The statewide primary election for Tennessee is on August 6, 2020. The filing deadline to run passed on April 2. The general election will be held on November 3. Candidates are running in elections for the following offices:
• 16 state Senate seats
• 99 state House seats
One state court of appeals judge is also up for retention election on August 6. If retained, Judge Carma Dennis McGee will serve an additional eight years on the court.
Tennessee 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.
Tennessee’s primary election is the 37th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next primary is on August 8 in Hawaii.
Appellate judge David Bridges (R), who sat in Place 1 on the Texas Fifth District Court of Appeals, was killed on July 25 when an individual driving under the influence of alcohol hit Bridges as he was driving on the freeway. Bridges had served on the court since 1996.
Bridges was running for re-election to his seat on the court and advanced unopposed from the Republican primary on March 3. He was to face Democratic candidate Craig Smith, a judge of the Texas 192nd District Court, in the general election on November 3. Because of the timing of Bridges’ death, Republican Party committee officials from his district will nominate a replacement candidate to appear on the general election ballot. They have until August 24 to submit the nomination.
The Texas Fifth Court of Appeals is one of 14 intermediate appellate courts in Texas. Judges run in partisan elections to serve six-year terms on the court. Of the 12 judges currently sitting on the court, eight are affiliated with the Democratic Party and four are affiliated with the Republican Party.
North Carolina legislator Andy Wells (R) resigned from his seat in the state senate on July 27. He had represented District 42 in the chamber since 2015 and previously represented District 96 in the North Carolina House of Representatives from 2013 to 2015.
Wells did not file to run for re-election to his seat in the North Carolina State Senate this year, running instead for Lieutenant Governor. He lost to Mark Robinson in the Republican primary on March 3, coming in second place with 14.6% of the vote to Robinson’s 32.5%. Wells did not give a reason why he left his seat in the state legislature just under six months before the end of his term.
Wells’ departure creates the fourth vacancy in the North Carolina State Senate this year, two of which have not yet been filled. The other current vacancy in the chamber was created when Jerry W. Tillman (R), who represented District 26, unexpectedly resigned from his seat on June 30. Vacancies are filled by gubernatorial appointment.
A special election primary is being held on August 4 for District 49 of the Alabama House of Representatives. Cheryl Patton is running in the Democratic primary. Russell Bedsole, James Dean, Donna Dorough Strong, Chuck Martin, Jackson McNeely, and Mimi Penhale are running in the Republican primary. A primary runoff is scheduled for September 1 if no candidate receives a majority of the vote. The general election is being held on November 17.
The seat became vacant after April Weaver (R) resigned to become a regional director in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Heading into the special election, Republicans have a 75-28 majority in the Alabama House of Representatives with two vacancies. Alabama 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, 51 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 25 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
All 50 states are currently operating under active states of emergency related to the coronavirus pandemic, with several set to last until rescinded by the governor.
Starting in late February, governors across the country declared states of emergency as coronavirus cases climbed. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) was the first governor in the country to declare a state of emergency on February 29, and other governors soon followed. California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) declared a state of emergency on March 4. Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (R) declared a state of emergency on March 6. Governors continued declaring states of emergency through March and into April.
States of emergency declarations are set to expire in several states at the end of July and early August and throughout the rest of the year, while some are set to last until ended by the governor. New Mexico’s public health emergency is scheduled to expire on July 30, New Jersey’s public health emergency on August 1, Indiana’s public health emergency on August 3, and Colorado’s disaster emergency on August 5. Alabama’s and Connecticut’s are scheduled to expire on September 9, and Kansas’s is set to expire on September 15. The states of emergency declarations in Missouri and South Dakota are scheduled to last through December 30.
Generally, declaring a state of emergency allows governors to access resources unavailable to them during non-emergencies, like stockpiles of medical goods and equipment, and to waive or suspend certain rules and regulations.
According to the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO), “Traditionally states have a general statute that permits the governor to declare a state of emergency for any type of emergency or natural disaster, which can be construed broadly to include disease epidemics and other public health emergencies. In the last decade, states have begun to refine their approaches to defining emergencies; a state may have one or more statutory definitions to define emergencies, including ’disaster, ‘emergency,’ and ‘public health emergency.’”
The laws surrounding emergency declarations vary by state. In at least 16 states, the emergencies declared in response to the coronavirus pandemic were set to last until rescinded by the governor. In other states, governors have renewed their emergency declarations every 15 to 30 days as required by law.
The Kansas State Board of Education on July 22 voted to block an executive order issued by Governor Laura Kelly (D) that would have delayed the start of public and private school instruction in the state until after Labor Day.
Kelly issued the executive order on July 20 in light of Kansas’ recent spike in coronavirus cases. The order would have barred public and private schools in the state from holding classes from August 10 through September 8 with the goal of providing school personnel with “the opportunity to prepare for safe and effective student instruction.”
Republican lawmakers passed legislation in June that required Kelly to gain approval from the State Board of Education in order to change school opening dates. The State Board of Education is a constitutionally created board that functions as part of the executive branch. However, the board’s 10 members are elected by the public and, therefore, are not subject to direct control by the governor. The board voted 5-5 to block the order—one vote shy of the six votes that would have been required for approval.
“Our decisions must be informed by public health experts not politics,” said Kelly in a statement following the board’s decision. “This vote puts our students, faculty, their families and our economy at risk.”
Board members opposed to the executive order disagreed with the governor’s statewide approach, arguing that school opening decisions should be made at the local level. “This virus is not the same across the state,” said board member Jean Clifford.
A special election primary is being held on August 4 for District 38 of the Washington State Senate. June Robinson (D), Kelly Fox (D), and Bernard Moody (R) are running in the special election. The top two candidates in the primary will compete in a general election on November 3. Candidates are running to serve the remainder of the unexpired two-year term.
