California enacts law requiring presidential, gubernatorial candidates to disclose tax returns

On July 30, 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom (D) signed into law SB 27, requiring presidential and gubernatorial candidates to file copies of their last five federal income tax returns with the California secretary of state in order to qualify for placement on the primary election ballot. The law was set to take immediate effect.
In a statement, Newsom said, “The disclosure required by this bill will shed light on conflicts of interest, self-dealing, or influence from domestic and foreign business interest. The United States Constitution grants states the authority to determine how their electors are chosen, and California is well within its constitutional right to include this requirement.”
Later that day, Republican presidential candidate Roque De La Fuente filed suit against Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) in federal district court, alleging that SB 27 violated Article II, Section 1, Clause 5 and the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. Jay Sekulow, an attorney for President Donald Trump (R), also suggested the possibility of further legal action, saying, “The State of California’s attempt to circumvent the Constitution will be answered in court.”
Legal professionals differed in their initial assessment of the legality of SB 27. Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said, “This new law raises some very interesting and novel constitutional issues. Because it is novel, it is hard to know how the courts would go, but there is plenty of reason to think courts will be hostile to California’s requirements.”
Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law, said, “Although most cases dealing with ballot access have involved state and local elections, the constitutional principles are the same: State governments may set conditions for being listed on the ballot so long as they serve important interests and do not discriminate based on wealth or ideology.”
Gene Schaerr, a constitutional lawyer who has argued before the Supreme Court of the United States, said, “I see it as a serious problem on both constitutional grounds and especially on policy. You can imagine a host of other disclosures that states might want to adopt. If California could do this, some people would undoubtedly want to know whether candidates have ever been treated for a mental illness or denied insurance.”

Signatures submitted for veto referendum to keep Colorado from joining the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC)

Veto referendum sponsors Coloradans Vote reported submitting over 227,000 signatures to the secretary of state on the August 1 deadline. To qualify the measure for the 2020 ballot, 124,632 signatures must be verified as valid.
The referendum petition effort seeks to put Senate Bill 42 (SB 42) to a statewide vote of the people in the hopes that voters will reject the bill. SB 42 would add Colorado into the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC), awarding all of Colorado’s nine electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote.
A yes vote on the referendum would be a vote to approve Senate Bill 42, allowing Colorado to become a part of the NPVIC. A no vote on the referendum would be a vote to reject Senate Bill 42, stopping Colorado from becoming a part of the NPVIC.
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is an interstate compact to award member states’ presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote. The NPVIC would go into effect if states representing at least 270 electoral college votes adopt the legislation. As of August 1, 2019, 15 states and Washington, D.C., (representing a total of 196 electoral votes) had joined the NPVIC.
Most states use a winner-take-all system for awarding electoral votes—a candidate who receives 51 percent of the popular vote in a state would receive 100 percent of that state’s electoral votes. In 2016, Donald Trump won the presidential election with 304 electoral votes compared to Hillary Clinton’s 227 electoral votes. Clinton won the national popular vote with 65.84 million votes compared to Trump’s 62.98 million votes. The 2016 election was not the only instance in which the winner of the electoral college did not receive the most popular votes; it happened in five of the 58 presidential elections in U.S. history.
State Sen. Mike Foote (D-17) and Reps. Emily Sirota (D-9) and Jennifer Arndt (D-53) sponsored SB 42 in the Colorado State Legislature. SB 42 passed the Senate on January 29, 2019, in a vote of 19 to 16. On February 21, 2019, the House approved the bill in a vote of 34 to 29. Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) signed the bill into law on March 15, 2019.
Coloradans Vote is leading the campaign in support of a no vote. Coloradans Vote sponsored the referendum petition and hopes voters will reject Senate Bill 42. The group argued that “demanding Colorado’s electors cast their votes this way is theft of our votes for president and gives them to more populated areas like New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. [The current Electoral College system] ensures that the minority always has a voice by allowing smaller, less populated states to have a more proportionate voice in electing our president.”
Colorado National Popular Vote (Colorado NPV) is advocating for a yes vote on the referendum. The campaign supports Colorado being a part of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and hopes voters will approve Senate Bill 42. In a statement to Ballotpedia, Co-Chair of Colorado NPV Sylvia Bernstein said, “The Electoral College system has resulted in 5 out of 45 American presidents not winning the popular vote. This does not fairly reflect the will of the voters and is harmful to a modern democracy … We believe every vote by every American for the President should count equally, no matter where you live.”
In addition to Colorado, three other states joined the NPVIC in 2019: Delaware, New Mexico, and Oregon. The first state to join was Maryland in 2007. Colorado is a Democratic trifecta. Thirteen of the 15 states to join the NPVIC and Washington, D.C., were controlled by Democratic trifectas at the time. Two were controlled by divided governments.
The most recent veto referendum on the ballot in Colorado appeared on the ballot in 1932. From 1912 to 1932, 13 veto referendums were on the ballot. Of the 13 referendum efforts, 10 were successful in overturning the targeted legislation. The targeted legislation was upheld by voters on three occasions.
Nation-wide since the first in 1906, 521 veto referendums appeared on the ballot in 23 states. Voters repealed 340 (65.3 percent) of the targeted laws. Voters upheld 181 (34.7 percent) of the targeted laws. The states with the most veto referendums on the ballot were North Dakota (75), Oregon (68), and California(48). The states that allowed for veto referendums but had the least number of them were Wyoming(1), Nevada (2), and New Mexico (3).
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Kansas governor to appoint two state supreme court justices

