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Federal judge challenges citizenship question on census, citing Administrative Procedure Act

Judge Jesse Furman of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, a President Obama nominee, issued a ruling on January 15, 2019, holding that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) by not properly following APA procedure when including a question regarding citizenship status in the 2020 census.
 
Plaintiffs in the case also argued that Ross violated the equal protection component of the U.S. Constitution’s Due Process Clause. Furman, however, held that the due process claims fell short because the administrative record in the case did not demonstrate discrimination as a motivating factor for Ross’ decision.
 
The case consolidated two legal challenges before the Southern District of New York: State of New York, et al. v. United States Department of Commerce, et al. and New York Immigration Coalition, et al. v. United States Department of Commerce, et al. The plaintiffs in the cases included a coalition of 18 states and the District of Columbia, fifteen cities and counties, the United States Conference of Mayors, and a group of advocacy organizations.
 
Following the ruling, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) stated that is was disappointed in the decision and was reviewing the case. “Our government is legally entitled to include a citizenship question on the census and people in the United States have a legal obligation to answer,” said DOJ spokeswoman Kelly Laco. “Reinstating the citizenship question ultimately protects the right to vote and helps ensure free and fair elections for all Americans.”


U.S. Supreme Court will not decide constitutionality of Ariz. ballot measure denying bail to those charged with sexual conduct with a minor

On January 14, 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court denied a request from Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich (R) to decide whether a provision of Proposition 103, approved in 2002, violated the U.S. Constitution.
 
Proposition 103, a constitutional amendment, received 80 percent of the vote in 2002. The ballot measure was designed to prevent courts from granting bail for certain sexual crimes with minors under 15 years of age, including sexual assault, sexual molestation, and sexual conduct.
 
In 2017, the Arizona Supreme Court, in a 4-3 divided opinion, ruled that the provision denying bail to suspects charged with sexual conduct with a minor was unconstitutional. Bail, according to the court, could not be denied for those charged with sexual conduct with a minor without demonstrating that the suspect posed a risk to the victims or society. The provisions denying bail to suspects charged with sexual assault or sexual molestation were not affected.


2019 Alaska House session gaveled in without a majority in place

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. DeSantis appoints second supreme court justice

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.
 
Florida is one of 22 Republican trifectas.


Iowa secretary of state’s error restarts multi-year process to amend the Iowa Constitution

Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate (R) said that his office failed to report two constitutional amendments that the 86th Iowa General Assembly (2017-2018) approved in 2018.
 
The Iowa Constitution required Pate to publish notifications in two newspapers in each of Iowa’s four congressional districts at least three months before November 2018. Due to the error, the earliest the constitutional amendments could appear on the ballot is 2022.
 
In March and April 2018, the legislature approved:
  1. an amendment to provide a state right to own and bear firearms, and
  2. an amendment to allow the governor to appoint a lieutenant governor in the event of a vacant office and revise the gubernatorial line of succession.
In Iowa, constitutional amendments are referred to the ballot for voter consideration after a simple-majority vote during two successive legislative sessions with legislative elections in between. The 87th Iowa State Legislature (2019-2020) needed to approve the constitutional amendments one more time for them to appear on the ballot in 2020.
 
Pate said that his office’s failure to publish notices meant that the first-session vote on the amendments didn’t count toward referral, and the process needed to restart. Pate said, “Due to a bureaucratic oversight, my office failed to publish the required notifications in Iowa newspapers of two continuing resolutions passed by the Iowa Legislature last year. I accept full responsibility for this oversight and offer my sincerest apology to the legislators and supporters who worked so hard on these bills.”
 
Both of the constitutional amendments received the support of legislative Republicans in 2018. Zero House Democrats supported the amendments, while Senate Democrats were divided on both of them. Democrats won 46 of 100 state House seats in November 2018 and could have an opportunity to block the constitutional amendments during the 88th Iowa State Legislature (2021-2022) if they can pick up at least four more seats in November 2020.
 
In 2004, former Secretary of State Chet Culver (D) made a similar mistake as Pate, failing to publish a notification on an amendment to replace the words insane and idiot with mental incompetence in the state constitution. The Iowa State Legislature had to re-start the process and referred the amendment to the ballot in 2008.
 
In 12 states, proposed amendments must be approved in two successive sessions of the state’s legislature. In 10 of these, approval in two sessions refers the amendments to the ballot for voter ratification. In one of these states, South Carolina, the state legislature votes to put the amendment before the state’s voters in just one session and later, if the state’s voters approve the amendment, the state legislature takes it up again. Delaware requires votes in two successive sessions of its state legislature, but these proposed amendments do not need to go before the state’s voters.


Three high-profile Democrats announced their 2020 presidential intentions last week

U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) said Friday that she planned to run for president in 2020. Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro (D), who formed an exploratory committee in December, also made a formal announcement of his candidacy on Saturday. 
 
Earlier in the week, Democratic activist and founder of NextGen Climate Tom Steyer (D) announced that he would not run for president.
 
As of January 14, 453 candidates had filed with the FEC for the 2020 presidential race, including 136 Democratic candidates and 62 Republican candidates.
 
Other notable candidates who have either filed with the FEC or announced exploratory committees include U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D), West Virginia Sen. Richard Ojeda (D), former U.S. Rep. John Delaney (D), and President Donald Trump (R).


