California pig law exposes a divided America
Although it deals primarily with pigs, the California case that had oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday could potentially result in a decision as far-reaching as those striking down federal abortion protections and expanding gun rights.
At issue is Proposition 12, the ballot measure California voters approved in 2018 requiring bigger cages for certain farm animals, including breeding pigs, veal calves and egg-laying hens. Pork producers sued, arguing that since 99% of the pork consumed in the Golden State comes from outside its borders, California was essentially imposing its laws on other states in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
- Joining the pork producers in opposing the California law: The Biden administration, which argued in court filings that it would throw “a giant wrench into the workings of the interstate market in pork.”
Both conservative and liberal justices on the nation’s highest court seemed skeptical of California’s law on Tuesday, even as they expressed concerns about the implications of striking it down. A ruling is expected by next summer.
- Justice Amy Coney Barrett wondered about the ripple effects of upholding the law: “Could you have California pass a law that said we’re not going to buy any pork from companies that don’t require all their employees to be vaccinated, or from corporations that don’t fund gender-affirming surgery?”
- Justice Brett Kavanaugh asked: “What about a law that says you can’t sell fruit in our state if it’s produced — handled by people who are not in the country legally? Is that state law permissible?”
- But Barrett also wondered what might happen if the court strikes the law down: Could that decision “call into question a lot of laws that are pretty common?”
- Justice Elena Kagan gave the example of a New York law requiring imported firewood to be sprayed with a certain pesticide before entering the state. “Would that be forbidden?” Kagan asked. “We live in a divided country, and the balkanization that the framers (of the Constitution) were concerned about is surely present today.”
The line of questioning reflects the growing ideological divide between the states, which appear increasingly intent on regulating — and responding to — actions in other parts of the country as culture wars intensify over such issues as abortion, LGBTQ rights and gun control.
For example, Gov. Gavin Newsom recently signed into law a bill to protect from out-of-state prosecution transgender youth who travel to California for what supporters call gender-affirming care. He also signed a bill — modeled on a Texas law allowing private citizens to sue anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy — to allow private Californians to sue anyone who manufactures, distributes or sells certain illegal firearms.
And he signed a package of reproductive justice bills to, among other things, help pay for low-income women from other states to travel to California for an abortion and prohibit the Golden State from cooperating with law enforcement in states where the procedure is criminalized.
“In state after state, fundamental freedoms are vanishing,” Newsom said in an ad released Monday in support of Prop. 1, which would enshrine the right to abortion and contraception in the California constitution. “But this November, we say, ‘Not here.'”
The pig ballot measure isn’t the only California proposition in the headlines:
- The Biden administration unveiled a proposal Tuesday that would make it more difficult for companies to classify their workers as independent contractors and instead require them to be considered as employees entitled to more benefits. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the issue went before California voters in 2020, when they approved a ballot measure primarily funded by Uber and Lyft to exempt the gig-economy giants from a similar state labor law. A judge later ruled that the ballot measure was unconstitutional, and the case is still working its way through the courts.
- Also Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for footage to be released from the 2010 federal trial over Prop. 8, a 2008 ballot measure to ban same-sex marriage that was approved by California voters but later found to be unconstitutional.
Study up on the props: One week from today, from 5-6 p.m. on Oct. 19, CalMatters will host an election event focused on the seven November ballot measures. Reporters will discuss the propositions and answer your questions. Register to attend the event virtually.
Other Stories You Should Know
1 LA City Council scandal goes national
President Joe Biden, who is set to arrive in Los Angeles today for a three-day trip in Southern California, took the highly unusual step Tuesday of weighing in on the racism and redistricting scandal rocking the Los Angeles City Council, just the latest scandal ensnaring the City of Angels: “The president is glad to see that one of the participants in that conversation has resigned, but they all should,” said Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary. She added: “When a Democrat says something racist or antisemitic, we hold Democrats accountable. When a MAGA Republican says something racist or antisemitic, they are embraced by cheering crowds.”
- Biden’s decision to wade into Los Angeles politics made it all the more obvious that Newsom is among the few high-ranking Democrats who hasn’t called on the officials to resign. The governor’s press office did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday evening.
- Of the four officials involved in the secretly recorded 2021 conversation — in which they can be heard making racist comments, mocking colleagues and plotting how to consolidate Latino political power in Los Angeles’ once-a-decade redistricting process — just one, Los Angeles County Federation of Labor President Ron Herrera, has resigned. Nury Martinez, who stepped down as city council president Monday, said Tuesday morning that she’s taking a leave of absence. Her announcement came not long before a raucous city council meeting stormed by crowds of protesters, many of whom shouted profanities and urged Martinez and fellow councilmembers Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo to resign.
- UPDATE: Martinez announced her resignation this afternoon, and Newsom issued a brief statement calling it “the right move,” though not urging de León and Cedillo to resign.
Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a Tuesday interview with CalMatters for our Voter Guide that his office is looking into whether “rights and laws were broken, and if so, whose.” He said the focus of the investigation is “voting rights” and whether “racial animus” was involved in the redistricting process. Bonta said the secretly recorded conversation — which the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor has deemed “illegal” — is also “on our radar.”
2 California education updates
What’s going on in the California education world? Two CalMatters stories take a closer look:
- The recent ransomware attack on Los Angeles Unified School district has left many wondering: If hackers can breach the data system of the largest district in the state —and the second-largest in the country — how prepared are California’s other public schools for the increasing threat of cyberattacks? CalMatters’ Joe Hong talked to school cybersecurity and information technology experts to find out.
- As the cost of living continues to rise in California, many college students find it necessary to work part-time or even full-time. But California’s estimated 75,000 undocumented students don’t qualify for federal work-study programs or most job opportunities, and many struggle to make ends meet. #CaliforniansForAll College Corps, a program Newsom launched last week, could help change that by giving hundreds of undocumented residents an opportunity to earn money for college while doing community service, Carmen González reports for CalMatters’ College Journalism Network. It’s the latest state initiative that aims to make it easier for undocumented students to afford higher education.
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Who’s to blame for California’s high gas prices?
Closing Medi-Cal’s digital divide is key to health equity: We need to close the data gap that has left behind the 13.6 million low-income Californians supported by Medi-Cal health insurance, CalFresh food assistance and CalWORKs cash assistance, argue Mimi Hall of Manifest MedEx and John Helvey of SacValley MedShare.
Other things worth your time
Gavin Newsom ‘wants to be president.’ Republican Brian Dahle just wants California voters to know his name. // Los Angeles Times
California expands largest U.S. illegal pot eradication effort under AG Bonta. // Associated Press
Gascón recall committee to sue L.A. County over invalidation of petition signatures. // Orange County Register
Santa Clara police chief pushes D.A. to investigate council’s involvement with 49ers. // Mercury News
Star witness affirms pay-to-play for gun permits at Santa Clara County sheriff corruption trial. // Mercury News
UC Hastings’ name change spawned a potential $1.7 billion lawsuit. Will it hold up in court? // San Francisco Chronicle
‘Not surprising’: Test scores show San Diego Unified student achievement was hit hard during COVID. // San Diego Union-Tribune
Families occupying shuttered Oakland elementary school end their protest after 130 days. // San Francisco Chronicle
Cal State universities are trying to lure more applicants. Here’s why. // San Francisco Chronicle
California welfare offices are understaffed, leading to ‘burnout’ and ‘overwhelmed’ workers. // Sacramento Bee
Amazon workers in Southern California file for a union election in potential first for the state. // CNBC
California’s opening bid won’t solve the Colorado River crisis alone. // Politico
Monitor finds flaws in PG&E’s wildfire safety efforts. // Sacramento Bee