Governor Laura Kelly (D) of Kansas will be able to appoint two justices to the seven-member Kansas Supreme Court due to two justices retiring in 2019. Justice Lee Johnson will retire on September 8, and Chief Justice Lawton Nuss will retire on December 17.
Under Kansas law, in the event of a state supreme court vacancy, the governor selects a replacement from a list of three individuals submitted by the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission. Newly appointed justices serve for at least one year, after which they must run for retention in the next general election. Subsequent terms last for six years. Johnson’s and Nuss’ replacements will be Gov. Kelly’s first and second nominees to the court.
The Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission is a nine-member independent body created by the state’s constitution to recommend individuals to the governor for appointment to the state supreme court. When a vacancy opens on the court, the commission reviews applications and interviews candidates in public hearings. The commission then recommends three candidates to the governor.
The commission has nine members: four must be non-attorneys and are appointed by the governor, while another four are attorneys selected by members of the bar in each of the state’s four congressional districts. The chair of the commission, the ninth member, is a lawyer chosen in a statewide vote of lawyers who belong to the Kansas Bar Association.
The court’s chief justice is chosen by seniority. Justice Marla Luckert will succeed Nuss as chief justice of the court.
The Kansas Supreme Court currently consists of:
  • Justice Carol Beier – Appointed by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D)
  • Justice Daniel Biles – Appointed by Gov. Sebelius
  • Justice Lee Johnson – Appointed by Gov. Sebelius
  • Justice Eric Rosen – Appointed by Gov. Sebelius
  • Justice Caleb Stegall – Appointed by Gov. Sam Brownback (R)
  • Justice Marla Luckert – Appointed by Gov. Bill Graves (R)
  • Justice Lawton Nuss – Appointed by Gov. Graves
The Kansas Supreme Court is the highest court in Kansas. It sits in Topeka in the Kansas Judicial Center.

