Various state and local governments have come into conflict over laws preempting municipalities from reducing their police department budgets. Preemption occurs when a law at a higher level of government is used to overrule authority at a lower level. In this case, several states have implemented legislation either prohibiting local governments from reducing their police budgets, or instituting penalties on local governments that do so.
Conflict around this issue emerged in 2020 as some municipalities considered reducing their police department budgets, often as part of a policy response to the May 2020 killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.
Florida was the first of the states to recently pass a police department budget reduction preemption law Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed HB1 in April 2021. Under the law, a citizen or government official can challenge a police department budget reduction with the Administration Commission. The governor chairs the commission, whose other members are cabinet officials. The Administration Commission would then hold a hearing on the proposed budget change and has the power to approve the budget or amend it. The Commission’s approval or modification of the budget would be final.
In May 2021, Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed HB286 into law, which prohibits municipalities from reducing police department budgets more than 5% in a year, or cumulatively over five years, with an exception for budget reductions caused by financial hardship. Police department budget reductions had been proposed in Atlanta and Athens-Clarke County in 2020, but neither municipality reduced their policing budgets.
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed Texas’ police department budget reduction preemption bill (HB1900) into law on June 1, 2021. The law imposes penalties on populous municipalities that reduce police department budgets, preventing them from collecting several types of tax revenue and requiring they allow recently annexed areas of the city to vote to void their annexation. HB1900 may apply to the city of Austin, which approved a budget in 2020 that planned to reallocate around $150 million from the police department budget to hiring other public safety responders, beginning new public safety programs, and moving certain departments under police department authority to other state agencies. There is uncertainty surrounding the application of the law to Austin, due to questions regarding the state constitutionality of HB1900 and whether all of Austin’s budget reallocation would qualify as a police department budget reduction.
To read more about police department budget reduction preemption laws as they develop, click here. Ballotpedia currently covers twelve policy areas of preemption conflicts, including coronavirus, energy infrastructure, and firearms. To view all of Ballotpedia’s areas of preemption conflict coverage, click here.
Intro: Our weekly summary of state & local news brings you an update on the Gavin Newsom recall effort and the statewide Democratic nominees from Virginia. Read all about it in this week’s edition of the State & Local Tap.
Ballot Measures Update
Twenty-eight statewide measures have been certified for the 2021 ballot in seven states so far.
Three new measures were certified for the 2021 ballot last week:
June 8 – California: Voters in one special district and one city voted on two local ballot measures.
June 15 – Maine: Voters in Augusta will decide a bond issue to fund a new police station.
Thirty-nine state legislative special elections have been scheduled in 17 states so far this year. Twenty-eight (28) specials have taken place already. Heading into those races, Democrats had previously controlled 14 seats, and Republicans previously controlled 14. No seats have changed party hands as a result of the special elections.
In special elections between 2011 and 2020, one party (either Republicans or Democrats) saw an average net gain of four seats nationally each year.
An average of 57 seats were filled through special elections in each of the past six even years (2010: 30, 2012: 46, 2014: 40, 2016: 65, 2018: 99, 2020: 59).
An average of 88 seats were filled through special elections in each of the past five odd years (2011: 94, 2013: 84, 2015: 89, 2017: 98, 2019: 77).
Ciattarelli will face Gov. Phil Murphy (D) in the general election on Nov. 2, along with Gregg Mele (L), Joanna Kuniansky (Socialist Workers), Justin Maldonado (I), and David Winkler (I).
The general election will determine New Jersey’s trifecta status for the next four years. A Murphy victory would maintain Democratic trifecta control, while a Ciattarelli victory would create a divided government. Election forecasters expect the Democratic party to retain control of the state legislature.
As of June 1, two of the three major race rating outlets rated the general election as Solid Democratic, and the third rated it as Likely Democratic. Still, Republicans have had success in the state’s gubernatorial races in the recent past. Between 1992 and 2021, Republicans held the governorship for 16 years, and Democrats held the governorship for 14 years.
