CategoryState

Virginia governor expresses concerns about ESG investing

Virginia Gov. Glen Youngkin (R)—who worked for most of his career in financial services (private equity), where he eventually became co-CEO of the Carlyle Group— signaled last week that he, like many of his Republican colleagues, has some concerns about ESG:

“Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, who ran one of the nation’s biggest investment firms before he took office, said ESG investing is under fire because it has morphed from a philosophy for picking stocks into a weapon for penalizing companies that don’t make the cut.

“‘Is having world-class transparency and governance a good thing? Yes, it’s a really good thing,’ Youngkin, a Republican and the former co-head of Carlyle Group Inc., said during a Bloomberg News editorial board meeting on Monday. But the definition of what’s good for the environment, social goals and governance isn’t one-size-fits all, he added.

“ESG ‘means different things to different people. It just does,’ Youngkin said. Amid this swirl of criteria, he continued, investment firms are telling companies, ‘If you don’t do X, then we’re going to penalize you, as opposed to just not invest with you.’

“At the end of the day, the economics of returns should justify the investment decisions, Youngkin said.”

Most government activity supporting or opposing ESG investing has taken place in states with Republican or Democratic trifectas. Virginia has a divided government with a Republican governor and House of Delegates and a Democratic state Senate.

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Governor Ron DeSantis aims to ban COVID-19 mandates in Florida

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) on January 17, 2023, announced a legislative proposal to permanently ban mandates relating to the COVID-19 pandemic in the state. He stated that the legislation would aim to “permanently protect Floridians from losing their jobs due to COVID-19 vaccine mandates, protects parents’ rights, and institutes additional protections that prevent discrimination based on COVID-19 vaccine status.”  

DeSantis signed legislation during a special session in November 2021 in response to the federal vaccine mandate issued by the Biden administration. The bill prohibited businesses from requiring vaccinations, banned mask requirements in schools, and prohibited schools from requiring students to quarantine after a COVID-19 exposure. DeSantis aims to make the measures outlined in the 2021 legislation permanent, as they are set to expire in June 2023. The proposal also aims to provide what the governor has referred to as freedom of speech protections for medical professionals in the state.   

In a press release announcing the proposed legislation, DeSantis said, “When the world lost its mind, Florida was a refuge of sanity, serving strongly as freedom’s linchpin.” He continued, “These measures will ensure Florida remains this way and will provide landmark protections for free speech for medical practitioners.” 

Democratic lawmakers in the state opposed the 2021 legislation. Florida House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell (D) spoke against the governor’s proposal, stating, “It is a fake ideology with real consequences – 84,000-plus dead Floridians and counting. Masks work, the CDC has proven that. The mRNA vaccines work,” according to CNN.  

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Florida creates new appellate court district

A new appellate court district has been established in Florida following a November 2021 recommendation by the Florida Supreme Court to redraw the district court boundaries. In June 2022, the Florida Legislature passed HB 7027, which was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), to establish the court effective January 1, 2023. The Sixth District Court of Appeal is located in Lakeland and has jurisdiction over the Ninth, Tenth, and Twentieth circuit courts. The Second District Court of Appeal, which previously heard arguments in Lakeland, has relocated to St. Petersburg.

A committee working under the Supreme Court found that the addition of a new district would “provide adequate access to oral arguments and other proceedings, foster public trust and confidence based on geography and demographic composition, and help attract a diverse group of well-qualified applicants for judicial vacancies.”

DeSantis appointed judges to fill each of the court’s nine seats prior to the formation of the court. The nine judges are:

  • Chief Judge Meredith Sasso, who was reassigned from the 5th District.
  • Judge Jay Cohen, who was reassigned from the 5th District.
  • Judge John Stargel, who was reassigned from the 2nd District.
  • Judge Daniel Traver, who was reassigned from the 5th District.
  • Judge Mary Alice Nardella, who was reassigned from the 5th District.
  • Judge Carrie Ann Wozniak, who was reassigned from the 5th District.
  • Judge Keith White, who was a judge on the 9th Circuit Court.
  • Judge Jared Smith, who formerly sat on the 13th Circuit Court.
  • Judge Joshua Mize, who was a judge on the 9th Circuit Court.

The last addition to Florida’s appellate courts was the Fifth District Court of Appeal, which was established in 1979.

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Kentucky threatens to divest from 11 banks over ESG policies

Kentucky State Treasurer Allison Ball (R) on January 2 issued a statement notifying 11 banks that their environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) policies amounted to energy boycotts that harmed the state’s economy according to definitions passed into law last spring. The statement says the banks have 90 days to stop what Kentucky argues are energy company boycotts or face divestment from the state. According to Fox Business:

“Kentucky issued an official notice Monday morning listing 11 banks it accused of boycotting energy companies and which would be subject to divestment within months.

