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U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney (R) announces 2020 retirement

On October 19, Rep. Francis Rooney (R) announced that he would not seek re-election in Florida’s 19th Congressional District in 2020. He was first elected to Congress in 2016; he won an open-seat race to replace Rep. Curt Clawson (R). Rooney won his second term in 2018 with 62.3% of the general election vote.
Rooney’s announcement was made on the Fox News television channel. He said, “I’ve done what I came to do. And I want to be a model for term limits. […] I thought the idea was you came and did your public service and left, you accomplish what you want to accomplish and you left. And that’s what I want to be an example to do. And I’m also really tired of the intense partisanship that seems to stop us from solving the big questions that America needs solved.”
His retirement creates an open-seat race in the district. The candidate filing deadline to run is June 12, 2020. The primary is scheduled for August 18, and the general election is on November 3, 2020.
Rooney is the 18th Republican member of the U.S. House to announce he would not seek re-election in 2020. Six Democratic members of the U.S. House have also announced their intention not to seek re-election.
Democrats hold a 234-197 majority in the U.S. House with three vacancies and one independent member of the chamber. In November 2020, all 435 seats will be up for election. Ballotpedia has identified 71 U.S. House races as general election battlegrounds. Of the 71 seats, 42 are held by Democrats and 29 are held by Republicans.

Williamson is first 2020 presidential candidate to complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey

Author Marianne Williamson is the first 2020 presidential candidate to complete Ballotpedia’s Candidate Connection survey, answering questions about her personal beliefs, professional background, and political priorities.
Williamson describes the effect A Course in Miracles had on her life and why she thinks the United States needs “a season of moral repair.” She also discusses reparations, money in politics, and the quality Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump have in common.
We will continue to highlight noteworthy responses to the Candidate Connection survey in the Brew. Up next in Monday’s edition, Beto O’Rourke shares his vision for a 28th, 29th, and 30th Amendment.
Highlights from Williamson’s responses:
What legacy would you like to leave?
“A legacy of love that transforms politics and government to benefit We the People.”
What should a 28th Amendment to the Constitution say?
“Overturn Citizens United. Limit money in politics.”
What do you support that the majority of your party opposes?
“I am the first presidential candidate to advocate for reparations, and the only one with a plan for how to do it.
In many ways, America has continued the process of racial reconciliation begun in the 1960’s. Yet in other ways, we have actually slipped backward. Yes, there are no more colored bathrooms and separate drinking fountains. But we now have mass incarceration; racial disparity in criminal sentencing; lost voting rights; outright voter suppression; and police brutality often focused on black populations.
Tepid solutions are not enough for the times in which we live; we need huge, strategized acts of righteousness, now. Just as Germany has paid $89 Billion in reparations to Jewish organizations since WW2, the United States should pay reparations for slavery. A debt unpaid is still a debt unpaid, even if it’s 150 years later. The legacy of that injustice lives on, with racist policies infused into our systems even to this day. From employment and housing discrimination, to equal access to quality education in underserved communities, to police brutality/prejudice, to lack of fair lending practices, to lack of access to quality healthcare, to insecure voting rights, America has not yet completed the task of healing our racial divide.
For that reason, I propose a $200 billion – $500 billion plan of reparations for slavery, the money to be disbursed over a period of twenty years. An esteemed council of African-American leaders would determine the educational and economic projects to which the money would be given.”

U.S. Senate confirms four U.S. District Court nominees

The U.S. Senate has confirmed four nominees to U.S. District Court judgeships. Overall, the Senate has confirmed 156 of President Trump’s Article III judicial nominees—two Supreme Court justices, 43 appellate court judges, 109 district court judges, and two U.S. Court of International Trade judges—since January 2017. At the end of the 115th Congress in January 2019, the Senate had confirmed 85 of the president’s judicial nominees.
The confirmed nominees were:
  • David Novak, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. After he receives his judicial commission and takes his oath, the court will have one vacancy, five Republican-appointed judges, and five Democrat-appointed judges.
  • Frank Volk, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia. After he receives his judicial commission and takes his oath, the court will have no vacancies, two Republican-appointed judges, and three Democrat-appointed judges.
  • Charles Eskridge III, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. After he receives his judicial commission and takes his oath, the court will have one vacancy, 10 Republican-appointed judges, and eight Democrat-appointed judges.
  • Rachel Kovner, confirmed to a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York. After she receives her judicial commission and takes her oath, the court will have four vacancies, five Republican-appointed judges, and six Democrat-appointed judges.
Three of the nominees—Kovner, Novak, and Volk—were confirmed nearly unanimously with the Senate voting 88-3, 89-3, and 92-0, respectively. The Senate vote to confirm Eskridge was closer at 61-31.
There are 94 U.S. District Courts. They are the general trial courts of the United States federal court system.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) dies

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) died October 17 due to complications from longstanding health challenges, according to a statement from his congressional office. He was first elected to Congress in 1996. Before that, Cummings served 14 terms in the Maryland House of Delegates and was the first African American in Maryland to be named Speaker Pro Tempore. He was the Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Cummings won re-election in 2018 with 76% of the vote. He received 91.5% of the vote in the 2018 Democratic primary for the 7th District in a five-candidate field.
Democrats currently hold a 234-197 majority in the House of Representatives, with one independent member and three vacancies. In November 2020, all 435 seats will be up for election.

