Minnesota, South Carolina, and Tennessee are all holding special primaries for state senate seats in the coming week. Minnesota and South Carolina are holding their primaries on January 22, and Tennessee is holding its primary on January 24.
The South Carolina State Senate District 6 seat was previously held by William Timmons (R). Timmons announced his resignation on November 9, 2018, after winning election to South Carolina’s 4th Congressional District. He was first elected to the seat in 2014; the previous officeholder was also a Republican. Four people filed for his vacated seat, three Republicans and one Democrat. If necessary, a Republican primary runoff will be held on February 5, with the general election scheduled for March 26.
Entering 2019, the South Carolina State Senate had 19 Democrats, 26 Republicans, and one vacancy. South Carolina 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 will hold a primary for State Senate District 32 on January 24. The seat was vacated by Mark Norris (R) after he was confirmed on October 11, 2018, to serve as a judge on the United States District Court for the Western District of Tennessee. Norris was first elected to the seat in 2000 and was unopposed in his most recent election in 2016. Five people filed for the vacant seat, four Republicans and one Democrat. The general election is on March 12.
Following the 2018 election, the Tennessee State Senate had five Democrats and 28 Republicans. Tennessee has a Republican state government trifecta.
As of January, 26 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 12 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who was sworn in on January 8, 2019, called on the Florida State Legislature to repeal a law that was designed to ban smokable forms of marijuana.
In June 2017, Rick Scott (R), who preceded DeSantis in the governor’s office, signed the bill banning smokable marijuana, which a court then struck down as violating Amendment 2. Approved in 2016, Amendment 2 was a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana. People United for Medical Marijuana filed a legal complaint against the bill banning smokable marijuana, saying the legislation was inconsistent with the text and purpose of Amendment 2. Gov. Scott’s administration appealed the court’s ruling, which resulted in the order being stayed.
On January 17, 2019, Gov. DeSantis said he was giving the state legislature, which convenes on March 5, until mid-March to repeal the ban itself or else he would drop the state’s appeal. He stated, “What the Florida Legislature has done to implement the people’s will has not been done in accordance with what the amendment envisioned. … I don’t want this thing done judiciously if we can help it.” House Speaker José Oliva (R-110) responded to the governor’s statement, saying, “The governor’s willingness to engage with us is appreciated and the House will work with the governor on his priorities, including ensuring patients have options and our kids remain protected.”
In 2018, state legislatures nationwide considered 202 bills related to public-sector union policy, acting in anticipation of or in response to the Supreme Court’s decision last summer in Janus v. AFSCME.
In Janus, the high court ruled that public-sector unions cannot require non-member employees to pay agency fees to cover the costs of non-political union activities. In 2018, legislatures in 34 states considered 202 pieces of legislation relevant to public-sector union policy. Of these 202 bills, 88 were sponsored by Democrats and 91 by Republicans; the remainder were sponsored by bipartisan groups or committees. Thirty bills were enacted into law, representing 14.85 percent of the total.
More about Janus: Generally, members of an employee union pay fees to that union. These fees support the union’s activities, which can include collective bargaining and contract administration, as well as political activities, such as lobbying. Some public-sector employees do not wish to join a union, and some are opposed to unions’ political activities. In 1977, the Supreme Court ruled in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education that employees cannot be required to give financial support to a union’s political activities. However, the court found that it was not a violation of employees’ rights under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to require them to pay fees to support union activities from which they benefit, such as collective bargaining. It is this ruling that was overturned by Janus, which held that such fees are not constitutional.
Proponents of Janus argue that being required to give any financial support to a union violated employees’ First Amendment rights under the U.S. Constitution. Opponents of Janus contend that these fees were not used for political purposes and were necessary to support the costs associated with representing non-members
On the first day of the 2019 legislative session, the New York State Legislature approved a seven-bill legislative package to change election policies.
The legislative package included two constitutional amendments. In New York, constitutional amendments require a simple majority vote of two successive state legislatures. The current 203rd New York State Legislature (2019-2020) passed the constitutional amendments, and the next 204th State Legislature (2021-2022) needs to approve them again to refer them to the ballot for voter consideration in 2021 or 2022.
