CategoryState

Oregon voters will decide on increasing the cigarette tax and creating an e-cigarette tax to fund healthcare-related programs in 2020

House Bill 2270 would do the following if approved by voters in 2020:
  • Increase cigarette tax from $1.33 per pack to $3.33 per pack;
  • Impose a tax on inhalant delivery systems (such as e-cigarettes) at a rate of 65% of the wholesale price; and
  • Increase the cap on cigar taxes from 50 cents to $1.00.
 
Taxes from this bill would apply beginning on January 1, 2021. Under the bill, revenue would be dedicated to the Oregon Health Authority for medical and healthcare-related programs such as the state’s Medical Assistance Program, mental health programs, and other programs concerning tobacco and nicotine health issues.
 
Voters in Montana decided a similar measure, I-185, in 2018; defeating it by a vote of 53% to 47%.
 
As of 2019, Washington, D.C. had the highest cigarette tax rate of $4.50 per pack and Missouri levied the lowest state-imposed cigarette tax of $0.17 per pack. Eighteen states, including Oregon, levied a tax rate ranging from $1.00 to $1.98 per pack.
 
E-cigarette (vapor) taxes are levied by state or local governments and vary by method. Some authorities tax a percentage of the wholesale price, while others tax per unit or milliliter of e-liquid. Eighteen states have enacted a tax on vapor products. Washington, D.C., has the highest vapor tax at 96% of the wholesale price. Oregon has not enacted a tax on e-cigarettes or vapor products.
 
The measure was introduced at the request of Kate Brown (D). On June 20, 2019, the state House voted 39 to 21 to pass HB 2270. The measure passed largely along party lines with most Democrats voting in favor and most Republicans voting in opposition. Democratic representative Bradley Witt voted against the bill, and two Republican representatives (Cheri Helt and Greg Smith) voted in favor of the bill. On June 30, 2019, the Senate passed the bill along party lines in a vote of 18-8 with four Republican senators absent or excused. State statutes referred to voters by the legislature are not subject to the governor’s veto and do not require the governor’s signature.
 
Also on Oregon’s 2020 ballot is a constitutional amendment that would allow the state and local governments to enact limits on campaign contributions and expenditures.


Tobacco age increased to 21 in Delaware, New York governor signs bill to do the same

A Delaware law increasing the tobacco age restriction from 18 to 21 took effect Tuesday, making Delaware the ninth state to raise the age restriction to 21 since 2015. Gov. John Carney (D) signed the increase into law on April 17 after it passed the state House by a 25-16 vote and the state Senate by a 14-6 vote.
 
Also Tuesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed a bill to raise New York’s tobacco age restriction from 18 to 21. The bill, which passed the state Assembly by a 120-26 vote and the state Senate by a 52-9 vote, is set to take effect November 13, 120 days after its signing.
 
Since June 2015, when Hawaii became the first state in the 21st century to raise its tobacco age restriction to 21, such laws have taken effect in eight other states, including Delaware. Three states have a tobacco age restriction of 19 and the remaining 38 states have a tobacco age restriction of 18. There are eight states, including New York, with a tobacco age increase to 21 set to take effect.
 


Recall initiated against Colorado state Sen. Pete Lee

An effort to recall Colorado state Sen. Pete Lee (D) was approved for circulation on July 12, 2019. Supporters have until September 10, 2019, to collect 11,304 signatures to force a recall election. Another recall petition targeting state Sen. Brittany Pettersen (D) received approval by the secretary of state on July 12 but it was withdrawn by petitioners three days later. According to the Denver Post, supporters have plans to resubmit the petition.
 
The recall petition targeting Lee was submitted by Scott David Fisher. Supporters have until September 10, 2019, to collect 11,304 signatures to force a recall election.
 
According to the recall petition, Lee is being targeted for recall because he supported legislation related to firearms, oil and gas, the national popular vote, and sex education during the 2019 legislative session. The firearms bill was designed to temporarily remove guns from people who are deemed a threat to themselves or others. The oil and gas bill was designed to give local governments more control over regulating the industry and also mandates that the state emphasize safety over promoting oil and gas production. The sex education bill updated the state’s curriculum for school districts that offer that education. The bill added instruction on such things as sexual orientation, consent, STDs, and pregnancy prevention. All four bills were signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis (D) in 2019.
 
After the recall was announced against Sen. Lee, he said: “I am disappointed that radical activists have decided to disrespect the voters of Senate District 11 and undermine the electoral process. I was elected eight months ago by 60% of the voters. To overturn the will of the people because of a disagreement on a couple of votes is inconsistent with our democratic process. They couldn’t defeat me in the election so they’re taking the back door of a recall.”
 
