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Alabama state Rep. Bill Poole resigns to become state finance director

Bill Poole (R) resigned from the Alabama House of Representatives on July 31 to accept a position as the director of the Alabama Department of Finance. Gov. Kay Ivey (R) appointed him to the position on July 16, effective Aug. 1, to replace Kelly Butler. Poole represented District 63 from 2010 to 2021. Poole was first elected to the state House on Nov. 2, 2010, and was most recently re-elected in 2018, winning 96.1% of the vote.

Vacancies in the Alabama legislature are filed by special election. If a vacancy occurs on or after Oct. 1 in the year of a regular election, the district will remain vacant until filled at the regular election. Otherwise, the governor must call for a special election if the vacancy happens before the next scheduled general election and the legislature is in session. 

As of Aug. 2, there have been 72 state legislative vacancies in 35 states this year. Fifty of those vacancies have been filled. Of the 72 vacancies, 38 were Republican and 34 were Democratic. Republicans have filled 27 vacancies, while Democrats have filled 23.

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Ballotpedia releases federal judicial vacancy count for July 2021

In this month’s federal judicial vacancy count, Ballotpedia tracked nominations, confirmations, and vacancies in Article III courts from July 2 to Aug. 1. Ballotpedia publishes the federal judicial vacancy count at the start of each month.

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Vacancies: There have been two new judicial vacancies since the June 2021 report. There are 80 vacancies out of 870 active Article III judicial positions on courts covered in this report. Including the U.S. Court of Federal Claims and the U.S. territorial courts, 84 of 890 active federal judicial positions are vacant.
  • Nominations: There were no new nominations since the June 2021 report.
  • Confirmations: There has been one new confirmation since the June 2021 report.

Two judges left active status, creating Article III life-term judicial vacancies, since the previous vacancy count. As Article III judicial positions, vacancies must be filled by a nomination from the president. Nominations are subject to confirmation on the advice and consent of the U.S. Senate.

U.S. Court of Appeals vacancies

The following chart tracks the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals from the inauguration of President Joe Biden (D) to the date indicated on the chart.

The following maps show the number of vacancies on the United States Court of Appeals at the inauguration of President Joe Biden (D) and as of Aug. 1.

File:UUbHy-court-of-appeals-vacancies-biden-inauguration-.png

New nominations

President Joe Biden (D) has announced no new nominations since the June 2021 report.

New confirmations

As of Aug. 1, the Senate has confirmed eight of President Biden’s judicial nominees—five district court judges and three appeals court judges—since January 2021.

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Campaigns for three Colorado initiatives submit signatures by August 2 deadline

Campaigns for three initiatives in Colorado faced a signature deadline of August 2. To qualify for the ballot, 124,632 valid signatures are required.

Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress Program and Marijuana Sales Tax Increase Initiative (#25):

This initiative would amend state law to create the Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress Program to provide out-of-school learning opportunities for children aged 5 to 17 in subjects including math, science, reading, writing, music, art, career education, and specialized support for those with special needs. The measure would increase the marijuana retail sales tax by 5% to partially fund the program. The initiative would result in a state revenue increase of $137,600,000 annually.

Learning Opportunities for Colorado’s Kids (LEAP 4 Co) is leading the campaign in support of the initiative. The committee reported $948,270 in contributions, with all but $20 coming from Gary Community Investment Company. The committee reported spending $609,012 on signature gathering through June 26. The committee’s August 2 campaign finance report covering data through July 28 was not yet filed at the time of this article. LEAP 4 Co reported submitting over 200,000 signatures on July 30.

Coloradans Against School Vouchers registered as an issue committee to oppose the initiative but has not yet reported campaign finance activity.

