Newsletter: A major blow to public employee unions from the Supreme Court


In a week of historic decisions from the U.S. Supreme Court, the big news on Wednesday hit close to home in California.

Public employee unions, a dominant player in the state’s politics, will no longer be able to charge fees to workers who don’t become full-fledged union members.



A majority of the court’s justices overturned a 41-year-old precedent by ruling that the 1st Amendment protects non-union public employees from being required to support a private group — a union, in this case — whose views may differ from theirs.

The decision, in Janus vs. AFSCME, strikes down laws in California, New York and 20 other mostly Democratic-leaning states that authorize unions to negotiate contracts that require all employees to pay a so-called fair share fee to cover the cost of collective bargaining.

California’s powerful public sector unions knew this day was coming. They’ve been preparing for years and have been promoting a series of union-friendly laws in the Legislature in Sacramento.

This was the big finale to a huge week of news from the Supreme Court.


The justices gave President Trump a huge victory on Tuesday, rejecting arguments that Trump’s travel ban overstepped his presidential authority and also denying that the targeting of Muslim-majority countries violates the Constitution’s ban on religious discrimination.

(The ruling also included something unexpected: a denunciation of the infamous 1944 decision upholding the internment of the late Fred Korematsu, an Oakland native, and other Japanese Americans during World War II.)


Also on Tuesday, the Supreme Court blocked enforcement of a California law that requires faith-based crisis pregnancy centers to notify patients that the state offers subsidized medical care, including abortions.

By a 5-4 vote, the justices said the disclosure rule likely amounts to compelled speech that violates the 1st Amendment.

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The intense debate over the separation of migrant children from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border led to a major ruling late Tuesday by a San Diego judge: The children must be reunited with their parents within 30 days.

In a strongly worded opinion, U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw wrote, “the facts set forth before the court portray reactive governance — responses to address a chaotic circumstance of the government’s own making. They belie measured and ordered governance, which is central to the concept of due process enshrined in our Constitution.”



The intense immigration debate found its way to downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, as Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions spoke to a conservative advocacy group and said opponents to the administration’s policy have become “radicalized.” Outside the event, protesters clogged nearby streets.

On Monday, we learned that Border Patrol agents have stopped handing parents over to the Justice Department for prosecution when they are caught crossing the border illegally with their children, according to the head of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.

Elsewhere, the case of a 15-year-old Honduran immigrant who fled a federally contracted shelter in south Texas this weekend triggered a search that drew attention not only to his case but also to the small but persistent number of runaways at facilities the government has been expanding.

Finally, Vice President Mike Pence and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will meet with the presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras on Thursday to discuss immigration. The meeting is set to take place in Guatemala.



-- A New York shocker: Rep. Joe Crowley, the No. 4 House Democrat and until Tuesday considered a possible candidate to replace Nancy Pelosi as leader was beaten by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a former Bernie Sanders organizer who caught fire with the party’s left wing.

-- President Trump told Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) to “be careful” on Monday, after she urged the public to “push back” against administration members.

-- The tax cuts championed by the president are helping push the nation toward an unprecedented level of debt, heightening the risk of another financial crisis, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

-- The Trump administration could impose sanctions against governments that don’t cut imports of Iranian oil to “zero” by Nov. 4, a senior State Department official said Tuesday.

-- Reality Winner, a former National Security Agency contractor and the first person to be prosecuted during the Trump administration for leaking classified information, pleaded guilty Tuesday to espionage.

-- Although the president’s actions have helped strengthen the labor market, the strong positive momentum already was deeply entrenched for years before his election, experts say.



Thursday marks a major moment in California’s fall political season: the day by which all ballot measures must be certified for the Nov. 6 election.

On Tuesday, an initiative to overturn a court ruling that makes national paint companies responsible for cleaning up lead paint in homes officially qualified. The initiative, backed by Sherwin-Williams and ConAgra, would instead authorize a $2-billion taxpayer-funded loan to clean up lead and other health hazards.

But the companies and some state lawmakers are still trying to reach a deal that would result in the companies withdrawing the initiative by Thursday’s deadline, Liam Dillon reports.

A guaranteed vote will come on the issue of whether to repeal California’s recent gas tax increase, designed to pay for road repairs across the state. Elections officials certified more than enough signatures on the measure on Monday, and it’s likely to be a marquee battle this fall.

But a third initiative may get pulled back from the ballot. On Tuesday, state senators advanced a proposal to ban local governments from approving new taxes on sodas and other sugary drinks until 2031— a bill aimed at spiking an industry-sponsored ballot measure that seeks to limit the ability of cities and counties to raise any taxes.


It’s going to be a busy 24 hours in Sacramento as ballot measure negotiations play out. Keep an eye on our Essential Politics news feed for the latest.


-- The final chapter in the removal of an incumbent California state senator — the first since 1914 — played out in Sacramento on Monday, as Sen. Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar) filled the sudden vacancy by taking the oath of office.

-- Five months after owners of the failed San Onofre nuclear plant agreed to slice hundreds of millions of dollars from the cost to ratepayers of the 2012 breakdown, a California Public Utilities Commission judge has endorsed the proposed settlement.

-- The Legislature advanced major changes this week on how it handles internal sexual harassment complaints. The new policy, which revamps how complaints are investigated and assessed, could go into effect next year.

-- State lawmakers have shelved a proposal to increase the number of digital billboards along California freeways.


-- Los Angeles voters may be asked in November to allow the city to create a publicly owned bank — one that might offer accounts to cannabis businesses in the city.

-- California’s next governor will be the highest-paid chief executive in the nation, as a state panel on Tuesday approved a 3% pay raise for lawmakers.


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