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A closer look at major-party donations in the Virginia gubernatorial election

Candidates for governor of Virginia filed campaign finance reports on July 15, 2021, providing new totals in the race. The major-party candidates—Terry McAuliffe (D) and Glenn Youngkin (R)—have both raised roughly $20 million for their respective campaigns, according to the most recent reports. 

A closer look at the sources of those campaign contributions shows that 94% of McAuliffe’s contributions—$19.2 million—have come from direct, itemized donations totaling more than $100. Youngkin lent his campaign $12 million, which makes up 61% of his total campaign contributions.

Itemized donations are those where information about the donor is provided in the campaign finance report including his or her name and address. Using the state data provided by the candidates’ reports, Ballotpedia found that a majority of McAuliffe’s itemized contributions—$11.2 million—came from donors outside of Virginia. The majority of Youngkin’s itemized contributions—$5.0 million—came from zip codes in Virginia. For both candidates, the largest single source of donations outside of Virginia is Washington, D.C.

An analysis of the zip codes for itemized Virginian donations shows that four of McAuliffe’s five largest sources are located in Fairfax County, in the state’s northeast, and one is located in Albemarle County, which surrounds the University of Virginia. To date, McAuliffe’s largest source of itemized donations—$1.5 million—is located in Alexandria, Va.

Three of Youngkin’s five largest sources of itemized Virginia donations are located in the independent city of Virginia Beach, in the state’s southeast. The remaining two zip codes are located in Fairfax County, and Henrico County, which includes the region surrounding the state’s capital: Richmond. Youngkin’s largest source of itemized donations—$547,675—is located in Virginia Beach, Va.

Virginians will elect a new governor in the Nov. 2 general election. Democrats have won four of the five most recent gubernatorial elections and all thirteen statewide elections since 2012. Two recent polls have shown the race about even with McAuliffe and Youngkin receiving support within the respective margins of errors. In addition to the major-party candidates, Princess Blanding, the Liberation Party candidate, will also appear on the general election ballot. She has raised $20,604 as of June 30 and has $7,739 on hand according to the most recent campaign finance reports.

To learn more about the Virginia gubernatorial election, click here.

California initiative requiring state to adopt regulations on plastic waste certified for 2022 ballot

California initiative requiring state to adopt regulations on plastic waste certified for 2022 ballot


On July 19, a citizen-initiated measure to require California to adopt regulations designed to reduce the use of single-use plastic packaging was certified for the ballot on November 8, 2022. The ballot initiative would also enact a maximum one-cent per item fee on single-use plastic packaging and foodware, with revenue from the fee distributed to CalRecycle, the California Natural Resources Agency, and local governments. 

The California Department of Resources, Recycling, and Recovery (CalRecycle) would be responsible for implementing the regulations, including:

  1. requiring producers to ensure that single-use plastic packaging and foodware is recyclable, reusable, refillable, or compostable by 2030;
  2. requiring producers to reduce or eliminate single-use plastic packaging or foodware that CalRecycle determines is unnecessary for product or food item delivery;
  3. requiring producers to reduce the amount of single-use plastic packaging and foodware sold in California by at least 25 percent by 2030; and
  4. prohibiting food vendors from distributing expanded polystyrene food service containers.

Clean Coasts, Clean Water, Clean Streets, also known as Plastics Free California, is leading the campaign in support of the ballot initiative. Through March 31, 2021, the campaign has raised $4.19 million. Recology, Inc. was the largest contributor, providing $3.76 million. Recology, Inc. is a business that provides commercial and residential waste, recycling, and composting services. Linda Escalante, action fund advisor for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said, “Plastics Free California is an opportunity to increase pressure on the plastics industry to rein in the harmful environmental impacts of their single-use products, and to rebuild and support California’s recycling system.” As of July 20, Ballotpedia has not identified a campaign opposing the ballot initiative.

