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Five states hold state executive and legislative primaries August 4

Five states held statewide primaries on August 4, 2020: Arizona, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, and Washington. There were 690 state executive and legislative seats up for election. These included 22 state executive seats, 112 state senate seats, and 556 state house seats.

Candidates competed to advance to the general election on November 3, 2020.

The following information was current as of August 6. At that time, some races were still too close to call, and results from Washington were not yet final because the election was held largely by mail.

Across the five states, 549 incumbents filed for re-election to the 690 seats. Preliminary results indicate at least 16 incumbents were defeated.

Eighteen state executive incumbents filed for re-election. Of those 18 incumbents, 15 advanced to the general election. The results for three of the seats were not yet known.

In the state senate elections, 90 incumbents filed for re-election to 112 seats. At least seven did not advance to the general election. In the state house elections, 441 incumbents competed for re-election to 556 seats. Nine were defeated, but that number may grow as results are finalized.

Washington state holds top-two primaries in which all candidates appear on the primary ballot, regardless of party affiliation. The top two vote-getters advance to the general election.

These primaries were the 32nd through the 36th to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next primary was held on August 6 in Tennessee.

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Hawaii to hold congressional primaries August 8

The statewide primary election for Hawaii is on August 8, 2020. The filing deadline to run passed on June 2. Voters will elect one candidate from each of the state’s two congressional districts to serve in the U.S. House.

Candidates are competing to advance to the general election scheduled for November 3, 2020.

Hawaii’s primary is the 38th statewide primary to take place in the 2020 election cycle. The next statewide primaries will be held on August 11 in the following states:
• Connecticut
• Minnesota
• Vermont

• Wisconsin



Four states to hold congressional primaries August 11

Connecticut, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wisconsin are holding congressional primaries on August 11. One U.S. Senate seat and 22 U.S. House seats are up for election across the four states. Primary candidates are competing for a spot in the general election scheduled for November 3, 2020.

In Connecticut, five U.S. House seats are up for election this year. All five seats are currently held by Democrats, and all of them filed to run for re-election. Because no other Democrats are running against them, the Democratic primaries were canceled and all five automatically advanced to the general election. Two Republican primaries were also canceled due to lack of opposition. The Republican primaries for the state’s 1st, 2nd, and 4th Congressional Districts each have two candidates facing off on August 11.

In Minnesota, one U.S. Senate seat and eight U.S. House seats are up for election. The nine seats are currently held by six Democrats and three Republicans. All nine incumbents filed to run for re-election. Democratic and Republican primaries are being held on August 11 in every race except for the state’s 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts. In Minnesota, primaries are canceled if every candidate in each party for a specific seat is unopposed. The Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party of Minnesota and the Legal Marijuana Now Party are also holding primaries.

In Vermont, primaries are being held for the state’s one At-large Congressional District. Incumbent Peter Welch (D) is running for re-election and faces one challenger in the primary. Four candidates are running in the Republican primary, and two candidates are running in the Vermont Progressive Party primary.

In Wisconsin, eight U.S. House seats are up for election. Seven of the eight incumbents—three Democrats and four Republicans—are running for re-election this year. Six of them are unopposed in their respective primaries. 3rd Congressional District incumbent Ron Kind (D) faces one primary challenger.

Entering the 2020 election, the U.S. Senate has 45 Democrats, 53 Republicans, and two independents who caucus with the Democratic Party. Thirty-three out of 100 Senate seats are up for regular election this year, and two are up for special election. A majority in the chamber requires 51 seats. The U.S. House has 232 Democrats, 198 Republicans, one Libertarian, and four vacancies. All 435 seats are up for election. A majority in the chamber requires 218 seats.

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Voters decide local ballot measures in Wayne County, Michigan

Voters in Wayne County, Michigan, approved two property tax renewal propositions on Tuesday. Proposition O, the Operating Budget Property Tax Renewal, was approved with 77% of the vote. Proposition O authorizes the county to renew for 10 years a property tax levy of $95.29 per $100,000 in assessed property tax value to generate an annual estimated $42 million for the county’s operations and services.

Proposition P, the Parks Property Tax Renewal, was approved with 78% of the vote. Proposition P authorizes the county to renew for four years a property tax levy of $24.59 per $100,000 in assessed property tax value to generate an annual estimated $10.9 million for parks. Both measures were referred to the ballot by a vote of the Wayne County Commissioners.

Voters in the Detroit Public Schools Community District renewed a non-homestead property tax levy with 85% of voters approving the measure. The measure authorizes the district to renew for 11 years a property tax levy of $1,800 per $100,000 in assessed property tax value on property except for primary residences to generate an annual estimated $65 million for the district. It was first authorized in 2016.

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Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: August 6, 2020

Each day, we:

  • Track the status of reopening in all 50 states.
  • Compare the status of one industry or activity across the country.
  • Answer key questions about state school reopening plans.
  • Give you the latest stories on other reopening plans and ideas.

Want to know what happened yesterday? Click here.

Since our last edition

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

  • Hawaii (Democratic trifecta): The Hawaii High School Athletic Association voted to postpone moderate- and high-risk fall sports to January 2021. The change affects cheerleading, cross country, football, and girls volleyball.
  • Michigan (divided government): Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued an executive order on Aug. 6 requiring children over the age of two and all employees to wear face masks at Michigan camps and childcare centers.
  • North Carolina (divided government): Gov. Roy Cooper (D) announced on Aug. 5 that the state would stay in Phase 2 of reopening for five more weeks.
  • Rhode Island  (Democratic trifecta): On Aug. 5, Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) announced a new metric for determining if schools can reopen to in-person instruction. Schools in any city or town with more than 100 positive cases per 100,000 residents will be prohibited from fully reopening to in-person instruction.
  • West Virginia (Republican trifecta): Gov. Jim Justice (R) released reopening guidance for public schools. Justice set a target reopening date of Sept. 8 and counties are required to submit their reopening plans by Aug. 14.

Tracking industries: Nursing home visits

All 50 states are reopening in some way. Here, we give the status of one industry or activity across the states. Today’s question: in which states may you visit someone in a nursing home? This does not include end-of-life or other emergency-related visits. Visits limited to family members only, or that are only allowed outdoors, are counted as “visitors allowed” in the chart and map below.

We last looked at nursing home visitation in the July 30th edition of the newsletter. Since then, no new states have allowed or restricted visitation.

