police Oversight to analyze all force incident data and conduct random audits of body camera video.

Under Proposition B, certain provisions regarding the Office of Police Oversight would have been removed from the city Code of Ordinances, including a provision of the Office of Police Oversight to receive anonymous complaints. 

On Saturday night, the Austin Police Association tweeted they were “taking immediate action to determine the city’s intentions regarding the implementation and enforcement of the illegal provisions contained in Prop A.” 

According to Community Impact’s Ben Thompson, “The face-off between the ballot measures is the latest in 

a series of high-profile policing decisions in the city through recent years, following a 2021 vote in which Austinites rejected a police staffing requirement and voted to ban low-level marijuana enforcement and no-knock raids in the city in last spring’s election. This year, the pending outcome of this May’s proposition election also led City Council to hold off on approving a new labor agreement with the police union.”

Mayoral and municipal elections

We covered mayoral elections in six cities on May 6. Incumbents in all six cities were running for re-election, and all incumbents were re-elected. 

Three of those cities—Fort Worth, Garland, and Irving—have Republican mayors, while Dallas has a Democratic mayor. San Antonio’s mayor is an independent. We have been unable to verify the partisan affiliation of Arlington’s mayor. 

We’re covering 40 mayoral elections this year, including upcoming elections on May 16 in Jacksonville, Fla., and Philadelphia, Pa

We also covered city council and other elections on May 6 in the following cities and counties. Click to see results. 

Click below to see more of our Texas election coverage this year. 

Keep reading

Twenty state executive officials have left office early in 2023   

Since the start of the year, we’ve tracked 20 state executive officials who’ve left office early—the sixth highest number since we began tracking such unscheduled office changes in 2012. 

When officials leave office before their terms expire we call that an irregular office change, which can occur when an official resigns or dies. 

In 2023, four Republicans, four Democrats, and 12 nonpartisan officeholders have left office early thus far. Here’s how that breaks down by office type:

  • 2 lieutenant governors
  • 3 secretaries of state
  • 2 attorneys general
  • 1 treasurer
  • 8 superintendent of schools/commissioner of education
  • 3 agricultural commissioners 

The latest state executive irregular office change happened May 8, when Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan (D) officially resigned. Fagan left office following the Willamette Weekly’s reporting that a cannabis company was paying her for consulting services. In a statement announcing her resignation, Fagan said: “While I am confident that the ethics investigation will show that I followed the state’s legal and ethical guidelines in trying to make ends meet for my family, it is clear that my actions have become a distraction from the important and critical work of the Secretary of State’s office.” 

Fagan is the third secretary of state to leave office early this year, following former Maryland Secretary of State John Wobensmith (R) and former Wisconsin Secretary of State Doug Follette (D). 

Since we began tracking irregular office changes in 2012, there have been 39 irregular changes in public service commissioner offices—the most of any office. This is followed by the offices of secretary of state, with 25, and superintendent of public instruction, with 24. Since 2012, the most irregular office changes in a single state in a single year was in 2013 in Indiana. In total, Indiana, with 12, is the state with the most overall irregular office changes since 2012. Montana, with one in 2015, is the state with the fewest irregular office changes. 

Click here to learn more about state executive irregular office changes. 

Keep reading 

37 candidates filed for federal and statewide offices last week

Last week, 37 candidates filed to run for congressional and state offices—including for elections in 2023, 2024, 2025, and 2026. Two weeks ago, we tracked 33 candidates who declared for congressional and state offices.

This year, we’ve tracked 612 declared candidates for federal and statewide offices. 

Here’s a breakdown of the candidates who declared last week:

Of the partisan nature of the declared candidates: 

  • 20 are Democrats.
  • 14 are Republicans.
  • Three are minor-party candidates.

Of the offices tracked:

  • 25 candidates filed for Congress.
  • Eight candidates filed for state legislature.
  • Two candidates filed for governorships.
  • Two files for a lower state executive office. 

Between March 6 and March 27, we tracked an average of 21 candidates who filed for federal or state elections. Between April 3 and April 24, that average increased to 33 candidates.

We cover elections for tens of thousands of offices across the country, and part of that work includes keeping tabs on the candidates who file to run for those offices. We’ll periodically bring you updates on how many candidates are signing up to run for state and congressional offices. We process both official and declared candidates.

Click here to read more about our definition of candidacy. Click the link below to see a list of all declared candidates for federal elections in 2024. 