Early voting underway in some Kansas counties

Voters in some Kansas counties could begin casting early ballots in person on Oct. 16 for the Nov. 5 general election. The exact start dates for early voting vary between Oct. 16 and Oct. 29. Click the Kansas Secretary of State office link at the bottom of this post to find contact information for your county election office. Early voting ends in all counties at noon on Nov. 4.
Kansas is holding elections for the following, in addition to other elections beyond Ballotpedia’s coverage scope:
  • 19 school board seats in five school districts
  • Mayor of Wichita
  • Three of six seats on the Wichita City Council
  • One statewide ballot measure
The five school districts holding elections are:
  • Circle USD 375
  • Goddard USD 265
  • Haysville USD 261
  • Maize USD 266
  • Wichita Public Schools
Three of Wichita’s seven school board seats are up for election. In each of the other districts, four out of seven school board seats are up for election.
Wichita’s municipal elections and four of the five school district elections (all but Circle USD) take place in Sedgwick County. Early voting in Sedgwick County runs Oct. 21-25, Oct. 28-Nov. 1, and until noon on Nov. 4.
All of Kansas will also vote on a legislatively referred constitutional amendment, Senate Concurrent Resolution 1605. The amendment would end the state’s practice of adjusting the U.S. Census population regarding military personnel and students when redistricting the Kansas State Legislature.

Minnesota Supreme Court rules city of Brainerd engaged in unfair labor practices

In a 5-2 decision issued Oct. 9, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled the city of Brainerd engaged in unfair labor practices when it restructured the fire department. The city eliminated the positions of five full-time fire equipment operato

rs who were members of Firefighters Union Local 4725. The move effectively dissolved the union.

Who are the parties to the suit?
The plaintiff, Firefighters Union Local 4725, et al., was represented by Meyer Njus Tanick, PA. The defendant, the city of Brainerd, was represented by Everett & VanderWiel, P.L.L.P.

What was at issue?
Firefighters Union Local 4725 sued the city of Brainerd after it eliminated five union positions. The Crow Wing County District Court ruled in favor of the city. However, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the ruling, finding that Minn. Stat. § 179A.13 prohibited the city from interfering with the existence of employee organizations and therefore that the city had engaged in unfair labor practice.

The city appealed the case to the state supreme court, arguing that the restructuring was authorized under Minn. Stat. § 179A.07 as “inherent managerial policy.”

  • In Minnesota, there is a state supreme court, a state court of appeals, and a district court system.

How did the court rule?
In the majority opinion, Justice David Lillehaug wrote, “Although our reasoning differs in part from that of the court of appeals, we hold that the City engaged in an unfair labor practice prohibited by Minn. Stat. § 179A.13, subd. 2(2). Therefore, we affirm the court of appeals’ decision that the district court erred by failing to grant summary judgment to the Local on the PELRA claim.”

Chief Justice Lorie Gildea and Justice Barry Anderson dissented. Gildea wrote in her dissent that “the majority prioritizes the protections in section 179A.13 and nullifies the powers in section 179A.07. Because the majority departs from our obligation to give effect to both statutes, I respectfully dissent.”

  • In Minnesota, supreme court justices are elected to six-year terms in nonpartisan elections. In the event of a vacancy, the governor appoints a replacement who must then stand for election at the next general election at least one year after the appointment. Currently, five justices on the court were appointed by a Democratic governor and two justices were appointed by a Republican governor. This case was decided along party lines.

What are the responses?

  • Attorney Marshall Tanick, who represented the union, said the case “upholds the sanctity of contracts in the workplace for labor unions and all working people for that matter.”
  • Attorney Pamela VanderWiel, who represented the city, said, “I think with every subsequent decision we’ve gotten, the law has gotten more confusing, rather than easier to apply.”

What comes next?
According to the Brainerd Dispatch, “With the reversal by the Minnesota Supreme Court, the case will go back to the Brainerd district courtroom for a decision on a remedy.”