Together, the constitutional amendments would authorize the legislature to pass statutes for no-excuse absentee voting and same-day voter registration. The governor’s signature is not required for amendments.
The five statutory bills would enact the following changes:
create a voter pre-registration process for 16- and 17-year olds,
require the state Board of Elections to transfer a voter’s registration to wherever the voter moves within New York State,
restrict campaign contributions from LLCs to $5,000 and require ownership of the LLC to be disclosed in campaign finance reports,
combine the federal non-presidential primary and state primary elections to a single date in June, and
establish a nine-day early-voting period, including two weekends, before general, primary, and special elections.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), following the votes, tweeted that he would “sign these reforms into law…”
The legislative package comes after Democrats gained trifecta control of the state government at the 2018 general election. Except for a period of Democratic control in 2009 and 2010, New York had a divided government since 1975. Before the election on November 6, 2018, Democrats controlled the state Assembly, but not the state Senate due to a coalition between Republicans and the Independent Democratic Conference. In 2018, Democrats won 40 seats in the 63-seat Senate.
The Alaska House did not have a 21-member majority to organize the chamber when the 2019 legislative session began Tuesday. Republicans won 23 of 40 seats in the 2018 elections, but four members—David Eastman (R), Gary Knopp (R), Gabrielle LeDoux (R), and Louise Stutes (R)—did not agree to caucus with the GOP, leaving the chamber without official leadership or the ability to conduct legislative business.
Eastman said he would likely join Republicans but may want a more conservative leader than current caucus leader David Talerico (R). Knopp left the Republican caucus in mid-December, saying that a 21-member House majority would be unstable and that he wanted to form a larger bipartisan group to run the House. LeDoux and Stutes caucused with a Democratic-led majority coalition from 2017 to 2018 and have expressed their desire to join another bipartisan coalition in 2019.
Without a majority in the chamber, Lieutenant Gov. Kevin Meyer (R) presided over the chamber and swore-in legislators (one of his few formal powers as a member of the executive branch). He was only able to swear-in 39 of the 40 legislators because Democrat Chris Tuck raised a point of order over Sharon Jackson (R) joining the House. Jackson was appointed to her seat by Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) in December to replace Rep.-elect Nancy Dahlstrom (R). Dunleavy appointed Dahlstrom as commissioner of the Department of Corrections earlier in the month. Tuck argued in his point of order that, as a member of the executive branch, Meyer is not permitted by the state constitution to receive the governor’s appointment notice.
Because no party controls the House, Alaska’s trifecta status is unknown. If Republicans organize a majority, the state will become a Republican trifecta. Otherwise, it will remain under divided government. There are currently 22 Republican trifectas, 14 Democratic trifectas, and 13 states under divided government.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) appointed Robert J. Luck as an associate justice of the Florida Supreme Court. DeSantis announced the appointment on Monday, January 14, effective immediately. Luck is DeSantis’ second supreme court appointee to the seven-member court, after the governor appointed Barbara Lagoa on January 9.
DeSantis entered office with three state supreme court seats to fill, as Justices Barbara Pariente, Fred Lewis, and Peggy Quince all retired after reaching the mandatory retirement age. Pariente and Lewis were appointed by Gov. Lawton Chiles (D) in 1997 and 1998, respectively. Quince’s appointment was a joint decision between Chiles and incoming Gov. Jeb Bush (R) in December 1998.
DeSantis’ appointments stand to impact the partisan balance of the court, which previously consisted of a three Chiles (D) appointees, three appointees from Gov. Charlie Crist, who was elected as a Republican but later switched to the Democratic Party, and one appointee from Gov. Rick Scott (R). The court’s six current members were all appointed by Republican governors.
Justice Luck served as a judge on the Florida Third District Court of Appeal from 2017 to 2019. Gov. Rick Scott (R) previously appointed Luck to the appellate court in February 2017. He was previously a judge on the 11th Circuit Court of Florida from 2013 to 2017, having been appointed to the court by Gov. Scott on June 26, 2013.
