Our Newsbeats:

  • The Federal Vacancy Count

    September 24, 2014

    This week’s Federal Vacancy Count includes nominations, confirmations and vacancies from September 17, 2014, to September 23, 2014. Nominations, confirmations and vacancies occurring on September 24th will be reflected in the October 1st report. President Barack Obama nominated seven this week while withdrawing the nomination of Alison Renee Lee after concerns were raised by the South Carolina senators. The vacancy warning level remained at blue this week after no new vacancies, seven new nominations, no new confirmations and one withdrawn nomination. The vacancy percentage remained at 6.8% and the total number of nominees waiting for confirmation rose to 34. The number of vacancies of Article III judges remained at 60 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

    Withdrawn nominations

    District of South Carolina

    Alison Renee Lee

    New vacancies

    Court of International Trade

    Gregory Carman

    New confirmations

    There were no new confirmations this week.

    New nominations

    President Barack Obama on the seven new nominees:

    District of Utah

    Jill Parrish

    Eastern District of New York

    Joan Azrack


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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
  • Pennsylvania pursues marijuana legalization

    September 29, 2014

    This week’s tracker includes a look at Pennsylvania‘s attempt to legalize marijuana.

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

    • Missouri: A state representative’s wife has been selected to replace him on the general election ballot after his death earlier this month. Randy Pike (R), the District 126 representative who would have turned 61 tomorrow, died on September 20 after ingesting a drink into his lungs. According to his campaign treasurer, Pike had recently suffered from pneumonia and required the use of a wheelchair during this month’s veto session.[1] Gov. Jay Nixon (D) ordered flags in the state to be flown at half-mast, casting Pike as “deeply committed to his family, his faith and his community which he represented with distinction for more than a decade as a county commissioner, and most recently, as a state representative.”[2] Last Tuesday, the Bates County Republican nomination committee met to select his replacement; Pike’s wife, Patricia, defeated his former primary opponents Barbara York and Bill Yarberry. Patricia Pike said afterwards, “As a life-long resident of the district, a retired teacher and school counselor, business owner,
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  • New York’s not-so-independent redistricting commission amendment

    September 24, 2014

    After a prominent controversy in 2013, New York state is, once again, at the center of the debate on the accuracy and importance of ballot measure language. Proposal 1 of 2014, also known as the Redistricting Commission Amendment, stated, “The proposed amendment establishes an independent redistricting commission…” Judge Patrick McGrath objected, saying there is nothing independent about the proposed commission, and that even the two non-legislatively picked members are “essentially political appointees by proxy.”[1]

    Meanwhile, Berkeley, California’s proposed soda tax is coming under fire by the American Beverage Association, whose members include Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. The association contributed $500,000 to the campaign against the measure, the largest single contribution in the city’s history.[2]

    New York’s redistricting commission amendment

    Seeing that legislators crafted the word “independent” into the constitutional language of Proposal 1, multiple “good government organizations” feared that a “rosy” worded measure on the ballot would mislead voters.[3] Proposal 1, upon voter approval, would create a redistricting commission to establish state Senate, Assembly and congressional districts. The redistricting commission would be composed of ten members, and eight out of ten would be appointed by the legislature’s majority and minority leaders.[4] While …

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  • JP Election Brief: Partisan elections in the top courts

    September 25, 2014

    September 25, 2014

     Michigan Supreme Court

    Michigan: Though Michigan’s elections are technically non-partisan, candidates are nominated by party committees. Currently, the Michigan Supreme Court has five Republicans and two Democrats on its bench. One Democratic seat and two Republican seats are up for election this year. The partisan balance of the court could flip, but Democrats would need to win all three seats.

    See: Michigan Supreme Court elections, 2014
    See: State supreme court elections, 2014

    8-year term (2 open seats):

    2-year term:

     North Carolina Supreme Court

    North Carolina: North Carolina’s judicial elections are technically non-partisan. However, it is a state where the justices’ political affiliations are clearly known and political parties may publicly endorse candidates. Currently, the Supreme Court of North Carolina has five Republicans and two Democrats on its bench. In 2014, four seats are up for election, meaning that a majority of the seven-member court is up for grabs.

    Three Democratic seats and one Republican seat were initially up for election this year. Two of those seats–the chief justice position and Justice Martin’s open seat–were given new, Republican incumbents thanks to appointments by Governor Pat McCrory in August 2014. That resulted in the chief justice …

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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