Borrello wins Republican primary in New York State Senate special election

The District 57 seat in the New York State Senate was up for special primary election on June 25. Austin Morgan (D) and George Borrello (R) advanced from the primary to the general election, which is scheduled for November 5. Morgan ran unopposed and won the Democratic nomination by default, while Borrello defeated Curtis Crandall with 63.7% of the unofficial election night vote in order to win the Republican nomination. The District 57 seat was vacated by Catharine Young (R), who stepped down on February 28, 2019, to take a leadership position at the Center of Excellence for Food and Agriculture at Cornell AgriTech. The candidate filing deadline passed on April 4.
As of June 26, 64 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 24 states. This is the only state legislative special election currently on the ballot in New York this year. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year nationwide.
Entering the special election, the New York State Senate had 40 Democrats, 22 Republicans, and one vacancy. A majority in the chamber requires 32 seats. New York has a Democratic trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.

Wisconsin Supreme Court rules against Superintendent of Public Instruction, affirming the legislature can control how agencies make rules

In Koschkee v. Taylor, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin ruled 4-2 that the DPI must submit new rules to the governor for approval before they go into effect, affirming the state REINS Act, which requires new rules be sent to the governor before they can go into effect. 
Governor Tony Evers (D), then the superintendent of public instruction, and the DPI were sued for allegedly violating the state REINS Act. Evers and DPI argued that the state superintendent is a constitutional office in Wisconsin not subject to gubernatorial control under the REINS Act. They also argued that the issue was already settled in the 2016 case Coyne v. Walker, which ruled that a 2011 law did not apply to the state superintendent. Koschkee v. Taylor overruled the Coyne decision and affirmed the constitutional power of the legislature to control how agencies make rules.
Signed into law in August 2017 by Governor Scott Walker (R), the REINS Act made changes to the regulatory process in Wisconsin. It requires state agencies to submit statements of scope for proposed regulations to the governor. Governors may then approve or reject an agency’s proposal.
Based on a proposed federal law of the same name, the Wisconsin REINS Act also requires legislative authorization of major rules and allows a Joint Committee for the Review of Administrative Rules to indefinitely suspend a proposed rule.

Wisconsin Supreme Court rules legislature’s lame-duck session was constitutional

In a 4-3 decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled Friday that the state legislature’s December 2018 lame duck session was not unconstitutional. The League of Women Voters, plaintiffs in the case, had argued that the state’s constitution did not allow lawmakers to call an extraordinary session, making the December session and all actions resulting from it unconstitutional.
Judge Jessica Bradley authored the court’s majority opinion, stating: “We hold that extraordinary sessions do not violate the Wisconsin Constitution because the text of our constitution directs the Legislature to meet at times as ‘provided by law,’ and Wis. Stat. § 13.02(3) provides the law giving the Legislature the discretion to construct its work schedule, including preserving times for it to meet in an extraordinary session.”
Judge Rebecca Dallet wrote a dissenting opinion: “The Legislature’s ability to determine the rules of its proceedings pursuant to Article IV, Section 8 does not swallow up the meeting requirements of Article IV, Section 11 or allow it to wield unbridled power.”
During the December 2018 session, Wisconsin lawmakers voted to limit the ability of the governor to remove Wisconsin from a multi-state lawsuit to challenge the Affordable Care Act, limit early voting in Wisconsin, and give more power over the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation to state lawmakers.
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) responded to the ruling: “The state constitution is clear. It limits when the legislature can meet to pass laws. Our framers knew that no good comes from lawmakers rushing laws through at the last minute without public scrutiny. The lame-duck session proves the framers were right. This was an attack on the will of the people, our democracy, and our system of government.”
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos and Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald called the decision “common sense.” “The Court upheld a previously non-controversial legislative practice used by both parties for decades to enact some of the most important laws in the state,” they wrote.

New special election for Iowa House District 46

A new state legislative special election has been added to our list. The special election is for the District 46 seat in the Iowa House of Representatives on August 6, 2019. There is no primary because major-party candidates will be nominated directly by the parties instead, and the filing deadline for independent and third-party candidates is on July 12.