The seat became vacant after the resignation of John McCoy on April 17. McCoy had represented the district since 2013. Robinson was appointed to the seat by the Snohomish County Council on May 13.
Heading into the special election, Democrats have a 29-20 majority in the Washington State Senate. Washington has a Democratic 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, 50 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 25 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
Texas Supreme Court Justice Paul Green is retiring on August 31, 2020. Green joined the court in 2005 after winning election to the position on November 2, 2004. Before that, he served for 10 years as a justice on the Texas Fourth District Court of Appeals, taking the bench after being elected in 1994. He also worked in private practice. Green received his B.A. in business administration from the University of Texas at Austin in 1974. In 1977, he earned his J.D. from Saint Mary’s University School of Law.
In the event of a midterm vacancy, Texas Supreme Court justices are chosen by gubernatorial appointment with confirmation by the state Senate. The appointee serves until the next general election, in which he or she must compete in a partisan election to serve for the remainder of the unexpired term. Green’s replacement will be Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) fourth nominee to the nine-member supreme court.
Texas is one of two states (along with Oklahoma) with two courts of last resort. Founded in 1836, the Texas Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort for civil matters. Founded in 1876, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is the state’s court of last resort for criminal matters. Both courts have nine judgeships each.
In addition to Justice Green, the Texas Supreme Court currently includes the following justices:
• Nathan Hecht – Elected in 1988
• Eva Guzman – Appointed by Gov. Rick Perry (R) in 2009
• Debra Lehrmann – Appointed by Gov. Perry in 2010
• Jeffrey S. Boyd – Appointed by Gov. Perry in 2012
• John Devine – Elected in 2012
• Jimmy Blacklock – Appointed by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in 2018
• Jane Bland – Appointed by Gov. Abbott in 2019
• Brett Busby – Appointed by Gov. Abbott in 2019
In 2020, there have been 19 supreme court vacancies in 16 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies were caused by retirements. Twelve vacancies are in states where a Democratic governor appoints the replacement. Six are in states where a Republican governor appoints the replacement. One vacancy is in a state where the state supreme court votes to appoint the replacement.
On July 20, Montana Governor Steve Bullock (D) filed a lawsuit aimed at prohibiting acting director of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) William Perry Pendley from exercising the director powers of the agency. The lawsuit argues that Pendley, who President Trump officially nominated to become director of BLM on June 30, 2020, serves as director in violation of the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA) and the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
According to the lawsuit, Pendley’s exercise of the director’s powers defies the Appointments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which requires U.S. Senate confirmation of presidential appointments. The lawsuit further argues, however, that Pendley continuing to serve as acting director of the agency after his nomination to become permanent director violates the Federal Vacancies Reform Act (FVRA). Bullock argues that, “The Federal Vacancies Reform Act bars Presidents from circumventing the Constitution by putting people in charge of federal agencies before they are Senate-confirmed. But that is precisely what has happened here. Pendley’s tenure—and the actions the Bureau has taken, and continues to take during that tenure—violate the law.”
Bullock asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana to issue an injunction to block agency actions taken under Pendley. Conner Swanson, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of the Interior told _Bloomberg Law_, “This is a frivolous and politically motivated claim that has no legal standing.” Swanson said that Secretary of the Interior David Benhardt issued an order delegating the power to exercise the authority of BLM director to Pendley.
The first state ballot measure for 2022 qualified for the ballot in California on July 21, 2020.
The ballot initiative would increase California’s cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits based on changes in inflation since 1975, which is when the cap on noneconomic damages was enacted. In 2021, the damages cap of $250,000 would increase to around $1.2 million. Thereafter, the ballot measure would require an annual adjustment of the cap based on inflation. The ballot initiative would allow judges and juries to award damages above the cap for catastrophic injuries.
The Fairness for Injured Patients Act Coalition, which is the campaign behind the ballot measure, originally sought to place the citizen-initiated measure on the ballot for November 3, 2020. Consumer Watchdog president Jamie Court, whose organization supports the ballot initiative, said the decision to delay filing signatures was due to the coronavirus pandemic. He stated, “This has been a really tough decision, but it’s really foggy out there now, with all the concern about the coronavirus. No one really knows how that will affect the November elections. … The medical negligence cap hasn’t changed in 45 years. We didn’t want to blow our chance.”
The Fairness for Injured Patients Act Coalition filed 910,667 signatures, and the secretary of state’s office projected that 75.56 percent (around 688,010) of them were valid. At least 623,212 of the signatures needed to be valid.
Two PACs—Fairness for Injured Patients Act Coalition and Consumer Watchdog Campaign for the Fairness for Injured Patients Act—were registered to support the ballot initiative. The committees have raised $4.78 million, including $3.65 million from attorney Nicolas Rowley. The Californians to Protect Patients and Contain Health Care Costs PAC was registered to oppose the ballot initiative. The committee has raised $18.32 million, including $9.80 million from The Doctors Company.
In 2014, Consumer Watchdog worked on a similar ballot initiative, titled Proposition 46, which was defeated. Proposition 46 would have increased the cap on noneconomic damages from $250,000 to $1.00 million and required drug and alcohol testing of doctors.
Two other California ballot initiative campaigns are currently collecting signatures to get their proposals on the 2022 general election ballot. Both of the campaigns originally wanted their measures on the 2020 ballot but changed course due to the coronavirus pandemic and related stay-at-home orders. Court orders granted both of the campaigns additional time to collect signatures.
Signatures are due on September 28, 2020, for a 2022 initiative to adopt regulations that reduce the use of product packaging, single-use packaging, and single-use dishes and utensils.
Signatures are due on October 12, 2020, for a 2022 initiative to legalize sports betting at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks in California.