Keep reading 

Robe & Gavel: Federal Judicial Vacancy Count released for May 1, 2023

Welcome to the May 8 edition of Robe & Gavel, Ballotpedia’s newsletter about the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) and other judicial happenings around the U.S.

Now that SCOTUS has heard all of its arguments for this term, we await with bated breath as more opinions will start coming in. The suspense! In the meantime, dear reader, we’ve got some federal vacancy updates coming your way. Let’s gavel on in. 

Follow Ballotpedia on Twitter or subscribe to the Daily Brew for the latest news and analysis.

We #SCOTUS and you can, too!


SCOTUS has accepted four new cases to its merits docket since our April 24 issue. To date, the court has agreed to hear nine cases for the 2023-2024 term.

Click the links below to learn more about these cases:


The Supreme Court will not hear any arguments this week. Click here to read more about SCOTUS’ current term.


SCOTUS has not issued any opinions in cases argued on the merits since our previous edition. 

Upcoming SCOTUS dates

Here are the court’s upcoming dates of interest:

  • May 11, 2023: SCOTUS will conference. A conference is a private meeting of the justices.

The Federal Vacancy Count

The Federal Vacancy Count tracks vacancies, nominations, and confirmations to all United States Article III federal courts in a one-month period. This month’s edition includes nominations, confirmations, and vacancies from April 2 to May 1. 


  • Vacancies: There have been four new judicial vacancies since the April 1 report. There are 78 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions in courts covered in this report. Including the United States Court of Federal Claims and the United States territorial courts, 80 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.  
  • Nominations: There were two new nominations since the April 2023 report. 
  • Confirmations: There was one new confirmation since the April 2023 report.

Vacancy count for May 1, 2023

A breakdown of the vacancies at each level can be found in the table below. For a more detailed look at the vacancies in the federal courts, click here.

*Though the United States territorial courts are named district courts, they are not Article III courts. They are created in accordance with the power granted under Article IV of the U.S. Constitution. Click here for more information.

New vacancies

Four judges left active status since the previous vacancy count, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies. The president nominates individuals to fill Article III judicial position vacancies. Nominations are subject to U.S. Senate confirmation.

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

U.S. District Court vacancies

The following map shows the number of vacancies in the United States District Courts as of March 1, 2023.

New nominations

President Biden announced two new nominations since the April 1 report:

The president has announced 160 Article III judicial nominations since taking office on Jan. 20, 2021. For more information on the president’s judicial nominees, click here.

New confirmations

As of May 1, 2023, the Senate had confirmed 120 of President Biden’s Article III judicial nominees—87 district court judges, 32 appeals court judges, and one Supreme Court justice—since his inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021. 

Comparison of Article III judicial appointments over time by president (1981-Present)

  • Presidents have made an average of 103.1 judicial appointments through May 1 of their third year in office.
  • President Bill Clinton (D) made the most appointments through May 1 of his third year with 137. President George H.W. Bush (R) made the fewest with 74.
  • President Ronald Reagan (R) made the most appointments through one year in office with 41. President Barack Obama (D) made the fewest with 13.
  • President Donald Trump (R) made the most appointments in four years with 234. President Ronald Reagan (R) made the fewest through four years with 166.

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 this list for updates on federal judicial nominations.

Looking ahead

We’ll be back on June 12 with a new edition of Robe & Gavel. Until then, gaveling out! 


Myj Saintyl compiled and edited this newsletter, with contributions from Sam Post.

Pennsylvania Democrats, Republicans to pick state supreme court nominees on May 16

Welcome to the Monday, May 8, Brew. 

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Pennsylvania Democrats, Republicans to pick state supreme court nominees on May 16
  2. SCOTUS to hear case challenging Chevron deference
  3. Eleven election-related bills enacted this past week

Pennsylvania Democrats, Republicans to pick state supreme court nominees on May 16

On May 16, Democratic and Republican voters in Pennsylvania will make their picks for the state’s upcoming supreme court election in November.

These upcoming primaries will determine the major party candidates running to fill a vacancy on the court created after Chief Justice Max Baer (D) died last year. The winner in November will be elected to a 10-year term on the court.

Democrats have controlled the Pennsylvania Supreme Court since 2015 when they established a 5-2 majority. Today, with Baer’s vacancy, the makeup is a 4-2 Democratic majority.