This is an in-depth summary of two state plans to reopen public K-12 schools for the 2020-2021 school year.

Maryland’s Maryland Together

On June 10, the Maryland Department of Education released Maryland Together, the state’s school reopening plan. Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon said, “As we move forward, State and local education leaders must recognize that long-standing gaps in educational opportunity and access have been further exposed and widened by the COVID-19 crisis. We want to ensure that students most impacted receive intense focus and priority in our recovery efforts.”

On July 22, Salmon said the goal for schools should be to return to in-person instruction by the end of the calendar year. She said districts would be left to decide whether to teach in-person or virtually in the fall.

Maryland does not have a statewide date for public schools to reopen. According to EdWeek, public schools in Maryland traditionally start the academic year in late August to early September, with the exact start date varying by district.

On March 12, Salmon ordered all schools in the state to close from March 16 to March 27. The closure was extended on March 25 (through April 24) and April 17 (through May 15). On May 6, Salmon closed schools for the remainder of the school year.

Context

Maryland has a divided government. The governor is a Republican, and Democrats have majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The state became a divided government in 2015.

The following tables show public education statistics in Maryland, including a rank comparing it to the other 49 states. Rank one is the highest number of each figure, rank 50 is the lowest. All data comes from the Common Core of Data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Maryland public school metrics
Category Figure 50-state rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $16,553 13
Number of students (’18-’19) 896,827 20
Number of teachers (’16-17) 59,703 17
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 1,418 25
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 14.8 28
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 46.7% 27
Maryland public school revenue
Category Figure 50-state rank
Total revenue $14,521,045,000 13
Percent from federal sources 5.7% 44
Percent from state sources 43.5% 33
Percent from local sources 50.8% 15

Details

District reopening plans

Districts are responsible for developing their own specific reopening plans. Plans are due for state review and approval by Aug. 14. Districts must post their reopening plans on their official website.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The guidelines leave the decision for how to return to school for the fall semester up to school districts. Districts may choose from in-person, hybrid, or online-only options. The state guidelines recommended the following:

  • One-day rotation where 25% of students would attend once per week on alternating days
  • Two-day rotation where 50% of students would attend twice per week on alternating days
  • Alternating weeks where 50% of students would attend four times per week every other week
  • Elementary in-person learning and secondary distance learning
  • Grade band phase-in with elementary students returning to in-person learning first, followed by middle and high school in successive weeks

Mask requirements

The Maryland Department of Health and Maryland Department of Education released joint guidance on the use of cloth face coverings in schools on July 21.

  • School staff must wear cloth face coverings while in the school building, on school grounds when not contraindicated due to a medical condition, intellectual or developmental disabilities, or other conditions or safety concerns;
  • All students, school staff, and bus drivers must wear a cloth face covering while on school bus when not contraindicated due to a medical condition or developmental or safety considerations;
  • Other adults must wear cloth face coverings when they must enter the school building or grounds for essential functions;
  • Students, especially students in middle and high school, must wear cloth face coverings in the school building and on school grounds as much as possible when not contraindicated due to a medical condition or developmental or safety considerations;
  • The use of cloth face coverings is most important at times when physical distancing measures cannot be effectively implemented especially when indoors;
  • Local education agencies should examine the structure and schedule of the education program to identify when physical distancing may be a challenge;
  • Cloth face coverings should not be worn by children under 2 years and anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to remove a face covering without assistance.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

The guidelines recommend the following considerations be made in district reopening plans:

  • Determine if face coverings (not PPE) are to be utilized by faculty/staff/students and what the LSS policy will be for adherence to the policy
  • Review procedures for sending ill persons home from the school facility
  • Determine if pre-designated entry and exit paths will be utilized
  • Determine pre-designated drop-off points for buses, parents
  • Determine if class changes are static (students remain in room, teachers change classrooms) or Fluid (Students change classrooms)
  • If fluid period/topic changes occur, determine:
    • Is locker use allowed, if not, secure from use
    • Determine distance and flow paths through facility, mark flooring, walls appropriately
    • Determine communication and outreach methods to students and parents for notification of above
    • Determine a “Use of restroom” policy that maintains distancing

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

The guidelines say that based on recommendations from the CDC, a 77-passenger bus would only be able to transport 8 students. The guidelines acknowledge districts may not be able to handle such transportation demands and offers the following ways to modify transportation:

  • Encouraging use of face coverings when use of alternate rows for seating is not possible.
  • Allowing siblings from the same household to sit together in the same seat.
  • Recommending passengers sit in the same seat going to and returning from the trip.
  • Allowing for alternate transportation arrangements, such as riding with a parent

Responses

Cheryl Bost, president of the Maryland State Education Association, criticized the guidelines for not providing enough specifics. “The newly released Maryland reopening plan is lacking in so many areas and punts on too many decisions,” she said.

Rhode Island’s Back to School RI

On June 19, Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) and Rhode Island Department of Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green released Back to School RI, the state’s guidance for reopening schools. It includes a blend of recommendations and requirements. The Rhode Island Department of Education required schools to submit reopening plans that take account of four different scenarios ranging from full in-person learning to full distance learning by July 17.

Gov. Raimondo, Commissioner Infante-Green, and Department of Health Director Nicole Alexander said in a joint statement on July 17, “Every step of the way, our state’s response to COVID-19 has been driven by science. We have rejected the false choice of an all-or-nothing approach and taken targeted, data-driven steps to keep Rhode Islanders safe. As we look toward reopening schools, we will continue to put public health first and to rely on facts and science in making the best decisions for the mental, physical, and intellectual needs of our students.”

Raimondo is expected to make a final announcement about when schools can reopen the week of Aug. 16. Previously, Raimondo said all schools would begin the year on Aug. 31.

According to EdWeek, public schools in Rhode Island typically start the academic year in late August or early September.

On Aug. 5, Raimondo announced schools in any city or town with more than 100 positive cases per 100,000 residents will be prohibited from fully returning students to classrooms for in-person instruction.

Raimondo first ordered schools to close on March 13. She extended that closure on March 30 and announced schools would not reopen to in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year on April 23.

Context

Rhode Island has a Democratic trifecta. The governor is a Democrat, and Democrats have majorities in both chambers of the state legislature. The state became a Democratic trifecta in 2013.

