Betting Big: With $357 Million Raised, California Gambling Propositions Already Break Spending Records

Spending on Prop 26 and 27 have topped 2020’s Prop 22 by more than $130M

California ballot measure battles are notoriously expensive, and this year’s biggest fight is already obliterating records: Groups backed by online gambling companies and tribal casinos have raised nearly $360 million on a pair of measures that would legalize sports betting in the Golden State.

That’s an astonishing $133 million more than the state’s previously most pricey proposition — when Uber, Lyft and DoorDash forked over more than $200 million two years ago to beat back a state law that would treat their drivers as employees.

Since June 30, the groups facing off to control the potential bonanza of a California sports gambling empire raised an average $16.5 million per week, more than has been collected so far for three of the state’s seven ballot measures the entire campaign.

California voters are the target of all that money churning through the Yes and No on Prop 26 and 27 campaigns to pay for billboards popping up across the state and endless ads bombarding us during just about every commercial break for Wheel of Fortune. The dueling campaigns had spent at least $45 million on TV and cable production costs as of July 1, with lots more spending anticipated in the coming weeks.

“You aren’t going to be able to watch evening news, a football game or a YouTube video without seeing a message on these initiatives,” said Thad Kousser, professor of political science at UC San Diego, and co-director of the Yankelovich Center for Social Science Research.

Overall, more than $450 million has been amassed, just in this year, by the handful of committees formed to support and oppose the seven measures that will appear on Californians’ ballots when they are mailed out in October.

But it’s not just gambling interests that are raising eyebrows with their spending. Campaign finance reports linked to supporters of Prop 1, which would amend the state constitution to solidify Californians’ rights to abortion and contraception, show over $170,000 spent on Super Bowl-weekend related activities. That is nearly half the money the campaign has raised so far this year. The expenditures – months before the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade turned abortion into a pivotal national issue – show up on behalf of top Senate Democrat Toni Atkins’ ballot committee. It reported over $18,000 spent on Super Bowl-related concessions, another $14,850 on a concert at Arena and $88,429.50 on tickets to the game in L.A.

The vast majority of money raised across all ballot initiatives, more than $357 million, has been received by the committees supporting and opposing the two controversial gambling propositions.

Simply put, Proposition 27 would legalize online sports betting in the state. Proposition 26 would allow sports betting, but only in-person at tribal casinos and racetracks, expanding the types of betting at those establishments.

Republican and Democratic leaders in Sacramento have recently come out in opposition to Proposition 27, despite the hundreds of millions in projected state revenue.

Five companies, most of which specialize in online gambling, have each shelled out $25 million donations to support Prop 27, including DraftKings, Fanduel Sportsbook, BetMGM, Penn Interactive Ventures, and FBG Enterprises. Two additional companies, WSI US LLC and Bally’s Interactive LLC, each donated $12.5 million, bringing the total raised in support of Prop 27 to $150 million.

A coalition of tribes and casinos have donated over $100 million to one of the committees supporting Prop 26 and opposing Prop 27. The biggest funders include the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, who have donated $30 million, and the Pechanga Band of Indians, who have chipped in more than $25 million.

Click here to read the full article at the Mercury News

High-Speed Rail Route from San Francisco to San Jose Wins Approval. What happens Next?

Over concerns of a pair of Bay Area cities, the California High-Speed Rail Authority board finalized its choice of a route alternative for about 49 miles of tracks between San Francisco and San Jose. Thursday’s actions included certification of thousands of pages of environmental analysis for the stretch, in which high-speed trains will eventually share an upgraded and electrified rail corridor with the Caltrain passenger train service on the San Francisco Peninsula. The 8-0 vote (with one board member absent) took place in a meeting held by teleconference among rail authority board members scattered across the state.

