Senator Rick Scott, other federal lawmakers test positive for coronavirus

On November 20, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fl.) announced he tested positive for COVID-19. On November 14, he announced he would quarantine himself after coming into contact with a person who tested positive for the virus.

Scott was the 31st member of Congress to test positive for COVID-19, and the seventh to announce a positive test since Monday, November 16.

On November 16, Reps. Tim Walberg (R-Mi.) and Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) announced they tested positive. Senate President pro tempore Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-Co.) announced positive test results on November 17. On November 18, Reps. Doug Lamborn (R-Co.) and Dan Newhouse (R-Wa.) announced positive test results.

Federal Register weekly update: More than 300 presidential documents published so far in 2020

Banner with the words "The Administrative State Project"

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s regulatory activity.

From November 16 to November 20, the Federal Register grew by 1,696 pages for a year-to-date total of 74,594 pages. Over the same period in 2019 and 2018, the Federal Register reached 64,702 pages and 60,332 pages, respectively. As of November 20, the 2020 total led the 2019 total by 9,892 pages and the 2018 total by 14,262 pages. 

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

Last week’s Federal Register featured the following 546 documents:

  • 435 notices
  • four presidential documents
  • 38 proposed rules
  • 69 final rules

Two final rules regarding high-risk loans within the Farm Credit System and emission standards for hazardous air pollutants, as well as one proposed rule concerning the collection of biometric data, were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules. The Trump administration in 2020 has issued 31 significant proposed rules, 65 significant final rules, and one significant notice as of November 20.

Not all rules issued by the Trump administration are regulatory actions. Some rules are deregulatory actions pursuant to President Trump’s (R) Executive Order 13771, which requires federal agencies to eliminate two old significant regulations for each new significant regulation issued.

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.

Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2019, 2018, and 2017. 

Additional reading:

Donald Trump wins 20 states with trifectas, Joe Biden wins 18

After the 2020 elections, Republicans had 23 trifectas, Democrats had 15 trifectas, and 11 states had divided governments. Trifecta status in Alaska is pending. A trifecta occurs when one political party holds the governorship and majorities in both chambers of the state legislature.

Two divided government states gained Republican trifecta status following the 2020 elections. Joe Biden (D) won New Hampshire, which gained a Republican trifecta when Republicans won majorities in the state legislature. Donald Trump (R) won Montana, which gained a Republican trifecta when Greg Gianforte (R) won the governorship.

Besides New Hampshire, Biden also carried the Republican trifecta states of Arizona and Georgia. Republicans have had a trifecta in Arizona since 2009 and in Georgia since 2005.

In total, Trump won 20 Republican trifectas and Biden won three. Biden won the statewide vote in all 15 Democratic trifecta states.

Biden won three states Donald Trump (R) won in 2016 that now have divided governments. Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania all went to Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020. All three states previously had Republican trifectas; Michigan’s and Wisconsin’s were broken in the 2018 elections, while Pennsylvania’s was broken in the 2014 election.

Biden also won the presidential vote in four other divided government states: Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Vermont. Hillary Clinton (D) won these states in 2016. 

Trump won four divided government states that he also won in 2016: Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and North Carolina. These states all gained divided trifecta status after electing Democratic governors. Louisiana elected a Democratic governor in 2015, followed by North Carolina in 2016, Kansas in 2018, and Kentucky in 2019.

Biden announces senior White House staff

Transition Tracker Daily by Ballotpedia

Welcome to Ballotpedia’s Transition Tracker

November 18, 2020

Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) is the projected winner of the 2020 presidential election. The Electoral College will meet on December 14, 2020, to vote for the next president of the United States.

In 2016, there were 1,714 government positions subject to presidential appointment: 1,242 positions required Senate confirmation and 472 did not. Every weekday, Ballotpedia is tracking potential Cabinet nominees, appointments, and news related to the Biden presidential transition.

Appointments and Nominations

Biden announced nine appointees who will serve as White House senior staff on Wednesday. As previously reported, Jen O’Malley Dillon, Cedric Richmond, and Steve Richhetti will serve as deputy chief of staff, senior advisor, and counselor to the president, respectively.

The six other appointments are as follows:

Anthony Bernal, senior advisor to Dr. Jill Biden

Anthony Bernal was a deputy campaign manager for the Biden presidential campaign and Jill Biden’s chief of staff. He has worked with the Bidens for more than a decade, including as director of scheduling and trip director for Jill Biden during the Obama administration.

Mike Donilon, senior advisor to the president

Mike Donilon was chief strategist for the Biden presidential campaign. Prior to joining the campaign, Donilon was the managing director of the Biden Institute. He has worked on six presidential campaigns.

