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Bay Area Headlines: Tuesday, 6/16/20 AM

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US Supreme Court Saves California Sanctuary Law / CA Legislators Pass Working Budget / PG&E Involuntary Manslaughter Culpability / Yosemite Reopened

US Supreme Court Saves California Sanctuary Law

Yesterday, in a major victory for CA, the Supreme Court rejected the Trump Administration’s appeals to throw out the California Sanctuary Law. This decision upholds lower court rulings. And makes clear that the federal government is not allowed to direct state resources for its own immigration agenda. 

In their appeal, lawyers for the Trump Administration said the California laws posed a risk to public safety because they contradict federal laws. They were concerned that immigrants who commit crimes would be allowed to remain in the United States after perpetrating, according to the New York Times. And they argued that this undermines immigration enforcement and the rule of law.

But California lawyers said the federal government cannot require states to provide information or transfer individuals to federal immigration authorities. They say there’s danger in asking local law enforcement to cooperate with federal agents - entangling the two can deter victims and witnesses from coming forward. This would make it more difficult to protect local public safety if victims are afraid to report, they say.

This ruling makes clear that California, and other states, can reject immigration policies in direct opposition to state values. 

CA Legislators Pass Working Budget

Despite ongoing negotiations with Governor Gavin Newsom, California lawmakers passed a working budget yesterday in order to meet their constitutional deadline. The budget package is largely symbolic, since it may be abandoned once legislative leaders and Newsom agree on how to patch up a $54 billion deficit. The major difference between each side’s proposal is about how much to cut if federal coronavirus recovery aid doesn’t materialize.

The governor proposed deep trigger cuts to education and health programs. But during a health and economic crisis, Democratic lawmakers want to save those programs and lean more heavily on the state’s rainy-day fund to fill the shortfall. But talks between lawmakers and the governor are still ongoing, and Newsom has to sign a budget into law by July 1.

PG&E Involuntary Manslaughter Culpability

Pacific Gas & Electric is expected to plead guilty to 84 felony counts of involuntary manslaughter for a wildfire that wiped out most of a Northern California town. In a court hearing scheduled for today, the nation’s largest utility will be confronted by the death and destruction caused by its history of neglect and greed. The hearing (before Butte County Superior Court Judge Michael Deems) comes nearly three months after PG&E reached a plea agreement in the November 2018 fire. Investigators found the fire that destroyed the town of Paradise was ignited by PG&E's rickety electrical grid. The company then agreed to pay a $3.5 million fine and $500,000 for the criminal investigation.

Yosemite Reopened

If you’re thinking about an escape this summer, there’s a special place that has recently re-opened. Yosemite has re-opened for the first time in nearly three months because of the threat of COVID-19. People driving into the park must have an online reservation ahead of time. The park’s target for vehicles entering is about half of the average for this time of year. 

The closure and scaled down reopening are having a huge impact on gateway communities. Tony McDaniel is with the Yosemite Mariposa County Tourism Bureau: 

“It's a light at the end of the tunnel. It means we're getting to that place where a sense of normalcy is returning.”

Park entry fees still apply and people entering on public transportation don’t need a day-use reservation. The rules also apply to anyone driving through the park. Tioga Road is scheduled to open June 15. Visit https://www.nps.gov/yose for more information before you travel.