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 102 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

Union Station map October 18, 2019.png

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

Union Station status chart October 18, 2019.png

Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

Union Station partisan chart October 18, 2019.png.png

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of legislative actions taken since our last issue. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • California AB314: This bill would require employers to grant employees paid time off for certain union activities.
    • Vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 12, 2019.

Lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania to invalidate the Marsy’s Law ballot measure on the state’s November ballot

In November, Pennsylvania will be the 13th state to vote on Marsy’s Law, an amendment to add crime victims’ rights to the state constitution. The ballot measure would create 15 constitutional rights for crime victims.
Lorraine Haw, along with the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania (LWV), filed litigation to invalidate the ballot measure on October 10, 2019. The lawsuit argues that the measure violates the separate-vote requirement for constitutional amendments. Article XI of the Pennsylvania Constitution reads, “When two or more amendments shall be submitted they shall be voted upon separately.” The legal complaint said Haw, a registered voter of Pennsylvania, “cannot vote for the parts of the amendment she agrees with without voting for other things she disagrees with,” which violates her rights. Acting Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar (D) was named as the defendant.
Boockvar filed her response to the complaint on October 16, 2019. Boockvar said, “The Crime Victims’ Rights Amendment pertains to a single subject matter — securing victims’ rights in the criminal case in which they suffered direct harm. Every single subpart of the amendment advances this one goal.” The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court has scheduled a hearing for October 23, 2019, but a ruling could be appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Courts have struck down Marsy’s Law in Kentucky and Montana. In Kentucky, the state Supreme Court ruled on June 12, 2019, that the ballot language did not provide enough information to communicate the amendment’s substance to voters. On November 1, 2017, the Montana Supreme Court ruled that the Marsy’s Law ballot measure violated the state’s separate-vote requirement.
The Pennsylvania State Legislature placed Marsy’s Law on the ballot after approving the proposal during two consecutive legislation sessions (2018 and 2019). The proposal received unanimous support in 2018. In 2019, the proposal received unanimous support in the state Senate, while seven Democrats and one Republican voted against the proposal in the 203-member state House. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) announced his support for Marsy’s Law in April 2018, saying, “Marsy’s Law will amend the state constitution to provide crime victims with equal protections and participation in the process. Victims and their families deserve equity.”
The ACLU of Pennsylvania is opposed to Marsy’s Law. Andy Hoover, communications director for the ACLU of Pennsylvania, said, “Contrast these [defendants’ rights] with victims’ rights, which arise out of a dispute between two private people. One person’s rights against another person are fundamentally different than a person’s rights against the awesome power of the government. This is why our Constitution, which lays out the restrictions on government power, includes defendants’ rights and why victims’ rights are primarily contained in statute.”
Through September 16, 2019, the campaign Marsy’s Law for Pennsylvania has received $6 million from the national organization Marsy’s Law for All Foundation. Henry Nicholas, co-founder of Broadcom Corp, founded Marsy’s Law for All Foundation. Marsy’s Law is named after Nicholas’ sister, who was murdered in 1983.

Maine will hold a statewide vote on a ballot measure addressing vaccination requirements at presidential primary

On October 17, 2019, Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap announced that the campaign Mainers for Health and Parental Rights filed enough signatures for a veto referendum on whether religious and philosophical exemptions from vaccination requirements should be eliminated. The referendum will be on the ballot for the election on March 3, 2020, which will also feature the presidential primary.
Mainers for Health and Parental Rights needed to gather 63,067 valid signatures. The campaign filed 95,871 raw signatures, and Dunlap said that 79,056 signatures were valid. The campaign had raised $176,129 through September 30, 2019, and spent $154,982.
The veto referendum seeks to repeal Legislative Document 798 (2019), which would eliminate religious and philosophical exemptions from vaccination requirements for students to attend schools and colleges and employees of healthcare facilities. The elimination of religious and philosophical exemptions would go into effect on September 1, 2021. LD 798 would allow students with individualized education plans (IEPs) and who had a religious or philosophical exemption before September 1, 2021, to continue receiving the exemption while in school with a valid statement from a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant.
Maine was the fourth state to prohibit non-medical exemptions from vaccination for students to attend schools. LD 798, however, is now suspended until voters decide the bill’s fate. New York passed a similar law a few weeks after Maine to eliminate non-medical exemptions for students. The other three states are West Virginia, Mississippi, and California.
It’s been 97 years since voters across a state decided a vaccination-related ballot measure. In 1922, Washington voters repealed a law to remove vaccination requirements for school attendance. California, along with Maine, could also vote on vaccination requirements in 2020. In California, veto referendums were filed to overturn laws to create a system for reviewing and rejecting medical exemptions from vaccination.
The veto referendum is the first ballot measure certified in Maine for 2020. The deadline to file signatures for initiatives to appear on the November 2020 ballot is February 2. The legislature can also refer statutes, such as bond issues, and constitutional amendments to the ballot during the 2020 legislative session. Between 1996 and 2018, an average of six measures appeared on even-year statewide ballots in Maine.
Maine voters have decided 30 statewide veto referendums. In 18 cases, voters repealed the targeted legislation. In 12 cases, voters upheld the targeted legislation.

