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Today’s Headlines: The fight over voting rights

Nancy Pelosi
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivers remarks during a news conference on Capitol Hill for a landmark voting act.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The House of Representatives has passed a landmark election bill as Democrats and Republicans battle over voting rights.

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The Fight Over Voting Rights

To an extent not seen in a century, America’s two major parties have gone to battle over the rules that govern voting — an intensifying fight that threatens to dominate and embitter the country’s politics.

Earlier this week, at the Supreme Court, Republican and Democratic lawyers clashed over part of the landmark Voting Rights Act.

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Then, on Wednesday night in Congress, the House narrowly passed a bill that would set nationwide standards for federal elections. It would be a major expansion of Washington’s authority, which Democrats say is needed to protect voting rights against restrictions in Republican states.

Among its provisions: requiring states to allow wide use of mail-in ballots, and setting a minimum number of days for early voting.

The Democratic effort aims to block bills in Republican-majority state legislatures that would limit mail-in voting, cut back on early voting, impose new voter identification requirements and take other steps that would make voting more difficult.

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Both parties describe their clash in near-apocalyptic terms.

More Politics

— Senate Democratic leaders and President Biden have agreed to more narrowly target which Americans would be eligible for a $1,400 stimulus payment in the latest COVID-19 relief measure, an agreement intended to ease the bill’s way with moderate Senate Democrats.

— The House set about abruptly finishing its work for the week given the threat of violence at the Capitol by a militia group seeking to storm the building, as happened in a deadly siege Jan. 6.

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— The Pentagon took more than three hours to dispatch National Guard troops to help quell the Jan. 6 siege of the U.S. Capitol even as police pleaded for assistance in repelling the pro-Trump mob, the commander of the D.C. National Guard testified before Congress.

— California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra’s nomination to become the nation’s first Latino secretary of Health and Human Services is headed to the Senate floor after the Finance Committee deadlocked in a party-line vote. He appeared on track for approval.

— The Transportation Department’s watchdog asked the Justice Department to criminally investigate Elaine Chao late last year after it determined she had misused her office when she was Transportation secretary under President Trump but was rebuffed, according to a report.

For more news and analysis, sign up for our Essential Politics newsletter, sent to your inbox three days a week.

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Another Change in the Vaccine Rollout

In a major shift in policy, California officials say they will now devote 40% of available COVID-19 vaccines to residents in the most disadvantaged areas — a move designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus and speed up the reopening of the economy.

After about 400,000 additional doses are administered to people who live in California’s hardest-hit communities — which could happen within the next two weeks — officials in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration said the state intends to significantly relax the rules for counties to exit the most restrictive tier of California’s coronavirus reopening blueprint.

The shift comes amid mounting evidence that Latino and Black communities are falling behind white and Asian ones in getting access to the vaccine. This has sparked concern in part because those underserved communities have been hardest hit by COVID-19. They are home to many essential workers, who have contracted the virus on the job and then spread it at home.

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But the move adds yet another shift in the state’s rocky vaccine rollout, which has been marked by big shortages of supply. It comes at a time when more people are becoming eligible for immunizations.

Skateboarding’s Soul

Few people outside of the skateboarding world knew of Jeff Grosso before his death a year ago of a drug overdose. Yet few led as influential a life.

A stubborn and expressive freckle-faced kid born in Glendale in 1968, he felt like an outcast from a young age. But even though he didn’t have a long pro skateboarding career, Grosso would go on to become “the gatekeeper to why skateboarding was cool,” as skateboarding legend Tony Hawk said.

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This story, now available only to Times subscribers, shows how Grosso became an unlikely ambassador of the sport.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department once had a volunteer “aero squadron,” first assembled in the 1920s. The Times called it the “most unusual aerial law-enforcement arm in the world.”

In March 1938, the department put the squadron to the test as “the thirteen ships forming the squadron flew more than 110 miles, covered strategic areas of the county and visited ten airports.” Unfortunately, the weather was poor, creating challenging conditions for the volunteer pilots. That the squadron completed its mission without incident “demonstrated its worth in an emergency,” according to The Times.