The outcome of this election will not affect the court’s governing majority. But it will set the stage for the upcoming 2025 elections when three justice’s terms—all Democrats—are set to expire.

If Democrats retain the vacant seat this year, Republicans would need to win at least two of the three seats in 2025 to gain a majority. If Republicans win this year, they would only need to win one seat in 2025.

Spotlight PA’s Kate Huangpu wrote, “The state Supreme Court takes on relatively few cases, but its rulings can have a major impact on politics and policy in Pennsylvania. In recent years, the court has decided cases on reproductive rights, mask mandates, and election disputes.”

Both of this year’s primaries have two candidates.

Deborah Kunselman and Daniel McCaffery, both judges on the Pennsylvania Superior Court, are running in the Democratic primary.

In a Candidate Connection survey submitted to Ballotpedia, Kunselman said, “I believe in equal access to justice and transparency in our court system … regardless of income, race, gender, national origin, age, religion or sexual orientation.”

Kunselman received endorsements from #VoteProChoice and the Pennsylvania Working Families Party.

In a questionnaire submitted to the Pennsylvania Bar Association, McCaffery said, “Democratic Institutions including the judiciary are under duress … [M]y priority will be to approach every case in a non-partisan manner … to restore faith in the judicial branch.”

McCaffery received endorsements from the Pennsylvania Democratic Party and the Pennsylvania Conference of Teamsters.

Patricia McCullough and Carolyn Tornetta Carluccio are running in the Republican primary. McCullough is a judge on the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court. Carluccio is a judge on Montgomery County’s Court of Common Pleas.

On her campaign website, McCullough said her “character, wisdom and temperament make her the People’s Judge” and that she is “[n]ever willing to compromise justice … stands for election integrity,” and is a “courageous, strict constitutionalist judge.”

McCullough received endorsements from state Sen. and 2022 gubernatorial nominee Doug Mastriano (R) and the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation.

In a Candidate Connection survey submitted to Ballotpedia, Carluccio said, “I am impartial and apply the law as it is written. I will not legislate from the bench … I ensure that everyone is treated with dignity and respect when they come before me.”

Carluccio received endorsements from the Pennsylvania Republican Party and the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry.

Pennsylvania is one of eight states that use partisan elections for state supreme court justices. And it’s one of two states holding supreme court elections this year. Wisconsin voters elected a new justice on April 4.

Keep reading 

SCOTUS to hear case challenging Chevron deference

On May 1, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, a case that could curb or clarify future applications of Chevron deference in federal courts.

Chevron deference is an administrative law principle courts have cited in thousands of opinions since 1984. 

Under this principle, if federal law is unclear or doesn’t address a specific issue, the agency responsible for its implementation can interpret the law and create rules to fill the gaps. If a court finds the agency’s interpretation reasonable, it will accept the agency’s view rather than replace it with its own interpretation.

Supporters of Chevron deference say it prioritizes agency expertise, while opponents say it prevents judges from exercising their constitutional duty to interpret the law independently. 

In recent years, inconsistent applications of Chevron deference have led some scholars and judicial commentators to question the doctrine’s longevity and anticipate rulings limiting its scope.

Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo centers around a group of commercial fishermen. In this case, a lower court applied Chevron deference to uphold an agency interpretation of a federal fishery law requiring the fishermen to pay for compliance monitors.

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. Petitioners asked the court to decide whether it should overturn Chevron or at least clarify when and how Chevron should be applied.

Any adjustments to Chevron deference could affect the doctrine’s future application by federal courts in cases relating to administrative law.

If you want to learn more, Ballotpedia has you covered with all the info on Chevron deference, compiled as part of our Administrative State Project. This research contains everything from the legal history of the original case to the present day, as well as federal and state applications of the doctrine, arguments for and against it, and much more!

Keep reading 

Eleven election-related bills enacted this past week

State legislators enacted 11 new election-related bills over the past week, including:

  • Senate Bill 259 in Michigan, which changes the state’s absentee/mail-in voting deadline from received by Election Day to postmarked by Election Day. Voters now have to place their ballots in the mail no later than the election rather than have them delivered to election officials by that time;
  • House Bill 598 in Montana, prohibiting the use of ranked-choice voting in federal, state, or local elections; and, 
  • Senate Bill 410 in Oklahoma, which modifies the list of activities prohibited near polling places. It bars any person other than election officials or those voting from remaining in or near a polling place, including exit pollsters.

