Veterans in the 116th Congress

Ninety-six veterans served as members of the 116th Congress (2019-2020). Seventy-three served in active duty with one of the four main military branches: 15 in the Air Force, 36 in the Army, 15 in the Marine Corps, and eight in the Navy (Steven Palazzo served in both the Army and Marine Corps). The remaining veterans served in either the reserves or national guard.

Sixty-six were members of the Republican Party and 30 were members of the Democratic Party. Fourteen of the veterans serving in the 116th Congress did not run for re-election in 2020.

President Woodrow Wilson (D) first recognized November 11 as Armistice Day in 1919 to commemorate the agreement that ended World War I in 1918. Congress recognized the date as a legal holiday to honor veterans of World War I in 1926. Congress changed the name from Armistice Day to Veteran’s Day in 1954 to further commemorate the service of veterans in World War II and the Korean War.

How much pension debt does your state have?

Unfunded liabilities refer to a pension fund’s debts—the payments owed to members of the pension fund that exceed its assets of current capital and their projected investment returns. This difference between assets and liabilities is monitored as an indicator of pension fund performance, management, and ability to pay retiree benefits.

In the years between 2003-2018, combined state pension funds’ unfunded liabilities have grown from $233 billion to $1.237 trillion. According to the United States Census Bureau, there were 296 state-administered pension funds in fiscal year 2018. In that same year, state government pension funds held $2.98 trillion in assets and carried $4.22 trillion in liabilities, resulting in a funding gap—the funds’ combined unfunded liabilities, or pension debt—of $1.237 trillion.

The trend between 2003 and 2018 showed a steady decline in the funded ratio for state pension funds as the growth in fund liabilities outran the growth in assets. The funding ratio of states’ pension funds dropped from nearly 90 percent in 2003 to below 80 percent in the six years between 2003 and the Great Recession year of 2009. The aggregate state pension fund ratio dropped to a low point of 65.9 percent in 2016, before rebounding to the 70 percent level in 2018.

Ballotpedia study finds that 36 state APAs limit ex parte communications between hearing officers and the parties involved in agency adjudication

A Ballotpedia survey of all 50 state constitutions and administrative procedure acts (APAs) revealed that 36 state APAs limit ex parte communications between hearing officers and the parties involved in adjudication, as of October 2020. No state constitutions restrict contact between agency hearing officials and parties in a case.

Ex parte communications are any form of contact between a party to an adjudication and the official conducting the hearing without the knowledge or consent of the other party to the case. Adjudication proceedings are agency determinations outside of the rulemaking process that aim to resolve disputes between either agencies and private parties or between two private parties. The adjudication process results in the issuance of an adjudicative order, which serves to settle the dispute and, in some cases, may set agency policy.

Understanding adjudication procedures provides insight into due process procedural rights of citizens at the state level, one of the five pillars key to understanding the main areas of debate about the nature and scope of the administrative state.

To learn more about Ballotpedia’s survey related to procedural rights, see here: 
Procedural rights: State that limit ex part communications between hearing officers and the parties involved in adjudication

Want to go further? Learn more about the five pillars of the administrative state here:
Administrative state

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How much debt does your state’s government have per person?

The average per capita debt across all 50 states in 2018 was $3,600. Nineteen states were above this per-capita average, with 31 states below. In 2000, average state debt per capita was $1,942.

In 2018, the states with the least debt per capita were: 

  • Tennessee ($929 per capita)
  • Nebraska ($1,068)
  • Nevada ($1,135)
  • Georgia ($1,266)
  • Florida ($1,299). 

The states with the highest debt per capita were: 

  • Massachusetts ($11,423)
  • Connecticut ($11,280)
  • Rhode Island ($8,593)
  • Alaska ($8,011)
  • and New York ($7,576). 

The US Census Bureau defines debt as “all long-term credit obligations of the government and its agencies whether backed by the governments’ full faith and credit or non-guaranteed, and all interest-bearing short-term credit obligations,” and includes “judgments, mortgages, and revenue bonds, as well as general obligations bonds, notes, and interest-bearing warrants.” State debt includes financial arrangements where a state-affiliated institution (like a public university), a hospital, or a quasi-governmental authority (like a stadium district) issues debt that the state government guarantees, but the entity makes the debt payments. The definition does not include underfunded pension obligations as state debt.

How much revenue does your state receive from the federal government per person?

Federal outlays are revenue that state governments receive directly from the federal government.

Between fiscal years 2014 and 2017, annual per capita federal outlays to states ranged from $1,141 (Virginia) to $4,849 (Wyoming).

The average annual per capita outlays across all states is $2,055, which is close to Michigan’s average ($2,009) and California’s ($2,053) over those four years.

Eight states experienced per capita declines in their federal outlays between 2014 and 2017 in the following amounts:

  • Wyoming ($818) 
  • South Dakota ($79)
  • Oklahoma ($65)
  • Idaho ($58)
  • Maine ($45)
  • Florida ($36)
  • North Carolina ($10) 
  • Hawaii ($7). 