It represents the latest step in providing the environmental clearance for a statewide system that is ultimately planned to link San Francisco with Los Angeles and Anaheim by way of the San Joaquin Valley, with electric-powered trains carrying passengers at speeds up to 220 mph. “Today is really a momentous event, with a tremendous amount of work behind it to get where we are today with an environmentally cleared project from the Bay Area through the Central Valley,” Tom Richards, a Fresno developer and the authority board chairperson, said after the vote. “If nothing else, what it does is prepare and move this entire project forward toward construction.”

Brian Kelly, the rail agency’s chief executive officer, said certification of the San Francisco-San Jose corridor means the agency has now completed and certified its environmental analyses for all but two sections of the 500-mile San Francisco-Los Angeles/Anaheim system. The only gaps in clearance are a 38-mile segment between the Mojave Desert city of Palmdale and the San Fernando Valley community of Burbank, and a stretch from downtown Los Angeles to Anaheim. “A lot of people have lost sight that this project is about San Francisco to Los Angeles,” Kelly told The Fresno Bee after the vote. “With today’s environmental document being certified by our board, we have now cleared San Francisco into Los Angeles County.”

“It really reflects what we’re trying to do: get service started in the (San Joaquin Valley) where construction is under way, and we’re trying to advance that full Phase 1 system from San Francisco to Los Angeles,” Kelly added. “By getting this done, we can now start designing those other segments as we bring operations forward in the Valley. We can advance the design, start talking about acquiring right of way, and figuring out the rest of the San Francisco-LA project.” CONCERNS RAISED DURING MEETING On Wednesday, during public comments on the environmental analysis, representatives of the city of Millbrae, which is south of San Francisco, expressed concern with some aspects of the plans. They asserted that the documents did not fully consider the effects that the bullet-train project and potential station locations could have on the city’s development plans near its transportation station that is shared by both the Caltrain commuter trains and BART trains that connect communities throughout the Bay Area.

In response, staff for the high-speed rail authority noted that the environmental documents don’t represent a final design for stations. They pledged to collaborate with local city officials in Millbrae on future plans for expanding and sharing the BART/Caltrain station. They also said they will work with officials in nearby Brisbane on plans for a maintenance facility near a former landfill along the east side of the Caltrain corridor. Improvements to the Caltrain line to accommodate high-speed trains will include some grade-separated crossings, while other roads will have enhanced crossing gates to bar drivers from going around barriers when trains are approaching.

Gary Kennerley, director of Northern California projects for the rail agency, said those features, along with installing overhead electric systems to replace Caltrain’s current fleet of diesel-powered trains, are expected to allow the high-speed trains to operate at speeds up to 110 mph, an increase of about 30 mph compared to current speeds on the peninsula corridor. Earlier this year, the California High-Speed Rail Authority’s board approved a route from San Jose to Merced; a segment from Burbank to downtown Los Angeles was approved last year. In the San Joaquin Valley, the rail agency currently has three construction sections under way between the northern end of Madera and the community of Shafter in Kern County – a 119-mile stretch that will include a station in downtown Fresno but stops short of future station sites in downtown Merced and north-central Bakersfield.

Click here to read the full article at the Fresno Bee

Teachers union considers boycotting LAUSD’s voluntary learning day for students

UTLA demands that district negotiates with it first, before adding four days to year for students behind after pandemic

The union representing Los Angeles Unified teachers is weighing whether to ask its members to boycott an extra day of work planned for October, in a dispute over whether district officials had the right to tack on four days of voluntary paid teaching aimed at helping children who fell behind during the coronavirus pandemic.

The so-called “Student Acceleration Days”, scheduled for four Wednesdays during the school year, are voluntary for both students and teachers, and are intended to help students who struggled academically during the pandemic to catch up.

Teachers aren’t required to work these days, and those who do will receive extra pay.

Despite the days being optional, United Teachers Los Angeles filed an unfair practice charge with the state’s Public Employment Relations Board this month, alleging the district was wrong to unilaterally alter the school calendar without first making a good-faith attempt to negotiate with the union.

