I’m Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, bringing you today’s California headlines.
But first, a fun fact courtesy of The Fact Site: Did you know that if California became its own country, it would have the sixth largest economy in the world? Something to think about.
In California brings you top Golden State stories and commentary from across the USA TODAY Network and beyond. Get it free, straight to your inbox.
Judge rules on state private prison ban
California’s ban on privately operated prisons and federal immigration detention centers is largely Constitutional, said a federal judge Thursday.
According to the ruling, private prison companies cannot open new prisons or immigration detention facilities in the state. They are also banned from extending or renewing existing contracts. An exception was made for private prisons operated on behalf of the U.S. Marshals Service.
Last year, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed AB 32, a first-of-its-kind law ordering that private prisons and immigration detention centers in California be phased out of use.
The ruling is a blow to private prison companies operating in the state, some of whom are already facing intense scrutiny for their handling of coronavirus outbreaks at immigration detention centers. Nearly 20% of those detained at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center in San Bernardino County have tested positive for COVID-19. The facility is owned and operated by The GEO Group, which operates three immigration detention centers and filed a lawsuit against the state that led to Thursday’s ruling. A separate lawsuit was filed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The suits were later combined.
State Assemblymember Rob Bonta, a Democrat who represents Alameda, Oakland and San Leandro and authored AB 32, was happy with the ruling. “AB 32 sent a powerful message that California opposes the practice of profiteering off the backs of Californians in custody,” Bonta said in a statement. “Just because the Trump Administration and Wall Street’s for-profit, private prison companies don’t like AB 32 doesn’t change the fact that the law stands on firm legal ground.”
Elected officials back California in fight with Trump, EPA
More than 200 elected officials from around the country have publicly announced their support of California in its ongoing battle with the Trump administration over its authority to set state-specific fuel efficiency standards.
The issue at hand is a waiver that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency granted California in 2009, allowing it to write its own fuel efficiency rules for cars and light trucks sold in the state. Three years later, the EPA created national guidelines, which were not as strict as California’s — and they became even less so earlier this year when the Trump administration’s EPA rolled them back. It also revoked California’s waiver.
As a result, a bipartisan group of elected officials from around the country signed a petition urging the EPA to stop interfering with actions that would reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.
“The effects on our climate are not just a concern of a city or a state or even the country. Climate change is the concern of the world,” Tucson Mayor Regina Romero said about why she signed the petition supporting California. “Climate does not exist in a bubble. Whatever happens in California affects Arizona.”
BMW, Ford, Honda, Volkswagen and Volvo have all agreed to continue manufacturing cars using California’s standards, while other auto makers — including General Motors, Toyota and Fiat Chrysler — have welcomed the EPA’s rollback.
California prepares for polling place disruptions, threats
Voter fraud is an oft-discussed topic these days. But what about voter intimidation? As Election Day draws near, California is warning local officials to prepare for disruption at polling places and potential cases of voters being intimidated or blocked from casting ballots.
A memo sent this week from Jana M. Lean, chief of the state elections division, reminded county election officials that possession of a firearm at a voting location or in the immediate vicinity is a felony. Also a felony under California law is threatening or using “force, violence or tactic of coercion or intimidation” to discourage someone from voting.
According to the article, it is also against state law for security guards to be stationed at polling locations.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla has said that while he expects a safe election, counties need to be prepared for potential trouble.
The nation’s most populous state, California has 21.2 million registered voters.
And while we’re on the subject of voting, a man in Santa Monica found dozens of mail-in ballots and other important mail that had been dumped in a trash can in an alley.
According to abc7.com, Osvaldo Jimenez found “several dozen ballots, bank statements and bills all addressed to homes in the neighborhood.” He later found a second trash can with unopened mail, including ballots.
“If it was my ballot in there I would want somebody to recover it,” Jimenez said. “Every vote counts, whichever party it is.”
That would never happen here
If that’s what you’re thinking, think again. A similar thing happened in Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms: a batch of stolen mail that included voter ballots was found Wednesday morning, though investigators from San Bernardino County do not believe the ballots were the target.
The items were all returned to the local postmaster for redelivery. Officials, meanwhile, are warning people not to leave mail in their mailboxes for an extended period of time, even overnight.
State battles illegal marijuana growers; Orange County school district votes to delay in-person learning
Even though the state of California is busy battling wildfires and COVID-19, it still finds time to bust illegal marijuana growers. In fact, its annual campaign against unlawful cultivation, has eradicated more than 1.1 million plants and led to 140 arrests and the seizures of 174 weapons. In case you’re wondering, this year’s biggest bust — 293,000 plants — occurred throughout Riverside County, with Tulare County coming in second with 105,723 plants.
Meanwhile, the Newport-Mesa Unified School District board voted Thursday not to reopen school doors for in-person learning for middle and high school students, reports abc7.com. The Orange County-based district based their decision on a letter sent to families last week by teachers saying that the preparations for in-person study were inadequate. The decision will be readdressed after the semester.
Have a terrific weekend, everybody!
In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: abc7.com, NBC Bay Area