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  • The Federal Vacancy Count

    September 17, 2014

    This week’s Federal Vacancy Count includes nominations, confirmations and vacancies from September 10, 2014, to September 16, 2014. Nominations, confirmations and vacancies occurring on September 17th will be reflected in the September 24th report. There was no change 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 6.8% and the total number of nominees waiting for confirmation remained at 28. The number of vacancies of Article III judges remained at 59 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 …

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  • South Carolina Speaker indicted

    September 17, 2014

    This week’s tracker includes a look at an indictment against the Speaker of the South Carolina House of Representatives.

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

    • Nevada: On September 10, 2014, the Nevada State Legislature opened up a special session to discuss Gov. Brian Sandoval’s agreement with Tesla to build a $5 billion battery factory near Reno. The session is expected to last for several days and cover multiple bills involving the Tesla deal and other legislation.[1][2] As part of the $1.3 billion deal of tax breaks and incentives that Sandoval promised to Tesla, the Nevada State Assembly has so far passed Assembly Bill 1 and Assembly Bill 3.[3] The Assembly passed Assembly Bill 3 by a vote of 39 to 0, with two abstentions. The bill will eliminate $27 million in tax breaks for insurance companies that have offices in Nevada give them to Tesla as part of the deal’s tax abatement program.[4] The Assembly also passed Assembly Bill 1 with a vote of 39 to 0 with two abstentions. This bill, a tax incentive package, will offer
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  • Pension Hotspots: Ventura County pension initiative ruled illegal

    September 10, 2014
    The Pension Hotspots Report is a monthly publication about local pensions and pension reform efforts.

    A court ruling scraps the Ventura County pension reform initiative, with significant consequences for 19 other counties, and bankruptcy becomes a real possibility for Scranton, Pennsylvania. NYC, however, gets some good news about its pension system, while certain California cities are facing roadblocks in their attempts to escape from the CalPERS system.

    As of August 29, 2014, nine pension related measures have been proposed. 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.

    Recent News

    Court decision removes Ventura County pension reform initiative from ballot and could preclude local pension reform in 19 other California counties:

    Last month’s Hotspots report featured the importance and widespread effects of the court case over the Ventura County pension reform initiative seeking to move new county employees over to a 401(k)-style, defined contribution retirement system. This month’s report will cover the court’s ruling in this case, which is relevant to the 19 other counties throughout California that adopted the same …

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      Pension Hotspots Report
  • JP Election Brief: Candidate in contempt of court and a 3-month retirement

    September 18, 2014

    September 18, 2014

     Louisiana judicial candidate held in contempt for second time

    Louisiana: A candidate for the 24th Judicial District in Louisiana has been found in contempt of court for the second time for refusing to submit to a court-ordered drug test.

    Juan Labadie, a Democrat, is in a custody dispute with his ex-wife, Lori, over his supervised visitation with their daughters, ages 10 and 11. Because Labadie refused to submit to the drug test, Judge Donald A. Rowan, Jr. found Labadie in contempt, and Labadie is not allowed to have any contact with his daughters. Judge Rowan barred Labadie from seeing his children instead of ordering him to serve jail time.[1]

    This is the second time a judge has found Labadie to be in contempt of court. The first judge was Michael P. Mentz. Lori Labadie asked Mentz, and later Rowan, to order the drug test because of what she said was Labadie’s irrational behavior in early 2014, including a minor car accident involving one of their children. She also claimed to have found pills in Labadie’s home, though she could produce no evidence in court. When Labadie refused to submit to the court-ordered drug …

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  • California will remain one state as “Six Californias” fails signature count

    September 17, 2014

    You won’t be able to live in a state named after a mineral used in microchips or one named after our third president. Silicon Valley and Jefferson would have been two of the six states called for by Timothy Draper’s “Six Californias” Initiative. The initiative failed to make the ballot following the California Secretary of State’s random signature count, which revealed a low number of valid signatures. As a result, Californians will not be voting on partitioning their state in 2016, unless supporters jumpstart a new initiative.[1] Across the Atlantic Ocean, the United Kingdom is facing an even more radical partition proposal. The Scots, who have been part of the United Kingdom since 1707, will be voting on a Scotland Independence Referendum on September 18, 2014.[2]

    Meanwhile, the question of public funding of private education is heating up in Hawaii. A battle line is being drawn, with private preschools pushing for the amendment and the state’s largest teacher’s union calling for a “no” vote.[3] Two of California’s most expensive initiatives are starting to sink in the polls. This could just be a bump in the road, or opposition campaigns could be effectively targeting and …

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  • California lawmakers avoid significant additions to election code but seem likely to pass minor reform

    September 8, 2014

    Direct democracy proponents were concerned about a piece of legislation that was tossed around in the California Assembly this year. Assembly Constitutional Amendment 6 was primarily sponsored by Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-43), who has a history of sponsoring bills to restrict the initiative power, and Assemblyman Richard S. Gordon (D-24). The proposed amendment seeks to require a higher percentage of votes to approve citizen-initiated constitutional amendments. It would, if approved in the legislature and by the voters, require a 55 percent supermajority vote to approve any constitutional amendment proposed via initiative petition. It would, however, leave intact the simple majority requirements for an amendment proposed by the legislature. Critics hail this as yet another attempt to disenfranchise the power of direct democracy in California by a legislator who has demonstrated a distrust of the people and the voters. Supporters, including Gatto himself, defend the measure by arguing that it would thin the field of proposed amendments, allowing the really valuable ones to move forward and deterring petitioners with hasty, half-baked ideas.[1]

    Defenders of the initiative process, while despising ACA 6, have mixed feelings about another bill that would significantly alter laws governing direct democracy in the Golden …

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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