The district said in a statement last week that the days are “purely optional” and would allow teachers “the opportunity to work with small groups of students who may need additional instruction” while receiving extra compensation. It further stated that it has and will continue to meet with the union.

Still, UTLA maintains that the extra days should have been negotiated since it impacts employees’ work volume and schedules. Adding the extra days means the school year will end four days later in June, the union has said.

On Friday, Aug. 12, the union sent a memo to its members, which the Los Angeles Daily News has reviewed, announcing it will poll its members next week about potentially boycotting the first of the four “acceleration” days, scheduled for Oct. 19.

Rather than encourage employees to work it, UTLA officials are considering calling a downtown rally for that day to promote the union’s “Beyond Recovery” platform, which lays out issues it wants to address in its current contract negotiations with the district.

The memo said UTLA’s bargaining team will continue to try and resolve the dispute with the district over the four extra days.

“However, if the district and (Superintendent Alberto) Carvalho proceed in unfairly implementing their new schedule, the UTLA Officers, Board of Directors, Bargaining Team, and Chapter Leaders who met at the Leadership Conference recommend that C-Basis employees unionwide boycott volunteering for October 19 and instead hold a rally downtown in support of the Beyond Recovery platform,” the union stated in the memo.

About 80% of UTLA members are classified as “C-Basis” employees, meaning they have the option of working on Oct. 19. If the union proceeds with the boycott, the other 20% of UTLA members who must work that day would be encouraged to pass out leaflets and engage in outreach with parents before and after school, according to the memo.

UTLA represents about 34,000 teachers, counselors, librarians, nurses and other certificated employees.

Meanwhile, until decisions are firmed up regarding the boycott, the union is asking its members not to sign up to work the optional day in October.

“It is critical that you protect your right to boycott by NOT signing up to volunteer for October 19,” the memo stated.

The district, which did not respond to a request for comment about the potential boycott, has described the “acceleration” days, which will be structured differently from a regular school day, as opportunities for students to receive support to catch up and meet grade-level standards, earn a C or better in their courses, or to get ahead.

It’s unclear what would happen if few teachers volunteer to work these days.

Students who don’t attend the extra days may be dropped off on campus by their parents for daycare during the regular school hours.

UTLA has questioned whether the four days will do much to help students. Instead, the union has said that money being set aside for these four days would be better spent on reducing class sizes; hiring more counselors, psychiatric social workers and psychologists; and investing in teacher development.

Click here to read the full article in the Los Angeles Daily News

Californians Urged to Conserve Electricity Amid Heat Wave

Californians were urged to conserve electricity to prevent mass power shutoffs Wednesday as a heat wave scorched the northern part of the state, prompting warnings that lightning, thunderstorm winds and parched vegetation could ignite wildfires.

The heat wave was most extreme in the state’s interior, chiefly the Central Valley, where some locations hit 105 degrees (40 Celsius). The wildfire risk was focused on northern counties.

The California Independent System Operator, which manages the state’s power grid, called for voluntary electricity conservation from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., when it said most people return home and switch on air conditioners, turn on lights, and use appliances. Late afternoon through the early evening is the period when the grid is most stressed due to high demand while solar energy production is decreasing.

Officials asked for voluntary power conservation to prevent the power shutoffs seen in previous years.

Pacific Gas & Electric last year turned off power to about 37,000 people in central and northern California as high winds toppled trees, downed power lines and ignited fires that forced people to flee from their homes.

In Sacramento County, officials opened police stations, libraries and other government buildings to people seeking refuge from the triple-digit weather.

Janna Haynes, a spokesperson with Sacramento County’s Department of Human Assistance, said separate cooling centers where people can get water, and snacks, and have access to outlets to charge their phones will remain open at least through Friday.

“We’ve activated the cooling centers several times this summer, but this is the worst and longest weather event that we’ve had so far this year,” Haynes said.

