The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.
California tech billionaire’s marijuana legalization measure wins key support – Efforts to legalize marijuana in California got a boost this week after competing ballot measures joined forces behind the stronger of the two, backed by billionaire Sean Parker, a former president of Facebook Inc.
The initiative has the support of Democratic Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and the Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform. Coalition board member Antonio Gonzalez, who is also president of the Latino Voters League, said the coalition withdrew its rival initiative after Parker’s measure was modified to protect children, workers and small businesses.
The move brings to a close weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations aimed at closing the gaps between the initiatives, amid concerns that neither would succeed if both wound up on the ballot for 2016.
Marijuana use is illegal under federal law in the United States but 23 states allow the use of pot for medical purposes.
…In California, amendments filed this week to Parker’s proposal would allow local governments a greater say in where marijuana can be sold, toughen protections for children, including a ban on marketing to minors and explicit warning labels on marijuana products, and require safety standards and enforcement of labor laws for people who work in the industry. Read More > at Reuters
Why Gadget Warranties Are (Almost) Never Worth It – “Do you want an extended warranty with that?”
The short answer is no.
It might seem like a good idea when you just blew a stack of cash on a new phone or laptop. Add-on warranty providers know we’re attached to our gadgets. Who am I kidding? Breaking a phone is like losing a dear friend.
But here’s the cold reality: Most extended warranties like AppleCare, or those from Asurion and SquareTrade, for broken, lost or stolen electronics are a bad deal. And in some cases, they’re a downright rip-off.
Insurance makes sense on the big things in life, like your house or your health. The cost of fixing either can be astronomical. But the pain of repairing consumer electronics—even pricey ones like a laptop—is still relatively limited.
Extended gadget warranties are only worth it for niche cases, like people with an extremely advanced case of klutziness. Programs like AppleCare can also be helpful to those who need always-on-call phone tech support, beyond the great free service Apple offers.
Yet for most of us, here’s a better plan from Richard Thaler, a renowned economist at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business: “Every time someone offers to sell you insurance on a non-large purchase say no, and take that money and put it into a rainy-day account. With any luck, there will be plenty of money in that account the next time you drop your iPhone.” Read More > in The Wall Street Journal
A Dow-DuPont Merger Would Raise Big Questions – The news that Dow Chemical and DuPont, two of America’s oldest industrial corporations, are close to agreeing on a merger can hardly be regarded as big surprise. In recent years, both companies have been targeted by Wall Street hedge funds looking to make a score. And, a couple of months ago, DuPont appointed a new chief executive, Edward Breen, who is known as a deal maker, having disassembled the conglomerate Tyco International after its C.E.O., Dennis Kozlowski, was arrested and jailed.
No doubt Dow and DuPont will market their coming together as a visionary venture designed to create an American powerhouse capable of taking on such international rivals such as B.A.S.F. and Bayer, both of which are based in Germany, and Saudi Basic Industries, of Saudi Arabia. In reality, this looks like a defensive merger designed to cut costs, enhance monopoly power in particular markets, and yield a quick buck to the likes of Nelson Peltz’s Trian Fund Management, which has built up a big stake in DuPont, and Daniel Loeb’s Third Point fund, which has been busy agitating at Dow Chemical. On Wednesday, the stocks of Dow and DuPont jumped by more than ten per cent. From that perspective, the deal is already working.
It is rather less likely that a merger would create any lasting value. Over the long term, the fates of venerable companies like Dow and DuPont are determined by their ability to develop new products and do things more efficiently. Some Wall Street analysts are already speculating that the combined company would trim DuPont’s famed research division, which, over the past century, has created many notable products, including nylon, Lycra, Teflon, Corian, Kevlar, and Freon. That hardly augurs well for future growth.
…Before they even get the chance, their senior executives—and hordes of highly paid advisers—will have to persuade the antitrust authorities that a merger wouldn’t be anti-competitive. That could be quite a task. In terms of revenue, Dow and DuPont are the two biggest chemical companies in the U.S., and the third- and fourth-largest chemical companies in the world. (B.A.S.F. and Bayer are bigger.) Reportedly, Breen and Andrew Liveris, Dow’s chief executive, are planning to take their new baby and split it up into three new companies focussed on particular sectors of the industry: materials science, agriculture, and specialty products. But that plan won’t necessarily calm the concerns of the regulators. Read More > in The New Yorker
Lawmaker criticizes unspent California charitable donations – A state lawmaker is criticizing California agencies for failing to spend nearly $10 million in charitable donations made by taxpayers.
