Latest stories

First quarter report on donor disclosure legislation

First quarter report on donor disclosure legislation  

Thus far this year, state legislatures have enacted two donor disclosure bills, down from six during the same period in 2019 and up from zero during the same period in 2020. Let’s take a closer look at how legislative activity in the first three months of 2021 compares to 2019 and 2020.

First quarter: 2021

In the first three months 2021, Ballotpedia has tracked 36 state bills dealing in some substantive way with donor disclosure policy. 

Geographic concentration: Lawmakers in 15 states, highlighted in varying shades of green on the map below, introduced donor disclosure bills in the first quarter of 2021. Ten bills have been introduced in New York, more than in any other state. 

Sponsorship: Of these 36 bills, Democrats have sponsored 16 (44.44 percent). Republicans have sponsored 11 (30.56 percent). Bipartisan groups or committees have sponsored the rest. 

Enacted bills: Two bills were enacted into law in the first three months of this year:

  • South Dakota HB1079: This bill prohibits executive agencies and officials from requiring nonprofits to make disclosures beyond those required under state and federal law.
    • Sponsored by the House Judiciary Committee. Enacted into law on March 3.
  • South Dakota SB103: This bill prohibits public agencies from requiring any person or nonprofit to provide identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors. It would also prohibit the disclosure of any such information currently in the possession of a public agency.
    • Republican sponsorship. Enacted into law on March 29.

How this compares to legislative activity in 2019 and 2020

At this same point in 2019, lawmakers in 34 states had introduced 73 donor disclosure bills, 50.68 percent fewer than in 2021. In the first three months of 2020, lawmakers in 19 states had introduced 45 relevant bills, 20 percent fewer than in 2021.

Democrats introduced more bills than Republicans in the first quarters of 2019, 2020, and 2021.

Enactments in the first quarter of 2019 (6) outpaced enactments in 2021: 

  • North Dakota HB1037: This bill reenacted previously rescinded disclosure requirements for contributions made to ballot measure campaigns.
  • South Dakota SB114: This bill required that campaign contributions by minors be attributed to their parents for campaign finance disclosure and reporting purposes.
  • Utah HB0131: This bill required political issues committees to disclose certain contributions within three days of receipt.
  • Utah HB0319: This bill established disclosure requirements for entities spending money on ballot proposition advertisements.
  • West Virginia SB622: This bill made general revisions to the state’s campaign finance disclosure laws.
  • Wyoming SF0018: This bill amended the state’s campaign finance and disclosure laws.

Enactments in 2021 outpaced 2020, when no donor disclosure bills were enacted into law in the first quarter. 

What we’re reading

Recent legislative actions

For complete information on all of the bills we are tracking, click here

  • Arkansas SB535: This bill would prohibit a public agency from disclosing identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Withdrawn, amended, and re-referred to Senate State Agencies and Governmental Affairs Committee on April 5.
  • Tennessee HB0159: This bill would prohibit a public agency from disclosing identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • House Government Operations Committee hearing scheduled for April 5.
  • Tennessee SB1608: This bill would prohibit a public agency from disclosing identifying information about a nonprofit’s donors.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Senate State and Local Government Committee hearing scheduled for March 30.
  • West Virginia HB2932: This bill would prohibit a state agency from imposing additional requirements beyond those currently in statute regarding the registration, reporting or operation of a charitable organization.
    • Republican sponsorship.
    • Senate Judiciary Committee hearing scheduled for March 30.

Thank you for reading! Let us know what you think! Reply to this email with any feedback or recommendations.



Representative Alcee Hastings dies from pancreatic cancer

U.S. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) died from pancreatic cancer on April 6. He was first elected to Florida’s 23rd Congressional District in 1992 and represented it until it was redistricted as District 20 in 2012. Hastings was first elected from the 20th District in 2012. In last year’s general elections, Hastings defeated Greg Musselwhite (R), 79% to 21%.

