New York plastic bag ban takes effect on Sunday

New York state residents must prepare to shop with reusable bags or pay a five-cent paper bag fee when the state’s ban on single-use plastic bags takes effect on March 1.

Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) signed the ban into law in August 2019. The ban broadly aims to reduce litter and protect wildlife in the state. Similar bans are currently in effect in California, Hawaii, and Oregon. Additional bans in Maine and Vermont take effect in April and July, respectively.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) released the final regulations to administer the ban in late February. The rules prohibit the use of single-use plastic bags by any retailer that collects sales tax, with certain exceptions, and gives counties and cities the option to charge shoppers a five-cent fee on paper bags. Retailers in violation of the rules face a $250 fine and a $500 fine for each subsequent violation.

Click here to learn more about the rulemaking process

Additional reading:

Plastic bag preemption conflicts between state and local governments 

Granger and Putnam competing for Republican nomination in Texas’ 12th Congressional District

Incumbent Kay Granger and Chris Putnam are running in the Republican Party primary for Texas’ 12th Congressional District on March 3, 2020. Both candidates have campaigned on supporting President Donald Trump and launched campaign ads attacking each other.

Granger highlighted the president’s endorsement of her campaign and said she would support him in “rebuilding our military, securing the border, and restoring America’s rightful place in the world.” She also said she was “honored to be endorsed by leading right to life groups like the Texas Alliance for Life and the Susan B. Anthony List.” Granger said she has returned to the district every weekend to listen to constituents, and called Putnam “a millionaire who just moved here four months ago.” The Congressional Leadership Fund launched a $640,000 television ad buy supporting Granger and criticizing Putnam.

Putnam called Granger a career politician and claimed in an ad she supported President Barack Obama’s immigration policy. He said, “Unlike our 24-year incumbent, I will support President Trump’s efforts to build the wall, eliminate the free government incentives that motivate people to migrate here illegally and end sanctuary cities.” Putnam also said of Granger, “It’s only at election time when she claims to be pro-life.” The Club for Growth endorsed Putnam and is supporting him with a seven-figure ad buy attacking Granger’s congressional spending record. The Protect Freedom PAC also released a $1.1 million television ad buy against Granger.

The winner of the primary will run in the general election on November 3, 2020.

In the 2018 general election, Granger defeated Vanessa Adia (D) 64% to 34%. Granger defeated Bill Bradshaw (D) 69% to 27% in 2016. The 2017 Cook Partisan Voter Index for this district was R+18, meaning that in the previous two presidential elections, this district’s results were 18 percentage points more Republican than the national average.

Click here to learn more

Alabama House passes constitutional amendment to allow people accused of Class A felonies to be held without bail

The Alabama House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 81 on Thursday. If passed by the Senate, the measure would appear on the 2020 ballot for voter approval or rejection.

The amendment, referred to as Aniah’s Law, would allow people accused of Class A felonies to be held without bail “if no conditions of release can reasonably protect the community from risk of physical harm to the accused, the public, or both, ensure the presence of the accused at trial, or ensure the integrity of the judicial process.” Class A felonies in Chapter 6 of Title 13A include murder, kidnapping, rape, human trafficking, elder abuse, and domestic violence.

The constitution currently states that “all persons shall, before conviction, be bailable by sufficient sureties, except for capital offenses, when the proof is evident or the presumption great; and that excessive bail shall not in any case be required.”

In Alabama, a 60% supermajority vote is required in each chamber of the Alabama State Legislature to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot for voter consideration.

The amendment was introduced as House Bill 81 on February 4, 2020, by Rep. Chip Brown (R-105). On February 27, the Alabama House of Representatives approved HB 81 in a vote of 104-0.

Representative Brown said, “Too many of those who are accused of violent crimes are bonding out of jail and committing even more serious offenses, and it is time for law-abiding Alabamians to start fighting back. Denying bail to those accused of violent offenses is a commonsense answer to a dangerous societal problem.”

The amendment is named after Aniah Blanchard, who was allegedly murdered by Ibraheem Yazeed. Yazeed, at the time, was out on bond after being arrested for kidnapping and attempted murder.

A total of 95 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Alabama from 1998 to 2018. An average of eight measures appeared on the ballot in Alabama during even-numbered election years. 81% (72 of 89) of the total number of measures that appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years were approved, and 19% (17 of 89) were defeated.

The legislature referred five constitutional amendments to the 2020 ballot during the 2019 legislative session. Four of the measures will appear on the general election ballot. Amendment 1, which concerns the state board of education, will appear on the March 3 primary election ballot.