Sen. Bob Hertzberg, chairman of the Senate Governance and Finance Committee, will hold a hearing on Wednesday to look into the waylaid funds that Californians donated for causes like cancer research when they filed their tax returns. The Associated Press first reported on the unspent money in August.
“This is unacceptable,” Hertzberg said in a statement. “People expect their money to be spent for these important purposes, and bureaucratic delays send absolutely the wrong message to those who made donations in good faith.”
The money is part of the $35 million collected since 2005 for 29 funds through the nation’s largest voluntary tax contribution program.
Among the unspent money The AP found, $237,000 was raised to fund colorectal cancer screenings under a bill signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005, enough to pay for more than 200 colonoscopies. But the departments of Public Health and Health Care Services said they never were authorized to spend the money.
Tax forms currently list 20 funds that typically raise more than $4 million a year, according to the committee. Read More > in the Associated Press
California Democrat withdraws support for the high-speed rail project – The rock-solid Democratic support in Sacramento for the bullet train, which has endured despite legal and financial setbacks in recent years, has developed a political fissure.
Assemblywoman Patty Lopez (D-San Fernando) says she is withdrawing her support for the project, and she says five other Democrats in the Legislature are reviewing their positions.
Lopez said in an interview that the project would damage her mostly Latino, working-class district, which includes Pacoima, San Fernando and Sylmar. The rail route would cut through the district.
“I don’t see any benefit,” said Lopez, who said it would drive up crime and eliminate businesses in her district. “People are really upset.”
Lopez said the matter should go back to voters, who approved $9 billion in funding for the project in 2008. Lopez said the state has higher priorities, including water, jobs and homelessness, that outweigh the high-speed rail system. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times
What in the world is happening to Chipotle – Last month, Chipotle closed 43 restaurants in Washington and Oregon after health authorities linked an E. coli outbreak to six restaurants in the area. The announcement came as a shock to adoring fans of the fast-food company — especially those living in the Pacific Northwest — but it was actually meant to help quell worries about food safety. After all, the company was going overboard, voluntarily shuttering dozens of restaurants when only a few had been implicated. The move, Chipotle insisted, came “out of an abundance of caution.” Everything was going to be all right.
Except that it wasn’t.
In the 31 days since, illnesses linked to the chain have been reported in seven more states, including Illinois, Pennsylvania and Maryland, suggesting the problem was neither isolated nor a fluke. What’s more, the avalanche of unfortunate news has yet to subside: On Monday, 30 students at Boston College fell ill after eating at a local Chipotle, leading the company to close yet another restaurant; On Tuesday, the number grew to at least 80 students. Although Boston health officials believe the food-borne illness is norovirus—not E. Coli — and is isolated to a single location, they won’t know for sure until test results are available in a few days. In the meantime, Chipotle is left to cross its fingers in hopes that yet another state isn’t at risk.
…In 2013, the company was forced to begin serving “conventionally raised beef,” after it became clear that there was no longer enough antibiotic- and hormone-free beef to go around. In January of this year, it decided to pull pork from the menus at roughly a third of its restaurants (some 600 stores nationwide) after one of its suppliers violated its standards. Chipotle anticipated only a brief interruption in its ability to source pork it was proud of, but it took more than half a year, a foreign company, and two of Chipotle’s most disappointing quarters on record to put carnitas back on the menu. Farms that raise pigs outside of gestation crates simply don’t represent a large enough portion of the pork industry.
Chipotle’s bout with foodborne illnesses appears to stem from the same laudable but increasingly tenuous desire: to build a business without changing it too much. Read More > in The Washington Post
Transportation Funding Bill Signed – Good News Or Slightly Less Good News? – After years of angst and relying on patch-work, short term extensions instead of coming up with the long range funding desperately needed for infrastructure improvements to our highways and transportation systems, Congress recently passed and President Obama just signed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act – a five year, $305 billion funding effort. Good news indeed, as now transportation agencies on the state and local level can move important projects forward, given there is some level of certainty that funding will be there until 2020.
