CategoryState

Eight states have enacted laws limiting governors’ emergency powers since the start of the pandemic

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, governors and state agencies in all 50 states relied on emergency power authority to enact stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, and other restrictions on businesses and individuals. Since March 2020, 10 bills in eight states have been signed into law that are aimed at increasing legislative oversight of governors’ emergency powers. These laws were enacted in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Kentucky, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah.

Additionally, voters in Pennsylvania will have a chance on May 18, 2021, to approve a measure the Pennsylvania State Legislature certified for the ballot that would limit the governor’s emergency powers.

Laws limiting the governor’s emergency powers have been enacted in five states where one party controls the governorship and both branches of the state legislature—Arkansas (Republican trifecta), Colorado (Democratic trifecta), New York (Democratic trifecta), Ohio (Republican trifecta), and Utah (Republican trifecta). Laws limiting the governor’s authority have been enacted in three states with divided governments. In Kansas, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania, the governorship is controlled by a Democrat, while Republicans hold majorities in the state legislature’s chambers.

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

• In Kansas, Gov. Laura Kelly (D) signed Senate Bill 50 into law on March 24, 2021. Under the law, anyone burdened by an executive order, school board policy, or county health directive can file a lawsuit, and courts must respond to the lawsuit within 72 hours to determine if the order or policy is narrowly tailored to the emergency. The law also expanded the Legislative Coordinating Council from seven to eight members and empowered it to override gubernatorial executive orders. On Thursday, April 1, the Legislative Coordinating Council voted 5-2 (with one absence) to end Kelly’s statewide mask mandate.

• In Ohio, Republican majorities in the General Assembly voted on March 24 to override Governor Mike DeWine’s (R) veto of Senate Bill 22, which placed a 90-day limit on states of emergency and authorized lawmakers to pass resolutions to terminate a state of emergency after 30 days.

• In Kentucky, Republican majorities in the General Assembly voted to override Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) vetoes of Senate Bill 1 and Senate Bill 2. The bills limit the governor’s emergency orders to 30 days unless extended by the legislature and grant legislative committees more oversight of the governor’s emergency administrative regulations. However, Franklin Circuit Court Judge Phillip Shepherd temporarily blocked parts of both bills from taking effect on March 3, after Beshear filed a lawsuit arguing the bills would undermine public health measures meant to protect people in Kentucky from the coronavirus pandemic. Those injunctions remain in effect.

As of April 2020, legislatures in 33 states can vote to terminate a governor’s emergency declarations. Legislatures in Alaska, Kansas, Michigan, and Minnesota are required to vote on extending or terminating a governor’s emergency declarations.

To read more about laws limiting governors’ emergency powers, click below.

Changes to state emergency power laws in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020-2021

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New Mexico becomes the third state this year to approve recreational marijuana legalization

On April 12, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) signed House Bill 2 (HB 2) to legalize recreational marijuana. 

HB 2 made New Mexico the third state to approve recreational marijuana legalization in the last two weeks. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a marijuana legalization bill on March 31, and, on April 7, the Virginia General Assembly approved Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) amended legalization proposal.

HB 2 allows the possession of up to two ounces of marijuana, 16 grams of concentrated marijuana, and 800 milligrams of edible cannabis. It allows each person to grow up to six mature and six immature marijuana plants, with a limit of 12 mature plants per household. Local governments will be allowed to pass laws regulating certain commercial activity and density. 

Marijuana sales will be taxed at 12% through July 1, 2025. After 2025, the tax will increase by one percentage point annually until it reaches 18% in 2030. One-third of revenue will go to the city in which the sale occurred, one-third to the county, and the other third will be distributed by future legislation.

Provisions of HB 2 without specified timelines, such as legalization of possession and use, will go into effect 90 days after the legislative session adjourns, estimated to be around July 1. The bill also establishes the Cannabis Control Division to regulate and license commercial marijuana activity. The division must establish a date to begin legal marijuana sales starting no later than April 1, 2022.

Another bill, Senate Bill 2, provided for the expungement of certain marijuana-related convictions for activities made legal by HB 2.

