CategoryState

Missouri House of Representatives unanimously expels Rick Roeber

The Missouri House of Representatives voted unanimously on April 21 to expel Rep. Rick Roeber (R). On April 19, the House Ethics committee released a 13-page report following its investigation into allegations that Roeber had abused his children. The Committee found the testimony and allegations of Roeber’s now-adult children to be credible and recommended Roeber’s expulsion.

Ethics Chair Travis Fitzwater (R) and House Speaker Rob Vescovo (R) issued a joint statement, saying: “Our caucus and our institution have a zero tolerance policy for anyone who would endanger the well-being of a child, and it’s clear that Rick Roeber’s heinous actions make him not only unfit for office, but should also make him the subject of a thorough investigation by law enforcement.”

Roeber was first elected to represent District 34 in November 2020. The seat had been vacant since July 2019, following the death of former Rep. Rebecca Roeber (R), Rick Roeber’s wife.

This year, there have been 40 state legislative vacancies in 22 states. Twenty-seven (27) of those vacancies have been filled. So far in 2021, only one other state legislator—Luke Simons (R-N.D.)—has been removed from office. The North Dakota House of Representatives had expelled Simons on March 4 by a vote of 69-25.

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Special election to be held in Connecticut House district

A special election is being held on April 27 for District 145 of the Connecticut House of Representatives. Corey Paris (D) and J.D. Ospina (R) are running in the general election. The winner will serve until January 2023.

The seat became vacant after Patricia Miller (D) won a special election to represent Connecticut State Senate District 27 on March 2. Miller had represented the district since 2009. She won re-election in 2020 with 77% of the vote.

Heading into the special election, Democrats have a 96-54 majority in the Connecticut House with one vacancy. Connecticut 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 April, 33 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. Connecticut held 40 state legislative special elections from 2011 to 2020.

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Idaho Gov. Brad Little (R) signs bill increasing initiative signature distribution requirements

On April 17, Gov. Brad Little (R) signed Senate Bill 1110. The bill changed the state’s distribution requirement for ballot initiative and veto referendum signature petitions to require signatures from 6% of voters from all 35 legislative districts instead of the previous requirement of 6% of voters from 18 of the state’s legislative districts.

With SB 1110 signed into law, Idaho joined Utah and South Dakota in passing bills restricting the states’ initiative processes so far in 2021.

Ballotpedia has tracked 124 legislative proposals concerning ballot initiatives, veto referendums, referrals, local ballot measures, and recall in 34 states in 2021 legislative sessions. Approved bills include significant changes that would make it harder to qualify or pass ballot measures in Idaho, South Dakota, and Utah. Notable topics among bills introduced in 2021 sessions include supermajority requirement increases, signature requirement or distribution requirement increases, single-subject rules, and pay-per-signature bans.

In 2019, the Idaho Legislature passed, but Gov. Little vetoed, a pair of bills that were designed to increase the state’s initiative signature requirement and its distribution requirement, among other changes. The legislature did not override Gov. Little’s vetoes in 2019.

In 2021, both chambers of the legislature passed SB 1110 by more than the two-thirds majority required to override a veto: 26-9 in the Senate and 51-18 in the House.

Reclaim Idaho filed a lawsuit against SB 1110 and filed an initiative designed to repeal the bill. Luke Mayville, co-founder of Reclaim Idaho, said, “This makes citizen initiatives virtually impossible in Idaho. Under this legislation, we’re not likely to see another initiative like Medicaid expansion from 2018 or like the term limits initiative from the 1990’s. So we are very disappointed with Governor Little. […] This fight is not over because this legislation is clearly unconstitutional, and our organization, Reclaim Idaho, has decided to file a lawsuit and to ask the courts to strike down this legislation and to protect the citizen initiative rights of all the people of Idaho.”

Representative Sage Dixon (R) supported SB 1110. Dixon said, “Every district in Idaho should be represented in that process. This is an effort to protect the voice of everybody in Idaho in the lawmaking process, very similar to what we do here as representatives, and what the senators do as well.”