Click here to learn about Alabama’s 2020 ballot measures

Additional reading:
Alabama Conditions for Detention Without Bail Amendment (2020) 

Two primaries will take place for California’s 25th Congressional District on March 3

Two top-two primaries will take place on Mar. 3, 2020, in elections to represent California’s 25th Congressional District. The seat is currently vacant following the resignation of Katie Hill (D) on Nov. 1, 2019.

The top two finishers in the primary for the regularly scheduled House election will advance to the Nov. 3, 2020, general election. The top two finishers in the primary for the special election scheduled following Hill’s resignation will advance to a May 12, 2020, election to complete Hill’s term.

Ten candidates are running in both primaries, so it will be possible for voters to select a candidate twice on the same ballot, or choose two different candidates.

Media coverage and endorsements in both races have focused on four candidates: Mike Garcia (R), Stephen Knight (R), Christy Smith (D), and Cenk Uygur (D). All four are running in both primaries. Knight represented the district in Congress from 2015 to 2019.

Among Democrats, Smith was endorsed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Sen. Kamala Harris, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the California Democratic Party. Smith said it is “clear that big money is corrupting our political system,” but that she would “fight within the system as it is set up to make sure that we hold this seat.” She also said she would “work with both parties to make healthcare affordable.” Uygur says his campaign is not accepting endorsements or corporate PAC donations, and he has criticized Smith for accepting money from private industries. He also said, “I’m the only candidate in this race who is in favor of Medicare for All.”

On the Republican side, Garcia was endorsed by the Los Angeles Republican Party and the Ventura County Republican Party. Knight was endorsed by U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Garcia is campaigning on supporting the armed forces. He said he will “make it a priority to ensure our men and women in uniform have the funding and tools necessary to keep America safe.” Garcia also said he supports congressional term limits. Knight highlights his previous experience in Congress. His campaign website says Knight “quickly became known as a fierce advocate for fiscal responsibility, job creation and public safety in our nation’s Capitol.”

The other candidates in both primaries are Robert Cooper (D), Getro Elize (D), Kenneth Jenks (R), David Lozano (R), Daniel Mercuri (R), David Rudnick (D), and Anibal Valdez-Ortega (D). Otis Lee Cooper (I) and George Papadopoulos (R) are only running in the regular primary, while Courtney Lackey (R) is only running in the special primary.

Hill defeated Knight 54% to 46% in the 2018 general election. In 2016, Knight defeated Bryan Caforio (D) 53% to 47%. The 2017 Cook Partisan Voter Index for this district was even, meaning that in the previous two presidential elections, this district’s results were within one percentage point of the national average. Race raters have given Democrats an edge in the general election.

Nine special elections have been called during the 116th Congress. Seven of those were called for seats in the U.S. House, and two were called for seats in the U.S. Senate.

Click here to learn more about California’s 25th Congressional District election.

Additional reading:
Special elections to the 116th United States Congress (2019-2020)
California’s 25th Congressional District election, 2018 
Katie Hill 

149 congressional primaries on the ballot on March 3

Five states are scheduled to hold statewide primaries on March 3, 2020: Alabama, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, and Texas. Arkansas’ congressional primaries were canceled for each of five seats after one or fewer Democratic or Republican party candidates filed for the primary. The remaining four states have 149 primaries on the ballot for a combined 113 seats up for election in 2020 (118 across all states, including Arkansas). California’s 25th Congressional District is up for regular and special election, and is counted twice in both figures.

In 12 congressional districts across the five states, both the Democratic and Republican party primaries were canceled, meaning only 106 congressional seats will appear on the March 3 ballot. About 18% of the possible 182 primaries were canceled due to lack of opposition; 149 primaries made the ballot either because they are competitive or because the state does not cancel unopposed races. Of these, 47 are Republican primaries, 48 are Democratic primaries, and 54 are top-two primaries.

California is the only state with March 3 congressional primaries that does not have a U.S. Senate seat up for election in 2020. North Carolina and Texas both have Democratic and Republican primaries for their U.S. Senate seats, held by Thom Tillis (R) and John Cornyn (R), respectively. Alabama is holding a Republican primary for its U.S. Senate seat, currently held by Doug Jones (D). Ballotpedia has identified all three seats as battleground U.S. Senate races in 2020.

Ballotpedia has identified eight California congressional districts, two North Carolina districts, and eight Texas districts as battleground U.S. House races. Both Republican primaries in North Carolina’s battleground races were canceled after only one candidate filed for each. California and Texas do not cancel unopposed races.