Before being elected to Congress, Hastings was a judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida from 1979 until 1989. In 1989, the U.S. Senate tried Hastings on 17 counts of perjury and bribery, finding him guilty on eight counts. The Senate voted to remove Hastings from that judgeship, but he was not disqualified from holding office in the future.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) will set a date for a special election to fill this vacancy. As of April 6, five special elections to the 117th Congress have been scheduled in the following districts:

  1. Louisiana’s 2nd and 5th Districts,
  2. New Mexico’s 1st District,
  3. Texas’ 6th District, and
  4. Ohio’s 11th District.

With Hastings’ death, the current partisan breakdown of the U.S. House is 218 Democrats, 211 Republicans, and six vacancies.   

Additional Reading:



Manchin opposes Biden corporate tax rate increase

April 6, 2021: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) said that he opposed President Joe Biden’s (D) proposal to raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%

Every weekday, Ballotpedia is tracking key presidential appointments, executive actions, and policy developments from the Biden administration.

  • There are no committee hearings scheduled Tuesday. The Senate stands adjourned until April 12 for a full session.

News

  • The Senate parliamentarian ruled on Monday that a revised budget resolution can use the reconciliation process, which would allow the Senate to pass spending legislation by a simple majority vote rather than 60 votes.
  • Biden is expected on Tuesday to move up the deadline for all adults to be eligible for the coronavirus vaccine from May 1 to April 19. For more information about vaccine distribution and eligibility by state, click here.
  • The Open Society Foundations are planning to spend $20 million to promote Biden’s infrastructure and social welfare proposals. Axios reported that spending on the campaign could reach $100 million.
  • Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) said on Monday that he opposed Biden’s proposal to raise the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, preferring instead 25%. “If I don’t vote to get on it, it’s not going anywhere. So we’re going to have some leverage here. And it’s more than just me. … There’s six or seven other Democrats that feel very strongly about this,” Manchin said.

Transition in Context: Flashback to Obama’s First Year in Office

Here’s a look at what President Barack Obama (D) was doing this week during his first year in office.

  • April 6, 2009: Obama addressed the Turkish parliament in Ankara as part of his first overseas trip as president.
  • April 7, 2009: Obama visited troops at Camp Victory near Baghdad, Iraq.
  • April 8, 2009: Obama was expected to make a supplemental request of $83 billion to help continue to fund wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through September.
  • April 9, 2009: Obama hosted a Passover Seder at the White House.
  • April 10, 2009: Obama met with financial regulators to discuss the health of 19 of the biggest U.S. banks.

What We’re Reading



Ballotpedia releases federal judicial vacancy count for March 2021

In this month’s federal judicial vacancy count, Ballotpedia tracked nominations, confirmations, and vacancies to all United States Article III federal courts from March 1 to April 1. Ballotpedia publishes the federal judicial vacancy count at the start of each month.

HIGHLIGHTS

Vacancies: There have been five new judicial vacancies since the February 2021 report. There are 69 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions on courts covered in this report. Including the United States Court of Federal Claims and the United States territorial courts, 73 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.

Nominations: There were 10 new nominations since the February 2021 report.

Confirmations: There have been no new confirmations since the February 2021 report.

New vacancies

There were 69 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions, a total vacancy percentage of 7.9.

• The nine-member U.S. Supreme Court does not have any vacancies.

• Seven (3.9%) of the 179 U.S. Appeals Court positions are vacant.

• 61 (9.1%) of the 673 U.S. District Court positions are vacant.*

• One (11.1%) of the nine U.S. Court of International Trade positions is vacant.

*District court count does not include territorial courts.

Five judges left active status, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies, since the previous vacancy count. As Article III judicial positions, vacancies must be filled by a nomination from the president. Nominations are subject to confirmation on the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.

• Judge Peter Hall assumed senior status on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.*

• Judge Merrick Garland retired from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

• Judge Mary Briscoe assumed senior status on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit.

