Our Newsbeats:

  • The Federal Vacancy Count

    December 19, 2014

    This week’s Federal Vacancy Count includes nominations, confirmations and vacancies from December 10, 2014, to December 16, 2014. Nominations, confirmations and vacancies occurring on December 17th will be reflected in the January 7th report. The Federal Vacancy County will be taking an extended break for the holidays and will return on January 7, 2015! The Senate confirmed 12 new federal judges shortly before closing session on the 113th Congress. The vacancy warning level remained at blue this week after no new vacancies, no new nominations and 12 new confirmations. The vacancy percentage fell to 4.6%, and the total number of nominees waiting for confirmation fell to 25. The number of vacancies of Article III judges fell to 41 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

    Eastern District of New York

    Joan Azrack

    Eastern District of Texas

    Robert William Schroeder III

    Amos Mazzant

    District of Columbia

    Amit Priyavadan Mehta

    District of Massachusetts

    Allison Dale Burroughs


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  • Pension Hotspots: San Jose and San Bernardino, California

    December 1, 2014
    The Pension Hotspots Report is a monthly publication about local pensions and pension reform efforts.

    As of November 28, 2014, ten pension related measures were proposed for this year. Five of these were approved and two were defeated. Court decisions removed the initiatives in Pacific Grove, California, and Ventura County, California, from the ballot. A measure in San Jose, California, seeking to alter previously approved reform was not put on the ballot.

    San Bernardino strikes a deal with CalPERS instead of playing hardball on pension debt:

    San Bernardino, California, has followed Stockton in trying to work with CalPERS to repay pension debt despite both cities filing for bankruptcy and a court ruling that, on the surface, gives bankrupt cities the ability to reduce pension payments. As it turns out, the multi-hundred billion dollar pension fund holds all the bargaining chips, making the court ruling somewhat devoid of practical application. If Sockton, for example, were to have reduced its payments, CalPERS protocol would have automatically cut the benefits for city employees to 60 percent, pushing workers to quit in droves according to city officials. Similar practical consequences ruled the day over strict legality in San Bernardino as …

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      Pension Hotspots Report
  • Maine recount settled

    December 16, 2014

    This week’s tracker includes a final update on the recount situation in Maine and a look at a controversial resignation in South Carolina.

    • Maine: The book is all but shut on this year’s Maine State Senate elections after a whirlwind case in District 25 was resolved last week. As the Tracker reported in its previous two editions, Cathy Breen (D) narrowly defeated Cathy Manchester (R) for an open seat on election night, but a recount swung in the opposite direction after what looked to be the appearance of 21 extra ballots for Manchester from the town of Long Island, leading Democrats to question the validity of the process. The Senate, contrary to Secretary of State Matt Dunlap‘s request to seat Breen, then elected to seat Manchester in the interim when it met on December 3.[1] The legislature held elections for three constitutional offices after meeting; Tim Feeley, spokesman for state Attorney General Janet Mills, said the results would stand, as “[t]he Senate determined at the time of the Joint Convention who the members were who could vote.” The effect of Manchester being seated is unknown, as the vote was kept secret.[2] A special Senate
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  • Dust continues to settle after 2014 election

    December 16, 2014

    In Oregon and Washington D.C., the dust is still settling from the results of the 2014 election. Meanwhile, Phoenix is the latest locale to discuss potentially featuring a repeat topic on an upcoming ballot. Supporters are seeking to land pension reform on the ballot for the third time in as many years.

    Oregon GMO measure officially defeated after recount, lawsuit:
    After a record-breaking campaign, a painstaking recount and a lawsuit, Oregon’s Measure 92 has been officially declared defeated. The measure, which sought to mandate the labeling of food products containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), set a new record for the most money raised by one side of a ballot measure campaign, with the opposing side raising over $20 million. It also became the most expensive measure in the history of the state, surpassing a defeated 2007 measure’s record of $16 million by bringing in more than $32.1 million from support and opposition groups.[1][2]

    Because the measure was defeated by a mere 809 votes on election day, a recount was held, as the margin of defeat was less than the 0.2 percent threshold that automatically triggers a recount under Oregon law.[3] As the recount neared its conclusion, …

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  • 2014 Year in Review

    December 19, 2014

    This edition of the Ballot Law Update features a year-end summary of legislation proposed in 2014 concerning laws governing the powers of initiative, referendum and recall. Of the 113 bills Ballotpedia tracked, 13 were approved in 5 states, while three were carried over to next year, and 97 were defeated. Some bills were introduced to establish or strengthen the powers of initiative, referendum and recall, while many others sought to restrict, direct, limit or decrease direct democracy.

    This report also highlights some 2014 lawsuits that could have an impact on ballot law and lists all court cases filed against 2014 statewide ballot measures and select local measures.

    Approved legislation


    Two bills were approved by the legislature and signed by the governor in Arizona:

    1. a Arizona House Bill 2196 repealed 2013 Arizona House Bill 2305, which contained multiple election and ballot law reform provisions.[1]
    2. a Arizona House Bill 2107 allowed certain petition signatures to be dated by the signer after the signature petition sheet was dated by the circulator and reaffirmed the necessity for circulators to signify if they are paid or volunteer on the petition form.[2]


    The prolific California legislature enacted six laws governing ballot …

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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