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Official results confirm that Denver is the first U.S. city to decriminalize psilocybin mushrooms

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


Five states sue over Medicaid rule barring union dues payroll deductions for home health care workers

On May 13, attorneys general in five states – California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington – filed suit in U.S. District Court against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). They seek to overturn an HHS final rule, issued May 6 barring states from making Medicaid payments to third parties on behalf of individual home health care providers. The rule applies to voluntary payroll deductions made to pay union dues    

  • Who are the parties to the suit? The plaintiffs include the attorneys general for California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington (Xavier Becerra, William Tong, Maura Healey, and Ellen Rosenblum, respectively). Oregon Governor Kate Brown also joined the suit as a plaintiff. The defendants are the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and its secretary, Alex Azar.
    • Political context: In all five states, the attorneys general are Democrats. Four of the five states – California, Connecticut, Oregon, and Washington – are Democratic trifectas (in Massachusetts, a Republican controls the governorship, but Democrats control both chambers of the state legislature).
  • What are the responses?
    • In their initial complaint, the plaintiffs said, “[The] Final Rule would undermine laws and agreements that have improved the provision of homecare to the States’ residents. It would disrupt well-established collective bargaining relationships and weaken an organized workforce infrastructure that the States have authorized as a result of provider self-organization and in order to channel labor relations in a productive and cooperative manner that contributes to the building, training, and mobilization of Medicaid homecare workforces.”
    • In commentary accompanying the complete text of the final rule, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said: “This rule merely forecloses the ability of a practitioner to assign a portion of his or her Medicaid payment to a union. However, other means remain available. A provider may voluntarily agree to automatic credit card or bank account deductions to pay for union dues once 100 percent of reimbursement has been received.”
  • The case, California v. Azar (case number 4:19-cv-02552), was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

 

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We are currently tracking 100 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.

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status:

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

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of legislative actions taken in the last week. 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 for certain union activities.
    • Assembly Appropriations Committee hearing May 16.
  • Oregon HB2016: This bill would require public employers to grant paid time to employees participating in certain union activities. It would also require employers to furnish unions with access to employees.
    • Senate Workforce Committee work session scheduled for May 21.
  • Oregon HB3009: This bill would require public employers to provide unions with access to new employees. It would also permit individuals who are not members to make payments in lieu of dues to unions.
    • Senate Workforce Committee work session scheduled for May 23.


Pair of runoffs on Tuesday for Phoenix City Council

Special general runoff elections for Districts 5 and 8 of the Phoenix City Council are being held on Tuesday. The nonpartisan runoff was called because no candidate received at least 50 percent of the vote in the special election held on March 12. The filing deadline for candidates who wished to run in the election was December 12, 2018.
 
In the District 5 race, incumbent Vania Guevara faces challenger Betty Guardado, while newcomers Carlos Garcia and Michael Johnson are competing in District 8.
 
The special election became necessary after former District 5 representative Daniel Valenzuela and former District 8 representative Kate Gallego both resigned to run for mayor of Phoenix in a special election on November 6, 2018. They advanced to a special runoff election on March 12, 2019, where Gallego defeated Valenzuela.
 
Phoenix is the largest city in Arizona and the sixth-largest city in the U.S. by population.
 
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May 17 filing deadline for Fresno special election

The city of Fresno, California, is holding a nonpartisan special election for the District 2 seat on the city council on August 13. A runoff election is scheduled for November 5. The filing deadline for this election is May 17.
 
The District 2 city council seat was previously held by Steve Brandau. He was first elected to the seat in 2012. Brandau stepped down in April 2019 after winning the District 2 seat on the Fresno County Board of Supervisors in a special election on March 5.
 
The District 2 city council seat was last up for election in 2016. Brandau won re-election without opposition that year. Winners of the 2019 special election will serve the remainder of Brandau’s term, which ends in 2020. Though the seat is nonpartisan, Brandau is affiliated with the Republican Party.
 
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All 11 Jacksonville City Council members who filed for re-election won following general runoff

All 19 Jacksonville City Council seats were up for election in 2019. Fourteen races were decided outright in the general election on March 19, but five advanced to a runoff election held on May 14. Those seats were At-large Positions 1 and 3 and Districts 8, 10, and 14.
 