• Judge Darnell Jones assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

• Judge Anthony J. Battaglia assumed senior status on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

*Judge Hall’s service ended upon his death seven days after assuming senior status.

U.S. Court of Appeals vacancies

The following chart tracks the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals from the inauguration of President Joe Biden (D) to the date indicated on the chart.

File:US Court of Appeals vacancies 040121.png

The following maps show the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals at the inauguration of President Joe Biden (D) and as of April 1.

File:UUbHy-court-of-appeals-vacancies-biden-inauguration-.png
File:T7YhD-court-of-appeals-vacancies-april-1-2021-.png

New nominations

President Joe Biden (D) has announced 10 new nominations since the February 2021 report.

New confirmations

As of April 1, there have been no federal judicial confirmations during the Biden administration.

Additional Reading:



Economy and Society: Greater fund disclosure on voting behavior

ESG developments this week

In Washington, D.C.

Greater fund disclosure on voting behavior

On March 17, then-acting-chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, Allison Herren Lee, spoke to the Investment Company Institute, a fund trade group, on Commission plans to address the transparency of fund votes taken on shareholder proposals. She said:

“There are two key trends that have brought us to our current posture and which necessitate updates to our rules and guidance to reflect a new reality regarding proxy voting and corporate governance. First, is the growth in households invested in funds. It is estimated that in 2020, nearly 47% of US households owned funds, up from 6% in 1980….

A second key trend is the soaring demand for opportunities to invest in vehicles with ESG strategies. Millennials, in particular, are increasingly attuned to the specific ways in which funds and companies utilize their money, and their influence will only grow….

Retail investors need more meaningful insight into how their money is voted, and that insight is more important than ever with the growth of interest in ESG shareholder proposals. It’s hard to see how retail investors can formulate an accurate and reliable picture of how a fund votes on ESG issues when they are forced to parse voluminous forms that often use bespoke shorthand for shareholder proposals. Importantly, funds also stand to benefit from more effective disclosure as the fund landscape becomes increasingly competitive….

there is a lot of work to do in this area. And it is important work because it gets to the heart of ensuring that our system of shareholder democracy works. As investor preferences continue to transform, proxy voting will become an increasingly important component of that transformation. We must ensure that current incentives and rules for voting and voting disclosure are really serving the needs of investors today.”

In the states   

West Virginia Attorney General threatens SEC with lawsuit over ESG disclosures

On March 25, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) sent a letter to Allison Herren Lee, then-acting-chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission, asking her to abandon her plans to make climate change a greater part of the SEC’s mandate and to compel climate disclosures on companies. The plans, according to Morrissey, violate the SEC’s legal mandate and impose undue and unnecessary burdens on corporations. He threatened to sue the Commission, if it proceeds. He wrote:

“Going beyond requiring companies that disclose information that is material to future financial performance will unavoidably politicize the commission, detracting and distracting from other work. Private competition for customers and investors already leads companies to issue statements on a wide variety of matters of public interest without government compulsion….

If the commission proceeds down this pathway, states and other interested stakeholders will not hesitate to go to court to oppose a federal regulation compelling speech in violation of the First Amendment.”

Morrissey’s letter follows one sent previously by Senator Pat Toomey (R), ranking member of the Banking Committee, also opposing what he sees as the SEC’s shift in mission away from financial regulation to a policy-oriented role.

ESG opportunity and risk in state environmental laws 

In an article posted on March 9, Bloomberg Law Legal Analyst Dylan Bruce suggested that a recent series of what are described as environmental justice laws passed by states provide both an opportunity and, perhaps, an unforeseen ESG risk to companies doing business in those states. According to Bruce:

“These laws are giving regulators and communities new tools to mitigate negative environmental impacts that have historically and disproportionately affected minority and low-income communities.

Ten states have already codified environmental justice in some form—with Connecticut the latest to do so, in October 2020—while another 13 states have pending legislation.”

