California statewide filing deadline is December 6

The ballot access deadline for candidates in California is December 6, 2019. The primary is scheduled for March 3, 2020, and the general election is November 3, 2020. Offices on the ballot include all 53 U.S. House seats, 20 out of 40 state Senate seats, and all 80 state House seats. California’s statewide filing deadline will be extended by five days in races where no incumbents file for re-election.
A special election for California’s 25th congressional district seat will also be held in 2020. The primary is scheduled for March 3, 2020, and the general election is scheduled for May 12, 2020; however, the filing deadline for that special election is January 9, 2020.
California’s statewide filing deadline is the fourth such deadline for the 2020 election cycle. The first statewide filing deadline was Alabama’s on November 8, followed by Arkansas’ on November 12 and Illinois’ on December 2. The fifth statewide filing deadline is in Texas on December 9.
Additional reading:

Candidates chosen for Kentucky State Senate special election

In Kentucky State Senate District 38, party county executive committees have chosen Andrew Bailey (D) and Mike Nemes (R) to run in the special election on January 14.
The seat became vacant when Dan Seum (R) resigned on November 16. Seum had represented the district since 1995. He last won re-election in 2018 with 67.9% of the vote.
Heading into the election, Republicans have a 28-9 majority in the Kentucky State Senate with one vacancy. Kentucky 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 November, 77 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 24 states this year. Six special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in five states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
Additional reading:

Texas governor directs state agencies to reduce occupational licensing requirements

Texas Governor Greg Abbott on October 8, 2019, directed the heads of state agencies to reduce occupational licensing regulations, fees, education requirements, and prohibitions for individuals with criminal records, where appropriate.
In the letter sent to the heads of state agencies, Abbott specifically instructed agencies to decrease licensing application fees to 75% of the equivalent or comparable national average. He also ordered agencies to move away from what he deemed broad criminal licensing exclusions and, instead, publish lists of specific criminal offenses that would prevent individuals from obtaining a particular license.
The directive aims to reduce what Abbott described as burdensome regulations that prevent individuals from pursuing professions and gaining employment.
“Sensible licensing rules, when necessary, can protect the public from legitimate harm, but overbroad rules stymie innovation, raise consumer prices, and limit economic opportunity,” wrote Abbott. “Overly burdensome licensing rules also discourage individuals from pursuing professions or prevent the unemployed—or former inmates who have paid their debt to society—from building a better life.”
Abbott ordered agencies to respond with recommendations by December 1. A number of state agencies as of November 22 had received the letter and were developing responses, according to the Texas Tribune.
The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation since 2003 has deregulated nine licensing programs; the Texas Supreme Court in 2015 struck down a regulation requiring eyebrow threaders to receive 750 hours of training; and the Texas Legislature in 2019 abolished criminal penalties for practicing as a registered interior designer without providing proof of voluntary registration.

Court hearing for Washington I-976 set for November 26

Washington voters approved Initiative 976 earlier this month in a vote of 53% to 47%. The measure, sponsored by Tim Eyman, was designed to limit annual license fees for vehicles weighing under 10,000 pounds at $30 except voter-approved charges, base vehicle taxes on the Kelley Blue Book value rather than 85% of the manufacturer’s base suggested retail price, and repeal authorization for certain regional transit authorities, such as Sound Transit, to impose motor vehicle excise taxes.
Shortly after the election, nine plaintiffs including the City of Seattle, King County, the Washington State Transit Association, and the Association of Washington Cities filed a lawsuit seeking to block I-976 from taking effect. The State of Washington was named as the defendant.
The plaintiffs argue that I-976 is unconstitutional, violated the single-subject rule, and misled voters. Plaintiffs wrote, “As with prior initiatives by the same sponsor, I-976 is a poorly drafted hodge-podge that violates multiple provisions of the Constitution.” Tim Eyman wrote, “Seattle government suing the voters because they didn’t like the voters’ decision is arrogant and infuriating. The people outside Seattle don’t want these dishonest vehicle taxes and fees and they shouldn’t be forced to continue to pay them just because Seattle is OK with such dishonesty.”
Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) would be tasked with defending the state against the lawsuit. In March 2017, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) sued Tim Eyman for $2.1 million, alleging that Eyman profited from money donated to his initiative campaigns and violated campaign finance laws. In an email on November 21, Eyman wrote, “On one side, you have Seattle government suing the voters. And on the other side is Bob Ferguson ‘defending’ our vote. An AG who is pro-Sound Transit, anti-Eyman, and actively undermining I-976 with the Dept of Licensing. So it’s two opponents of I-976 colluding to negate the people’s vote.”
A hearing was scheduled for November 26, 2019.
Eyman has sponsored or worked on a number of ballot initiative campaigns in Washington each year since at least 1998. Of the Eyman initiatives that have been filed, 17 qualified for the ballot and 11 were approved by voters. As of 2019, six of the approved measures were entirely overturned and two others were partially invalidated by the courts.
Additional reading:

Oklahoma governor appoints supreme court judge in wake of resignation

Oklahoma Supreme Court Justice Patrick Wyrick vacated his seat on the court on April 10, 2019, when he received commission to become an Article III federal judge on the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. On November 20, 2019, Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) appointed Dustin Rowe to succeed Wyrick on the state supreme court. Rowe was Stitt’s second nominee to the nine-member supreme court.
Selection of state supreme court justices in Oklahoma following a resignation occurs through gubernatorial appointment. The governor appoints a justice from a list of three candidates provided by the Oklahoma Judicial Nominating Commission (OJNC). The appointed justice must come from the appropriate Supreme Court judicial district. The appointee serves until the next general election, when he or she must stand for retention. At that time, a replacement is retained for a full six-year term or to serve out the unexpired term of his or her predecessor. If the governor does not choose a replacement within 60 days of the vacancy, the chief justice is responsible for appointing a successor.
The OJNC is a commission that chooses potential nominees for appointment by the governor to judicial positions on Oklahoma’s appellate courts. It consists of 15 members who join the board by election through the Oklahoma Bar Association, appointment by the governor, appointment by the president pro tempore of the state Senate and the speaker of the House, or selection by an eight-member majority of the other appointed and elected commission members.
When a vacancy is announced, interested individuals may apply to fill it. The OJNC evaluates those individuals to determine if the applicant is qualified to serve as a judge in the state. When the commission is done with its evaluation, it submits in writing a list of the three top applicants to both the governor and the chief justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Rowe will serve until the next general election, which will be held in 2021. According to The Oklahoman, the three applicants for the position were Judge Mark Campbell, attorney Dustin Rowe, and Judge Jonathan Sullivan.
At the time of his supreme court appointment, Rowe was district judge of the Chickasaw Nation District Court, a position he assumed in 2011. From 2005 to 2011, Rowe was special judge of the Chickasaw Nation District Court. He began practicing law as an attorney in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, in 2001. Rowe was elected mayor of Tishomingo at the age of 18, becoming one of the youngest mayors in the country. At the age of 22, he became district director for the newly elected U.S. Rep. Wes Watkins.
In 2019, there have been 22 supreme court vacancies across 14 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Retirements caused 14 of the vacancies. Two former justices took jobs in the private sector. One vacancy occurred when a justice was elevated to chief justice of the court, and four vacancies occurred when the justices were elevated to federal judicial positions.

California Supreme Court finds bill requiring presidential candidates to disclose income tax returns unconstitutional

On November 21, 2019, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously that SB 27, which requires presidential candidates to file copies of their income tax returns with the California secretary of state in order to qualify for placement on the primary ballot, violates Article II, Section 5(c) of the state constitution.
Article II, Section 5(c) stipulates that “the Legislature shall provide for partisan elections for presidential candidates, and political party and party central committees, including an open presidential primary whereby the candidates on the ballot are those found by the Secretary of State to be recognized candidates throughout the nation or throughout California for the office of President of the United States, and those whose names are placed on the ballot by petition, but excluding any candidate who has withdrawn by filing an affidavit of noncandidacy.”
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, joined by Associate Justices Goodwin Liu, Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, Carol Corrigan, Leondra Kruger, Ming Chin, and Joshua Groban, wrote the following in the court’s opinion: “The Legislature may well be correct that a presidential candidate’s income tax returns could provide California voters with important information. But Article II, Section 5(c) embeds in the state Constitution the principle that, ultimately, it is the voters who must decide whether the refusal of a ‘recognized candidate throughout the nation or throughout California for the office of President of the United States’ to make such information available to the public will have consequences at the ballot box.”
Enforcement of SB 27, which was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom (D) on July 30, 2019, had already been enjoined by Judge Morrison England of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California. In his opinion, dated October 1, 2019, England wrote, “[The] Court finds that Plaintiffs are likely to prevail on the merits of their arguments that the Act 1) violates the Presidential Qualifications Clause contained in Article II of the United States Constitution; 2) deprives Plaintiffs of their rights to associate and/or to access the ballot, as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution; 3) further violates the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause as set forth in the Fourteenth Amendment; and 5) is preempted by the provisions of [the Ethics in Government Act of 1978] in any event.”
On October 8, 2019, Padilla appealed this latter ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which has yet to weigh in on the matter.

Pennsylvania state senator switches party affiliation

On November 19, Pennsylvania state Sen. John Yudichak announced he had changed his registration from Democratic to Independent. He also said that he would begin caucusing with the chamber’s Republicans majority. Yudichak was first elected to represent District 14 in 2010. He won re-election unopposed at both the primary and general levels in 2014 and 2018.
Yudichak’s change leaves Republicans in Pennsylvania State Senate with a 27-21 majority, with one vacancy in the 50-member chamber. The chamber’s odd-numbered districts (25 total seats) will hold elections in 2020. Yudichak’s term ends in 2022.
Yudichak is the 10th state legislator to switch parties in 2019. Five state representatives left the Democratic Party, four state representatives left the Republican Party, and one state senator left the Republican Party. Since 1994, Ballotpedia has tracked 124 state legislators—35 state senators and 89 state representatives—who have switched parties.
Additional reading:

Friday deadline to submit signatures in Michigan state house recall effort

Supporters of the effort to recall Michigan state Rep. Larry Inman (R) have until November 22 to submit 12,201 signatures to force a recall election. The recall effort was submitted to the Michigan Board of State Canvassers on July 19, 2019, and it was approved on August 1.
According to the petition language, recall supporters are trying to recall Inman due to his indictment on three felony counts and missing more than 80 votes during the 2019 legislative session. Federal prosecutors charged Inman with extortion, lying to the FBI, and lying to investigators about texts soliciting contributions. His trial is expected to begin on December 3. In August 2019, the state House passed a resolution by a 98-8 vote urging him to resign.
In September 2019, Inman responded to the recall petition by saying, “I can’t really measure the public and their wishes, but people right now that I [run] into in Traverse City, in the grocery store and gas stations, they all shake my hand and give me words of encouragement.”
Inman was elected to District 104 in the state House in 2014. He was re-elected in 2018 with 50.4% of the vote. His seat is on the ballot in 2020 for a two-year term.
Since 2011, 85 recall petitions have been filed against state lawmakers. Nine recalls were successful, nine were defeated at the ballot, 63 did not go to a vote, and four are still ongoing. California state Sen. Josh Newman (D) was recalled in 2018. Two Colorado state senators were successfully recalled in 2013.
Michigan is under a divided government. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the state Senate by a 22-16 margin and the state House by a 58-51 margin with one vacancy. Democrat Gretchen Whitmer was elected to the governor’s office in 2018.