“Kentucky State Treasurer Allison Ball announced that, after a review of their energy and climate policies, the listed banks — which included BlackRock, the largest asset manager in the world, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and HSBC among others — were found to be in an active boycott of fossil fuel companies. The Kentucky state government could begin divesting from the firms if they didn’t reverse their boycotts, according to the notice obtained first by FOX Business.

“‘Kentucky is a coal, oil, and gas producing state,’ Ball told FOX Business. ‘Our energy sector helps power America. Kentucky refuses to fund the ideological boycotts of our own fossil fuel industry with the hard-earned taxes and pensions of Kentucky citizens.’

“Kentucky’s Republican-led legislature passed a bill requiring the state government to identify and divest from banks that are determined to be engaging in a boycott of energy and fossil fuel companies. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear signed the bill, which was endorsed by both the Kentucky Oil and Gas Association and Kentucky Coal Association, into law on April 8, 2022.

“The law directs the state treasurer’s office to publish an annual list of financial firms engaged in energy boycotts. State agencies then must notify the office if they own direct or indirect holdings of the listed companies and send a notice to the relevant companies within 30 days. If the companies don’t halt their boycotts within 90 days of receiving such notice, the state government could divest from their holdings.

“When companies boycott fossil fuels, they intentionally choke off the lifeblood of capital to Kentucky’s signature industries,” Ball said in a statement Monday. ‘Traditional energy sources fuel our Kentucky economy, provide much needed jobs, and warm our homes. Kentucky must not allow our signature industries to be irreparably damaged based upon the ideological whims of a select few.’…

“Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia have already announced they will divest hundreds of millions of dollars from banks engaging in energy boycotts. Texas and Oklahoma have taken legislative steps akin to Kentucky’s that will likely soon lead to divestment.”

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Wisconsin State Legislature sends three ballot questions to the April ballot

Wisconsin voters will be deciding on three ballot questions—two constitutional measures and one advisory question—on April 4. 

The constitutional measures relate to the conditions of release for an accused individual before conviction and cash bail. The two questions were referred to the ballot with the final passage of Senate Joint Resolution 2 (SJR 2) on Jan. 19.

In Wisconsin, the state legislature is required to approve an amendment by a majority vote in two successive sessions for the amendment to appear on the ballot.

During the 2021-2022 legislative session, the amendment was introduced as Assembly Joint Resolution 107 (AJR 107). The state Assembly approved AJR 107 by a vote of 70-21 on Feb. 15, 2022. The state Senate approved the amendment by a vote of 23-10 on Feb. 22.

During the 2023-2024 legislative session, the amendment was introduced as SJR 2. It was approved by the state Senate on Jan. 17, 2023, by a vote of 23-9. It was approved by the state Assembly on Jan. 19, 2023, by a vote 74-23. In both chambers, Republicans supported the amendment. In the House, Democrats were divided 12-23. In the Senate, Democrats were divided 2-9.

Questions 1 and 2 both amend Article I, Section 8 of the state constitution. Question 1 would authorize the state legislature to define serious harm in relation to the conditions—designed to protect the community from serious harm—a judge imposes on an accused person released before conviction. Question 2 would authorize judges to consider the following conditions when imposing and setting cash bail:

  • a previous conviction of a violent crime, 
  • the probability the accused will not appear in court,
  • the need to protect the community from serious harm as defined by the state legislature,
  • the need to prevent witness intimidation, and
  • the potential affirmative defenses of the accused.

State Sen. Van Wanggaard (R), one of the sponsors of the amendment, said, “The proposed amendment also broadens the factors that a judge can consider when setting a monetary condition for release, or cash bail for violent crimes. As I said earlier, Wisconsin is the only state that only allows judges to consider a single factor when setting cash bail. Under our proposal, and for violent crimes only, judges will have the flexibility to determine bail based on the totality of circumstances.”

ACLU of Wisconsin opposes the amendment saying it “would undermine the safety and stability of people detained pretrial and their communities, exacerbate inequities in the state’s cash bail system, and raise significant concerns under the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment and the excessive bail prohibition under the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.”

Wisconsin voters last amended this section of the state constitution in April 1981 with the passage of Question 3. It was approved by a vote of 73.15% to 26.85%. The amendment permitted the legislature to allow courts to deny, revoke, or set terms of bail.

In 2022, Ohio voters approved a similar constitutional amendment that requires courts to consider factors such as public safety, the seriousness of the offense, a person’s criminal record, and a person’s likelihood of returning to court when setting the amount of bail.

