Illinois Supreme Court Justice to retire on Leap Day

Illinois Supreme Court Associate Justice Robert Thomas is retiring on February 29, 2020. Thomas announced plans to join law firm Powers Rogers following his retirement.

Justice Thomas joined the Second District of the Illinois Supreme Court after winning election in November 2000. Thomas served as the Chief Justice of the court from 2005 to 2008. He previously served as a judge of the Eighteenth Judicial Circuit Court in Illinois from 1988 to 1994, and as a Justice of the Illinois Appellate Court from 1994 to 2000.

Thomas earned a B.A. in government from the University of Notre Dame in 1974. In 1981, he earned a J.D. from Loyola University School of Law. Prior to beginning his legal career, Thomas was a kicker for the Chicago Bears in the National Football League.

Under Illinois law, the Illinois Supreme Court is responsible for appointing an interim judge in the event of a midterm vacancy. The interim judge serves until the next primary election occurring at least 60 days after his or her appointment, at which point the judge must run in a partisan election to remain on the court. Illinois Supreme Court Justices are selected by popular vote in partisan elections and serve 10-year terms, after which they must compete in nonpartisan retention elections to remain on the court.

Because the vacancy from Thomas’ retirement is set to occur less than 60 days before the state’s next primary on March 3, his replacement was selected by the Illinois Supreme Court in a vote of the justices. The court appointed appellate Justice Michael J. Burke to serve from March 1, 2020, to December 5, 2022.

Unlike most states, supreme court justices in Illinois are elected to represent specific districts. The seven justices are divided among five districts (three allocated to Cook County and the others divided evenly among the other four districts across the state) and are voted into office by the residents of their respective regions. Three other states—Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi—use a similar system.

The Illinois Supreme Court is the state’s court of last resort. It currently includes the following justices:
• Mary Jane Theis — Elected in 2010
• Anne M. Burke — Appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2006; elected Chief Justice by her peers in 2019
• P. Scott Neville — Appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2018
• Thomas Kilbride — Elected in 2000
• Rita Garman — Appointed by the Illinois Supreme Court in 2001
• Lloyd Karmeier — Elected in 2004

The Illinois Supreme Court will see another retirement in 2020. Justice Lloyd Karmeier is retiring from the court on December 6, 2020. His seat will be filled via partisan election.

In 2020, there have been eight supreme court vacancies in seven of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. The vacancies were caused by retirements. Four vacancies are in states where a Democratic governor appoints the replacement. Three 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.

Click here to learn more about the Illinois Supreme Court justice vacancy.

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State supreme court vacancies, 2020
Illinois Supreme Court
Judicial selection in Illinois

52 candidates file to run for 25 Indiana State Senate seats

Twenty-five of the Indiana State Senate’s 50 seats are up for election in 2020, with 52 candidates filing to run for those seats. The primary is scheduled for May 5, and the general election is on November 3. The filing deadline was February 7.

Of the 52 candidates who filed to run for election, 26 are Republicans and 26 are Democrats. In the following 23 districts, the incumbent filed for re-election:

• District 2: Lonnie Randolph (D)
• District 3: Eddie Melton (D)
• District 5: Ed Charbonneau (R)
• District 7: Brian Buchanan (R)
• District 8: Mike Bohacek (R)
• District 9: Ryan Mishler (R)
• District 10: David Niezgodski (D)
• District 12: Blake Doriot (R)
• District 13: Susan Glick (R)
• District 16: Justin Busch (R)
• District 18: Stacey Donato (R)
• District 24: John Crane (R)
• District 28: Michael Crider (R)
• District 30: John Ruckelshaus (R)
• District 32: Aaron Freeman (R)
• District 33: Greg Taylor (D)
• District 34: Jean Breaux (D)
• District 35: R. Michael Young (R)
• District 36: Jack Sandlin (R)
• District 37: Rodric Bray (R)
• District 42: Jean Leising (R)
• District 44: Eric Koch (R)
• District 50: Vaneta Becker (R)

In two districts, the incumbent did not file for re-election. These districts are:

• District 20: Victoria Spartz (R)
• District 40: Mark Stoops (D)

As of February 2020, Republicans held a majority of the chamber with 40 members to Democrats’ 10 members. No seats were vacant.

The Indiana State Senate is one of 86 state legislative chambers holding elections in 2020. There are 99 chambers throughout the country. In 2018, 87 out of 99 legislative chambers held elections.

Indiana 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 February 14, 2020, there were 21 Republican trifectas, 15 Democratic trifectas, and 14 divided governments where neither party held trifecta control.

