CSG Energy and Environment

Ballot Measure 4 touches on a familiar topic to many Alaskans – the Bristol Bay.  The bay is a 36,000 square mile fisheries reserve established by the Alaska state legislature in 1972.  As part of the legislation it required that a surface entry permit for oil and gas on state owned or controlled lands be subject to approval of the legislature to protect the fishery.  Proposed...

Shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 ruled portions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act related to voter IDs were outdated and unconstitutional, states took action. But laws in several states that have imposed strict new photo identification requirements for voters are in limbo, with courts questioning whether concerns over voter fraud outweigh individuals exercising their right to vote.

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WASHINGTON, D.C.—With less than a month before the Nov. 4 midterm elections, voting laws in eight states are being challenged in state and federal courts, often going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. These recent court challenges are due, for the most part, to varying state’s interpretation of two Supreme Court decisions in recent years.

In 2008, the high court ruled in Crawford v. Marion County Election Board that an Indiana law requiring voters to provide photo IDs at the polls did not violate the U.S....

Relatively few state legislative seats were up in 2013 and the only major change was in functional control of the Virginia Senate, where the Democrats eked out control. Republicans, however, continue to dominate the legislative branch across the country by controlling 26 state legislatures, compared to only 19 held by Democrats. Only four states have divided legislative control, representing near historic lows of split control. 

Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast just days before the 2012 presidential election, bringing nearly everything to a halt except Election Day itself. The successes and setbacks election officials experienced in dealing with power outages, polling place changes, ballot delivery and poll worker shortages heightened awareness about the importance of emergency measures to help ensure the effective administration of elections. This article examines the key findings of the National Association of Secretaries of State Task Force on Emergency Preparedness for Elections, providing a closer look at the state laws and contingency planning work that can make a difference when disaster strikes.

Several amendments on the 2013 ballot attracted significant attention, most notably a proposed Colorado amendment that would have raised income tax rates and increased school funding but was rejected by voters. Notable amendments approved by voters include a Texas amendment authorizing use of $2 billion from the state rainy day fund to pay for water projects, a New York amendment allowing operation of up to seven casinos and a New Jersey amendment increasing the minimum wage. The level of state constitutional amendment activity was on par with recent odd-year elections, with only five states considering amendments in 2013, and a good deal of attention focused on qualifying measures for the 2014 ballot.

Governors continue to be at the forefront of governmental activity in the 21st century. They are in the middle of addressing the problems facing the country’s weak economy. The demands on governors to propose state budgets and keep them in balance have continued to increase greatly since the recession began as severe revenue shortfalls hit the states. This places severe limits on the states’ abilities to address many growing needs of people and businesses trying to live through such tough times. The varying political viewpoints on what and how state government should work on this continuing set of problems only makes it harder for elected leaders to achieve agreements over policy needs and governmental responsibilities.

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Nebraska Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh didn’t mince words two years ago when asked about the demise of his state’s 20-year-old law on campaign finance. “Good riddance,” he said after the state Supreme Court overturned the law.
His problems with the old law, then and now, were twofold. First, he says, it had the practical effect of driving money to third parties and away from the candidates themselves.

“With the candidate, there is at least some responsibility for what is being said; you can’t say that so much with third parties,” notes Lautenbaugh, a seven-year veteran of the Unicameral Legislature who will leave office after this year due to term limits.

His second concern was that the law — which provided a public subsidy to Nebraska candidates who agreed to a campaign spending limit and whose opponent exceeded it — violated free-speech protections as well. This same constitutional argument is behind a series of recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings that have reshaped election systems not only in Nebraska, but several other Midwestern states.

As Ian Vandewalker of the Brennan Center for Justice puts it, the nation’s highest court has been on a “deregulatory tear.”

Not all legislators, like Lautenbaugh, are saying “good riddance” to old rules that had sought to “level the playing field” in campaigns or limit spending and contributions.

But nearly everyone can agree that a new era in campaign finance began with the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2010 Citizens United decision. It has continued with rulings such as one earlier this year in McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission.

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Indiana residents had a new way of registering to vote this election season — via a “full-service” application on their smartphone. The app allowed Hoosiers not only to register to vote, but also to view the candidates on their ballot and how to get to their polling location. Other features include the ability to track absentee-ballot applications and contact local election officials.

Ballot initiatives in Colorado, North Dakota and Tennessee will ask voters to take a position on the issue of abortion on November 4, 2014.

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