New Mexico was the fifth state to approve legalized recreational marijuana through legislative action rather than a voter-approved ballot measure. Including New Mexico, 17 states and D.C. have enacted marijuana legalization. The first nine states to legalize recreational marijuana did so through ballot initiatives. An additional 13 states have decriminalized recreational marijuana usage.

South Dakota voters approved a recreational marijuana legalization initiative in 2020, but it was ruled unconstitutional. Proponents said they would appeal the ruling to the state supreme court.

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State legislators passed restrictions on the initiative process in three states and are considering ballot measure law changes in several others

At least 123 legislative proposals concerning ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recall were introduced in the 2021 legislative sessions of 34 states. At least eight had been approved so far.

Here are some of the most notable changes to ballot measure law passed and proposed in 2021:

  • The South Dakota Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would require a 60% supermajority vote for future ballot measures that increase taxes or fees or that require the state to appropriate $10 million or more in the first five fiscal years.
  • The legislature referred the amendment to the June 2022 ballot, and voters must approve it before it is enacted.
  • Legislation to enact or increase supermajority requirements for ballot measures was introduced in 2021 sessions in seven states: Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Missouri, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and South Dakota. Proposed requirements range from 60% to two-thirds (66.67%). Some proposals apply only to citizen-initiated measures but not referrals, some to constitutional amendments—both citizen-initiated and legislatively referred, and some to measures proposing tax increases or certain levels of funding allocation.
  • The Idaho Legislature passed a bill to change the state’s distribution requirement to require signatures from 6% of voters from all 35 legislative districts for ballot initiatives and veto referendums instead of the existing requirement of 6% of voters from 18 of the state’s legislative districts. 
  • In 2019, the Idaho Legislature passed but the governor vetoed a pair of bills that were designed to increase the state’s initiative signature requirement and its distribution requirement, among other changes. 
  • The 2021 law was passed by more than the two-thirds majority required to override a veto in each chamber.
  • When the Idaho Legislature approved SB 1110, Former Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones submitted a petition with about 16,000 signatures to Gov. Little asking him to veto the bill.
  • Bills to enact single-subject rules for ballot initiatives were introduced in Arizona, Mississippi, and North Dakota.
  • Bills to require certain disclosures and details regarding their single-subject rules were also introduced in 2021 in Nebraska and South Dakota.
  • Proposals to establish statewide initiative, referendum, or recall processes were introduced in Connecticut, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
  • Other topics addressed by 2021 legislation include drafting and displaying ballot language, petition language, and voter guide language; signature removal; signature verification; filing fees; ballot and voter guide argument fees and requirements; deadlines and process changes; procedures and requirements for legal challenges; and election date requirements.


Checks and Balances: State lawmakers press for oversight of emergency powers

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

This edition: 

In this month’s edition of Checks and Balances, we review the six resolutions of disapproval filed under the Congressional Review Act that could nullify regulations issued in the final months of the Trump administration. We also review judicial activity affecting federal employee removal protections and applications of Chevron deference to agency interpretations of criminal statutes. 

At the state level, we take a look at a Connecticut judge’s opinion supporting legislative oversight of executive emergency powers; a veto override from the Ohio General Assembly enacting legislation limiting the governor’s emergency powers; a legislative proposal in Idaho that would allow state lawmakers to veto certain federal government actions; and new limits on judicial deference in Georgia tax cases. 

We also highlight a new paper examining the recent increase in agency leadership positions held by former congressional staff. As always, we wrap up with our Regulatory Tally, which features information about the 262 proposed rules and 277 final rules added to the Federal Register in March and OIRA’s regulatory review activity.


