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Costa Constantinides resigns from New York City Council

Costa Constantinides resigned from the New York City Council on April 9 after announcing he would leave to take a position as CEO of the Variety Boys and Girls Club of Queens on March 31. Constantinides had served as the District 22 representative since 2013. His current term was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2021.

The New York City Council is the city’s primary legislative body. It is responsible for adopting the city budget, approving mayoral appointees, overseeing the use of municipal properties, levying taxes, and making or amending city laws, policies, and ordinances.

The New York City Council is composed of 51 members, each of whom are elected in partisan elections by the city’s fifty-one districts. The current partisan composition is 45 Democrats and three Republicans with three vacancies. The city’s charter requires Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) to schedule a special election to fill the vacancy left by Constantinides’ departure.

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Special election to be held in Connecticut House district

Voters will decide a special election for District 112 of the Connecticut House of Representatives on April 13. Nicholas Kapoor (D), Tony Scott (R), and William Furrier (Independent Party) are running in the general election. The winner will serve until January 2023.

The seat became vacant after the resignation of J.P. Sredzinski (R) on February 17. Sredzinski had represented the district since 2015.

Heading into the special election, Democrats have a 96-53 majority in the Connecticut House with two vacancies. Connecticut has a Democratic 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 April, 33 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 16 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. Connecticut held 40 state legislative special elections from 2011 to 2020.

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  • State legislative special elections, 2021
  • Connecticut House of Representatives
  • Connecticut House of Representatives, District 112


West Virginia enacts law creating intermediate appellate court

Governor Jim Justice (R) signed SB 275 into law on April 9 which provides guidelines for creating the West Virginia Intermediate Court of Appeals, effective June 30, 2021. Previously, West Virginia’s state courts included a state supreme court of appeals and trial courts with both general and limited jurisdiction.

According to Metro News, a 2009 judicial reform panel recommended the creation of an intermediate court. West Virginia is one of nine states without an intermediate appellate court, and the supreme court of appeals serves as the only appellate court.

As outlined in SB 275, the court will consist of three judges elected to 10-year terms. The first three judges will be appointed, with the first judicial election being held in 2024. These elections will be nonpartisan.

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Nebraska Department of Insurance Director Bruce Ramge retires

Bruce Ramge, the longest-serving Nebraska Department of Insurance director, retired on April 9. Former Gov. Dave Heineman (R) appointed him director in November 2010.

According to a press release from Gov. Pete Ricketts’ (R) office, Ramge served the department for 36 years, first joining in 1984 as an employee of the Market Conduct Division. He was then promoted to chief of market regulation in 1999, which was later followed by his appointments to deputy director and director in 2008 and 2010, respectively.

According to Nebraska’s constitution, Gov. Ricketts is responsible for appointing Ramge’s replacement with the consent of a majority of the state legislature. According to the Lincoln Journal Star, Ricketts appointed Eric Dunning to the position on April 2, with an effective start date of April 19.

The insurance commissioner is a state-level position in all 50 states. The duties of the position vary from state to state, but their general role is as a consumer protection advocate and insurance regulator. The position is elected in 11 states and appointed in 39. The office is nonpartisan in 38 states. The 12 states in which the position is partisan include the 11 states where the insurance commissioner is elected, as well as Ohio. Of the 12 states where the insurance commissioner has a partisan affiliation, the office is held by a Democrat in three and a Republican in nine.

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Two Cabinet-level positions remain unfilled in Biden admin

All 15 of President Joe Biden’s (D) main Cabinet secretary nominees were confirmed 61 days after he took office.

At this point in President Barack Obama’s (D) presidency—82 days after his inauguration—he still had one vacant secretary post for the Department of Health and Human Services. President Donald Trump (R) had two: the secretaries of agriculture and labor.

In addition to the main 15 Cabinet secretaries, Biden has selected eight more positions requiring Senate confirmation to be Cabinet-level in his administration. Two of those positions are still un: director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Biden initially nominated Neera Tanden, the president of Center for American Progress, to serve as OMB director. She faced two hearings before the Senate committees on budget and homeland security and governmental affairs but never received a committee vote.