Eleven of 19 incumbents filed for re-election. City council members are term-limited and restricted to serving two consecutive four-year terms. Two incumbents advanced to the runoff election and were re-elected: At-large Position 3 member Tommy Hazouri (D) and District 8 member Ju’Coby Pittman (D). The remaining three seats in the runoff were open. All 11 incumbents who ran for re-election won another term.
 
The incoming city council will have six Democratic and 13 Republican members. Currently, Democrats hold seven seats and Republicans hold 12. The open At-large Position 2 seat changed from a Democrat-held seat to a Republican-held seat in the general election. There were no flipped seats in the general runoff election.
 
Jacksonville is the largest city in Florida and the 13th-largest city in the U.S. by population.
 
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Voter-approved pay parity initiative in Houston ruled unconstitutional

On May 15, Judge Tanya Garrison of Texas District Court 157 ruled Proposition B (2018) unconstitutional. Proposition B was an initiative granting pay parity with city police to Houston firefighters.
 
Proposition B was placed on the 2018 general election ballot in Houston through a citizen initiative campaign led by the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association. The measure was designed to match city firefighters’ pay to that of the Houston Police Department. It was approved 59 percent to 41 percent in November.
 
The proposition provided for a 29 percent raise for firefighters in the first year, followed by additional raises equal to police pay. Prior to the measure’s approval, city officials had estimated that Proposition B would cost $100 million per year. The proposition could not be funded through increased taxes due to an annual revenue cap. Mayor Sylvester Turner had argued that the city did not have a funding mechanism for Proposition B.
 
Following approval of Proposition B, the Houston Police Officers’ Union filed a lawsuit against the city and the firefighters’ union, arguing that the measure was unconstitutional for the following reasons:
  • It violated Texas Local Government Code by setting firefighter pay relative to other municipal workers instead of private sector jobs;
  • It is preempted by the state’s Fire and Police Employment Relations Act; and
  • It is preempted by state policy on collective bargaining rights by forcing police bargaining to also encompass firefighter pay.
 
Judge Garrison granted the motion by the police officers’ union, stating that Proposition B is preempted by state code regarding fire and police employee relations and that it violates Article XI, Section 5 of the state constitution.
 
Following Judge Garrison’s ruling on May 15, the Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association tweeted, “We will continue to strive to force Sylvester Turner to respect the will of 298,000 [sic] Prop B voters who sent a strong message that Houston should equally value its police and fire personnel.”
 


Former LAUSD board member Jackie Goldberg wins special election got District 5 LAUSD seat

Former Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) board member Jackie Goldberg defeated former vice president of the Board of Public Works Commissioners Heather Repenning in a runoff election for the District 5 seat on the LAUSD Board of Education in California Tuesday night. Goldberg received 72 percent of the vote to Repenning’s 28 percent, according to unofficial results.
 
The district’s elections in 2017 flipped the LAUSD board from a 4-3 majority of members supported by United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) to a 4-3 majority of members supported by the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA). Former District 5 member Ref Rodriguez, who resigned in 2018 and whose seat was up for election, was a member of the latter group. Goldberg’s election returns the board to a majority of UTLA-backed members.
 
LAUSD is the second-largest school district in the United States and had 224 independently operated charter schools in 2017, more than any other school district in the nation.
 
In 2019, UTLA endorsed Goldberg, and the CCSA did not endorse a candidate. Both Goldberg and Repenning said they support holding charter schools to the same standards as public schools, but they differed in the degree of emphasis they placed on charter school policy and other issues in their campaigns. Goldberg made charter school accountability a key plank of her campaign. Repenning described herself as a coalition builder and emphasized other issues.
 
In addition to UTLA, Goldberg’s endorsers included U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D) and the Los Angeles chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. Repenning received endorsements from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 99, Mayor Eric Garcetti (D), and the Los Angeles Times editorial board, among others.
 
 


Mississippi gubernatorial candidates report fundraising totals from first quarter of 2019

Candidates running in the Democratic and Republican primaries for Mississippi governor submitted campaign finance reports for the first quarter of 2019 (Jan. 1 through April 30).
 
Lieutenant Gov. Tate Reeves $1 million, the most of the Republican candidates, and reported $6.7 million in cash on hand. Former state Supreme Court Chief Justice Bill Waller Jr., who raised $583,000 and reported $513,000 in cash on hand, followed Reeves. State Rep. Robert Foster raised $73,000 and had $18,900 in cash on hand.
 
