Our Newsbeats:

  • Unopposed New York legislator indicted

    October 6, 2014

    This week’s tracker includes a look at another indictment of a New York legislator. That legislator is unopposed in the 2014 general election.

    Last week, no state adjourned its legislative session. Here is a brief look at issues making headlines across the country:

    • Arizona: The Supreme Court will hear arguments from the Republican-controlled Arizona legislature against the state’s independent redistricting commission as early as next year. Republican legislative leaders argue that putting the drawing of congressional districts in the hands of the commission violates the Elections Clause of the Constitution, which states that “The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof”.[1][2] Mary O’Grady, attorney for the commission, has argued that the “Legislature” as named in the clause refers to the “lawmaking process of the state,” including the ballot initiative. Senate President Andy Biggs (R) dismissed O’Grady’s argument, saying that while Arizona “has more direct democracy than most states,” the clause is specific in its meaning. A three-member district court panel split in favor of the commission’s constitutionality in February. The high court has not yet decided whether to take a
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  • The Federal Vacancy Count

    October 15, 2014

    This week’s Federal Vacancy Count includes nominations, confirmations and vacancies from October 8, 2014, to October 14, 2014. Nominations, confirmations and vacancies occurring on October 8th will be reflected in the October 15th report. There were no changes in the federal judiciary this week. The vacancy warning level remained at blue this week after no new vacancies, no new nominations and no new confirmations. The vacancy percentage remained at 7.2% and the total number of nominees waiting for confirmation remained at 34. The number of vacancies of Article III judges remained at 63 out of 874. A breakdown of the vacancies on each level can be found in the table below. For a more detailed look at the vacancies on the federal courts, see our Federal Court Vacancy Warning System.

    Vacancies by court

    New vacancies

    There were no new vacancies this week.

    New confirmations

    There were no new confirmations this week.

    New nominations

    There were no new nominations this week.

    Current judicial nominee statuses

    The following chart shows the number of nominees in any given step in the nomination process.


    Weekly map

    The weekly map is updated every week and posted here and on the Federal Court Vacancy Warning

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  • Pension Hotspots: Phoenix, Arizona, and San Diego County, California

    September 27, 2014
    The Pension Hotspots Report is a monthly publication about local pensions and pension reform efforts.

    A new public citizens review process released statements about Proposition 487 in Phoenix in an attempt to clarify the pension reform initiative for voters. Meanwhile, in San Diego County, California, pension fund investors drew harsh criticism by placing all of the county’s pension assets on the line in a new high-risk, all-or-nothing investment strategy, hoping to drastically boost the fund’s health.

    As of September 26, 2014, nine pension related measures have been proposed in 2014. Three of these have been approved and one was defeated. Court decisions removed the initiatives in Pacific Grove, California, and Ventura County, California, from the ballot, leaving three measures scheduled for voter decisions.

    The state’s first Citizens’ Initiative Review releases pro and con statements about Phoenix Proposition 487:

    In a new effort to clarify issues, a Citizens’ Initiative Review process made its debut by reviewing Phoenix Proposition 487, a reform proposal for the city’s underfunded pension system. The review was conducted by an independent panel of voters which investigated and discussed arguments in favor of and opposition to the measure and read the full text of …

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      Pension Hotspots Report
  • Michigan’s wolf hunting referendums would have short-term effect on law

    October 15, 2014

    This week’s Tuesday Count features how an anti-wolf hunting campaign in Michigan is moving forward following legislative actions rendering the group’s referendums moot, fracking and GMO bans in California, and the toppling of voter-approved same-sex marriage bans in multiple states.

    Michigan’s wolf hunting referendums have little practical effect

    Approximately $816,768 was spent to get not one, but two, anti-wolf hunting veto referendums on the general election ballot in Michigan. That’s about $2.53 per signature or $1,241 per wolf in Michigan, based on the state’s Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) 2013 wolf population estimate.[1] Nonetheless, neither measure will have much practical effect on wolf hunting due to some legislative maneuvering and a strategic pro-wolf hunting indirect initiative. Essentially, the two ballot measures – Proposal 1 and Proposal 2 – have been rendered moot and will not affect state law if approved by voters.

    Keep Michigan Wolves Protected (KMWP), the campaign group sponsoring the measures, is planning to initiate litigation against the pro-hunt Natural Resources Commission Initiative, arguing the initiative’s content was too broad. The organization still wants people to turn out and vote “no” on November 4, just in case the pro-hunt initiative is overturned by …

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  • JP Election Brief: Gold Rush! Racing to the California judiciary

    October 16, 2014

    October 16, 2014

     A guide to California judicial elections

    California: Here is a quick overview of California’s judicial selection process.

    Non-partisan elections

    • Elections occur every six years and include primaries, which can prove to be integral to the election process.
    • Appointed judges run for re-election when the term to which they were appointed expires.
    • If a candidate receives more than 50% of the vote in the primary, he or she wins the seat without having to run in the general election.
    • If no candidate receives more than 50%, then the top two candidates (if more than two candidates were on the ballot) for a single seat advance to the general election in November.


    • Justices of the California Supreme Court and the California Courts of Appeal must run for retention in the first gubernatorial election after they are appointed and then every 12 years.
    • These are non-competitive elections. Voters must choose “yes” or “no” to retain each justice for another 12-year term.
    • If a justice is not retained, the governor appoints a replacement who runs in the next gubernatorial election.

    See: California judicial elections for a more detailed look at judicial selection in the state.

    Key races: Where voters

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  • Governor Brown signs two bills reforming California ballot law and vetoes one

    September 30, 2014

    Changing the laws governing California‘s century-old initiative process in what supporters call a “simple but profound way,” Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed Senate Bill 1253 and a supporting law, Assembly Bill 2219. While opponents labeled SB 1253 “one of the top ten terrible bills” and hoped the governor would veto it, the governor expressed full approval for the bill on September 28, 2014. He did, however, veto the added requirements for campaign contribution transparency on initiative petitions found in Assembly Bill 400, dismissing the bill as impractical and unnecessary.[1][2]

    The duo of Senate Bill 1253 – introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-6) – and Assembly Bill 2219 gives initiative proponents the power to withdraw their initiative much nearer the ballot printing deadline than previously permitted, allowing an initiative to be withdrawn at any point up until it qualifies for the ballot. The bill, which was approved 55-23 in the Assembly and 29-8 in the Senate, also provides for a 30-day public interaction and review period when the initiative is first proposed, allowing proponents to alter the proposal in response to public input. The bill allows 30 more days to collect signatures – 180 …

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      Ballot Law Update

Press Release

State Legislative Incumbents Cruise Through Election Season With Little Competition
Madison, Wisconsin–August 4, 2014: This year’s lineup of state legislative elections features record low levels of competition, according to an analysis by Ballotpedia.org. Where competition exists, Republicans are feeling the heat more so than Democrats. In total, 56% of this … Read More