In addition to these three newly-enacted bills, 57 other bills have moved further along in the legislative process over the past week: 14 passed both chambers and are awaiting final approval, and 43 passed one chamber, moving on to the next.

As of May 4, legislators across the country have enacted 116 election-related bills this year, roughly the same as the 113 such bills enacted at this point in 2022.

Of this year’s 116 enacted bills, Republicans sponsored 63, or 56%, up from 50% of the total enacted at this point last year. Democrats sponsored 16%, down from 21% in 2022. Bills with bipartisan sponsorship make up 14% of the total enacted, down from 19% last year. Those with unclear partisan sponsorship are up to 14% from 10% in 2022.

You can view a full list of enacted bills this year here.

To stay up-to-date with the latest news in election-related legislation, subscribe to The Ballot Bulletin, our weekly newsletter—dropping every Friday afternoon—that delivers the latest updates on election policy. Every week, we track legislative activity, big-picture trends, recent news, and in-depth data from our Election Administration Legislation Tracker.

Keep reading 

ICYMI: Top stories of the week


Texas Senate advances amendments regarding relationship between parents, children, and educators

Texas voters may decide two constitutional amendments regarding the relationship between parents, children, and educators come November.

The Texas Senate recently approved Senate Joint Resolutions 29 (SJR 29) and 70 (SJR 70), described by proponents as parental rights amendments, which are now pending before the House. If approved, they will appear on the November ballot.

Read more

Local elections tomorrow throughout Texas

On May 6, voters in cities and counties across the Lonestar State will make their way to the polls to decide a raft of local elections and ballot measures.

We’re covering municipal elections in seven cities and three counties on May 6. Six of those cities are holding mayoral elections. We’re also covering general elections in 58 school districts, including some of the largest in the state, and 47 ballot measures in seven counties.

Read more

San Antonio voters to decide measure on abortion, marijuana, policing

Voters in San Antonio will decide on a charter amendment regarding abortion, marijuana, and police actions on May 6.

If approved, Proposition A would:

  • Prohibit local police from enforcing criminal abortion laws;
  • Decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana;
  • Ban the use of no-knock warrants and chokeholds; 
  • Direct local police to issue citations instead of arrests for certain other misdemeanors; and,
  • Establish a city justice director appointed by the mayor and city council.

Read more

How 2023’s recall efforts stack up to previous years

With four full months down in 2023, we have identified 149 recall efforts nationwide. This year is already outpacing the total number of recall efforts we identified at the mid-year points in 2019 and 2020. But our current year-to-date total is still lower than where things stood halfway through 2021 and 2022, the two most-active years for recalls in more than a decade.

Read more

Saturday elections tomorrow in Texas

Welcome to the Friday, May 5, Brew. 

By: Samuel Wonacott

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Local elections tomorrow throughout Texas
  2. Update on this year’s ballot measure certifications
  3. #FridayTrivia: What percentage of recall efforts in 2023 have been directed at school board members?

Local elections tomorrow throughout Texas 

Most elections in the U.S. are held on a Tuesday. But on May 6—a Saturday!—voters in cities and counties across the Lonestar State will make their way to the polls to decide a raft of local elections and ballot measures. 

Here’s a look at our coverage of tomorrow’s elections in Texas.

Municipal and county elections

We’re covering municipal elections in seven cities and three counties on May 6. Five of those cities are holding mayoral elections. 

Of the five cities holding mayoral elections on May 6, three—Fort Worth, Garland, and Irving—have Republican mayors, while Dallas has a Democratic mayor. San Antonio’s mayor is an independent. We have been unable to verify the partisan affiliation of Arlington’s mayor. Incumbents in all five cities are running for re-election. 

School board elections

We’re covering general elections in 58 school districts, including in some of the largest in the state. The following school districts with more than 75,000 students are holding elections on Saturday:

Dallas Independent School District is the state’s second-largest district by enrollment, with an estimated 154,000 students. The state’s largest district, Houston Independent School District, is holding general elections on Nov. 7. 

You can stay up to date on all things school board elections by subscribing to Hall Pass, our weekly education-related newsletter. 

Ballot measures

We’re covering 47 ballot measures in seven counties on May 6. Five are citizen initiatives, and for the other 42, local governing boards referred the measures to the ballot. 

