Good evening California news junkies. This is Megan Diskin, a courts reporter for the Ventura County Star, with what you need to know one week after Election Day. (Has it really only been a week?)
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.
Calif. back in court to keep Obamacare
The stakes are high for the more than five million Californians who benefit from the Affordable Care Act as the Supreme Court heard arguments about its lawfulness Tuesday. If Obamacare, as the legislation is commonly called, is found to be unconstitutional without any replacement plan in place, millions of Californians could lose their health coverage. With the coronavirus cases surging across the state, officials say the impact could be disastrous.
According to CalMatters, the state would also take a financial hit if Obamacare is struck down. California gets about $25 billion from the federal government and some worry the state would have to increase taxes to make up the difference.
State Attorney General Xavier Becerra is leading the charge to keep Obamacare as law. The opposition effort, backed by President Donald Trump, is being led by an array of Republican state attorneys general. They argue the legislation’s mandate requiring most individuals to have health insurance or a pay a penalty is not constitutional.
CalMatters reporter Ana B. Ibarra writes that Congress eliminated the tax penalty for not having insurance in 2017, seemingly resolving the issue. However, opponents argue that without a fine, the mandate is invalid.
A decision isn’t expected from SCOTUS until spring but so far signs point to it sticking around. The L.A. Times reports that several justices said Congress’ change to the law ended the disputed mandate but didn’t necessarily invalidate the rest of the law that includes coverage for preexisting conditions.
Coronavirus: Revenge of the Surge
A day after Gov. Gavin Newsom warned of a rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, 11 counties’ coronavirus metrics made them slip back toward more restrictive measures.
The reopening system determines at what levels business, schools and other places can operate. The color-coded, four-tier system begins at purple — the most restrictive level — followed by red, orange and yellow.
On Tuesday, San Diego, Sacramento and Stanislaus counties moved back to purple. Amador, Contra Costa, El Dorado, Placer and Santa Cruz counties went red. Modoc, Siskiyou and Trinity counties went orange.
The L.A. Times spoke to the state’s health and human services secretary, Dr. Mark Ghaly, who said this week was the first time no counties moved into a less-restrictive tier.
“We anticipate, if things stay the way they are, that between this week and next week, over half of California counties will have moved into a more restrictive tier,” Ghaly said Tuesday. “And that certainly is an indication that we’re concerned and we have to keep a close watch on what’s happening.”
Wash your hands, friends.
Record-high enrollment for Cal States
To the surprise of experts, the 23 schools in the California State University system have reached record-high (albeit virtual) enrollment. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, together the campuses enrolled 485,549 students in fall 2020, about a 0.75% increase over last fall.
University officials and some experts point to a few reasons for the trend. The newspaper reports that the Cal State system’s decision during springtime to keep fall classes virtual gave students some level of certainty about continuing their education.
The CSU system also started an initiative in 2015 to increase graduation rates by cutting down the years it takes for students to graduate. Lastly, these universities are more affordable.
“The enrollment numbers this year clearly reflect the resilience and determination of our students in staying the course to earn a CSU degree,” Chancellor Timothy White said in a statement.
The news wasn’t as great for enrollment rates of first-time freshman, though. The pandemic and its economic restraints factored into a 6% drop compared to last year’s numbers.
Remember those wildfires?
Now that election fatigue has passed and we’ve covered the latest on coronavirus, let’s remember the other disaster that plagues the state: wildfires.
Students and teachers at Igo-Ono Elementary School aren’t letting victims of the blaze be forgotten. When classes resumed at the school following the Sept. 27 Zogg Fire in Northern California, this community came together to make sure everyone was supported.
The Redding Record Searchlight reports that four families lost homes in the blaze that scorched 56,338 acres. One girl, Feyla McLeod, 8, died in the fire with her mother, Alaina McLeod. They were among the four people killed.
Feyla’s teacher helped her family navigate the process of planning a memorial. To honor the girl who loved nature and animals, the school made a tree out of construction paper. Each of Feyla’s classmates created a leaf, ladybug or lizard, which hung in the school. It was eventually given to the girl’s family.
Don’t forget the bears
Animals in these wildlands also get caught up in the chaos of wildfires. A 500-pound black bear burned its paws so badly in the Zogg Fire that it could not walk. It spent five weeks being treated at a lab run by the state Department of Fish and Wildlife in Rancho Cordova before being released into the wild over the weekend.
Redding Record Searchlight reporter Damon Arthur reports the bear walked out of a trailer, up a hillside and looked back at his rescuers before moving further into the woods. (Let’s pretend like that look was the bear’s way of saying thank you. We need that hope in 2020.)
A bear cub found in the fire’s footprint was burned on its face and paws but will need several months of treatment. It is being treated at a wildlife facility near Lake Tahoe.
These animals were the lucky ones, according to Pete Figura, a supervising wildlife biologist for the Department of Fish and Wildlife. The carcass of a bear and other animals were found in the fire’s area, Figura said.
“In these very fast-moving fires such as the Zogg Fire, where they are wind-driven and the fire is going very quickly, it’s probably quite chaotic for animals. And there is a lot of smoke, and it’s just probably difficult for them in some cases to find a clear path of escape,” Figura said.
In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: CalMatters, L.A. Times, San Diego Union-Tribune.