The following tables show public education statistics in Rhode Island, including a rank comparing it to the other 49 states. Rank one is the highest number of each figure, rank 50 is the lowest. All data comes from the Common Core of Data provided by the National Center for Education Statistics.

Rhode Island public school metrics
Category Figure 50-state rank
Per pupil spending (’16-’17) $11,531 36
Number of students (’18-’19) 138,444 45
Number of teachers (’16-17) 9,777 45
Number of public schools (’18-’19) 702 41
Student:teacher ratio (’18-’19) 14.1 34
Percent qualifying for free/reduced lunch (’16-’17) 37.9% 43
Rhode Island public school revenue
Category Figure 50-state rank
Total revenue $1,254,995,000 43
Percent from federal sources 8.1% 32
Percent from state sources 40.5% 39
Percent from local sources 51.3% 14

Details

District reopening plans

The Rhode Island Department of Education requires all schools to submit reopening plans based on Back to School RI.

In recognition of the uncertainty, the State is requiring all schools to prepare for different scenarios, in accordance with the guidelines established below. RIDE and RIDOH will continue to update this document, and others, as more public health information and guidance become available.

Public schools will be required to submit their plans to RIDE by July 17, and RIDE will give feedback given to each school on an ongoing basis through July 28. Each Local Educational Agency (LEA) will be required to make its plan available to families and post it on their schools’ website no later than July 31.

While this document is written for public LEAs, private schools are also required to complete school reopening plans that are in alignment with the provided guidance and template documents to ensure the health and safety of their school community. While private schools are not required to submit their plans to RIDE, they should be able to produce plans upon request by RIDOH if a positive case or outbreak occurs. Each private school is required to have its plan available on its website by July 31.

In-person, hybrid, and online learning

The plan asks schools to develop reopening plans for three different scenarios: limited in-person learning, partial in-person learning, and full in-person. Back to School RI covers a third scenario—full distance learning for all—but schools are not required to include that scenario in the plans they submit to the Rhode Island Department of Education.

Back to School RI includes general guidance for how the three in-person scenarios incorporate distance learning:

  • Full In-person: Students who are unable to attend in-person classes must be provided with distance learning. LEA plans should address how distance learning will be utilized for classes, groups of students, or individual students who are home sick, due to quarantine, or other reasons.
  • Partial In-person: Some students attend classes in person while others participate in distance learning. LEA plans should address how distance learning will be utilized for classes, groups of students, or individual students who are home sick, due to quarantine or other reasons.
  • Limited In-person: Many students participate in distance learning classes. LEA plans should address how distance learning will be utilized for classes, groups of students, or individual students who are home sick, due to quarantine, or other reasons.

Mask requirements

According to a Back to School RI FAQ posted on the Rhode Island Department of Education website, masks are required for all students, even when social distancing is possible. A previous version of Back to School RI did not require face masks in situations that allowed for social distancing.

Face coverings play a critical role in mitigating risk related to COVID-19. As of 7/29/2020, the Governor, Commissioner, and RIDOH have decided that face coverings are required for staff and students in the K-12 setting, even when students are in stable groups and socially distanced (6+ feet apart). Schools may want to refer to the CDC guidance for wearing face coverings. Schools should acquire additional face coverings for students and/or staff who may forget them or not have their own. Additionally, when necessary and if available, teachers may use clear face coverings to improve communication, but face shields do not replace the need to wear a face covering. Any visitor must also wear face coverings. Children should be provided with the opportunity for mask breaks when it is safe to do so.

In-person health recommendations and requirements

Back to School RI includes guidance on class and group size limits and classroom layouts for high school students and students in elementary and middle schools under the three scenarios outlined above:

  • Full In-person Reopening Scenario
  • Elementary and Middle Schools: These students will be required to maintain stable groups of up to 30 (analogous to the pod method for summer camp and childcare). This capacity includes both students and staff. Stable groups help to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus. It is still expected that individuals within stable groups maintain as much physical distance as possible. Stable groups are designed to spend all or most of the day together as a group. Each class/pod will be expected to physically distance (14 feet) from every other class/pod.
  • High Schools: Recognizing that it is more difficult to establish and maintain stable groups in a high school schedule, more than one approach is possible. Stable groups are recommended and should be maintained whenever possible (i.e., students should stay in the same classroom and teachers should rotate rooms whenever possible). If stable groups are not possible, high school students must maintain six feet of physical distance and require the wearing of face masks if maintaining six feet of distance is not possible.
  • Partial In-person Reopening Scenario
  • Elementary and Middle Schools: These students will be required to maintain stable groups of up to 30 (analogous to the pod method for summer camp and childcare). This capacity includes both students and staff. Stable groups help to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus. It is still expected that individuals within stable groups maintain as much physical distance as possible. Stable groups are designed to spend all or most of the day together as a group. Each class/pod will be expected to physically distance (14 feet) from every other class/pod
  • High Schools: High Schools can select which of the following requirements they will follow:
    • Stable groups (up to 30 people) should be maintained whenever possible (i.e., student groups should stay the same and teachers rotate whenever possible); or,
    • If not able to maintain stable groups, approximately 50% of the students in a high school can be present in person at any one time.
  • Limited In-person Reopening Scenario
  • Elementary and Middle Schools: These students will be required to maintain stable groups of 15 or fewer in classrooms. Stable groups help to mitigate the risk of spreading the virus. It is still expected that individuals within stable groups maintain as much physical distance as possible. Each class/pod will be expected to physically distance (14 feet) from every other class/pod.
  • High Schools: High Schools can pick which of the following two requirements they follow: o Smaller stable groups (maximum of 15) should be maintained whenever possible (i.e., student groups should stay the same and teachers rotate whenever possible); o If not able to maintain stable groups, approximately 25% of the students in a high school can be in person at any one time.

Guidance for classroom layouts and the use of school spaces include the following:

  • General Spacing and Movement: Stable groups must occupy consistent space as much as possible. This means each stable group uses the same classroom every day, the same entrance every day (if possible), the same hallways, bathrooms, and other areas of the school building. When shared space is used by multiple stable groups or by high school students who are not in stable groups, disinfecting must occur in between the times when stable groups or groups of high school students use the space. Equipment and materials in shared spaces and in classrooms should not change from one student to another. Whenever possible, shared objects should be limited to sharing within that stable group.