This year’s ballot has nearly three times the number of measures as those we covered in the May 2019 and 2021 elections. In 2019, there were 15 measures on the May ballot in Texas. In 2021, there were 16 measures.

A greater number of bond measures and charter amendments has led to the 2023 increase. 

Here’s a look at some of the measures that have received the most attention.

In San Antonio, voters will decide on one citizen-initiated measure — Proposition A. The charter amendment would change law enforcement on abortion, marijuana, and police actions. The changes include:

  • establishing a city justice director appointed by the mayor and city council; 
  • prohibiting police from issuing citations or making arrests for certain misdemeanor marijuana possession offenses;
  • prohibiting police from enforcing criminal abortion laws;
  • banning law enforcement use of no-knock warrfants and chokeholds; and
  • using citations instead of arrests for certain misdemeanors.

El Paso voters will decide on 11 charter amendments, including Proposition K, a citizen-initiative related to the climate. Proposition K would create a new article titled Climate Policy in the charter “to reduce the City’s contribution to climate change; second, to invest in an environmentally sustainable future; and third, to advance the cause of climate justice.” The article would create a Climate Department and Climate Director to advance the new article’s goals. The article would also require the city to use 100% renewable energy sources by 2045.

Austin voters will be deciding on competing police-related ballot initiatives—Propositions A and B. Proposition A is sponsored by Equity Action, and Proposition B is sponsored by Voters for Oversight and Police Accountability, which is supported by the Austin Police Association. Both propositions make changes to the Office of Police Oversight (OPO) but differ in the exact powers granted to investigate police conduct. Proposition A would authorize preliminary investigations into all complaints including anonymous complaints, while Proposition B would not. Proposition B does not include a requirement for random assessment reviews of department use of force, which is included in Proposition A. Under Proposition A, OPO would also be authorized to determine the training requirements for members of the Community Police Review Commission. 

Click the link below to learn more about Texas’ May 6 elections. Click here to view your sample ballot.  

Keep reading 

Update on this year’s ballot measure certifications 

Speaking of ballot measures, here’s an update on statewide measures. 

As of May 2, seven statewide measures have been certified for the ballot in four states for elections this year. That’s the same as the average number certified at this point in other odd-numbered years from 2011 to 2021. 

Here’s an update on the latest 2023 ballot measure activity.

One new measure was certified for the 2023 ballot last week:

Signatures were verified for five indirect initiatives in Maine and Ohio, and the initiatives are now before legislators:

For 2024, 32 statewide measures have been certified in 16 states. That’s six more measures than the average number certified at this point from 2010 to 2022.

Click here to learn about statewide ballot measures in 2024. Click below to learn more about statewide ballot measures in 2023. 

Keep reading 

#FridayTrivia: What percentage of recall efforts in 2023 have been directed at school board members?

In the May 3 Brew, in anticipation of our forthcoming mid-year recall report, we looked at how this year’s recall efforts compare to those in previous years. This year, we’ve identified 149 recall efforts nationwide. 

What percentage of the 149 recall efforts so far in 2023 have been directed toward school board members?

  1. 70%
  2. 7%
  3. 39%
  4. 21%

Bargaining in Blue: Tennessee Senate votes to eliminate community-led police oversight boards

Bargaining in Blue

Bargaining in Blue, a monthly newsletter from Ballotpedia, provides news and information on police collective bargaining agreements (CBAs), including the latest news, policy debates, and insights from Ballotpedia’s analysis of police CBAs in all 50 states and the top 101 cities. 

In this edition: 

  • On the beat: Tennessee State Senate passes legislation to eliminate community-led police oversight boards
  • Around the table: Perspectives from the negotiating table, scholars, and the media on citizen police oversight boards in police CBAs
  • Insights: A closer look at citizen police oversight boards in the Nashville and Memphis CBAs and key takeaways from Ballotpedia’s analysis

On the beat

Tennessee Senate votes to eliminate community-led police oversight boards

The Tennessee State Senate on April 6, 2023, voted 26-5 to advance a bill that aims to eliminate community-led police oversight boards in Nashville and Memphis. S.B.0591, which now moves to the state House, would eliminate community-led police oversight boards and replace them with police advisory committees appointed by the city’s mayor.

Community oversight boards allow community members to investigate citizen complaints of officer misconduct. In contrast, the proposed police advisory and review committees would not have investigative power over citizen complaints and would be required to transfer complaints to the police department’s internal affairs division. The committees would consist of seven members appointed by the city’s mayors instead of being appointed by the community, as the current model requires.  