Governor Little’s statement on SB 1110 wrote, “whether senate bill 1110 amounts to an impermissible restriction in violation of our constitution is highly fact-dependent and, ultimately, a question for the Idaho judiciary to decide. I also expect the federal courts may be called to determine whether senate bill 1110 violates the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution.”



Hunter Roberts appointed secretary of South Dakota’s new Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources 

Hunter Roberts assumed office on April 19 as secretary of the newly-formed South Dakota Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Governor Kristi Noem (R) appointed Roberts to the position in August 2020.

The Department of Agriculture and Department of Environment and Natural Resources officially merged on April 19. Noem had announced her intention to combine the two departments last August and signed an executive order establishing the new department on Jan. 19, 2021. He had served as the state’s secretary of environment and natural resources since 2019.

Roberts was appointed interim secretary of agriculture in September 2020 and served in both roles until the departments merged in April 2021. South Dakota also has an elected state office—commissioner of school and public lands—that is responsible for supervising lands designated for educational use by the federal government.

Agriculture commissioners are elected in 12 states and appointed in 38, while natural resources commissioners are appointed in 44 states and elected in five. Of those five states, three—Arkansas, New Mexico, and South Dakota—have both an appointed and elected officeholder responsible for managing natural resources. Wyoming is the only state without a natural resources commissioner. 

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Disclosure Digest: April 20, 2021

Arkansas General Assembly considers bill barring state agencies from imposing donor disclosure requirements on nonprofits    

Earlier this month, the Arkansas Senate approved a bill that would bar state agencies and officials from imposing disclosure requirements on nonprofits that are “more stringent, restrictive, or expansive” than those already in force. It would also bar state and local public agencies from requiring, requesting, or disclosing information about a nonprofit’s donors. The bill is currently pending in the Arkansas House of Representatives.

What the bill would do

SB535 would bar state agencies and officials from imposing annual filing or reporting requirements on nonprofits that are “more stringent, restrictive, or expansive than the requirements authorized by state statute,” except as required or authorized by federal law. This provision would not apply to: 

  • State grants and contracts
  • Fraud investigations
  • “Regulation or licensing of entities by the Department of Human Services”
  • “Regulation or licensing by the Department of Labor and Licensing” 

The bill would also prohibit public agencies (defined as state and local government entities) from: 

  • Requiring a person to provide a public agency with personal information (defined as a “list, record, register, registry, roll, roster, or other compilation of data that identifies a person as a member, supporter, volunteer of, or donor of financial or nonfinancial support to” a tax-exempt nonprofit).
  • Requiring a nonprofit to provide a public agency with personal information.
  • Releasing, publishing, or otherwise disclosing any personal information a public agency already has.
  • Requesting or requiring a current or prospective contractor to provide a public agency with information about the contractor’s financial or nonfinancial support of a nonprofit. 

These provisions would not apply to the disclosure of personal information:

  • “Required under a specific requirement relating to reporting campaign contributions, campaign expenditures, lobbying disclosures, or lobbying expenditures.” 
  • As part of a public comment in a public meeting or “in another manner that is publicly accessible.” 
  • In accordance with a warrant or court order.
  • Used in a legal proceeding. 
  • Used by the Department of Finance and Administration for the “administration of tax or motor vehicle laws.”
  • Used by any public agency “with oversight function over a government program for the purpose of an audit specific to the grant program,” provided that the “information accessed is limited to information related to the public agency grant program or grant program funds.” 
  • Used by the State Securities Department for administration of the Arkansas Securities Act.

Legislative history   

State Sen. Breanne Davis (R) and Reps. David Ray (R) and Austin McCollum (R) introduced SB535 in the Senate on March 15. The Senate approved the original version of the bill 29-1 on April 7 (Sen. Stephanie Flowers (D) cast the lone dissenting vote). 

The House State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee recommended the House approve an amended version of the bill. The House has not yet taken a final vote on the bill.