Custodial Fund Appropriations Initiative (#19):

This initiative, which would amend the state constitution and state law, would transfer the power to appropriate custodial funds (state revenue not generated through taxes) from the state treasurer to the state legislature. Examples of such funds include pension funds and court-approved settlement funds. The measure defines custodial money as money received by the state that (1) originated from a source other than the State of Colorado, (b) was awarded or provided to the state for a particular purpose, and (c) that the state is acting as a custodian or trustee to carry out the purpose for which the funds were provided.

The Committee for Spending Transparency is leading the campaign in support of the initiative. According to the August 2 campaign finance report covering information through July 28, the committee had received $1.275 million in contributions, all from Unite for Colorado, and had spent $1.13 million on signature gathering.

Constitutional amendments in Colorado require a 55% supermajority vote to be ratified and added to the state constitution. This requirement was added by Amendment 71 of 2016.

Reduce Property Tax Rates and Retain $25 Million in TABOR Surplus Revenue Initiative (#27):

This initiative would amend state law to reduce the residential and non-residential property tax rates and authorize the state to retain and spend $25 million in revenue above the state’s TABOR spending cap, which it would otherwise be required to refund to taxpayers.

Cut Property Taxes is leading the campaign in support of the initiative. According to the August 2 campaign finance report covering information through July 28, the committee had received $875,000, all from Unite for Colorado, and had spent $868,728 on signature gathering.

Sponsor of initiatives #19 and #27 Michael Fields, Executive Director of Colorado Rising Action, said that around 200,000 signatures were gathered for each measure and that signatures would be submitted on August 2.

A fourth initiative, Initiative #31, which would amend state law to decrease the state income tax rate from 4.55% to 4.40%, faces a signature deadline of October 29, 2021, to qualify for the November 2022 ballot. The measure was sponsored by Jon Caldara of the Independence Institute. A committee— Colorado Character— registered to support the initiative on July 20, 2021.

From 2016 through 2020, successful initiative petition drives cost an average of about $850,000, ranging from volunteer efforts to $2.2 million.

Measures that can go on the statewide ballot in Colorado during odd years are limited to topics that concern taxes or state fiscal matters arising under TABOR, the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (Section 20 of Article X of the Colorado Constitution). This requirement was added to state statute in 1994.

Measures that can go on odd-year election ballots include measures proposing new taxes, tax increases, an extension of taxes, tax policy changes resulting in a net tax revenue gain, changes to revenue or fiscal obligations, delays in voting on ballot issues, and approval for the state to retain and spend state revenues that otherwise would be refunded for exceeding an estimate included in the ballot information booklet.

The last time an initiative appeared on an odd-year ballot in Colorado was 2013. The measure, which was defeated, would have changed Colorado’s flat personal income tax rate to a graduated income rate with increased rates. At least $10.4 million was raised in support of the initiative.

In 2020, eight initiatives appeared on the ballot in Colorado. Campaigns supporting the measures received an average of $3.36 million in support contributions and $2.49 million in opposition contributions. Campaigns supporting and opposing the eight initiatives on the 2020 ballot reported a combined total of $46.8 million in contributions.



A look back at government responses to the coronavirus pandemic, August 3-7, 2020

Although the first case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 21, 2020, it wasn’t until March when the novel coronavirus upended life for most Americans. Throughout the year, states issued stay-at-home orders, closed schools, restricted travel, issued mask mandates, and changed election dates.

Here are the policy changes that happened August 3-7, 2020. To read more of our past coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, click here