More good news for California. The FAST Act recognizes the importance of projects that specifically improve the movement of freight by relieving bottlenecks and moving cargo more efficiently and safely, and has designated nearly $11 billion for that purpose. This attention placed on freight marks a milestone, and the importance to California cannot be overstated. Our state has the most extensive, complex, interconnected freight system in the nation. In 2014, tens of millions of tons of freight, valued at $704 billion, moved from and through the nation, providing the goods and services needed to sustain regional and national industries and consumers on a daily basis. This activity is expected to triple in the next twenty years, and the infrastructure must be in place to accommodate the increase in the movement of goods that today creates upward of 1.6 million jobs throughout the Southern California region.
And, the Act recognizes that goods don’t move on highways alone but rather the system is multi-modal, including highways, seaports, airports, railroads, border points of entry, pipelines, warehousing and distribution centers and local connector roads. Good news indeed. Read More > at Fox and Hounds
Los Angeles: City Of Losers – When I arrived in Los Angeles four decades ago, it was clearly a city on the rise, practicing its lines on the way to becoming the dominant metropolis in North America. Today, the City of Angels and much of Southern California lag behind not only a resurgent New York City, but also L.A.’s longtime regional rival, San Francisco, both demographically and economically.
Forty years ago, San Francisco was a quirky, backward-looking town, a haven for the gilded rich and hippies, a quaint but increasingly insignificant town. The Dodgers and the Lakers ruled the California sporting world.
Today things couldn’t be more different. San Francisco and its much bigger southerly neighbor, Silicon Valley, have morphed into the global epicenter of the technology industry, with 25 tech companies on the Fortune 500. In contrast, Los Angeles County, which has almost twice as many people, is home to only 15 Fortune 500 firms total.
Meanwhile, the Giants and the Golden State Warriors have become consistent winners while the Dodgers, Angels and Clippers disappoint and the Lakers are painfully unwatchable.
Although there is a desire to repeat L.A.’s success with the 1984 Olympics and bring football back to town, that would only put a happy veneer over the city’s core problem: the long-term decline of its business sector. In 1984, the city had a strong and highly motivated business elite highlighted by 12 Fortune 500 companies, who could help sponsor the games and provide management expertise. Now there are only three within city limits, with the departure of major corporations such as Lockheed, Northrop Grumman, Occidental Petroleum and Toyota, and the loss of hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs.
In contrast, the Bay Area is full of thriving companies and successful entrepreneurs, many of them astoundingly young. Of the 30 richest people in the country, five live in the Bay Area; Southern California has only one, the Irvine Company visionary Chairman Donald Bren, and he’s in his eighties. The Bay Area accounts for the vast majority of American billionaires under 40… Read More > in Forbes
As America’s Workforce Ages, Here’s Where the Jobs Will Be – The U.S. labor force is expected to expand only slowly over the coming decade as the country ages and more Americans give up on holding a job, a potential drag on broader economic growth.
The economy is expected to generate 9.8 million new jobs, a 6.5% increase, from 2014 to 2024, the Labor Department said in new projections released Tuesday. While steady, that is a historically slow pace. By comparison, 10-year job creation averaged almost 14% during the 2001-07 expansion and close to 17% during the 1990s.
The slowdown highlights declining participation as baby boomers retire and younger Americans opt out of the workforce. Those two trends are expected to continue to push the labor-force participation rate lower, to 60.9% in 2024 from 62.9% in 2014, Labor estimates.
Much of the job growth in the coming decade will focus on services for the elderly. Health-care occupations and industries are expected to have the fastest employment growth and add the most jobs through 2024, Labor said.
Other industries with strong growth include construction, education, professional and business services, and mining, a category that includes oil and gas exploration and production.
While construction is projected to add 790,400 jobs by 2024, “even with these additional jobs, employment in the construction major sector is not projected to return to the 2006 peak,” the report said.
Employment in government, utilities, manufacturing, agriculture and information are expected to decline. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal
Why any Paris climate agreement will be worthless – The Paris climate change talks underway right now are being billed as humanity’s last chance to save the world from catastrophic warming. If that’s the case, then the world is surely doomed. That’s because not a single major polluter has offered anything resembling an adequate plan to slash emissions. In fact, literally every country is busy gaming the process — demonstrating, yet again, the utter folly of an approach that is attempting to save the world by putting it on a collective energy diet.
But the good news is that once this “last chance” fails — and fail it will — the world will still have plenty of time to explore workable solutions.