State Rep. Elaine Davis (R), the bill’s sponsor, argued that police advisory and review committees would “strengthen the relationship between the citizens and law enforcement agencies, to ensure a timely fair and objective review of citizen complaints while protecting the individual rights of individual law enforcement officers,” according to Tennessee Lookout. Davis modeled the proposed changes on the Knoxville Police Advisory and Review Committee, established in 1998.

Jill Fitcheard, the executive director of Nashville’s Community Oversight Board, argued against the legislation and said that “if left without a separate entity with the authority to independently investigate these instances of police misconduct, the police will continue to police themselves, which only builds suspicion and distrust of law enforcement,” according to Tennessee Lookout

Want to go deeper?

Around the table

Perspectives on community police oversight boards 

The National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that aims to promote “greater accountability through the establishment or improvement of citizen oversight agencies,” according to its website, argued in a report that community oversight of police leads to accountability and transparency. The group called for legislation to promote the use of civilian oversight boards in local police departments:

In the United States, law enforcement operates under a shroud of secrecy with far less democratic accountability than our other public institutions. Police Oversight Bodies are limited in power under most state laws. Police departments are able to control the Oversight Bodies’ access to the data, evidence, witnesses, and personnel files that they need for meaningful oversight.

A first step: The Congress discussed some critical legislation, but it didn’t pass. However, state legislatures and municipalities, can and should pass legislation permitting localities to establish Civilian Oversight Bodies. Localities should be able to give these bodies subpoena power to compel the production of documents and witnesses, allowing them to investigate, gather, analyze, and review information; produce public reports; and to make informed recommendations related to policing issues of significant public interest. Localities should also be able to empower these bodies to make the final decisions on disciplining officers, adjudicating use of force, recruiting practices, and creating policies. Localities can empower these bodies with the independence that is necessary to have a lasting impact.

In an article published in The Washington Post, reporters Nicole Dungca and Jenn Abelson summarized arguments among law enforcement officers and police unions against the use of community oversight boards. The article also highlights arguments in favor of limiting the use of oversight boards through collective bargaining agreements:

Police have generally argued that citizens do not need to investigate police because internal affairs units or other law enforcement agencies already do so. In many cities, such oversight efforts have been limited by strict collective bargaining agreements with police unions and, in 22 states, through laws known as officers’ bills of rights, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Maryland, the first state to enact such legislation, recently approved repealing the law.

Jim Pasco, executive director of the national Fraternal Order of Police, described civilian monitors as well-meaning but ill-equipped to judge police officers. He said citizens lack the expertise and experience of trained law enforcement professionals.

“It would be akin to putting a plumber in charge of the investigation of airplane crashes,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how good a plumber that he or she is. It gives no level of expertise in terms of evaluating the cause of a plane crash.”


Nashville and Memphis CBAs on community-led police oversight boards

The Nashville Fraternal Order of Police entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee in 2018. The MOU does not address community oversight boards, however, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department entered into a separate MOU with the Nashville Community Oversight Board in 2020 after the city of Nashville voted to create a community oversight board in 2018.  

Article I of the MOU between the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department and the Nashville Community Oversight Board (COB) states the following:

It is understood and agreed that, under the Metropolitan Charter, the COB has the independent authority to investigate allegations of misconduct by MNPD Officers and that a cooperative relationship between the Department and the COB is in the best interest of Metropolitan Nashville and its communities. To these ends, the Department embraces the concept of a community oversight board and is committed to carrying out the provisions of Article 11 of the Metropolitan Charter and Tenn. Code Ann. § 38-8-312.

The Parties enter into this Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the goal of ensuring cooperative interaction such that police services are delivered in Metro Nashville in a manner that effectively ensures officer and public safety and promotes public confidence in the COB and Department and in the services each delivers, and provides the COB with the same access to crime scenes, documents, information, and witnesses, to the maximum extent legally permissible, as the Department’s Office of Professional Accountability (OPA).

The Memphis Police Association entered into a collective bargaining agreement with the city of Memphis, Tennessee, in 2022. The CBA does not outline a requirement for a community oversight board. The city nonetheless has had a civilian law enforcement review board (another commonly used term for community oversight boards) in effect since 1994.  