Two weeks after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and several key Republicans—Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), and Mitt Romney (R-Utah)—said they would not support her confirmation, Tanden withdrew from consideration on March 2, 2021. Biden has not yet named a replacement nominee. OMB Deputy Director Shalanda Young is the acting director of the agency.

Biden formally nominated Eric Lander for OSTP director on Jan. 20. The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation has not yet scheduled his confirmation hearing. If Lander is confirmed, it will be the first time a presidential science advisor is in the president’s Cabinet.

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SCOTUS issues opinion, accepts case

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) on April 5 issued an opinion in the case Google LLC v. Oracle America Inc. and accepted Brown v. Davenport for argument in October 2021.

In Google LLC v. Oracle America Inc., the court reversed the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s ruling and remanded the case for further proceedings by a 6-2 vote. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote the majority opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas filed a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Samuel Alito. Justice Amy Coney Barrett took no part in the consideration or decision of the case since she had not joined the court at the time of the case’s oral argument in October 2020. 

The case was brought because Google copied verbatim portions of copyrighted code from 37 Java API packages and the packages’ structure, sequence, and organization, and wrote its own, customized implementing code for use with mobile devices. In its ruling, SCOTUS held that Google’s use of the programming code constituted a fair use of that material under copyright law.

With the Google ruling, all cases that were argued during the 2020 term’s October sitting have been decided. To date, the court has issued opinions in 26 cases this term. Five cases were decided without argument.

SCOTUS accepted the case Brown v. Davenport for argument during its upcoming term. The case concerns the standard necessary to grant federal habeas relief to a person held in state custody. 

The case originated from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit. Throughout his 2008 trial for first-degree murder, Ervine Davenport was visibly shackled. Davenport was found guilty. Davenport challenged his conviction, arguing that being in shackles contributed to his conviction. The state of Michigan found that the shackling did not affect the verdict. Davenport filed a federal habeas corpus petition with the 6th Circuit. The court granted a conditional habeas writ, concluding that Michigan was not able to show that Davenport’s shackling did not have a “substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury’s verdict.” Mike Brown, as the acting warden of the prison where Davenport is being held, petitioned for an en banc review by the entire 16-judge 6th Circuit. The request was denied, and he appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court will begin hearing cases for the 2021-2022 term on Oct. 4. The court’s yearly term begins on the first Monday in October and lasts until the first Monday in October the following year. The court generally releases the majority of its decisions in mid-June. As of April 5, the court had agreed to hear 10 cases during its 2021-2022 term.

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Federal Register weekly update: One new significant final rule on drug listing regulations

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.

From March 29 through April 2—the eleventh week of the Biden administration—the Federal Register grew by 1,210 pages for a year-to-date total of 17,492 pages. During the same period of the Trump administration in 2017, the Federal Register grew by 996 pages for a year-to-date total of 17,096 pages.

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

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 546 documents:

• 416 notices

• four presidential documents

• 66 proposed rules

• 60 final rules

One final rule from the Food and Drug Administration regarding drug listing regulations 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 10 significant proposed rules and six significant final rules as of April 2.

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 2019, 2018, and 2017: https://ballotpedia.org/Changes_to_the_Federal_Register 

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Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2018: https://ballotpedia.org/Historical_additions_to_the_Federal_Register,_1936-2018



Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee nominates Providence City Council President Sabina Matos as lieutenant governor

Gov. Daniel McKee (D) nominated Providence City Council President Sabina Matos as lieutenant governor on March 31. McKee was responsible for choosing a new lieutenant governor after leaving the position to be sworn in as governor on March 2. McKee replaced Gina Raimondo (D) as governor when she resigned to become U.S. secretary of commerce.

Matos is the president of the Providence City Council. She was elected to the council in 2010, re-elected in 2018, and elected president in 2019. Her appointment must be confirmed by the Rhode Island State Senate.