The campaign filed the ballot initiative in November 2019 and originally intended to place the proposal on the 2020 ballot. Eric Potashner, vice president of Recology, said the campaign had collected more than 800,000 signatures for the ballot initiative before the suggested deadline of April 21, 2020, but wanted to collect between 900,000 to 950,000. Citing the coronavirus pandemic, Potashner said, “Even if I had a million signatures, I don’t know if we’d be submitting this thing till after June anyway. I don’t know if this is the right climate for this measure right now.” Potashner also noted that the ballot initiative’s provisions would not take effect until 2030, “so pushing this issue… to 2022 doesn’t have any practical implications in what we’re trying to do.” 

On August 11, 2020, the campaign filed 871,940 signatures. Counties were not required to report the number of valid signatures according to the random sample until March 9, 2021, due to a coronavirus-related executive order. On March 9, the random sample of signatures did not project that 110% or more of the signatures were valid. Therefore, a full check of the signatures was required. The deadline for completing the full check was set as April 22, 2021, but was later extended to July 19, 2021. The full count of signatures showed that 666,664 signatures were valid, exceeding the requirement of 623,212.

The ballot initiative is the fourth citizen-initiated measure certified for the ballot in California for 2022. Others include an initiative to legalize sports betting at American Indian gaming casinos and licensed racetracks in California; an initiative to increase the cap on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice lawsuits; and a veto referendum to repeal the ban on flavored tobacco sales. The signature verification deadline for the 2022 ballot is 131 days before the general election, which is around June 30, 2022.

Additional Reading:

California 2022 ballot propositions

Forty-one candidates qualify for California gubernatorial recall

California Secretary of State Shirley Weber (D) announced on July 17 that 41 candidates had qualified to run in the recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). The list of candidates includes eight Democrats and 21 Republicans, among which are former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R), 2018 gubernatorial candidate John Cox (R), former U.S. Rep. Doug Ose (R), and Caitlyn Jenner (R).

Before the July 16 filing deadline, 76 candidates had filed paperwork with Weber’s office stating their intention to run in the election. In the successful 2003 recall of Gov. Gray Davis (D), 135 candidates ran in the election. Mackenzie Mays of Politico speculated that the reduction in the number of candidates could be due both to the requirement that candidates share five years’ worth of tax returns and stabilization of Newsom’s political standing.

The recall election will present voters with two questions. The first will ask whether Newsom should be recalled from the office of governor. The second will ask who should succeed Newsom if he is recalled. A majority vote is required on the first question for the governor to be recalled. The candidate with the most votes on the second question would win the election, no majority required. 

Newsom was elected as California’s governor in 2018 with 61.9% of the vote. Since 1911, there have been 55 attempts to recall an incumbent California governor. The only successful recall campaign was in 2003 when voters recalled Davis and chose Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) as Davis’ replacement.

Dartmouth study evaluates tone of Ballotpedia’s COVID-19 coverage

Earlier this year, a team of researchers at Dartmouth developed a method to evaluate the tone of news articles written about Covid-19. Using standard sentiment indicators, the Dartmouth team assessed the text of 42,000 articles from dozens of U.S. and international news sources.

The study found that U.S.-based news sources used significantly more negative language than the international outlets studied. 87% of major U.S. media stories were negative in tone compared to 50% of non-U.S. sources. The international sample included articles from the U.K.’s BBC, Canada’s CBC, and Australia’s ABC; each country’s dominant news source, all publicly owned. The U.S. outlets analyzed in the study are privately owned with more competitors within the country’s borders than the international outlets studied. The political leaning of the outlets made no difference in their usage of negative language.

The Dartmouth research team cross-checked the negative sentiment indicators of articles in the international and U.S. press against the extent of COVID spread in the relevant countries. They found that there was no correlation between the number of COVID cases in a particular country and the extent of negative tone in the country’s news sources.

Ballotpedia submitted several hundred articles from its coverage of Covid-19 to find how it would compare to the articles in the study. The Dartmouth team found Ballotpedia used significantly fewer negative sentiment indicators in its language choices compared to the major U.S. media outletsBallotpedia articles were .92 standard deviations less negative than the average of all other sources analyzed.

Documenting America’s Path to Recovery #284: July 20, 2021

Welcome to Documenting America’s Path to Recovery. Today we look at:

  • The latest decision in an ongoing legal battle over cruise ships in Florida 
  • A court ruling upholding a COVID-19 vaccine requirement at a university in Indiana
  • Vaccine distribution
  • Lawsuits about state actions and policies 
  • State-level mask requirements
  • COVID-19 emergency health orders
  • COVID-19 policy changes from this time last year 

We are committed to keeping you updated on everything from mask requirements to vaccine-related policies. We will keep you abreast of major developments—especially those affecting your daily life. Want to know what we covered Thursday? Click here.

Since our last edition

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

Florida (Republican trifecta): On Saturday, July 17, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit overturned a lower court order that blocked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) restrictions on the cruise industry. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) sued the CDC in April 2021, arguing the agency overstepped its authority when it issued its four-phase plan for reopening the cruise industry. U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday granted Florida a preliminary injunction against the restrictions on June 18. 

Indiana (Republican trifecta): On Monday, July 19, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana Judge Damon Leichty upheld the University of Indiana’s vaccination requirement for the fall semester. Eight students sued the University, arguing the requirement to get a COVID-19 vaccine violated their 14th Amendment rights. According to the University policy, students who don’t get vaccinated “can see their class registration cancelled, CrimsonCard access terminated, access to IU systems (Canvas, email, etc.) terminated, and will not be allowed to participate in any on-campus activity.”

Michigan (divided government): On Thursday, July 15, the state Senate voted 20-15 to repeal the Emergency Powers of Governor Act. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) relied on the Act to declare a COVID-19 emergency and issue subsequent restrictions, like the stay-at-home order. If the House approves the initiative, Whitmer would be unable to veto it. If the House doesn’t approve the initiative, it would go on the Nov. 2022 ballot. 

Vaccine distribution

We last looked at vaccine distribution in the July 15 edition of the newsletter. As of July 20, the states with the highest vaccination rates as a percentage of total population (including children) were:

The states with the lowest rates were:

Lawsuits about state actions and policies

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


  • To date, Ballotpedia has tracked 1,830 lawsuits, in 50 states, dealing in some way with the COVID-19 outbreak. Court orders have been issued, or settlements have been reached, in 557 of those lawsuits. 
    • Since July 13, we have added no additional lawsuits to our database, and we have added no additional court orders and/or settlements. 


  • Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings, Ltd. v. Rivkees: On July 13, Norwegian Cruise Line’s holding company sued Florida’s surgeon general, challenging the state’s ban against businesses asking for proof of COVID-19 vaccination. In the complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, the cruise line alleged federal law preempts Florida’s prohibition on proof-of-vaccination requirements. The cruise line also alleged the law is unconstitutional. The cruise line says the law, which imposes fines up to $5,000 per violation against businesses that require proof of vaccination, will force it to be “either on the wrong side of health and safety and the operative federal legal framework, or else on the wrong side of Florida law.” Norwegian says Florida’s law “blocks communications between a business and its customers, in violation of the First Amendment” and violates the due process rights of the company, its employees, and its customers. Norwegian is seeking a preliminary injunction allowing it to resume sailing with its CDC-compliant safety protocols in place and to invalidate the Florida law. The case is assigned to Judge Kathleen M. Williams, an appointee of Barack Obama (D).

State mask requirements

We last looked at face coverings in the July 13 edition of the newsletter. Since then, there have not been any updates.

COVID-19 emergency health orders

Read more: State emergency health orders during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, 2021

Governors and state agencies in all 50 states issued orders declaring active emergencies in response to the coronavirus pandemic. These orders allowed officials to access resources, like stockpiles of medical goods and equipment, unavailable to them during non-emergencies and temporarily waive or suspend certain rules and regulations. 


  • COVID-19 emergency orders have expired in 25 states. Emergency orders remain active in 25 states.
  • Since July 13, no states have ended their statewide COVID-19 emergencies. 

This time last year: Monday, July 20, and Tuesday, July 21, 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, July 20, 2020:

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) reduced the limit on gatherings in counties in Phase 3 of the state’s reopening plan from 50 people to 10. Inslee also issued a statewide ban on live music, including drive-in concerts and music in restaurants.

  • Travel restrictions:

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D) announced that all incoming travelers must fill out an online travel health form before arriving. Lamont said visitors could be subject to a $1,000 fine if they fail to fill out the form or quarantine.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) issued a travel advisory requesting that visitors from nine states self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. Officials said the advisory was not a requirement. The nine states in the advisory were: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Nevada, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas.

  • Election changes:

Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos (D) issued a directive that a mail-in ballot be sent automatically to every active registered voter in the Nov. 3 general election.

United States District Court for the District of Maryland Judge Richard Bennett ordered that the nomination petition signature requirement for unaffiliated candidates in Maryland be reduced by 50 percent.

  • Federal government responses:

President Donald Trump (R) announced that he would resume his daily coronavirus briefings. Trump discontinued the briefings in late April.

  • Mask requirements:

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed an executive order that required individuals to wear masks in public when social distancing was not possible.

  • School closures and reopenings:

The Colorado Department of Education released guidance for reopening public schools for the 2020-2021 school year. The guidelines contained separate criteria for elementary schools and secondary schools, but left decisions about start dates and remote learning to local districts.

  • State court changes:

North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley extended emergency directives that included the suspension of jury trials for another 30 days.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

  • Travel restrictions:

Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced that Alaska, Delaware, Indiana, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, Virginia, and Washington had been added to the joint travel advisory. Travelers from those states were required to quarantine for 14 days upon entering Connecticut, New Jersey, or New York. The governors removed Minnesota from the list, bringing the total to 31 states.

Evictions and foreclosure policies:

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) extended the statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures an additional 60 days. The moratorium was set to expire on Oct. 17.

Utilities’ ESG ratings tracked

Economy and Society

ESG Developments This Week

In Washington, D.C., and around the world

Saudi sovereign wealth fund reportedly seeking ESG framework 

In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the nation’s sovereign wealth fund reportedly has begun the process of developing ESG reporting standards that will, presumably, allow it to raise greater funds in the global debt market. According to Reuters:

“The Public Investment Fund (PIF) sent a request for proposals to banks last month, said the four sources with direct knowledge of the matter, speaking anonymously because the matter is private.

PIF – at the centre of Saudi de facto ruler and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 that aims to wean the economy off oil – has been funding itself in recent years with tens of billions of dollars in loans.

One of the sources said developing an ESG framework was likely a precursor for a multibillion dollar bond sale, which would be the Saudi wealth fund’s first.

Once an ESG framework is developed, PIF may need credit ratings and an audit of its finances before it can issue bonds, the source said, adding the fund could sell bonds in the fourth quarter if “all goes smoothly.””

Reuters notes that the Kingdom’s hand is forced here, both by what is described as “growing awareness among international investors about ESG risks” and the fact that the sovereign fund is “the cornerstone investor in NEOM, a futuristic development in Saudi Arabia whose flagship project is a zero-carbon city.” 

In the States

Utilities’ ESG ratings tracked

On July 12, Visual Capitalist noted that the National Public Utilities Council (NPUC) had put together a series of graphics designed to demonstrate how American Inventor Owned Utilities (IOUs) are performing in terms of various ESG metrics. This report card was designed to measure what metrics the IOUs report, how consistently those metrics are reported across the various companies, and what disclosures could be improved to increase across-the-board comparison:.

“To complete the assessment of U.S. utilities, ESG reports, sustainability plans, and company websites were examined. A metric was considered tracked if it had concrete numbers provided, so vague wording or non-detailed projections weren’t included.

Of the 50 IOU parent companies analyzed, 46 have headquarters in the U.S. while four are foreign-owned, but all are regulated by the states in which they operate.

For a few of the most agreed-upon and regulated measures, U.S. utilities tracked them almost across the board. These included direct scope 1 emissions from generated electricity, the utility’s current fuel mix, and water and waste treatment.

Another commonly reported metric was scope 2 emissions, which include electricity emissions purchased by the utility companies for company consumption. However, a majority of the reporting utilities labeled all purchased electricity emissions as scope 2, even though purchased electricity for downstream consumers are traditionally considered scope 3 or value-chain emissions….

Even putting aside mixed definitions and labeling, there were many inconsistencies and question marks arising from utility ESG reports.

For example, some utilities reported scope 3 emissions as business travel only, without including other value chain emissions. Others included future energy mixes that weren’t separated by fuel and instead grouped into “renewable” and “non-renewable.”

The biggest discrepancies, however, were between what each utility is required to report, as well as what they choose to. That means that metrics like internal energy consumption didn’t need to be reported by the vast majority.

Likewise, some companies didn’t need to report waste generation or emissions because of “minimal hazardous waste generation” that fell under a certain threshold. Other metrics like internal vehicle electrification were only checked if the company decided to make a detailed commitment and unveil its plans.”

Visual Capitalist concluded that “many of these inconsistencies are roadblocks to clear and direct measurements and reduction strategies.” 

On Wall Street and in the private sector

ESG’s effectiveness questioned

On July 13, Bloomberg Green became the latest high-profile media source to feature Tariq Fancy, the former head of sustainable investing for asset-management giant BlackRock, in a profile of former ESG-insiders. Fancy has created quite a stir among financial professionals in the several weeks since he went public with his frustrations and regrets, and it appears that he is not alone:

“Inside the booming world of sustainability, a small but growing cohort of disillusioned veterans are speaking out against efforts by corporations and investors to address an overheating planet, income inequality and other big societal problems. Environmental degradation has worsened, while the gap between the rich and poor has widened. The overemphasis on measuring and reporting sustainability has delayed, and displaced, the urgent action needed to tackle those challenges, they say. Environmental, social and governance investing, or “ESGlalaland,” suffers from “cognitive dissonance,” sustainability veteran Ralph Thurm said in a March report titled “The Big Sustainability Illusion.” ESG ratings only explain “who is best in class of those that say that they became less bad,” he said.

“The bigger problem than greenwash is greenwish,” Duncan Austin, a former partner at Al Gore’s Generation Investment Management, said, referring to greenwashing where environmental benefits are exaggerated or misrepresented. “The win-win belief at the heart of ESG has led to widespread wishful thinking that we’re making more progress on sustainability than we really are.”

Corporations around the world have been clamoring to green their businesses. Hundreds have announced net-zero emissions targets and poured billions of dollars into solar and wind projects, while chief sustainability officers have become ubiquitous in C-suites. In April, Inc. signed deals to add more than 1.5 gigawatts of power to its green energy efforts. Last month, Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc said it will make some plane engines compatible with using sustainable fuels, while Tyson Foods Inc., America’s biggest meat company, pledged to go carbon neutral by 2050.

The veterans acknowledge they were complicit and benefited from the boom in sustainability that got underway in the 1990s. And much good was created along the way, they say. But now they’re coalescing under one message: More aggressive government policies are needed to address the planet’s problems.

“The 20-year focus on corporate social responsibility reporting and the current frenzy on ESG investing have created an impression that more is happening to address social and environmental challenges than is really happening,” said Ken Pucker, a former chief operating officer at Timberland who had worked on the company’s sustainability projects. “Markets alone aren’t sufficient to solve these problems.””

Academic argues lower ESG returns are normal and expected

On July 17, Vikram Gandhi, a senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and the man who developed and teaches the school’s first course on impact investing, penned a piece for MarketWatch in which he made the case that ESG’s below-market returns this year are to be expected. Moreover, he argued that this is, in fact, the way that ESG investing should be. He wrote:

“[I]nvestors seeking to make positive environmental and social impact with their capital may have noticed something else: Since Biden took office on Jan. 20, many ESG-focused stock funds have been trailing the broad U.S. market. 

The FTSE4Good U.S. Select Index, which screens for U.S. stocks based on environmental, social, and governance factors, was up 11.6% since Jan. 20 through June 30, while the S&P 500 rose 12.3%, according to investment researcher Morningstar. It’s the same story globally. For example, the MSCI ACWI Sustainable Impact Index was up less than 1% since Biden took office, while the MSCI All-Country World Index gained 8.5%.

In the energy sector, the results were even more pronounced. Traditional oil-related stocks in the S&P 500 gained more than 25% from Jan. 20 through June 30, but shares of sustainable companies in the S&P Global Clean Energy Index — which includes solar, wind, and smart grid exposure — fell almost 25%.”

This, he continues, is exactly what should be expected and that above-market expectations for ESG were always misplaced:

“Is the market sending ESG investors a signal? Actually, no. Such counterintuitive performance was to be expected, and it’s welcome as it demonstrates the normalization of ESG considerations….

Bouts of ESG underperformance are actually a positive development, as it underscores the fact that ESG isn’t some gimmick or silver bullet when it comes to investing. Instead, this shows the natural evolution of sustainable investing from novel idea to thematic tactic to a core strategy that is subject to the same fundamental market forces that affect all other mainstream, long-term holdings.”

Demand for ESG assets increasing

On July 14, Reuters reported that:

“The rush to invest in exchange-traded funds focusing on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues jumped in the first half of 2021, with monthly turnover more than tripling to nearly 3 billion euros from a year ago, Deutsche Boerse said on Wednesday.

ESG assets are increasingly in demand among investors as companies that perform well on a range of issues from climate change to boardroom diversity are seen as better long-term investments than peers lagging in these areas.

On its Frankfurt-based electronic trading platform Xetra, German stock exchange operator Deutsche Boerse said ESG ETFs now account for more than 16% of total ETF trading turnover on Xetra compared to 6% a year ago.”

On July 18, Reuters reported that:

“Sustainable investments total $35.3 trillion, or more than a third of all assets in five of the world’s biggest markets, a report from the Global Sustainable Investment Alliance on Monday showed.

Investors are increasingly driven by environmental, social and governance-related (ESG) factors that traditionally have not been captured in a company’s balance sheet, but that can influence future returns.

The GSIA, whose member bodies track growth in their region, said professionally managed assets, using a broad gauge of what it means to invest sustainably, account for 36% of total assets under management….

The biennial industry survey looked at assets in the United States, Europe, Australasia, Japan and Canada, using data from end-2019 for all regions except Japan, where the data was to end-March 2020.

Since the last report, total assets across the markets had risen 15%, the report said.

“This growth is being fuelled by rising consumer expectations, strong financial performance and the increasing materiality of social and environmental issues….”

Finally, on July 15, MarketWatch reported that:

“A new Goldman Sachs exchange traded fund is entering the crowded environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing class hoping to stand out: It’s actively managed, transparent about its holdings, invests in global companies of all sizes and isn’t based on an index.

The New York-based investment bank Thursday launched Goldman Sachs Future Planet Equity ETF GSFP, -0.88%, which is investing in companies that are working on environmental problems aligned with five themes: clean energy, resource efficiency, sustainable consumption, the circular economy and water sustainability….

The bank started the ETF because, it says, “we are on the cusp of a sustainability revolution that could have the scale of the industrial revolution and the speed of the digital revolution,” [Katie Koch, co-head of fundamental equity at investment unit Goldman Sachs Asset Management] says, adding that Goldman sees alignment between global governments, corporations and consumers on sustainability.

“We know that the millennial consumer is very committed to a sustainable planet and actually willing to pay a premium for products and services that are aligned with a sustainable planet,” she says.”