Gov. Polis is also facing an official recall campaign in 2019 over the same legislation as Sen. Lee. According to The Gazette, the Lee recall is being supported by the same group backing the recall against Gov. Polis. Two state representatives—Tom Sullivan (D) and Rochelle Galindo (D)—were also targeted by recall campaigns in 2019 due to the same legislation. The recall targeting Rep. Galindo (D) ended after she resigned her seat in May 2019. The recall targeting state Rep. Sullivan (D) ended in June 2019 after recall supporters concluded the effort. Unofficial recall campaigns are also underway against state Sen. Jeff Bridges (D), state Rep. Meg Froelich (D), state Rep. Bri Buentello (D), and state Sen. Leroy Garcia (D).
 
Lee was elected to the state Senate in 2018 with 62% of the vote. Prior to the 2018 election, Michael Merrifield (D) represented District 11 from 2015 to 2019.
 
Since 2011, 83 recall petitions have been filed against state lawmakers. Nine recalls were successful, nine were defeated at the ballot, 57 did not go to a vote, and eight are still ongoing. California state Sen. Josh Newman (D) was recalled in 2018. Two Colorado state senators were successfully recalled in 2013.
 
Colorado became a Democratic trifecta in 2019 after Democrats flipped the state Senate in the 2018 elections. Democrats control the state House by a 41-24 margin and the state Senate by a 19-16 margin. Gov. Polis succeeded John Hickenlooper (D) as governor in 2019.
 
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One Democrat, four Republicans file for California Assembly special election

The filing deadline to run for the District 1 seat in the California State Assembly passed on July 3. The following five candidates filed: Elizabeth Betancourt (D), Megan Dahle (R), Patrick Henry Jones (R), Lane Rickard (R), and Joe Turner (R).
 
The top two vote recipients in the August 27 primary, regardless of their party, will advance to the special general election on November 5. The District 1 seat was vacated by Brian Dahle (R), who was elected to represent District 1 of the California State Senate on June 4 in another special election. Megan Dahle is his wife.
 
As of July 10, 65 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 24 states. This is the third state legislative special election in California this year. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
 
Entering the special election, the California State Assembly had 61 Democrats, 18 Republicans, and one vacancy. A majority in the chamber requires 41 seats. California is one of 14 Democratic trifectas. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
 


Three Republicans declare their candidacies ahead of Louisiana Supreme Court special election filing deadline

The District 1 seat on the Louisiana Supreme Court is up for a special primary election on October 12. If no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, a general election is scheduled for November 16. The filing deadline for interested candidates is August 8. The court comprises seven justices from seven districts elected to 10-year terms.
 
Three Republicans have declared their candidacy ahead of the August filing deadline:
  • Judge Will Crain of the Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • Richard Ducote, a private practice attorney. In 2018, Ducote ran unsuccessfully for the District 1 seat against incumbent Greg Guidry (R).
  • Judge Scott Schlegel, the Division D judge for Louisiana’s 24th Judicial District.
Justice Guidry vacated the seat after President Donald Trump (R) appointed him to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. President Trump nominated Guidry on January 17, and the U.S. Senate confirmed him on June 19 by a vote of 53-46. He received his commission on June 21.
 


Recall effort begins against Colorado Gov. Jared Polis

An effort to recall Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) was approved for circulation on July 8, 2019. Supporters have until September 6, 2019, to collect 631,266 signatures to force a recall election.
 
The recall effort has been organized by a group called Dismiss Polis. According to Colorado Politics, the group is trying to recall Polis due to legislation that he signed during the 2019 state legislative session. The legislation includes a gun bill, an oil and gas regulation bill, as well as legislation related to the national popular vote. The gun bill was designed to temporarily remove guns from people who have been deemed a threat to themselves or others. The oil and gas bill was designed to give local governments more authority to regulate the industry and also mandates that the state emphasize safety over promoting oil and gas production. Both bills were signed by Gov. Polis (D) in April 2019. Polis also signed legislation in March 2019 that would award Colorado’s electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote.
 
After the recall was announced, Gov. Polis’ office issued the following statement: “The Governor is focused on governing for all of Colorado and ensuring that every Coloradan – no matter their zip code or political affiliation – has the opportunity to succeed. During his first six months in office, the Governor has created bipartisan solutions to lower the cost of health care, ensure every kid can go to free full-day kindergarten this fall, and cut taxes for small businesses. The Governor will continue to reach across the aisle and hopes that, by tackling key issues for Coloradans, we will continue to bring people together and focus on what unites us.”
 
Two state representatives—Tom Sullivan (D) and Rochelle Galindo (D)—were also targeted by recall campaigns in 2019 due to supporting the same legislation. The recall targeting Rep. Galindo (D) ended after she resigned her seat in May 2019. The recall targeting state Rep. Sullivan (D) ended in June 2019 after recall supporters concluded the effort. Unofficial recall campaigns are also underway against state Sen. Jeff Bridges (D), state Rep. Meg Froelich (D), state Rep. Bri Buentello (D), and state Sen. Leroy Garcia (D).
 
