Latest stories

Washington activist Tim Eyman to launch his third 2019 signature petition drive; this initiative would ban income taxes

Sponsor Tim Eyman announced on March 26, 2019, that he would launch a signature drive for Initiative 1650 beginning on April 1, 2019, leaving 96 days to collect 259,622 valid signatures. Eyman refers to the measure as the We Don’t Want An Income Tax Initiative. I-1650 would prohibit local and state governments from enacting or imposing taxes on income including net, gross, or adjusted gross income; capital gains income; or any other portion or type of income. Washington state does not currently have a personal or corporate income tax.
This is the third active initiative or veto referendum petition drive Eyman has sponsored targeting the 2019 ballot. He successfully qualified Initiative 976 for the 2019 ballot. I-976 is currently certified to the legislature. The legislature can either approve the measure, reject or refuse to act on the measure and send it to the ballot, or send it to the ballot accompanied with an alternative. Eyman is currently collecting signatures for Referendum Measure 80, which would block salary increases for state elected officials set by the Washington Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials (WCCSEO). The signature submission deadline for Referendum Measure 80 is on May 7, 2019.
Tim Eyman has sponsored or worked on a number of ballot initiative campaigns in the state of Washington each year since at least 1998. Of the Eyman initiatives that have been filed over the years, 16 qualified for the ballot. Of the 16 measures that appeared on the statewide ballot, 10 of them were approved, although eight (50 percent) were later invalidated. Six of the 16 were defeated by voters.
Additional reading:

SCOTUS hears arguments in two partisan gerrymandering cases

On March 26, the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments in two partisan gerrymandering cases, Rucho v. Common Cause and Lamone v. Benisek. During the course of arguments, the justices appeared divided over the issues central to both cases: are partisan gerrymandering claims justiciable under federal law, and should federal courts intervene to settle disputes over alleged partisan gerrymandering?
Associate Justice Neil Gorsuch, appointed to the court by Pres. Donald Trump (R), asked Emmet Bondurant, counsel for Common Cause, the following: “What do we do as well about the — the fact that about 20 states, as I understand it, from — from your friend on the other side, have dealt with this problem through citizen initiatives as a remedy to deal with this, including, I think, five of them just this last election and a bunch more on the ballot in the coming election. Why should we wade into this — when that alternative exists?”
Associate Justice Elena Kagan, a Barack Obama (D) appointee, disputed Gorsuch’s claim: “I mean, going down that road would suggest that Justice Gorsuch’s attempt to sort of say this is not so bad because the people can fix it is not so true because you’re suggesting that the people really maybe can’t fix it, you were wrong about the people being able to fix it, and if the people could fix it, while it’s not the constitutionally prescribed way because it’s never been done before, so Justice Gorsuch’s attempts to save what’s so dramatically wrong here, which is the Court leaving this all to professional politicians who have an interest in districting according to their own partisan interests, seems to fail.”
Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh, a Trump appointee, echoed Gorsuch’s inquiry: “But what about, to pick up on something Justice Gorsuch said earlier, that there is a fair amount of activity going on in the states on redistricting and attention in Congress and in state supreme courts? In other words, have we reached the moment, even though it would be a — have we really reached the moment, even though it would be a big lift for this Court to get involved, where the other actors can’t do it?”
Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, an Obama appointee, responded as follows to the point made by Paul Clement, counsel for Rucho, that partisan gerrymandering claims are not justiciable under federal law: “Once we decided the one person, one vote concept, we’ve been pretty much in all of our jurisprudence saying that certain acts by the legislature are unconstitutional, including race discrimination and others. It can’t be that simply because the Constitution says that a particular act is in the hands of one — one branch of government, that that deprives the courts of reviewing whether that action is constitutional or not.
The high court is expected to rule on both cases prior to the conclusion of the current term in June of this year.
The phrase partisan gerrymandering refers to the practice of drawing electoral district maps with the intention of favoring one political party over another. In contrast with racial gerrymandering, on which issue the Supreme Court of the United States has issued rulings in the past affirming that such practices violate federal law, the high court has not yet a ruling establishing clear precedent on the question of partisan gerrymandering. Although the court heard two partisan gerrymandering cases last term, it ruled on procedural and standing grounds in each, without addressing the question of justiciability.
For more information about these cases, see our articles:

Senate confirms 9th Circuit Court nominee

The U.S. Senate confirmed Bridget Bade to be a federal judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The vote on Tuesday was bipartisan, with 53 Republican senators, 24 Democratic senators, and Independent Angus King voting in favor. Home-state Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D) and Martha McSally (R) of Arizona both voted to confirm Bade. The overall vote was 78-21 (with 1 abstaining).
The United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit is one of 13 U.S. courts of appeal. They are the intermediate appellate courts of the United States federal courts. On August 27, 2018, President Donald Trump (R) nominated Bade to a seat on this court. She will join the court upon receiving her judicial commission and taking her judicial oath. Bade will be the fourth Trump nominee to join the 29-member court. She is the 37th appeals court judge to be confirmed under President Donald Trump.
Before Bade’s confirmation, the court had 24 members–16 appointed by a Democratic president and eight appointed by a Republican president. There were five vacant seats. Bade’s confirmation leaves four vacant seats.
Four nominees for the vacant seats are awaiting action from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Daniel Bress and Patrick Bumatay are awaiting a hearing before the committee. Daniel Collins and Kenneth Kiyul Lee are awaiting a committee vote.
The Senate has confirmed 92 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—53 district court judges, 37 appeals court judges, and two Supreme Court justices—since January 2017.

Kentucky gubernatorial candidates take to airwaves as primary gets closer

Kentucky’s gubernatorial primaries are less than two months away, and candidates have begun releasing advertisements on television and YouTube.
Four candidates are running in each party’s primary. Gov. Matt Bevin (R) is seeking re-election, although he is running in 2019 with a different running mate than his current lieutenant governor.
Democrat Adam Edelen aired his first campaign ad on March 17 during the finals of the men’s Southeastern Conference basketball tournament. In it, Edelen said he was the only candidate not taking money from corporate PACs, and discussed increasing wages, expanding healthcare, and creating renewable energy jobs.
Republican Robert Goforth released a campaign ad titled “Roots” on March 20. The ad highlights Goforth’s upbringing in Kentucky, and features a clip of the candidate telling citizens that “it’s time we have a governor from Kentucky and Main Street.”
Kentucky is one of three states (Louisiana and Mississippi are the others) holding a gubernatorial election in 2019. It is currently one of 22 Republican state government trifectas.
Additional reading:

Virginia governor vetoes sanctuary jurisdiction-related bill

On March 19, 2019, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) vetoed Senate Bill 1156, which would have prohibited sanctuary cities.
The term sanctuary jurisdiction refers to a city, county, or state that has enacted policies that limit local officials’ involvement in the enforcement of federal immigration law. The official bill summary described SB 1156 as providing “that no locality shall adopt any ordinance, procedure, or policy intended to restrict the enforcement of federal immigration laws.”
SB 1156 passed along party lines in the House and Senate, with all Republican members voting in favor of the bill. It passed the Senate on January 17, the House on February 19 with amendments, and the Senate again on February 20. 
Northam said the bill “imposes an unnecessary and divisive requirement upon localities regarding the enforcement of federal immigration laws.”
Bill sponsor Sen. Dick Black (R-District 13) disagreed, saying Northam mischaracterized the bill. “It just says localities must not adopt policies that interfere with federal enforcement. I think he was struggling to put words down, while encouraging sanctuary cities to pop up in Virginia,” he said.
Northam vetoed a similar measure in 2018.
As of March 2019, no Virginia locality had declared itself a sanctuary jurisdiction.

Sen. Tom Udall (D) and Rep. Jose Serrano (D) not running for re-election

Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) announced Monday that they would not seek re-election in 2020. Udall and Serrano are the fifth and sixth members of the 116th Congress, and the first Democrats, to announce they will not run for re-election.
Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Reps. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) and Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) have already announced their intention to not run again. Rep. Tom Marino (R-Penn.) left office early, and Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.) died in February.
At this point in the 2018 campaign cycle, more members had left office early but fewer had announced that they would not seek re-election. Five members of Congress—four Republicans and one Democrat—had announced that they were not planning to seek re-election in 2018. Reps. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kan.) and Sam Johnson (R-Texas) retired from elected office, while Reps. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.), Kristi Noem (R-S.D.), and Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) had launched campaigns for governor.
Six members had left Congress early. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Reps. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), Tom Price (R-Ga.), and Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.) had been appointed to positions in the Trump administration. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) had been appointed California attorney general.
In the 2018 campaign cycle, 55 members of Congress announced that they would not seek re-election while a further 20 members left office early. Both figures were the highest since Ballotpedia began tracking congressional retirements and early departures in 2012.

Las Vegas special election filing deadline is March 28

Candidates interested in running in the Las Vegas City Council special election for Ward 2 have until March 28 to file for the seat. The special election on June 11 coincides with the city’s general election for mayor and three other city council seats. All of the elections are nonpartisan.
The special election became necessary after the former Ward 2 representative, Steve Seroka, resigned on March 4. He had served on the city council since 2017. Prior to his resignation, Seroka was the subject of a recall attempt. Recall organizers had accused Seroka of having anti-development positions.
Las Vegas is the largest city in Nevada and the 29th-largest city in the U.S. by population.

Federal Register weekly update; year-to-date page total exceeds 10,000 pages

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.
During the week of March 18 to March 22, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,278 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 10,970 pages. A total of 620 documents were included in the week’s Federal Register, including 511 notices, five presidential documents, 45 proposed rules, and 59 final rules.
Three final rules were deemed significant under E.O. 12866—meaning that they may 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.
During the same week in 2018, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,004 pages. As of March 22, the 2019 total trailed the 2018 total by 1,878 pages.
The Trump administration has added an average of 914 pages to the Federal Register each week in 2019 as of March 22. In 2018, the Trump administration added an average of 1,301 pages to the Federal Register each week. Over the course of the Obama administration, the Federal Register increased by an average of 1,658 pages per week.
According to government data, the Federal Register hit an all-time high of 95,894 pages in 2016.
Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2016:,_1936-2016

U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider judicial deference to agency interpretations of regulations

The U.S. Supreme Court will soon decide whether courts should still defer to agency interpretations of their own ambiguous regulations. Under Auer deference, courts uphold agency interpretations of ambiguous regulations unless they are plainly erroneous or inconsistent. Supporters of Auer deference see Kisor v. Wilkie as a threat to the foundation of American administrative law while opponents see the case as an opportunity to restore separation of powers principles.
The case is scheduled for oral argument on March 27, 2019.
Auer deference refers to federal courts yielding to agency interpretations of ambiguous regulations made by that agency. The practice comes from precedents established by two U.S. Supreme Court decisions: Bowles v. Seminole Rock & Sand Co (1945) and Auer v. Robbins (1997).
In Kisor, the court will decide whether to overrule those precedents. The case involves a dispute between James Kisor, a marine veteran, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) over whether he should receive retroactive disability benefits for PTSD he developed during the Vietnam War. The VA denied Kisor’s initial disability claim in 1983 and granted him benefits in 2006. At issue is the VA’s interpretation of whether certain records were relevant to its decision to grant Kisor benefits with an effective date in 2006 instead of 1983.

Civil service reforms resurface in Trump’s 2020 budget proposal

President Trump’s (R) 2020 budget proposal includes provisions that would impact the structure and internal procedures of the federal civil service.
A selection of the provisions was previously featured in Trump’s three civil service executive orders (E.O. 13837, E.O. 13836, and E.O. 13839) issued in May 2018. These include proposals aimed at removing poor-performing federal employees and streamlining collective bargaining procedures. A federal district judge struck down the bulk of the executive orders in August 2018 and an appeal is currently pending before the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Additional civil service provisions featured in Trump’s 2020 budget proposal include:
  • Establishing new pay systems for special occupations.
  • Increasing temporary hiring to employ more highly qualified experts.
  • Eliminating certain retirement pensions in favor of contributions to the government’s Thrift Savings Plan.
  • Creating an industry exchange to allow nonprofit employees and academics to temporarily serve on federal projects.
  • Increasing the number of federal interns, which dropped from 35,000 in 2010 to 4,000 in 2018.
  • Re-skilling federal employees who currently serve in transactional positions that can be automated.
Congress must reconcile and approve a set of appropriations bills in order for the president to sign the budget into law.
The federal civil service is made up of all unelected “positions in the executive, judicial, and legislative branches of the Government of the United States, except positions in the uniformed services,” according to the United States Code. The civil service is subdivided into the competitive service, the excepted service, and the Senior Executive Service.