Special election runoff to be held in Georgia Senate district

A special election runoff is being held on August 11 for District 4 of the Georgia State Senate. Republicans Scott Bohlke and Billy Hickman are facing off in the runoff. Bohlke and Hickman advanced past the June 9 primary election with 32% and 33% of the vote, respectively. The two candidates are also running in a primary runoff in the regularly-scheduled election. The winner of the primary runoff will be unopposed in the general election.

The seat became vacant after Jack Hill (R) passed away on April 6. Hill had represented District 4 since 1991.

Heading into the special election, Republicans have a 34-21 majority in the Georgia Senate with one vacancy. Georgia 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, 52 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 25 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

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Maine Supreme Judicial Court hears arguments about the role of ballot referenda in overturning state administrative agency decisions

On August 5, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court heard oral arguments in a case about whether voters may use the ballot referendum process to reverse actions taken by a state administrative agency. At issue is a ballot referendum set to appear on the November 2020 ballot that would overturn a state agency decision giving a power company permission to build a high-voltage power line.

The lawyer for Avangrid Networks, which owns the power company, argued that the “integrity of the Maine Constitution and [its] constitutional form of government” depended on the court stopping the ballot referendum. He said that it was the duty of the court to stop proponents of the ballot referendum from attempting to use the referendum process in a way that is not supported by the state constitution.

Opponents of the referendum argue that the ballot measure violates the separation of powers provision found in Article III of the Maine Constitution. They’ve argued that the measure is an attempt to use a ballot referendum to exercise executive authority by reversing an agency order, and judicial authority by overturning a related court decision.

The lawyer representing supporters of the referendum argued that the court should wait to rule on the constitutionality of the referendum until after the November 2020 election. He argued that the referendum, which would direct the behavior of the Maine Public Utilities Commission, was a legitimate use of legislative authority. He added that however the court decides, voters should be allowed to vote for or against the measure in the election.

The lawyer for the secretary of state of Maine stated that the secretary agreed, along with the challengers, that the referendum goes beyond the power of citizens to legislate under the Maine Constitution. She also stated that the court should decide the issue before the November election.

To learn more about the Maine ballot measure, see here:
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Link to the oral argument:

Ballotpedia study shows that no states require administrative agencies to meet higher burdens of proof in proportion to the size of monetary penalties they seek to impose

A Ballotpedia survey of all 50 state constitutions and administrative procedure acts (APAs) revealed that no state constitutions or APAs require administrative agencies to meet higher burdens of proof in proportion to the size of monetary penalties they seek to impose following adjudication.

Agency adjudication is a quasi-judicial process that takes place in the executive branch of the state government instead of in the judicial branch. Often, the procedural protections associated with adjudication are different from those found in a traditional courtroom setting.

Adjudication proceedings include agency determinations outside of the rulemaking process that aim to resolve disputes between either agencies and private parties or between two private parties. The adjudication process results in the issuance of an adjudicative order, which serves to settle the dispute and, in some cases, may set agency policy.

States often require state agencies to base their adjudication decisions on substantial evidence. That requirement led Ballotpedia to wonder whether state agencies had higher evidentiary burdens when they sought to impose higher penalties and fines. The survey showed that no state required administrative agencies to meet higher burdens of proof in proportion to the size of monetary penalties they seek to impose.

To learn more about Ballotpedia’s survey related to procedural rights, see here:

Procedural rights: States that require agencies to meet higher burdens of proof in proportion to the size of monetary penalties they seek to impose

Want to go further? Learn more about the five pillars of the administrative state here: Administrative state

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Four states to hold state executive and legislative primaries on August 11

The statewide primary election for Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin is on August 11, 2020. A total of 689 seats are up for election, including six state executive seats and 683 state legislative seats. Candidates are running in elections for the following offices:

• State Senate (all 36 seats)

• State House (all 151 seats)

• State Senate (all 67 seats)

• State House (all 134 seats)

• Governor
• Lieutenant Governor
• Secretary of State
• Auditor
• Attorney General
• Treasurer
• State Senate (all 30 seats)

• State House (all 150 seats)

• State Senate (16 out of 33 seats)

• State Assembly (all 99 seats)

Candidates are competing to advance to the general election scheduled for November 3, 2020.

These primaries are the 39th through the 42nd primaries to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next statewide primary will be held on August 18 in Alaska, Florida, and Wyoming.

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DeSantis appoints judge, attorney to Florida Court of Appeals

On July 29, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R ) filled two vacancies on the Florida Second District Court of Appeal. The court is one of five intermediate appellate courts in Florida. Intermediate appellate courts serve as an intermediate step between the trial courts and the courts of last resort in a state. The Florida District Courts of Appeal were established in 1957 to relieve the case docket of the Florida Supreme Court.

John K. Stargel fills the vacancy created by the resignation of former judge Samuel Salario, who resigned from the court on June 4, 2020, to take a job in the investment industry. Prior to joining the appellate court, he was a judge on Florida’s Tenth Judicial Circuit Court.

Suzanne Labrit, who has worked in private law practice for over two decades, fills the vacancy created by the elevation of Judge John Badalamenti to the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Both judges must stand for retention election in 2022 in order to serve full six-year terms on the court.