Dana Remus, White House counsel

Dana Remus was general counsel for the Biden presidential campaign. She previously worked as general counsel for the Obama Foundation. She was also the deputy assistant to the president and deputy counsel of ethics during the Obama administration. She clerked for Republican-nominated Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

Julissa Reynoso Pantaleon, chief of staff to Dr. Jill Biden

Julissa Reynoso Pantaleon served as the U.S. ambassador to Uruguay and deputy assistant secretary of state during the Obama administration. She is a partner at Winston & Strawn and previously worked on the faculty of Columbia Law School and Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Julie Chavez Rodriguez, director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs

Julie Chavez Rodriguez was a deputy campaign manager for the Biden presidential campaign. She previously worked on the Harris presidential campaign as the national political director and traveling chief of staff. In the Obama administration, Chavez Rodriguez was a special assistant to the president and senior deputy director of public engagement.

Annie Tomasini, director of Oval Office Operations

Annie Tomasini is Biden’s traveling chief of staff. She has worked for Biden for over a decade, including as his deputy press secretary during the Obama administration and as press secretary when Biden was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.


  • NPR reported that John Jones, a former chief of staff to Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), is being considered for the position of director of the Office of Management and Budget. Jones also worked as an aide to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). He is vice president of government relations for the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts.
  • The Biden Transition is vetting Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) for secretary of the interior, according to The Hill. If selected, she would be the first Native American Cabinet secretary. Haaland’s district, New Mexico’s 1st, is rated Safe Democratic.
  • Biden hired former Obama White House communications director Jen Psaki to lead a team overseeing the Senate confirmation process for his nominees. “The new team is also looking to shake up some of the conventions of the Cabinet nomination process, including the code of silence that has traditionally surrounded nominees. Instead, transition staff intend to introduce Biden’s Cabinet picks to the American people before their Senate hearings, which could include media blitzes to build up public support. There’s a risk, however, that the increased exposure could lead to embarrassing gaffes or missteps by nominees,” Politico reported.

What We’re Reading

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Franklin Babauta appointed to Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives

On Nov. 11, Northern Mariana Islands Governor Ralph Torres appointed Franklin Babauta to the District 1 seat in the NMI House of Representatives. The seat had been vacant since October when former NMI House Minority Leader Edwin Propst resigned due to sexual misconduct allegations. 

The Northern Mariana Islands constitution requires that legislative vacancies that occur when less than half the term remains must be filled by the candidate who won the second-highest vote total in the most recent election. Babauta ran as an independent in the 2018 election, in which he placed seventh in a race for six seats. Babauta will serve out the remainder of Propst’s term, which ends in January 2021. He did not run for election to the seat in the general election on Nov. 3. 

The Northern Mariana Islands House of Representatives is the lower house of the Northern Mariana Islands Commonwealth Legislature. All 20 seats in the chamber were up for election on Nov. 3. Prior to the election, the Republican Party held a majority in the chamber.

Additional reading:

Alonso Vega resigns from Puerto Rico House of Representatives 

Rep. Néstor Alonso Vega (New Progressive Party) resigned from his seat in the Puerto Rico House of Representatives on Nov. 10. Alonso Vega, who held an at-large seat in the chamber, had been arrested and indicted for allegedly increasing an employee’s salary in order to receive half of the increase in return. 

Alonso Vega had recently won re-election to his seat on Nov. 3. He is the third member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives to resign after being arrested and charged with corruption this year, after María Charbonier Laureano and Nelson Del Valle Colón.

The Puerto Rico House of Representatives is the lower chamber of Puerto Rico’s bicameral legislature. All 51 of Puerto Rico’s House seats were up for election on Nov. 3. Prior to the election, the New Progressive Party controlled the chamber with 35 seats, while the Popular Democratic Party held 15 seats and one was held by an independent. The results of the November election are not yet final. 

Additional reading:

Veterans in the 116th Congress

Ninety-six veterans served as members of the 116th Congress (2019-2020). Seventy-three served in active duty with one of the four main military branches: 15 in the Air Force, 36 in the Army, 15 in the Marine Corps, and eight in the Navy (Steven Palazzo served in both the Army and Marine Corps). The remaining veterans served in either the reserves or national guard.

Sixty-six were members of the Republican Party and 30 were members of the Democratic Party. Fourteen of the veterans serving in the 116th Congress did not run for re-election in 2020.

President Woodrow Wilson (D) first recognized November 11 as Armistice Day in 1919 to commemorate the agreement that ended World War I in 1918. Congress recognized the date as a legal holiday to honor veterans of World War I in 1926. Congress changed the name from Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day in 1954 to further commemorate the service of veterans in World War II and the Korean War.

