As the Supreme Court hears arguments in Obergefell v. Hodges, a landmark case that could decide the fate of gay marriage in the U.S., former Sacramento Appeals Court Judge Anthony Kennedy will likely be the key voice in the decision. David Savage in the LAT:
“Justice Kennedy, now 78, has been given many labels in his 27 years on the high court: Conservative. Moderate. Swing vote. Internationalist. Zealous defender of free speech and free spending in politics. Scalia has mocked him as a hand-wringer who agonizes over close cases.
“But almost no one foresaw that the justice from Sacramento would turn out to be the Supreme Court’s most important voice on gay rights, writing every major decision over the last two decades. Now he is poised to be the crucial vote in deciding whether gay marriage will be a constitutional right nationwide.”
Side note: California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is in DC to attend today’s court session.
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz warns that the drought may lead to brownouts this summer, linking the danger to the effects of climate change. From Reuters:
“Moniz said hydro power outages are perhaps the major long-term risk to the energy water nexus that could result from climate change, both in the United States and in the wider Western Hemisphere. But he added that there are other concerns.
“Power stations can also shut down when water temperatures get too high and rising sea levels can make storms more damaging in coastal areas with dense energy infrastructure like Houston and the East Coast, Moniz said.”
Meanwhile, on Monday, Assembly Democrats killed a Republican bill to fast-track construction of two water storage facilities. From Christopher Cadelago, Sacramento Bee:
“Assembly Bill 311, by Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, would have streamlined environmental review for the Sites Reservoir in the Sacramento Valley and Temperance Flat on the San Joaquin River near Fresno.
“The measure is part of a Republican package of legislation designed to address infrastructure needs. After being sidelined by the Assembly Natural Resources Committee last month, it was revived for a second pass when Gallagher narrowed the focus to the two projects…”
After years of tough-on-crime tactics, crime prevention and victim’s rights advocates are beginning to look at wider reforms in the criminal justice system. The ballot box victory of Prop. 47’s sentencing reforms may be only the first step. Samantha Gallegos has the story for Capitol Weekly:
“In the world of criminal justice, doing “what’s right” once meant having a tough-on-crime approach. But advocates for different types of reform are gaining momentum in the Capitol and among the larger public.
“Following years of a steadily increasing prison population and certain communities repeatedly being devastated by crime, public discussion has shifted in part toward reforming law enforcement’s approach to crime prevention.”
Speaking of initiatives, SEIU United Healthcare Workers West has submitted an initiative to increase California’s minimum wage to $15 an hour.
An automatic voter bill backed by Secretary of State Alex Padilla has advanced in the Assembly.
Patrick McGreevy, LAT: “Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) modeled her bill on a new law in Oregon and said it is needed after the 42% record-low turnout in the November statewide election.
“’These concerning new lows are unacceptable,’ Gonzalez told the Assembly Transportation Committee. ‘We cannot allow this trends to continue.’"
Laura Burton Capps, daughter of retiring Congresswoman Lois Capps, has announced that she will not seek her mother’s seat.
Good news for the state's teachers: after years of declines, California teacher hiring is on the upswing. From Loretta Kalb and Phillip Reese at the Sacramento Bee:
“California school districts have emerged from the recession with plans to hire 21,500 teachers for the 2015-16 academic year at a pace not seen in a decade, according to new state data.
“Schools are using additional teachers to reduce class sizes and bolster offerings in math, science and foreign languages, thanks to additional state tax revenue from economic growth, as well as a 2012 tax hike.”
Meanwhile, the California Department of Education is poised to begin including attendance rates as one of three measures used by federal officials to gauge school performance in California. Tom Chorneau in The Cabinet Report:
“A proposal set to go before the State Board of Education next week, calls on local educational agencies to meet a target attendance benchmark – probably between 90-to-95 percent – or face intervention sanctions as prescribed by the No Child Left Behind Act.
“The plan, which would also need to be approved by the U.S. Department of Education, comes forward as both state and federal officials struggle to find meaningful indicators of student performance other than standardized test scores.”
“And while the Capitol’s basement café may have been closed for health code violations, at least they didn’t force the evacuation of the building.
“An emergency alarm was triggered Monday morning, when smoke was seen coming from a microwave behind the [Iowa] Senate chamber, The Des Moines Register reported.
The reason for the evacuation was later discovered to be burnt-to-a-crisp Easy Mac. The typically bright orange-colored noodles appeared to be black as coal in a photo of the cup-sized offender.”