The original version of the bill was substantively similar to the current version. The two differ primarily in the types of exceptions they make. For example, both versions bar state agencies and officials from imposing annual filing or reporting requirements on nonprofits that are “more stringent, restrictive, or expansive” than those already authorized by statute. The original version of the bill specifies that this provision does not apply “to state grants and contracts, fraud investigations, and shall not restrict enforcement actions against specific nonprofit organizations.” The current version strikes the last of these three, replacing it with several specific exempt regulatory actions (e.g., “regulation or licensing of entities by the Department of Human Services”). 

Political context: Arkansas is a Republican trifecta, meaning Republicans control the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. Arkansas has been a Republican trifecta since 2015.

What other states are doing

State lawmakers in Iowa, Nebraska, North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Wyoming are considering similar legislation this year. Five of these states are Republican trifectas (the sixth, North Carolina, has a divided government, with a Democratic governor and Republican majorities in both chambers of the state legislature). 

South Dakota, a Republican trifecta, was the first state to enact similar legislation this year.

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We’re currently tracking 38 pieces of legislation dealing with donor disclosure. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking. 

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

Recent legislative actions

For complete information on all of the bills we are tracking, click here

  • Arkansas SB535: This bill would prohibit a public agency from disclosing identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Amendment read and adopted in the House on April 15.
  • California AB236: This bill would require campaign finance committees to report the name of “each individual who owns or controls, or controls the contributions and expenditures of, a limited liability company or a foreign limited liability company from which the committee received a campaign contribution.”
    • Democratic sponsorship.
    • The Assembly Elections Committee reported the bill favorably and sent it back to the Assembly Appropriations Committee on April 15.
  • Idaho H0245: This bill would prohibit foreign contributions, independent expenditures, and electioneering in Idaho election campaigns.
    • Sponsorship not specified.
    • Signed into law on April 16.
  • Iowa HF309: This bill would prohibit a public agency from disclosing identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors.
    • Sponsorship not specified.
    • The Senate approved the bill on April 13.
  • Maine LD1284: This bill would repeal a law requiring that independently financed communications include a statement listing the top three funders of the entity paying for the communications. It would also specify that only party committees and political action committees, and not individuals, are required to file reports of independent expenditures aggregating in excess of $250 during any one candidate’s election.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Tabled at a work session on April 14.

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Alabama legislature sends two constitutional amendments to 2022 ballot

On April 15, 2021, the Alabama State Legislature gave final approval to two constitutional amendments that will appear on the 2022 ballot.

One measure would amend the Alabama Constitution to provide that the legislature may enumerate offenses for which bail may be denied. The measure is referred to as Aniah’s Law. The legislature also passed House Bill 130 which would take effect if the amendment is approved. House Bill 130 sets the specific offenses for which bail may be denied by a court, including murder, kidnapping, rape, assault, and more. For individuals charged with listed offenses under the bill, bail could be denied “if the prosecuting attorney proves by clear and convincing evidence that no condition or combination of conditions of release will reasonably ensure the defendant’s appearance in court or protect the safety of the community or any person.”

The bill is named after Aniah Blanchard who was murdered in 2019 in Alabama after the suspect was released on bond after being charged with attempted murder, kidnapping, and robbery. Amendment sponsor Chip Brown said “too many of those who are accused of violent crimes are bonding out of jail and committing even more serious offenses, and it is time for law-abiding Alabamians to start fighting back. Denying bail to those accused of violent offenses is a commonsense answer to a dangerous societal problem.” The measure was passed by a vote of 30-0 in the Senate with four members not voting and 92-0 in the House with 11 members not voting.

The other measure would remove orphans’ business from the jurisdiction of county probate courts. County probate courts would continue to be responsible for adoptions, guardianships, and granting letters of testamentary. The measure was passed by the Senate in a vote of 28-0 with seven members not voting and by the House in a vote of 90-0 with 13 members not voting.

Three other constitutional amendments have passed one chamber of the Alabama state legislature and will appear on the November 2022 ballot if they pass in the second chamber. The amendments would

  1. require changes to laws governing the conduct of a general election to be implemented at least six months from the general election;
  2. authorize $85 million in bonds for state parks improvement; and
  3. create the Alabama Education Lottery, authorize sports betting, and authorize casino-style games in certain facilities in specific counties.

