CategoryState

Maine Supreme Court Justice Hjelm is retiring

Maine Supreme Judicial Court Justice Jeffrey Hjelm announced on September 20 that he is retiring, effective upon the confirmation of his successor.
 
Selection of state supreme court justices in Maine occurs through gubernatorial appointment, although the governor’s nominee must be confirmed by the Maine State Senate. Once confirmed, justices serve seven-year terms and must be reappointed if they wish to serve additional seven-year terms.
 
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court is the court of last resort in the state. It currently includes the following justices:
 
  • Chief Justice Leigh Ingalls Saufley – first appointed by Gov. Angus King (I)
  • Justice Ellen Gorman – first appointed by Gov. John Baldacci (D)
  • Justice Thomas Humphrey – first appointed by Gov. Paul LePage (R)
  • Justice Joseph Jabar – first appointed by Gov. John Baldacci (D)
  • Justice Andrew Mead – first appointed by Gov. Paul LePage (R)
  • Justice Donald Alexander – first appointed by Gov. Angus King (I)
  • Justice Jeffrey L. Hjelm – first appointed by Gov. Paul LePage (R)
 
Hjelm was nominated to the court by LePage on May 7, 2014, to succeed Jon Levy. Hjelm’s appointment was confirmed July 24, 2014. He previously served on the Knox County Superior Court from 1998 to 2014 and the Maine District Courts from 1992 to 1998. Hjelm received his undergraduate degree from Hamilton College and his J.D. from the Case Western Reserve University School of Law.
 
In 2019, there have been 19 supreme court vacancies across 13 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Of those 19 vacancies, 12 are in states where a Republican governor appoints the replacement. Six vacancies occurred in a state where a Democratic governor fills vacancies, while another occurred in a state where a Republican-controlled legislature appoints replacements.
 


One Democrat and three Republicans file to run in Georgia House special election

A special election is being held in District 152 of the Georgia House of Representatives on November 5. Mary Egler (D), Tyler Johnson (R), Jim Quinn (R), and Bill Yearta (R) are running in the general election. In the event that no candidate receives a majority of votes in the general election, a runoff has been scheduled for December 3.
 
The seat became vacant after Ed Rynders (R) resigned on September 5, citing health concerns. Rynders had served in the state House since 2003. He was last re-elected in 2018 with 74% of the vote in the general election.
 
Heading into the special election, Republicans have a 103-75 majority in the Georgia House with two vacancies. Georgia has a Republican trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.
 
As of August, 76 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 24 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
 


Parties announce nominees in Kentucky special election

A special election to fill the vacant District 18 seat in the Kentucky House of Representatives is scheduled for November 5. Political party county executive committees had until September 17 to select their nominees, and they chose Becky Miller (D) and Samara Heavrin (R) to run in the general election.
 
The seat became vacant after Tim Moore (R) resigned on September 10, 2019, citing his belief in term limits and plan to transition into a Christian ministry role.
 
As of September, 76 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 24 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
 
Entering the special election, the Kentucky House of Representatives has 39 Democrats, 59 Republicans, and two vacancies. A majority in the chamber requires 51 seats. Kentucky has a Republican trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
 


Filing deadline for Tennessee House special election next Thursday

Candidates interested in running in the special election for District 77 of the Tennessee House of Representatives have until September 26 to file. The primary is scheduled for November 5; early voting for the primary runs from October 16 through October 31. The special general election is on December 19.
 
The special election became necessary after the seat’s former occupant, Bill Sanderson (R), resigned on July 24, 2019, citing family and business demands. Sanderson was first elected to the chamber in 2010. He ran for re-election in 2018 and was unopposed in both the primary and general election. Casey Hood (R) was appointed to Sanderson’s former seat in September 2019 as an interim representative until the special can be held.
 
