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CRA resolution would require businesses to send OSHA detailed reports of worker injuries

Employers will again have to disclose detailed worker injury data to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) if Congress approves a new resolution. The resolution was introduced in early February according to the Congressional Review Act (CRA). It would undo a new OSHA rule that exempts large employers from having to submit detailed reports about workers who were injured or fell ill. Under the rule, employers still have to keep detailed records about worker injuries and sickness but only have to provide summaries to OSHA.
 
Rep. Andy Levin (D.-Mich.) sponsored the resolution as his first bill as a member of Congress. According to a press release from Levin, the OSHA rule weakened protections for injured workers because reporting those injuries helps the federal government address hazardous workplaces. Opponents of Levin’s resolution argued that the new OSHA rule protects worker privacy by keeping sensitive data safe from public disclosure.
 
The original rule was a deregulatory action following President Trump’s Executive Order 13771, which requires agencies to eliminate two old regulations for each new regulation. Under regulations set during the Obama administration, some employers had to submit detailed information to OSHA about employee illnesses and injuries every year.
 
Under the Congressional Review Act, the resolution would need to pass both houses of Congress and receive President Trump’s signature to repeal the rule.
 
The CRA is a federal law passed in 1996 creating a review period during which Congress, by passing a joint resolution of disapproval that is then signed by the president, can overturn a new federal agency rule.
 
Prior to 2017, the law was successfully used only once, to overturn a rule on ergonomics in the workplace in 2001. In the first four months of his administration, President Donald Trump (R) signed 14 CRA resolutions from Congress undoing a variety of rules issued near the end of Barack Obama’s (D) presidency. As of May 2018, the last time the CRA was successfully used, 16 rules have been repealed under President Trump.


Trump and Kim meet for second summit

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un met face-to-face on February 27 and 28, in Hanoi, Vietnam, for their second in-person summit.
 
Trump and Kim were unable to reach an agreement on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Trump said that Kim wanted all economic sanctions to be lifted in return for closing some, but not all, of its nuclear weapons sites.
 
Trump said, “I am never afraid to walk from a deal. … Basically, they wanted the sanctions lifted in their entirety and we couldn’t do that. I just felt it wasn’t good enough. We had to have more.”
 
Trump’s first meeting with Kim, the first-ever meeting between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, took place on June 12, 2018, in Singapore.
 
During the first summit, Trump and Kim signed a document outlining a framework for future negotiations. They committed to working toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and recovering the remains of prisoners of war. In return, Trump committed to providing security guarantees to North Korea.


Redistricting Commission Amendment passed in the Virginia 2019 legislature; Approval by the 2020 legislature puts it on November 2020 ballot

The Virginia Independent Redistricting Commission Amendment may appear on the ballot in Virginia as a legislatively referred constitutional amendment on November 3, 2020. The amendment would create a 16-member Redistricting Commission responsible for establishing Virginia’s U.S. House of Representatives districts and House and Senate districts of the Virginia General Assembly. The bi-partisan commission would be composed of eight legislative members and eight citizen members.
 
The Virginia Redistricting Commission Amendment was originally two separate amendments—Senate Joint Resolution 306 sponsored by Democratic Senator George Barker of Senate District 39 and House Joint Resolution 615 sponsored by Republican Representative Mark Cole of House District 88. The final measure was approved by the legislature on February 23, 2019. If passed again by the 2020 legislature, the measure would appear on the ballot in Virginia for voter approval or rejection.
 
In 2018, voters decided six ballot measures in five states designed to change how congressional districts, state legislative districts, or both types are drawn following the decennial U.S. Census. As of 2018, six was the highest number of redistricting-related ballot measures in a single year since 1982, when nine measures were on the ballot.
 
Redistricting measures targeting the 2020 ballot have also been filed in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Oregon.


Republicans ahead in early 2019 state legislative special elections

Special elections have been held for 14 state legislative seats so far in 2019. Ten of those seats were in districts vacated by Democrats, and the other four seats were previously held by Republicans. As of the start of March, three seats had flipped from Democratic control to Republican control.
 
On February 5, Jason Rarick (R) defeated Stu Lourey (DFL) and Legal Marijuana Now candidate John Birrenbach in the special election for Minnesota State Senate District 11. The seat was previously held by Tony Lourey (D), who resigned to take a position as state human services commissioner. Rarick’s win gave Republicans a three-seat majority in the state Senate.
 
On February 26, Gennaro Bizzarro (R) defeated Rick Lopes (D) in the special election for Connecticut State Senate District 6. On the same day, Joseph Zullo (R) defeated Josh Balter (D) in the special election for Connecticut House of Representatives District 99. Both seats were vacated by Democrats who joined Gov. Ned Lamont’s (D) administration.
 
Another 30 state legislative special elections are currently scheduled to be held in 2019. Seventeen of those seats were vacated by Democrats, and 13 seats were vacated by Republicans. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year; the average in odd-numbered years is 91. Democrats and Republicans each netted more seats than the other party in four of the eight years. Democrats gained eight seats in 2018 and 11 seats in 2017.


Legislatures take early action on public-sector union policy

Two months into 2019, and state legislatures nationwide have taken early action on public-sector union policy in the states, responding either directly or indirectly 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.
 
As of March 1, legislatures in 29 states had introduced 82 bills relevant to public-sector union policy. Of these 82 bills, 45 were sponsored by Democrats and 29 by Republicans; the remainder were sponsored by bipartisan groups or committees. Of these 82 bills, two had passed lower chambers and three had died. The remainder were either in committee or awaiting a committee assignment.
 
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.


