Indiana advances start date for third phase of reopening to May 22

On May 21, Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) announced that 89 of Indiana’s 92 counties would advance to the third phase of reopening effective May 22, two days earlier than the original target date of May 24.

The following businesses will be allowed to reopen or expand their operations: retail stores (at 75 percent capacity); mall common areas (at 50 percent capacity); gyms and fitness centers; playgrounds and other outdoor recreation facilities; community pools; campgrounds; and movie theaters (at 50 percent capacity).

Social gatherings of up to 100 people will be permitted. Cass, Lake, and Marion counties will be eligible to move into the third phase on June 1.

Holcomb unveiled Indiana’s five-stage reopening plan, the “Back on Track Indiana” plan, on May 1. The first stage constituted the period covered by the stay-at-home order. The first part of the second stage took effect on May 4 in most parts of the state. At that time, the following businesses were allowed to reopen: retail and commercial businesses (at 50 percent capacity); manufacturers, industrial operations, and other infrastructure; public libraries; and office settings. On May 11, restaurant dining rooms (at 50 percent capacity) and personal service businesses (by appointment only) were allowed to reopen.

The target start date for the fourth phase of Indiana’s reopening remains June 14.

Federal judge issues order regarding inmate releases at federal prison in Ohio

On May 19, U.S. District Court Judge James Gwin for the Northern District of Ohio ordered the Bureau of Prisons to expedite the release of 837 medically vulnerable inmates in Ohio’s Elkton Federal Correctional Institute through home confinement or compassionate release due to the coronavirus pandemic. In his order, the judge cited “poor progress in transferring the subclass members out of Elkton through the various means referenced in the Court’s preliminary injunction Order.” The ruling follows a class action habeas petition filed by the ACLU of Ohio and the Ohio Justice and Policy Center.

Ballotpedia is tracking how states are releasing inmates in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

So far:
• Twenty-one states have released inmates at the state level.
• Twelve states have released inmates on the local level.
• Eleven states have not released inmates due to coronavirus.
• Two states have prohibited the release of certain inmate populations.
• Four states have temporarily released certain populations of inmates.

Alabama House of Representatives District 49 special election scheduled for November 17

A new state legislative special election has been added to our list. The special election is for the District 49 seat in the Alabama House of Representatives on November 17, 2020. The primary is on August 4, the primary runoff will be on September 1 if needed, and the filing deadline is on June 2 for major-party candidates and August 4 for other candidates.

All registered Michigan voters in August 4, 2020, and November 3, 2020, elections to receive mail-in ballot applications automatically

On May 19, 2020, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) announced that all registered voters in the August 2, 2020, primary and November 3, 2020, general election would receive mail-in ballot applications automatically.

Michigan one of 12 states that have opted to deliver absentee/mail-in ballot applications automatically to all voters in advance of certain elections. It is also one of three states that have expanded absentee/mail-in ballot policies for both upcoming statewide primaries and the November general election. The other two are California and Connecticut.

Whitmer signs executive order allowing retail businesses, restaurants to reopen in 32 Michigan counties

On May 18, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) signed an executive order allowing retail businesses, offices, restaurants, and bars to reopen effective May 22 in the following 32 counties: Alger, Alpena, Antrim, Baraga, Benzie, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Chippewa, Crawford, Delta, Dickinson, Emmet, Gogebic, Grand Traverse, Houghton, Iron, Kalkaska, Keweenaw, Leelanau, Luce, Mackinac, Manistee, Marquette, Menominee, Missaukee, Montmorency, Ontonagon, Otsego, Presque Isle, Roscommon, Schoolcraft and Wexford.

Restaurants and bars will be subject to a 50% capacity limit.

Michigan’s reopening has been in progress since April 24, at which time Whitmer announced that landscaping and outdoor activity businesses, and curbside retail for nonessential supplies, could resume. Effective May 11, manufacturing businesses were allowed to reopen.

Michigan’s stay-at-home order, first issued on March 23 and originally set to expire on April 13, has been modified and extended numerous times. It is currently set to expire on May 28.

Federal judge denies request for more time in Nevada governor recall

Federal court judge Richard Boulware on May 15, 2020, denied a request to extend the signature-gathering period for the recall effort against Gov. Steve Sisolak (D). Fight For Nevada, the group behind the recall effort, requested an extension of the 90-day period to collect signatures equal to the length of the state’s coronavirus stay-at-home order. Supporters of the recall had until May 14 to collect the 243,995 signatures needed to require a recall election. County officials have until May 20 to report the signature totals to the Nevada Secretary of State’s office.

Boulware wrote in the order, “The Court does not find that an inability to file this particular recall petition presents a severe burden when Plaintiff has not established with any detail what additional burden or inconvenience it faces if the Secretary does not extend the deadline.”

Recall supporters criticized Sisolak over his support for laws related to firearms, a statewide income tax, metering of private water wells, and a DMV policy for reporting mileage.

