Our Newsbeats:

  • The Federal Vacancy Count

    March 4, 2015

    This week’s Federal Vacancy Count includes nominations, confirmations and vacancies from February 25, 2015, to March 3, 2015. Nominations, confirmations and vacancies occurring on March 4 will be reflected in the March 11 report. The United States Senate remained inactive on nominations this week while two new nominees were named by the president. The vacancy warning level continued to creep up as two more judges assumed senior status.[1][2] The vacancy warning level remained at blue this week after two new vacancies, two new nominations and no new confirmations. The vacancy percentage rose to 5.8 percent, and the total number of nominees waiting for confirmation rose to 15. The number of vacancies of Article III judges rose to 51 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

    International Trade

    Jane Restani

    Southern District of Iowa

    James Gritzner

    New confirmations

    There were no new confirmations in the past week.

    New nominations

    President Barack Obama on the nominations:

    District of New Jersey

    Julien Xavier Neals

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  • Pension Hotspots: 2014 Year in Review

    February 19, 2015
    The Pension Hotspots Report is a monthly publication about local pensions and pension reform efforts.

    Ten pension-related measures were proposed for 2014 elections. 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 seeking to alter previously approved reform was also ultimately not put on the ballot.

    This edition of the report serves as a year-end review and summary of all 2014 pension related measures covered by Ballotpedia.

    2014 local pension measures


    All of the pension-related measures below were put on local ballots in 2014 and were approved by voters.

    a City of Yorba Linda Elimination of Pension and Health Care Benefits for City Council Members, Measure JJ (November 2014):

    Upon approval, Measure JJ eliminated the pension and healthcare benefits for city council members going forward.[1]

    a City of Oakland Municipal Retirement System Termination, Measure EE (November 2014):

    Measure EE authorized the city council to approve, given a 4/5 majority vote of council members, the elimination of the Oakland Municipal Employee’s Retirement System (OMERS). The city

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      Pension Hotspots Report
  • Legislators try more subtle restrictions on initiatives in Arizona and Washington

    February 25, 2015

    As of February 25, at least 72 bills concerning ballot measure law were proposed or reconsidered in the 2015 legislative sessions of 21 states. Of the total, 66 were introduced this year and the other six were carried over from the 2014 legislative session in New Jersey. So far, two bills were defeated, being abandoned by their sponsors to die in committee.

    The changes in law proposed this year range from efforts to make the initiative and referendum process more difficult or regulate campaign contributions to bills that would establish the power of initiative in non-I&R states or make the power more accessible. This edition focuses on failed efforts to impose initiative and referendum restrictions in Arizona and Washington and the softer bills proposed by legislators instead.

    See “Changes in 2015 to laws governing ballot measures” for a periodically updated list of proposed ballot measure law changes organized by state. This page also includes a brief summary of each proposed bill, the status of the bill and links to more information.

    Arizona legislators take piecemeal approach to more strict election laws after last year’s veto referendum petition:

    Since their last attempt at comprehensive election law reform was …

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      Ballot Law Update
  • From fracking to bag bans, environmental issues are on California’s ballots

    March 3, 2015

    Ballot measures addressing the environment are making noise in California. On March 3, two municipalities in southern California are voting on fracking and oil production policies. In 2016, Californians will decide the fate of the state’s landmark plastic bag ban, which has been placed on the ballot following a successful petition drive funded by plastic companies. Environmental concerns are front and center in each ballot measure battle.

    California’s statewide bag ban on hold:

    California’s landmark legislation banning plastic bags won’t be implemented without voter approval in November 2016. The American Progressive Bag Alliance, with the financial backing of plastic producers, collected an estimated 555,000 signatures, or 50,000 more than were required, for a Plastic Bag Ban Referendum. About $6.15 was spent per required signature. The veto referendum was certified on February 24, 2015, thus stopping the plastic bag ban from going into effect this summer and requiring a vote on the matter by Californians.[1]

    Lee Califf, head of the American Progressive Bag Alliance, explained, “California voters will now have the chance to vote down a terrible law that, if implemented, would kill 2,000 local manufacturing jobs and funnel obscene profits to …

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  • Firing squads in Utah still up for debate

    March 4, 2015

    This week’s tracker includes a partisan count update and a look at Indiana‘s blue law, a continued debate over firing squads in Utah and right-to-work legislation in Wisconsin.

    • Indiana: Carry-out alcohol sales on Sunday will remain mostly illegal in the Hoosier State after a bill to reverse the state’s blue law was killed in the state House last week. Indiana has the most restrictive of the country’s remaining blue laws, completely forbidding Sunday retail alcohol sales with a recent exception for beer produced on the site of a brewery; the law dates back to 1935.[1][2][3] Under the original version of House Bill 1624, any licensed seller would have been able to conduct alcohol sales from 7 a.m. to 3 a.m., the preexisting sales window. The window was later amended to 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.[4] Grocery stores, big-box chains and pharmacies were initially in support of the bill, but pulled back after an amendment would have required them to keep liquor behind the counter, with beer and wine being moved to a new section of the store.[5] Liquor stores have traditionally been against legalizing Sunday sales because of increased overhead costs.
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Press Release

Ballotpedia to absorb Judgepedia
Sister sites will merge to provide optimum reader experience Madison, Wisconsin - February 25, 2015: This week, the Lucy Burns Institute (LBI) announced the merger of its two flagship websites, Ballotpedia and Judgepedia. All articles from Judgepedia will be transferred to Ballotpedia.org, adding to its already extensive encyclopedic database. The merger will provide … Read More