While Bruce suggests that companies that abide by ESG demands are well positioned in these 23 states, these laws, in his view, “[A]lso expose companies to new ESG-related risks, including enhanced enforcement, litigation, and possible disclosure requirements. For those reasons, ESG-conscious companies should be paying close attention to this trend.”

Student activism and divestment in Nebraska

On April 4, the Lincoln Journal-Star reported on the efforts of Veronica Miller, the student representative on the Nebraska Board of Regents, to compel her school, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, to divest its remaining funds from fossil fuels. Although the University’s endowment is already invested using ESG methodologies, it still holds a small amount of fossil fuel companies:

“[W]hen she became the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s students’ voice on the Board of Regents, Miller said the groundwork was there to push for a change.

“The ask was already there,” said Miller, who will graduate next month with degrees in Spanish and political science. “There was a conversation about how we get this done and how we work through this.”

At its April 9 meeting, the Board of Regents will consider adding an “environmental, social and governance criteria” policy — commonly referred to as ESG — for investing the roughly $370 million in Fund N, the endowment funds controlled by the university.

Currently, only about 2% of the investments held in Fund N are in fossil fuel companies, down from 6.5% a year ago, the university said.

The rest of the university’s $1.7 billion endowment is managed by the NU Foundation, which also uses an ESG criteria when considering investments, a foundation spokeswoman said.”

On Wall Street and in the private sector

Will the ‘Flight to Value’ hurt ESG long term?

The Wall Street Journal noted on April 2 that ESG funds have taken a hit as a result of a cyclical change several years in the making. Equities markets have, over the last few weeks begun shifting from growth stocks to value stocks:

“Growth stocks propelled the outperformance of many environmental, social and governance (ESG) funds in recent years. But those same types of stocks now are turning into potential headwinds for the funds, as investors pivot more to stocks the market sees as undervalued….

High-growth companies that ESG funds have often skewed toward in recent years include Apple Inc., Google parent Alphabet Inc. and Microsoft Corp. The tech giants and other growth stocks flourished last year despite a challenging economic environment. That performance, in turn, helped ESG funds. A basket of 94 U.S. ESG exchange-traded funds ended last year up more than 20% on average, according to Dow Jones Market Data, beating the bellwether S&P 500’s gain of more than 16%.

More recent months, however, have seen a shift in investor appetites. In expectation of an economic recovery, investors have piled into companies that are seen as undervalued relative to their earnings potential. Meanwhile, there is less appetite for growth companies. For the year, the Russell 1000 Value index is up nearly 12%, versus the Russell 1000 Growth’s rise of 2.4%.

A similar trend can be seen in the performance of ESG funds.”

In a note to clients posted the previous day, however, a Bank of America Quant analyst suggested that ESG’s value-related pullback should be temporary:

“One critique of ESG investing is that it tends to favor growth stocks at the expense of value-oriented sectors,” Savita Subramanian, an equity and quant strategist at Bank of America, said in a research note dated April 1. “But our analysis of US-domiciled ESG fund holdings presents a different picture.”

BofA found that ESG funds are overweight industrials, materials and real estate relative to the S&P 500 index SPX, 1.47%, “with significantly more exposure to these pro-cyclical sectors than mutual funds broadly,” according to the note. ESG funds have meanwhile avoided growth-oriented, communication services stocks, Bank of America found.

Long-only fund investment managers generally have been moving into value-oriented sectors, boosting bets on financial and energy companies in recent months while trimming weightings to growth-oriented, technology and communication services sectors, according to BofA. Value stocks trounced their growth counterpart in the first three months of 2021 after suffering a decade of ineptitude….

ESG funds may be poised to benefit from a further rotation into value, as they remain “significantly underweight” energy and utilities even after increasing their exposure to these areas in recent months, the bank’s research note shows.”