The plan requires schools in the partial and limited in-person reopening scenarios to use assigned seating in each classroom. The plan recommends that assigned seating be used even under the full in-person scenario. The plan also requires students to face the same direction as much as possible.

The plan requires the following for hallways:

  • Hallways: During reopening in the fall, outlining a plan for hallway use and minimizing congestion will be an important step in the planning process. LEA plans must include strategies such as staggered passing times or one-way traffic in hallways. Plans must include how lockers may be used, with the strong recommendation of having students carry backpacks instead of using lockers

Transportation and busing requirements and restrictions

Back to School RI includes guidance on busing and student transportation under the three scenarios outlined above:

Some of the recommendations and requirements under the full in-person reopening scenario include:

  • All students on buses are required to wear masks (with the exception of children younger than age two and anyone who has trouble breathing or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance).
  • Students using the bus are scheduled as a stable group, and the bus group is considered its own stable group
  • Hand sanitizer must be available and used when entering and exiting the bus.
  • Students are screened when getting on the bus and are seated to physically distance as much as possible.
  • All students have assigned seats on the bus and ride the same bus to and from school.
  • Students must sit one per seat, unless students are from the same household. Siblings and students from the same household should sit together.

The requirements are the same under the partial in-person reopening scenario, except that the overall capacity of the bus is reduced to 50%. Capacity is further reduced under the limited in-person reopening scenario to include one student person seat, using every other seat.

Additional activity

In this section, we feature examples of other federal, state, and local government activity, as well as influencers relevant to recovering from the pandemic.

  • Maricopa County Department of Public Health Director Marcy Flanagan said she believed schools in the metro Phoenix area were not yet ready to reopen. “We would not recommend in-class, teacher-led learning at this point,” Flanagan said. Flanagan said her department would release a data dashboard in the next week to help guide reopening decisions.
  • Boston Public Schools released a first draft of its reopening plan. The plan will allow parents to choose between a hybrid and remote learning model. The district set Sept. 10 as the first day of school.
  • Florida Education Association v. DeSantis: On Aug. 3, the Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, filed an emergency motion requesting a status conference in its case against Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and the Florida Commission of Education. The union is seeking to block a state order it alleges mandates that schools physically reopen five days a week or lose critical funding. In response, Judge Spencer Eig, of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, set a hearing for Aug. 6 in which he was expected to rule on whether the suit is currently in the proper court. In its original complaint, the union argued that the state’s emergency order to reopen physical school classrooms “imposes mandates that make it impossible to comply with CDC guidelines on physical distancing, hygiene, and sanitation.” The union also alleges the order “comes with severe pressure” to physically reopen schools, as only those schools with state-approved reopening plans will be granted flexibility on student enrollment reporting, including funding based on pre-COVID full-time enrollment forecasts. According to the union, the state order violates Article IX, Section 1(a), of the Florida Constitution, which mandates safety and security in public schools. The union also alleges the order is an “unreasonable, inconsistent, and arbitrary and capricious” deprivation of the plaintiffs’ due process rights. The union is seeking an “injunction to prohibit all named defendants from taking actions to unconstitutionally force millions of public school students and employees to report to brick and mortar schools that should remain closed during the resurgence of COVID-19 cases.” An attorney representing DeSantis said that if the case is not transferred to a different court, they will file an appeal.


D.C. voters to decide ballot initiative to stop criminal psilocybin mushrooms and other entheogenic plants and fungi in November

On August 5, the D.C. Board of Elections certified Initiative 81 for the November 3 ballot.

The ballot initiative would declare that police shall treat the non-commercial cultivation, distribution, possession, and use of entheogenic plants and fungi as among the lowest law enforcement priorities. The ballot initiative would define entheogenic plants and fungi as species of plants and fungi that contain ibogaine, dimethyltryptamine, mescaline, psilocybin, or psilocyn. Examples include psilocybin mushrooms—also known as magic mushrooms or shrooms—peyote, and iboga. The ballot initiative would also ask the D.C. Attorney General and U.S. Attorney for D.C. to cease the prosecution of residents who engage with entheogenic plants and fungi.

After verifying a random sampling, the board had concluded that 25,477 of the submitted signatures were valid and certified the measure for the ballot. A total of 24,836 signatures were required to qualify for the ballot.

The campaign Decriminalize Nature D.C. reported filing 36,249 signatures with the D.C. Board of Elections on the July 6 deadline. In Washington, D.C., the number of signatures required for a ballot initiative is equal to 5% of the district’s registered voters. Moreover, signatures from 5% of registered voters in five of eight city wards are required to meet the city’s distribution requirement.

The Washington, D.C. Council approved a bill on May 5, 2020, to allow petitions to be distributed, printed, signed, scanned (uploaded), and mailed to proponents rather than collected in person because of the coronavirus pandemic. Voters still needed to sign physical copies of the petitions. Decriminalize Nature D.C. mailed petitions to more than 220,000 households in Washington, D.C. Nikolas Schiller, the campaign’s field director, said that the campaign ended up receiving about 7,000 signatures by mail.

Oregon voters will decide an initiative to establish a psilocybin program in November 2020. If approved, the initiative would make Oregon the first state to legalize psilocybin. In 2019, voters in Denver, Colorado, approved Initiated Ordinance 301, which declared that the adult use and possession of psilocybin mushrooms were of the city’s lowest law enforcement priorities.

Additional reading:


Coronavirus weekly update: July 31 – August 6, 2020

Ballotpedia, The Encyclopedia of American Politics: Coronavirus Weekly Updates
The Coronavirus Weekly Update summarizes major changes due to the coronavirus pandemic in politics, government, and elections.

Today, you will find updates on the following topics, with comparisons to our previous edition released on July 30:

  • Stay-at-home orders
  • Federal responses
  • Lawsuits about state actions and policies
  • Election changes
  • Ballot measure changes
  • School closures and reopenings
  • Travel restrictions
  • State legislation
  • State legislative sessions
  • State courts
  • Eviction and foreclosure policies
  • Diagnosed or quarantined public officials


For daily news on state reopening plans and which industries and activities are permitted across the country, subscribe to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery.

State stay-at-home orders

Read more: States with lockdown and stay-at-home orders in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

As of Aug. 6, stay-at-home orders have ended in 41 states. Nineteen of those states have Republican governors and 22 have Democratic governors (including Wisconsin, where the state supreme court invalidated the stay-at-home order). Seven states never issued stay-at-home orders.