Nevada became a Democratic trifecta in 2019. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. Democrats control the state Assembly by a 28-13 margin with one vacancy and the state Senate by a 13-8 margin. Gov. Sisolak (D) succeeded Brian Sandoval (R) as governor in 2019.

Four gubernatorial recall efforts are currently underway in 2020. From 2003 to 2019, Ballotpedia tracked 21 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 in 2003 and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). In 2012, former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was retained in a recall election. The only other governor to ever be successfully recalled was former North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier (R) in 1921.

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Oklahoma voters to decide State Question 814 to allocate a portion of tobacco settlement revenue to Medicaid funding

The Oklahoma State Legislature passed Senate Joint Resolution 27 on Friday, which will appear on the statewide ballot as State Question 814 on November 3. The constitutional amendment would decrease appropriations made to the state’s Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) Fund from 75% to 25% of tobacco settlement revenue. Funds that are not being deposited into the TSET fund are deposited into a special fund, which would continue under the amendment. The measure would direct the legislature to appropriate money from the special fund to secure federal matching funds for the state’s Medicaid program.

The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) Fund was created through State Question 692 in 2000. The measure was referred to the ballot by the state legislature and was approved by voters in a vote of 69% in favor to 31% opposed. The TSET was funded through a percentage of revenue from tobacco companies under the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA). The money in the TSET fund was earmarked for tobacco use prevention, smoking cessation programs, education, health care, and other purposes as established by the fund’s board of directors.

The Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) of 1998 is an agreement between 46 states, four U.S. territories, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, and, originally, four cigarette manufacturers (Philip Morris Incorporated, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corporation, and Lorillard Tobacco Company). As of October 2018, more than 50 tobacco manufacturers were a part of the MSA. Annual payments to the states under the MSA began in 2000 with no set end date.

As of 2020, the average annual payment received by Oklahoma under the Master Settlement Agreement was around $75 million. About $56.25 million was deposited into the TSET fund. Under State Question 814, the amount deposited into the TSET fund would be about $18.75 million, and the remainder (about $56.25 million) would be allocated to drawing down federal matching funds for Medicaid.

State Question 814 was introduced as Senate Joint Resolution 27 on February 3, 2020. It was passed largely along party lines with 96.5% of Republican legislators in favor and 81.3% of Democratic legislators opposed.

One other measure, State Question 802, is certified to appear on the ballot in Oklahoma. State Question 802, which will appear on the June 30 primary ballot, would expand Medicaid coverage in Oklahoma to adults between 18 and 65 with incomes below 133% of the federal poverty level.

A total of 80 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Oklahoma from 1996 to 2018. Of the total, 77.5% (62 of 80) of the measures were approved and 22.5% (18 of 80) were defeated.

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Governor Mike Dunleavy (R) extends Alaska travel restrictions

On Friday, May 15, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) extended the state’s restrictions on out-of-state visitors and residents returning to Alaska through June 2. The Health Mandate requires all people entering Alaska to complete a travel declaration form and self-quarantine for 14 days.

Although the mandate does not apply to individuals working in industries that support critical infrastructure, businesses outside of Alaska whose employees enter the state to support critical infrastructure are required to submit a plan to health authorities for minimizing the spread of the coronavirus.

The travel restrictions went into effect on March 25 and were originally set to expire on April 21. On April 21, Gov. Dunleavy extended the restrictions through May 19.

Ballotpedia is tracking states that have implemented at least one travel restriction through executive orders issued by governors or state agencies. To date, 20 states have placed restrictions on out-of-state travelers.

Oregon state representative dies

Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D), who represented District 33 in the Oregon House of Representatives, died of natural causes on May 15. He was first elected to the chamber in 2003 and most recently won re-election in 2018. Greenlick announced earlier this year that he would not run for re-election.

Greenlick was a pharmacist and the founding director of the Kaiser Permanent Center for Health Research Foundation Hospitals. He served on the state House’s Health Care Committee, among others, and chaired the committee from 2007 to 2019.

Greenlick’s death is the only current vacancy in the Oregon State Legislature. The board of county commissioners representing District 33 must select his replacement within 30 days. The appointed representative, who must come from the Democratic Party, will serve the remainder of Greenlick’s unexpired term ending on January 10, 2021. Oregon has a Democratic state government trifecta, with the Democratic Party holding the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

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Former Wisconsin state Senate minority leader resigns from legislature

Wisconsin State Senator Jennifer Shilling (D) submitted her resignation from the legislature on May 15, effective immediately. Shilling had previously announced she would not seek another term and did not file to run for re-election.

Shilling said that she was resigning to explore unspecified employment opportunities. Wisconsin state law prohibits legislators and other public officials from holding office while actively pursuing employment that presents a conflict of interest with their government duties.

Shilling served as State Senate Minority Leader from 2015 until last month when she stepped down in anticipation of her departure from the legislature. Senate Democrats selected Janet Bewley as the new minority leader on April 24. Going into the 2020 elections, the Democratic Party holds 13 seats to the Republican Party’s 19 seats in the chamber. The Republican Party has held a majority in the state senate since 2011.

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