Click here to learn more about Indiana State Senate 2020 elections

Additional reading:
Indiana State Senate
Indiana General Assembly
Indiana elections, 2020

Recall election scheduled for clerk of the Superior Court of Graham County in Arizona

Cindy Woodman, clerk of the Superior Court of Graham County in Arizona, will be on the ballot in a recall election on May 19, 2020. The recall effort against Woodman started in September 2019. Recall organizers cited high turnover, lack of institutional knowledge, and a court ruling that found Woodman was derelict in her duties as reasons for the circulation of petitions.

Woodman declined to comment on the recall effort, but Graham County Republican Party chairman John Duane Rhodes spoke in support of her. Rhodes said Woodman inherited a hostile work environment from her predecessor. He said he believed Woodman had done a good job despite the lack of training provided to her from the county.

To get the recall on the ballot, recall organizers had to collect signatures from at least 2,697 registered voters. They submitted 3,147 signatures on November 18, 2019, and enough signatures were deemed valid for the Graham County Board of Supervisors to schedule a recall election. The deadline for candidates to submit nomination papers to run against Woodman in this election is March 23.

On October 11, 2019, Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Brutinel signed an order that placed the Graham County Clerk of the Court’s Office under the direct supervision of Judge Michael Peterson. Woodman was prohibited from conducting clerk’s duties but continued to receive her full salary.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

Click here to learn more about Cindy Woodman’s recall election

Additional reading:
Graham County, Arizona
Recall campaigns in Arizona
Political recall efforts, 2020 
County official recalls 

Florida Supreme Court declines to hear Coral Gables preemption case

On February 12, the Florida Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from the City of Coral Gables of a ruling by the Third District Court of Appeal that upheld the state’s preemption of local bans on plastic packaging. Preemption occurs when law at a higher level of government is used to overrule authority at a lower level of government.

The city of Coral Gables banned the retail use of expanded polystyrene (plastic foam) in February 2016. In July 2016, the Florida Retail Federation (FRF) filed a lawsuit against the city, and Judge Jorge Cueto of the Eleventh Circuit Court upheld the city’s polystyrene ban in February 2017.

On August 14, 2019, the Third District Court of Appeal reversed the ruling, stating, “Because the trial court erred in finding [Florida Statutes sections 403.708(9), 403.7033, and 500.90] unconstitutional and concluding that the City’s Polystyrene Ordinance was not preempted, we reverse.” After the Third District Court denied the city’s motion to certify the question to the Florida Supreme Court, Coral Gables invoked the supreme court’s discretionary jurisdiction.

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Virginia pilot program aims to reduce regulations

The Virginia General Assembly created a regulatory reduction pilot program in 2018 that aims to cut regulations in two state agencies by 25% before July 1, 2021. Both agencies cut regulations faster than planned, according to a progress report published in October 2019.

Under the program, the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) and the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) must reduce regulatory requirements and compliance costs by 25% by the 2021 deadline. Both agencies were ahead of the first year goal of eliminating 7.5% of their regulations. The DPOR and DCJS had cut regulations by 9.78% and 10.14%, respectively, as of October 1, 2019.

If the pilot agencies meet the 2021 deadline, the Virginia Secretary of Finance must write a report on the feasibility of adopting a 2-for-1 regulatory budget in the state. Under that budget, state agencies would have to streamline or repeal two existing regulations for every new one they create. President Donald Trump (R) issued a similar executive order at the federal level in January 2017. Executive Order 13771 included a requirement that agencies eliminate two old regulations for each new regulation issued.

Virginia Delegate Michael Webert (R) and Virginia Senator Amanda Chase (R) sponsored the legislation creating the program and Governor Ralph Northam (D) approved it on March 23, 2018.

To learn more about the Virginia General Assembly or other state approaches to address the administrative state, see here:
Additional reading:

Virginia Administrative Procedure Act

Click here to read the text of the law establishing the pilot program.
Click here to read the text of the 2019 progress report.

Arizona governor issues nation’s first 3-for-1 regulatory policy

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) signed an executive order on January 13, 2020, that requires state agencies to eliminate three existing regulations in order to issue a new regulation.

“If the government ever deems a new regulation absolutely necessary, it must first identify three others to eliminate,” said Ducey in his 2020 State of the State Address. “The result: New regulations will naturally mean less regulations.”

President Donald Trump (R) issued Executive Order 13771 in January 2017 that included a requirement for federal agencies to eliminate two old regulations for each new regulation issued.