One week until Mississippi gubernatorial primaries

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) is term-limited, leaving his seat open in this year’s gubernatorial election. Republican and Democratic party primaries will take place Tuesday, August 6, to select gubernatorial nominees.
Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr., and state Rep. Robert Foster will appear on the Republican primary ballot. Each have identified different policy priorities. Reeves, who local media outlets have identified as a frontrunner based on his fundraising advantage and endorsement from Bryant, says he has a record of experience in state government and will oppose tax increases. Waller, whose endorsers include four former state party chairmen, says he would focus on repairing the state’s roads and bridges. Foster emphasizes his status as a political outsider and says he would focus on agricultural policy.
In the Democratic primary, state Attorney General Jim Hood, Hinds County District Attorney Robert Shuler Smith, and six other candidates will be on the ballot. No Democratic candidate has won election as governor of Mississippi since 1999. Hood says that he can win statewide elections as a Democrat, citing his four victories in statewide attorney general races since 2003. Smith says that one of the reasons for his run is that Hood wrongfully tried him on criminal charges based on his race three times between 2016 and 2018. If no candidate wins a majority in either primary, the top two finishers will advance to a runoff on August 27. The winners will appear on the November 5 general election ballot. In order to win outright, a candidate must win a majority of the statewide vote and carry a majority of state House districts.
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Democratic and Republican Governors Association affiliates launch ads in Kentucky gubernatorial election

On July 25, the group Bluegrass Values debuted two television ads in support of Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear (D). These are the first ads released by the group, which is affiliated with the Democratic Governors Association, in the Kentucky gubernatorial election. Beshear faces Gov. Matt Bevin (R) and John Hicks (L) in the general election on November 5.
The following day, Putting Kentucky First launched an ad in opposition to Beshear. The Republican Governors Association-affiliated group has already released five ads opposing Beshear and one supporting Bevin during the campaign. A report from Medium Buying on July 8 said that Putting Kentucky First had spent $2 million on television ads so far.
Heading into the election, Kentucky is a Republican trifecta. This race will decide the state’s trifecta status until at least the 2020 state legislative elections. If Bevin wins, Republicans will maintain their trifecta control of the state, while a Beshear or Hicks victory would result in neither party having trifecta control.
A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Right now, there are 22 Republican trifectas, 14 Democratic trifectas, and 14 divided governments where neither party holds trifecta control.

Highlights from Tuesday’s Republican primary debate in Mississippi gubernatorial election

State Rep. Robert Foster, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, and former state supreme court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr. are running in the August 6 Republican primary for a chance to succeed Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R), who is prevented by term limits from seeking re-election. The candidates participated in the first and only scheduled televised debate of the primary July 23. Some highlights from the debate are below.
  • Taxes to fund infrastructure improvements: Foster proposed eliminating the personal income tax and making small increases to the gas and sales tax. Waller said he supports increasing the gas tax while eliminating the 4% income tax bracket. Reeves said he opposes raising the gas tax.
  • Medicaid expansion: Waller said he supports expanding Medicaid in Mississippi similar to how Mike Pence did as governor of Indiana. Reeves said he opposes Medicaid expansion. Foster said all options are on the table for him.
  • Effect of state flag’s Confederate imagery on business: All three candidates said they did not believe the flag was keeping businesses out of Mississippi. Foster stated that taxes are having that effect. Waller said changes to the state flag should be left up to voters and not the state legislature. Reeves said he opposes action by the governor or legislature to change the flag and that the issue has not come up in economic development meetings he has been involved in.
Candidates also discussed teacher pay, marijuana, the minimum wage, and the inclusion of women in the next administration.
Bryant won the past two general elections with more than 60 percent of the vote. The state’s last Democratic governor was Ronnie Musgrove, who served from 1999 to 2003. Eight candidates are running in the August 6 Democratic primary. Two of three election forecasters tracked by Ballotpedia rate the November 5 general election as “Leans Republican” and the other rated it as “Likely Republican.”

Triplex status at play in three states this year

A triplex occurs when a state’s governor, attorney general, and secretary of state all belong to the same political party, a situation which can reduce conflict between state executives. Currently, there are 18 Republican and 17 Democratic state triplexes.
Three states are holding elections in 2019 which could affect their triplex status: Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Currently, neither Republicans nor Democrats hold triplexes in any of these three states. The offices of governor, attorney general, and secretary of state will be on the ballot in each state.
In Kentucky, Republican Gov. Matt Bevin is currently serving with Democratic Attorney General Andy Beshear and Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Either party could gain triplex control during the November 5 general election.
In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards serves with Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry and Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin. The November 16 general election will determine whether either party will gain control of all three offices.
In Mississippi, Republican Gov. Phil Bryant serves with Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood and Republican Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann. Republicans and Democrats will vie for triplex control during Mississippi’s November 5 general election.