Key takeaways on community oversight boards

Ballotpedia’s analysis of police CBAs in all 50 states and the top 101 cities featured the following information about community oversight boards in police CBAs:

  • The following 10 city-level CBAs allow for citizen review boards to look into complaints of officer misconduct:
    • Albuquerque, New Mexico
    • Austin, Texas
    • Baltimore, Maryland
    • Houston, Texas
    • Lexington, Kentucky
    • Los Angeles, California
    • Omaha, Nebraska
    • Orlando, Florida
    • San Antonio, Texas
    • Seattle, Washington
  • There are 0 state-level CBAs that allow for citizen review boards to look into complaints of officer misconduct 

Fewer bills in 2023 related to private funding of elections than 2022

Welcome to the Thursday, May 4, Brew. 

By: Juan Garcia de Paredes

In a political galaxy far, far away, a team of dedicated researchers and writers toiled to provide their readers with unbiased information on elections, politics, and policy…

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. States consider 24 bills related to private funding of elections so far in 2023, down from 40 at this point in 2022
  2. Florida marijuana legalization initiative has 94% of signatures needed to appear on 2024 ballot
  3. President Joe Biden issues four executive orders in April, bringing his total to 113

…and May the 4th be with you! Brush up on some of the most important but lesser known galactic influencers in the Star Wars universe.

States consider 24 bills related to private funding of elections so far in 2023, down from 40 at this point in 2022

This year, Ballotpedia’s Election Administration Legislation Tracker has followed 24 bills related to the private funding of election administration, down from 40 at this point in 2022. Republican legislators sponsored 21 of the bills, while Democratic legislators sponsored one. Two bills in Oregon were introduced without legislative sponsorship at the request of the Democratic secretary of state. 

Private funding of elections refers to the practice of non-governmental entities providing funds for election administration efforts and expenses. In 2022, state legislatures considered 67 bills related to this practice.

Of the 21 bills Republicans sponsored this year, 20 aimed to introduce new restrictions or amend existing ones on non-governmental entities funding election administration. One, Minnesota’s SF905, would require that parties requesting post-election audits cover the audit’s cost.

Twenty-four states have enacted legislation restricting the use of private funds in election administration since 2021, including 21 of the 28 states where Republicans currently control both legislative chambers. The seven Republican-controlled legislatures that have not done so are Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and Wisconsin. Montana, Louisiana, and North Carolina are currently considering such legislation. 

In Louisiana,  HB311 would place a measure on the October 14, 2023, ballot asking voters to decide whether to prohibit the use of private funding for election administration. In North Carolina, H641 would direct that all costs associated with state and local elections must be paid for with public funds. In Montana, SB117 would prohibit soliciting or accepting funds from an individual or corporation to fund election administration. SB117 passed both legislative chambers and was sent to Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) on April 24.

Montana has a Republican governor, while Louisiana and North Carolina have Democratic governors. 

Separately, Wisconsin passed SJR101 in 2021, a proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit using private funds for election administration. To amend Wisconsin’s constitution, a measure must be adopted in two successive legislative sessions, and the state’s electorate must subsequently ratify it. As of May 2, SJR101 has not been introduced for second consideration.

Six of the bills considered so far this year aimed to amend private funding legislation enacted over the last two years. In Arkansas and Georgia, (SB255) and (SB222) expand the definition of elections officials prohibited from accepting funds or donations from non-state entities, while a bill in Mississippi would have clarified that all “expenses relating to conducting elections shall be paid for with public funds.” Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) signed SB255 into law on March 24, 2023, while the Georgia Legislature sent SB222 to Gov. Brian Kemp (R) for his approval on April 5.

Twenty of the 24 states that have enacted legislation restricting the use of private funds for election administration had Republican trifectas at the time of enactment. Of the remaining four, three had Republican-controlled legislatures and Democratic governors, while in Virginia, Democrats controlled the Senate, and Republicans controlled the House of Delegates and the governorship.

The Democratic-sponsored bill, Illinois’s SB2555, would allow residents to contribute to an Election Integrity Fund. The proceeds would be used for all required election audit expenses. The two bills introduced in Oregon direct the secretary of state to conduct studies on election funding and make recommendations by September 15, 2024.

In the run-up to the November 3, 2020, general election, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Dr. Priscilla Chan, donated a total of $350 million to the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL) and $50 million to the Center for Election Innovation and Research (CEIR) to fund election administration efforts. Those donations led to much of the legislative activity surrounding the practice. 

