Court says California violates rights of poor defendants by imposing fees
The Chronicle's BOB EGELKO: "California is violating the rights of poor defendants by attaching fees to misdemeanor criminal convictions regardless of their ability to pay, a state appeals court ruled Tuesday."
"The ruling by the Second District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles singled out payments imposed by state law to help fund court operations and maintain a statewide restitution fund for crime victims. The fees, totaling $220, were charged to a homeless woman convicted of driving with a license that had been suspended — because of unpaid fees from traffic tickets she had received years earlier as a teenager — and were referred to a collection agency when she couldn’t pay them."
"Imposing fines and fees without considering a defendant’s ability to pay “simply punishes her for being poor,” Justice Laurie Zelon said in the 3-0 ruling. She said the assessments can affect a person’s credit rating, employment prospects and overall ability to rehabilitate and re-enter society, because those who can pay such fines in full can seek to get their convictions erased."
Three PG&E electric executives departing amid ongoing wildfire scrutiny
The Chronicle's J.D. MORRIS: "Three of Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s top executives on the electric side of its business are retiring this month, marking a major shift in key leadership as the utility endures heavy scrutiny over its role in recent devastating Northern California wildfires."
"Patrick Hogan, PG&E’s senior vice president of electric operations, is retiring effective Jan. 28, but his replacement assumed the title Tuesday, the utility and its parent company said in a new filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission."
"Also retiring are Kevin Dasso, the vice president of electric asset management, and Gregg Lemler, the vice president of electric transmission, according to an internal email obtained by The Chronicle"
READ MORE related to Camp Fire: When Paradise became hell: The story of the Camp Fire in NorCal -- Sacramento Bee's ALYSSA HODENFIELD
DMV warns of longer wait times if it doesn't get more money
Sacramento Bee's BRYAN ANDERSON: "The Department of Motor Vehicles wants a special budget boost and is warning lawmakers that Californians could suffer painful delays if it doesn’t get the extra money."
"The DMV submitted a budget request last week for $40.4 million to keep its offices operating with fairly short wait times, sustaining progress the department achieved after residents and lawmakers complained last summer about long delays they experienced around the state."
"Lawmakers have a month to consider the proposal. If they don’t approve it, the DMV warns of a “return of unacceptable field office wait times."
Ed Buck, West Hollywood political activist and prominent donor, investigated over second death at his home: What we know
LA Times's RICHARD WINTON/HAILEY BRANSON-POTTS: "The Laurel Avenue home of a prominent West Hollywood LGBTQ political activist has been the scene of two mysterious deaths in the last two years."
"In both cases, African American men were found dead inside the home of Ed Buck. The first death in 2017 involved drugs, and authorities said there was insufficient evidence to file charges."
"The second death at Buck’s home, this week, is now under investigation, with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department saying it will take another look at the first case."
On Day 2, Gov. Newsom calls for greater fire safety -- and seeks Trump help
The Chronicle's KURTIS ALEXANDER: "Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a plan Tuesday to confront California’s growing wildfire threat, pledging more money to improve forest health and emergency response. And it starts with an unexpected plea to President Trump for collaboration."
"The initiative comes on day two of Newsom’s tenure in the governor’s mansion. While the details are still being fleshed out, his move signals a commitment to addressing the deadly fires that have battered the state in recent years and are likely to only worsen with climate change."
"It’s clear to me a lot more has to be done,” Newsom said during a visit to the Sierra foothills town of Colfax (Placer County), where he toured an area prone to fire before staging a news conference in front of a fire truck. “We are stepping up our game. I hear you, I get it. We need to do more. These last two years have been devastating."
READ MORE related to Gubernatorial: Can Newsom be the governor of Red California? -- The Chronicle's JOHN WILDERMUTH
Norman Yee elected president of SF Board of Supervisors amid some public dissent
The Chronicle's TRISHA THADANI: "District Seven Supervisor Norman Yee was elected president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Tuesday in a 10-1 vote that came after long public comment — mostly in favor of his opponent, Hillary Ronen."
"The election was job No. 1 for the board after its three new members — District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton, District Six Supervisor Matt Haney and District Four Supervisor Gordon Mar — were sworn in. But Tuesday’s swift, cordial 10-1 vote to name District Seven Supervisor Norman Yee president of the board by acclamation was a deceptive indicator of whether the board was unified about the choice."
"The decision to elect Yee, the board’s most senior member, came after much political jousting between the board’s 11 members, who have spent the past few months discussing, arguing and striking deals with one another — mostly behind closed doors — over who should take the reins. While the role is largely administrative, the board president is next in line to the mayor and also has power to shape how legislation moves through the board."
Park officials first say Joshua Tree is closing, but then say it will reopen by end of week
LA Times's MARY FORGIONE: "Park officials early Tuesday said Joshua Tree National Park would close to visitors for the duration of the shutdown, but walked that back later in the day to say the park would reopen by week’s end."
"The park has staff coming in Wednesday to start cleanup,” National Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst said Tuesday afternoon. “This is their top priority to get restrooms cleaned and trash picked up. We will have everything finished and access restored to the park ... by the end of the week."
"Previously the park planned to temporarily close 8 a.m. Thursday. If cleanup is complete by then, there will be no closure, Litterst said."
Lawyers wrangle over teachers' strike date while school board eases volunteer rules
LA Times's HOWARD BLUME/SONALI KOHLI: "Los Angeles school officials on Tuesday loosened the rules for accepting volunteer help from parents on campus, two days before a planned teachers’ strike could leave their campuses stripped of staff."
"The strike’s starting date, however, is still subject to change because of legal wrangling between the L.A. Unified School District and the teachers union, United Teachers Los Angeles."
Google leases Westside Pavilion as former shopping mecca transforms into tech offices
LA Times's ROGER VINCENT: "Last year, Google transformed the historic Spruce Goose hangar into a high-tech outpost to serve its ambitions to become a leading producer of Hollywood content on its YouTube platform."
"On Tuesday, it took aim at another exemplar of 20th century American culture: the indoor mall — specifically, the Westside Pavilion."
Woman sexually assaulted by LAPD officers reaches $2-million settlement
LA Times's CINDY CHANG: "A woman who was sexually assaulted by two Los Angeles police officers will receive nearly $2 million from the city, according to an agreement filed in federal court on Monday."
"The settlement, which needs to be approved by the City Council, comes on top of nearly $1.8 million in payouts to three other victims, bringing the total cost of civil lawsuits involving the two officers to more than $3.7 million."
"The officers, Luis Valenzuela and James C. Nichols, are serving 25-year prison sentencesafter pleading no contest to felony counts of sexually assaulting women they were taking to jail or using as confidential informants."
An emergency declaration for Trump's wall? Not so fast, say experts
The Chronicle's BOB EGELKO: "President Trump most likely has the authority to declare a state of emergency at the U.S-Mexico border — but, according to legal analysts, it’s far less clear that he could use that power to redirect military funding to build a border wall that Congress, so far, has refused to pay for."
"That would ultimately be a question for the Supreme Court, and would test its willingness to defer to presidential authority."
"Trump has suggested several times since last week that he would use his authority to declare an emergency to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, but has not committed to do so and did not mention it Tuesday night in a televised speech to the nation about border security."
READ MORE related to POTUS45/KremlinGate: Trump cites killing of Newman officer in national appeal for border wall -- Sacramento Bee's JOHN HOLLAND; Five takeaways from Trump's prime-time border security speech -- LA Times's DAVID LAUTER; SCOTUS refuses to shield mystery foreign company from Mueller's invedstigation -- LA Times's DAVID G SAVAGE/CHRIS MEGERIAN