New federal court vacancy after judge assumes senior status

On October 15, U.S. District Court Judge Joan Ericksen assumed senior status in the District of Minnesota, which created a vacancy on that court. Ericksen had first joined the court in 2002 after being nominated by President George W. Bush (R).
As of October 18, there were 98 Article III vacancies in the federal judiciary out of 870 total Article III judgeships, and there were 37 presidential nominees awaiting a hearing with the Senate Judiciary Committee. Another 15 nominees were awaiting a committee vote, and 23 other nominees were awaiting a confirmation vote in the full U.S. Senate.
The United States District Court for the District of Minnesota now has six active Article III judges:
  • John Tunheim – nominated by President William J. Clinton (D)
  • Patrick Schiltz – nominated by President George W. Bush (R)
  • Susan Richard Nelson – nominated by President Barack Obama (D)
  • Wilhelmina M. Wright – nominated by President Barack Obama (D)
  • Nancy E. Brasel – nominated by President Donald J. Trump (R)
  • Eric Tostrud – nominated by President Donald J. Trump (R)
The court has eight judges on senior status, including Ericksen. The other seven judges on senior status are:
  • Michael James Davis – nominated by President William J. Clinton (D)
  • Richard Kyle – nominated by President George H.W. Bush (R)
  • David Doty – nominated by President Ronald Reagan (R)
  • Paul Magnuson – nominated by President Ronald Reagan (R)
  • Donovan Frank – nominated by President William J. Clinton (D)
  • Ann Montgomery – nominated by President William J. Clinton (D)
  • Donald Alsop – nominated by President Richard Nixon (R)
The United States District Court for the District of Minnesota is one of 94 United States district courts, which are the general trial courts of the nation’s federal court system and where both civil and criminal cases are filed. The District of Minnesota’s main courthouse is based in Minneapolis.

Colorado vote-by-mail and in-person voting dates for Nov. 5 election

The deadline for county clerks to mail ballots to eligible voters for the November 5 elections in Colorado passed on October 18. Colorado uses a vote-by-mail system, meaning ballots are sent to voters through the mail and most are returned by mail, at designated drop boxes, or in person at designated locations.
Ballots must be received by county clerks by 7:00 pm on Election Day. The Colorado Secretary of State’s office says, “Postmarks do not count; ballots must be in the hands of the county clerk by 7:00 PM on Election Day in order to be counted.”
Coloradans may also cast ballots and register to vote in person at voter service and polling centers (VSPCs). Each county will have at least one VSPC open from Oct. 28 to Nov. 5 (except Sunday, Nov. 3).
See the Colorado Secretary of State’s FAQ page linked at the bottom of this post for information on tracking the status of mail ballots, finding ballot drop-off and polling locations, and more.
Colorado is holding elections for the following, in addition to other elections beyond Ballotpedia’s coverage scope:
  • 47 school board seats in 16 school districts
  • Five of 10 seats on the Aurora City Council
  • Mayor of Aurora
  • Three of nine seats on the Colorado Springs City Council
  • Mayor of Colorado Springs
  • All 13 Denver City Council seats
  • Mayor, city auditor, and city clerk and recorder of Denver
  • A recall election in Cripple Creek-Victor School District RE-1
The school districts holding elections are:
  • Academy School District 20
  • Adams 12 Five Star Schools
  • Aurora Public Schools
  • Bennett School District
  • Cherry Creek School District
  • Cheyenne Mountain School District 12
  • Colorado Springs School District 11
  • Denver Public Schools
  • Douglas County School District
  • Falcon School District 49
  • Harrison School District Two
  • Jeffco Public Schools
  • Manitou Springs School District 14
  • School District 27J
  • St. Vrain Valley School District
  • Widefield School District 3
Colorado voters will also vote on two legislatively referred state statutes, Proposition CC and Proposition DD:
  • Proposition CC would allow the state to retain revenue above the state spending cap to provide funding for transportation and education. The state is currently required to refund the revenue under the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR).
  • Proposition DD would authorize sports betting in Colorado and authorize the legislature to levy a tax of 10% on those conducting sports betting operations. Revenue generated from the tax on sports betting would be used to create and fund the Water Plan Implementation Cash Fund. Voters will also decide on local ballot measures.