Ducey’s executive order is the first state-level action to expand Trump’s 2-for-1 regulatory policy to a 3-for-1 regulatory policy. Idaho Governor Brad Little (R) issued an executive order that included the 2-for-1 regulatory mandate in January 2019 and Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt (R) issued a similar executive order on February 3, 2020. Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) signed a budget deal in July 2019 that included a comparable 2-for-1 regulatory requirement.

Ducey’s executive order also renewed a statewide moratorium on new agency rulemakings for the sixth year in a row. Exceptions to the moratorium must be approved by the governor and include rules aimed at “protecting public health or safety, advancing job creation or economic development, or reducing or eliminating burdens or government waste,” according to a press release from the governor.

Click here to learn more.

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Wisconsin Governor appoints White to Court of Appeals


On January 16, 2020, Judge Maxine White was appointed to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, District 1, by Governor Tony Evers (D) to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of former judge Joan Kessler. White took her seat on the Wisconsin Court of Appeals on February 7, 2020. She will serve the remainder of Evers term, which ends on July 31, 2021.

Before White was appointed to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, she served as the chief judge of Wisconsin’s First Judicial District and as presiding judge of the Milwaukee County Circuit Court’s Family Division. Before becoming a judge, White served as a legal advisor for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia, an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, and as a manager for the Social Security Administration.

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals is the state’s intermediate appellate court. The court is composed of 16 judges from four districts. Selection of state court judges in Wisconsin occurs through nonpartisan elections. In the event of a midterm vacancy, the governor appoints a replacement.

Three Wisconsin Court of Appeals justices’ seats are up for election in 2020. A nonpartisan election is scheduled for April 7, 2020.

Click here to learn more.

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Pennsylvania statewide filing deadline passes on February 18

The filing deadline to run for elected office in Pennsylvania is on February 18, 2020. In Pennsylvania, prospective candidates may file for the following federal and state offices:

• 18 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives
• State auditor general, attorney general, and treasurer
• 25 seats in the Pennsylvania State Senate and 203 seats in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives

The primary is scheduled for April 28, and the general election is scheduled for November 3, 2020.

Pennsylvania’s filing deadline is the 13th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next statewide filing deadline is on March 2 in Nebraska.

Pennsylvania has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.

Click here to learn more.

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Vacancy committee appoints Champion to Colorado House

On February 8, 2020, Richard Champion (R) was appointed by Republican Party leaders in Colorado House District 38 to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of former Colorado Rep. Susan Beckman (R). Champion was sworn in on Feb. 12 and his term will end on January 13, 2021.

Beckman resigned from the Colorado House to join President Donald Trump’s (R) administration. She became a regional director for the Department of Health and Human Services.

Before Champion was appointed to the Colorado House, he served as the Mayor of Columbine Valley, Colorado, and as one of the town’s trustees.

Vacancies in the Colorado state legislature are filled by vacancy committees consisting of members representing the political party that last held the seat. The person appointed serves the remainder of the resigning officeholder’s term.

Champion’s appointment to the Colorado House filled the last remaining vacancy in the Colorado General Assembly. Champion was the third legislator to be appointed to the Colorado General Assembly in 2020 and the seventh appointee since the 2018 general election.

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Signatures due in California governor recall effort

Supporters of the effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) had until February 13 to submit 1,495,709 signatures to force a recall election. The recall, which was submitted by Erin Cruz (R), was approved for circulation by Secretary of State Alex Padilla (D) on September 6, 2019. As of January 29, 2020, there were 197,150 signatures submitted, and 134,357 had been deemed valid by the secretary of state.

The recall petition alleges that Newsom mismanaged the state and caused poor schools, deteriorating infrastructure, high costs for gas and utilities, and increased homelessness and debt. The recall petition also criticized Newsom’s support of policies such as Medicare for All and laws that aid immigrants living in the country illegally.

A second recall petition was submitted by James Veltmeyer and approved for circulation against Gov. Newsom on September 27, 2019. Veltmeyer ended the recall on January 6, 2020. He said on his recall website that he was ending the effort because it was not going to be successful and because the effort did not have the money to collect signatures.

In response to the recall efforts, Newsom filed a statement with the secretary of state in August 2019. In his statement, Newsom said that the “…recall effort will cost California taxpayers $81 million dollars! It is being pushed by political extremists supporting President Trump’s hateful attacks on California.”

California became a Democratic trifecta in 2011. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. Democrats control the California state House by a 61-18 margin with one vacancy and the state Senate by a 29-10 margin with one vacancy. Newsom succeeded Jerry Brown (D) as governor in 2019. He won the 2018 election with 61.9% of the vote.

Three gubernatorial recall efforts are currently underway in 2020. From 2003 to 2019, Ballotpedia tracked 22 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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