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Alabama voters will decide changes to the state judiciary in March 2020

Alabama voters will decide the fate of a constitutional amendment about the state judiciary during the March 2020 presidential primary.
 
On May 14, 2019, the state House gave final approval to a constitutional amendment to revise the article concerning the state judiciary. The vote referred the amendment—Senate Bill 216—to the March 2020 ballot. The amendment would make changes throughout sections of the state constitution related to the judiciary. Notable changes include:
  • Removing the authority to appoint an administrative director of courts from the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and give it to the Alabama Supreme Court as a whole;
  • increasing the membership of the Judicial Inquiry Commission; and
  • repealing provisions which provide for the impeachment of Supreme Court Justices and appellate judges and the removal of various state and local judges.

 

The state Senate unanimously approved the amendment on April 30. The state House considered a change to increase the mandatory retirement age after which a judge cannot run for another term from 70 to 75. The proposed retirement age amendment to Senate Bill 216 was rejected. The state House approved the amendment 92-6 on May 14, 2019.
 
This amendment was the 25th statewide measure to be certified for 2020 across the country. It was the first to be certified for the 2020 ballot in Alabama. From 1997 to 2018, the number of measures on statewide ballots in Alabama during even-numbered years ranged from four to 15. The average was eight.
 
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Three Pennsylvania state legislative specials on May 21

In Pennsylvania, special elections are being held for District 33 and District 41 of the state Senate and District 11 of the state House on May 21. All three seats were vacated by Republican incumbents.
  • In Senate District 33, Sarah Hammond (D) and Doug Mastriano (R) are running in the general election. The seat became vacant after Richard Alloway (R) resigned on February 28, 2019. Alloway cited political gridlock, a lack of advancement opportunities, and burnout as reasons for his resignation. Alloway had served in the state Senate since 2009.
  • In Senate District 41, Susan Boser (D) and Joe Pittman (R) are running in the general election. The seat became vacant after Don White (R) resigned on February 28, 2019, for health reasons. White had served in the state Senate since 2001.
  • In House District 11, Samuel Doctor (D) and Marci Mustello (R) are running in the general election. The seat became vacant after Brian Ellis (R) resigned on March 18, 2019, following allegations of sexual assault. Ellis had served in the state House since 2005.
Three other state legislative special elections have already been held in Pennsylvania in 2019. On April 2, Senate District 37 flipped from Republican control to Democratic control. Six seats have flipped as a result of 2019’s state legislative special elections. Elections have been held for 26 Democratic seats and 14 Republican seats. Four seats have flipped from Democratic control to Republican control. One seat has flipped from Republican control to Democratic control. One seat has flipped from Republican control to an independent officeholder.
 
Pennsylvania 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. Heading into the special elections, Republicans hold a 26-22 majority in the state Senate with two vacancies. The state House is controlled by a 109-93 Republican majority with one vacancy. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) was first elected in 2014 and won re-election to a second term in 2018.
 


Contested special elections for two Missouri House seats

On May 13, the filing deadline passed to run for the vacant District 99 and District 158 seats in the Missouri House of Representatives. Trish Gunby (D) and Lee Ann Pitman (R) are running for the District 99 seat, and Lisa Kalp (D) and Scott Cupps (R) are campaigning in District 158. The special general election is scheduled for November 5, 2019, and there is no primary.
 
Both seats were previously held by Republicans. Jean Evans resigned from District 99 on February 5 in order to become the executive director of the state GOP, while Scott Fitzpatrick left the District 158 office on January 3 following his appointment as the new Missouri Treasurer by Gov. Mike Parson (R). In the 2018 election, Evans won re-election to a second term with 53% of the vote while Fitzpatrick ran unopposed to win his fourth term.
 
Entering the special election, the Missouri House of Representatives has 46 Democrats, 114 Republicans, and three vacancies. The third opening is for the District 36 seat, which DaRon McGee (D) vacated on April 29. No special election has been scheduled for that seat yet. A majority in the chamber requires 82 seats.
 
Missouri is one of 22 Republican trifectas. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers.
 


Federal Register weekly update; 2019 page total trails 2018 total by less than 1,000 pages

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.
 
During the week of May 13 to May 17, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,928 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 22,692 pages. This week’s Federal Register featured a total of 612 documents, including 494 notices, 11 presidential documents, 52 proposed rules, and 55 final rules.
 
Three proposed rules and one final rule were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—meaning that they may have a large impact on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules.
 
During the same week in 2018, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,172 pages. As of May 17, the 2019 total trailed the 2018 total by 656 pages.
 
The Trump administration has added an average of 1,135 pages to the Federal Register each week in 2019 as of May 17. In 2018, the Trump administration added an average of 1,301 pages to the Federal Register each week. Over the course of the Obama administration, the Federal Register increased by an average of 1,658 pages per week.
 
According to government data, the Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.
 