Newsom signature removal deadline passes; counties have until June 22 to verify the number of remaining signatures
June 8 was the deadline for voters who signed the petition to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to request their names be removed from the petitions. County election offices now have until June 22 to report the number of remaining signatures to the California Secretary of State. If at least 1,495,709 signatures remain, the recall process will move forward. Supporters turned in 1,719,943 valid signatures by the March 17 submission deadline.
If sufficient signatures remain following the removal request deadline, the recall will be certified and move to a budgeting and scheduling phase. Based on the remaining procedural steps required by state law for the recall campaign, an election is likely to take place in October or November 2021.
A recall election would present voters with two questions. The first would ask whether Newsom should be recalled from the office of governor. The second would ask who should succeed Newsom if he is recalled. A majority vote is required on the first question for the governor to be recalled. The candidate with the most votes on the second question would win the election, no majority required. In the 2003 recall of Davis, 135 candidates ran and the winner received 48.58 percent of the vote.
South Carolina ends COVID-19 emergency orders
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R) declined to extend the statewide COVID-19 state of emergency, allowing it to expire on June 6. McMaster first declared a state of emergency in response to the pandemic on March 13, 2020, and extended it every 15 days as required by South Carolina law.
Governors and state agencies in all 50 states issued orders declaring active emergencies in response to the coronavirus pandemic. These orders allowed officials to access resources unavailable to them during non-emergencies, like stockpiles of medical goods and equipment, and to waive or suspend certain rules and regulations. Governors and state agencies relied on emergency power authority to enact lockdown and stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, and other restrictions on businesses and individuals.
South Carolina is the eighth state to end a statewide COVID-19 emergency. Before that, on June 4, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed Assembly, No. 5820. This bill ended the statewide public health emergency while allowing Murphy to retain some emergency power authority related to vaccination efforts, testing, and coordination of local health departments.
Statewide mask orders end in Illinois, Kentucky
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) moved the state to Phase 5 of reopening June 11, ending the statewide mask mandate. The state still requires masks in schools, public transit, hospitals, and congregate facilities like prisons and homeless shelters. Masks are also recommended in indoor public spaces for individuals who are not fully vaccinated.
Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D) ended the statewide mask requirement, remaining social distancing requirements, and all capacity restrictions June 11. However, vaccinated and unvaccinated people still have to wear masks on public transit, at schools, and in healthcare settings.
In total, 39 states issued statewide public mask requirements during the pandemic. As of June 11, 13 states had statewide mask orders, including 11 of the 23 states with Democratic governors and two of the 27 states with Republican governors. Of those 13 states, at least 11 exempted fully vaccinated people.
Virginia Democrats pick statewide nominees
Virginia Democrats picked their statewide nominees for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general on June 8. Democrats have won every statewide election in Virginia since 2012.
Former Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) defeated four candidates to win the gubernatorial nomination. McAuliffe received 62% of the vote, followed by former Del. Jennifer Carrol Foy (D) and state Sen. Jennifer McClellan (D), who received 20% and 12% of the vote respectively. Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax (D) and Del. Lee Carter (D) both received less than 5% of the vote. McAuliffe will face Glenn Youngkin (R) in the general election.
McAuliffe previously served as Governor of Virginia from 2014 to 2018. Virginia’s constitution prevents the governor from running for a second consecutive term, though former governors may serve non-consecutive terms. Mills Goodwin (D), elected in 1965 and 1973, is the most recent governor to serve non-consecutive terms.
This was the fourth contested Democratic gubernatorial primary in Virginia since 1977. It was also the largest Democratic primary field for a gubernatorial nomination in the state’s history. The outcome of this race will affect Virginia’s trifecta status. In 2019, Virginia became a Democratic trifecta after winning majorities in the state House and Senate. In addition to the statewide elections, all 100 House seats are up for election this year.
Delegate Hala Ayala (D) defeated five other candidates to win the lieutenant gubernatorial nomination, receiving 39% of the vote, followed by Del. Sam Rasoul’s 25%. No other candidate received over 15% of the vote. Ayala will face Winsome Sears (R) in the general election.
Of the four lieutenant governors elected since 2002, three were Democrats, and one was a Republican. Two of them, Tim Kaine (D) and Ralph Northam (D), later became governor. The lieutenant governor is popularly elected every four years and, unlike the governor, may seek re-election.