Entering the 2020 election, the U.S. Senate has 45 Democrats, 53 Republicans, and two independents who caucus with the Democratic Party. Only 35 out of 100 Senate seats are up for election. A majority in the chamber requires 51 seats. The U.S. House has 232 Democrats, 197 Republicans, one independent, and five vacancies. All 435 U.S. House seats are up for election. A majority in the chamber requires 218 seats.

Click here to learn more about the 2020 United States Congressional elections.

Additional reading:
United States House of Representatives elections, 2020
United States House Democratic Party primaries, 2020
United States House Republican Party primaries, 2020
United States Senate elections, 2020
United States Senate Democratic Party primaries, 2020
United States Senate Republican Party primaries, 2020

248 contested state legislative primaries to be held across four states on Super Tuesday

Four states are holding state legislative primaries on March 3, 2020: Arkansas, California, North Carolina, and Texas. A total of 248 primaries featuring two or more candidates are on the ballot. The general election for these races is scheduled for November 3, 2020.

Arkansas, North Carolina, and Texas hold partisan primaries, while California holds top-two primaries. In a top-two primary, candidates of all partisan affiliations are listed on the same ballot, and the top two vote-getters advance to the general election.

Here is a breakdown of the number of contested primaries by state.

Arkansas State Senate:
• Democratic primaries: 2
• Republican primaries: 3

Arkansas State House of Representatives
• Democratic primaries: 3
• Republican primaries: 13

California State Senate
• 20 primaries

California State Assembly
• 76 primaries

North Carolina State Senate
• Democratic primaries: 7
• Republican primaries: 7
• Libertarian primaries: 1

North Carolina State House of Representatives
• Democratic primaries: 22
• Republican primaries: 23

Texas State Senate
• Democratic primaries: 5
• Republican primaries: 1

Texas State House of Representatives
• Democratic primaries: 36
• Republican primaries: 29

In Texas, Ballotpedia has identified 10 of the Democratic primaries and 10 of the Republican primaries as battlegrounds. Battlegrounds are elections that Ballotpedia expects to have a meaningful effect on the balance of power in governments or to be particularly competitive or compelling.

Texas and Arkansas have a Republican state government trifecta, while California 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. North Carolina has a divided government, with no political party holding a trifecta.,_2020

Additional reading:
Arkansas General Assembly
California State Legislature
General Assembly of North Carolina
Texas State Legislature
Texas House of Representatives elections, 2020 (March 3 Democratic primaries)
Texas House of Representatives elections, 2020 (March 3 Republican primaries)

Three states to hold state executive elections on Super Tuesday

Super Tuesday is on March 3, and 10 states are holding statewide primaries. Of those 10 states, three—Alabama, North Carolina, and Texas—are conducting primaries for state executive offices. The state executive offices up for primary include:

• Public Service Commissioner
• State Board of Education: Four seats on the board are up for election in 2020, but a primary contest is being held for the District 5 seat only. The primaries for Districts 1, 3, and 7 were canceled after the Democratic and/or Republican primary candidate for each district ran unopposed; these candidates advanced directly to the general election scheduled for November 3.

North Carolina
• Governor
• Lieutenant Governor
• Attorney General
• Secretary of State
• Treasurer
• Superintendent of Public Instruction
• Auditor
• Commissioner of Agriculture
• Commissioner of Labor
• Commissioner of Insurance

• Texas Railroad Commissioner
• State Board of Education (8 seats)

Winners of the primaries in all three states will advance to the general election on November 3, 2020.

Click here to learn more about 2020 state executive official elections.

Additional reading:
Alabama state executive official elections, 2020
North Carolina state executive official elections, 2020
Texas state executive official elections, 2020

Five Massachusetts state legislative special elections scheduled for Tuesday

Photo credit: City of Boston Archives

One special election and four special primaries are scheduled for March 3 for five vacant seats in the Massachusetts Legislature. Voters will have until 8 p.m. local time to cast their vote. The special general elections for the four races with primaries is March 31.

Two of the special primaries are for seats in the state Senate.

In the Second Hampden & Hampshire District race, state Rep. John Velis is unopposed in the Democratic primary, and John Cain is unopposed in the Republican primary. The seat became vacant on January 6, 2020, after Donald Humason Jr. (R) became the mayor of Westfield. Humason was unopposed in his 2018 re-election bid. He faced Democratic opposition in 2016 and won re-election with 60% of the vote.
In the race for the Plymouth & Barnstable Senate District, Rebecca Coletta, John Mahoney Jr., Thomas Moakley, Susan Moran, and Stephen Michael Palmer are running in the Democratic primary. Jesse Brown and James McMahon are facing off in the Republican primary. The seat became vacant on November 29, 2019, after Vinny deMacedo (R) resigned to take a job in higher education. DeMacedo was re-elected in 2018 with 59% of the vote.