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Florida marijuana legalization initiative has 94% of signatures needed to appear on 2024 ballot

Smart & Safe Florida, a campaign supporting a ballot initiative to legalize marijuana in Florida, has collected 841,130 valid signatures, 94% of the 891,523 valid signatures needed to be placed on the ballot in 2024.

The initiative would legalize marijuana for adults 21 years old and older. Individuals would be allowed to possess up to three ounces of marijuana (about 85 grams), with up to five grams in the form of concentrate. Existing Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers would be authorized under the initiative to sell marijuana to adults for personal use. The Florida Legislature could, by state law, license entities other than existing Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers to cultivate and sell marijuana products.

As of May 2023, 21 states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. In seven states, bills to legalize marijuana have been enacted. In 15 states and Washington, D.C., voters approved ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana for adult use. The average yes vote was 57.86%, and the average no vote was 42.21%, with an average margin of victory of 15.65%.

Initiatives in Ohio and Nebraska are currently collecting signatures to appear on the 2023 and 2024 ballots, respectively. Voters in Oklahoma defeated a measure to legalize recreational marijuana in March.

Of the 15 approved marijuana legalization ballot measures, four received a vote of approval of 60% or higher. The measure with the highest margin of victory was Washington, D.C.’s 2014 initiative, which was approved by a vote of 70.06% to 29.94% for a margin of victory of 40.12%. The measure with the lowest margin of victory was Maine’s 2016 initiative, which was approved by a vote of 50.26% to 49.74% for a margin of victory of 0.52%.

The Florida initiative was cleared for signature gathering on Aug. 23, 2022. Since then, the campaign has collected an average of 23,360 valid signatures each week.

According to Florida law, the signatures must be collected from at least half (14) of the state’s 28 congressional districts, and they must equal at least 8% of the district-wide vote in the last presidential election. So far, the signature distribution requirement has been met in 12 districts. The campaign has collected 99.86% of the signatures needed in District 5, which includes Duval and St. Johns counties, and 88.97% of the required signatures in District 13, which includes Pinellas County. The campaign will likely meet those districts’ distribution requirements after the next monthly signature update.

The campaign has raised $30.5 million, all from Trulieve Cannabis Corp., a marijuana business that operates in several states, including Florida. The campaign has spent $27.42 per valid signature collected so far. According to campaign reports covering information through March 31, 2023, Smart and Safe Florida had paid $23.07 million to Axiom Strategies and Vanguard Field Strategies for signature gathering. 

This cost is 463% more expensive than the average cost of signature drives in Florida in 2016, which was $4.1 million. The cost of running successful initiative signature drives in Florida was $4.6 million in 2018 and $6.7 million in 2020. No initiatives qualified for the Florida ballot in 2022. In four states with marijuana legalization initiatives in 2022, signature drives cost between $68,000 and $3.66 million.

Across all states with an initiative process, the average cost of a petition drive increased 297% from $1.03 million in 2016 to $4.09 million in 2022. The average cost-per-required signature increased from $6.93 to $12.70 in that time span. 

Voters in Florida legalized medical marijuana through a ballot initiative in 2016, which was approved by a vote of 71.32% in favor and 28.68% opposed. To pass a constitutional amendment in Florida, a supermajority of 60% is required. This requirement was added to the state constitution through voter approval of Amendment 3 in 2006. Since then, nine constitutional amendments, including a 2014 medical marijuana initiative, received a majority of votes in favor but failed to meet the 60% threshold, resulting in their defeat.

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President Joe Biden issues four executive orders in April, bringing his total to 113

President Joe Biden (D) issued four executive orders in April, bringing his term total number to 113.

The four orders he issued last month were:

Biden issued 25 executive orders in January 2021, more than any other month of his presidency. He did not issue any executive orders in November 2022 and January 2023.

Biden is averaging 48 executive orders per year, tied with Ronald Reagan (R) for second-most among presidents since 1981. Donald Trump (R) averaged 55 executive orders per year, the most in that time. Obama (D) averaged 35 per year, the fewest in that time.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (D) issued 307 executive orders per year on average, the most of all U.S. presidents. William Henry Harrison (Whig) averaged the fewest, issuing none during his one month in office. Three presidents issued only one executive order each: James Madison (Democratic-Republican), James Monroe (Democratic-Republican), and John Adams (Federalist).

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