A state Senate committee on Tuesday took the unusual step of sending Pedro Cortes’ nomination for a second stint as Pennsylvania’s secretary of state to the Senate floor without any recommendation. The State Government Committee voted without dissent after an hourlong hearing that largely focused on Cortes’ role in the case of former Philadelphia abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of murder and is serving a life sentence for killing three babies born alive during illegal abortions at his former clinic.
Secretary of State
Three months after being sworn in, Secretary of State Wayne Williams has mostly stayed out of the news, and that’s the way he likes it. It’s a marked contrast from Williams’s predecessor, fellow Republican Scott Gessler, an election law attorney who embraced the nickname “honey badger,” a varmint known for the relentlessness of its attack. Where Gessler seemingly courted controversy — and was the target of one complaint after another from Democrats — Williams is taking a more conciliatory approach, working closely with county clerks across the state and stressing his office’s mission providing services to voters, businesses and nonprofit groups. “The role, once you’re in there, isn’t about which party you’re in, it’s how you serve the citizens,” Williams said in an interview with The Colorado Statesman. “There are some things I might do differently than another individual, but I try to work very hard to make sure this government office operates the way we would if we were trying to attract customers.”
Must public officials assess a new law to determine whether it’s constitutional before carrying it out? That’s the upshot of a federal-court ruling Monday declaring Secretary of State Jon Husted liable for enforcing a law passed by the Ohio General Assembly that later was declared unconstitutional. At issue was a 2013 measure — Senate Bill 47 — declaring that circulators of initiative petitions must be Ohio residents. Judge Michael Watson of U.S. District Court in Columbus said that even if Husted assumed the law were constitutional, “a reasonable official would have understood that enforcement of the residency requirement would violate plaintiffs’ First Amendment right to engage in political speech despite the presumptive validity of the statute.”
Tension between the two former secretary of state candidates played out in a state House committee hearing over a bill that would give New Mexico’s top elections administrator authority in preventing nonbinding advisory questions from inclusion on ballots. The bill, introduced by Rep. Zach Cook, R-Lincoln, stems from the inclusion of what amount to polling questions, that carry no legal weight, placed on ballots by three counties for last year’s November elections. In September, the state Supreme Court granted Santa Fe and Bernalillo counties a petition to include a question on the statewide November ballot asking voters whether they supported marijuana decriminalization.
Oregon: Kate Brown finds a caretaker by appointing Jeanne Atkins as Oregon secretary of state | The Oregonian
Jeanne Atkins, a veteran Democratic aide and women’s rights advocate appointed by Gov. Kate Brown to be Oregon’s new secretary of state, said Friday that she won’t run in 2016 for a full four-year term in the office. Instead, Atkins, 65, will serve in a caretaker role in the state’s second highest office, leaving what could be a long list of candidates to battle over the position in next year’s election. Brown announced Friday that she would appoint Atkins to fill the remaining 22 months of her term as secretary of state. Brown ascended to the governor’s office last month after John Kitzhaber resigned amid an influence-buying scandal.
Given Arizona’s history of turnover in the governor’s office, the state would benefit from having a lieutenant governor who runs on the same ticket, a state lawmaker says. Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, has introduced two pieces of legislation to create the office, to require a party’s candidates for lieutenant governor and governor to run as a team and to put the lieutenant governor first in the line of succession. Some of the proposed changes would require approval by Arizona voters. Mesnard said having the governor and lieutenant governor run on the same ticket would be helpful for voters because it would mirror the way the president and vice president are elected. He said many voters don’t realize that the secretary of state is the next in line for the governor’s office.
Kate Brown’s deputy, Robert Taylor, took over as Oregon’s acting secretary of state when Brown was sworn in as governor Wednesday. Taylor will manage the day-to-day responsibilities until the new governor chooses a more permanent successor, secretary of state spokesman Tony Green said. That will include planning and overseeing the elections, auditing public spending and serving as the state’s chief archivist. Robert TaylorRobert Taylor “The deputy secretary, in absence of the secretary, has all legal power of the secretary,” Green said. According to Green, Taylor spent most the day Wednesday preparing for the secretary of state’s annual budget presentation to the Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Committee. Kristen Grainger, Brown’s new communications director, said she’s not sure when Brown plans to announce an appointment.
Speculation is brewing over who will succeed Kate Brown as Oregon’s next secretary of state when she becomes governor next week, replacing John Kitzhaber. Under the state constitution, Brown has the power to appoint her successor. It’s unknown whom she’ll choose — Brown addressed the media for less than 30 seconds Friday afternoon — but privately, lawmakers are discussing whom they’d like to see fill the post. Three Democrats, like Brown, are considered to be the leading contenders at the Capitol: House Majority Leader Val Hoyle of Eugene, Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum of Portland, and House Speaker Tina Kotek of Portland.
Maine: LePage to propose adding lieutenant governor, dropping secretary of state | Bangor Daily News
Gov. Paul LePage wants to get rid of the secretary of state position and replace it with a lieutenant governor. The duties of the secretary of state, from running elections to licensing drivers, would come under the lieutenant governor, who also would be first in the line of succession to replace the governor. The governor’s office confirmed it is drafting legislation that would not only make that change to the state’s constitution but would change how two other constitutional officers are appointed. LePage wants the governor, not the Legislature, to name the attorney general and state treasurer. LePage has had numerous disagreements with the Attorney General Janet Mills, a Democrat who was elected by the Legislature. She is serving her third term, having been elected when Democrats held legislative majorities in 2008, 2012 and 2014.
When he is sworn in Monday as California secretary of state, Alex Padilla, a former two-term state senator and possible candidate for higher office, will assume one of the most-maligned posts in state government. The secretary of state’s campaign-finance disclosure system is old and confusing, businesses complain about filing delays and a federally required computerized voter registration list is years behind schedule, contributing to a national survey recently ranking California second-to-last in election administration. Padilla, a Democrat from Los Angeles’ San Fernando Valley, said fixing all three will be early priorities after he takes office. “Coming in, I know there’s a lot that I want to help get accomplished and pushed forward. That’s the approach, the urgency I will bring,” said Padilla, who recently completed two terms in the state Senate and is regularly mentioned as a possible future contender for governor or U.S. Senate.