Good morning, California.

“Here we thought we had this perfect little life, and it almost ended, with us fighting for our lives right here.”—Christina Wilson, a survivor of the fire that swept through Santa Rosa a year ago, as told to the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. She and her husband, Greg, intend to submit plans for their new house any day.


Justice Kavanaugh’s coming impact on California

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh

Newly confirmed U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh will in coming months cast a pivotal vote on one case that directly affects California, and on many more that have significant implications for the state.

  • Immediate issues include endangered species, the state’s power over private property, and the power of unelected officials to enact rules governing how we live.
  • I contacted one court expert on the right and one on the left to get their takes.

Chapman Law School professor John Eastman, a former clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas, cited a case argued last week, Knick vs. Township of Scott. If the court deadlocks 4-4, the justices could reargue it with Kavanaugh casting the deciding vote.

  • Eastman filed a brief in the case siding with Rose Mary Knick, on behalf of his conservative Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, over her claim that her Pennsylvania township unjustly seized her property in forcing her to allow visitors access to a burial plot on her farm.
  • The case could curb state and local eminent domain power to take private property if Knick prevails.
  • In California, rent control, coastal access, the power of local governments to require that developers pay for public spaces in exchange for getting permits and more could be impacted.

UC Berkeley Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky cited the case, Franchise Tax Board of California v. Gilbert Hyatt, to be argued later this year or early in 2019.

  • Hyatt is in a long-running battle with California over its claim that the wealthy inventor owes income taxes to the state though he moved to Nevada.
  • California’s immunity from a suit brought in another state is the specific issue. Chemerinsky is arguing the case on Hyatt’s behalf.

Neither Eastman nor Chemerinsky cited abortion, immigration, presidential power, health care, gay and transgender rights, gun control, or campaign finance.  Such issues aren’t pending before the justices currently. But Kavanaugh will sit for years if not decades. Sooner or later, all those issues will come before him.

Feinstein's DC virtues and CA vulnerabilities

Dianne Feinstein, right, with her younger sisters outside their childhood home.

As U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein makes a fifth bid for re-election, qualities that raise questions among some Californians—her relative moderation, her non-confrontational temperament, her age—are seen in Washington as assets, CALmatters contributor Marc Sandalow writes.

Feinstein believes she’s a more productive senator than she was 26 years ago, bolstered by her rising influence and strengthened relationships with Democrats and Republicans, writes Sandalow, who has been covering her for decades.

But he also asks: “Is Feinstein—already the oldest member of the U.S. Senate—too old to serve another six years? Has her half-century in politics, more than half of which has been in Washington, made her more effective or out of touch?”

Certainly, some progressive Californians are frustrated by Feinstein’s failure to aggressively advance their priorities, evidenced by the fact that the California Democratic Party’s executive board voted to endorse her challenger, state Sen.Kevin de León.

De León dismisses Feinstein’s seniority: “Seniority means nothing if you don’t use that seniority to forcefully move policies that improve the human condition, in this case for all Californians.’’

Voters will make that call on Nov. 6, of course, four weeks from Tuesday.

For a contrast, here’s CALmatters’ Laurel Rosenhall’s take on de León.

This week in California history

San Francisco women's suffrage meeting, early 1900s.

By a margin of 3,587 votes on Oct. 10, 1911, Californians approved Proposition 4, which implemented Senate Constitutional Amendment 8 and granted women the right to vote in state and local elections.

  • California joined Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Idaho, and Washington. Women would not gain the right to vote in national elections until 1920.

The names of the women in the image above are lost to history, though the photo was taken in San Francisco.

Proposition 12 in a minute

Proposition 12 seeks more living space for hens, pigs and calves.

Want to get up to speed fast on the many propositions on the Nov. 6 ballot? CALmatters’ video journalist Byrhonda Lyons has boiled down the measures in 60-second videos.

The latest: How big should a chicken cage be? Byrhonda explains how the ballot measure aims to give hens, pigs and calves a little bit more space, and why animal rights groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals oppose it anyway.

Check out our election guide, while you’re at it. We’ll be updating as we gather more.

Commentary at CALmatters

Mark Baldassare: Voter turnout will be the political wild card in Orange County. Since 2000, Orange County’s voter turnout in midterms has been on average 21 points lower than in presidential elections. A low turnout this year would be a throwback to the “old” Orange County electorate—more Republicans and whites. A high turnout would reflect the “new” Orange County—more Democrats, independents, and nonwhites.

Dan Walters: California’s latest academic test results show that the “achievement gap” in public education is stubborn despite large increases in school spending.

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