A group of men in pilot's jackets and uniforms stand in front of a plane
March 4, 1934: Members of L.A. County Sheriff Eugene Biscailuz’s volunteer aero squadron pose in front of a Fokker aircraft.
(Los Angeles Times)

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CALIFORNIA

— U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials said they suspected the deadly crash of an SUV carrying 25 people was tied to human smuggling after the Ford Expedition and a red Suburban were caught on surveillance footage coming through a breach in the border fence.

— The city of Los Angeles has not received millions of dollars in federal aid it may be owed to house homeless people in hotels during the COVID-19 pandemic because, nearly a year into the crisis, Mayor Eric Garcetti’s administration hasn’t asked for the money yet.

— Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager declared victory in the race for the 30th state Senate district seat, which stretches from Century City to South L.A.

— Prosecutors said a Manhattan Beach police officer has been charged with sending sexually explicit messages to a juvenile whom he met when she came to the department’s headquarters to report a crime.

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NATION-WORLD

— The COVID-19 pandemic may have cut 2020’s global greenhouse gas emissions, but it won’t offer a lasting benefit unless similarly dramatic reductions in carbon dioxide continue for years to come, an international team of researchers says.

— The fallout of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot casts an unsettling light on the toxic roles that fringe religious beliefs and QAnon conspiracy theories have played in shaking big and small churches across the nation. Some pastors are fighting back.

— Besieged by sexual harassment allegations, a somber New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo apologized but said he intended to remain in office.

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— At many burial sites in Manila, remains can be interred only for a few years because of chronic overcrowding. It’s a fresh indignity for the first wave of victims of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, as the anniversary of a bloody campaign approaches.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

— Days after a Golden Globes marked by controversy, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. continues to face questions over its lack of Black members, with one member saying it “was not really anything we focused on.” Last summer, HFPA members voted not to hire a diversity consultant.

— Still feisty and stubbornly countercultural, singer-songwriter David Crosby talks dinner with Joni Mitchell, his Twitter feud with Phoebe Bridgers and the 50th anniversary of his haunted solo debut.

— Thanks to its Deaf actors, the film “Sound of Metal” offers an authentic look at Deaf culture.

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Thundercat and Flying Lotus, two of L.A.'s most uncompromising pop outsiders, have big Grammy hopes this year.

BUSINESS

— Majority-white areas of California received more money from the federal Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses than majority Latino areas did, according to a study by UCLA researchers.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, the quirky theater chain known for its craft beer and strict no-texting policy, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

SPORTS

California’s major league ballparks were closed to fans for every game last season, but Newsom indicated that they could be open to fans for every game this season.

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— Nearly 12 months after shutting down all sports competitions and activities because of the novel coronavirus, the Los Angeles Unified School District announced that interscholastic competition will resume.

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OPINION

Rodney King was a friend, and there’s so much the world got wrong about him after his beating at the hands of police 30 years ago, writes Dennis McDougal, a former Times staff writer and co-producer of an upcoming documentary on King.

— The Dr. Seuss backlash is a distraction. Too often, the term “cancel culture” is simply a way to short-circuit arguments that would involve defending the indefensible, writes columnist Mary McNamara.

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WHAT OUR EDITORS ARE READING

— The owner of the Toronto Star, the Hamilton Spectator and other newspapers plans to launch an online casino betting brand to help fund its journalism. (CBC)

— How Dolly Parton became such a widely loved celebrity in the U.S. (Vox)

ONLY IN L.A.

Fred Segal was born in Chicago, but he became many things to L.A. — a passionate peacenik, a fashion denim pioneer and a champion of Los Angeles fashion. His stores’ iconic ivy-covered walls attracted celebrity pop-ins (Jennifer Aniston, Britney Spears, Diana Ross) and silver-screen shoutouts in films including “Clueless” and “Legally Blonde.” He died Thursday at 87, but his retail vision forever changed L.A.

Comments or ideas? Email us at headlines@latimes.com.


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