Since 2003, Ballotpedia has tracked 17 gubernatorial recall efforts. During that time, two recalls made the ballot and one governor was successfully recalled. Former California Gov. Gray Davis (D) was recalled by voters in 2003 and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). In 2012, Wisconsin voted to retain Gov. Scott Walker (R) in a recall election. The only other governor to ever be successfully recalled was former North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier (R) in 1921.
 
Colorado became a Democratic trifecta in 2019 after Democrats flipped the state Senate in the 2018 elections. Democrats control the state House by a 41-24 margin and the state Senate by a 19-16 margin. Gov. Polis succeeded John Hickenlooper (D) as governor in 2019. He won the 2018 election with 53.4% of the vote.
 


State legislative party breakdown nationwide at the end of June—52.3% Republicans, 47.0% Democrats

June’s partisan count of the 7,383 state legislators across the United States shows 52.3% of all state legislators are Republicans and 47.0% are Democrats, consistent with previous months.
 
Ballotpedia completes a count of the partisan balance of state legislatures at the end of every month. The partisan composition of state legislatures refers to which political party holds the majority of seats in the state senate and state house. Republicans hold a majority in 61 chambers, and Democrats hold the majority in 37 chambers. One chamber (Alaska’s state House) shares power between the two parties. Altogether, there are 1,972 state senators and 5,411 state representatives.
 
Of the 7,383 state legislative seats in the country, Republicans held 1,086 state senate seats–up four seats from May 2019–and 2,776 state house seats–down two seats. Democrats held 3,467 of the 7,383 state legislative seats–879 state Senate seats (up one seat from May) and 2,588 state House seats (up one seat). Independent or third-party legislators held 33 seats–consistent with May. There were 21 vacant seats.
 
At the time of the 2018 elections, 7,280 state legislators were affiliated with either the Republican or Democratic parties. There were 3,257 Democratic state legislators, 4,023 Republican state legislators, 35 independent or third-party state legislators, and 68 vacancies.
 


California to require background checks for ammunition purchases beginning July 1

Beginning on July 1, 2019, California will become the first state to require point-of-sale background checks to purchase firearm ammunition. Proposition 63, which voters approved in 2016, in conjunction with other legislation created the requirement and set the enactment date. Proposition 63 was a ballot initiative designed to ban large-capacity magazines, require background checks for people who purchase ammunition in California, and prohibit out-of-state purchases of ammunition unless the ammo is transferred to an in-state dealer who can run a background check.
 
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), who was lieutenant governor in 2016, was involved in developing Proposition 63. On June 24, Gov. Newsom discussed the background checks going into effect, saying, “At the end of the day, it is a perverse fact: Guns don’t kill people. Unless a gun is used as a blunt instrument, a gun is not particularly dangerous. A gun requires a dangerous component and that’s ammunition.”
 
Chuck Michel, an attorney of the NRA and California Rifle & Pistol Association, stated, “For retailers and the average recreational shooter, these new requirements are going to, at a minimum, create practical and financial problems and friction when trying to make a simple ammunition purchase, and they will do nothing to stop access by criminals who have so many other ways to get ammunition.”
 
Proposition 63 is facing at least two court challenges. In Duncan v. Becerra, Judge Roger Benitez of the U.S. District Court for Southern California ruled that Proposition 63’s ban on large-capacity magazines violated the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Attorney General Xavier Beccera (D) appealed Judge Benitez’s ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Proposition 63 is also the subject of Rhode v. Becerra—a case in which plaintiffs argue that the initiative’s out-of-state ammo ban violates the Second Amendment and imposes an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce. Both of the cases are ongoing.
 
Four other states—Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, and New Jersey—require individuals to obtain licenses to purchase ammunition, which include an initial background check, but do not require background checks at point-of-sale. In 2013, New York passed legislation for a point-of-sales background check for ammunition, but the law has not gone into effect.
 


Borrello wins Republican primary in New York State Senate special election

The District 57 seat in the New York State Senate was up for special primary election on June 25. Austin Morgan (D) and George Borrello (R) advanced from the primary to the general election, which is scheduled for November 5. Morgan ran unopposed and won the Democratic nomination by default, while Borrello defeated Curtis Crandall with 63.7% of the unofficial election night vote in order to win the Republican nomination. The District 57 seat was vacated by Catharine Young (R), who stepped down on February 28, 2019, to take a leadership position at the Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech. The candidate filing deadline passed on April 4.
 
As of June 26, 64 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 24 states. This is the only state legislative special election currently on the ballot in New York this year. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year nationwide.
 
Entering the special election, the New York State Senate had 40 Democrats, 22 Republicans, and one vacancy. A majority in the chamber requires 32 seats. New York has a Democratic trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.