She said social workers were going out and offering the most vulnerable homeless people vouchers to motels.

Tony Sainz, who supervises a group of construction workers with the city of Sacramento, said his crew of carpenters, painters, and building maintenance workers try to finish up any outdoor work by 11 a.m. to stay out of the harshest heat. After that, the crew works in their shop, where they keep a freezer stocked with electrolyte freezer pops, Sainz said.

Sainz said he is lucky his house is surrounded by trees and near a river, which helps keep it cool. The family keeps the AC at 75 degrees (24 Celcius), he said.

Warm summers, Sainz said, are part of living in Sacramento and something he has learned to tolerate. So much so, that he said, he planned to go for a run after work Wednesday even though it was 97 degrees (36 Celsius).

“I run with three water bottles in my running vest and a cooling shirt and a hat that keeps the sun off your head. I stay hydrated and have electrolytes with me,” he said.

The heat “is one of those things that’s not in my control. You can’t fight it,” he added.

On Wednesday, red flag warnings for fire danger were posted for the northern Coast Range, eastern Shasta County and the Mount Lassen area.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

Back to school: California Republicans Bet Big on Local Board Races

When California Republicans gathered in Anaheim this spring, attention focused on candidate speeches and endorsement battles as the party tries to win its first statewide race since 2006. 

But a little-noticed, hour-long session in a small conference room at the Marriott could very well be more consequential for the state GOP this election.

The meeting focused on running for local school board seats, and it was led by Shawn Steel, a former party chairperson. Now, he’s one of the biggest evangelists for strengthening the GOP by recruiting new candidates and voters in what are, officially at least, nonpartisan races.

“When you’re a minority party, like Republicans in California … you have to think, ‘Well, what can we do as a party to make a big difference?’” Steel told CalMatters. “You see the schools are just in great freefall and chaos. Parents don’t want to send their kids there. So this is the time to get people that are otherwise angst-ridden, upset, powerless.” 

In California, Democrats have long used school boards as a recruiting and training ground for political candidates — with help from teachers’ unions. 

But while the state Democratic party isn’t amping up its school board efforts in 2022, the GOP is going in big with its “Parent Revolt” program — what party officials call their most tailored school board recruitment and training program ever. It includes virtual training sessions that detail how and where to run for office, plus tips for digital campaigns and going door-to-door. 

The goal: To capitalize on COVID pandemic frustrations and concerns over “critical race theory” and other issues among parents of school-aged children — and win not only school board seats, but also, eventually, legislative and congressional races by re-engaging core Republican voters and attracting independents. 

There are about 2,500 races for local school board seats in California in November — about half of the total 5,000 seats, according to the California School Boards Association. The filing deadline for candidates was Friday, though it was extended until today for seats held by incumbents not seeking reelection. While no statewide tally exists, of the nine seats up for election in the three largest school districts — Los Angeles, San Diego, and Fresno — three are open seats, where no incumbent is running.  

The Republican Party would not disclose its goals for recruited candidates, other than as many as possible. It also wouldn’t say how much it is spending on its “Parent Revolt” effort.

“We recognized early that education is going to be a major motivating issue for many Californians this year,” said Ellie Hockenbury, spokesperson for the state GOP. “Whereas it is often the case that top-of-the-ticket races help turnout for down-ballot races, we also believe that local races could be just as big a motivator for many to drive turnout. Having strong candidates in school board races could help our slate of candidates at every level.”

One candidate is Sonja Shaw, who is running for a seat on the Chino Valley School Board in the Inland Empire.

Shaw, a parent of an eighth grader and a 10th grader, used to volunteer in the classroom, but says that during the pandemic, the school board became less accessible and less transparent about its decision-making. “When they closed down, parents were exited out of the school system,” she said. 

Then the GOP provided a level of guidance on running a campaign that Shaw otherwise wouldn’t have had: “We were treading water, without knowing where we’re going,” she said.  

