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St. Joseph school board rescinds CFO suspension

St. Joseph CFO Beau Musser

At the time of the suspension, Musser told Ballotpedia, "So my efforts were to protect taxpayer dollars and do what was right, and I was punished for it."

Musser had also uncovered other improprieties, including 4,000 gallons of missing gasoline, cars purchased without board approval and a sloppy system for approving contracts with employees. "Nobody over the years, until I got there, basically stood up and said wait a second, you know, this is wrong," Musser said.

The St. Joseph School District, which oversees 11,000 students, would not make anyone available for an interview after Musser restarted his job as CFO.

Czerwonka offered this statement: "We welcome back Mr. Musser to the St. Joseph School District. The focus of the St. Joseph School District remains the same: to educate each child for success. It is important for our leadership team to move forward together to continue the work of this district."




The Tuesday Count: Hot-button issues resurfacing on future ballots

Edited by Brittany Clingen

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Only two weeks have passed since the November 4 general election, and already, activists across the country are resurrecting issues from 2014 ballots and gearing up for new campaigns in 2015 and 2016. Marijuana, firearms and fracking all featured prominently on statewide and local ballots in 2014. If supporters can successfully land more of these measures on the ballot, future election cycles are bound to be just as, if not more, contentious, especially given that 2016 is a presidential election year.

Marijuana and firearms measures poised to appear on Nevada 2016 ballot:
After voters passed recreational marijuana measures in Oregon and Alaska, activists wasted no time mobilizing another campaign for 2016, this time in Nevada. The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol, which is officially supporting the measure, turned in over 200,000 signatures - approximately 98,000 more than the 101,667 required - by the November 11 deadline. If the measure appears on the 2016 ballot and is approved by voters, it would legalize one ounce or less of marijuana for recreational use for people who are at least 21 years old. The initiative would tax marijuana sales and allocate revenue from the tax to education.[1][2] Democrats in the Silver State are trying to persuade Republicans, who now maintain a trifecta in the state government, to pass recreational marijuana use via legislation in order to avoid a ballot measure on the topic. Democrats contend that a marijuana question on the 2016 ballot will draw herds of Democratic voters to the polls, bolstering blue candidates' chances of success. If the legislature does not act on the issue, it will automatically be referred to voters as an initiated state statute in 2016.[2]

Those in favor of stricter background checks on gun purchasers are riding the coattails of Washington's successful I-594. The proposed Nevada measure shares some similarities with I-594, which was passed at the polls in November. Upon voter approval, Nevada's measure would require that an unlicensed person who wishes to sell or transfer a firearm to another person conduct the transfer through a licensed gun dealer who runs a background check. A licensed dealer may charge a "reasonable fee" for his or her service.[3] The measure exempts certain transfers of firearms from background checks, including transfers between immediate family members and temporary transfers while hunting or for immediate self-defense.[3] The group, Nevadans for Background Checks, turned in approximately 250,000 signatures by the deadline, according to Kayla Keller, a spokeswoman for the group. Only 101,667 valid signatures were required to put the measure before the legislature in 2015. If no legislative action is taken, the measure will ultimately go before voters in 2016.[4]


Low number of seats determined which state legislative chambers flipped

By Ballotpedia's State Legislative team

In the 11 state legislative chambers that flipped Republican on November 4, just over 14 percent of the seats played an active role in the final partisan breakdown. Republican candidates won more than 90 percent of the 132 seats that changed partisan control in those 11 chambers. In total, 132 seats flipped control in the 915 seats up in the 11 chambers. Those 132 seats amount to 2.2 percent of all 6,057 seats up for election in 2014.

Nearly half of the 119 Republican pick-ups came out of the New Hampshire House of Representatives, due to the extreme size of the chamber and historical tendencies of New Hampshire voters. Removing the New Hampshire State House from the batch, 66 seats flipped Republican and 10 seats went to Democrats in the remaining 10 chambers. In other words, 76 seats ultimately decided the partisan balance of 10 chambers.

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It is also important to note the relevance of seats that did not flip. In just the 11 chambers that flipped, 381 seats featured a margin of victory of 10 percent or less, according to unofficial returns. This means that the flipped seats represent just about half of the closest races in those flipped chambers. A total of 149 seats had a margin of victory of 5 percent or less.

The Republican Party's performance in state legislative chambers on November 4 mirrored its successes on the federal level. In what was a crushing defeat for the Democratic Party, Republican state legislative candidates gained around 300 seats in the 87 chambers that held general elections in 2014. While this year's Republican wave isn't quite as big as the wave in 2010, when around 600 seats turned red, it did strongly counter the Democratic gains from 2012. Democrats picked up a total of 167 seats in 2012.

Heading into the 2014 elections, Republicans held a majority of state legislative chambers. Fifty-nine chambers, counting the New York State Senate and Washington State Senate, were under Republican control. (Although the New York State Senate and Washington State Senate technically had Democratic majorities, in both states a coalition arrangement between several break-away Democrats and the minority Republicans gave the Republicans effective control of those chambers.) Democrats held effective controlling majorities in 39 chambers: 18 state senates and 21 state houses. Although technically nonpartisan, the Nebraska State Senate was controlled by a Republican majority.[5]

The following table details partisan balance in all 99 chambers.

Partisan Balance of All 99 Chambers Before and After 2014 Elections
Pre-election Post-election
Legislative Chamber Democratic Party Republican Party Split balance Independent Democratic Party Republican Party Split balance Independent
State senates 18 31* 0 1 14 35[6] 0 1
State houses 21 28 0 0 16 33 0 0
Total: 39 59* 0 1 30 68 0 1

*Note: Although Democrats had numerical majorities in both the New York State Senate and Washington State Senate, coalitions gave Republicans control of those chambers.

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A total of 1,098 (55.6%) of the country's 1,972 state senate seats and 4,958 (91.6%) of the country's 5,411 state house seats were up for a vote. Altogether, 6,057 (82.0%) of the country's 7,383 state legislative seats were up for election during the midterm election year. Of the seats up for election in November, 2,876 were held by Democrats while 3,123 were held by Republicans.[7]


State Legislative Tracker: Nevada joins list of Republican trifectas

Edited by Joel Williams
This week’s tracker includes a look at the new Republican trifecta in Nevada.


Pension Hotspots: Election review

By Josh Altic

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

The biggest pension news from election day is the decisive defeat of Proposition 487 in Phoenix, Arizona, - the only substantial local pension reform measure on the ballot last week. Meanwhile, in predictable moves, voters in Oakland and Yorba Linda, California, approved rather innocuous pension-related measures designed to save taxpayers relatively small amounts of money.

As of November 14, 2014, ten pension related measures were proposed for 2014 ballots. Six of these were approved and two were defeated. Court decisions removed the initiatives in Pacific Grove, California, and Ventura County, California, from the ballot.


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