Attorney General Jim Hood was the only Democratic candidate to raise more than $20,000. He brought in $755,000 and reported $1.2 million in cash on hand. The other Democratic candidates who reported contributions were Hinds County DA Robert Shuler Smith ($11,000), Velesha Williams ($18,000), and William Bond Compton ($1,000). Only Smith reported cash on hand with $300.
 
The primaries will be held August 6 with possible runoffs on August 27. The general election will be held November 5.
 
Click the links below to view coverage of the Democratic and Republican primaries.
 
 


Wisconsin Supreme Court hears oral arguments in case challenging constitutionality of 2018 extraordinary session

The Wisconsin Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in a case challenging the constitutionality of the state legislature’s December 2018 extraordinary session and resulting legislation, which would make changes to administrative processes in the state.
 
A group of individuals and organizations, led by the League of Women Voters, filed the lawsuit in January 2019 seeking to void the legislation passed during the extraordinary session on the grounds that state lawmakers had convened the session in violation of the Wisconsin Constitution.
 
The legislation at issue would implement broad changes to administrative procedures in the state, including codifying the end of judicial deference, setting new standards for guidance documents issued by state agencies, and abolishing sue-and-settle practices, among other changes.
 
The line of questioning from the court’s conservative justices, who hold a 4-3 majority, centered on the Wisconsin Constitution’s grant of broad authority to the governor and the state legislature to determine the time and frequency of legislative sessions. The justices also observed that the state legislature has convened in unchallenged extraordinary sessions for 40 years. The liberal justices, on the other hand, pointed to the lack of explicit language in the Wisconsin Constitution allowing for the state legislature to call an extraordinary session.
 
Three other pending lawsuits challenge the extraordinary session and resulting legislation. A state lawsuit filed by Wisconsin union groups claims that the legislation violates the separation of powers by increasing legislative authority over executive branch actions. A federal lawsuit seeks to overturn changes to early voting procedures that were included in the legislative package. Lastly, another federal lawsuit argues that the extraordinary session violates the U.S. Constitution’s Guarantee Clause, which guarantees every state the right to a republican form of government.
 
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One Colorado legislative recall ends and another begins

Two recall efforts against Colorado state Rep. Rochelle Galindo (D) ended on May 12 after she resigned her seat amid allegations of sexual misconduct by a former staff member. The first recall was approved by the secretary of state on April 4. Recall supporters had until June 3 to collect 5,696 signatures to force a recall election. A second recall effort against Galindo was launched by Joe Neville, the head of the Values First Colorado political action committee and brother of Senate Minority Leader Patrick Neville (R). The recall was not approved for circulation by the state. Galindo was originally targeted for recall because of her support for an oil and gas regulation bill, a gun bill, as well as legislation related to the national popular vote and sex education.
 
A different recall effort targeting state Rep. Tom Sullivan (D) was approved for circulation by the state on May 13. He is being targeted for recall due to the same legislation as Galindo. Supporters have until July 12 to collect 10,035 signatures to force a recall election. Four other Democratic state lawmakers are also being targeted for recall over the same legislation. As of May 14, none of those recalls had been approved for circulation by the state.
 
Sullivan was the main sponsor of the gun bill, which was designed to temporarily remove guns from people who are deemed a threat to themselves or others. Sullivan’s son, Alex, was killed in the 2012 shootings at an Aurora movie theater. The oil and gas bill was designed to give local governments more control over regulating the industry and also mandates that the state emphasize safety over promoting oil and gas production. Both bills were signed by Gov. Jared Polis (D) in April 2019.
 
Sullivan was elected to District 37 in the state House in 2018. He defeated incumbent Cole Wist (R) in the general election with 54% of the vote. Prior to the 2018 election, Wist had held the seat since 2016.
 
Since 2011, 79 recall petitions have been filed against state lawmakers. Nine recalls were successful, nine were defeated at the ballot, 55 did not go to a vote, and six are still ongoing. California state Sen. Josh Newman (D) was recalled in 2018. Two Colorado state senators were successfully recalled in 2013.
 
Colorado became a Democratic trifecta in 2019 after Democrats flipped the state Senate in the 2018 elections. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. Democrats control the state House by a 41-24 margin and the state Senate by a 19-16 margin. Gov. Jared Polis (D) took over the governor’s office in 2019.
 


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