Pershing Square declares ESG a life (and world) saver

Hedge-fund investor and CEO of Pershing Square Capital, Bill Ackman, declared recently that capitalism can save the world, and ESG, in his view, is the manifestation of its world-saving capacity. March 29, Ackman and Pershing published a 115-page letter that expressed his beliefs, summarized as follows by Yahoo Finance:

“Billionaire activist investor Bill Ackman, the CEO of the $13 billion hedge fund Pershing Square Capital, made a case that capitalism is “the most powerful potential source” for solving society’s biggest challenges — and ESG investing is ushering in that change.

“With the benefit of substantial philanthropic and investing experience, I have come to believe that capitalism is likely the most powerful potential force for good in addressing society’s long-term problems. A successful business operating ethically and sustainably can create many thousands of high-paying jobs, deliver high long-term returns for pensioners, long-term savers and other investors, and provide goods and services that materially increase its customers’ quality of life, broadly defined. That said, capitalism is far from perfect,” Ackman wrote in a shareholder letter published on Monday.

Ackman, 54, a high-profile activist investor usually known for picking up large stakes in publicly-traded companies and effectuating corporate change, pointed to the elevated importance of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues boardrooms and managements need to examine and tackle.

“We believe that good ESG practices are fundamentally aligned with running a successful business. As consumers and other corporate customers have become increasingly educated on matters of ESG, they have begun to avoid companies that contribute to climate change or do not treat their employees well, while rewarding companies with their business that have sustainable and responsible policies. Similarly, a growing number of investors have become increasingly concerned about the risks of companies which do not take ESG issues seriously. These investors avoid investing in companies which do not meet high ESG standards, reducing the valuations and investment returns of these businesses, negatively impacting their cost of capital,” Ackman added.”

In the spotlight

Agency theory in the United Kingdom

In the March 23 edition of Economy and Society, we reported that Canadian companies are implementing ESG-performance-based pay for corporate managers. According to S&P Global, the same process is underway in the UK, although perhaps even more rapidly:

“Nearly half of the U.K.’s 100 largest companies now use an environmental, social and governance measure when setting targets for executive pay, a sign of the growing acceptance of sustainability metrics in corporate boardrooms, according to a new report.

Growing pressure from investors and other groups has persuaded more companies to shift their ESG emphasis from more traditional areas such as employee engagement and risk to newer concerns such as climate change, the environment and diversity. The study was authored by London Business School and PricewaterhouseCoopers, based on ESG targets disclosed in the pay plans of FTSE 100 companies’ 2020 annual reports. The FTSE 100 is an index of the U.K.’s 100 largest companies by market capitalization.

According to the analysis, published March 18, 45% of FTSE 100 companies currently have an ESG measure in either their annual bonus targets or their long-term incentive plans, also known as LTIP. Of the 100 companies, 37% include an ESG measure in their bonus plan with an average weighting of 15%, while 19% include them in their LTIP with an average weighting of 16%. The weighting indicates how much of the pay measure is linked to ESG performance. FTSE 100 companies that link ESG performance to pay include Unilever PLC, Standard Chartered PLC, Royal Dutch Shell PLC and BP PLC.”

According to S&P Global, roughly half of all American S&P corporations state executive pay is tied to ESG matters, although it also quotes Willis Towers Watson, the company that conducted the survey, as noting that “few [American companies] give them the importance it deserves.” Additionally, only 2% of American S&P 500 companies tie executive pay to carbon emissions, below the 11% in Europe. 



Wyoming to vote in 2022 to allow local governments to invest in stocks and equities

On April 1, the Wyoming State Legislature referred a constitutional amendment to the 2022 ballot that would allow the legislature to provide by law for local governments (county, city, township, town, school district, or other political subdivision) to invest funds in stocks and equities. Legislation establishing or increasing the percentage of funds a local government could invest would require a two-thirds supermajority vote of the state legislature. Currently, the state constitution allows the state legislature to authorize certain state funds to be invested in stocks.

To put a legislatively referred constitutional amendment before voters, a two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote is required in both the Wyoming State Senate and the Wyoming House of Representatives.