Judicial positions in Florida are nonpartisan. Of the 16 judges currently sitting on the Florida Second District Court of Appeal, two were appointed by a Democratic governor and 14 were appointed by a Republican governor. Of the 48 judgeships across the other four district appellate courts, only one sitting judge was appointed by a Democratic governor. The rest were appointed by a Republican governor.

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Davis joins Tennessee Court of Appeals after delayed confirmation

Over 60 days after Gov. Bill Lee (R) appointed Kristi Davis to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, Davis was confirmed and sworn into office. She resigned from her position on the state’s Sixth Circuit Court on July 31 and assumed office on the appellate court on August 3.

Davis fills the vacancy created by the retirement of Charles Susano, the longest-serving judge in the history of the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Lee appointed Davis on May 28, 2020, but her confirmation hearing was delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Tennessee state legislature suspended its legislative session this spring effective March 19 until June 1. The legislature then adjourned on June 19.

Had the legislature voted to confirm Davis upon returning to session in June, she would have been required to stand for retention election this month. Tennessee appellate judges are mandated to stand for retention election in the next general election occurring at least 30 days after the vacancy occurs, and general judicial elections in the state take place during the non-judicial primary in August.

The Tennessee courts reported that mail-in ballots for the August election had already been distributed and that it would have cost an additional $700,000 to send out ballots including Davis’ name. Tennessee law states that nominees not confirmed by the state legislature within 60 days are automatically confirmed the following day. Tennessee Sen. Mike Bell (R) said of the decision to allow Davis to be automatically confirmed, “After talking about it and realizing that especially in these times of crunched budgets $700,000 is not an insignificant amount of money…What we decided to do would be to allow the nominee to be confirmed basically by default by us not acting.”

Judicial elections for the appellate court in Tennessee are held every two years in even-numbered years. Davis will thus stand for retention election in 2022, and her current term ends on August 31 of that year.

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Five states hold state executive and legislative primaries August 4

Five states held statewide primaries on August 4, 2020: Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington. There were 690 state executive and legislative seats up for election. These included 22 state executive seats, 112 state senate seats, and 556 state house seats.

Candidates competed to advance to the general election on November 3, 2020.

The following information was current as of August 6. At that time, some races were still too close to call, and results from Washington were not yet final because the election was held largely by mail.

Across the five states, 549 incumbents filed for re-election to the 690 seats. Preliminary results indicate at least 16 incumbents were defeated.

Eighteen state executive incumbents filed for re-election. Of those 18 incumbents, 15 advanced to the general election. The results for three of the seats were not yet known.

In the state senate elections, 90 incumbents filed for re-election to 112 seats. At least seven did not advance to the general election. In the state house elections, 441 incumbents competed for re-election to 556 seats. Nine were defeated, but that number may grow as results are finalized.

Washington state holds top-two primaries in which all candidates appear on the primary ballot, regardless of party affiliation. The top two vote-getters advance to the general election.

These primaries were the 32nd through the 36th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next primary was held on August 6 in Tennessee.

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Alaska State Rep. killed in airplane crash

Alaska House of Representatives District 30 member Gary Knopp (R) died in a plane crash near the city of Soldatna, Alaska, on August 1. The Juneau Empire reported that a plane piloted by Knopp collided with another plane just outside of the Soldatna airport.

Knopp was running for re-election in 2020, and his name will still appear on the ballot in the Republican primary on August 18. According to the Anchorage Daily News, if Knopp wins the primary election, Alaska Republican Party officials will name a replacement candidate in the general election scheduled on November 3, 2020. Knopp was first elected to represent District 30 in 2016.

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Thirty-four states have statewide mask orders—what are the restrictions in your state?

Thirty-four states have statewide orders requiring individuals to wear masks in indoor or outdoor public spaces, as of August 6. All 24 states with a Democratic governor have statewide mask orders, while 10 out of 26 Republican states require face coverings.

The mask requirements have been issued across five months:
Three orders have been issued in August.
13 orders were initially issued in July.
Four orders were initially issued in June.
Six orders were initially issued in May.

Eight orders were initially issued in April.

No states have allowed their mask orders to expire. Georgia is the only state where a statewide executive order prohibits localities from implementing mask restrictions.

Inslee and Culp advance from Washington’s top-two gubernatorial primary

Incumbent Gov. Jay Inslee (D) and Loren Culp (R) defeated 34 other candidates to advance in Washington’s top-two primary for governor on August 4, 2020. In a top-two primary, all candidates regardless of party affiliation run in the same primary. The top-two vote-getters advance to the general election.

Eleven Republicans, five Democrats, five unaffiliated candidates, three independents, and 12 candidates affiliated with third parties were on the ballot. As of 10:15 p.m. Western Time, Inslee had received 52% of the vote followed by Culp with 17% with an estimated 50% of precincts reporting. No other candidate received more than 10% of the vote.

Inslee, first elected in 2012, is seeking a third term. One Washington governor has ever served a third consecutive term: Daniel Evans (R), who left office in 1977. Inslee was a 2020 Democratic primary candidate for president and suspended his campaign in August 2019.

Culp is the Chief of Police in Republic. He served as a combat engineer and owned Stamped Concrete, a construction business. Culp was also a police officer and narcotics detective before being appointed police chief.

Inslee last won re-election in 2016 with 54% of the vote to Bill Bryant’s (R) 45%.