Trump’s pick for EPA administrator to appear before Senate committee

Andrew Wheeler, President Donald Trump’s nominee for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator, will appear before the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on January 16, 2019. After the committee votes on Wheeler’s nomination, the full Senate will have to vote to confirm him. He needs a simple majority for confirmation.
 
Wheeler currently serves as the acting administrator of the EPA. Trump announced his intent to nominate Wheeler as EPA administrator on November 16, 2018. During a White House ceremony, Trump said, “He’s done a fantastic job and I want to congratulate him.” Trump formally nominated Wheeler on January 9, 2019.
 
If confirmed, Wheeler will replace former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who resigned on July 6, 2018. The Senate confirmed Pruitt by a vote of 52-46 on February 17, 2017. Sens. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) were the only Democrats to vote for Pruitt’s confirmation. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) was the only Republican to vote against his confirmation.


Republican mayor faces five challengers but no Democrats in re-election bid in Jacksonville, Florida

Sixty-four candidates filed to run for the 24 Jacksonville city offices that are up for election on March 19. The offices of mayor, supervisor of elections, property appraiser, sheriff, tax collector, and all 19 city council seats will be on the ballot. The filing deadline passed on January 11. A runoff election is scheduled for May 14 for the top two vote recipients—regardless of party—in races where no candidate receives a majority of the vote in March.
 
Five candidates—two Republicans, one candidate with no party affiliation, and two write-ins—filed to run against Republican Mayor Lenny Curry, who first won election in 2015 after defeating the former mayor, Alvin Brown (D). In the races for property appraiser, sheriff, and tax collector, all three Republican incumbents face a Democratic opponent. Mike Hogan, the Republican supervisor of elections, is running unopposed.
 
Fifty-one candidates filed to run for the 19 city council seats. Eleven incumbents—six Republicans and five Democrats—filed to run for re-election. Republicans currently have a 13-6 majority on the council, the same majority they had before and after the city’s 2015 election. Nine of the city council seats are in play in 2019. The other 10 will be maintained by the same party since the seats are unopposed or only had candidates from one party file to run. Republicans are guaranteed to keep seven seats, and Democrats are guaranteed to keep three.


Florida and California top total state party revenue for both Democratic and Republican parties between 2011 and 2017

The Democratic and Republican parties maintain state-level affiliates in all 50 states. The parties primarily raise money through contributions, which they later use to support electoral candidates and general party administration.
 
Democratic affiliates in Florida and California—which is a Democratic state trifecta—had the highest total state party revenue between 2011 and 2017, followed by Ohio, Virginia, and New York. At the other end of the spectrum, Democratic affiliates in Wyoming and Hawaii had the lowest total state party revenue over the seven-year period, followed by Vermont, Mississippi, and South Dakota.
 
State Democratic parties spent the most per capita in New Hampshire, Montana, Iowa, Maine, and Nevada.
 
Republican affiliates in Florida–which is a Republican state trifecta—and California also had the highest total state party revenue between 2011 and 2017, followed by Ohio, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. Republican affiliates in Rhode Island and Oregon had the lowest total state party revenue over the seven-year period, followed by Delaware, Wyoming, and Hawaii.
 
Per capita, Republicans spent the most in Vermont, North Dakota, Florida, Iowa, and Wisconsin.


Initiative signature requirements increase in 13 states and decrease in five states based on 2018 elections

Voter turnout in the 2018 elections caused a change in the number of signatures required for initiatives and veto referendums in 18 of the 26 states that allow at least one form of statewide initiative or referendum.
 
There are 13 states with initiative signature requirements based on midterm gubernatorial or secretary of state elections. In each of these states, turnout was higher than in 2014 and signature requirements increased.
 
In these 13 states, the signature requirement increases ranged from 3.2 percent in Maine to 70.3 percent in California, where the signature requirements are higher than they’ve ever been in the state’s 106 years of direct democracy. These increased requirements will apply to the 2020 and 2022 election cycles. In three states—Colorado, Maine, and Ohio—initiatives can go on the ballot in odd-numbered years as well, so these requirements will also apply to initiatives for the 2019 and 2021 ballots.
 
There are four states with signature requirements based on turnout at general elections. In each of those states, turnout was lower than in 2016 and signature requirements decreased. In these four states, the signature requirement decreases ranged from 11.3 percent in Alaska to 20.7 percent in Wyoming. These decreased requirements will apply to the 2020 election cycle, after which the requirements will be reset based on turnout in that election.
 
Six states base initiative signature requirements on odd-year or presidential year gubernatorial elections. The 2018 elections had no effect on the signature requirements in those states; the requirements will be determined by the 2020 elections.
 
Three states base signature requirements on voter registration or population. Idaho is one of these and was the fifth state to have a decrease in initiative signature requirements based on 2018 elections. Signature requirements in Idaho are based on voter registration totals at the time of the last general election. The other two states that base requirements on voter registration or population, Nebraska and North Dakota, calculate the requirement at certain stages of the initiative process rather than at the time of a previous election.
 
Signature requirements are determined differently depending on the state. The majority of states with citizen-initiated measures—16—base signature requirements on ballots cast for gubernatorial candidates in the preceding gubernatorial election. Four states base signature requirements on total ballots cast in the preceding general election. Of the remaining states, two states base requirements on voters for presidential candidates within the state, two states base requirements on registered voters, one state bases requirements on votes cast for secretary of state candidates, and one state bases requirements on the state population.
 



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