The measure was introduced as House Joint Resolution 9 on March 4, 2021. It was approved in the House on March 23, 2021, by a vote of 43-16. The Senate approved an amended version of the measure on April 1, 2021, in a vote of 25-5, which was sent to the House for concurrence. The House concurred with the Senate’s amendments on April 1, 2021, in a vote of 46-13.

Between 2000 and 2020, the Wyoming State Legislature referred 20 constitutional amendments to the ballot, of which, 12 were approved (60%) and eight (40%) were defeated.

The legislature was set to adjourn the 2021 legislative session on April 7, 2021. The legislature can also refer measures to the 2022 ballot during the 2022 legislative session.

As of April 2, 2021, 15 statewide ballot measures had been certified for the 2022 ballot in 10 states.

Additional Reading:



President Biden has announced 10 nominations for Article III judgeships

President Joe Biden (D) has announced his intent to nominate 10 individuals to Article III courts for lifetime judgeships as of April 1. As of this writing, the official nominations have not yet been submitted to the U.S. Senate. 

For comparison with the previous administration, President Donald Trump (R) made his first Article III judicial nomination by February 1, 2017, when he nominated Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). Trump’s first successful appointment–where the nominee was confirmed–occurred by May 1 of his first year, when Gorsuch was confirmed to SCOTUS.

Since 1901, the earliest successful Article III appointment, meaning the nominee was confirmed, was made by President Richard Nixon (R). Nixon appointed a federal district judge by March 1 of his first year in office. Three presidents–Theodore Roosevelt (R), Calvin Coolidge (R), and Gerald Ford (R)–made the fewest with zero judicial appointments during their first year in office.

Article III federal judges are appointed for life terms by the president of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate per Article III of the United States Constitution. Article III judges include judges on the: Supreme Court of the United States, U.S. courts of appeal, U.S. district courts, and the Court of International Trade.

As of this writing, there were 73 current vacancies in the federal judiciary of 870 total Article III judgeships. Including non-Article III judges from the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and the United States territorial courts, there were 77 vacancies out of 890 active federal judicial positions.

Additional Reading:



The Daily Brew: Elections in nine states today

Welcome to the Tuesday, April 6, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Your help is needed today
  2. Elections in nine states today
  3. How states select supreme court chief justices

Your help is needed today

As readers of the Brew, you are familiar with Ballotpedia’s unwavering commitment to providing timely, unbiased information about elections, politics and policy. 

Today, we have a special ask for you. Please consider joining The Ballotpedia Society, our monthly giving program. This program provides critical resources to Ballotpedia’s day to day work delivering the information voters need to understand the complex world of American politics and elections. Our Ballotpedia Society members are a vital part of this work. 

As a member, you will have access to exclusive updates, and if you join today, you will be eligible to join our upcoming member only talk on the State of the Media with our President and CEO, Leslie Graves. We invite you to join the Ballotpedia Society and join us on our journey to help all American voters.

Join today

Elections in nine states today

Voters will decide statewide, state legislative, and local elections today in nine states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin. Here’s a summary of some of the races we’ve been following closely:

  • Wisconsin is electing a new superintendent of public instruction. Former Superintendent Tony Evers (D) was elected governor in 2018. His replacement, Carolyn Stanford Taylor, is not seeking a full term. 
    • Several Democratic members of Congress and the state legislature endorsed Jill Underly in the race. State Sens. Alberta Darling (R) and Lena Taylor (D) endorsed Deborah Kerr.
  • Anchorage, Alaska, is voting for a new mayor. To win today, a candidate needs at least 45% of the vote. If no candidate reaches that threshold, the two candidates with the most votes will compete in a runoff election on May 11. Mayor Ethan Berkowitz (D) resigned from office in October 2020. Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson is not running in the election.
    • Six candidates have led in fundraising and endorsements. Planned Parenthood endorsed Forrest Dunbar, George Martinez, and Bill Falsey. Six Republican state legislators endorsed Mike Robbins. State Sen. Natasha A. Von Imhof (R) endorsed Bill Evans. Former Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell (R) endorsed David Bronson
  • Fourteen school districts in Oklahoma are holding general elections. Elections were scheduled for 35 seats across 26 school districts within Ballotpedia’s coverage scope this year, but 17 of those seats will not be on the ballot because only one candidate filed. The 48.6% unopposed rate is the lowest since Ballotpedia began tracking this figure in 2014. 
    • For races that had more than two candidates file, primary elections were held on Feb. 9. Candidates were able to win the primary outright if they received more than 50% of the vote.