The Wisconsin State Legislature also voted to send an advisory question to the April ballot asking voters, “Shall able-bodied, childless adults be required to look for work in order to receive taxpayer-funded welfare benefits?” The advisory question would have no binding effect. 

To place an advisory question on the ballot, the state legislature is required to approve it by a simple majority vote in each chamber in one legislative session. The governor’s signature is not required to place it on the ballot.

The advisory question was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 4 (SJR 4). It passed the state Senate on January 17, 2023, by a vote of 22-10. On January 19, the state Assembly passed SJR 4 by a vote of 62-35. Legislative Republicans and one Democrat supported adding the question to the ballot. The remaining Democrats opposed the question.

Between 1985 and 2022, 18 measures appeared on odd-numbered year ballots in Wisconsin. Eleven measures were approved, and seven were defeated. The last spring odd-year election to include a ballot measure in Wisconsin was in 2015. Voters approved the measure, which provided for the election of the Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice by a majority of the justices serving on the court.

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Kentucky threatens to divest from 11 banks over ESG policies

Kentucky State Treasurer Allison Ball (R) on January 2 issued a statement notifying 11 banks that their environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) policies amounted to energy boycotts that harmed the state’s economy according to definitions passed into law last spring. The statement says the banks have 90 days to stop what Kentucky argues are energy company boycotts or face divestment from the state. According to Fox Business:

“Kentucky issued an official notice Monday morning listing 11 banks it accused of boycotting energy companies and which would be subject to divestment within months.

“Kentucky State Treasurer Allison Ball announced that, after a review of their energy and climate policies, the listed banks — which included BlackRock, the largest asset manager in the world, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and HSBC among others — were found to be in an active boycott of fossil fuel companies. The Kentucky state government could begin divesting from the firms if they didn’t reverse their boycotts, according to the notice obtained first by FOX Business.

“‘Kentucky is a coal, oil, and gas producing state,’ Ball told FOX Business. ‘Our energy sector helps power America. Kentucky refuses to fund the ideological boycotts of our own fossil fuel industry with the hard-earned taxes and pensions of Kentucky citizens.’

“Kentucky’s Republican-led legislature passed a bill requiring the state government to identify and divest from banks that are determined to be engaging in a boycott of energy and fossil fuel companies. Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear signed the bill, which was endorsed by both the Kentucky Oil and Gas Association and Kentucky Coal Association, into law on April 8, 2022.

“The law directs the state treasurer’s office to publish an annual list of financial firms engaged in energy boycotts. State agencies then must notify the office if they own direct or indirect holdings of the listed companies and send a notice to the relevant companies within 30 days. If the companies don’t halt their boycotts within 90 days of receiving such notice, the state government could divest from their holdings.

“When companies boycott fossil fuels, they intentionally choke off the lifeblood of capital to Kentucky’s signature industries,” Ball said in a statement Monday. ‘Traditional energy sources fuel our Kentucky economy, provide much needed jobs, and warm our homes. Kentucky must not allow our signature industries to be irreparably damaged based upon the ideological whims of a select few.’…

“Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia have already announced they will divest hundreds of millions of dollars from banks engaging in energy boycotts. Texas and Oklahoma have taken legislative steps akin to Kentucky’s that will likely soon lead to divestment.”

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Fewer bills passed in 2022 to change ballot initiative processes compared to 2021

In 2022, state legislators introduced at least 232 bills to change citizen-initiated ballot measure processes. Of the 232 legislative proposals, 23 (9.91%) were enacted into law. 

In 2021, for comparison, 226 bills were introduced and 36 (15.93%) were enacted. While the number of bills introduced in 2022 was higher than each year from 2014 to 2021, the number of bills passed into law was lower than the average. Between 2014 and 2021, an average of 28 bills were enacted into law each year.

Examples of bills passed in 2022 include:

  • Florida House Bill 921 (HB 921) was passed in March 2022. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed the bill on April 6. HB 921 would have prohibited out-of-state donors from giving more than $3,000 to support or oppose an initiative during the signature-gathering phase. The limit could have made the signature gathering process more difficult to fund. A federal district court struck the bill down as unconstitutional.
  • Florida House Bill 921 (HB 921) was passed in March 2022. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed the bill on April 6. HB 921 would have prohibited out-of-state donors from giving more than $3,000 to support or oppose an initiative during the signature-gathering phase. The limit could have made the signature gathering process more difficult to fund. A federal district court struck the bill down as unconstitutional.

While the number of enacted laws decreased from 2021 to 2022, the number of legislatively referred measures related to the initiative process increased from two in 2018 to four in 2020 to six in 2022. 