The remaining three special elections are for seats in the Massachusetts House of Representatives.

The Thirty-second Middlesex District is holding the special general election. Kate Lipper-Garabedian (D) and Brandon Reid (R) are facing off for the seat. Reid made the special election ballot after mounting a successful write-in campaign in the special Republican primary. The seat became vacant on November 18, 2019, when Paul Brodeur (D) was sworn in as mayor of Melrose. Brodeur had served in the state House since 2011. He was unopposed in his re-election bids in 2016 and 2018. He faced Republican opposition in 2014 and won re-election with 66% of the vote.

In the race for the Thirty-seventh Middlesex District seat in the state House, Dina Samfield and Danillo Sena are running in the Democratic primary. Malena Chastain and Catherine Clark are facing off in the Republican primary. The seat became vacant on January 8, 2020, when Jennifer Benson (D) resigned to take a job as president of the Alliance for Business Leadership. Benson was unopposed in her re-election bids in 2012, 2014, 2016, and 2018. She faced Republican opposition in 2010 and won re-election with 55% of the vote.

In the race for the Third Bristol House District, Carol Doherty and Muzammil Nazir are running in the Democratic primary. Kelly Dooner is unopposed in the Republican primary. The seat became vacant on January 6, 2020, after Shaunna O’Connell (R) became mayor of Taunton, Massachusetts. O’Connell was re-elected in 2018 with 62% of the vote.

Democrats control the state Senate by a 34-4 margin with two vacancies and the state House by a 125-31 margin with one independent member and three vacancies. Massachusetts has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers. Gov. Charlie Baker (R) was re-elected to a second term in 2018.

As of February, 33 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 15 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

Click here to learn more about Massachusetts 2020 state legislative special elections.

Additional reading:
Massachusetts General Court
Massachusetts State Senate
Massachusetts House of Representatives

Seven seats up for election on Texas’ two courts of last resort

On March 3, 2020, Texans will have the opportunity to vote in primaries for six of the seven seats on Texas’ two courts of last resort holding elections this year.

Texas is unique in that it is one of two states in the nation with two courts of last resort: a Supreme Court and a Court of Criminal Appeals. The Texas Supreme Court is the court of last resort for civil matters. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is the state’s court of last resort for criminal matters. Both have nine judgeships.

A Republican primary will take place in the race for Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Place Three, featuring Bert Richardson and Gina Parker.

The Democratic primaries and candidates are:

  • Texas Supreme Court, Place One: Amy Clark Meachum and Jerry Zimmerer.
  • Texas Supreme Court, Place Six: Kathy Cheng and Larry Praeger.
  • Texas Supreme Court, Place Seven: Brandy Voss and Staci Williams.
  • Texas Supreme Court, Place Eight: Peter M. Kelly and Gisela Triana.
  • Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Place Three: William Demond, Elizabeth Davis Frizell, and Dan Wood.
  • Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Place Four: Tina Yoo Clinton and Steven Miears.

There will also be a general election for Place Nine on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Brandon Birmingham is running unopposed in the Democratic primary and David Newell is running unopposed in the Republican primary.

In addition to those primaries, Libertarian candidate Mark Ash will be running for Place 1 on the Supreme Court, Libertarian candidate William Brian Strange will be running for Place Seven of the Texas Supreme Court, and Libertarian candidate Tom Oxford will be running for Place Eight of the Texas Supreme Court.

The primary is scheduled for March 3, 2020, and a primary runoff is scheduled for May 26, 2020. The general election will occur on November 3, 2020.

Additional reading:

Prax appointed to Alaska House of Representatives

Glenn “Mike” Prax (R) was sworn in to the Alaska House of Representatives on Feb. 24 after Republicans in the state House confirmed him to the District 3 seat on Feb. 21. Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) appointed Prax from a field of three candidates on Feb. 18 to fill the seat left vacant when former Rep. Tammie Wilson (R) resigned in January 2020.

Like Wilson, Prax previously served as a member of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly. The Anchorage Daily News reported that Prax is a “well-known conservative activist in the Fairbanks area” and that he expressed his intent to run for re-election to the seat in 2020 if confirmed.

Prax’s appointment fills the only vacancy in the Alaska state legislature in 2020. After Prax assumed office, the partisan composition of the Alaska House of Representatives was 23 Republicans, 15 Democrats, two independents, and zero vacancies. Although Republicans hold a majority in the chamber, a coalition of 15 Democrats, four Republicans, and two independents elected Bryce Edgmon (undeclared) as House speaker in February 2019.

Click here to learn more.

Additional reading: