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Gov. Cooper appoints judge to North Carolina Supreme Court

On March 11, Gov. Roy Cooper (D) appointed North Carolina Court of Appeals Judge Mark Davis as an associate justice on the North Carolina Supreme Court. Davis will succeed Justice Cheri Beasley, who was previously elevated to the position of chief justice. Davis will assume office on April 8, 2019. Davis must run for election in 2020 to remain an associate justice.

The associate justice position was vacant following Chief Justice Mark Martin’s retirement on February 28 and Beasley’s elevation as chief justice. In the event a supreme court justice retires midterm, he or she is replaced via gubernatorial appointment. Otherwise, selection of North Carolina Supreme Court justices primarily occurs through partisan elections. Supreme court justices serve eight-year terms.

Davis was appointed to the state court of appeals by Gov. Bev Perdue (D) on December 31, 2012. He was elected to serve a full term on the court in 2014. Before his judicial career, Davis was general counsel for Gov. Perdue from 2011 to 2012 and was a special deputy attorney general for the state Department of Justice from 2006 to 2011.

Davis received his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his J.D. from the University of North Carolina School of Law. He received a master of laws (LL.M.) degree in judicial studies from Duke University School of Law in 2018.

At the time of Davis’ appointment, the seven-member court included the following members:
–Cheri Beasley – Initially appointed by Gov. Beverly Perdue (D)
–Anita Earls – Elected in 2018 (D)
–Sam Ervin – Elected in 2014
–Robin Hudson – Elected in 2006
–Michael Morgan – Elected in 2016
–Paul Martin Newby – Elected in 2004

Although the justices elected between 2004 and 2016 were elected in nonpartisan elections, Justice Newby is known as the sole Republican on the court.



Filing window for Texas legislators to introduce proposed 2019 constitutional amendments ended on Friday

Members of the Texas State Legislature filed 213 constitutional amendments for the 2019 regular legislative session. Legislators were allowed to file constitutional amendments through March 8, 2019. The 2019 legislative session is expected to adjourn on May 27, 2019. Amendments approved by the legislature would appear on the ballot for voter consideration on November 5, 2019.

Republicans, who control 57 percent of state legislative seats in Texas, filed 111 (52.1 percent) of the constitutional amendments. Democrats filed 102 (47.9 percent) of the constitutional amendments.

Between 2009 and 2017, an average of 187 constitutional amendments were filed during regular legislative sessions. The state legislature approved an average of nine constitutional amendments during regular legislative sessions. Therefore, the average rate of certification during regular legislative sessions was 4.7 percent. If the average is applied to the 213 constitutional amendments filed in 2019, 10 would be expected to make the ballot.

In Texas, citizens do not have the power to initiate statewide initiatives or referendums. Voters rejected a constitutional amendment to provide for the initiative and referendum process in 1914. The Texas State Legislature can refer statewide ballot measures, in the form of constitutional amendments, to the ballot. Texas is one of 16 states that requires a two-thirds vote in each legislative chamber during one legislative session to refer a constitutional amendment to the ballot. That amounts to a minimum of 100 votes in the Texas House of Representatives and 21 votes in the Texas Senate, assuming no vacancies.

Voters have approved 145 of 159 (91.2 percent) of constitutional amendments on the ballot between 1995 and 2018. Turnout at odd-year general elections in Texas averaged 11 percent —39 percentage points lower than the average turnout at general elections in even-numbered years.



Twenty-six file to run in North Carolina’s 3rd Congressional District special election

Twenty-six candidates filed to run in the special election to fill North Carolina’s vacant 3rd Congressional District seat. The candidates include six Democrats, 17 Republicans, one Constitution Party candidate, and two Libertarians. The vacancy occurred when former Rep. Walter Jones (R) died on February 10. Jones had held the seat since 1995.

Primaries are scheduled for April 30, and primary runoffs are scheduled for July 9. The general election will be held September 10. However, if no primary runoffs are needed, the general election date will be moved up to July 9. The filing deadline was March 8.

Republicans currently hold eight of the state’s 13 U.S. House seats and both of its U.S. Senate seats. Democrats hold three U.S. House seats, and two seats are vacant. Entering the 2019 special election, the U.S. House has 235 Democrats and 198 Republicans. A majority in the chamber requires 218 seats.



Fourteen file to run for 4 Riverside City Council seats

Fourteen candidates filed to run in the June 4 general election for Riverside City Council in California. The Ward 1, 3, 5, and 7 seats are on the ballot. The filing deadline was March 8.

Ward 1 incumbent Mike Gardner filed to run for another term and faces two challengers. The races for the open Ward 5 and 7 seats each have three candidates, and the open Ward 3 race has five candidates.

When city council elections were last held in 2017, the Ward 2, 4, and 6 seats were on the ballot. All three incumbents who held those seats ran for re-election, and two of them won new terms. In 2015, three of the four incumbents whose seats were on the ballot ran for re-election, and all three won new terms. Two of those incumbents were re-elected without facing opposition.

Riverside is the 12th-largest city in California and the 58th-largest city in the U.S. by population.



Phoenix Councilman DiCiccio and Responsible Budgets pension initiative sent to August ballot

Proponents of a citizen initiative designed to address Phoenix’s pension debt collected enough signatures to send the issue before voters.

In January, the group Responsible Budgets submitted close to 50,000 petition signatures to the city clerk’s office for an initiative it titled the “Responsible Budget Act.” On March 6, 2019, the city clerk verified that the group had met the required threshold of 20,510 valid signatures to place the initiative on the ballot for August 27, 2019.

Phoenix city council member Sal DiCiccio, who is backing the initiative, stated that Phoenix owes $4.4 billion in pension debt. If approved, the initiative would limit city spending in order to pay down pension debt, and it would require annual assessments of the debt. The initiative text states that priority would be given to paying down debt for police and firefighter pensions. Under the initiative, the city would be required to use revenue in excess of spending increases based on inflation and population growth for paying down pension debt, and retirement pensions and retirement healthcare benefits would be ended for elected city officials voted into office after the enactment of the initiative.

Phoenix voters have decided four pension-related measures since 2013.



Chicago mayoral runoff: Lightfoot v. Preckwinkle on ethics reform

Former Chicago Police Board President Lori Lightfoot and Cook County Board of Commissioners President Toni Preckwinkle were the top two vote-getters among a 14-candidate field for Chicago mayor on Feb. 26. They face each other in a runoff on April 2.
 
One major issue where the candidates’ positions differ is ethics reform.
 
Candidates leading up to the general election frequently debated three areas of reform: term limits, prohibitions on outside employment for city officials, and aldermanic privilege (power over zoning, licensing, and permitting in their wards).
 
Lightfoot and Preckwinkle hold different positions on all three.
 
Chicago mayoral eethics comparison
 
Each week until the runoff, we’ll compare and contrast candidates’ positions on a major policy issue in The Deep Dish, Ballotpedia’s weekly newsletter on Chicago’s elections. To see where Lightfoot and Preckwinkle stand on ethics reform, check out this week’s edition. For more positions each week along with the latest news, subscribe to The Deep Dish.


Combined total raised by competing campaigns passes half a million for Colorado Springs collective bargaining initiative

Colorado Springs voters will decide Issue 1 on April 2, 2019. Issue 1 is a citizen initiative designed to allow collective bargaining for city fire employees. If approved, Issue 1 would allow uniformed city fire employees, aside from the fire chief and the fire chief’s direct reports, to select and remove a bargaining representative. The bargaining representative would negotiate agreements with the city regarding fire employees’ salaries, wages, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment.

Ballot measure committee Firefighters for a Safer Colorado Springs registered in support of Issue 1. As of the March 1 campaign finance filing date, the committee had reported $320,154.04 in total contributions to the support campaign, #YESon1. The group reported $234,771.39 in expenditures.

The committee Citizens Against Public Employee Unions registered to oppose the initiative. As of March 1, Citizens Against Public Employee Unions had reported $245,119.18 in total contributions and $39,698.72 in expenditures for the opposition campaign, No on #1.

The Colorado Springs chapter of the International Association of Firefighters union— Local 5—leads among donors to the #YESon1 campaign with $219,509.05 total contributions. The group Colorado Springs Forward is the top donor to the No on #1 campaign, with $81,000.00 in contributions.



Former candidate Willie Wilson endorses Lori Lightfoot in Chicago’s mayoral runoff

Willie Wilson, who was part of the initial 14-candidate field in Chicago’s mayoral race, endorsed Lori Lightfoot on Friday. Lightfoot faces Toni Preckwinkle in an April 2 runoff election.