There were five constitutional amendments in 2022 to change the initiative process. Voters approved two of the changes and rejected three. The amendments were on the ballot in Arkansas, Arizona, and South Dakota.

  • Arkansas Issue 2: Rejected. Issue 2 would have required a 60% vote to approve ballot initiatives.
  • Arizona Proposition 128: Rejected. Proposition 128 would have allowed the Legislature to amend or repeal voter-approved ballot measures that contain provisions ruled unconstitutional by the Arizona Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court.
  • Arizona Proposition 129: Approved. Proposition 129 requires citizen-initiated ballot measures to embrace a single subject.
  • Arizona Proposition 132: Approved. Proposition 132 requires a 60% vote to pass ballot measures to approve taxes.
  • South Dakota Amendment C: Defeated. Amendment C would have required a 60% vote to pass ballot measures that increase taxes or fees or increase appropriations by $10 million or more in the first five fiscal years.

In Colorado, the Legislature referred a statute, Proposition GG, to the ballot. Voters approved Proposition GG, which requires a table showing changes in income tax owed for average taxpayers in certain brackets to be included in the ballot title for initiated measures.



How is the Texas Constitution amended?

The Texas State Legislature convened its 2023 regular legislative session on Jan. 10. The legislature can refer constitutional amendments, in the form of statewide ballot measures, to the ballot in odd-numbered and even-numbered years. However, Texas is one of four states with biennial legislative sessions that meet in odd-numbered years; therefore, most amendments have been referred to ballots in odd-numbered years.

Texas is one of 16 states that requires a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber during one legislative session to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot. That amounts to a minimum of 100 votes in the Texas House of Representatives and 21 votes in the Texas Senate, assuming no vacancies.

At the general election on November 8, 2022, Republicans retained control of the House and Senate, increasing their majorities in each chamber to 86-64 and 19-12, respectively. This means that Republicans cannot pass amendments without at least some support from Democrats – at minimum, 14 Democrats in the House and two in the Senate.

In 2022, the last election in Texas featuring constitutional amendments, both amendments received unanimous support from voting Democrats and Republicans.

As of Jan. 13, 96 constitutional amendments have been filed in the Texas State Legislature for the 2023 ballot.

  • Democrats filed 49 (51.0%) of the constitutional amendments.
  • Republicans filed 47 (49.0%) of the constitutional amendments.
  • 72 (75.0%) of the constitutional amendments were filed in the House.
  • 24 (25.0%) of the constitutional amendments were filed in the Senate.

In Texas, a total of 281 ballot measures appeared on statewide ballots between 1985 and 2022. Two hundred forty-seven (248) ballot measures were approved, and 33 ballot measures were defeated. The topics that were addressed most by the measures were taxes, bonds, and the administration of government. An average of 14 measures appeared on odd-numbered year statewide ballots.

Texas is one of 16 states that requires a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber during one legislative session to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot. That amounts to a minimum of 100 votes in the Texas House of Representatives and 21 votes in the Texas Senate, assuming no vacancies.

At the general election on November 8, 2022, Republicans retained control of the House and Senate, increasing their majorities in each chamber to 86-64 and 19-12, respectively. This means that Republicans cannot pass amendments without at least some support from Democrats – at minimum, 14 Democrats in the House and two in the Senate.

In 2022, the last election in Texas featuring constitutional amendments, both amendments received unanimous support from voting Democrats and Republicans.

As of Jan. 13, 96 constitutional amendments have been filed in the Texas State Legislature for the 2023 ballot.

  1. Democrats filed 49 (51.0%) of the constitutional amendments.
  2. Republicans filed 47 (49.0%) of the constitutional amendments.
  3. 72 (75.0%) of the constitutional amendments were filed in the House.
  4. 24 (25.0%) of the constitutional amendments were filed in the Senate.

In Texas, a total of 281 ballot measures appeared on statewide ballots between 1985 and 2022. Two hundred forty-seven (248) ballot measures were approved, and 33 ballot measures were defeated. The topics that were addressed most by the measures were taxes, bonds, and the administration of government. An average of 14 measures appeared on odd-numbered year statewide ballots.



Special elections to fill three vacancies in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives scheduled for February 7

Special elections to fill vacancies in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Districts 32, 34, and 35 are scheduled for February 7, 2023. The Allegheny County Democratic Party voted to nominate the District 32 candidate on December 11 and the District 34 and 35 candidates on December 17. The Republican Committee of Allegheny County nominated the Republican candidates on December 17.