The first 6 months of judicial nominations under President Biden

Welcome to the Tuesday, July 20, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Federal judicial vacancies, nominations, and confirmations six months into Biden’s presidency
  2. Making sense of the filing deadline for Newsom recall 
  3. Rhode Island ends statewide mask mandate

Federal judicial vacancies, nominations, and confirmations six months into Biden’s presidency

Today is the six-month anniversary of President Joe Biden’s (D) inauguration. Let’s take a look at how his first six months of judicial nominations compare to those of the past six presidents. For the full data that ran in our Bold Justice newsletter, or to subscribe, click here.

Let’s specifically take a closer look at vacancies, nominations, and confirmations.


  • Biden inherited 46 Article III lifetime federal judicial vacancies requiring a presidential nomination when he was inaugurated on Jan. 20. 
    • These vacancies represented roughly one-twentieth of all life-term judicial positions (5.29%). 
  • The 46 vacancies were the lowest number of federal judicial vacancies at the beginning of a presidency since 1989, when George H.W. Bush had 37.
  • Since 1981, every president has had more judicial vacancies six months into his administration than at the start of his administration.
  • The number of judicial vacancies created during Biden’s first six months in office is the second-highest in our data (28), and is equal to the number of vacancies created during President George W. Bush’s first six months (28). President Barack Obama had the highest number of judicial vacancies during his first six months as president, with 29.

There are currently 78 Article III vacancies in the federal judiciary out of 870 total Article III judgeships. 


  • Since taking office, President Biden has nominated 30 individuals to federal judgeships.
  • Biden has submitted nominations to fill more than 38% of federal judicial vacancies during his first six months in office. This is the highest percentage since George W. Bush, and the most since 1981. President Bill Clinton (D) had the lowest percentage among the presidents since Reagan, submitting no Article III nominations during his first six months in office.


  • Biden has the highest number of judicial confirmations in the first six months of his presidency (7) since 1981. Neither President Clinton nor President Obama had any nominations confirmed by this point in their presidencies. President Donald Trump (R) is the only president since at least 1981 to have a Supreme Court, a circuit court, and a district court nominee confirmed in his first six months in office.

Keep reading

Filing deadline for Newsom recall passes, 41 candidates qualify

We’ve been watching the election to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom, which will be held on Sept. 14. The filing deadline to get on the ballot passed on July 16. Let’s catch up on the most recent news.

On July 17, California Secretary of State Shirley Weber (D) announced that 41 candidates had qualified to run in the recall election. The list of candidates includes eight Democrats and 21 Republicans, among whom are former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R), 2018 gubernatorial candidate John Cox (R), former U.S. Rep. Doug Ose (R), and Caitlyn Jenner (R).

On Wednesday, July 21, the California secretary of state’s office will release to the counties the final list of candidates who will appear on the ballot.

Before the July 16 filing deadline, 76 candidates had filed paperwork with Weber’s office stating their intention to run in the election. In the successful 2003 recall of Gov. Gray Davis (D), 135 candidates ran in the election.

Newsom was elected as governor in 2018 with 61.9% of the vote. Since 1911, there have been 55 attempts to recall an incumbent California governor. The only successful recall campaign was in 2003 when voters recalled Davis and chose Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) as Davis’ replacement.

For a full overview of the election, keep reading at the link below.

Keep reading 

Rhode Island ends statewide mask mandate

On July 6, Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee (D) signed an executive order ending the statewide mask requirement for vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals. In accordance with CDC guidelines, vaccinated and unvaccinated people still have to wear masks on public transportation and at public transportation hubs (like bus stations and airports).

In total, 39 states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. Thirty-two states (16 states with Republican governors and 16 states with Democratic governors) have allowed statewide orders to expire. Currently, seven states have statewide mask orders. All seven states have Democratic governors. Six of the seven states exempted fully vaccinated people from most requirements.

We’re tracking mask mandates and much more in our Documenting America’s Path to Recovery newsletter. Click the link below to sign up.

Keep reading

Federal Register weekly update: DHS reopens public comment on human trafficking victim classification 

Photo of the White House in Washington, D.C.