In Washington

Democrats file six CRA resolutions aiming to block Trump-era agency rules

  • What’s the story? Democratic members of Congress introduced six resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) prior the April 4 deadline. The resolutions create a path for lawmakers to review federal rules issued during the final months of the Trump administration (after August 21, 2020) and vote to reject them.
  • To reject a rule, both chambers of Congress must pass a resolution disapproving the rule and President Joe Biden (D) must sign the resolution into law.  
  • The CRA authorizes the U.S. Senate to fast-track the resolutions through the legislative process. In order to avoid any legislative delay tactics, senators must take action to fast-track the resolutions before the deadline, estimated to occur in mid-to-late May according to The George Washington University’s Regulatory Studies Center. 
  • The six resolutions of disapproval seek to block the following agency regulations:
  • An October 2020 rule from the U.S. Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) that aims to determine when banks are the true lender in situations where banks provide the money for third-party organizations to extend credit to borrowers. 
  • A November 2020 rule from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that changed regulations governing shareholder proposal submissions. 
  • An Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule from September 2020 that reversed the Obama administration’s methane standards. 
  • An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) rule changing the conciliation process (an alternative to litigation). 
  • A sunset rule from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that sets expiration dates for HHS regulations unless the agency reviews those regulations according to Regulatory Flexibility Act requirements.
  • A November 2020 rule from the Social Security Administration that aims to clarify when administrative appeals judges on the Social Security Administration Appeals Council may hold hearings and issue decisions.

Sixth Circuit narrows Chevron deference 

  • What’s the story? A divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit on March 25 limited applications of Chevron deference in the criminal context in its Gun Owners of America v. Garland decision, which invalidated the Trump administration’s bump stock ban. 
  • The court declined to apply Chevron deference to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearm’s statutory interpretation supporting the agency’s rule that allowed bump stocks to be classified as machine guns. The court held that Chevron deference did not apply because the law in question was a criminal statute. The court also found that the district court should have permitted the plaintiffs’ request for an injunction to block the rule.
  • “Consistent with our precedent and mandated by separation-of-powers and fair-notice concerns,” wrote Judge Alice Batchelder in the opinion, “we hold that an administering agency’s interpretation of a criminal statute is not entitled to Chevron deference.”
  • Judge Eric Murphy joined Judge Batchelder in the opinion. Judge Helene White dissented.
  • Judge White disagreed with the court’s limitation on Chevron deference. “The Supreme Court has applied Chevron in the criminal context in three binding decisions—Chevron itself, Babbitt, and O’Hagan—and has never purported to overrule those cases,” she wrote.
  • The court remanded the case to the district court and eliminated the possibility of a nationwide injunction by limiting any subsequent injunctions to the four states within the Sixth Circuit.
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Federal Circuit raises standard to remove federal employees

  • What’s the story? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on March 11 set a new bar for firing federal agency employees in the case Santos v. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
  • The court found that NASA failed to provide justification for placing its employee, Fernando Santos, on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP). An agency generally issues a PIP as a signal to a poor performing employee before initiating disciplinary action. 
  • The three-judge panel (Judges Kathleen O’Malley, William Bryson, and Todd Hughes) ruled that federal law requires agencies to justify the issuance of a PIP when a fired employee challenges a PIP-based removal. Prior to the court’s decision, agencies had not been required to justify the use of a PIP.
  • “Allowing a PIP to serve as the pre-removal notice required by Section 4303 is not the  same as allowing the mere fact of a PIP to create a presumption that the pre-PIP conduct  was actually unacceptable,” wrote Judge O’Malley in the opinion. “Thus, we  hold that, once an agency chooses to impose a post-PIP termination, it must prove by substantial evidence that the employee’s unacceptable  performance  ‘continued’—i.e., it  was  unacceptable before the PIP and remained so during the PIP.”
  • The judges remanded the case to the Merit Systems Protection Board for further proceedings.
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In the states

Connecticut judge calls for legislative oversight of governor’s emergency powers

  • What’s the story? Connecticut Superior Court Judge Thomas Moukawsher on March 8 issued a decision that upheld the state’s mask mandate for school children while also calling for legislative oversight of the governor’s emergency actions.
  • Moukawsher stated that, in his view, the Connecticut Constitution does not allow the Connecticut General Assembly to delegate legislative power—including emergency power—to the governor without placing limits on such authority. 
  • Moukawsher claimed that state law must include a method for the general assembly to disapprove of the governor’s orders, that the general assembly must ratify or reject the governor’s existing orders, and that current law requires the general assembly to renew the governor’s emergency authority after six months.
  • The effect of Moukawsher’s decision depends on the Connecticut Supreme Court’s forthcoming written opinion in the December 2020 case Casey v. Lamont, in which the court upheld Governor Ned Lamont’s (D) executive order on bar closures. The court had yet to issue a written opinion in the case as of April 7, but its anticipated opinion is expected to include guidance that could affect Moukawsher’s holding.
  • “This court believes that the Governor likely cannot continue to carry out his emergency orders without some form of ratification and control from the General Assembly,” wrote Moukawsher, “But matters affecting this issue are currently before the Connecticut Supreme Court. Whether this court may act in any way on this question or what way it may act will doubtless be influenced by the pending decision.”
  • Lamont indicated that he would allow his emergency powers to expire after April 20 and would work with legislators to continue any executive orders deemed necessary. “Right now my EO’s are in place,” said Lamont at a news conference. “If anyone wants to counter them, I’m willing to listen, and then on April 20 the legislature will step in and make some determinations.” 
  • Want to go deeper?