These local races are hardly low-stakes: School board members around the state will be at the forefront of determining how federal funding is spent and addressing labor shortages, teacher pay and inequities in education exacerbated by the pandemic.  

“I’m just trying — and the party is trying — to get the word out: There’s a whole lot of stuff going on in your backyard,” Steel said in an interview. “Don’t worry about the Ukraine, don’t worry about D.C. You can do something socially useful, and start showing up to your school board meetings.” 

Will the strategy work? Some political consultants think it could be a smart way to go. 

“It’s the one instance where the David really can defeat the Goliath — when David continues to be so arrogant,” said Sean Walsh, a GOP strategist. 

But Rusty Hicks, chairperson of the California Democratic Party, said he sees some within the Republican Party using “this really challenging moment in our history” to further divide the state for political gain.

“Ultimately I think parents want the best education for their kids,” he told CalMatters. “And is banning books and punishing teachers and those kinds of activities – is that top of mind for parents? No, I don’t believe so.” 

‘A logical outgrowth’ 

In California’s 2022 election, the big action on education isn’t in the statewide race for the superintendent of public instruction. That’s a departure from the last midterm election in 2018, when it was one of the state’s most hotly contested races. 

With the help of teachers’ unions, Tony Thurmond narrowly defeated school choice advocate Marshall Tuck. The two — both Democrats in the nonpartisan race — spent $60 million combined. This year, there has been little challenge to Thurmond, who won 46% of the vote in the June 7 primary, just shy of the majority he needed to win outright without going to November. 

His challenger on Nov. 8, Republican Lance Christensen, earned a top-two spot with only 12% of the vote. He has raised only about $55,000 so far, compared to nearly $1.7 million for Thurmond, who is also boosted by $2.3 million in independent expenditures on his behalf. 

The GOP’s lack of attention on the superintendent race is a reflection of the party’s record statewide and the daunting odds of unseating a Democratic-backed incumbent, given the 2 to 1 Democratic advantage in voter registration.

Instead, Republicans have “become a party that focuses on presidential politics and local campaigns,” said Dan Schnur, a politics professor at UC Berkeley, USC and Pepperdine. 

The focus on school board races, he said, “is a logical outgrowth of that strategy.”  

Party officials, consultants and candidates of both parties say school choice is not at the forefront of the election this year for a number of reasons, including the pandemic, the shift of the issue to the local level, and the passage of Assembly Bill 1505 in 2019, which changed how publicly funded charter schools operate in California.

This year, the GOP is seeking to capitalize on the increased political engagement of parents — which started with COVID policies, but has carried over to national issues such as “critical race theory” and sex education. 

“I think there’s a real demand that this power structure is challenged and overturned, and that’s what we’re seeing right now,” Steel said. “We don’t lead it. We don’t own it. But if we can help inspire people, particularly newcomers…”

But not every candidate running for school board as a Republican gets the party’s support. 

Jeffrey Erik Perrine, a member of the far-right Proud Boys seeking a Sacramento-area school board seat, was banned from participating in the Sacramento County Republican Party’s events after aggressive behavior, including threats to members, and derogatory comments about immigrants, said Betsy Mahan, chairperson of the county party. Mahan said Perrine’s removal was not strictly about his association with the Proud Boys, but about his behavior. 

“We don’t ask people what organizations they belong to,” she said. “We look at how they act and if they are supportive in general of our party platform.” 

The state party said it works closely with county parties on attendee lists for training sessions, and follows their decisions on candidates. “We will follow the county party’s lead against supporting this expelled Republican,” Hockenbury said.

Also, the state GOP says it doesn’t give directly to school board candidates, but said its training provides non-monetary support. The April workshop and virtual event in July had at least 100 attendees each. The party has also conducted one-on-one sessions with prospective candidates. 

