Our Newsbeats:

  • Utah reconsidering firing squads

    November 24, 2014

    This week’s tracker includes a look at the possible return of the firing squad in Utah.

    • Ohio: On November 19, 2014, member-elect Steven Kraus (R-89) of the Ohio House of Representatives was indicted by a Ottawa County grand jury on burglary, a third-degree felony, and one count each of breaking and entering and theft, both of which are fifth-degree felonies.[1] Kraus won election in November by defeating Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern (D).[2] Kraus, an auctioneer, is charged with removing antiques, a shotgun and other items from a home on April 7, 2014. A neighbor of the house in question turned over photos to the police that showed Kraus leaving the house with the missing items.[3] James Hart, Kraus’ attorney, said that the situation is a misunderstanding and that Kraus removed the items from the house at the request of the real estate agent selling the home.[1] Kraus said he only removed the items to inventory them for auction and had no intention of keeping them.[3] When the house was sold, Kraus returned the items, but the former homeowner claimed that not all of her items were returned. The real estate agent,
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  • The Federal Vacancy Count

    November 26, 2014

    This week’s Federal Vacancy Count includes nominations, confirmations and vacancies from November 19, 2014, to November 25, 2014. Nominations, confirmations and vacancies occurring on November 26th will be reflected in the December 3rd report. Action continued this week as Senate Judiciary Committee moved a number of candidates to the full Senate for vote and five were confirmed. There were also two missed confirmations last week that have been added to the November 19th report. The vacancy warning level remained at blue this week after no new vacancies, three new nominations and five new confirmations. The vacancy percentage fell to 6.4% and the total number of nominees waiting for confirmation fell to 31. The number of vacancies of Article III judges fell to 56 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

    District of Connecticut

    Victor Allen Bolden

    District of New Jersey

    Madeline Cox Arleo

    Eastern District of Pennsylvania

    Wendy Beetlestone

    Eastern District of Wisconsin

    Pamela Pepper

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  • Pension Hotspots: Election review

    November 17, 2014
    The Pension Hotspots Report is a monthly publication about local pensions and pension reform efforts.

    The biggest pension news from election day is the decisive defeat of Proposition 487 in Phoenix, Arizona, – the only substantial local pension reform measure on the ballot last week. Meanwhile, in predictable moves, voters in Oakland and Yorba Linda, California, approved rather innocuous pension-related measures designed to save taxpayers relatively small amounts of money.

    As of November 14, 2014, ten pension related measures were proposed for 2014 ballots. Six of these were approved and two were defeated. Court decisions removed the initiatives in Pacific Grove, California, and Ventura County, California, from the ballot.

    Pension-related election results:

    d City of Phoenix Pension Reform Initiative, Proposition 487 (November 2014):

    The only contentious pension-related measure on the ballot, which proposed drastic reform in Phoenix, Arizona, was defeated. Prop. 487 proposed switching the city’s new hires over from a defined benefit pension plan to a 401 (K)-style, defined contribution plan and implementing a five-year pensionable pay cap to curtail the process called pension spiking used by retiring employees to boost pension benefits by cashing in saved up vacation time, bonuses, sick leave …

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      Pension Hotspots Report
  • More marijuana, minimum wage measures expected in upcoming elections

    November 25, 2014

    Marijuana activists think Maine is ripe to become the first Northeastern state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana and are hoping to put a measure before voters in 2016. Meanwhile, down South, Texas legislators pre-filed 33 legislatively-referred constitutional amendments to be considered during the 2015 legislative session. At the local level, activists are once again attempting to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour in three different cities.

    Marijuana in Maine:
    After successfully passing recreational marijuana measures in several Western states, activists are taking their fight to the Northeast in the hopes that Maine will become the first state in that region to approve a ballot measure legalizing and regulating recreational use of the drug. Many Northeastern states have limited direct democracy available, making it harder or, in some cases, impossible for citizens to land measures on the ballot. However, Maine allows citizens to refer measures via indirect initiative, whereby citizens can send a measure to the state legislature if they collect enough signatures. If no action is taken by the legislature, the measure is automatically put before voters. Furthermore, activists view Maine’s marijuana-friendly history as an advantage that could help further their cause. Maine decriminalized …

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  • JP Election Brief: 2014 retention report

    November 19, 2014

    November 13, 2014


    Nationwide: Among the states that held retention elections in 2014, Montana’s justices, on average, won by the largest margins while Oklahoma’s judges were shown the least favor at the polls.

     Tennessee justices narrowly retained

    Tennessee: Justices Sharon Lee, Cornelia Clark, and Gary R. Wade of the Tennessee Supreme Court faced retention on August 7, 2014. All three justices were narrowly retained to new, eight-year terms despite an unusually large and politicized campaign against their retention. Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey led the conservative effort to unseat the three Democratic justices. Joined by Ramsey was the group Tennesseans for Judicial Accountability (TNJA), while the Republican State Leadership Committee also contributed money to oppose the retentions. In response, the justices created their own campaign group, called Keep Tennessee’s Supreme Court Fair.

    Retention votes

    In October 2014, the Times Free Press reported that a final, combined total of $2.4 million was spent by both sides in the 2014 Tennessee Supreme Court retention elections.[1] The money raised by the candidates’ own campaigns directly totaled $1,142,723 as of October 10, 2014.…

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  • Election review and judge rules Nebraska’s distribution requirements unconstitutional

    November 14, 2014

    This edition of the Ballot Law Update explores the results of the November election with regard to ballot measure law, as well as covering a court ruling that overturned Nebraska’s century-old distribution requirements for initiatives.

    How did the election affect ballot law?

    Arkansas Ballot Measure Signature Requirements Amendment, Issue 2 (2014):

    On election day last week, Arkansans voted to approve Issue 2, thereby amending the state’s signature requirements. The measure was designed to demand ballot issue groups to initially collect at least 75 percent of the valid signatures required in order to receive additional time to gather extra signatures once the petition has been turned in to the Secretary of State. Before this measure was approved, petitioners had 30 days to collect additional signatures or demonstrate that rejected signatures were valid regardless of how far the original petition fell short of the required signature threshold.[1]

    The victorious supporters of Issue 2 said that it would prevent petitioners from intentionally turning in large numbers of invalid signatures in their original signature submissions just to buy time.

    Opponents claimed, “The proposed amendment does nothing to address fraud but severely hampers the ability of the people to place an initiated …

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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