Six candidates running in Republican primary for South Carolina House district

A primary is being held in District 84 of the South Carolina House of Representatives on July 30. Republicans Cody Anderson, Danny Feagin, Ralph Gunter, Melissa Oremus, Alvin Padgett, and Sean Pumphrey are running in the primary. No Democratic candidates filed to run. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, a primary runoff will be held on August 13. The special general election was scheduled for October 1.
District 84 became vacant after Ronnie Young (R) passed away on May 19, 2019. Young had served in the state House since 2017. He won re-election in 2018 with 65% of the vote in the general election.
Heading into the special election, Republicans have a 78-44 majority in the state House with two vacancies. A special election in District 19 of the state House is scheduled for August 20. South Carolina has a Republican state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.
As of July, 66 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 24 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

Signatures submitted for Arkansas optometry referendum

Petitioners for the Arkansas Practice of Optometry Referendum reported submitting more than 84,000 signatures by the July 23 deadline to qualify a veto referendum on House Bill 1251 for a statewide vote in 2020. A total of 53,491 signatures need to be valid to qualify the measure for the ballot. The requirement is based on 6% of votes cast for the office of governor in the last gubernatorial election. Sponsors of the referendum petition effort hope voters will overturn HB 1251 and are advocating for a no vote on the referendum.
HB 1251 amended the definition of “practice of optometry” in state law to allow optometrists to perform certain surgical procedures including the following:
  • injections, excluding intravenous or intraocular injections;
  • incision and curettage of a chalazion;
  • removal and biopsy of skin lesions with low risk of malignancy, excluding lesions involving the lid margin or nasal to the puncta;
  • laser capsulotomy; and
  • laser trabeculoplasty.
Safe Surgery Arkansas is sponsoring the veto referendum petition seeking to overturn HB 1251. The group argues that the bill “jeopardizes patient safety and lowers the quality of surgical eye care in the state of Arkansas. This new law would allow optometrists— who are not medical doctors or trained surgeons— to perform delicate surgery on the eye and surrounding tissues using scalpels, lasers, and needles. HB 1251 removes … critical patient safeguard[s] by granting optometrists broad surgical privileges to operate on the eyes while bypassing these critical training requirements.”
Arkansans for Healthy Eyes is leading the campaign in opposition to the veto referendum effort and in support of HB 1251. The group is advocating for a yes vote on the referendum. Arkansas for Healthy Eyes argued that the bill “gives Arkansas patients better access to quality care by allowing optometrists to perform more of the procedures we are absolutely qualified to safely perform… For some patients, especially in rural parts of the state, being able to receive enhanced care from their optometrist, instead of having to go through the wait, travel, and added cost of a specialist visit, may mean the difference between getting a needed procedure, or going without.”
HB 1251 was approved in the House on March 6, 2019, in a vote of 70-19. Among Democratic representatives, eight voted against, 13 voted in favor, and three were absent or did not vote. Among Republican representatives, 11 voted against, 57 voted in favor, eight were absent or did not vote for or against the bill. The bill was approved in the Senate on March 20, 2019, in a vote of 25-8. Among Democratic senators, three voted against, five voted in favor, and one was absent or did not vote. Among Republican Senators, five voted against, 20 voted in favor, and one was absent or did not vote.
Since the first in 1934, 10 veto referendum measures have appeared on the ballot in Arkansas. The most recent referendum was on the ballot in 2004. In all but one case, the referendum efforts resulted in the targeted law being repealed or overturned.
Nationwide since the first in 1906, 521 veto referendums appeared on the ballot in 23 states. Voters repealed 340 (65.3 percent) of the targeted laws. Voters upheld 181 (34.7 percent) of the targeted laws. The states with the most veto referendums were North Dakota (75), Oregon (68), and California (48). The states that allowed for veto referendums but had the least number of them were Wyoming (1), Nevada (2), and New Mexico (3).