New special election for New Hampshire House Rockingham 9

A new state legislative special election has been added to our list. The special election is for one of the two Rockingham 9 seats in the New Hampshire House of Representatives on October 8, 2019. The primary is on August 20, unless a primary is not required because only one candidate from each party filed to run. In that case, the general election will be on August 20 instead. The filing deadline is on June 28.

Early TV ads released in Louisiana governor’s race

The group Rebuild Louisiana began airing a 30-second TV ad Monday praising Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) for “work[ing] with Republicans and Democrats to pass Louisiana’s first teacher pay raise in a decade.” On June 13, the group released a 1-minute ad featuring Edwards speaking in support of a revenue plan that fell six votes short of passing the legislature earlier this month.
Rebuild Louisiana “is registered as a 501(c)4 group with the IRS, meaning it is a nonprofit that can publicize a candidate’s achievements without expressly asking the public to vote for the candidate,” The Advocate reported, saying the group “is allowed to coordinate its activities with the Edwards re-election campaign.”
Louisiana’s top-two primary election takes place October 12, 2019. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary, a general election will take place November 16. The filing deadline is August 8. So far, Edwards has two challengers: U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham (R) and businessman Eddie Rispone (R). The three candidates have all released digital campaign ads, and the Republican Governors Association has released digital ads opposing Edwards.
Edwards is the only Democratic governor among the southernmost states, and he is the only Democrat holding statewide office in Louisiana. Both the Democratic Governors Association (DGA) and the Republican Governors Association (RGA) have said their parties are in a favorable position to win the gubernatorial election.
DGA spokesman Jared Leopold said, “Gov. Edwards is in a strong position for re-election and is one of the most popular governors in America for a reason: He’s working across party lines to get things done for Louisianans.” The DGA has pointed to Edwards’ role in expanding Medicaid in the state and referred to the state’s economic performance as accomplishments of Edwards’ tenure.
The RGA has called Louisiana a “top pick-up opportunity for Republicans” in 2019. “With the state’s solid red hue combined with President Trump’s 20-point victory in 2016, Gov. Edwards will certainly face a competitive race no matter who Republicans decide to nominate,” said Jon Thompson, RGA spokesperson. The Louisiana Republican Party has criticized Edwards by saying that economic growth has been slow during his tenure while taxes have increased.

Voters in New Jersey will decide ballot measure to expand veterans’ property tax deduction to those living in retirement centers

At the election on November 5, 2019, voters in New Jersey will decide a constitutional amendment to expand the state’s veterans’ property tax deduction to eligible veterans living in continuing care retirement centers.
In New Jersey, veterans who were honorably discharged or released under honorable circumstances from active duty are eligible to receive a $250 deduction from their property tax bill. Surviving spouses of honorably discharged veterans who are decreased or soldiers who died on active duty during a war can also claim the deduction as well.
The constitutional amendment would extend the $250 deduction to otherwise eligible veterans and surviving spouses who live in continuing care retirement centers. The retirement centers would receive the deductions on behalf of the veterans and surviving spouses living there and be required to pass the deductions on to veterans and surviving spouses in the form of a payment or credit. The Office of Legislative Services Estimate projects that the expanded deduction would cost between $350,000 and $550,000 per year.
Since the enactment of the current state constitution in 1947, New Jersey has provided veterans with property tax benefits. The original benefit was a $500 exemption from a property’s assessed value. The benefit was changed from an exemption on assessed value to a $50 deduction from a property tax bill in 1963. In 1999, voters passed a constitutional amendment to increase the deduction from $50 to $250 over four years.
The constitutional amendment was referred to the ballot for voter consideration after receiving unanimous approval in the state Senate on May 30, 2019, and the House on June 20, 2019. It was sponsored by a bipartisan group of seven state senators.
The legislature can refer additional constitutional amendments, along with bond measures, to the state’s November ballot until three months before the election, which is August 5, 2019. Between 1995 and 2017, an average of one constitutional amendment has appeared on odd-year ballots in New Jersey. Of the 31 constitutional amendments on the ballot during that period, voters approved 28 (90 percent) of them. The New Jersey constitutional amendment is the 22nd ballot measure to be certified 2019 statewide ballot.