Monday, August 3, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
    • Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) allowed high school football and volleyball practices to resume.
    • Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said that private and religious schools could choose when to reopen. Hogan also issued an emergency order preventing county officials from requiring such schools to remain closed after Montgomery County Health Officer Travis Gayles prohibited private schools in the area from resuming in-person classes. 
  • Election changes:
    • Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak (D) signed AB4 into law, directing election officials to distribute mail-in ballots automatically to all active registered voters in the Nov. 3 general election.
    • Minnesota Second Judicial District Judge Sara Grewing approved a consent decree between the plaintiffs and the state defendants in LaRose v. Simon, a lawsuit that challenged state election law. Under the terms of the consent decree, state election officials agreed to waive the witness requirement for mail-in ballots cast in the Nov. 3 general election. The state also agreed to count all mail-in ballots postmarked on or before Nov. 3 and received by official county canvassing dates.
  • Federal government responses:
    • President Donald Trump (R) signed an executive order that made permanent certain regulatory changes expanding telehealth services, especially in rural areas
  • Mask requirements:
    • Maryland Gov. Hogan expanded the statewide mask mandate to require everyone older than five to wear masks in all indoor public spaces, including churches, gyms, and stores. The mandate originally required masks only in retail, food service businesses, and public transit.
    • Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) modified the mask mandate for schools to allow students to remove masks in a classroom if they could maintain three to six feet of distance from other people.
  • School closures and reopenings:
    • The Alabama Department of Public Health released an 85-page school reopening toolkit that contained recommendations and guidelines for school districts to use in their reopening plans.
  • State court changes:
    • In Colorado, jury trials were allowed to resume on a limited basis so long as a Chief Judge of a judicial district determined the jury pool could be safely assembled consistent with health directives and executive orders.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
    • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) issued an order requiring the Michigan State Police and state departments to prioritize enforcement of her COVID-19 orders. She also ordered licensing agencies to consider license suspensions for individuals who violated her orders.
  • Travel restrictions:
    • Govs. Ned Lamont (D-Conn.), Phil Murphy (D-N.J.), and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced that Rhode Island had been added to the tristate quarantine list, requiring visitors from that state to quarantine for 14 days upon entering New Jersey, Connecticut, or New York. The governors removed Delaware and Washington D.C. from the list.
  • Federal government responses:
    • The Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense announced a $2.1 billion deal with French pharmaceutical company Sanofi and British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline to develop and manufacture up to 100 million doses of a coronavirus vaccine for U.S. use.
    • President Trump announced the federal government would continue to fund the cost of National Guard units deployed to states through the end of the year, though at a lower level than before. Beginning Aug. 21, Trump said the federal government would reduce its level of funding for National Guard units assisting states with their coronavirus responses from 100% to 75% for most states.
  • School closures and reopenings:
    • Delaware Gov. John Carney (D) announced public schools could reopen with a combination of in-person and remote learning in September. 
    • Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) mandated that all students and teachers wear masks on school property. He delayed school reopenings in eight counties to Aug. 17. Previously, the counties had been allowed to set their own start dates for the academic year.
    • Ohio Gov. Mike Dewine (R) announced that all K-12 students would be required to wear face coverings in public schools.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
    • North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) announced on Aug. 5 that the state would stay in Phase 2 of reopening for five more weeks.
  • Election changes:
    • The parties in League of Women Voters of Virginia v. Virginia State Board of Elections reached a settlement providing for the suspension of the absentee ballots witness requirement in the Nov. 3 general election.
  • Mask requirements:
    • Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves (R) issued an order requiring individuals to wear masks in indoor public spaces and outdoors when social distancing was not possible.
    • South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) issued an order requiring people to wear masks in restaurants, in state government buildings, and at large gathering venues and events like movie theaters, festivals, auditoriums, and concerts.
  • School closures and reopenings:
    • Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) announced a new metric for determining if schools could reopen to in-person instruction. She said schools in any city or town with more than 100 positive cases per 100,000 residents would be prohibited from fully reopening to in-person instruction.