Every major climate change initiative to date has gone up in smoke. The 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which sought to cut emissions 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2012, was doomed from the start. India and China, even then among the world’s top five polluters, refused to even participate. Meanwhile, President Bill Clinton supported the treaty, but he didn’t have a prayer of getting it past the U.S. Congress, so he didn’t even try. Canada ratified the deal but blew its target cuts by 25 percent and eventually quit. Japan and New Zealand similarly faced a compliance gap. Europe met its target but not because its cap-and-trade program was a roaring success, as environmentalists would have you believe. Rather, it was because the industrial emissions of former Soviet bloc countries were so awful in 1990 that minor access to better Western technology produced major gains. Also, Europe’s 2007 recession helped!
…India, which is vociferously condemning Western pressure at Paris as “carbon imperialism,” has refused to even set a peak emissions target. It is willing to commit only to cutting emissions intensity by 33 to 35 percent, arguably a slower rate of improvement than it’s seen over the last 15 years. Meanwhile Russian President Vladimir Putin, who remains firmly in the global warming denialist camp, has offered an emission reduction plan that is actually an emission increase plan.
…The whole climate action debate is suffused with a false sense of urgency. The vast majority of scientists agree that the earth is warming but the severity and pace is hotly disputed given that world temperature has increased only half as much as climate models predicted in 1990. In fact, the two-degree centigrade tipping point being peddled is based less on science and more on the political need to spur action. Read More > in The Week
Business-friendly Democrats pick new leaders for informal, but powerful Sacramento caucus – The informal but increasingly powerful cadre of business-aligned Democrats in the Legislature tapped two assemblymen to lead their caucus Tuesday afternoon after last week’s decision by the group’s current chairman to leave office at the end of the month.
Assemblymen Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) and Rudy Salas Jr. (D-Bakersfield) now share top billing of the so-called Moderate Caucus.
The new leadership framework, which was made official by a vote of centrist Democrats during their retreat at the Lodge at Torrey Pines golf resort in San Diego, underscores how the “Mods’” political apparatus has matured as its ranks have swelled.
…For all its clout, though, the Mod Caucus remains enigmatic. There’s no official roster of members — the group declined to provide a list of attendees to the Torrey Pines confab — and the ranks of the caucus ebb and flow depending on the issue. That secrecy extends even to its new leadership structure. As co-chairs, Salas and Cooper will divvy up responsibility for its political operations and legislative policy, but Salas declined to specify who would do what. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times
Saudi Arabia Is Underwriting Terrorism. Let’s Start Making It Pay. – For years since 9/11, U.S. and Western officials have mostly looked the other way at all this ideological support for extremism: Saudi oil was just too important to the global economy, even though many of these Saudi petro-dollars were underwriting repression at home and the growth of Salafist fundamentalism abroad. But today, two things have changed: first, the global cost of Saudi-backed extremism has continued to climb—with the rise of ISIS and Boko Haram, the bombings in Beirut and Paris and the shootings in San Bernardino.
The other factor that has changed is that there is no longer as much economic justification for America to kowtow to the Saudi regime. With Saudi Arabian dominance of the global oil market declining, and the United States moving itself closer to energy independence—and the deal to halt Iranian nuclear weapons technology moving ahead, neutralizing for the moment at least the threat of a Mideast arms race—there has never been a better time to reconsider America’s close relationship with the House of Saud. That means moving toward a regime of sanctions designed to pressure the ruling royal family toward respecting rights at home and peace abroad. Other major nations appear to be recognizing the same thing: “We have to make clear to the Saudis that the time of looking away is over,” Sigmar Gabriel, German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s deputy, told Bild am Sonntag newspaper on Sunday.
It’s long past time, in other words, to make Saudi Arabia pay for its ideological support of extremism. The United States should be pressuring Saudi Arabia to reform and—if necessary—move on to targeted sanctions modeled on those the United States has applied to Russia, Zimbabwe and Venezuela. Such sanctions block the sale or transfer of money, goods or services owned by specifically named individuals, and prevent those named from entering the United States. Read More > at Politico
State may be Golden but ranks as third least charitable – California may have some of the nation’s richest philanthropists, a booming real estate market and thriving tech community, but judged by a recent survey, it is the third-least charitable state in the nation.
WalletHub, a personal finance website, ranked each state’s charitable index by analyzing eight key metrics such as volunteer rate, the percentage of taxpayers who donated to charity, community service rates required for graduation and growth in charitable giving.
