Our Newsbeats:

  • Wisconsin legislator pleads no contest to sexual assault charges

    October 27, 2014

    This week’s tracker includes a look at the settlement of a case against a Wisconsin state assemblyman.

    • Pennsylvania: Before the legislative break for the upcoming general election, the Pennsylvania State Senate and Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed legislation that would allow “membership organizations” like the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other groups that are “adversely affected” by local gun ordinances to sue municipalities.[1] The Senate passed House Bill 80 by a vote of 32 to 16, while the House passed the bill by a vote of 138 to 56.[2] According to Section 6120 of the state’s Uniform Firearms Act, “no county, municipality, or township may in any manner regulate the lawful ownership, possession, transfer or transportation of firearms, ammunition or ammunition components when carried or transported for purposes not prohibited by the laws of this Commonwealth.”[3] Currently, there are 30 municipalities in Pennsylvania that have local ordinances governing lost or stolen guns, 10 of which are located in the Philadelphia suburbs.[1][4] Also included in House Bill 80 is a provision that forces local municipalities to pay the legal fees for the plaintiff of any lawsuits filed against the municipality that
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  • The Federal Vacancy Count

    October 29, 2014

    This week’s Federal Vacancy Count includes nominations, confirmations and vacancies from October 22, 2014, to October 28, 2014. Nominations, confirmations and vacancies occurring on October 29th will be reflected in the October 29th report. There were no changes 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 7.2% and the total number of nominees waiting for confirmation remained at 34. The number of vacancies of Article III judges remained at 63 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 the number of nominees in any given step in the nomination process.


    Weekly map

    The weekly map is updated every week and posted here and on the Federal Court Vacancy Warning

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  • Pension Hotspots: Phoenix, Arizona, and San Diego County, California

    September 27, 2014
    The Pension Hotspots Report is a monthly publication about local pensions and pension reform efforts.

    A new public citizens review process released statements about Proposition 487 in Phoenix in an attempt to clarify the pension reform initiative for voters. Meanwhile, in San Diego County, California, pension fund investors drew harsh criticism by placing all of the county’s pension assets on the line in a new high-risk, all-or-nothing investment strategy, hoping to drastically boost the fund’s health.

    As of September 26, 2014, nine pension related measures have been proposed in 2014. 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.

    The state’s first Citizens’ Initiative Review releases pro and con statements about Phoenix Proposition 487:

    In a new effort to clarify issues, a Citizens’ Initiative Review process made its debut by reviewing Phoenix Proposition 487, a reform proposal for the city’s underfunded pension system. The review was conducted by an independent panel of voters which investigated and discussed arguments in favor of and opposition to the measure and read the full text of …

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      Pension Hotspots Report
  • JP Election Brief: Top judicial races for election day

    October 30, 2014

    October 30, 2014

     Michigan: Partisan control on the line

    Michigan: Though Michigan’s elections are technically non-partisan, candidates are nominated by party committees. Currently, the Michigan Supreme Court has five Republicans and two Democrats on its bench. One Democratic seat and two Republican seats are up for election this year. The partisan balance of the court could flip, but Democrats would need to win all three seats.

    As of October 27, the candidates for the three Michigan seats reported a combined total of over $4.5 million in campaign funds. Republican incumbents Brian Zahra and David Viviano were two of the top five supreme court candidates in the nation for campaign fundraising, with approximately $910,896 and $856,376 raised, respectively. The state Republican Party spent an estimated $2,386,250 on TV ads to support Viviano, Zahra and James Robert Redford, according to Justice at Stake.[1]

    See Michigan Supreme Court elections, 2014 for more information.


     North Carolina: A majority of the court up for grabs

    North Carolina: North Carolina’s judicial elections are technically non-partisan. However, it is a state where the justices’ political affiliations are clearly known and political parties may publicly endorse candidates. Currently, the Supreme Court

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  • Governor Brown signs two bills reforming California ballot law and vetoes one

    September 30, 2014

    Changing the laws governing California‘s century-old initiative process in what supporters call a “simple but profound way,” Governor Jerry Brown (D) signed Senate Bill 1253 and a supporting law, Assembly Bill 2219. While opponents labeled SB 1253 “one of the top ten terrible bills” and hoped the governor would veto it, the governor expressed full approval for the bill on September 28, 2014. He did, however, veto the added requirements for campaign contribution transparency on initiative petitions found in Assembly Bill 400, dismissing the bill as impractical and unnecessary.[1][2]

    The duo of Senate Bill 1253 – introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-6) – and Assembly Bill 2219 gives initiative proponents the power to withdraw their initiative much nearer the ballot printing deadline than previously permitted, allowing an initiative to be withdrawn at any point up until it qualifies for the ballot. The bill, which was approved 55-23 in the Assembly and 29-8 in the Senate, also provides for a 30-day public interaction and review period when the initiative is first proposed, allowing proponents to alter the proposal in response to public input. The bill allows 30 more days to collect signatures – 180 …

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      Ballot Law Update
  • Brown spending more on CA’s Props 1 and 2 than on his own reelection

    October 29, 2014

    Campaign spending is at a high in California with election day only one week away. Gov. Brown, rather than campaigning for his own re-election, has been out raising money for and promoting Propositions 1 and 2.[1] His committees have spent $9,537,049 on supporting the propositions, but only $3,653,869 on his own gubernatorial re-election. Over 2000 miles off California’s coast, an expensive ballot conflict is shaping up in Hawaii, and it isn’t over a statewide measure, but a countywide GMO ban.

    Brown campaigning more for propositions than for himself

    California, according to Gov. Jerry Brown (D), is plagued by two boom-and-bust cycles, one natural and one economic. He believes solutions readily exist to ameliorate these two issues in the forms of Proposition 1 and Proposition 2. “Propositions 1 and 2 will even out the boom and the bust,” argued Brown in a recent advertisement titled “Pendulum.”[2] Proposition 1 would authorize over seven billion dollars in bonds for water supply infrastructure, storage, and treatment, drought relief and watershed restoration.[3] The measure comes at a time when the western United States is facing the most extensive drought in over 850 years.[4]

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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