Wilson placed fourth in the Feb. 26 general election with 10.6 percent of the vote. Lightfoot received 17.5 percent to Preckwinkle’s 16 percent. Wilson received more votes than any other candidate in 14 of the city’s 50 wards. In each of those 14 wards, Preckwinkle came in second and Lightfoot, third.

Wilson said while announcing his endorsement, “Chicago, it’s time for a change.” Referring to Preckwinkle, Wilson said, “How can you expect things to change when she is the machine?”

On Wednesday, Preckwinkle was endorsed by Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White (D). White said, “We need someone who’s gonna run the city of Chicago, who has experience. I believe that Toni Preckwinkle has all that is required to run the city of Chicago.”

Also since the Feb. 26 election: Preckwinkle was endorsed by 27th Ward Alderman Walter Burnett. Lightfoot was endorsed by the Latino Leadership Council—a political action committee founded by U.S. Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D) and former U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D)—and the Chicago Firefighters Union Local 2.

That’s the second union endorsement we’ve tracked for Lightfoot, in addition to Illinois Education Association Region 67. Preckwinkle was endorsed by the Chicago Teachers Union, three affiliates of the Service Employees International Union, and the Illinois chapter of the National Association of Social Workers leading up to the Feb. 26 election.

See our coverage of Chicago’s mayoral race for full endorsement lists.



Arkansas legislature asks voters to continue a 0.5 percent transportation sales tax currently set to expire in 2023

On March 7, 2019, the Arkansas State Senate approved a proposed constitutional amendment that would make permanent a 0.5 percent sales tax. The tax was approved by voters in 2012 and set to expire in 2023 once certain transportation bond debt was repaid. As the state House approved the amendment on March 4, the Senate’s vote sent the proposal—House Joint Resolution 1018—to voters at the November 2020 election. The Department of Finance and Administration estimated that the continued 0.5 percent sales tax authorized by the amendment would generate $293.7 million per year in revenue. It would be allocated in the following way:
 
  1. 70 percent ($205.59 million) to state highways,
  2. 15 percent ($44.055 million) to county roads, bridges, and other transportation, and
  3. 15 percent to ($44.055 million) to city roads, bridges, and other transportation.
 
In the House, 45 Republicans and 22 Democrats voted in favor of HJR 1018; 29 Republicans and one Democrat, Rep. John Walker, voted against HJR 1018. In the Senate, 17 Republicans and eight Democrats voted in favor of HJR 1018; seven Republicans and zero Democrats voted against it.
 
Voters authorized the temporary 0.5 percent sales tax that would be made permanent by this amendment in 2012 through approval of Issue 1 (2012), which is now Amendment 91 in the state constitution. Issue 1 of 2012 authorized the 0.5 percent sales tax to be levied until the general obligation bonds in the amount of $1.3 billion for the construction of a four-lane highway were repaid (estimated to be in 2023).
 
The legislature also passed Senate Bill 336 on March 4. SB 336 raises revenue for transportation through a gas tax, a casino tax, and hybrid/electric vehicle fees. On Thursday, Hutchinson said, “With the Senate’s passage of HJR 1018 this afternoon and the legislature’s passage of the $95 million highway-funding bill earlier this week, the 92nd General Assembly has approved the largest and most comprehensive long-term highway funding plan in state history. Because of the passage of HJR1018, Arkansas voters will have the final word on funding for the construction and repair of the roads they drive each and every day.”
 
This was the first statewide measure certified for the 2020 ballot in Arkansas. The Arkansas legislature is allowed to refer no more than three constitutional amendments to the voters at a general election. Citizen initiatives are also permitted in Arkansas. So far, three initiatives related to redistricting have been cleared for signature gathering with proponents targeting the 2020 Arkansas ballot. From 1996 through 2018, an average of four statewide measures appeared on the ballot during even-numbered years in Arkansas.


Federal Register weekly update; 2019 page total trails 2018 page total by 1,964 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 4 to March 8, the number of pages in the Federal Register increased by 1,328 pages, bringing the year-to-date total to 8,588 pages. A total of 527 documents were included in the week’s Federal Register, including 400 notices, nine presidential documents, 50 proposed rules, and 68 final rules.
 
One proposed rule and two 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 1,418 pages. As of March 8, the 2019 total trailed the 2018 total by 1,964 pages.
 
The Trump administration has added an average of 859 pages to the Federal Register each week in 2019 as of March 8. 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: