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Cost-benefit analysis overhaul at EPA in response to Trump executive order

Offices of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are formulating rules to clarify how they weigh the costs and benefits of potential regulations. These rules follow a May 13, 2019, memo from EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler saying that cost-benefit analyses have varied across the agency in the past and that new rules will promote more transparent and consistent processes.
 
Wheeler’s memo says that the EPA is standardizing its cost-benefit analysis practices in response to President Trump’s Executive Order 13777, which directed agencies to find regulations that impose higher costs than benefits. The memo lists the following guidelines for the new cost-benefit analysis rules:
 
• The EPA should measure and consider costs and benefits when making decisions
 
• The EPA should have consistent interpretations of terms like “practical,” “appropriate,” “reasonable,” and “feasible”
 
• The EPA should explain which factors go into regulatory analyses and how they are used to shape the outcome of regulations
 
• The EPA analyses should follow best practices and sound economic and scientific principles
 


Nevada will be the first state to vote to repeal its constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman

On November 3, 2020, voters in Nevada will decide a ballot measure to repeal the state’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman. Instead, the ballot measure would define marriage as between couples regardless of gender and state that religious organizations and clergypersons have the right to refuse to solemnize a marriage.
 
The measure makes Nevada the first state to ask voters to repeal language prohibiting same-sex marriage from a state constitution.
 
Nevada is one of 30 states with a constitutional provision prohibiting same-sex marriage and/or defining marriage as between one man and one woman. In Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state bans on same-sex marriage as violating the U.S. Constitution. The language prohibiting same-sex marriage remained in the state constitutions.
 
Nevada was the third state to pass a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman.
 
A citizen-initiated constitutional amendment in Nevada needs to be approved at two successive general elections. Question 2 was approved by almost 70 percent of voters in 2000 and approved again by 67 percent of voters in 2002.
 
The legislative process of amending the Nevada Constitution takes around four years and occurs over two legislative sessions. After Democrats took control of the state Legislature in 2016, legislation was introduced to repeal Question 2. The first version of the legislation, which didn’t include the provision stating that religious organizations can refuse to solemnize a marriage, received support from Democrats, along with one Republican. The final version received support from Democrats and three-quarters of Republicans in 2019.
 
The 2020 ballot measure is the second constitutional amendment referred to the ballot during the legislature’s 2019 legislative session. The legislature could refer an additional five amendments that were passed in 2017, which need approval again before the legislature adjourns on June 3. The potential measures include a minimum wage increase, a constitutional right to certain voting procedures and policies, and a constitutional right to medically-necessary emergency care and services.
 
As of May 24, 28 statewide ballot measures had been certified for the 2020 ballot in 15 states.
 


May 2019 Democrat and Republican party committee fundraising update

The Democrat and Republican Party Senate and House committees, as well as the Democratic National Committee, reported raising less money from April 20 through May 20 than they did in the month period before. The Republican National Committee (RNC) was the only of the major party campaign committees to raise more in May than in April: $15.9 million, up from the $15.5 million.
 
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) raised $6.6 million—down from the $8.2 million it raised in April.
 
The National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) raised $5.5 million in May, compared to $13.0 million raised in April. It spent $4.3 million, down from $11.5 million in April. Its Democratic counterpart, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), raised $7.8 million in May, compared to $13.5 million raised in April. The DCCC spent $10.1 million in May, including on paying off all $6 million of the debt it reported in April.
 
The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) raised $4.5 million in May, compared to $7.5 million in April. It spent $5.3 million, including on paying off $1.5 million of the $9 million in debt it reported in April. Its Democratic counterpart, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), raised $4.4 million in May compared to $5.9 million in April.
 
So far this year, the DCCC, DSCC, and DNC have raised a combined $85.9 million and spent a combined $72.2 million. The NRCC, NRSC, and RNC have raised a combined $116.4 million and spent a combined $97.8 million.
 


Republicans keep seats in Pennsylvania specials

On Tuesday, three state legislative special elections were held in Pennsylvania. The seats for Senate District 33, Senate District 41, and House District 11 were on the ballot. Candidates running for special elections in Pennsylvania are selected directly by political parties, rather than through a primary election process.
 
Doug Mastriano (R) defeated Sarah Hammond (D) in the race for Senate District 33. Mastriano received 7,863 votes (69.5 percent) according to the unofficial election night count, and Hammond received 3,445 votes (30.5 percent). The seat became vacant after Richard Alloway (R) resigned on February 28, 2019. Penn Live reported that Alloway explained his resignation was due to political gridlock, a lack of advancement opportunities, and burn out.
 
In District 41, Joe Pittman (R) defeated Susan Boser (D). Pittman received 24,236 votes (65.6 percent), while Boser received 12,708 votes (34.4 percent). The seat became vacant after Don White (R) resigned on February 28, 2019, for health reasons.
 
In the race for House District 11, Marci Mustello (R) defeated Samuel Doctor (D). Mustello received 5,808 votes (57.4 percent), and Doctor received 4,312 votes (42.6 percent). The seat became vacant after Brian Ellis (R) resigned on March 18, 2019, following allegations of sexual assault.
 
As of May, 55 state legislative special elections have been scheduled or held in 22 states. Between 2011 and 2018, an average of 77 special elections took place each year.
 
Entering the special election, the Pennsylvania State Senate had 22 Democrats, 26 Republicans, and two vacancies. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives had 93 Democrats, 109 Republicans, and one vacancy. Pennsylvania 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.
 
Additional reading:


Senate confirms Daniel Collins without support from home-state senators

On May 21, 2019, the U.S. Senate confirmed Daniel Collins to the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit on a 53-46 vote. President Donald Trump (R) nominated Collins to the seat on November 13, 2018.
 
Collins was a partner in the Los Angeles office of Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP from 2003 to 2019. He also previously worked as an associate deputy attorney general in the U.S. Department of Justice and as an assistant U.S. attorney for the Central District of California. Collins was a law clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court of the United States and to 9th Circuit Judge Dorothy Nelson.
 
Collins obtained an A.B. summa cum laude from Harvard College in 1985. In 1988, he earned a J.D. with distinction from Stanford University, where he was a member of the Order of the Coif. During his legal studies, Collins also served as a note editor on the Stanford Law Review.
 
Collins was confirmed along party lines. Home-state Senators Dianne Feinstein (D) and Kamala Harris (D) of California voted against his nomination. Feinstein and Harris said the White House nominated Collins without consulting them. In a statement after his confirmation, Feinstein said, “I am concerned that Mr. Collins has not demonstrated and does not embody the characteristics that we expect of all federal judges. I also believe that Mr. Collins’s record on women’s reproductive rights, executive power, civil liberties, and criminal justice matters puts him far outside the judicial mainstream.”
 
In 2018, then-White House Counsel Don McGahn wrote in a letter to then-Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) that the White House tried to negotiate with the California senators. He said he reached out to Feinstein on multiple occasions and stated that Harris had “refused to engage with the White House at any level, whatsoever on the issue.” McGahn said the president was “exercising his prerogative to nominate his own well-qualified nominees.”
 
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 court system.
 
The 9th Circuit currently has two confirmed nominees—Collins and Kenneth Kiyul Lee. Once they receive their judicial commissions and take their judicial oaths, the 9th Circuit will have two vacancies, 11 judges appointed by Republican presidents, and 16 judges appointed by Democratic presidents.
 
The Senate has now confirmed 112 of President Trump’s judicial nominees—69 district court judges, 41 appeals court judges, and two Supreme Court justices—since January 2017. At the end of the 115th Congress in January 2019, the Senate had confirmed 85 of the president’s judicial nominees.
 
Additional reading:


Mayor Sickles recalled after second attempt in Wickenburg, Arizona

A recall effort was successful on Tuesday against Mayor Everett Sickles in Wickenburg, Arizona. Former city councilman Rui Pereira defeated Sickles with 52.9% of the vote.
 
The recall petition read, “Whereas Everett Sickles, the mayor of Wickenburg, was elected to represent the town, its residents, and its economic interests, he has failed to do so. Instead, Mr. Sickles has used his position of authority to question the future of our local police department, criticize the business community, disparage town employees, and create an overall environment so toxic, it is threatening future development and quality of life. Tens of thousands of dollars have been wasted on his frivolous legal claims and baseless complaints against town vendors. His primary role is to promote our wonderful community. He has done the opposite.”
 
In response to the recall petition, Sickles said, “Basically, it’s a pack of lies […] None of this makes any sense to me. You can twist it any way you want. You know that’s probably what will happen. This whole thing, the people want me to do something, I do it.” Sickles had previously criticized the local chamber of commerce’s role in economic development and stated, “the problem must be solved, before the town can move forward.”
 
Petitioners submitted 575 valid signatures—440 were required. An earlier attempt to recall Sickles failed in July 2018 after petitioners only had gathered 400 valid signatures.
 
Additional reading:


Three of nineteen incumbents defeated in Philadelphia primary

Philadelphia is holding elections for 23 positions on November 5, 2019. Offices up for election include mayor, city council, city commission, sheriff, and register of wills. A partisan primary was held on May 21.
 