Parties select nominees for Maine House special election

Two candidates are competing in a special election for the Maine House of Representatives District 52 seat. The filing deadline for candidates to appear on the ballot was February 22, 2019. The special election is set for April 2, 2019.
 
The seat became vacant on February 1, 2019, when incumbent Jennifer DeChant (D) resigned to take a job in the private sector. DeChant was first elected in 2012 and was most recently re-elected on November 6, 2018.
 
Democrats selected Sean Paulhus as their candidate, and Republicans selected Kenneth Sener. Paulhus currently serves as vice chairman of the Bath City Council. Sener is a retired Navy captain who has not held public office before.
 
A third candidate, Christopher Hallowell, was nominated prior to the filing deadline but will not appear on the ballot. Hallowell was nominated to run as a Libertarian; however, the Libertarian Party in Maine does not currently have enough registered voters to retain its standing as a qualified party.
 
To qualify as an official political party in Maine, 10,000 voters enrolled as members of that party must cast ballots in a general election. Currently, the three official parties in Maine are the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and the Green Independent Party. As of November 7, 2018, the Libertarian Party in Maine only had 6,168 registered voters. The Libertarian Party has filed to regain its official status and has until January 2, 2020, to gain at least 5,000 enrollees.
 
Non-party state House of Representatives candidates in Maine must submit 50 signatures from the district they are seeking to represent in order to appear on the ballot. Hallowell did not submit the signatures, and he, therefore, will not appear on the ballot. The deadline for write-in candidates was on March 1, and no write-in candidates filed.
 
Maine is currently a Democratic trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.


Eleven file to run for three Newark Board of Education seats

Eleven candidates filed paperwork to run in the April 16 general election for three of the nine at-large seats on the Newark Public Schools Board of Education in New Jersey. The filing deadline was February 25. The withdrawal deadline is March 4.
 
Two of the three incumbents whose seats are on the ballot—Leah Owens and Tave Padilla—are running for re-election. Incumbent Kim Gaddy did not file to run for another term on the board. All three incumbents were first elected to the board in 2016. They ran together as the Newark Unity slate and were endorsed by Mayor Ras J. Baraka. The eight consecutive elections prior to 2019 also saw members of slates endorsed by the mayor win election to the board.
 
Owens and Padilla face nine challengers: Shayvonne Anderson, Denise Cole, Denise Ann Crawford, Maggie Freeman, Priscilla Garces, Saafir Jenkins, Yolanda Johnson, A’Dorian Murray-Thomas, and Arlene Ramsey.
 
The 2019 election is the second since local control was returned to the district by the New Jersey State Board of Education on September 13, 2017. The state originally took over the district in 1995.
 
Newark Public Schools served 40,514 students during the 2016-2017 school year.


Special election to fill vacant Kentucky Senate seat

A special general election for District 31 of the Kentucky State Senate is scheduled for March 5, 2019. The seat was vacated when Ray Jones (D) resigned in January 2019 after becoming the Pike County Judge-Executive. The candidate filing deadline was January 15, 2019.
 
Two candidates are vying for the seat: Democrat Darrell Pugh and Republican Phillip Wheeler.
 
The last general election for the Kentucky State Senate took place on November 8, 2016, when 19 of the 38 seats were up for election. The elections did not result in any changes to the Senate’s political control, with the Republican party holding 27 of the chamber’s 38 seats (71 percent). The next regular election for the Kentucky State Senate is scheduled for November 3, 2020. Kentucky 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.
 
As of March, 44 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 18 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.


Minnesota holding second special election to replace first special election’s winner

Minnesota is holding a special primary for State House District 11B on March 5, 2019. The general election is scheduled for March 19. The election was called after former Rep. Jason Rarick (R) won a special election for District 11 of the Minnesota State Senate on February 5, 2019.
 
Prior to joining the state Senate, Rarick served in the state House from 2015 to 2019. He won the state House seat by defeating former incumbent Tim Faust (D) in the 2014 election.
 
One Democrat and six Republicans filed for the seat, but four Republican candidates withdrew from the race following the Republican Party’s endorsement of Nathan Nelson. Candidates Ayrlahn Johnson and Nelson are competing in the Republican primary, and the winner will face Tim Burkhardt (D) in the general election.
 
As of March, 44 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 18 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year. Entering 2019, the Minnesota House of Representatives had 75 Democrats and 59 Republicans. A majority in the chamber requires 68 seats. Minnesota has a divided government, meaning no political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.


Federal appeals court rejects exclusive representation challenge in Washington

On February 26, 2019, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit found that a Washington state policy granting exclusive bargaining rights to a union did not violate workers’ First Amendment rights.
 
In 2006, the state authorized child care providers working under a state-subsidized program to select an exclusive representative for the purposes of collective bargaining. The workers chose Service Employees International Union Local 925. Workers were not required to join the union, but SEIU Local 925 was granted the exclusive right to represent this class of workers. The plaintiff in the case, child care provider Katherine Miller, alleged that this practice, in light of Janus, violated her First Amendment rights because it authorized SEIU Local 925 to speak and negotiate on her behalf without her express consent.
 
The appeals court panel unanimously rejected Miller’s argument, citing the Supreme Court’s 1984 decision in Minnesota State Board for Community Colleges v. Knight. In Knight, the high court dismissed a suit from several Minnesota community college instructors that made an argument similar to Miller’s. The high court held “the state has in no way restrained appellees’ freedom to speak on any education-related issue or their freedom to associate or not to associate with whom they please, including the exclusive representative.”
 
The appeals court panel was comprised of Judges Susan P. Graber, M. Margaret McKeown, and Morgan Christen. President Bill Clinton (D) appointed both Graber and McKeown to the court in 1998. President Barack Obama (D) appointed Christen to the court in 2011.


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