As of September, 76 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 24 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
 
Heading into the special election, Republicans have a 73-26 majority in the state House. Tennessee has a Republican trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
 


Signatures filed for March 2020 referendum to repeal Maine’s new law eliminating religious and philosophical vaccine exemptions

On September 18, 2019, signatures were filed for a veto referendum to repeal Maine Legislative Document 798 (2019). LD 798 would eliminate religious and philosophical exemptions from vaccination requirements for students to attend schools and colleges and employees of healthcare facilities. The campaign Mainers for Health and Parental Rights led the signature drive, reporting that local registrars verified 77,000 signatures of the 92,000 collected. The next step is for Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap to review the petitions and signatures within 30 days. A total of 63,067 valid signatures are required for the veto referendum to appear on the ballot on March 3, 2020.
 
Gov. Janet Mills (D) signed LD 798 into law on May 24, 2019. The Maine House of Representatives passed LD 798 in a vote of 79-62 on May 21. The Maine State Senate passed LD 798 in a vote of 19-16 on May 23. Most legislative Democrats—74/88 in the House and 18/21 in the Senate—voted to pass the legislation. Most legislative Republicans— 51/56 in the House and 13/14 in the Senate—voted to reject the legislation. Independents were divided 2-4. In 2019, Democrats control both chambers of the state legislature, as well as the governor’s office, making Maine a Democratic trifecta. Prior to 2019, Maine was a divided government.
 
Maine was the fourth state to prohibit non-medical exemptions from vaccination for students to attend schools. LD 798, however, is now suspended until voters decide the issue unless Secretary Dunlap finds that not enough signatures are valid. New York passed a similar law a few weeks after Maine to eliminate non-medical exemptions for students. The other three states are West Virginia, Mississippi, and California.
 
It’s been 97 years since voters across a state decided a vaccination-related ballot measure. In 1922, Washington voters repealed a law to remove vaccination requirements for school attendance. California, along with Maine, could also vote on vaccination requirements in 2020. In California, veto referendums were filed to overturn laws to create a system for reviewing and rejecting medical exemptions from vaccination.
 
The veto referendum to repeal LD 798 was one of 12 proposed after the 2019 regular legislative session adjourned on June 20, 2019. The proponents of the remaining 11 veto referendums did not file signatures before the deadline. Since Maine adopted the referendum process in 1908, there have been 30 veto referendums on the ballot. The last veto referendum was in 2018, when voters overturned legislation designed to postpone and repeal ranked-choice voting. Of the 30 bills placed before voters as veto referendums, 18 of them (60 percent) were overturned at the ballot box. Voters upheld 12 (40 percent) of the bills.
 
 


Utah legislature makes changes to state medical marijuana law

Utah Proposition 2, approved by voters in November 2018, was altered by the legislature in December 2018 with House Bill 3001. Among other alterations, HB 3001 removed Proposition 2’s provision allowing patients to grow their own marijuana, provided for a state-run medical marijuana dispensary system, and made changes to the list of qualifying conditions. Utah is one of 11 states that have no restrictions on legislative alterations, which means the legislature can amend or repeal initiated state statutes with a simple majority vote at any time.
 
Utah Governor Gary Herbert called for a special session to start on Sept. 16 to, among other things, amend the state’s medical marijuana law.
 
Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) said, “My administration is dedicated to ensuring that quality, medical-grade cannabis products are accessible to patients by March of 2020. Removing the requirement for a state central fill pharmacy will provide efficient and timely distribution of this substance for those who need it.”  
 
The removal of the provisions for the state-run medical marijuana dispensary comes after Davis County and Salt Lake County attorneys in July advised their health departments against dispensing medical marijuana, stating that county health department workers could be prosecuted for marijuana distribution. Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings said,  “the federal Controlled Substances Act is directly in conflict with what the state statute [under HB 3001] requires health departments to do. There is no exemption in federal law for being basically a marijuana distributor — a dealer — for a county. There is no exception.”
 