Forty-two states experienced per capita increases in their federal outlays between 2014 and 2017. The top five per capita increases in those years were:

  • New Mexico ($776)
  • California ($695)
  • Nevada ($661)
  • Alaska ($625)
  • Pennsylvania ($593)

What percentage of your state’s general revenue comes from the federal government?

All states receive aid from the federal government, usually in the form of grants. In fiscal year 2018, the average percentage of general revenues that the states brought in from federal aid was 32.5%—or about one-third of their general revenues. From 2000 to 2018, the total share of federal outlays among all fifty states was 30.7% of their general revenue.

Between 2014 and 2018, 27 states saw increases in the percentage of their general revenues that come from federal outlays, 22 states saw decreases, and one state (Missouri) stayed the same.

In fiscal year 2018, the top five states by percentage of state general revenues from federal outlays were:

  • Louisiana (45.1%)
  • Montana (44.4%)
  • Mississippi (42.6%)
  • Alaska (42.3%)
  • Wyoming (42.1%) 

The bottom five states were:

  • Virginia (20%)
  • Kansas (21.1%)
  • Hawaii (21.3%)
  • North Dakota (21.9%)
  • Connecticut (23.6%)

Alaska had the largest increase in federal outlays between fiscal years 2014 and 2018. The state received 42.3% of its general revenues from federal outlays in 2018, up from 26.9% in 2014.

Percent of U.S. House races contested by both major parties reaches a century high

More than 95% of elections for U.S. House (415 of 435) in 2020 are contested by candidates from both the Democratic and Republican parties, according to Ballotpedia’s Annual Congressional Competitiveness Report. This is an increase over the four preceding election cycles and the highest percentage of contested races for U.S. House since at least 1920.

Twenty races (4.6%) feature no major party competition. Democrats are running in twelve races without Republican competition and Republicans are running in eight without Democratic competition.

The presence of major party competition has increased in each election cycle since 2014 before reaching this century high. In 2014, 16.8% of races (73) had no major party competition, meaning 83.2% (362) were contested by both major parties. The percentage of contested U.S. House races increased to 87.8% (382) in 2016 and 91.3% (397) in 2018.

A Democratic candidate is running in 98.2% of House races (427 of 435), down from 99.5% (433 of 435) in 2018.

A Republican candidate is running in 97.2% of House races (423 of 435), up from 91.7% (399 of 435) in 2018, and the highest rate of Republican competition since at least 2012.

All 33 regular U.S. Senate races in 2020 have major party competition. The most recent U.S. senator to run without major party competition was Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who ran unopposed in the 2014 general election.

To read more about major party competition, open seats, and primary competitiveness in congressional elections, click here: https://ballotpedia.org/Annual_Congressional_Competitiveness_Report,_2020

How many races in 2020 had the same candidates in 2018?

In the 2020 general election, 366 elections in Ballotpedia’s coverage scope are rematches between the same candidates who ran for office in 2018.

Rematch elections in 2020 include:

    1. 23 elections for the U.S. House
    2. One state executive election
    3. 339 state legislative elections
    4. Three local races in our coverage scope.

Republicans won 205 of the 2018 races that are now rematches, while Democrats won 159 and third party or nonpartisan candidates won two.

Of the 23 U.S. House rematches, Democrats won 13 and Republicans won 10 in 2018. A Republican won the state executive race in 2018.

Of the 339 state legislative rematches, Republicans won 193, Democrats won 145, and third party candidates won one in 2018.

Did COVID-19 affect the number of candidates who filed for election in 2020?

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, states have changed election dates, voting procedures, and candidate filing deadlines. We took a look at the potential effect these changes had on candidate filing ratios (the number of candidates who filed compared to the number of seats up for election).

We chose the date of comparison as March 13, 2020—the date the Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) urged countries to take a comprehensive approach to fight COVID-19. The data shows that the number of candidates who filed in 2020 and in 2018 is similar.

In 2020, 0.13 more candidates filed for election on or before March 13 than those who filed on or before the same date in 2018.

In 2020, 0.21 more candidates filed for election after March 13 than filed for election after March 13 in 2018.

In 2018, 2,294 candidates filed to run for the U.S. House. For this year’s elections, the number is 2,378. In both years, all 435 U.S. House seats were up for election.

The five states with the largest changes in candidate filing ratios—calculated by dividing the number of candidates who filed for election by the number of seats up for election—(positive or negative) from 2018 to 2020 are:

New Hampshire: -7.00
Utah: +6.25
Hawaii: +4.00
Idaho: -4.00
South Carolina: -3.15

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, 25 states have changed election dates at the state or local level and 40 states have made changes to voting procedures. Nineteen states have made changes to candidate filing deadlines.

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No current U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacancies

Seventeen U.S. Court of Appeals judgeships were vacant when President Trump was inaugurated on January 20, 2017. Today, there are no U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacancies. According to the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, no U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges have announced their intent to leave active judicial status during the remainder of Trump’s current term.

This is the first time there have been no federal appeals court vacancies since at least 1977. Between January 1, 1977, and January 1, 2019, an average of 9.6% of U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judgeships were vacant.

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