In District 32, Joe McAndrew (D) and Clay Walker (R) are running. McAndrew is a former director of the Allegheny Democratic Committee. Walker is a pastor and Army veteran. Incumbent Anthony DeLuca (D) died on October 9, 2022. His name remained on the ballot, and he was re-elected, creating a vacancy on January 3, 2023, when members were sworn in.

In District 34, Abigail Salisbury (D) and Robert Pagane (R) are running. Salisbury is a former law professor who started her own practice. Pagane is a former law enforcement officer. Incumbent Summer Lee (D) won re-election but also won election to represent Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District. Lee resigned on December 7, 2022, in preparation for the office change.

In District 35, Matthew Gergely (D) and Don Nevills (R) are running. Gergely serves as the McKeesport chief finance officer, and formerly served as a McKeesport school board member. Nevills owned and operated a tattoo parlor and candy shop. Incumbent Austin Davis (D) won re-election but also won election as lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania. Davis resigned on December 7, 2022, in preparation for the office change.

According to CNAlysis, all three vacant districts voted for President Joe Biden (D) by margins of more than 15 percentage points in 2020.

On November 8, 2022, Democrats won 102 seats to Republicans’ 101. But because three seats that Democrats won became vacant, Republicans had a functional 101-99 seat majority going into the start of the legislative session. Under Pennsylvania law, the majority leader schedules state legislative special elections. In December 2022, Democrat Joanna McClinton scheduled the three special elections for February 7. McClinton said she was sworn in as majority leader on December 7 because Democrats won more districts on Election Day. Republican Bryan Cutler said McClinton’s swearing-in was not legitimate because Democrats did not have a majority and said he was sworn in as majority leader on December 12. House Republicans filed a lawsuit December 9 challenging the timing of the Districts 34 and 35 elections and alleging McClinton did not have the power to schedule the elections.

Both Republicans and Democrats agreed to hold the District 32 election on February 7.

On January 3, 2023, members of the chamber elected Rep. Mark Rozzi (D) as Speaker of the House with a 115-85 vote. On January 5, Rozzi issued orders affirming February 7 as the date for the Districts 34 and 35 elections. The case was pending before the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court at the time Rozzi issued his orders.



Rouse defeats Adams in special general election for Virginia State Senate District 7

Aaron Rouse (D) defeated Kevin Adams (R) in the January 10, 2023, special general election for Virginia State Senate District 7. Rouse’s victory gave Democrats a 22-18 majority in the state Senate. The special election was called after the previous incumbent, Sen. Jennifer Kiggans (R), resigned on November 15, 2022, after being elected to represent Virginia’s 2nd Congressional District.

Going into the election, Democrats had a 21-18 majority in the state Senate (with the District 7 vacancy). According to Daily Kos’ David Nir, District 7 “has been very swingy: In 2019, Kiggans won it by less than one point, while Joe Biden carried it by 10 points the following year, only to see Youngkin prevail by 4 points in 2021.”

Rouse, a former NFL player, has been an at-large member of the Virginia Beach City Council since 2018. Rouse said “So much is at stake in this upcoming election, from a woman’s fundamental right to choose, which I will fiercely defend, to the efforts that will set us back on voting rights, to addressing climate change, protecting the Chesapeake Bay and waterways, to criminal justice reform.” Rouse listed education as his top priority, including raising teacher salaries and expanding access to preschool. Rouse also listed the economy, healthcare, and public safety as priorities.

Adams is a retired U.S. Navy lieutenant commander who founded and operated a handyman business. Adams said he will “continue working to pass Governor Glenn Youngkin’s pro-veteran agenda, cut taxes, ease regulations, keep our communities safe, and make it easier for small business owners like me to get started and stay in business.” Adams’ platform included working to improve education and workforce training, supporting veterans, lowering gas, grocery, and sales taxes, and growing “school funding while shrinking the power of left-wing idealogues.”

New state legislative maps took effect on January 11, 2023, at the start of the 2023 legislative. However, this special election took place under previous district lines. Click here to compare Virginia State Senate Districts before and after the 2020 redistricting cycle.

Abortion was an issue in the race. Rouse said, “Right now, that’s what we need in Richmond. Extreme Republicans are trying to take away the right to choose in Virginia, rolling back women’s freedom to make their own personal medical decisions.” On his campaign website, Adams said, “We need to pass laws that respect the rights of the mom and baby, limit late-term abortion by passing Glenn Youngkin’s 15-week legislation, while providing reasonable exceptions to protect the life of the mother or in the instance of rape or incest.”

Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia endorsed Rouse, and its associated PAC said it would spend around $100,000 on the race. Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America said it would spend $30,000 in support of Adams.