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 yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2016: https://ballotpedia.org/Historical_additions_to_the_Federal_Register,_1936-2016


U.S. Senators Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Lankford (R-Okla.) propose requiring agencies to perform retrospective reviews of regulations

A new bill aims to help administrative agencies meet regulatory goals by requiring them to assess the effectiveness of new major rules. Senate Bill 1420, The SMART Act of 2019, would require agencies to publish ideas about how to measure the anticipated benefits of new major rules, including how to collect the necessary data to conduct such a review. Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced the bill on May 13, 2019.
 
The act instructs agencies to perform cost-benefit reviews of major rules to determine whether they are accomplishing their objectives, are no longer necessary, or need to be improved. It follows other federal standards and defines major rules as those that have or are likely to have the following results:
  • An annual effect on the economy of $100 million or more
  • A major increase in costs or prices for consumers, individual industries, government agencies, or geographic regions
  • Significant effects on competition, employment, investment, productivity, innovation, health, safety, the environment, or on the ability of U.S.-based enterprises to compete with foreign-based enterprises in domestic and export markets
The provisions of the SMART act apply to rules that meet those criteria as determined by the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). OIRA is an office within the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that handles regulatory review, information collection requests, and oversight of government statistics and privacy policies. The act exempts guidance documents, which include interpretive rules, policy statements, and agency rules of organization, from its review requirements.
 


Incumbent James Kenney faces Alan Butkovitz, Anthony Williams in Philadelphia Democratic mayoral primary May 21

Philadelphia Mayor James Kenney’s (D), Alan Butkovitz (D) and Anthony Williams (D) are running in a Democratic primary May 21 seeking the nomination for the November 5 mayoral election.
 
Under Philadelphia’s current charter, which dates to 1951, no incumbent mayor has been defeated in a bid for re-election. Kenney recently received the endorsement of the Philadelphia Inquirer.
 
Kenney’s support for a 1.5 cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks that passed in 2016 has drawn criticism from Butkovitz and Williams, both of whom pledged to repeal the tax.
 
Kenney says he supports the soda tax because it has raised money for the city’s infrastructure and schools. He says he built a progressive record in his first term by increasing the minimum wage for city employees to $15 per hour, declaring Philadelphia a sanctuary city, and pledging to abide by the terms of the Paris Climate Agreement.
 
In addition to the Inquirer, Kenney has been endorsed by Gov. Tom Wolf (D), Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D), and all three of Philadelphia’s representatives in the U.S. House.
 
Butkovitz served three terms as city controller before losing to former Kenney administration official Rebecca Rhynhart (D) in 2017. He earlier served eight terms in the state house. Butkovitz says that the Kenney administration has failed to address poverty and violent crime in Philadelphia and has racially discriminatory hiring practices.
 
Williams placed second to Kenney in the 2015 mayoral primary with 26% of the vote to Kenney’s 56%. Williams has served in the state Senate since being elected in 1998 and earlier served five terms in the state house. He promises to expand charter schools with the goal of reaching every neighborhood. He was endorsed by Philadelphia Magazine, the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, and former mayor John Street (D).
 
Kenney raised $1.1 million through May 12. Butkovitz and Williams each raised $150,000. Both supporters and opponents of soda taxes outside Philadelphia have weighed in. The American Beverage Association spent over $600,000 on an ad campaign opposing Kenney. Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, who supports the tax, (D) donated $1,000,000 to a PAC spending in support of Kenney.
 
The winner will face attorney Billy Ciancaglini (R) and any declared nonpartisan candidates in the November 5 election. No Republican has won a Philadelphia mayoral election since Bernard Samuel (R) in 1947.
 


Trump has fourth-most federal judges, most appeals court judges confirmed at this stage of last 13 presidents

President Donald Trump made 104 Article III federal judicial appointments through May 15, 2019. How does that figure compare to other modern presidents at this stage of their terms?
 
We looked at the numbers from the last 13 presidents, dating back to Harry Truman.
 
Article III judges are lifetime appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court, a U.S. court of appeals, a U.S. district court, or the Court of International Trade. The breakdown of Article III judges is as follows:
  • Supreme Court of the United States: 9 justices
  • United States court of appeals: 179 judgeships
  • United States district court: 677 judgeships
  • United States Court of International Trade: 9 judgeships
The chart below shows the number of Article III judges confirmed by the U.S. Senate under each of the last 13 presidents on or before May 15 of their third years in office. The confirmations are broken up by court type.
 
 
Here are five takeaways from the above graph and other elements of the data:
  • Trump has made the fourth most Article III appointments through this point in his term. The three presidents who had more at this point were Bill Clinton (141), George W. Bush (124), and John F. Kennedy (116).
  • Trump has made the most appeals court appointments through this point, 39, which is 22 percent of the 179 appeals court judgeships. The next highest number of appointments at this point in a presidency was Richard Nixon (25) and George W. Bush (21).
  • Kennedy had 56 judges confirmed in the first year of his term, most among the group. Dwight Eisenhower had nine, the fewest. Trump’s 19 appointments in the first year of his presidency were eighth-most.
  • Trump has made the eighth-most district court appointments, 63, which is nine percent of the 677 district court judgeships. Clinton had made 118 such appointments, and George W. Bush had 100.
  • Trump inherited 108 Article III judicial vacancies when he was inaugurated. This represented 12.4 percent of the 870 Article III judicial posts. Among the last six presidents, only Clinton inherited more vacancies—111 of 842 positions, or 13.2 percent.
For more charts and to explore the raw data, visit our in-depth analysis at the link below.


