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.
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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.
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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.

Illinois legislature passes public-sector union bill

On Nov. 13, the Illinois Senate voted 45-9 to approve SB1784, a bill that would make a series of changes to the state’s existing public-sector labor relations laws. The House approved the bill 93-23 on Oct. 29. The bill now goes to Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D), who has not indicated whether he plans to sign it.
What does the bill propose?
The bill would make the following changes to the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act and the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act:
  1. Require public employers to furnish unions with a complete list of the names and addresses of the public-sector workers in their bargaining units.
  2. Prohibit employers from discouraging employees from participating in unions.
  3. Permit union representatives to meet with new employees during working hours.
  4. Permit unions to limit the time periods during which members can resign or rescind their dues deductions.
  5. Declare that public employers and public-sector unions cannot be held liable for claims involving the payment of dues or agency fees before June 27, 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Janus v. AFSCME.
In Janus, the Supreme Court held that compelling workers to pay dues or fees to a union violates workers’ First Amendment rights.
As originally introduced on Feb. 16, SB1784 did not have any bearing on public-sector unions. Instead, it dealt with state government ethics.
What are the reactions?
Rep. Jay Hoffmann (D), who voted in favor of the bill, said, “This is an attempt to restore employee rights and lay out what public employers in Illinois can and cannot do with regard to union representation and an employee joining a union. This does not overturn the Janus decision, this is post-Janus.”
Joe Tabor, a policy analyst for Illinois Policy, said, “Public employees are ill-served by SB1784, which would restrict the exercise of their constitutional rights to distance themselves from unions and their politics. It would empower unions to indoctrinate new employees and call workers’ cell phones. It tries to legislate after the fact by stopping litigation to recover workers’ money that should never have been taken from them, which is sure to draw court challenges.”

33 Louisiana state government offices decided in general election

Louisiana held a general election for 33 state government offices on November 16, 2019. The top-two finishers in the October 12 primary advanced to the general election if no candidate received a majority of votes. In Louisiana, all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, face off in the primary election. This year, 160 state seats were on the October ballot. The general election featured three state executive positions, 29 state legislative seats, and one state judgeship.
All 39 Louisiana State Senate seats were on the primary ballot. Five races advanced to the general election: those in Districts 3, 11, 16, 35, and 36. The District 35 and District 36 races both featured Republican incumbents facing Republican challengers. In District 36, incumbent Ryan Gatti was defeated by candidate Robert Mills. As of election night, the District 35 race was too close to call, but challenger Jay Morris led incumbent James Fannin with 50.4% of the vote with all precincts reporting. The remaining races were for open seats. District 16 was the only race to feature inter-party opponents, one Democrat and one Republican. Candidate Franklin Foil (R) won. In District 3, two Democrats faced off and in District 11, two Republicans faced off.
Twenty-four of the 105 seats in the Louisiana House of Representatives advanced to the general election. All but four were races for open seats. Incumbents in Districts 62, 94, and 105 faced challengers from a different party; in District 46, incumbent Mike Huval faced a fellow Republican. Three of the four incumbents were re-elected. Huval won re-election to District 46, Roy Adams (independent) won re-election to District 62, and Stephanie Hilferty (R) won re-election to District 94. District 105 incumbent Chris Leopold (R) was defeated by Mack Cormier (D). Of the general election races, seven were guaranteed to be won by Democrats and nine were guaranteed to be won by Republicans. The remaining eight races featured candidates from two parties; of these, two were won by Democrats, five were won by Republicans, and one was won by an independent.
Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin (R) faced one Democratic and two Republican challengers in the primary, advancing to the general election along with Gwen Collins-Greenup (D). Ardoin won re-election by receiving 59.1% of the unofficial vote. Collins-Greenup received 40.9% of the vote.
The outcomes of the secretary of state race and the gubernatorial race decided that the state government would remain a divided triplex. A state government triplex exists when one political party holds the office of governor, attorney general, and secretary of state. State Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) won re-election in the primary. With Ardoin’s win, if Republican gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone had won election, the state would have had a Republican triplex for the first time since 2015. However, Governor John Bel Edwards (D) won re-election.
The three remaining state offices on the general ballot were governor, Louisiana Supreme Court 1st District, and Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education District 6.

Iowa governor to fill vacant state supreme court seat

On November 15, Iowa Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Cady died of a heart attack.
Cady was the chief justice of the Iowa Supreme Court from 2011 to 2019. He was appointed to the court as an associate justice in 1998 by Governor Terry Branstad (R). Cady previously served on the Iowa Court of Appeals from 1994 to 1998; he was elected chief judge of the appellate court in 1997. He was a district court judge from 1986 to 1994, and a district associate judge from 1983 to 1986. Cady received his undergraduate degree from Drake University and his J.D. in 1978 from Drake University Law School.
Selection of state supreme court justices in Iowa occurs through gubernatorial appointment with help from a nominating commission. Cady’s replacement will be Governor Kim Reynolds’ (R) third nominee to the seven-member supreme court. Newly appointed judges serve for one year, at which point he or she must compete in a yes-no retention election (occurring during the regularly scheduled general election) if they wish to continue serving.
The Iowa Supreme Court is the court of last resort in the state. It currently includes the following justices:
  • Justice Brent Appel – appointed by Gov. Tom Vilsack (D)
  • Justice David Wiggins – appointed by Gov. Vilsack (D)
  • Justice Thomas Waterman – appointed by Gov. Terry Branstad (R)
  • Justice Edward Mansfield – appointed by Gov. Branstad (R)
  • Justice Susan Christensen – appointed by Gov. Kim Reynolds (R)
  • Justice Christopher McDonald – appointed by Gov. Reynolds (R)
In 2019, there have been 20 supreme court vacancies across 14 of the 29 states where replacement justices are appointed instead of elected. Of those 20 vacancies, 13 are in states where a Republican governor appoints the replacement. Six vacancies occurred in a state where a Democratic governor fills vacancies, while one occurred in a state where a Republican-controlled legislature appoints the replacement.