Mayor James Kenney (D) defeated two challengers to advance to the general election. He faces Republican candidate William Ciancaglini, who was unopposed in the primary.
 
All 17 seats on the city council are up for election. Ten seats are elected by district and seven are elected at large; in the at-large primary, only five candidates from a party could advance to the general election. A total of 14 incumbents filed for re-election. Of these, 11 are Democrats and three are Republican. Four incumbents were unopposed in the primary. One incumbent, District 3 member Jannie Blackwell (D), was defeated.
 
All three at-large city commission seats are also on the general election ballot. Only two candidates from a political party could advance to the general election. The commission currently has two Democratic members and one Republican member. Incumbents Lisa Deeley (D) and Al Schmidt (R) filed for re-election, but Anthony Clark (D) did not, leaving one open seat. A total of 13 Democratic candidates filed to run, and Deeley and challenger Omar Sabir advanced to the general election from the Democratic primary. Schmidt also advanced after he ran unopposed in the Republican primary.
 
Register of Wills Ronald Donatucci and two challengers—Tracey Gordon and Jacque Whaumbush—competed in the Democratic primary. Gordon received 44.1% of the vote and advanced to the general election, where she is unopposed. No Republican candidates filed for the primary.
 
Sheriff Jewell Williams lost his re-election bid in the Democratic primary. Rochelle Bilal defeated Williams, Malika Rahman, and Larry King Sr. with 41.1% of the vote. Bilal is unopposed in the general election after no Republican candidates filed for the primary.
 
Minor party and independent candidates have until August 1, 2019, to file for the general election. Philadelphia is the largest city in Pennsylvania and the fifth-largest city in the U.S. by population.
 
 
Additional reading:


Iowa Supreme Court upholds changes to public-sector collective bargaining rights

In two separate rulings issued on May 17, the Iowa Supreme Court upheld a 2017 law that amended collective bargaining rights for the state’s public-sector workforce. The court ruled 4-3 in the state’s favor in both cases.

  • What was at issue? In 2017, then-Gov. Terry Branstad (R) signed into law a series of amendments to Iowa’s public-sector labor relations law. As a result, collective bargaining units with less than 30 percent public-safety personnel (defined generally as firefighters and police officers) cannot negotiate insurance, hours, vacations, holidays, overtime, and health and safety issues unless their employers elect to do so. Collective bargaining units exceeding the 30-percent threshold are exempted from these restrictions.
  • Who were the parties to the suits? The plaintiffs, American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 61 (AFSCME Council 61) and the Iowa State Education Association (ISEA), argued the amendments violated their equal protection and associational rights under the state constitution. The defendants were the state of Iowa and the Iowa Public Employment Relations Board. Both cases were filed in state district courts, which ruled against the plaintiffs. The plaintiffs appealed these decisions to the state supreme court.
  • How did the court rule? In each case, the court ruled 4-3 in the state’s favor.
    • In the majority opinion covering both cases, Justice Thomas Waterman wrote: “The 2017 amendments do not infringe on a fundamental right of association. The plaintiffs ‘come to us with a problem suitable only for political solution.’ The plaintiffs are free to attempt to persuade public employers, such as the State and local governments and school boards, to voluntarily bargain over formerly mandatory terms. The plaintiffs otherwise must look to the ballot box and the elected branches to change this lawfully enacted statute.” Justices Susan Christensen, Edward Mansfield, and Christopher McDonald joined Waterman’s opinion.
      • All four of these justices were appointed by Republican governors (Branstad appointed Waterman and Mansfield; Kim Reynolds appointed Christensen and McDonald).
    • Chief Justice Mark Cady and Justices Brent Appel and David Wiggins dissented. In his dissent, Cady wrote: “[The] Iowa statute ends up treating many similarly situated public employees in Iowa differently based solely on the bargaining unit they belong to and not for the reason the constitution would justify different treatment of public employees. Our constitution requires laws to treat similarly situated people equally unless there is an adequate reason otherwise. In this case, the overinclusiveness and underinclusiveness written into the statute drowned this reason out.”
      • Brent and Wiggins were appointed by Tom Vilsack, a Democrat. Cady was appointed by Branstad, a Republican.
  • What are the responses?
    • Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver (R) supported the ruling: “Since its implementation, I have heard story after story of school districts and local governments implementing creative solutions to improve the education of Iowa’s students and the provision of services Iowans need. This reform is about returning power to locally elected officials and giving them the ability to pay more to great teachers and employees, fire the occasional bad actor and protect Iowa taxpayers.”
    • Senate Minority Leader Janet Petersen (D) opposed the ruling: ” By taking away the rights of teachers, firefighters, nurses, correctional officers, and other public servants, Republican politicians have done harm to all Iowa workers. Working Iowa men and women are the real victims of the assault by the Branstad/Reynolds administration and Republican-controlled Legislature.”
  • The case names and numbers are: AFSCME Council 61 v. Iowa (No. 17–1841) and Iowa State Education Association v. Iowa (No. 17-1834).