Ohio lawmakers override governor’s veto to implement legislative oversight of emergency actions

  • What’s the story? The Ohio General Assembly on March 24 voted to override Governor Mike Dewine’s (R) veto of a law aimed at increasing legislative oversight of the governor’s emergency powers.
  • Senate Bill 22 places a 90-day limit on states of emergency. It also authorizes lawmakers to pass resolutions to terminate a state of emergency after 30 days and to reject any executive orders related to the emergency.
  • The House of Representatives approved the veto override by a 62-35 vote. The Senate approved the veto override by a 23-10 vote. Both votes occurred largely along party lines with three Republicans joining Democrats in opposition.
  • Dewine expressed concerns about the legislation in his March 23 veto statement, including what he views as the potential unconstitutionality of reversing executive orders through resolutions and the potential prevention of  local health boards from quarantining people exposed to deadly diseases.
  • Speaker of the House Bob Cupp (R) stated that the Ohio legislation updates the state statute to align with similar processes in 26 other states. “We have a very old statute, and the pandemic sort of brought that to light,” said Cupp. “And so we are just adjusting and modernizing our statute.”
  • Democrats, including House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes (D), voted against the legislation. “You all are great at a lot of things,” Sykes told her colleagues on the House floor. “You are brilliant orators, lawyers, business owners, farmers, and more, but you are not good at public health.”
  • Want to go deeper?

Idaho legislative committee advances bill allowing for veto of federal actions 

  • What’s the story? Idaho state Representative Sage Dixon (R), co-chair of the state legislature’s Committee on Federalism, on March 10 introduced legislation in the House State Affairs Committee that aims to allow state lawmakers to veto federal actions.
  • The bill would allow any state legislator to make a complaint concerning federal actions, such as executive orders, acts of Congress, or federal court rulings, that they consider to be beyond the scope of federal authority. 
  • After receiving a complaint, the members of the federalism committee would determine whether the complaint has merit. If so, a public hearing would be scheduled and, after the hearing, the committee would submit a report to the full legislature recommending whether to pass legislation nullifying the federal action.
  • Dixon told lawmakers that the nation has “experienced the gradual drifting away from the founding principles of a limited federal government that stayed within the powers granted to it in the Constitution to a place where states are often merely enforcement vehicles of federal policy.”
  • The House State Affairs Committee advanced the bill to the full House for possible amendments.
  • Idaho Deputy Attorney General Cory M. Carone issued an opinion on March 19 claiming that the legislation wasn’t unconstitutional on its face, but that lawmakers’ actions pursuant to the legislation could face constitutional challenges.
  • Want to go deeper?

Georgia legislature approves limits on judicial deference 

  • What’s the story? The Georgia House of Representatives on March 22 voted 164-4 to send legislation to the governor’s desk that would limit judicial deference in the state by ending deference to certain tax regulations. The state Senate unanimously approved the legislation on March 1. 
  • Senate Bill 185, sponsored by state Senator Bo Hatchett (R) and six Republican cosponsors, requires state courts and the Georgia Tax Tribunal to decide all questions of law without deference to the regulations or policy interpretations of the state’s Department of Revenue, among other provisions.
  • Georgia lawmakers failed to approve similar legislation last year before the close of the legislative session.
  • Georgia joins a group of other states that have addressed judicial deference practices in recent years. Since 2008, Wisconsin, Florida, Mississippi, Arizona, and Michigan have taken executive, judicial, or legislative action to prohibit or limit judicial deference to state agencies.
  • Want to go deeper?