Election deadlines for the week beginning Nov. 9

In the week beginning Nov. 9, 11 states and the District of Columbia have absentee/mail-in ballot receipt deadlines:

  • Nov. 9: Iowa and West Virginia
  • Nov. 10: Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, and New York
  • Nov. 12: North Carolina
  • Nov. 13: Alaska, D.C. Maryland, and Ohio

Also next week, eight states will observe election certification and/or canvassing deadlines:

  • Nov. 10: Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont, and Virginia
  • Nov. 11: South Carolina and Wyoming
  • Nov. 13: Mississippi

Additional reading:

Incumbent Sen. Tina Smith wins re-election in Minnesota

Incumbent Tina Smith (D) defeated Jason Lewis (R), Oliver Steinberg (Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party of Minnesota), and Kevin O’Connor (Legal Marijuana Now Party) in the U.S. Senate election in Minnesota. 

Smith was appointed to the seat in 2018 following Al Franken’s (D) resignation. Smith won a special election to complete Franken’s term in 2018, winning 53% of the vote to Karin Housley’s (R) 42%. Heading into the election, Minnesota had not elected a Republican to the U.S. Senate since the 2002 election of Norm Coleman (R).

Prior to her appointment, Smith had served as Minnesota’s lieutenant governor. She was endorsed by former Vice President Joe Biden (D) and the _Minneapolis Star-Tribune_ editorial board.

Leading up to the 2020 elections, Republicans had a 53-47 majority in the Senate. 35 of 100 U.S. Senate seats are up for election this year. Of the 35 seats up, 23 are held by Republicans and 12 by Democrats, giving Republicans greater partisan risk this year. Democrats need to win a net four seats to win an outright majority in the chamber.

Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: November 3, 2020

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery, where we track the status of reopening in all 50 states. Today we look at new coronavirus restrictions in Connecticut and Massachusetts, guidance for schools in Oregon, school reopenings, and more. Want to know what happened Friday? Click here.

The next 72 hours

What is changing in the next 72 hours?

  • Connecticut (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Ned Lamont (D) announced the state will move backward from Phase 3 to Phase 2 of reopening starting Nov. 6. Restaurants will have to limit capacity to 50% and close indoor dining by 9:30 p.m. every night. Religious gatherings will be limited to the lesser of 50% capacity or 100 people.
  • Illinois (Democratic trifecta): Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) announced mitigation policies will be implemented in Region 2 starting Nov. 4. Bars and restaurants will not be able to offer indoor service, and outdoor service will have to close by 11 p.m. every night. Gatherings will be limited to the lesser of 25 people or 25% of a room’s capacity. All 11 of the state’s regions will have mitigation restrictions once the rules become effective in Region 2.
  • Maine (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Janet Mills (D) announced the state will implement additional mitigation measures starting Nov. 4. Indoor gathering limits will be reduced to 50 people, and Maine’s travel restrictions (that require travelers to quarantine for 14 days or present a recent negative test on arrival) will extend to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Mills also postponed reopening bars and tasting rooms until further notice.

Since our last edition

What is open in each state? For a continually updated article on reopening status in all 50 states, click here.

  • Massachusetts (divided government): On Monday, Nov. 2, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) issued a series of new coronavirus restrictions that take effect Friday, Nov. 6. The new restrictions include a statewide, stay-at-home advisory between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. and a requirement that businesses like salons, gyms, and event venues close by 9:30 p.m. Baker also issued a new face-covering mandate, which replaces the current one that allows people to remove their masks when social distancing is possible.   
  • New York (Democratic trifecta): Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced schools in the state’s red and orange mitigation zones will be able to reopen after all of a school’s students and teachers get tested. Cuomo did not give a timeline for the reopening but said the state will provide the tests. 
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): The Oregon Department of Education released updated school reopening guidance. Under the new rules, schools in counties with less than 50 new coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents over 14 days can resume full-time, in-person learning. Previously, the state only allowed full-time, in-person schedules in counties with 10 or fewer new cases per 100,000 residents each week over a three-week rolling average.

Daily feature: Schools

All 50 states closed schools to in-person instruction at some point during the 2019-2020 academic year. Beginning in May 2020, schools in certain states began to reopen. In which states are schools allowed to open? In which states are they ordered to remain closed?

We last looked at school reopenings and closures in the Oct. 27 edition of the newsletter. Since then, the Oregon Department of Education relaxed school reopening guidance. Partial closures are still effective in the state.

Additional activity

In this section, we feature examples of other federal, state, and local government activity, private industry responses, and lawsuits related to the pandemic. 

  • On Oct. 30, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) joined a lawsuit challenging El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego’s (D) order closing non-essential businesses and imposing a curfew. The lawsuit, filed in El Paso County’s 34th Judicial District Court by ten El Paso restaurants, claims that Samaniego’s order illegally usurps the governor’s authority. In his motion to intervene, Paxton argues the state “has an intrinsic right to enact, interpret, and enforce its own laws,” including “authority to sue to redress any violations of” public rights. Paxton further argues, “Judge Samaniego has no authority under [state law] to preempt or supersede” Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) orders. In a statement to the press, Samaniego said, “We received a lawsuit, however until such time that a Court orders otherwise, my order still stands.”