A total of 102 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Alabama from 1998 to 2020, of which 80 were approved and 22 were defeated. Between 1998 and 2020, an average of eight measures appeared on the ballot in Alabama during even-numbered election years.



A look back at government responses to the coronavirus pandemic, April 20-24, 2020

Although the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020, it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout March and April, states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. 

Here are the policy changes that happened April 20-24, 2020. This list is not comprehensive. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Monday, April 20, 2020:

School closures:

  • Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the rest of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were closed through May 1.
  • Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the rest of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were closed through May 1.

Election changes:

  • United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan Judge Terrence Berg issued an order reducing the petition signature requirements for primary candidates in Michigan to 50 percent of their statutory requirements. Berg also extended the filing deadline from April 21 to May 8, and directed election officials to develop procedures allowing for the collection and submission of electronic petition signatures.

Federal government responses:

  • Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf announced that travel restrictions with Canada and Mexico would be extended another 30 days. The restrictions, implemented in agreement with Canada and Mexico in late March, prohibited nonessential travel.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Travel restrictions

  • Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) extended the 14-day quarantine requirement for international and out-of-state travelers through May 19.

School closures:

  • Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the rest of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
  • Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the rest of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were closed through May 1.
  • West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the rest of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.

Federal government responses:

  • The U.S. Senate passed the $484 billion Paycheck Protection and Health Care Act. The package included renewed funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and funding for hospitals and testing. 

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

School closures:

  • Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) announced that he would rescind the statewide school closure order on May 7, but that individual districts would be allowed to decide whether to reopen for in-person instruction.
  • Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the rest of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
  • South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the rest of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.

Election changes:

  • The Republican Party of Wisconsin postponed its state convention, originally scheduled to take place in May, to July 10-11.
  • Utah Governor Gary Herbert (R) signed HB3005 into law, canceling in-person Election Day voting, in-person early voting, and in-person voter registration in the June 30 election.

Federal government responses:

  • President Donald Trump (R) signed an executive order temporarily suspending the issuance of new green cards. The order only covered applicants residing outside of the country at the time Trump issued the order.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

School closures:

  • Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the rest of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were closed through May 1.
  • Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.

Federal government responses:

  • The U.S. House passed the $484 billion Paycheck Protection and Health Care Act 388-5. The bill increased funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), as well as for hospitals and testing.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Stay-at-home orders:

  • Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) ended the statewide stay-at-home order, becoming the first state to do so. The new order allowed several types of nonessential businesses to reopen with restrictions, including barbershops, tattoo parlors, and nail salons. 

School closures:

  • North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were closed through May 15.
  • Delaware Gov. John Carney (D) announced that schools would not reopen for in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were closed through May 15.

Election changes:

  • Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear (D) issued an executive order directing all voters to utilize absentee voting by mail for the June 23 primary election if they are able to do so.
  • New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) issued Executive Order No. 202.23, requiring that all eligible voters in the June 23 election be sent absentee ballot applications.

Federal government responses:

  • President Donald Trump (R) signed the $484 billion Paycheck Protection and Health Care Act passed by Congress earlier in the week. The law included renewed funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and funding for hospitals and testing.  

For the most recent coronavirus news, including the latest on vaccines and mask mandates, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery.



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: April 16, 2021 #Edition #227

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:

  • New Hampshire’s expiring mask mandate
  • Changes in vaccine eligibility in Massachusetts
  • COVID-19 policy changes from this time last year 

We are committed to keeping you updated on everything from mask requirements to curfews to vaccine-related policies. We will keep you abreast of major developments—especially those affecting your daily life. Want to know what we covered yesterday? Click here.

The next 72 hours

What is changing in the next 72 hours?