Incumbent Mark Herring (D) defeated Del. Jerrauld “Jay” Jones to win the attorney general nomination. Herring received 56.5% of the vote to Jones’ 43.5%. Herring will face Del. Jason Miyares (R) in the general election.
Voters first elected Herring to the attorney general position in 2013. He won re-election in 2017 and is seeking re-election to a third consecutive term. No Virginia attorney general has served three consecutive terms since the 1945 re-election of Abram Penn Staples (D).
Illinois enacts state legislative, supreme court maps
Illinois became the first state to enact new district maps in this redistricting cycle on June 4, when Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed into law new maps for the Illinois state Senate, the Illinois House of Representatives, and the Illinois Supreme Court.
Illinois’ five state supreme court districts were last redrawn in 1964. Cook County (home to Chicago) forms a single district, but it is allocated three seats on the seven-member court. Downstate Illinois is divided into four districts, each with one seat on the court. The state constitution allows state lawmakers to redraw supreme court districts at any time. According to The Chicago Tribune, “lawmakers have traditionally used boundaries for the circuit, appellate and Supreme Court laid out in a 1964 overhaul of the state’s court system.”
In Illinois, the General Assembly is responsible for redistricting. On May 28, the General Assembly approved the state legislative redistricting plan (HB2777) and the supreme court redistricting plan (SB0642).
Because the U.S. Census Bureau does not expect to deliver granular redistricting data to the states until mid-August, Illinois lawmakers used population estimates from the American Community Survey (ACS) to draft the new maps before the June 30 deadline set by the state’s constitution.
On June 9, Durkin and Senate Republican Leader Dan McConchie filed suit in U.S. district court, challenging the use of ACS data during the drafting process. The plaintiffs argue that “[ACS] estimates are not intended to be, and are not, a proper substitute for the official census counts.” They go on to allege that “because it uses ACS estimates for population data, the Redistricting Plan does not ensure that the Senate and Representative Districts satisfy the constitutional mandate of substantially equal populations [among districts].” They are asking the court to declare the enacted maps unconstitutional and to appoint either a bipartisan legislative commission or a special master (an outside expert) to draft new maps.
It is not clear when lawmakers will begin the congressional redistricting process. The state constitution sets no deadline for congressional redistricting.
Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman resigns
Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman resigned on June 11. Guzman’s replacement will be Gov. Greg Abbott‘s (R) fifth nominee to the nine-member supreme court. At the time of Guzman’s resignation, all nine judges on the court identified with the Republican party.
Governor Rick Perry (R) appointed Guzman in 2009. She was elected to a full term in 2010, becoming the first Latina woman elected to statewide office in Texas. Guzman was re-elected in 2016, defeating Democrat Savannah Robinson, 56% to 39%.
Before she was appointed to the state supreme court, Guzman served as a district judge for Texas’ 309th District Court and an appellate judge for Texas’ Fourteenth Court of Appeals.
Under Texas law, in the event of a midterm vacancy, the governor appoints a replacement. The Texas State Senate must then confirm the nominee. Appointees serve until the next general election, in which he or she must participate in a partisan election to remain on the bench for the remainder of the unexpired term.
Mike Nearman expelled from OR state House
The Oregon House of Representatives voted to expel state Rep. Mike Nearman (R) on June 10. Nearman’s colleagues expelled him due to video footage that showed him helping protesters, some of whom were armed, enter the state Capitol building on December 21, 2020. This led to a struggle between the protesters and police officers, causing injuries and property damage.
The resolution to expel Nearman passed 59-1, with only Nearman voting against. According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, Nearman is the first person to have ever been expelled from the Oregon Legislature.
Nearman was first elected to represent District 23 in the Oregon state House in 2014, defeating incumbent Jim Thompson (R) in the Republican primary. Before he entered politics, Nearman worked in software engineering and tech support.
There have been 52 state legislative vacancies in 30 states so far in 2021. Thirty-seven of those vacancies have been filled. Two other state legislators have been expelled this year; Luke Simons (R-ND) and Rick Roeber (R-MO).