On September 16, during the special session, the Utah legislature passed Senate Bill 1002 unanimously, except for two senators and nine representatives who were absent or not voting. SB 1002 made amendments to the state’s medical marijuana law. Highlighted changes made by the bill include the following:
  • Repealed provisions providing for a state-run medical marijuana dispensary;
  • Provided for awarding licenses to operate 14 private dispensaries, allowed the state Department of Health to issue additional licenses “based on market necessity”;
  • Authorizes the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food to license research universities to conduct research on medical marijuana;
  • Provided for electronic medical marijuana cards;
  • Provided that a court could not consider the use of medical marijuana differently than the legal use of any prescribed medication that is a controlled substance (rather than the original bill’s provision that marijuana use be treated like the legal use of a prescription opiate or opioid).
 
From 2010 through 2018, 97 initiated state statutes and two initiated ordinances in D.C. were approved by voters. Of these 99 total initiatives from 2010 through 2018, 28 were repealed or amended as of April 2019. The states with the most total cases of legislative alterations of initiatives approved since 2010 were Maine—with four initiatives altered out of eight approved—and Colorado and Oregon—each with three initiatives altered out of five approved. Among initiatives approved from 2010 through 2018, marijuana was the topic that drew the most legislative alterations, with eight initiatives. The rate of legislative alteration was 13 percentage points higher for initiatives approved in 2016 and 2018 than initiatives approved from 2010 through 2015.
 
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Gov. Stitt appoints M. John Kane IV to the Oklahoma Supreme Court

On Tuesday, Governor Kevin Stitt (R) appointed M. John Kane IV to the Oklahoma Supreme Court. Kane replaced former Justice John Reif, who retired on April 30, 2019. Kane is Stitt’s first nominee to the nine-member supreme court; the governor was first elected in November 2018.
 
Prior to this new appointment, Kane served as the Office 1 judge of the 10th District Court in Osage County, Oklahoma. He was appointed to that position in 2005. Before that, Kane worked in his family’s law firm, Kane, Kane & Kane Law Offices, P.C., from 1987 to 2005. He was also an administrative law judge from 1999 to 2005 and an assistant district attorney from 1987 to 1989. Kane received a B.S. in agricultural economics and accounting from Oklahoma State University in 1984 and a J.D. from the University of Oklahoma College of Law in 1987.
 
Including Kane, three of the sitting Oklahoma Supreme Court justices were appointed by Republican governors. Five members were appointed by Democratic governors, and the remaining seat is vacant and will be the second seat that Stitt fills by appointment.
 
In 2019, there have been 18 supreme court vacancies across 12 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Of those 18 vacancies, 12 are in states where a Republican governor appoints the replacement. Five vacancies occurred in a state where a Democratic governor fills vacancies, while the last vacancy occurred in a state where a Republican-controlled legislature appoints replacements.
 


Daniel Cameron (R) outraises Gregory Stumbo (D) in Kentucky attorney general election

Daniel Cameron (R) outraised Gregory Stumbo (D) $569,197 to $227,915 in Kentucky’s attorney general election, according to the most recent reports covering the period from July 20 through September 6.
 
At the end of the period, Cameron had $480,479 cash on hand to Stumbo’s $240,015 on hand. Cameron started the period with no cash on hand; Stumbo started with $152,136. 
 
In total, Cameron’s campaign has raised $967,625 and spent $487,146 since the first report of the primary election. Stumbo’s campaign has raised $417,095 and spent $177,080.
 
The next campaign finance filing deadline for Kentucky state races is October 13. The reports will cover receipts and expenditures through October 6 (30 days before the general election).
 
Democrats have held Kentucky’s Attorney General office since 1952, but Kentucky’s election history suggests that the attorney general’s race will be competitive. Pre-election incumbent Andy Beshear (D) defeated his opponent by a margin of 50.1% to 49.9% in 2015. Beshear is challenging Governor Matt Bevin (R) in Kentucky’s 2019 race for governor, leaving the attorney general position open. In the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump (R) won Kentucky with 62.5 percent of the vote. Trump endorsed Cameron on July 29, 2019.
 
Three states are holding attorney general elections in 2019: Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Of those, Democrats hold two seats and Republicans hold one. Kentucky is also holding state executive elections for governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, agriculture commissioner, auditor, and treasurer in 2019.