California and New Mexico, both of which have a Democratic governor, are the only remaining states with an active stay-at-home order.

Details:

  • New Mexico – Secretary of Health Kathyleen Kunkel extended the state’s stay-at-home order through Aug. 28.

School closures and reopenings

Read more: School closures in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • In March and April, 48 states closed schools to in-person instruction for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year. Those states accounted for 99.4% of the nation’s 50.6 million public school students. Montana and Wyoming did not require in-person instruction for the year. Montana schools were allowed to reopen on May 7 and Wyoming schools were allowed to reopen on May 15.
  • Seven states (Alabama, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, North Dakota, Nevada, and Wyoming) have reopened their campuses for students and staff.
    • No new states reopened campuses since July 30.
  • Sixteen states have released reopening guidance and also announced a scheduled reopening.
    • Three new states have done so since July 30.
  • One state has announced schools will reopen in the fall but has not released reopening guidance.
    • No new states made reopening announcements since July 30.
  • Officials in 21 other states have released guidance for reopening schools to in-person instruction, but have not indicated when or whether they plan to do so.
    • No new states released guidance for reopening schools since July 30.

Details:

  • Alabama – On Aug. 3, the Alabama Department of Public Health released an 85-page school reopening toolkit. It contains recommendations and guidelines for school districts to incorporate into their reopening plans.
  • Arkansas – On Aug. 4, Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said public schools in the state were still on track to reopen beginning Aug. 24. “We need to have school this year. Absolutely. I’m firm on that. The educators are firm on that. Public health is firm on [that]. We need to have school,” he said.
  • Connecticut – On July 30, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) said school districts would be able to choose between a full in-person and hybrid plan without needing state approval. Districts that want to use a fully remote model must apply for an exemption from the Department of Education.
  • Delaware – On Aug. 4, Gov. John Carney (D) announced public schools could reopen using a combination of in-person and remote learning starting in September.
  • Hawaii – On July 30, the State Board of Education voted to delay the start of the public school year until Aug. 17.
  • Indiana – On Aug. 3, Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) modified the mask mandate for schools to allow students to remove masks in a classroom when they can maintain three to six feet of distance between themselves and others.
  • Iowa – On July 30, Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) set requirements for public schools to seek a state waiver allowing them to provide online-only education. A school must have at least a 15% positive test rate in its county and a 10% absentee rate among students. Schools in counties with a 20% or higher positive test rate do not need to meet the absentee rate requirement. The waiver would allow a school to operate fully online for two weeks before re-applying for the waiver.
  • Maine – On July 31, the Maine Department of Education released guidance for reopening schools for the 2020-2021 school year. The guidance requires all staff and students age five and older to wear masks.
  • Mississippi – On Aug. 4, Gov. Tate Reeves (R) mandated that all students and teachers wear masks on school property. He delayed school reopenings in eight counties to Aug. 17. Previously, the counties were allowed to set their own start dates for the academic year.
  • New Jersey – Murphy announced all students will be required to wear face coverings in schools, with exceptions for students with disabilities.
  • Ohio – On Aug. 4, Gov. Mike Dewine (R) announced all K-12 students will be required to wear face coverings in public schools.
  • South Carolina – On July 31, Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman announced masks will be required in South Carolina public school facilities for staff and students in grades 2-12.
  • West Virginia – On Aug. 5, Gov. Jim Justice (R) released reopening guidance for public schools. Justice set a target reopening date of Sept. 8 and counties are required to submit their reopening plans by Aug. 14.

1918 influenza pandemic %28Spanish Flu%29 and the 1918 midterm election cycle

Read more: 1918 influenza pandemic (Spanish Flu) and the 1918 midterm election cycle.

The United States held midterm elections as scheduled during the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic. More than 50 million people perished from the disease worldwide, including about 675,000 in the U.S., making it one of the deadliest pandemics in recorded history. Each week, we’ll look back at a story from the 1918 elections to see how America met the challenges of holding elections during a national health emergency.

On Oct. 18, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on a resolution passed by Episcopal clergymen aimed at a Health Board ruling that closed churches but left stores open.

Declaring that there never was a time when prayer and supplication was more necessary, twenty-three clergymen of the Protestant Episcopal Church yesterday passed a resolution protesting against the closing churches of the epidemic influenza.

The resolutions were prepared and presented at a meeting called at the church house, Twelfth and Walnut streets, by Rev. Floyd W. Tomkins, rector of the Holy Trinity Church. Rev. Samuel Upjohn, of St. Luke’s Church, presided.

It was pointed out that the protest was not made with any intention of defying the rules of the Board of Health, but to assure the people that the services were suspended by the various rectors unwillingly and that in the opinion of those signing the resolution the ruling was wrong.

The resolution declares it is inconsistent to close the churches and yet allow people to crowd in cars and stores on the plea that “businesses must go on.” It further states, “It is more important to pray to God than to carry on business and that it is the opinion of the Protestants that god will care for his people when they meet to plead with Him.”

Click here to read the original article, courtesy of the University of Michigan Center for the History of Medicine and Michigan Publishing’s Influenza Encyclopedia.

Federal responses

Read more: Political responses to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • On Aug. 3, President Donald Trump (R) signed an executive order that made permanent certain regulatory changes that expanded telehealth services, especially in rural areas. On Aug. 4, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense announced a $2.1 billion deal with French pharmaceutical company Sanofi and British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline to develop and manufacture up to 100 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine for U.S. use.
  • On Aug. 5, the president announced the federal government would continue to fund the cost of National Guard units deployed to states through the end of the year, though at a lower level than before. Beginning Aug. 21, the federal government will reduce its level of funding for National Guard units assisting states with their coronavirus responses from 100% to 75% for most states. The federal government will continue to pay 100% of the cost for hard-hit states like Florida and Texas.

Lawsuits about state actions and policies

Read more: Lawsuits about state actions and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 632 lawsuits in 49 states dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 238 of those lawsuits.
    • Since July 30, we have added 66 lawsuits to our database. We have also tracked an additional 19 court orders and/or settlements.
  • Ballotpedia has separately tracked another 157 lawsuits in 40 states dealing with election issues during the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 86 of those lawsuits.

Here are three lawsuits that have either garnered significant national media attention or involve major advocacy groups.

New York v. United States Department of Labor:

  • On Aug. 3, Judge J. Paul Oetken of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York declared parts of the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) final rule implementing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) null and void. The FFCRA mandates that certain employers provide paid emergency sick and/or family leave to employees who are unable to work due to mandated COVID-19 quarantine or symptoms. The mandate extends to parents and guardians in the event of school or childcare unavailability. New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) argued the DOL violated the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) because the final rule restricts eligibility under the FFCRA in a manner that is “not authorized by, and conflicts with, the FFCRA. The state also argued the rule imposed additional burdens on employees seeking to claim benefits. As such, the DOL was denying “vital financial support and exposing millions of American workers and their communities to further transmission of infectious disease in the middle of a once-in-a-century pandemic.”
  • Oetken overturned the final rule’s work-availability requirement, which made employees ineligible for leave under the FFCRA if their employer had no work for them because of COVID-related slowdowns or temporary closures. Oetken also struck down:
    • The DOL’s broad definition of a non-eligible health care provider,
    • the requirement that an employee secure employer consent for intermittent leave, and
    • the requirement that documentation is provided before taking leave.
  • The remainder of the final rule was allowed to stand. Neither party has commented on the ruling, nor has the DOL indicated whether it will appeal or issue a new rule. Oetken is an appointee of Barack Obama (D).

Criswell v. Boudreaux:

  • On July 29, a group of inmates at the Tulare County Jails sued Sheriff Michael Boudreaux in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California, seeking the implementation of an array of COVID-19 safety measures. The plaintiffs are asking that the court issue an order directing Boudreaux to:
    • provide universal staff and inmate COVID-19 testing,
    • release inmates who are medically vulnerable and pose a low-flight-risk,
    • provide (and require staff to wear) personal protection equipment,
    • allow attorney access to incarcerated clients, and
    • quarantine those exposed to the novel coronavirus.
  • Plaintiffs allege that because Boudreaux has failed to implement CDC-recommended response measures, he has “actively interfered with incarcerated people’s ability to protect themselves.” The plaintiffs allege they have been placed in “imminent danger of serious illness or death from the virus.” Plaintiffs also allege Boudreaux’s visitation policy “has prevented incarcerated people from engaging in confidential attorney visits.” They say the policy interferes with “efforts to meet confidentially with civil rights attorneys about the appalling conditions in the jail.” The plaintiffs allege Boudreaux’s actions violate the First, Sixth, Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments. Boudreaux said, “We are doing everything that we can with the information and tools available to us to keep our inmates safe and healthy.”

United Food and Commercial Workers Union v. United States Department of Agriculture: 

  • On July 28, a group of unions representing poultry processing plant workers in multiple states filed suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Plaintiffs say increased processing demands have raised safety concerns. The suit seeks to set aside a 2018 USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) waiver. The waiver allows bird processing line speed to rise to a level the unions argue “could increase risk of injuries and illnesses among establishment employees.” According to the unions, though FSIS adopted a rule in 2014 capping the processing speed of poultry plants to 140 birds per minute, the 2018 waiver they are challenging  “now permits nearly 43 percent of all plants subject to that regulation to operate at 175 [birds per minute].” The unions also allege FSIS adopted the waiver program in violation of notice-and-comment procedures required by the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). A representative for the USDA declined to discuss the lawsuit, telling reporters the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Election changes

Read more: Changes to election dates, procedures, and administration in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview: 

  • Twenty states have postponed state-level primary or special elections.
    • No new states postponed elections since July 30.
  • Nineteen states have modified their candidate filing requirements.
    • No new state made candidate filing modifications since July 30.
  • Forty states have made modifications to their voting procedures.
    • Six states made voting procedure modifications since July 30.
  • Political parties in 19 states have made modifications to party events on a statewide basis.
    • No state parties made modifications to party events since July 30.

Details:

  • Connecticut: On July 31, Gov. Ned Lamont (D) signed HB6002 into law, allowing voters to cite concern over COVID-19 as a reason for voting by absentee ballot in the Nov. 3 general election.
  • Minnesota: On Aug. 3, a Minnesota district court approved a consent decree between the plaintiffs and the state defendants in LaRose v. Simon. Under the terms of the consent decree, state election officials agreed to waive the witness requirement for mail-in ballots cast in the Nov. 3 general election. The state also agreed to count all mail-in ballots postmarked on or before Nov. 3 and received within five business days of Election Day.
  • Nevada: On Aug. 3, Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) signed AB4 into law, directing election officials to automatically distribute mail-in ballots to all active registered voters in the Nov. 3 general election.
  • Pennsylvania: On July 31, Secretary of the Commonwealth Kathy Boockvar (D) announced the state would provide prepaid return postage for all mail-in and absentee ballots in the Nov. 3 general election.
  • Rhode Island: On July 31, Judge Mary McElroy of the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island approved a consent agreement reached by the parties in Common Cause Rhode Island v. Gorbea. Rhode Island officials agreed not to enforce witness or notary requirements for mail-in ballots in both the Sept. 8 primary and Nov. 3 general elections.
  • Tennessee: On Aug. 5, the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned a lower court order that had extended absentee voting eligibility to all voters during the course of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the state’s standard eligibility criteria would apply to the Nov. 3 general election. The state granted that “individuals with a special vulnerability to COVID-19” and “or caretakers for individuals with a special vulnerability to COVID-19” would meet the existing statutory criteria for absentee voting eligibility.

Ballot measure changes

Read more: Changes to ballot measure campaigns, procedures, and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • At least 19 lawsuits were filed in 13 states seeking court orders suspending or changing signature requirements and deadlines.
  • Rulings or settlements have been issued in 18 cases, with appeals and motions for stays pending in some.
  • Ballotpedia has tracked 27 statewide initiative petition drives that suspended signature gathering.
  • Seven states and D.C. changed ballot measure procedures through executive orders or legislative action.
  • At least four initiative campaigns initially targeting 2020 reported they would shift their focus to 2022.

Travel restrictions

Read more: Travel restrictions issued by states in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • Governors or state agencies in 25 states issued executive orders placing restrictions on out-of-state visitors. At least 13 of those orders have been rescinded.
    • Since July 30, one state implemented travel restrictions and four states modified their travel restrictions.

Details:

  • Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York – Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced on Aug. 4 that Rhode Island had been added to the quarantine list, requiring visitors from that state to quarantine for 14 days upon entering the tristate area. Delaware and Washington D.C. were removed from the list.
  • Florida – On Aug. 5, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) ended the requirement that travelers from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
  • Massachusetts – Gov. Charlie Baker’s order (R) requiring most travelers and returning residents to produce a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival or self-quarantine for 14 days went into effect on Aug. 1. Travelers from states classified as lower-risk, which included Connecticut, Vermont, and Hawaii, among others, were exempt from the test or quarantine requirements.

State legislation

Read more: State laws in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview: 

  • To date, 2,763 bills related to the coronavirus pandemic have been introduced in state legislatures.
    • We tracked 42 additional bills since July 30.
  • Of these, 383 significant bills have been enacted into law, 14 percent of the total number that has been introduced. This total omits ceremonial resolutions and legislation providing for procedural changes to legislative business.
    • We tracked six additional significant bills since July 30 (also omitting ceremonial resolutions and legislation providing for procedural changes to legislative business.)

State legislative session changes

Read more: Changes to state legislative session dates in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview: 

  • Six state legislatures have suspended their sessions. All six of those have since reconvened.
  • Thirty-eight legislatures have either adjourned or are not scheduled to be in regular session this year.
  • Five state legislatures are in regular session.
  • One state legislature is in special session.
    • One state legislature has convened a special session since July 30.

Details:

  • Nevada – The Nevada Legislature convened a special session on July 31.

State court changes

Read more: State court closures in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • Thirty-four states suspended in-person proceedings statewide
    • Since July 30, no courts extended restrictions on in-person proceedings and the suspension of jury trials.
  • Sixteen states suspended in-person proceedings at the local level

Details:

  • Colorado – Jury trials were allowed to resume on a limited basis on Aug. 3 if a Chief Judge of a judicial district determined the jury pool could be safely assembled consistent with health directives and executive orders.
  • Kentucky – Criminal jury trials were permitted to resume on Aug. 1, so long as the trial judge overseeing the trial determined that conditions were safe. Civil jury trials were set to resume Oct. 1.
  • Massachusetts – On Aug. 4, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s Jury Management Advisory Committee released recommendations for resuming jury trials. The Committee recommended a phased resumption of jury trials, with the first phase beginning in mid-August at a single location.
  • Wyoming – On Aug. 3, jury trials were allowed to resume on a limited basis. The Wyoming Supreme Court encouraged the use of video for most hearings until at least Oct. 5, when the judicial emergency is scheduled to end.

Eviction and foreclosure policies

Read more: Changes to rent, mortgage, eviction, and foreclosure policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

Overview:

  • Twenty states have moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures in place.
    • Since July 30, one state ended a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures. One state extended a moratorium.
  • Twenty-two states have ended moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures.
  • California has current local moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures.
  • Seven states did not issue a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures on the state or local level.

Details:

  • Indiana – On July 30, Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) extended the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through Aug. 14.
  • Kentucky – In a July 27 order, the Kentucky Supreme Court allowed eviction proceedings to resume on Aug. 1. Gov. Andy Beshear’s (D) moratorium on evictions remained in place, however. Three apartment owners are challenging the moratorium challenged in a federal lawsuit.
  • Maine – On Aug. 3, the Maine Supreme Court allowed eviction proceedings to resume.

Diagnosed or quarantined politicians identified by Ballotpedia

Read more: Politicians, candidates, and government officials diagnosed with or quarantined due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2020

  • Federal
    • Ten members of Congress have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • Forty-three federal officials quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • State
    • Four state-level incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • Seventy state-level incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19
    • Seventy-five state-level incumbents or candidates quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.
  • Local
    • At least two local incumbents or candidates have died of COVID-19.
    • At least 21 local incumbents or candidates have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
    • At least 26 local incumbents or candidates quarantined after possible exposure to COVID-19.

Since July 30, one governor, two state representatives, and two members of Congress have tested positive for coronavirus. One state representative self-quarantined.

Details:

  • Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced Aug. 6 he tested positive for coronavirus after a routine health screening hours before he was supposed to meet with the president.
  • Michigan state Sen. Tom Barrett (R), who represents District 24, announced on Aug. 2  he had tested positive for coronavirus.
  • Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who represents Arizona’s 3rd Congressional District, announced he tested positive for coronavirus on Aug. 1.
  • Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), who represents Illinois’ 13th Congressional District, announced on Aug. 6 he tested positive for coronavirus.
  • Texas state Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R), who represents District 94, announced on July 31 he tested positive for and was hospitalized because of coronavirus.
  • Ohio state Rep. Stephanie Howse (D), who represents District 11, announced she tested positive for coronavirus on July 6.
  • Louisiana Judge Richard “Chip” Moore III, who sits on the 19th Judicial District, Division N of East Baton Rouge Parish, was hospitalized with coronavirus in early July.
  • Pennsylvania state Rep. John Galloway (D), who represents District 140, announced on Aug. 3 he would be self-quarantining after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for coronavirus.

Learn more

Click here to learn more.



Alaska State Rep. killed in airplane crash

Alaska House of Representatives District 30 member Gary Knopp (R) died in a plane crash near the city of Soldatna, Alaska, on August 1. The Juneau Empire reported that a plane piloted by Knopp collided with another plane just outside of the Soldatna airport.

Knopp was running for re-election in 2020, and his name will still appear on the ballot in the Republican primary on August 18. According to the Anchorage Daily News, if Knopp wins the primary election, Alaska Republican Party officials will name a replacement candidate in the general election scheduled on November 3, 2020. Knopp was first elected to represent District 30 in 2016.

Additional reading:


Trump and RNC raise $165 million in July, topping Biden and DNC’s $145 million

Ballotpedia's Daily Presidential News Briefing
August 6, 2020: Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee raised $165 million in July. Joe Biden and other speakers will not travel to Milwaukee for the Democratic National Convention.


Campaign Ad Comparison
DPNB campaign ad comparison feature, 2020 ("Made in America" – Joe Biden)

DPNB campaign ad comparison feature, 2020 ("Cards" – Donald Trump)

Notable Quote of the Day

“The fact that Biden and Trump are taking such radically different approaches to person-to-person voter outreach may be something of a wild card in the election.