Voters in Pennsylvania to decide Marsy’s Law, a type of constitutional bill of rights for crime victims, in November 2019

Voters in Pennsylvania will decide Marsy’s Law, a type of constitutional bill of rights for crime victims, on November 5, 2019. The constitutional amendment was referred to the ballot on June 19, 2019, after a two-session legislative process.
The ballot measure would provide crime victims with specific constitutional rights, including a right to be treated with fairness and respect for the victim’s safety, dignity, and privacy; a right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay and a prompt and final conclusion of the case; a right to have the safety of the victim and victim’s family considered when setting the bail amount and release conditions for the accused; and a right to full and timely restitution from the person or entity convicted.
In Pennsylvania, a majority vote is required in two successive sessions of the Pennsylvania General Assembly to place a constitutional amendment on the ballot. In 2018, the state House and Senate both passed Marsy’s Law in unanimous votes. In 2019, the House voted 190-8 and the Senate voted 50-0. Of the eight state representatives to vote “No,” two were elected in November 2018, and thus weren’t seated to vote in 2018, and six switched their votes from the previous session.
Gov. Tom Wolf (D) and State Victim Advocate Jennifer Storm, who former Gov. Tom Corbett (R) appointed in 2013, support Marsy’s Law. The ACLU of Pennsylvania opposes the constitutional amendment. Gov. Wolf said Marsy’s Law “will amend the state constitution to provide crime victims with equal protections and participation in the process. Victims and their families deserve equity.” Andy Hoover, the PA ACLU’s communications director, stated, “While our criminal justice system is far from perfect, the guarantees of both the Pennsylvania and U.S. Constitutions are intended to mitigate the mighty power of the state when a person is accused of a crime. Writing Marsy’s Law into Pennsylvania’s Constitution will further empower the state at the expense of the liberty of the person who is accused.”
As of 2019, 12 states had passed a ballot measure for Marsy’s Law. The first was in California in 2008. Between 2008 and 2018, voters had approved Marsy’s Law in Illinois (2014), Montana (2016), North Dakota (2016), South Dakota (2016), Ohio (2017), Florida (2018), Georgia (2018), Kentucky (2018), Nevada (2018), North Carolina (2018), and Oklahoma (2018). Wisconsin is scheduled to vote on Marsy’s Law on April 7, 2020. Marsy’s Law is named after Henry Nicholas’ sister, who was murdered in 1983.
Ballotpedia identified $102.26 million in total contributions to the support campaigns for the 12 Marsy’s Law ballot measures that were on ballots between 2008 and 2018. Henry Nicholas, the co-founder of Broadcom Corp., and the organization Marsy’s Law for All provided 97 percent—about 99.3 million—of the total contributions. Marsy’s Law for Pennsylvania registered as a lobbyist in Pennsylvania, spending $848,960 between December 11, 2017, and March 31, 2019. The organization could register as a political action committee to support the constitutional amendment at the election.
The Pennsylvania Marsy’s Law is the 21st ballot measure certified for an election in 2019. Since 2009, an average of 30 ballot measures appeared on statewide ballots during odd-numbered years.
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No party control flips in Florida state legislative special elections

Two seats in the Florida House of Representatives, District 7 and District 38, were up for special general election on Tuesday. The primary was held on April 9, and the filing deadline was on February 14. A third seat, District 97, was originally scheduled to be on the ballot as well, but the election was canceled after only one candidate filed to run. All three seats were won by members of the same political party as their predecessors.
  • Jason Shoaf (R) defeated Ryan Terrell (D) with 71.3% of the unofficial election night vote for the District 7 seat. Shoaf had previously defeated three other Republican candidates in the primary. Terrell ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. The seat was vacated by Halsey Beshears (R), who resigned in January 2019 to become the Secretary of the Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
  • Randy Maggard (R) defeated Kelly Smith (D) with 55.6% of the unofficial election night vote for the District 38 seat. Maggard had previously defeated one other candidate, David McCallister, for the Republican nomination in the primary. Smith ran unopposed in the Democratic primary. The seat was vacated by Daniel Burgess (R), who resigned in January 2019 to become the Executive Director of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
  • Dan Daley (D) ran unopposed for the District 97 seat and won it automatically. The seat was vacated by Jared Moskowitz (D), who resigned in January 2019 to become the Director of the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
As of June, 60 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 23 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
Entering the special election, the Florida House of Representatives had 46 Democrats, 71 Republicans, and three vacancies. Florida 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.
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