 

 

 

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state: We are currently tracking 100 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

Number of relevant bills by current legislative status:

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

Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of legislative actions taken in the last week. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • California AB314: This bill would require employers to grant employees paid time for certain union activities.
    • Read a second time in the Assembly and ordered to a third reading May 20.
  • Maine LD1232: This bill would prohibit employers from requiring employees to join a union or pay fees to a union as a condition of employment.
    • Died May 23 (placed in legislative files).
  • Oregon HB2016: This bill would require public employers to grant paid time to employees participating in certain union activities. It would also require employers to furnish unions with access to employees.
    • Senate Workforce Committee work session May 21.
  • Oregon HB3009: This bill would require public employers to provide unions with access to new employees. It would also permit individuals who are not union members to make payments in lieu of dues to unions.
    • Senate Workforce Committee work session May 23.


Federal government follows through on threat to cancel $1 billion California high-speed rail grant; state files lawsuit in response

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on May 16 canceled nearly $1 billion in high-speed rail grants issued to the California High Speed Rail Authority. The federal government canceled the grants in response to the state’s failure to comply with the terms of the original 2010 agreement and failure to make reasonable progress on the project, according to the notice.
 
DOT had notified California rail officials in February that it intended to cancel $929 million in grants for construction of the high-speed rail system between Los Angeles and San Francisco. DOT officials also announced that they were “actively exploring every legal option” to recoup $2.5 billion that was previously granted to the project for allegedly violating terms of funding.
 
The California High Speed Rail Authority filed a federal lawsuit challenging the DOT decision on May 21.
 
Read more about this story in the March edition of The Checks and Balances Letter, the monthly newsletter from Ballotpedia’s Administrative State Project.
 


Republican state representative in Alaska targeted for recall due to legislative session delays

Alaska state Rep. Gary Knopp (R) has been targeted for recall due to his role in forming a majority coalition with Democrats, which recall supporters argue led to delays and disruptions to the 2019 legislative session. Prior to the session beginning, Knopp announced that he was leaving the Republican caucus in order to form a majority coalition with Democrats. He said, “A 21 member caucus cannot succeed. It’s doomed for failure and I’m not going to be on that train. I’m not joining the Democrats either. I’m doing this to try and force a true coalition.” Over 30 days in January and February, Knopp helped to form a coalition of 15 Democrats, eight Republicans, and two members unaffiliated with either party.
 
After the delays at the beginning of its session, the legislature was unable to finish all of its work. This led to Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) calling the legislature into a 30-day special session on May 15, 2019. The special session has been tasked with passing legislation related to criminal reform, the operating budget, the mental health budget, the capital budget, and education funding. The special session could cost the state between $500,000 and $1 million.
 
Recall supporters need about 1,000 signatures to request a recall petition from Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer (R). If Meyer accepts the application, supporters will need about an additional 3,000 signatures to force a recall election. Misconduct in office, incompetence, or failure to perform prescribed duties are the only grounds for recall in the state of Alaska.
 
After the recall was announced against Rep. Knopp, he said: “In the recall petition, they are welcome to do what they want to do. I don’t think they have cause, but if they want to move forward with it that’s their prerogative. I just wish it would be done by people in the district not the haters across the state who aren’t getting what they want.” Knopp was censured by the Alaska Republican Party in May 2019 for his role in the disruptions to the start of the 2019 legislative session. Because of the censure, Knopp will no longer receive support from the state party.
 
Knopp was elected to District 30 in the state House in 2016. He defeated Shauna Thornton (D) and two other candidates in the general election with 66.51% of the vote. He ran unopposed in the 2018 election.
 
Since 2011, 80 recall petitions have been filed against state lawmakers. Nine recalls were successful, nine were defeated at the ballot, 55 did not go to a vote, and seven are still ongoing. California state Sen. Josh Newman (D) was recalled in 2018. Two Colorado state senators were successfully recalled in 2013.
 
Alaska has a divided government, and no political party holds a state government trifecta. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. Republicans control the state Senate by a 13-7 margin. Although Republicans won a majority in the state House in the 2018 elections, a coalition of 15 Democrats, four Republicans, and two independents elected Bryce Edgmon (undeclared) as House speaker on February 14, 2019. This resulted in the parties having split control of key leadership positions in a power-sharing agreement. Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) won the governor’s office in 2018.