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Grassley sworn in as speaker of the Iowa House

On January 13, 2020, Rep. Pat Grassley (R) was sworn in as speaker of the Iowa House of Representatives. House Republicans elected Grassley as speaker in October 2019 after Rep. Linda Upmeyer (R) announced she would step down as speaker at the end of 2019.

Grassley has served in the Iowa House of Representatives since 2007, representing District 50. He was most recently re-elected in November 2018.

All 100 seats of the Iowa House of Representatives are up for election in 2020. The current partisan composition of that chamber is 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats. Iowa has had a Republican state government trifecta since 2017, meaning the Republican party controls the governor’s office as well as a majority in both chambers of the Iowa General Assembly.

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Additional reading:
Iowa House of Representatives
Iowa House of Representatives elections, 2020
State government trifectas

 



Republican Mike Nemes wins Kentucky Senate special election

A special election was held on January 14 to fill a vacant seat in the Kentucky State Senate. Mike Nemes (R) defeated Andrew Bailey (D) with 64% of the vote to win the District 38 seat. Nemes previously served in the Kentucky House of Representatives from 2011 to 2013.

The seat became vacant in November 2019 after Dan Seum (R) retired. Seum served in the state Senate for the first time from 1989 to 1992 and again for a second time from 1995 to 2019. Prior to his election to the state Senate, he served in the state House from 1982 to 1988. He was re-elected in 2018 with 68% of the vote.

Republicans have a 28-9 majority with one vacancy in the Kentucky State Senate. Kentucky has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

Kentucky also has special elections scheduled on February 25 to fill two vacant seats in the state House. As of January, 27 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2020 in 13 states. Between 2011 and 2019, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.

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Additional reading:
Kentucky State Senate
Kentucky State Senate District 38
State legislative special elections, 2020



SCOTUS hears oral arguments in five cases

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in five of the cases scheduled during its October 2019-2020 term. On January 13, the court heard arguments in two cases: Lucky Brand Dungarees v. Marcel Fashion Group and Thole v. U.S. Bank. On January 14, the court heard arguments in two cases: Kelly v. United States and Romag Fasteners v. Fossil. On January 15, the court heard arguments in one case: Babb v. Wilkie.

The issue in the case Lucky Brand Dungarees v. Marcel Fashion Group is: Whether, when a plaintiff asserts new claims, federal preclusion principles can bar a defendant from raising defenses that were not actually litigated and resolved in any prior case between the parties.

The issues in the case Thole v. U.S. Bank are:

1. May an ERISA plan participant or beneficiary seek injunctive relief against fiduciary misconduct without demonstrating individual financial loss or the imminent risk thereof?
2. May an ERISA plan participant or beneficiary seek restoration of plan losses caused by fiduciary breach without demonstrating individual financial loss or the imminent risk thereof?
3. Whether petitioners have demonstrated Article III standing.

The issue in the case Kelly v. United States is: Does a public official defraud the government of its property by advancing a public policy-based reason for an official decision that is not their subjective reason for making the decision?

The issue in the case Romag Fasteners v. Fossil is: Whether, under section 35 of the Lanham Act, willful infringement is a prerequisite for an award of an infringer’s profits for a violation of section 43(a), id. § 1125(a).

The issue in the case Babb v. Wilkie is: Whether the federal-sector provision of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which provides that personnel actions affecting agency employees aged 40 years or older shall be made free from any “discrimination based on age,” 29 U.S.C. §633a(a), requires a plaintiff to prove that age was a but-for cause of the challenged personnel action.

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Additional reading:
Lucky Brand Dungarees v. Marcel Fashion Group
Thole v. U.S. Bank
Kelly v. United States
Romag Fasteners v. Fossil
Babb v. Wilkie



U.S. Supreme Court accepts three new cases for October 2019-2020 term

On January 10, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear three new cases during its October 2019-2020 term: Rutledge v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, Salinas v. United States Railroad Retirement Board, and Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants Inc. As of January 15, the court had agreed to hear 70 cases this term.

In the case of Rutledge v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association, the Arkansas General Assembly passed a state law in 2015 that included mandates for pharmacy reimbursement for drug costs and new requirements for pharmacy benefits managers’ updates to maximum allowable cost lists. The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association brought action to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas on behalf of its pharmacy benefits manager members. The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association alleged that the law was preempted by existing federal law and was unconstitutional. The court held that the law was preempted in part and not preempted in part by federal law, and that it was not unconstitutional.

The Pharmaceutical Care Management Association appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. In June 2018, the 8th Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court’s decision and remanded the case. In October 2018, Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge, acting in her official capacity, filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The issue in the case is: Whether the 8th Circuit erred in holding that Arkansas’ statute regulating pharmacy benefit managers’ drug-reimbursement rates, similar to laws enacted by a substantial majority of states, is preempted by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), in contravention of the Supreme Court’s precedent that ERISA does not preempt rate regulation.

In the case of Salinas v. United States Railroad Retirement Board, Manfredo Salinas filed an application for a disability annuity with the U.S. Railroad Retirement Board’s Disability Benefits Division in 2006. The application was denied. Salinas appealed to the Board to reconsider. The Board denied the request.