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Conservative Groups That Successfully Challenged San Francisco’s Noncitizen Voting Law Files Suit Against Oakland

The conservative groups that successfully challenged San Francisco’s law allowing noncitizen parents to vote in local school board elections have sued Oakland to remove a similar proposal from the city’s November ballot.

The Oakland City Council voted 6-0 on June 21 to place a measure on the ballot that would enable the city to authorize about 13,000 noncitizen parents or guardians of school-age children to vote in elections for the city’s seven school board members. The ballot measure said noncitizens, including legal residents and undocumented immigrants, make up 14% of Oakland’s population and now lack “representation in key decisions that impact their education and their lives.”

But the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Alameda County Superior Court, said such a law would violate a provision of the California Constitution that declares “A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this State may vote.”

Qualifications of voters are “an issue of statewide concern, not subject to local regulation by a charter city,” the suit said. It said the proposal also violates the rights of U.S. citizens in Oakland “by unconstitutionally diluting the impact of their votes.”

The suit was filed by James V. Lacy and two organizations he leads, the United States Justice Foundation and the California Public Policy Foundation, with an Oakland resident as an additional plaintiff.

Lacy and his groups also sued San Francisco over its ordinance, the first of its kind in California. It was approved by the city’s voters in 2016, took effect in 2018 and was extended by the Board of Supervisors in 2021. Turnout has been small, reportedly because of concerns about disclosure of information to immigration officers; election officials said a total of only 92 noncitizens voted in three school board elections between 2018 and 2020, though 328 registered and 235 voted this February, when three board members were recalled. Overall, nearly 180,000 votes were cast in the recall election.

Defending the San Francisco ordinance, the city’s lawyers argued that the state Constitution’s “may vote” language does not prohibit a local government from allowing others to vote. But Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer said the constitutional provision bars noncitizens from voting.

“Transcendent law of California, the Constitution … reserves the right to vote to a United States citizen, contrary to (the) San Francisco ordinance,” Ulmer said in a June 29 ruling that prohibited San Francisco from enforcing the ordinance or counting noncitizens’ votes in future elections.

He also cited a state law passed by the Legislature that specified “a person entitled to register to vote shall be a United States citizen.” Such laws “address matters of statewide concern: education and voter qualifications,” and cannot be overridden by a local government, Ulmer said.

The judge has refused to put his ruling on hold while the city prepares to appeal it. City Attorney David Chiu’s office told The Chronicle it will ask a state appeals court to reinstate the ordinance.

Ulmer’s ruling prompted City Council members in Santa Ana to delay plans for a ballot measure that would allow noncitizens to vote in all local elections. The measure had been proposed for the November ballot, but according to news reports, city officials needed time to review the legal issues and try to draft a revised proposal for the 2024 ballot.

“We sense the momentum now in California is against allowing for noncitizen voting,” Lacy said in a statement announcing the Oakland suit.

And on June 27, a judge blocked a law that would allow more than 800,000 noncitizen legal residents of New York City to vote in municipal elections, saying it violates a provision of the state Constitution entitling “every citizen” to vote.

City Council member Dan Kalb, a co-author of the ballot measure, said Wednesday the suit was premature because the measure would merely authorize the council to draft an ordinance enabling noncitizens to vote, If it passes, he said, the council will wait until higher state courts rule on the constitutionality of the San Francisco ordinance before acting.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

Ex-IRS Whistleblower Says Middle Class Targeted Under Inflation Bill

William Henck, a former Internal Revenue Service lawyer who was forced out after making allegations of internal malfeasance, said the government will target middle-income Americans with new audits under the Inflation Reduction Act.

Henck, who worked at the IRS for 30 years until departing in 2017, slammed the IRS and others who have argued additional funding would only result in increased audits for billionaires and corporations. The Inflation Reduction Act, which President Biden signed into law , would nearly double the IRS’ budget, appropriating an additional $79 billion to the agency over the next decade.