  • New Hampshire (Republican trifecta): 
    • Everyone 16 and older, including residents of other states, will be eligible for a coronavirus vaccine starting April 19.
    • All K-12 public schools must offer full-time, in-person instruction by April 19. Gov. Chris Sununu (R) said parents will still have the option of requesting remote learning.
    • On Thursday, April 15, Sununu announced he would end the statewide mask mandate Friday, April 16. 
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): 
    • All residents 16 and older will be eligible for vaccination starting April 19.
    • Oregon public schools have to open for hybrid or full-time in-person instruction for grades 6-12 by April 19. Gov. Kate Brown (D) issued the requirement on March 12. Previously, elementary schools had to reopen no later than March 29 for hybrid or full-time in-person instruction.
  • Washington (Democratic trifecta): Public schools have to offer all K-12 students at least 30% in-person instruction every week by April 19. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed the proclamation March 15. Previously, elementary schools had to provide students at least two partial days of in-person instruction by April 5.

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Thursday, April 15, the Indiana Senate voted 36-8 to override Gov. Eric Holcomb’s (R) veto of House Bill 1123, hours after the House voted 59-26 to do the same. The bill now becomes law. House Bill 1123 allows the legislature to call a special session during an emergency. Holcomb said he vetoed the bill because the Indiana Constitution gives the governor the sole authority to convene special sessions of the legislature.  

This time last year: Friday, April 17, 2020

The first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020. But it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout March and April, many states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. Each week, we’ll look back at some of the defining policy responses of the early coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what happened this time last year. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Friday, April 17, 2020:

  • School closures:
    • The Hawaii Department of Education closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
    • Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
    • Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through April 30.
    • Maryland Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon extended the statewide school closure from April 24 through May 15.
    • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before the announcement, schools were closed through May 4.
  • Election changes:
    • The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court issued an order extending the candidate filing deadlines for district and county races to May 5, 2020, and June 2, 2020, respectively. The high court reduced candidate petition signature requirements to 50 percent of their statutory level. The court also authorized candidates to collect petition signatures electronically.
    • Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) postponed the state’s presidential preference primary from June 2 to Aug. 11, 2020.


Sabina Matos sworn in as Rhode Island lieutenant governor 

The Rhode Island Senate unanimously confirmed Sabina Matos (D) as lieutenant governor on April 13. She was sworn in the following day. 

Governor Daniel McKee (D) nominated Matos as lieutenant governor on March 31. McKee resigned as lieutenant governor to be sworn in as governor on March 2, replacing Gina Raimondo (D) when she became U.S. secretary of commerce under the Biden administration.

Before serving as lieutenant governor, Matos served on the Providence City Council since 2011. She became president of the council in January 2019.

According to NBC, around 80 people applied to be the state’s lieutenant governor. After selecting Matos, McKee said, “I was looking for someone to be a true governing partner…someone who shares my commitment to supporting our 39 cities and towns and our small businesses, and that’s exactly what I found in Sabina.” Matos is the first person of color and second woman to serve as lieutenant governor of Rhode Island.    

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Suellentrop removed as Kansas State Senate majority leader

Members of the Republican caucus in the Kansas State Senate voted to remove Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop (R) from his position on April 9. The caucus vote was 22-4 following the release of additional details about Suellentrop’s March 16 arrest. Assistant Majority Leader Larry Alley will act as Senate Majority Leader until the Republican caucus selects a new leader in May. 

Suellentrop had previously stepped down from his leadership position on March 17 after the Kansas Highway Patrol arrested him for allegedly driving under the influence and attempting to flee from a law enforcement officer. An affidavit submitted by the arresting officer was released on April 8  that stated Suellentrop’s blood-alcohol level was 0.17, over twice the legal limit. The affidavit also says that Suellentrop taunted the Highway Patrol officer. 

Suellentrop was elected State Senate majority leader in December 2020 and had been set to serve in that role through 2024. The majority leader is the second-highest leadership position in the Kansas State Senate, after the Senate president. As the floor leader of the majority caucus, the majority leader serves as the principal speaker during debates on the Senate floor and works to promote the party’s legislative agenda. 

Suellentrop was first elected to the state Senate in 2016, defeating Tony Hunter, 66.5% to 33.5%. Before his election to the Senate, he served in the Kansas House of Representatives from 2009 to 2017. 

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