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 overall regulatory activity, accounting for both regulatory and deregulatory actions.

From July 12 through July 16, the Federal Register grew by 1,408 pages for a year-to-date total of 37,890 pages.

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

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 452 documents:

  • 355 notices
  • one presidential document
  • 21 proposed rules
  • 75 final rules

One final rule from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reopening the public comment period on the agency’s proposed T-nonimmigrant classification for human trafficking victims 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 22 significant proposed rules and 15 significant final rules as of July 16.

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 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017: Changes to the Federal Register 

Additional reading:

Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018: Historical additions to the Federal Register, 1936-2019 

Republican William Penterman wins Wisconsin Assembly special election

William Penterman (R) was elected to District 37 of the Wisconsin State Assembly in a special election held on July 13. Penterman earned 54.1% of the vote, defeating Democrat Pete Adams and independent candidate Stephen Ratzlaff Jr. Once the results are certified, Penterman will be sworn in for a term that ends in January 2023.

The seat became vacant on April 23 after John Jagler (R) was sworn into the Wisconsin State Senate. He won a special election for state Senate District 13 on April 6. Jagler had represented District 37 since 2013. He won re-election in 2020 with 56% of the vote.

Republicans will have a 61-38 majority in the Wisconsin Assembly after Penterman is sworn in. Wisconsin has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and majorities in both state legislative chambers.

As of July, 46 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 18 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. Wisconsin held 19 state legislative special elections from 2011 to 2020.

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Wisconsin Supreme Court affirms agency authority to regulate state water resources

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on July 8 issued decisions in two environmental cases that had pitted the state legislature against the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in a disagreement over which government entity has the authority to regulate water pollution and irrigation practices. In both cases, the court held 4-2 that the DNR is authorized to restrict permits in order to protect the state’s water resources.

The pair of cases, both initiated by Clean Wisconsin Inc. and Pleasant Lake Management District, centered on Wisconsin Act 21—a 2011 law that limits state agency authority by prohibiting state agencies from taking actions not specifically authorized by the state legislature.

The first case concerned an administrative law judge’s (ALJ) order that the DNR limit the size of a dairy herd causing nearby groundwater contamination. The DNR under then-Governor Scott Walker (R) did not enforce the ALJ’s directive, arguing that Act 21 prohibited the agency from carrying out the order.

A Dane County Circuit Court judge in 2016 affirmed the DNR’s authority to limit the size of the dairy herd to address water pollution. The DNR appealed the decision to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The current DNR under Governor Tony Evers (D) changed its position and had since claimed regulatory authority in the case.

The Wisconsin Supreme Court upheld the circuit court’s decision. Writing for the majority, Justice Jill Karofsky stated, “we conclude that an agency may rely upon a grant of authority that is explicit but broad when undertaking agency action, and such an explicit but broad grant of authority complies with [Act 21].”

In the second case, challengers sued the DNR seeking stricter enforcement of regulations regarding large-scale water withdrawals for irrigation. Challengers claimed that the agency failed to consider the cumulative negative impact on water levels in nearby lakes and streams when it issued permits for nine high-capacity wells. As in the previous case, the DNR argued that Act 21 prevented the agency from considering the cumulative impact of the new wells. 

The Wisconsin Supreme Court again affirmed the circuit court’s decision in the case, holding that the DNR erroneously claimed that it lacked regulatory authority. Writing for the majority, Justice Rebecca Dallet stated, “The DNR’s authority to consider the environmental effects of proposed high capacity wells, while broad, is nevertheless explicitly permitted by statute.”

Chief Justice Annette Ziegler joined Justices Ann Walsh Bradley, Rebecca Dallet and Jill Karofsky in both majority opinions. Justice Brian Hagedorn did not participate in the case.

Justices Rebecca Bradley and Patience Roggensack dissented, arguing in part: “Elevating its environmental policy preferences over the legislature’s prerogative to reclaim its constitutional authority, the majority distorts the plain language of [Act 21] to achieve its own ends.” 

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