Our Newsbeats:

  • The Federal Vacancy Count

    August 20, 2014

    This week’s Federal Vacancy Count includes nominations, confirmations and vacancies from August 13, 2014, to August 19, 2014. Nominations, confirmations and vacancies occurring on August 20th will be reflected in the August 27th report. This week, as Congress remained on recess, there were no new vacancies, confirmations or appointments. A few more nominees moved along in the confirmation process to await a Senate vote. The vacancy warning level remained at blue this week after no new vacancies, nominations or confirmations. The vacancy percentage remained at 6.6% and the total number of nominees waiting for confirmation remained at 27. The number of vacancies of Article III judges remained at 58 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.


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  • Taxpayers association, alleging a violation of political fair play, sues to keep Citizens United advisory measure from statewide ballot

    August 20, 2014

    Opponents of the anti-Citizens United Proposition 49, which is an advisory question slated for the November election, filed a lawsuit on July 22, 2014, arguing that the California Constitution has no provision for an advisory referendum, allowing only binding amendments or statutes a place on the ballot. They also accuse Prop. 49 proponents of using the measure to manipulate the November election by luring liberal voters to the ballot that would not otherwise vote. Although advisory citizen initiatives have been ruled unconstitutional by previous court decisions, this lawsuit will likely shed important light on the flexibility of the California Legislature’s referral power.[1]

    Proposition 49 seeks to let voters express their disapproval of the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court ruling that established campaign spending as a form of “free speech” allowed by corporations, eliminating the possibility of restricting corporate spending in support of or opposition to candidates or ballot measures. The measure was designed to be an advisory question with no legally binding effect. Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, which is responsible for the lawsuit, equated the measure to a government-funded opinion poll and said, “Legislative power can be exercised …

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      Ballot Law Update
  • Pension Hotspots: Trend of unfavorable ballot summaries for pension reform measures continues

    July 25, 2014
    The Pension Hotspots Report is a monthly publication about local pension reform efforts.

    It happened again: pension reformers face yet another objectionable description of an initiative on the official ballot. Proponents of Phoenix Proposition 401, outraged over ballot language approved by the city council, decided to spend money on campaigning for their measure, rather than fighting the city in court. Meanwhile, Ventura County features a classic state control vs. local control court battle over pension reform that could affect millions of Californians. These, among other stories, are covered in the July edition of the Hotspots report.

    As of July 25, 2014, eight pension related measures have been proposed. Three of these have been approved, one was defeated, and the remaining four are pending. A court decision on June 26, 2014, removed one initiative, the one in Pacific Grove, leaving two measures scheduled for voter decisions and one in the planning stages.

    Recent News

    Pension reformers outraged over ballot language chosen by Phoenix city council:

    With the increased awareness of pension sickness across the nation and the subsequent efforts to enact reform at the ballot box, a pattern of controversial ballot summaries has emerged. The most notable case …

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      Pension Hotspots Report
  • Missouri senator speaks out about Ferguson controversy

    August 20, 2014

    This week’s tracker includes a look at a state senator’s reaction to the events in Ferguson, Missouri.

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

    • Missouri: With tensions remaining high in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson following the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, by police earlier this month, its state senator took to the streets to challenge not only the police response but also that of Gov. Jay Nixon (D). Maria Chappelle-Nadal, a second-term Democratic senator from University City, six miles south of the Ferguson, joined protests in Ferguson last Monday, and has regularly tweeted about the events. The senator reported that she was one of a group of 150 to be teargassed by police. At a press conference last Wednesday, Chappelle-Nadal asked police chief Thomas Jackson if she would be gassed again, to which he replied, “I hope not.”[1] She also used Twitter to criticize Nixon, at one point calling for his resignation.[2] In a video posted to Vine by St. Louis alderman Antonio French, Chappelle-Nadal can be seen holding a sign showing Nixon’s face, chanting, “This
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  • Minimum wage on the ballot in Alaska, Nebraska and possibly Arkansas

    August 20, 2014

    Given Alaska’s 2014 ballot measures, the Alaska Centennial Commission’s choice of “North to the Future” as the state’s official motto seems especially appropriate. Alaska’s 2014 ballot is composed of four nationally contentious and prominent issues, including marijuana and the minimum wage, as well as a heated veto referendum on taxing oil firms known as Ballot Measure 1. Today’s primary election features Ballot Measure 1, which is an attempt to repeal a bill – one that was championed by Gov. Sean Parnell (R) – which granted tax breaks to oil companies.[1]

    Like Alaskans, Nebraskans will also vote on increasing their state’s minimum wage in November. Labeled Initiative 425 by the Nebraska Secretary of State, the initiative would increase the state’s hourly minimum wage to $9.00 by 2016.[2] Voters in Arkansas may likewise vote on raising the minimum wage after supporters submited signatures to get their initiative on the ballot.[3]

    At the local level, a number of California measures, including the Berkeley Sugary Beverages and Soda Tax Question and the Santa Barbara County Fracking Ban Initiative, are being contested in the courts. Most of the lawsuits are related to the ballot questions’ texts, …

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  • JP Election Brief: Lawsuits about elections and continuing controversies

    August 15, 2014

    August 14, 2014

     Tennessee Supreme Court justices survive retentions

    Tennessee: The well-funded, conservative-led effort to oust three justices of the Tennessee Supreme Court fell flat last week after the votes were gathered on August 7, 2014. However, it was a close election, with just a few percentage points saving the justices from losing their jobs.

    Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey led the conservative charge to unseat the justices, while the justices organized their own campaign group called “Keep Tennessee’s Supreme Court Fair.” In the end, Cornelia Clark won retention with 55.3%, Sharon Lee with 56.0% and Gary Wade with 56.6%.

    A lot of attention was focused on the money in these races. Since retentions are usually a quiet affair in which the odds are almost always favorable towards the incumbent, the money spent on these elections was significant. The three justices together reported a total of approximately $1,044,220 in contributions as of the latest campaign finance reports, which were filed on July 31. However, the amount of outside spending was just as impressive. The justices’ campaign group raised an additional $46,000. On the other side, Justice at Stake reported that Tennessee Forum, a group that opposed the retention, raised $426,000, …

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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