“The idea that they’re going to open things up and go after these big billionaires and large corporations is quite frankly bulls–t,” Henck told FOX Business in an interview. “It’s not going to happen. They’re going to give themselves bonuses and promotions and really nice conferences.”

“The big corporations and the billionaires are probably sitting back laughing right now,” he continued.

Henck added that he thought it was “insane” to double the agency’s budget. He said the IRS will target businesses who don’t have enough money to hire Washington lobbyists.

Americans with an annual income of less than $75,000 would be subject to nearly 711,000 new IRS audits under the legislation, according to a House GOP analysis that used historic audit rates. By comparison, individuals making more than $500,000 will receive about 95,000 additional audits as a result of the Inflation Reduction Act.

However, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig pushed back on reports of new audits, saying “audit rates” would remain the same and that the bill was “absolutely not about increasing audit scrutiny on small businesses or middle-income Americans.” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters last week that there would be no new audits for people making less than $400,000 per year.

“There will be considerable incentive to basically to shake down taxpayers, and the advantage the IRS has is they have basically unlimited resources and no accountability, whereas a taxpayer has to weigh the cost of accountants, tax lawyers — fighting something in tax court,” Henck told FOX Business.

New hires at the IRS will also be assigned simpler cases, Henck said, meaning an added focus on small-business audits.

“If you own a roofing company, you better count on getting audited because that’s what they’re going to be doing,” he continued. “They’re going to be going after your car dealerships, roofing companies.”

Henck said during his time at the agency, he had observed IRS agents specifically targeting elderly taxpayers, some of whom were World War II veterans, because they could easily be forced into settlements.

“I protested both internally and externally, but I was ignored,” he told FOX Business. “In their last days on Earth, these taxpayers were being bullied by the same government they had fought for as young men and no one cared.”

Click here to read the full article at NY Post

California Appeals Court Rejects COVID-19 Fines for Church

A California church that defied safety regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic by holding large religious services won’t have to pay about $200,000 in fines, a state appeals court ruled.

Calvary Chapel San Jose and its pastors were held in contempt of court and fined in 2020 and 2021 for violating state and county limits on indoor public gatherings. The rules were aimed at preventing the spread through close contract of the virus, which has caused more than 10 million confirmed cases and more than 93,500 deaths since the pandemic began in mid-2020, according to state public health figures.

But on Monday, California’s 6th District Court of Appeal reversed those lower court decisions, citing a May 2020 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in February 2021 that a ban by Gov. Gavin Newsom on indoor worship services in counties where COVID-19 was surging violated freedom of religion.

The decision by a newly conservative majority court came less than a year after the high court previously ruled the ban was justified on health and safety grounds.

The appellate court noted that the restrictions on indoor gatherings also applied to secular gatherings but were stricter for worship services than for secular activities such as going to grocery stores.

The ruling “is a great win for the sake of liberty and displays the justification for the courage shown by this church” and its pastors, Robert Tyler, a lawyer for the church, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Despite the ruling, Santa Clara County said it will continue to seek $2.3 million in penalties against the church for violating other COVID-19 rules that weren’t affected by the decision, such as requiring face masks during services in late 2020.

Click here to read the full article at AP News

Justice Dept. Objects to Releasing Affidavit Used for Trump Search

The Justice Department said Monday it opposes the release of an FBI affidavit justifying a search warrant used to remove documents from former President Trump’s home in Florida last week.

Though the department asked a federal court to release the search warrant last week, it said in a filing that the affidavit “presents a very different set of considerations.”

“There remain compelling reasons, including to protect the integrity of an ongoing law enforcement investigation that implicates national security, that support keeping the affidavit sealed,” according to the filing in federal court in West Palm Beach, Fla.

The Justice Department also said the affidavit — typically a road map of an investigation — includes “highly sensitive information about witnesses, including witnesses interviewed by the government.”