Trump’s team sees its field program, which has been up and running in several states for months, as a major advantage. Biden’s campaign hired senior aides in some swing states, including Pennsylvania, as late as July.

Democrats, on the other hand, say that virtual organizing helped Jill Karofsky win a state Supreme Court race in Wisconsin earlier this year. Progressive insurgents around the country have also successfully built online volunteer operations recently.”

– Holly Otterbein, Politico

Election Updates

  • The Democratic National Convention Committee announced Wednesday that Joe Biden and other speakers would not travel to Milwaukee for the national convention. Biden will instead accept the nomination from Delaware.

  • The Biden campaign released a national ad targeting Black voters on Thursday. “And just like our ancestors who stood up to the violent racists of a generation ago, we will stand up to this president and say, ‘No more,’” the ad’s narrator says.

  • Club for Growth is launching a $5 million advertising campaign in Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin attacking Biden for opposing emergency parental choice grants for school. The ad will begin airing on August 10 and run for three weeks.

  • Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee (RNC) announced on Wednesday that they raised $165 million in July, topping the $140 million raised by Biden and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in the same month. Trump and the RNC ended the month with more than $300 million on hand, while Biden and the DNC had $294 million.

  • Facebook removed a video from Trump’s personal page where he said in an interview that children were almost immune from COVID-19. Twitter removed a similar tweet from Trump’s election campaign account. Both companies said the posts violated their rules regarding coronavirus misinformation.

  • Representing the Trump campaign, Rudy Giuliani sent a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates requesting a fourth debate be held in early September before states begin sending out absentee ballots. If not, Giuliani said the third debate should be moved from October 22 to the first week in September.

  • Jo Jorgensen will make a campaign stop in Nashville on Thursday as part of her #BrakeTheBus tour.

Flashback: August 6, 2016

Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka received the Green Party’s nominations for president and vice president, respectively.blank

Click here to learn more.



Minneapolis voters will not see police department removal charter amendment in November after the charter commission votes to take more time for review

Minneapolis voters will not decide on a charter amendment in November to remove the city’s police department and replace it with a Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention. On August 5, the Minneapolis Charter Commission voted 10-5 to take an additional 90 days to evaluate the proposal.

This effectively blocked the measure from the November 2020 ballot, although it could still appear on a later ballot. The city council’s deadline to add the measure to the November 2020 ballot is August 21. The city council is not able to vote on the measure until the charter commission returns it.

The charter amendment would have:
  1. Removed all references to the city’s police department from the city charter.
  2. Added a section establishing the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention, and the director of the new department.
  3. Allowed a Division of Law Enforcement Services within the new department that would have been made up of licensed peace officers and would have had a director appointed by the director of the Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention.

Under the existing charter provisions, the mayor has authority over the police department and nominates the police chief, who must be confirmed by the city council. The existing charter also requires the city council to provide funding to the police department to provide for “a police force of at least 0.0017 employees per resident.”

This proposed amendment would have made the city council responsible for establishing and funding the proposed Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention and given the city council authority to establish the Division of Law Enforcement Services within the department. The director of the proposed Department of Community Safety and Violence Prevention would have been nominated by the mayor and confirmed by the city council.

Following the killing of George Floyd and the resulting demonstrations and protests, the  Minneapolis City Council voted unanimously on June 26, 2020, to send the proposed charter amendment to the Minneapolis Charter Commission for review. Under the process for charter amendments set by state law, the charter commission must review proposed amendments and make recommendations to the city council. The city council does not have to follow the commission’s recommendation, but cannot vote to send a charter amendment to the ballot until the recommendation is made. The charter commission has a maximum of 150 days to review proposals from the city council.

The charter commission considered its own amendment that would have removed the minimum funding requirement for the police department from the charter. On July 29, the charter commission voted 8-6 against referring it to the ballot.

Charter Commissioner Gregory Abbott said, “[the charter] should not be cluttered up with the policy disputes of the moment. We don’t know what challenges the city will face in 10 years or 20 years or even in 50 years. It [the charter amendment] proposes permanently moving the city’s law enforcement function down to a sub-department two levels removed from supervision by elected officials. The council’s proposal even specifies the professional qualifications of the head of the new department, details more appropriate in my opinion for a zip recruiter ad than for a charter provision. Now these ideas may well be good under the circumstances but they should be enacted as part of an ordinance not included in the charter itself. There is another problem I have with the charter amendment. The proposal radically reduces the power of the mayor and transfer those powers in their entirety to the city council.”

Councilmember Jeremiah Ellison responded to the commission’s vote, “It is our legacy in the US to use voting to decide our future, whether that be by representative democracy or direct democracy. It is not our legacy to use bureaucratic processes to circumvent the people in an attempt to ‘protect’ voters from themselves. That is not democracy. In a democracy, the people decide. But I guess today the Charter Commission decided otherwise.”

Mayor Jacob Frey, who opposes the charter amendment, said, “I look forward to working with Chief Arradondo, my council colleagues, and community to transform the culture of policing in our city in the months ahead. Now it is on all of us to roll up our sleeves and dig into this work together.”

This is not the first time that the Minneapolis City Council has proposed a charter amendment concerning the police department, and the charter commission has declined to expedite its review to meet a general election deadline. On August 3, 2018, the Minneapolis City Council voted 7-5 to send a charter amendment proposal to the Minneapolis Charter Commission that would have repealed provisions in the charter giving the mayor complete control over the city’s police department. The measure would have, instead, allowed rules and regulations for the police department to come from both the city council and the mayor. The charter commission did not make a recommendation to the city council in time for the city council to put the measure on the November 2018 ballot. Instead, the commission ordered a task force to create a report on the proposal. The commission ultimately recommended against the charter amendment in January 2019.

In the weeks after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis, Minnesota, police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25, 2020, nationwide demonstrations and protests were held calling for changes to policing. Officials responded by issuing executive orders and passing legislation to eliminate certain policing tactics, such as chokeholds, and implement new community policing strategies.

Voters in at least half a dozen cities and counties—including San Francisco, Los Angeles County, and Sonoma County, California; King County, Washington; Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Columbus, Ohio; and Portland, Oregon―will decide ballot measures in November concerning law enforcement oversight, structure, funding, policies, and staffing levels. Stay tuned to Ballotpedia for an overview of this ballot measure trend as it develops.

Additional reading:


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