April 6 is the 4th-largest election day our team is covering in 2021, with more than 200 elections within our coverage scope. Our 3rd-largest election day is right around the corner on May 1, when we’ll be covering several local elections in Texas.

Read on 

How states select supreme court chief justices

On April 1, Max Baer (D) was sworn in as the chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.  He succeeded former Chief Justice Thomas Saylor (R), who stepped down the same day in preparation for his December 2021 retirement. 

Chief justices are the lead judicial administrative officers within multi-judge courts. They work alongside the clerks of court overseeing day-to-day operations.

Pennsylvania is one of six states where the supreme court chief justice is determined based on seniority. Ballotpedia has categorized four methods of chief justice selection:

  • Appointment: The governor, state legislature, or other body appoints the chief justice. Fourteen states use this method.
  • Chamber vote: The court’s justices choose a chief justice. Twenty-two states use this method.
  • Popular vote: Voters elect the chief justice. Eight states use this method.
  • Seniority: The chief justice is determined based on length of service on the court.

One recent change to the chief justice selection method was in 2015, when Wisconsin voters approved a constitutional amendment to transition from the seniority method to the chamber vote method. 

Read on 



Federal Register weekly update: One new significant final rule on drug listing regulations

The Federal Register is a daily journal of federal government activity that includes presidential documents, proposed and final rules, and public notices. It is a common measure of an administration’s regulatory activity.

From March 29 through April 2—the eleventh week of the Biden administration—the Federal Register grew by 1,210 pages for a year-to-date total of 17,492 pages. During the same period of the Trump administration in 2017, the Federal Register grew by 996 pages for a year-to-date total of 17,096 pages.

The Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 546 documents:

• 416 notices

• four presidential documents

• 66 proposed rules

• 60 final rules

One final rule from the Food and Drug Administration regarding drug listing regulations was deemed significant under E.O. 12866—defined by the potential to have large impacts on the economy, environment, public health, or state or local governments. Significant actions may also conflict with presidential priorities or other agency rules. The Biden administration has issued 10 significant proposed rules and six significant final rules as of April 2.

Ballotpedia maintains page counts and other information about the Federal Register as part of its Administrative State Project. The project is a neutral, nonpartisan encyclopedic resource that defines and analyzes the administrative state, including its philosophical origins, legal and judicial precedents, and scholarly examinations of its consequences. The project also monitors and reports on measures of federal government activity.

Click here to find more information about weekly additions to the Federal Register in 2019, 2018, and 2017: https://ballotpedia.org/Changes_to_the_Federal_Register 

Additional reading:

Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018: https://ballotpedia.org/Historical_additions_to_the_Federal_Register,_1936-2018



Documenting America’s Path to Recovery: April 5, 2021

Documenting America's Path to Recovery by Ballotpedia

The next 24 hours

What is changing in the next 24/72 hours?

  • Indiana (Republican trifecta): Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) announced March 23 he would end the statewide mask mandate on April 6. Holcomb said local officials could still enact stricter restrictions, and masks will still be required in schools.
  • New York (Democratic trifecta): 
    • Residents 16 and older will become eligible for a coronavirus vaccine on April 6.
    • On April 3, the first public performance on Broadway occurred since all 41 theaters closed on March 12, 2020. Dancer Savion Glover and actor Nathan Lane performed one at a time before a socially distanced and masked audience of 150.

