SCOTUS redistricting decision may come down to Kennedy

Mar 3, 2015

The Supreme Court yesterday heard arguments in an Arizona redistricting case that likely has big repercussions for California.  The case, Arizona State Legislature v. Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission, challenges Arizona’s voter-approved redistricting commission, with the plaintiffs saying that the U.S. constitution’s direction that state legislatures control the details of elections.  The defending argument is that the citizens of Arizona acted as legislators though the initiative process.  Complicated business, and as is so often the case, the deciding vote may come down to Justice Anthony Kennedy.


John Myers has the story at KQED: “Described in a 1987 profile as the son of “a politically connected lawyer and lobbyist” father, Kennedy was recruited in 1972 to help draft a statewide ballot measure for Gov. Ronald Reagan that would limit state government spending….


“Kennedy’s work on what became Proposition 1 seems to have won respect from Reagan, even though voters rejected the initiative. Kennedy was appointed to the federal bench in 1975, and we all know where both men went from there: Reagan to the White House in 1980, Kennedy to the U.S. Supreme Court as Reagan’s appointee in 1987.


“All of this is to say that Anthony Kennedy no doubt knows well — more than any of his fellow justices — the power that initiatives give to voters to work independently of legislators in writing laws.”


And, speaking of Supreme Courts, California’s Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of San Diego sex offenders who challenged the residency restrictions of ‘Jessica’s Law,’ the 2006 initiative that set severe limits on housing for paroled sex offenders.  From Maura Dolan at the Los Angeles Times:


“Although the decision technically affects only San Diego County, it paves the way for offenders in other counties, particularly those with large cities, to challenge the residency rules.


“The court said the restrictions have made it more difficult for parole officers to monitor offenders, some of whom have become homeless. Parole officers should have flexibility in determining residency requirements, and they must be tailored to the offenders’ individual circumstances, the court said.”


The deadline to file new legislation passed last week.  The Sacramento Bee’s Jeremy White dug through the 1504 bills submitted in the Assembly to find the ten strangest, including: legislation to create tax credits to get high-speed Internet access to the deaf; a tax break for medical marijuana sold to terminally ill patients; and, our favorite, a bill to allow barber shops and beauty salons to offer alcohol without a liquor license.


He did not include what is perhaps the single strangest proposal of the bunch: a plan to tax Independent Expenditures in political campaigns.  John Myers (Roundup twofer!) has the story at KQED:


“The proposal, introduced just before the annual legislative bill deadline by Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael), is about as straightforward as they come in Sacramento. It would require non-candidate campaign committees, known as ‘independent expenditure’ committees in California political parlance, to pay a tax on pretty much every dollar they spend to help elect or defeat candidates — a tax due within five days of its official disclosure on the spending.


“’By taxing this behavior that has not been good for the democratic process,’ said Levine on Monday, ‘we can begin investing again in bringing Californians into the electoral process.’


“The money collected by the tax would go both to new efforts on the statewide level to engage voters (who have been AWOL of late) and to local officials who have struggled to pay for running election operations.”


Over at the Grizzly Bear Project, Anthony York posted a wide-ranging interview with Senate Pro Tem Kevin De León.  Topics of conversation: California’s still-recovering economy, tax reform and environmental priorities.  It’s a good read, find it here.


A new Stanford study suggests what we’ve all been fearing: drought is the new normal, linked to climate change.  From Lisa Krieger at the San Jose Mercury News:


“The continuation of global warming ‘will result in more frequent occurrences of high temperatures and low precipitation that will lead to increased severe drought conditions,’ said [Stanford climate scientist Noah Diffenbaugh]. The research was published in the March 2 issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


“Low precipitation, alone, doesn't cause a drought -- what matters is whether it happens in a warm year, according to members of the Stanford team. They don't offer specific recommendations but say their findings could help California plan for the future….


“The Stanford study supports the growing recognition that warming temperatures can worsen a drought that is driven by declining precipitation, noted Richard Seager of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, who was not involved in the research.


"’This is happening all over the world -- there is nothing unusual in terms of California,’ said Seager.”


The California Republican Party may have welcomed gay activists into the ‘Big Tent’ at last weekend’s statewide meeting, but that doesn’t mean that all Californians are advancing.  A Christian activist in Huntington Beach has filed a Ballot Measure to approve the death penalty for homosexuality.  We wish we were kidding.  From Wonkette:


Matt McLaughlin, of Huntington Beach, CA… has filed with the California Attorney General’s Office a truly insane proposed ballot initiative that he has creatively titled ‘The Sodomite Suppression Act.’”  [Link to proposed ballot language here.


And, this week we are celebrating the great state of Florida, which joined the Union 150 years ago today: March 3, 1845.  What better way to celebrate than to follow the exploits of the state’s weird and wonderful inhabitants – whose actions so often lead to bizarre news headlines that begin with, “Florida Man…”  There’s even a movie.


Today’s headline: Naked Florida Man brandishes gun from rooftop


"’Someone please call my sister,’ Leroy Strothers yelled out as he stood naked and armed on a building rooftop last Friday. ‘I feel delusional, and I'm hallucinating!’


“As New Times first reported on Friday, Strothers was spotted naked and armed with a handgun on an apartment building rooftop located at 1709 S. Federal Highway in Lake Worth. At one point, he allegedly threatened to harm himself and anyone else if he was approached.


“…When interviewed by police following his arrest, Strothers, age 33, said he was depressed and claimed to be under the influence of a new designer street drug called ‘flakka.’"


Note to self: “Do NOT take flakka, even at Burning man.”  Got it…

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