According to NECN-TV, around 80 people applied for the position. Upon selecting Matos, McKee said, “I was looking for someone to be a true governing partner…someone who shares my commitment to supporting our 39 cities and towns and our small businesses, and that’s exactly what I found in Sabina.” If confirmed, Matos would be Rhode Island’s first lieutenant governor who is a person of color.

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Georgia legislature sends two measures to the 2022 ballot during its 2021 session

The Georgia State Legislature adjourned its 2021 legislative session on April 1, 2021. The legislature passed two measures requiring voter approval at the general election in 2022:

  1. a constitutional amendment to suspend compensation for certain public officials while they are suspended from office due to a felony indictment and
  2. a measure to expand a property tax exemption to include merged family farms and dairy products and eggs.

A constitutional amendment to legalize sports betting was passed by the Senate but was not passed in the House before the 2021 legislative session adjourned. The amendment could be reconsidered during the 2022 legislative session.

Suspend Compensation for Assembly Members and Public Officials Indicted for a Felony Amendment:

This measure would amend the state constitution to provide for the suspension of compensation for the following public officials while the individual is suspended from office for being indicted for a felony:

  • Governor,
  • Lieutenant Governor,
  • Secretary of State,
  • Attorney General,
  • State School Superintendent,
  • Commissioner of Insurance,
  • Commissioner of Agriculture,
  • Commissioner of Labor, or
  • any member of the General Assembly.

Currently, under the state’s constitution, assembly members and public officials who are suspended from office due to the indictment for a felony still receive compensation until they are convicted. Officials that are reinstated to their position would receive pay that was withheld under the amendment.

The measure was passed in the Senate on March 8 by a vote of 51-1 with four excused or not voting. It was passed in the House on March 23 by a vote of 169-0 with 11 excused or not voting. The single no vote on the measure came from Republican Senator Bill Cowsert.

Merged Family-Owned Farms and Dairy and Eggs Tax Exemption Measure:

The Georgia Constitution requires voter approval of legislation to enact any property tax exemption, which must be passed in the legislature by a two-thirds (66.67 percent) supermajority vote in each chamber.

This measure would expand certain property tax exemptions provided for agricultural equipment and certain farm products. The measure would allow any entity that is a merger of two or more family-owned farms to qualify. It would also extend the exemption to include dairy products and eggs.

The Senate approved the bill on March 31 by a vote of 48-0 with eight members excused or not voting. The House approved the bill on March 31 by a vote of 163-1 with 16 members excused or not voting. The single no vote in the legislature came from Democratic Representative Mesha Mainor.

A total of 84 measures appeared on the statewide ballot in Georgia from 1996 to 2020, of which 84.5% (71 of 84) were approved, and 15.5% (13 of 84) were defeated.



OIRA reviewed 28 significant rules in March

Image of the south facade of the White House.

The White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) reviewed a total of 28 significant regulatory actions issued by federal agencies in March 2021. The agency approved three rules without changes and approved the intent of 25 rules while recommending changes to their content.

OIRA reviewed 41 significant regulatory actions in March 2020, 27 significant regulatory actions in March 2019, 19 significant regulatory actions in March 2018, and one significant regulatory actions in March 2017. During the Obama administration from 2009-2016, OIRA reviewed an average of 42 significant regulatory actions each March.

OIRA has reviewed a total of 176 significant rules in 2021. The agency reviewed a total of 676 significant rules in 2020, 475 significant rules in 2019, 355 significant rules in 2018, and 237 significant rules in 2017.

As of April 1, 2021, OIRA’s website listed 32 regulatory actions under review.

OIRA is responsible for reviewing and coordinating what it deems to be all significant regulatory actions made by federal agencies, with the exception of independent federal agencies. Significant regulatory actions include agency rules that have had or may have a large impact on the economy, environment, public health, or state and local governments and communities. These regulatory actions may also conflict with other regulations or with the priorities of the president.

Every month, Ballotpedia compiles information about regulatory reviews conducted by OIRA. To view this project, visit: 

https://ballotpedia.org/Completed_OIRA_review_of_federal_administrative_agency_rules

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