A primary is being held in District 84 of the South Carolina House of Representatives on July 30. Republicans Cody Anderson, Danny Feagin, Ralph Gunter, Melissa Oremus, Alvin Padgett, and Sean Pumphrey are running in the primary. No Democratic candidates filed to run. If no candidate receives a majority of the vote, a primary runoff will be held on August 13. The special general election was scheduled for October 1.
District 84 became vacant after Ronnie Young (R) passed away on May 19, 2019. Young had served in the state House since 2017. He won re-election in 2018 with 65% of the vote in the general election.
Heading into the special election, Republicans have a 78-44 majority in the state House with two vacancies. A special election in District 19 of the state House is scheduled for August 20. South Carolina 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 July, 66 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.
Petitioners for the Arkansas Practice of Optometry Referendum reported submitting more than 84,000 signatures by the July 23 deadline to qualify a veto referendum on House Bill 1251 for a statewide vote in 2020. A total of 53,491 signatures need to be valid to qualify the measure for the ballot. The requirement is based on 6% of votes cast for the office of governor in the last gubernatorial election. Sponsors of the referendum petition effort hope voters will overturn HB 1251 and are advocating for a no vote on the referendum.
HB 1251 amended the definition of “practice of optometry” in state law to allow optometrists to perform certain surgical procedures including the following:
- injections, excluding intravenous or intraocular injections;
- incision and curettage of a chalazion;
- removal and biopsy of skin lesions with low risk of malignancy, excluding lesions involving the lid margin or nasal to the puncta;
- laser capsulotomy; and
- laser trabeculoplasty.
Safe Surgery Arkansas is sponsoring the veto referendum petition seeking to overturn HB 1251. The group argues that the bill “jeopardizes patient safety and lowers the quality of surgical eye care in the state of Arkansas. This new law would allow optometrists— who are not medical doctors or trained surgeons— to perform delicate surgery on the eye and surrounding tissues using scalpels, lasers, and needles. HB 1251 removes … critical patient safeguard[s] by granting optometrists broad surgical privileges to operate on the eyes while bypassing these critical training requirements.”
Arkansans for Healthy Eyes is leading the campaign in opposition to the veto referendum effort and in support of HB 1251. The group is advocating for a yes vote on the referendum. Arkansas for Healthy Eyes argued that the bill “gives Arkansas patients better access to quality care by allowing optometrists to perform more of the procedures we are absolutely qualified to safely perform… For some patients, especially in rural parts of the state, being able to receive enhanced care from their optometrist, instead of having to go through the wait, travel, and added cost of a specialist visit, may mean the difference between getting a needed procedure, or going without.”
HB 1251 was approved in the House on March 6, 2019, in a vote of 70-19. Among Democratic representatives, eight voted against, 13 voted in favor, and three were absent or did not vote. Among Republican representatives, 11 voted against, 57 voted in favor, eight were absent or did not vote for or against the bill. The bill was approved in the Senate on March 20, 2019, in a vote of 25-8. Among Democratic senators, three voted against, five voted in favor, and one was absent or did not vote. Among Republican Senators, five voted against, 20 voted in favor, and one was absent or did not vote.
Since the first in 1934, 10 veto referendum measures have appeared on the ballot in Arkansas. The most recent referendum was on the ballot in 2004. In all but one case, the referendum efforts resulted in the targeted law being repealed or overturned.
Nationwide since the first in 1906, 521 veto referendums appeared on the ballot in 23 states. Voters repealed 340 (65.3 percent) of the targeted laws. Voters upheld 181 (34.7 percent) of the targeted laws. The states with the most veto referendums were North Dakota (75), Oregon (68), and California (48). The states that allowed for veto referendums but had the least number of them were Wyoming (1), Nevada (2), and New Mexico (3).
A state government trifecta occurs when one political party holds the governorship and majorities in both state legislative chambers. While most states have seen at least one change in their trifecta status within the last 20 years, five states—Nebraska, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Utah—have not had a trifecta change since at least 1999. In Utah, Republicans have controlled the governor’s office, House, and Senate since 1985.
There are currently 36 state government trifectas and 14 divided state governments. The 14 states that are governed by Democratic trifectas include 34.4% of the U.S. population, and 41.9% of the U.S. population lives in the 22 states governed by Republican trifectas.
In 2019, elections could determine the trifecta status of five states: Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia.
As of July 2019, we’ve ranked the trifecta vulnerability for each of these states as follows:
- Kentucky: Somewhat vulnerable Republican trifecta
- Louisiana: Slight possibility of a Republican trifecta forming, low possibility of a Democratic trifecta forming
- Mississippi: Moderately vulnerable Republican trifecta
- New Jersey: Non-vulnerable Democratic trifecta
- Virginia: Moderate possibility of a Democratic trifecta forming, moderate possibility of remaining under divided government
On July 12, Republican Governor Charlie Baker sent an omnibus public-sector labor bill back to the Democratic state legislature with recommendations for amendments.
What does the bill, as adopted, propose? The legislature’s version of H3854 would authorize employers to disclose personal employee information to unions. It would also permit unions to require non-members to pay for the costs associated with grievance and arbitration proceedings. It would require employers to provide unions with access to employees, and it would allow for dues deduction authorizations to be irrevocable for a period of up to one year.
What does Baker want to change? In a letter to state legislators, Baker recommended the following changes:
- Prevent unions from accessing employees’ personal cell phone numbers and using text messages to communicate with members without their written consent.
- Require unions to give new employees written information explaining their rights to join or refrain from joining a union.
- Require employees’ written consent before releasing certain information to unions.
- Require unions to provide notice to state agencies before using buildings for union purposes.
What comes next? Lawmakers could adopt an amended version of the bill incorporating some or all of Baker’s proposed changes. Lawmakers could also pass the bill again without making changes. In that case, Baker could sign it, let it become law without his signature, or veto the bill. A two-thirds vote in both the state House and Senate is required to override a veto. Democrats hold supermajorities (majorities exceeding the two-thirds necessary for a veto override) in both chambers.
Governor Matt Bevin (R) and Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear (D) attended a gubernatorial candidate forum hosted by the Kentucky Farm Bureau on July 17. The two discussed agricultural issues, the state budget, public pensions, and taxes during the hour-long forum.
Bevin told the audience that the 2019 election has national implications, saying he was actively working to support President Donald Trump’s (R) agenda and citing Beshear’s support of Hillary Clinton (D) in 2016. Beshear, meanwhile, questioned Bevin’s temperament and told the crowd Bevin would “attack, bully, and demean your employees.”
Beshear, Bevin, and John Hicks (L) are running in the gubernatorial election on November 5. Heading into the election, Kentucky is a Republican trifecta. If Bevin wins, Republicans will maintain their trifecta control of the state, while a Beshear or Hicks victory would result in neither party having trifecta control.
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.
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.
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.
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.