Since our last edition

What rules and restrictions are changing in each state? For a continually updated article, click here.

  • Alabama (Republican trifecta): On April 2, Gov. Kay Ivey (R) announced the state would expand vaccine eligibility to all residents 16 years of age and older on April 5. The Alabama Department of Corrections announced it would begin vaccinating inmates on April 12.
  • California (Democratic trifecta): On April 2, the state announced that indoor venues can reopen for events beginning April 15. Capacity limits will be based on the county’s color tier and whether the event has testing and vaccination requirements.
  • Florida (Republican trifecta): On Friday, April 2, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) issued an order banning government entities from issuing vaccine passports. The order also prohibits businesses from requiring vaccine passports. 
  • Kansas (divided government): On Thursday, April 1, the Legislative Coordinating Council (LLC) voted 5-2 (with one absence) to end Gov. Laura Kelly’s (D) statewide mask mandate. The LLC is a committee composed of eight legislators. Senate Bill 40, signed by Kelly on March 24, allows the LLC to vote to end COVID-19 executive orders. The LLC’s decision does not affect local mask mandates. 
  • Maryland (divided government): On Thursday, April 1, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced that residents 16 and older can pre-register to receive a coronavirus vaccine. People who pre-register will be notified when they become eligible to receive a vaccine. 
  • Massachusetts (divided government): Residents 55 and older with a medical condition became eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine Monday, April 5. Gov. Charlie Baker (R) made the announcement April 2. Baker also announced the state has adopted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) list of medical conditions that increase the risk of COVID-19. People with a condition on that list are now eligible for a vaccine. 
  • New Hampshire (Republican trifecta): On Thursday, April 1, Gov. Chris Sununu (R) announced that all K-12 schools must return students to full-time, in-person instruction by April 19. Sununu said parents will still have the option of requesting remote learning.  
  • Oregon (Democratic trifecta): On April 2, Oregon expanded vaccine eligibility to include all family members of frontline workers and any resident with a condition on the CDC’s expanded list of underlying health conditions.
  • Pennsylvania (divided government): On April 5, Pennsylvania entered Phase 1B of vaccinations. This next phase of eligibility includes first responders and manufacturing, education, and public transit workers.
  • Rhode Island (Democratic trifecta): On April 5, Rhode Island expanded vaccine eligibility to all individuals 50 years of age and older.
  • Vermont (divided government): 
    • Effective April 5, residents 40 and older are now eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine. 
    • On Thursday, April 1, Gov. Phil Scott (R) announced on Twitter that residents 16 and older who identify as Black, Indigenous, or a person of color are eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine. 
  • Virginia (Democratic trifecta): On Saturday, April 3, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) announced that residents 16 and older will become eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine on Sunday, April 18. 

This time last year: Monday, April 6, 2020

The first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020. But it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout March and April, many states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, and changed election dates. Many of those policies remain in place today. Each week, we’ll look back at some of the defining policy responses of the early coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s what happened this time last year. To see a list of all policy changes in each category, click the links below.

Monday, April 6, 2020:

  • Stay-at-home orders:
    • The “Stay Home Missouri” order took effect. It directed individuals to stay home unless performing essential activities and placed restrictions on non-essential businesses. Governor Mike Parson (R) and Director of the Department of Health and Senior Services Randall Williams issued the order on April 3, and it was originally set to expire on April 24, 2020.
  • School closures:
    • Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) closed schools for the remainder of the academic year. Before this order, schools in the state were closed through April 17.
    • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) extended the statewide school closure from April 15 to April 29.
  • Election changes:
    • The Wisconsin Supreme Court blocked Governor Tony Evers’ (D) order postponing in-person voting in the spring election, scheduled for April 7, 2020, to June 9, in a 4-2 decision. As a result, in-person voting took place as scheduled on April 7.
    • Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) issued an order authorizing political parties that nominate by convention to postpone those conventions or conduct them remotely.