Thursday, August 6, 2020 

  • Stay-at-home orders and reopening plans:
    • Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) announced a phased reopening plan for long-term care facilities. The plan said facilities could submit an application to the state to begin the reopening process on Aug. 12. The plan called for easing restrictions on visitations as facilities move through the phases of reopening. 
  • Election changes:
    • California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed SB 423 into law, authorizing counties to consolidate polling places in the Nov. 3 general election, among other modifications to administrative procedures.
    • Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) issued a directive permitting counties to conduct the Nov. 3 general election entirely by mail. Bullock also authorized counties to expand early voting opportunities for the general election.
  • Travel restrictions:
    • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) rescinded the executive order requiring travelers from Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York to self-quarantine for 14 days upon arrival.
    • New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D) issued an executive order Aug. 6 updating the state’s quarantine requirement for out-of-state travelers and returning residents. The new order exempted New Mexico residents who left the state to seek medical care or who left the state for less than 24 hours as part of their parenting responsibilities.
  • Mask requirements:
    • Michigan Gov. Whitmer issued an executive order requiring children over the age of two and all employees to wear face masks at Michigan camps and childcare centers.

Friday, August 7, 2020

  • Election changes:
    • Arkansas Gov. Hutchinson issued an executive order extending absentee ballot eligibility to all voters in the Nov. 3 general election “who conclude their attendance at the polls may be a risk to their health or the health of others due to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The order formalized a policy Hutchinson and Secretary of State John Thurston (R) announced on July 2.
  • Eviction and foreclosure policies
    • In a 5-3 ruling, the Virginia Supreme Court granted Gov. Ralph Northam’s (D) request to extend an eviction moratorium. The moratorium was set to last through September 7.
  • School closures and reopenings:
    • California Gov. Newsom released reopening guidance for colleges and universities. The guidance called for requiring students and staff to wear masks in all indoor public spaces. In counties on the state’s monitoring list, the guidance said only courses like labs and studio arts would be allowed to take place in-person.

For the most recent coronavirus news, including the latest on vaccines and mask mandates, subscribe to our daily newsletter, Documenting America’s Path to Recovery



Minor party filing deadline to pass on Aug. 4 in special election for two Michigan state Senate seats

The minor-party filing deadline for the Michigan State Senate Districts 8 and 28 special elections is on Aug. 4.

The major party primary is scheduled for Aug. 3, and the general election is scheduled for Nov. 2. 

In District 8, seven Republicans and two Democrats will compete in the Aug. 3 primaries. For District 28, there are two Democrats and three Republicans competing.

The District 8 special election was called after Peter Lucido (R) was elected Macomb County Prosecutor. The District 28 special election was called after Peter MacGregor (R) was elected Kent County Treasurer. 

As of August 2, the Michigan State Senate is composed of 16 Democrats and 20 Republicans. Michigan has had a divided government since 2019. A divided government occurs when different parties control the state senate, state house, and governorship. There are currently 12 states with divided governments.

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Texas deputy secretary of state draws ballot order for November ballot measures

On July 29, Texas Deputy Secretary of State Joe Esparza drew the ballot order for the eight constitutional amendments referred to the November ballot during the state legislature’s regular session.

The deadline to add a measure to the ballot is August 16. However, with a lack of quorum in the Texas House of Representatives due to Democrats protesting a bill related to state elections, the state legislature is unlikely to refer any other amendments during its special legislative session.

The Texas State Legislature convened a special legislative session on July 8 that was set to adjourn on August 7. As of July 30, state legislators had introduced 33 constitutional amendments during the special legislative session—26 in the House and seven in the Senate. Two resolutions had passed the Senate.

During the regular legislative session, which convened on January 12 and adjourned on May 31, state legislators filed 218 constitutional amendments. The following eight amendments met the two-thirds vote requirement in each chamber to be referred to the November ballot:

  1. Proposition 1 would amend the state constitution to (i) authorize professional sports team charitable foundations to conduct raffles at rodeo venues and (ii) include professional association-sanctioned rodeos in the definition of professional sports team.
  2. Proposition 2 would authorize a county to issue bonds to fund infrastructure and transportation projects in undeveloped and blighted areas.
  3. Proposition 3 would prohibit the state or any political subdivision from enacting a law, rule, order, or proclamation that limits religious services or organizations.
  4. Proposition 4 would change the eligibility requirements for the following judicial offices: a justice of the supreme court, a judge of the court of criminal appeals, a justice of a court of appeals, and a district judge.
  5. Proposition 5 would authorize the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct to accept and investigate complaints and reports against candidates running for state judicial office.
  6. Proposition 6 would amend the state Constitution to state that residents of nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, or state-supported living centers have a right to designate an essential caregiver that may not be prohibited from visiting the resident.
  7. Proposition 7 would allow the legislature to extend a homestead tax limit for surviving spouses of disabled individuals as long as the spouse is 55 years old and resides at the home.
  8. Proposition 8 would allow the legislature to apply a homestead tax exemption for surviving spouses of members of the military to those fatally injured in the line of duty.

Between the Texas House and Texas Senate, at least 121 votes were needed to pass a constitutional amendment. In Texas, the average number of legislative votes for a constitutional amendment was 164 between 1995 and 2021. In 2021, the average number of votes was 160.

Between 1995 and 2019, Texas voters decided on 169 statewide measures. Of those, the top five topics voted on were taxes (39 measures), bonds (20 measures), administration of government (16 measures), government budget and finances (16 measures), and property (11 measures). 

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Federal Register weekly update: Highest weekly significant document total so far in 2021

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 overall regulatory activity, accounting for both regulatory and deregulatory actions.

From July 26 through July 30, the Federal Register grew by 1,442 pages for a year-to-date total of 41,380 pages.

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

This week’s Federal Register featured the following 583 documents:

  1. 444 notices
  2. six presidential document
  3. 70 proposed rules
  4. 63 final rules

Two proposed rules, four final rules, and one notice were 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 24 significant proposed rules, 19 significant final rules, and one significant notice as of July 30.

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 2020, 2019, 2018, and 2017: Changes to the Federal Register 

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Click here to find yearly information about additions to the Federal Register from 1936 to 2019: Historical additions to the Federal Register, 1936-2019



Major party candidates selected in Pennsylvania House special election

Party executive committees for the Democratic Party and Republican Party in Lackawanna County have nominated candidates in the special election for District 113 of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Republicans nominated Dominick Manetti in an executive committee meeting on July 29. Thom Welby was nominated by the Democratic executive committee on July 1. The official filing deadline is September 13, and the special election is being held on Nov. 2. The winner of the special election will serve until November 2022.

The seat became vacant after Martin Flynn (D) won a special election for state Senate District 22 on May 18. Flynn had represented District 113 since 2012. He won re-election in 2020 with 68% of the vote.

Heading into the special election, Republicans have a 113-88 majority in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives with two vacancies. 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.

As of July, 48 state legislative special elections have been scheduled for 2021 in 18 states. Between 2011 and 2020, an average of 75 special elections took place each year. Pennsylvania held 44 state legislative special elections from 2011 to 2020.

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Special elections in two Louisiana legislative districts to be held on Nov. 13

Election officials have scheduled the special elections for the District 16 seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives and the District 27 seat in the Louisiana State Senate for Nov. 13. The seats became vacant after Frederick D. Jones (D) resigned on July 16 after his election to a Louisiana District Court judgeship, and Ronnie Johns (R) resigned to become chairman of the Louisiana State Gaming Control Board. The primaries are on Oct. 9, and the filing deadline is on July 30.



Former U.S. Senators Enzi, Levin die

Two former U.S. Senators died during the past week.

Former U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R-WY) died on July 26 after a biking accident after being hospitalized following the accident on July 25. He was first elected to the Senate in 1996 and was re-elected in 2002, 2008, and 2014. Enzi did not run for re-election in 2020.

Before serving in the U.S. Senate, Enzi was the mayor of Gillette, Wyoming, and had been a member of both the Wyoming House of Representatives and the Wyoming State Senate. Before entering politics, he was a small business owner and accountant.

Former U.S. Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich) died on July 29. Levin served In the U.S. Congress from 1978 to his retirement in 2014. Before being elected to the Senate, Levin served on the Detroit City Council.

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