Pennsylvania U.S. House district and Kentucky governor on the ballot May 21

On May 21, voters will decide on the next representative from Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District and party nominees for Kentucky’s November gubernatorial election. Ballotpedia will have live results from all three races available once polls close.
 
In Pennsylvania, Marc Friedenberg (D), a professor, and state Rep. Fred Keller (R) are running in a special election for the seat vacated by Tom Marino (R) in January 2019. Marino beat Friedenberg by 32 points in November 2018. Donald Trump (R) won the district by 36 points in 2016. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time. The special election is the first of three special elections to the U.S. House scheduled for 2019.
 
In Kentucky, Gov. Matt Bevin (R) faces state Rep. Robert Goforth (R), Ike Lawrence, and William E. Woods in the Republican primary to choose a gubernatorial nominee for the November general election. Bevin has the lead in both polling and fundraising and has also received the backing of Vice President Mike Pence (R).
 
Kentucky House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, state Attorney General Andy Beshear, former state Auditor Adam Edelen, and retired engineer Geoff Young are seeking the Democratic nomination for governor. Adkins, Beshear, and Edelen have raised a collective $7 million and spent $5 million. Beshear has led in polling, and Edelen has led in fundraising. Polls in Kentucky are open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time.
 


Wisconsin’s election on April 7, 2020, will feature Marsy’s Law crime victims constitutional amendment

On April 7, 2020, voters in Wisconsin will vote on Marsy’s Law—a type of constitutional amendment addressing the rights of crime victims. The Wisconsin State Legislature referred the constitutional amendment to the ballot on May 15, 2019. Voters in 12 other states have approved Marsy’s Law measures. Marsy’s Law has never been defeated at the ballot. Montana’s 2018 Marsy’s Law measure, however, was overturned by a court ruling, and Kentucky’s 2018 measure is pending a court ruling.
 
Henry Nicholas, the co-founder of Broadcom Corp., began campaigning for Marsy’s Law in 2008. His sister, Marsy Nicholas, was murdered in 1983. The first Marsy’s Law on the ballot was in California in 2008. The other states that have voted on, and approved, Marsy’s Law are Illinois (2014), Montana (2016), North Dakota (2016), South Dakota (2016), Ohio (2017), Florida (2018), Georgia (2018), Kentucky (2018), Nevada (2018), North Carolina (2018), and Oklahoma (2018). The Kentucky Marsy’s Law has not been enacted pending a court ruling. About $102.26 million was raised for the 12 Marsy’s Law constitutional amendments.
 
As passed by the Wisconsin State Legislature, the Marsy’s Law amendment would grant crime victims with certain rights, including a right to be treated with dignity, respect, courtesy, sensitivity, and fairness; a right to privacy; a right to be present at all criminal proceedings and hearings; a right to confer with the government prosecutor; and a right to restitution and compensation. Currently, the state constitution grants crime victims with some of these rights, such as a right to restitution.
 
In Wisconsin, the state legislature is required to approve an amendment by majority vote in two successive sessions for the amendment to appear on the ballot. The amendment was first approved during the 2017 legislative session. In 2019, the state Senate voted 27-5 to pass the amendment, and the state House voted 82-15 to pass the amendment. Most Republicans (94 percent) voted to refer Marsy’s Law to the ballot, while 64 percent of Democrats voted for the amendment. As Marsy’s Law was the only constitutional amendment voted on during the 2017-2018 legislative session, it is the only constitutional amendment that can appear on the Wisconsin ballot in 2020.
 
The organization Marsy’s Law for All advocates for Marsy’s Law constitutional amendment, stating that Marsy’s Law makes crime victims’ rights co-equal with criminal defendants’ rights in state constitutions. The ACLU of Wisconsin opposes the Marsy’s Law constitutional amendment, saying victims’ rights and defendants rights are not legally equivalent. Whereas defendants rights are rights against the state, according to the ACLU, victims’ rights are rights against an individual.
 
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Official results confirm that Denver is the first U.S. city to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms

Denver elections officials certified final official results for the May 7 election on Thursday. Initiative 301 passed 50.6 percent to 49.4 percent—a margin of 2,291 votes out of the 177,903 votes cast.
 
The citizen initiative, which became effective on May 16th when results were certified, makes the adult possession and use of psilocybin mushrooms the lowest law enforcement priority in Denver. It prohibits the city from spending resources on enforcing penalties related to psilocybin mushrooms.
 
It is the first measure of its kind in the U.S. Psilocybin is classified as a Schedule I drug by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). At the state level, the use and possession of psilocybin are illegal and penalized, except in certain cases allowed under the state’s right-to-try law. Right-to-try laws aim to allow terminally ill patients to gain access to experimental drugs without the permission of the FDA. Colorado was the first state to adopt a right-to-try law in 2014.


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