The findings about California were surprising for WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez, particularly given the Bay Area’s deep-pocketed growth.
“Despite the tech boom and real estate market, Californians are still not donating more than they have in the past,” Gonzales told the Business Times on Tuesday. “[Only] an average of just 2.8 percent of their adjusted gross income was donated to charity last year, ranking 36th out of the 50 states.”
Data used to create these rankings were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Corporation for National & Community Service, Education Commission of the States (ECS), the National Center for Charitable Statistics, the Internal Revenue Service, The Chronicle of Philanthropy and Gallup.
Gonzales said California’s numbers were especially dismal considering they have actually gone down as the state’s growth has gained. Read More > in the San Francisco Business Times
Bold Action to Bolster Economic Resilience – The San Francisco Bay Area is an economic powerhouse. The region’s innovation industries, from high tech to biotech, helped lead California out of the Great Recession. We are near full employment in some areas, and are responsible for 53.5 percent of the state’s net job growth since 2007. And while we are home to just 17 percent of the state’s population, we pay 36 percent of total state personal income taxes at a level per capital more than double the statewide average.
Venture capital continues to stream in at higher levels than anywhere else in the country. New company-sponsored research and startup incubators spring up like mushrooms in a damp forest. Hardly a week goes by that foreign delegations don’t visit to learn how they can replicate the secret sauce of our success. Did we mention the Golden State Warriors are undefeated – 22-0 at the time of this writing.
It’s enough to make some of us in the Bay Area extremely uneasy. It’s certainly got the attention of state number crunchers that recognize the outsized role our region plays in fueling economic growth and propping up the state budget. The anxiety is not misplaced. California and its many metropolitan regions know well the vicious cycles of boom and bust.
The challenge the Bay Area faces is figuring out how to sustain its growth and gird against an inevitable downturn. It’s a challenge the Bay Area Council is confronting head on with the recent release by our Bay Area Council Economic Institute of a bold new strategy for strengthening the region’s competitiveness, broadening prosperity, and building resilience against economic swings.
The Roadmap for Economic Resilience targets key weak points to sustained growth that our economic surge has exposed. It calls for better harnessing the collective power of the Bay Area’s many parts to solve housing, transportation and workforce problems. It calls for new business practices, new governmental structures, and new mechanisms of collaboration. Read More > at Fox and Hounds
10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Chanukkah – Rabbi Evan Moffic is the spiritual leader of Congregation Solel in suburban Chicago. He is the author of What Every Christian Needs to Know About Passover and other books on Jewish wisdom for people of all faiths. We asked him to list 10 things he wishes people knew about Chanukkah.
1. Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas.
The parallels are striking. Both happen near the end of the secular year. Both center around lights. And both involve gift giving.
But, despite their outward similarities, the two are vastly different in religious meaning. Christmas is a central Christian holiday, marking the birth of Jesus. Chanukkah, which is not found in the Hebrew Bible, celebrates the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple by a group of Jewish fighters and priests known as the Maccabees. Chanukkah has gained outsized spiritual attention in America because of its proximity to Christmas, but historically it has been a relatively minor Jewish holiday.
2. There is no one right away to spell Chanukkah.
The first letter of the Hebrew word is a chet, which has no English equivalent. Many traditional Jews prefer “Ch,” even though it is a different sound than the “ch” in a word like “chapter.” Some prefer the “H,” but the “H” lacks the guttural sound of the Hebrew. Both are used interchangeably.
3. The Chanukkah Candelabra is known as a Chanukkiah, not a Menorah.
The Menorah is the seven-wicked candelabra that stood in the Jerusalem Temple. It became a symbol of Judaism and is carved into one of the gates of Rome as a symbol of the Roman conquest of Judea in 70 C.E. (Click here to get a free one-page guide to all the Jewish Holidays!)
The Chanukkiah, in contrast, has nine wicks. One wick, typically in the center, is set apart from the others and known as the shamash, or “head” candle. It is used to light the other eight candles. Read More > at On Faith
Beijing’s ‘airpocalypse’: city shuts down amid three-day smog red alert – …On Tuesday morning, as China’s smog-choked capital declared its first ever air pollution red alert, the school, normally buzzing with over-energetic 10-year-olds, was almost silent. A pungent mist hung over the outdoor basketball courts and running track.