Prior to his judicial career, Luck was an assistant United States attorney for the Southern District of Florida, a legislative correspondent for two U.S. senators, and a law clerk and staff attorney to Judge Ed Carnes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. Luck also worked for Greenberg Traurig as part of the appellate section from 2005 to 2006.
Luck received his bachelor’s degree in economics, with highest honors, from the University of Florida. He obtained his J.D., magna cum laude, from the University of Florida College of Law. During his legal studies, Luck served as editor-in-chief of the Florida Law Review.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) issued an executive order on January 9, 2019, that renewed a moratorium on regulatory rulemaking by state agencies for 2019. The moratorium is aimed at facilitating innovation and job growth in the state while curbing state government expansion, according to the governor’s office. Ducey has renewed the moratorium each year since he first issued the executive order after assuming office in 2015.
“As Arizonans navigate the free market, the last thing they need is for government to get in the way,” said Ducey in a press release. “Reducing regulatory burdens on businesses in Arizona is essential to growth, and I want all of our current and aspiring entrepreneurs to know that Arizona will continue to encourage your success, not stand in your way.”
Ducey is following in the steps of his predecessor, former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R), who issued an executive order prohibiting new state regulations in 2009 and renewed the moratorium each year through 2014. In 2017, Ducey also launched a website that allows Arizona residents to provide input on improving or eliminating state regulations.
The Arizona state government eliminated or repealed 422 regulations in 2018 and 676 regulations in 2017. The 1,098 repealed regulations over the two-year period resulted in $79 million in cost savings for Arizona businesses, according to the governor’s office.
On January 8, 2019, Ron DeSantis (R) was sworn in as Florida’s 46th governor. DeSantis succeeds Rick Scott (R), who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2018, as governor. His lieutenant governor is Jeanette Nunez (R).
DeSantis is a former United States Representative from Florida. He defeated Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum (D) in the gubernatorial election, which Ballotpedia designated as a 2018 battleground election.
Prior to the 2018 election, Florida was a Republican trifecta, and the state retained that status following the election. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
Colorado state legislators were sworn in on January 4, 2019, and for the first time since 2012, Democrats gained control of the state Senate. Since Democrats also maintained control of the state House and the governorship, the outcome of the 2018 election made Colorado into a Democratic trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
Seventeen of the Colorado Senate seats were up for election in 2018. Going into the election, Republicans held 18 seats, Democrats held 16, and one seat was held by an independent. Ballotpedia identified six battleground races where the incumbent had last won with less than 55 percent of the vote in 2014. These battleground races took place in Districts 5, 11, 16, 20, 22, and 24. Prior to the election, three of these battleground seats were held by Democrats (one of whom was term-limited in 2018), two by Republicans, and one by an independent (who was also term-limited in 2018). Democrats won all six of the battleground races and shifted the chamber’s partisan balance to 19 Democrats and 16 Republicans.
In addition to Colorado, five other states also became Democratic trifectas as a result of the 2018 elections: Illinois, Maine, Nevada, New Mexico, and New York.
On January 11, the filing deadline passed to run in the special primary on February 23 to fill vacancies in seven Louisiana House of Representatives districts: 12, 17, 18, 26, 27, 47, and 62. Louisiana’s filing deadline was the sixth special election filing deadline covered by Ballotpedia this year. If no candidate receives at least 50 percent of the vote in the primary, a general election will be held on March 30 between the top two vote recipients.
The special elections were triggered after three Democrats and four Republicans resigned from their seats to either take another job or serve in another elected position. Heading into 2019, the Louisiana House is controlled by the Republican Party, with 59 Republican members, 36 Democratic members, three independent members, and seven vacancies.
All 105 seats in the Louisiana House of Representatives are up for election in 2019. The primary is on October 12 and the general election will be held on November 16, if necessary. The regular candidate filing deadline is August 8, 2019.