The department was responding to a request filed by the conservative group Judicial Watch and some media organizations seeking the release of all materials related to the unprecedented search of a former president’s residence, which resulted in the seizure of 11 sets of classified documents.

In the week since the search on Trump’s property, some Republican lawmakers have called for the release of the document and Senate Intelligence Committee leaders made a bipartisan request over the weekend to the government for members to privately access the classified documents.

Trump’s lawyer, Alina Habba, didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Last week, a Florida judge released the search warrant and a list of materials seized during the search after a request from the Justice Department that Trump didn’t oppose. But the underlying affidavit would reveal the most extensive information used to justify the action, possibly including sources used by FBI agents and details about the documents and classified information.

Releasing an affidavit at this stage of an investigation would be highly unusual and require the approval of a federal judge. Unlike the warrant itself and the seizure receipt, which the FBI gave to Trump’s lawyer during the search and Trump was free to share, the former president wouldn’t have seen a copy of that document.

“There is simply no alternative to sealing that could ensure the integrity of the government’s investigation and that would prevent the inevitable efforts to read between the lines and discern the identities of certain individuals, dates or other critical, case-specific information,” the Justice Department said in the filing.

It isn’t possible to make a redacted version of the affidavit public because the redactions would be “so extensive as to render the document devoid of content that would meaningfully enhance the public’s understanding of these events,” the department said.

The FBI’s seizure of classified material from Trump has thrown U.S. politics into turmoil, and court filings revealed the former president may be under investigation for mishandling government records and potentially compromising national security information.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Gascón Recall Effort Fails as LA Registrar Recorder Denies 200K Signatures

‘If this was my recall team, I’d definitely look into it – Something is off’

Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan announced on Monday that the recall petition of LA District Attorney George Gascon failed to reach the needed number of signatures, only garnering 520,050 of the needed 566,867 needed to be on the November 2022 ballot.

In July, LA Mayoral candidate and current Rep. Karen Bass said “My focus is going to be on the mayor’s race…I’m not going to be focused on the recall,” reported, and said she “then went on to characterize the chances the recall will qualify for the ballot as ‘doubtful.’”

When the second recall attempt against Gascon kicked off in January following the failed 2021 attempt, the number of signatures quickly grew. By June, so many had been collected that the safety goal was being reached and criminals in the County were so worried of it succeeding that many began asking for more plea deals ahead of such a recall being on the ballot. Around 716,000 were turned in by the early July deadline, with number of signatures widely being seen as enough, as previous petitions, such as the Gavin Newsom recall campaign in 2021, had only a 20% rejection rate.

“I wouldn’t say it’s in the bag or we’ll be complacent, but as far as public opinion is concerned, George Gascon is toast,” said Recall DA George Gascon Tim Lineberger spokesman last month.

However, on Monday, 195,783 signatures of the 715,833 turned in were invalidated, causing the recall petition to not advance.

“Based on the examination and verification, which conducted in compliance with the statutory and regulatory requirements of the California Government Code, Elections Code, and Code of Regulations, 520,050 signatures were found to be valid and 195,783 were found to be invalid,” said Logan on Monday. “Therefore, the petition has failed to meet the sufficiency requirements and no further action shall be taken on the petition.”

Of the nearly 200,000 invalidated signatures, 88,000 were not registered, 43,593 were duplicates, 32,187 were a different address, 9,490 were mismatched signatures, 7,344 were canceled, 5,374 were out of county addresses, with 9,300 being uncounted under the ‘other’ category.

Those against the recall attempt celebrated on Monday, with a Gascon campaign spokesperson saying “We are obviously glad to move forward from this attempted political power grab, but we also understand that there is far more work that needs to be done. And we remain strongly committed to that work. The DA’s primary focus is and has always been keeping us safe and creating a more equitable justice system for all. Today’s announcement does not change that.”

Gascon himself also gave a brief tweet, echoing similar sentiments.

Click here to read the full article at the California Globe