…Across Beijing, thousands of other schools and nurseries were in a similar state of almost total shutdown after the city’s authorities announced a three-day state of emergency because of the pollution.
Building sites and factories were forced to close; millions of cars were ordered off the roads; and teams of environmental inspectors fanned out across the surrounding region to ensure that coal-fired power stations and steel mills were not secretly churning out even more filth into the already putrid atmosphere.
…At 7am, when the red alert – the first in Chinese history – officially came into force, a thick gloom hung over Beijing.
Pollution levels were already nearly 15 times higher than the World Health Organisation deems safe. Read More > in The Guardian
Who Will Win Playoff? We Already Know Who Lost – The Biggest Loser.
We don’t know who’s going to win the College Football Playoff, but we already know for sure who won’t.
The Pac-12 is the only Power 5 conference left out of the four-team playoff, with its champion Stanford consigned to the Rose Bowl. It’s also the only Power 5 conference with just one team in the New Year’s Six bowl games, while the Big Ten (three) and SEC, Big 12 and ACC (two each) landed multiple teams.
Selection committee chairman Jeff Long said that Stanford, ranked No. 6, really “wasn’t close” to making it into the top four. What sunk the Cardinal was their two losses as all four playoff participants have no more than one loss each.
…Stanford faced 12 Power 5 opponents in its 13 games (counting Notre Dame), more than any team in the country. Even with that loss to the Wildcats, who went on to finish 10-2, the Cardinal still managed to beat 10 Power 5 teams, more than three of the playoff participants (Alabama, Oklahoma and Michigan State), which only defeated nine each. Read More > at The Post Game
The U.S. Could Build a Lot More Apartments – Developers are putting up new apartment buildings in the U.S. as fast as they were before the real estate crisis. Yeah, there was a decline in multi-family construction in October, probably because of flooding in the South. But overall the picture from the Census Bureau’s monthly building permits data has been one of growth.
By contrast, building permits for single-family homes, while they too have been on the rise, are still only at about 40 percent of the peak they hit in September 2005.
It’s almost certainly a good thing that apartment construction has recovered more strongly than house construction. Many younger Americans prefer city living. If they can afford it, that is. High housing prices have become a major problem in resurgent big cities such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. These places need more apartment buildings, probably lots more.
Here’s something you may not know. U.S. developers used to put up apartment buildings at a much faster pace than they’re doing now. Not a decade ago, when single-family house construction hit its all-time peak, but decades ago. Read More > at Bloomberg View
Skyrocketing pension costs putting S.F. in the red – Even with a booming economy and millions of dollars in new money coming in, San Francisco is facing a projected $99 million budget deficit next fiscal year.
And nearly half of it can be chalked up to the city’s skyrocketing pension costs.
Numbers crunchers say the pension payout for retired government workers could grow to $380 million a year from the city’s general fund by 2019. That’s $113 million more than was projected just last year.
“This isn’t what we were expecting,” said Controller Ben Rosenfield.
Of the $99 million deficit that the city will have to eliminate by the start of the fiscal year July 1, $42 million is attributable to more going out in pensions than the city is taking in from the fund’s investments.
Just a few years back, pension disasters helped push Stockton and Vallejo into bankruptcy. Other cities broke into a sweat as the economy tanked, taking tax revenue with it. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle
U.S. Supreme Court to hear key voting rights case – With the potential for a seismic shift in the political landscape of California and other states hanging in the balance, the U.S. Supreme Court this week takes on a case that will test the framework of the “one person, one vote” principle that has defined political boundaries for generations.
The high court on Tuesday will hear arguments in a case out of Texas that threatens to upend the way states draw their political districts based on census-driven overall population numbers — and which could alter political influence in states such as California, where mushrooming Latino populations in urban areas, including illegal immigrants and other noncitizens, play a key part in shaping political maps.
Conservative groups have challenged the “one person, one vote” premise based on a simple argument that counting overall population, including those ineligible to vote, unfairly diminishes the power of citizens who are eligible to vote. They have urged the Supreme Court to invalidate the current system, which would force states to completely redraw local and state political districts using different factors and perhaps open the door to eventually reconfiguring congressional districts.
Experts say the Supreme Court is unlikely to back such a dramatic overhaul, but are equally clear that a ruling overturning Texas’ system would trigger a radical political change nationwide, likely shifting more political power in some states from urban centers to rural areas. Read More > in the San Jose Mercury News