In 2013, Salinas filed a new application for a disability annuity. The Board granted the annuity. Salinas appealed the annuity’s start date and amount, and requested that his prior applications be reviewed. The Board denied the request.

On appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, Salinas filed a petition for review of the Board’s decision. The 5th Circuit dismissed the petition, holding that the court lacked jurisdiction to review the Board’s decision. In August 2019, Salinas filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The issue in the case is: Whether, under Section 5(f) of the Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act and Section 8 of the Railroad Retirement Act, the Railroad Retirement Board’s denial of a request to reopen a prior benefits determination is a “final decision” subject to judicial review.

In the case of Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants Inc., the American Association of Political Consultants and three other plaintiffs initiated litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina against the federal government in 2016. The plaintiffs challenged the constitutionality of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991’s automated-call restriction’s debt-collection exemption, citing the free speech clause of the First Amendment. In 2017, both the plaintiffs and the federal government moved for summary judgment. The Eastern District of North Carolina awarded summary judgment to the federal government, denied the motion by the plaintiffs, and rejected the plaintiffs’ free speech clause challenge.

On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit vacated the district court’s award of summary judgment to the federal government, directed the severance of the debt-collection exemption from the automated call ban, and remanded the case. In November 2019, U.S. Attorney General William Barr, acting in his official capacity, along with the Federal Communications Commission filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court.

The issue in the case is: Whether the debt-collection exemption to the automated call ban violates the First Amendment, and whether the proper remedy for any constitutional violation is to sever the exemption from the remainder of the statute.

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Additional reading:
Rutledge v. Pharmaceutical Care Management Association
Salinas v. United States Railroad Retirement Board
Barr v. American Association of Political Consultants Inc.
Supreme Court of the United States



Missouri Supreme Court strikes down law requiring voters without photo ID to sign affidavits

On January 14, 2020, the Missouri Supreme Court, in a 5-2 ruling, upheld a lower court’s decision striking down a state law that required voters without photo ID to sign affidavits before voting. Consequently, voters in Missouri may present either photo or non-photo identification at the polls and cast regular ballots without signing affidavits.

On October 9, 2018, Richard Callahan, a state court judge, originally enjoined the affidavit provision. Callahan found that the affidavit’s language was “contradictory and misleading,” requiring signers to “swear that they do not possess a form of personal identification approved for voting while simultaneously presenting to the election authority a form of personal identification that is approved.” Callahan ordered officials to desist from executing the affidavit for voters presenting non-photo ID at the polls. Callahan also ordered officials not to distribute any materials indicating that a photo ID is required to vote. State officials appealed the decision and asked the state supreme court to stay Callahan’s order. On October 19, 2018, the state supreme court denied the request for a stay, but permitted the appeal to proceed. This allowed Callahan’s order to stand in advance of the November 6, 2018, election.

The state supreme court heard oral arguments in the appeal in October 2019. Justice Mary Russell penned the court’s opinion, which was joined by Chief Justice George Draper and Justices Paul Wilson, Patricia Breckenridge, and Laura Stith. Justices Wesley Powell and Zel Fischer dissented. Russell wrote, “Because the affidavit requirement of sections 115.427.2(1) and 115.427.3 is misleading and contradictory, the circuit court’s judgment declaring the affidavit requirement unconstitutional is affirmed. Further, the circuit court did not err in enjoining the State from requiring individuals who vote under the non-photo identification option provided in section 115.427.2(1) to execute the affidavit or in enjoining it from disseminating materials indicating photo identification is required to vote.”

Powell, joined by Fischer, wrote the following in his dissent: “If the affidavit requirement set forth in section 155.4271 is ambiguous, contradictory, and unconstitutional as the principal opinion proclaims, the opinion errs in severing the entire affidavit requirement without also severing the non-photo identification option set out in section 115.427.2 in its entirety. Because the legislature would not have enacted the non-photo identification option without an accompanying affidavit requirement, the principal opinion’s remedy is contrary to law.”

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Additional reading:
Voter identification laws by state
Election governance in Missouri 



Whipple resigns from Kansas House of Representatives to become mayor of Wichita

On January 13, 2020, Kansas State Rep. Brandon Whipple (D) resigned from the District 96 seat in the state House after becoming mayor of Wichita, Kansas. Whipple defeated incumbent Jeff Longwell to become Wichita’s mayor on November 5, 2019.

Whipple was first elected to the Kansas House of Representatives in 2012.

In Kansas, state legislative vacancies are filled by gubernatorial appointment. The Sedgwick County Democratic Party has nominated Stephanie Yeager (D) to succeed Whipple. Governor Laura Kelly (D) has not yet approved Yeager’s nomination.

Kansas is currently under divided government since the governor is a Democrat and Republicans control both houses of the state legislature.

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Additional Reading:
Kansas House of Representatives
Kansas House of Representatives District 96



2,271 major party candidates have filed for 2020 congressional races, one more open-seat congressional race

As of January 13, 2020, 2,271 major party candidates have filed to run for the Senate and House of Representatives in 2020.

So far, 329 candidates are filed with the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) to run for U.S. Senate. Of those, 281—148 Democrats and 133 Republicans—are from one of the two major political parties. In 2018, 527 candidates filed with the FEC to run for U.S. Senate, including 137 Democrats and 240 Republicans.

For U.S. House, 2,165 candidates are filed with the FEC to run in 2020. Of those, 1,990—974 Democrats and 1,016 Republicans—are from one of the two major political parties. In 2018, 3,244 candidates filed with the FEC, including 1,566 Democrats and 1,155 Republicans.

While no new congressional retirements were announced last week, Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter (CA-50) announced his resignation effective Jan. 13, and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) announced he would not call a special election to fill the seat. This brings the total of open-seat congressional elections to 36.

Not including those who left office early, four senators (three Republicans and one Democrat) and 35 representatives (26 Republicans and nine Democrats) are not running for re-election. In 2018, 55 total members of Congress—18 Democrats and 37 Republicans—did not seek re-election.

On November 3, 2020, 35 Senate seats and all 435 House seats are up for election. Of those Senate seats, 33 are regularly scheduled elections, while the other two are special elections in Arizona and Georgia. Twelve are Democratic-held seats and 23 are Republican-held seats. In the House, where all seats are up for election, Democrats currently hold a majority with 232 seats.

Additional Reading:
United States House of Representatives elections, 2020
United States Senate elections, 2020
List of U.S. Congress incumbents who are not running for re-election in 2020

 



Six Democratic presidential candidates to debate in Iowa

Six Democratic candidates will participate in the seventh presidential primary debate on Tuesday: former Vice President Joe Biden, former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Sen. Bernie Sanders, businessman Tom Steyer, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

Each candidate had to receive 5% support or more in at least four national or early state polls or 7% support or more in at least two single state polls to meet the debate’s polling threshold. The four early states are Iowa (Feb. 3), New Hampshire (Feb. 11), Nevada (Feb. 22), and South Carolina (Feb. 29).

Candidates also had to meet a fundraising threshold of 225,000 unique donors and a minimum of 1,000 donors in at least 20 states.

Steyer was the final candidate to qualify on Thursday after two Fox News polls in South Carolina and Nevada showed him at 15 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

Andrew Yang is the only candidate who participated in the Dec. 19 debate who did not qualify for this event.

The debate will take place at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, at 9 p.m. ET. CNN and The Des Moines Register are hosting the event with Wolf Blitzer, Abby Phillip, and Brianne Pfannenstiel moderating.

The next presidential debate will take place in New Hampshire on Feb. 7, four days after the Iowa caucuses.

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Bernie Sanders leads Democratic pageviews after Andrew Yang led for previous three weeks

Each week, we report the number of pageviews received by 2020 presidential campaigns on Ballotpedia. These numbers reflect the time investments of our community of thousands of readers who visit a Ballotpedia because they think the candidate is worth knowing more about, whether they believe the candidate has a strong chance of winning or is an unknown who warrants a closer look.

Last week, Bernie Sanders led all Democratic campaigns in pageviews. His campaign page was viewed 2,590 times, equaling 13.0% of pageviews for all Democratic campaigns this week. He was followed by Joe Biden with 11.2% of pageviews and Andrew Yang with 10.6%.

Michael Bloomberg received the most pageviews this week relative to last week, increasing 62.0 percent. While all candidates had a positive rate of pageview growth compared to the previous week, Yang saw the smallest increase at 10.1 percent. The other candidates saw at least a 20 percent increase.

The top three Democratic presidential candidates in lifetime pageviews are Yang with 160,560, Pete Buttigieg with 151,377, and Biden with 143,782.

As in previous weeks, every other Republican candidate led Donald Trump in pageviews. Trump received 1,683 pageviews, while Bill Weld received 2,522, Joe Walsh received 2,460, and Roque de la Fuente received 2,261.

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Filler-Corn is Virginia’s first woman and first Jewish speaker of the House

Eileen Filler-Corn (D) will serve as the first female and first Jewish speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates. The House of Delegates and Virginia State Senate comprise the Virginia General Assembly—the oldest legislative body in America—having been established in 1619.

The speaker of the House is a partisan leadership position in the House of Delegates. He or she serves as the chief spokesman for the Virginia House, presides over legislative sessions, directs the legislative process, and performs additional administrative and procedural duties.

Filler-Corn will replace the former speaker of the House, Kirk Cox (R), whose party lost control of the Virginia House of Delegates on November 5, 2019. After the 2019 elections, the current partisan composition of the House of Delegates is 55 Democrats and 45 Republicans.

Democrats also gained control of the Virginia State Senate in 2019, resulting in the state becoming a Democratic trifecta. This means Democrats control both chambers of the General Assembly and the governorship.

Filler-Corn served as the House minority leader from 2018 to 2019. She was first elected to the House of Delegates in a special election in March 2010. Before being elected to the House of Delegates, Filler-Corn was an attorney and served as the director of Intergovernmental Affairs for Virginia governor Mark Warner and Virginia governor Tim Kaine.

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Additional Reading:
Virginia House of Delegates
Virginia House of Delegates District 41
State Speaker of the House
Party control of Virginia state government
Kirk Cox



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