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Examining the “Congress-to-commission” pathway

“Congress’s Commissioners,” a recent paper in the Yale Journal on Regulation by administrative law scholars Brian D. Feinstein and M. Todd Henderson, examines Congress’ growing practice of placing former legislative staff members in agency leadership positions. The authors found that the practice has increased nearly fourfold since the 1980s. Half of all current commissioners and board members on eleven major multi-member agencies examined by the authors previously served as legislative staff.

The authors argue that:

“[T]he Congress-to-commission pathway likely changes the way in which the administrative state operates. To the extent that former staffers take the culture of, and their connections to, Capitol Hill with them to their new jobs, then some of Congress’s pathologies may inhibit agency functioning. On the other hand, linking commissions with the legislative branch may increase democratic accountability, provide meaningful oversight, and improve commissions’ understanding of congressional objectives.”

  • Want to go deeper

Regulatory tally

Federal Register

Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA)

OIRA’s March regulatory review activity included the following actions:

  • Review of 28 significant regulatory actions. 
  • Three rules approved without changes; recommended changes to 25 proposed rules.
  • As of April 9, 2021, OIRA’s website listed 38 regulatory actions under review.
  • Want to go deeper? 


Pennsylvania’s May 18 primary ballot will feature four ballot measures, the most since 1981

At the primary election on May 18, 2021, Pennsylvania voters will decide four ballot measures alongside legislative special elections, municipal and school district elections, and judicial elections. It is the most measures on a Pennsylvania ballot since 1981. During the last two decades, the average number of measures on the ballot in Pennsylvania per year was less than one. Additional measures could appear on the November general election ballot this year. Four constitutional amendments are pending in the legislature.

Question 1 and Question 2 on the May ballot address the governor’s emergency powers, which have been a point of conflict between the Republican-controlled Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf during the coronavirus pandemic. Question 1 would allow the Pennsylvania General Assembly to pass a resolution, which would not require the governor’s signature, to extend or terminate the governor’s emergency declaration. Question 2 would limit the governor’s declaration to 21 days unless the legislature votes on a concurrent resolution to extend the order.

In June 2020, the General Assembly passed a concurrent resolution to terminate Gov. Tom Wolf’s (D) coronavirus emergency declaration. On July 1, however, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the governor could veto the concurrent resolution. On July 14, Gov. Wolf vetoed the resolution, which would have required a legislative two-thirds vote to overturn. 

Question 3 would add the following section to the Pennsylvania Constitution’s Declaration of Rights: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania because of the race or ethnicity of the individual.” The state Senate voted to add Question 3 to the same bill that referred Question 1 and Question 2 to the ballot.

Unlike the other three ballot measures, Question 4 changes state statute, not the state constitution. It would expand the state’s loan program for volunteer fire companies and ambulance services to also include municipal fire companies and EMS services. The loan program is funded by general obligation bonds. Question 4 would not issue new bonds. Voters have approved a total of $100 million in general obligation bonds between 1975 and 2002 to fund the loan program. Loans can be used for establishing or modernizing facilities, equipment, and vehicles.

Between 1995 and 2020, the state legislature referred 10 constitutional amendments to the ballot. All 10 of the constitutional amendments were approved. As of 2020, voters last rejected a constitutional amendment in 1981.

May 3 is the deadline to register to vote in the election. May 11 is the last day to request a mail-in ballot.

Additional Reading:



March 2021 partisan composition of state legislative seats — 54.3% Republicans and 44.9% Democrats

According to March’s partisan count of the 7,383 state legislators across the United States, 54.27% of all state legislators are Republicans, and 44.91% are Democrats.

Ballotpedia tallies the partisan balance of state legislatures, or which political party holds the majority of the seats in each chamber, at the end of every month. Republicans control 61 chambers, while Democrats control 37. One chamber (Alaska’s state House) has a power-sharing agreement between the two parties.

Republicans held 1,089 of the 1,972 total state senate seats—up five seats from February—and 2,918 of the total 5,411 state house seats—up one seat from last month. Democrats held 869 state senate seats (up three seats) and 2,447 state house seats (down two seats). Independent or third-party legislators held 38 seats. There were 22 vacant seats.

