Ruling on North Carolina Elections and Voting
The North Carolina Supreme Court ruled on two elections-related matters (April) that could lead to changes in its representation in the US Congress.
The Court overturned the ruling of a lower state court which deemed proposed Congressional maps illegal. As a result, new district lines can now be put in place for the next federal election in 2024. Reporting indicates that Republicans could gain 4 or 5 of the current 7 Democrat-held seats in the House of Representatives.
Opponents of the proposed district argued that the lines were gerrymandered in a way that will leave the state’s minority populations underrepresented. Supporters claim that the new maps actually address prior gerrymandering in the state that did not adequately represent the actual political viewpoints of the majority of the population.
The Court also overturned a prior ruling on voter ID, a ruling which found that a requirement to present a photo ID was racially biased and violated the State’s constitution. Opponents of a photo ID requirement argue such laws will result in less voter participation by poorer state residents, particularly racial minorities.
Congress and Stock Trading
The banking crisis in early 2023 has again brought to light the ethics of stock trading by members of Congress who may have insider information.
Reporting, including by The New York Times (April 19) described significant stock trades pertaining to banks undertaken by those in Congress during the crisis. New legislation has been introduced, both in the House and Senate, to generally ban stock trading.
New restrictions, or an outright ban, on stock trading by members of Congress failed to be considered by the last (117th) Congress despite bipartisan support for legislation on this issue. Supporters had reportedly tried to find consensus on final measures, but in the end could not.
It is not known if a consensus can be found on this issue this year.
Electoral System Reform & Elections Security
The Omnibus Appropriations Act for FY 2023, the key legislative vehicle for numerous measures enacted in the final days of the Democrat-led 117th Congress, included Electoral Count Act reforms.
Among the key reforms is a provision that raises the threshold to lodge an objection to electors to at least one-fifth of the members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Prior to this change, just a single member of both chambers was necessary to object to an elector, or slate of electors.
In addition, the reforms clarify that the Vice President’s role in counting electoral votes is solely ministerial; that he or she does not have any power to solely determine, accept, reject, or otherwise adjudicate disputes over electors.
The reforms also eliminate a provision of 1845 law that could be used by state legislatures to override the popular vote in their states by declaring a “failed election.”
The Omnibus did not, however, include proposed bipartisan reforms on elections security that would have, among other things, increased prison time penalties for elections-related threats and intimidation against persons administering elections, persons voting, and candidates.
January 6th Committee - Final Results
The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol completed its work and released its final report.
The Select Committee was disbanded at the start of the Republican-led 118th Congress.
"Independent State Legislature " Court Case
The Supreme Court is considering a case during the current Court session (2022-2023) that could have a significant impact on state redistricting processes. In Moore v. Harper, the Court will rule on the “independent state legislature” theory which theorizes that state legislators have the ultimate authority to manage the elections process, not state courts.
State courts under this theory would not be able to reject redistricting proposals of state legislatures that a state court might consider to be in violation, for example, of the state constitution. If the Court accepts this theory, and depending on the specifics of a ruling, state legislatures could gain the ability to draw election maps without the input/oversight in most states including not only state courts but also governors, secretaries of state, and election administrators. Opponents of the theory are concerned that this could result in more gerrymandering to the exclusion of an opposing party and the influence of minority populations.
Opponents also believe that the theory could lead to more pervasive interference in elections processes such as further restrictions on voting that advantage a single party and, potentially, overturning the results of majority election results.
Any ruling on this case is not expected until the late spring or summer of 2023, and will have no impact on the 2022 elections.
House Republican “Commitment to America”
The House Republican caucus released (September 23) its policy platform that will form the basis of its decisions in a future majority leadership.
While lacking on specific proposed actions, the generalized themes and proposals include:
An America That’s Strong
eliminate “wasteful government spending”
employ pro-growth tax and deregulatory policies
maximize production of American energy
cut the permitting process (presumably for oil/gas drilling) in half
move supply chains away from China
expand U.S. manufacturing
enhance economic competitiveness and cyber resiliency
A Nation That’s Safe
“fully fund” effective border control strategies, infrastructure, and advanced technology
end catch & release loopholes
require proof of legal status to get a job
eliminate [immgration-related] welfare incentives
support 200K more officers through recruitment and retention bonuses
oppose “all efforts” to defund the police
“crack down” on prosecutors and district attorneys who “refuse to prosecute crime”
permanently criminalize all forms of fentanyl
support our troops
invest in an efficient and effective military
establish a Select Committee on China in Congress
exercise peace through strength with our allies to counter global threats
A Future That’s Built on Freedom
Advance the Parents Bill of Rights
Recover lost learning from school closures
Expand parental choice in education for +1M more students
Defend fairness by ensuring that only women can compete in women’s sports
Personalize healthcare/provide affordable options and better quality, delivered by trusted doctors and hospitals
Lower healthcare prices through transparency, choice, and competition
Invest in lifesaving cures
Improve access to telemedicine
Provide greater online privacy and data security
Equip parents with more tools to keep kids safe
Stop companies from putting politics ahead of people
A Government That’s Accountable
Uphold free speech
Protect the lives of unborn children and their mothers
Guarantee religious freedom
Safeguard the second amendment of the Constitution
Conduct rigorous oversight to reign in abuse of power and corruption
Provide “real” transparency to the American people
Require the White House to “answer for its incompetence at home and abroad”
Save and strengthen Social Security and Medicare
Repeal proxy voting by Members of Congress
Increase accountability in the election process through voter ID, voter roll accuracy, and observer poll access
DHS-OIG Report & Russian Election Interference
The Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a report (April 26, 2022) which found that an intelligence report on Russian 2020 election interference was altered for political considerations.
The report found that DHS officials in the review and clearance process ”changed the product’s scope by making changes that appear to be based in part on political considerations, raising objectivity concerns and potentially impacting I&A’s compliance with Intelligence Community policy." The Acting Secretary was called out for participating in the review process “despite lacking any formal role in reviewing the product, resulting in the delay of its dissemination on at least one occasion” and that the “delays and deviation from I&A’s standard process and requirements put I&A at risk of creating a perception of politicization.”
The concerns center on a situation where a report was developed that focused on certain Russian interference against Presidential candidate Joseph Biden, but reviewers asked that the report be expanded to include actions on the part of Iran and China against President Trump to make it more of a balanced product.
No Results Found
An 11 Point Plan to Rescue America
This proposal sets out a policy agenda of Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) on a variety of topics, including taxation where it provides (pg. 34) that all "Americans should pay some income tax to have skin in the game, even if a small amount. Currently over half of Americans pay no income tax."
Status: The taxation proposal has not been put into any specific legislation, and therefore no action has been taken.
Federal Campaign Law Contribution Limits
This website of the Federal Election Commission provides detail on current-law candidate campaign contribution limits.
Status: while elements of campaign reform legislation are under consideration in 2022, no legislation is likely to pass in the full (117th) Congress.
This is summary of the provisions of the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge (STOCK) Act , a law which increased stock and trading disclosure requirements on Members of Congress staff, and ensured that they are subject to insider trading laws.
Status: the STOCK Act became law in 2012.
Senate Rules & the Fillibuster
This is an explantion of current Senate floor/debate rules by the Congressional Research Service with respect to the fillibuster.
Status: no changes are expected to current fillibuster rules.