In March, Democrats saw a net increase of one seat, while Republicans saw a net increase of five seats. Compared to March 2020, Democrats have lost five state Senate seats (874 v. 869) and 139 state House seats (2,586 v. 2,447). Republicans have gained four state Senate seats (1,085 v 1,089) and 139 state House seats (2,779 v 2,918). 

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Special election to be held in Connecticut House district

Voters will decide a special election for District 112 of the Connecticut House of Representatives on April 13. Nicholas Kapoor (D), Tony Scott (R), and William Furrier (Independent Party) are running in the general election. The winner will serve until January 2023.

The seat became vacant after the resignation of J.P. Sredzinski (R) on February 17. Sredzinski had represented the district since 2015.

Heading into the special election, Democrats have a 96-53 majority in the Connecticut House with two vacancies. Connecticut has a Democratic 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 April, 33 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. Connecticut held 40 state legislative special elections from 2011 to 2020.

Additional Reading:

  • State legislative special elections, 2021
  • Connecticut House of Representatives
  • Connecticut House of Representatives, District 112


West Virginia enacts law creating intermediate appellate court

Governor Jim Justice (R) signed SB 275 into law on April 9 which provides guidelines for creating the West Virginia Intermediate Court of Appeals, effective June 30, 2021. Previously, West Virginia’s state courts included a state supreme court of appeals and trial courts with both general and limited jurisdiction.

According to Metro News, a 2009 judicial reform panel recommended the creation of an intermediate court. West Virginia is one of nine states without an intermediate appellate court, and the supreme court of appeals serves as the only appellate court.

As outlined in SB 275, the court will consist of three judges elected to 10-year terms. The first three judges will be appointed, with the first judicial election being held in 2024. These elections will be nonpartisan.

Additional Reading:



Nebraska Department of Insurance Director Bruce Ramge retires

Bruce Ramge, the longest-serving Nebraska Department of Insurance director, retired on April 9. Former Gov. Dave Heineman (R) appointed him director in November 2010.

According to a press release from Gov. Pete Ricketts’ (R) office, Ramge served the department for 36 years, first joining in 1984 as an employee of the Market Conduct Division. He was then promoted to chief of market regulation in 1999, which was later followed by his appointments to deputy director and director in 2008 and 2010, respectively.

According to Nebraska’s constitution, Gov. Ricketts is responsible for appointing Ramge’s replacement with the consent of a majority of the state legislature. According to the Lincoln Journal Star, Ricketts appointed Eric Dunning to the position on April 2, with an effective start date of April 19.

The insurance commissioner is a state-level position in all 50 states. The duties of the position vary from state to state, but their general role is as a consumer protection advocate and insurance regulator. The position is elected in 11 states and appointed in 39. The office is nonpartisan in 38 states. The 12 states in which the position is partisan include the 11 states where the insurance commissioner is elected, as well as Ohio. Of the 12 states where the insurance commissioner has a partisan affiliation, the office is held by a Democrat in three and a Republican in nine.

Additional Reading:



A look back at government responses to the coronavirus pandemic, April 13-17, 2020

Although the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020, it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout March and April, states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. 

Here are the policy changes that happened April 13-17, 2020. This list is not comprehensive. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Monday, April 13, 2020:

  • Travel restrictions
    • The Pennsylvania Department of Health recommended that out-of-state travelers, especially those from areas with high rates of infection or community spread, self-quarantine for 14 days.
  • School closures:
    • Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
  • Federal government responses:
    • The Supreme Court of the United States announced it would hear 13 cases by teleconference in May. The court announced it would broadcast live audio of the proceedings to the public for the first time in history.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

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

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

  • Travel restrictions
    • Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) issued an order requiring out-of-state visitors to self-quarantine for 14 days. The restriction was included in Little’s extension of the stay-at-home order that went into effect March 25 and was set to expire on April 15. The travel restriction exempted essential workers. 
  • School closures:
    • Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) recommended that schools close for the remainder of the academic year. Schools in the state were previously ordered closed from March 20 through April 24.
  • Election changes:
    • Susan Swecker, chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Virginia, announced that the party would conduct its state convention, scheduled to take place on June 20, 2020, remotely on that day.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

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

Friday, April 17, 2020

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

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