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Today’s Headlines: COVID, homelessness, worsening drought addressed in Newsom’s budget plan

California Gov. Gavin Newsom
Gov. Gavin Newsom unveils his proposed $286.4-billion state budget during a news conference Monday in Sacramento.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Hello, it’s Tuesday, Jan. 11, and here are the stories you shouldn’t miss today:

TOP STORIES

COVID-19, children and climate change are focal points in Newsom’s budget plan

Gov. Gavin Newsom has unveiled an $286.4-billion spending plan that builds on the state’s recent efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic, homelessness and a worsening drought while surpassing K-12 school funding records set just last year.

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In broad terms, Newsom’s proposal to the Legislature is consistent with budgets written in recent years. While it directs surplus tax revenue toward the state’s cash reserves and pays down some long-term debts, there is plenty left over for programs championed by the Democratic governor and legislators from both major parties. These programs include enhanced security at clinics that provide abortions and the cancellation of an increase in California’s gas tax that was scheduled for July.

More politics

  • Newsom has proposed big funding for UC and Cal State, but there’s a catch. The public university systems have to close achievement gaps among underserved students, a stubbornly elusive goal for years, and meet a long list of other specific targets.
  • California would allow all income-eligible residents to qualify for the state’s healthcare program for low-income people regardless of immigration status under Newsom’s budget proposal.

Sign up for our California Politics newsletter to get the best of The Times’ state politics reporting and the latest action in Sacramento.

L.A. Unified students return as California surpasses 6 million COVID infections

Hundreds of thousands of Los Angeles Unified students are returning to campus from winter break today amid a record-breaking surge in coronavirus cases fueled by the Omicron variant. More than 6 million cumulative coronavirus cases have now been reported in California, according to data compiled by The Times.

District officials said their extensive safety protocols, which include mandated testing for all students and staff before returning to campus, have prepared them to meet a moment that is exerting pressure on schools across the country as they work to keep students learning in-person.

Meanwhile, a small number of schools and districts have delayed the reopening of schools or moved temporarily to remote learning. Montebello Unified pushed its reopening back by one week.

More top coronavirus headlines

  • A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit by Los Angeles police officers challenging the city’s COVID-19 vaccination and testing mandate.
  • Los Angeles County health officials launched a new COVID testing program for residents unable to make highly sought-after appointments.
  • Starting Saturday, private health insurers will be required to cover up to eight home COVID-19 tests per month for people on their plans.
  • More than 3,800 California prison staff have tested positive for COVID — a massive surge of infection in the last week.

Stay up to date on variant developments, case counts and vaccine news with Coronavirus Today.

Mourners say goodbye to girl fatally shot by LAPD officer

Monday’s funeral service for 14-year-old Valentina Orellana Peralta came two weeks after she was killed by an LAPD police officer while shopping for clothes with her mother in North Hollywood. It also comes a day before the Los Angeles Board of Commissioners is scheduled to have its first meeting of the year and discuss the case.

Family of the Chilean girl said Valentina brought them joy and love. They described her as a kind person who cared for the well-being of others, especially animals. Her father said his daughter wanted to become a U.S. citizen like her older sister, attend college and become an engineer.

Robert Durst, real estate scion convicted of murder, dies

Robert Durst dodged justice for nearly four decades since the disappearance of his wife, Kathleen McCormack, in New York in 1982. In Texas, he beat charges of killing a neighbor whose body he admitted to dismembering and dumping into Galveston Bay. And for 15 years, he eluded Los Angeles investigators who suspected he killed his close friend Susan Berman at her Benedict Canyon home.

Durst’s good fortune finally ran out when he was convicted in September of murdering Berman and was sentenced to life in prison the next month.

Forever slipping the grips of the law he spent most of his adult life eluding, Durst died early Monday while in custody of the California Department of Corrections. Durst’s attorney, Chip Lewis, confirmed his client’s death and said he believed he died of natural causes.

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PHOTO OF THE DAY

Flowers are placed on the casket of Valentina Orellana Peralta, by Jackie Williams
Flowers are placed on the casket of Valentina Orellana Peralta. The casket arrived at City of Refuge Church in Gardena on Monday. The Rev. Al Sharpton delivered a eulogy later that day for the 14-year-old who was shot as she was shopping for clothes with her mother.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

CALIFORNIA

Former L.A. city attorney’s official agrees to plead guilty in the Department of Water and Power billing scandal. Thomas Peters, 55, of Pacific Palisades, agreed to plead guilty to one count of aiding and abetting extortion. Prosecutors said the crime carries a maximum of 20 years in federal prison.

Our guide to redistricting. The once-in-a-decade redrawing of congressional and state legislative maps based on the U.S. Census is underway, but things are pretty different this time.

Shooting at a South L.A. warehouse party leaves five wounded and the gunman dead. No arrests have been made in connection with the shootings, according to police, but video from OnScene.TV showed officers detaining several people. Police say it may be gang-related.

A California appeals court upholds the firing of LAPD officers who ignored a robbery to play Pokémon Go. In doing so, the court rejected a claim by the officers that the department had improperly used a digital in-car video recording of their private conversations to prove their misconduct, and another that they were improperly subjected to questioning about their actions by a supervisor without legal or labor representation present.

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NATION-WORLD

Russia and the U.S. are still far apart after talks over Ukraine. With both sides dug in on their positions and Ukraine’s future hanging in the balance, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said “no progress” was made on a central demand to halt NATO expansion.

Nearly 8,000 are detained in Kazakhstan amid antigovernment protests. The violent protests last week marked the worst unrest the former Soviet nation has faced since gaining independence 30 years ago.

Safety features failed in the New York high-rise fire that killed 17. The apartment’s front door and a door on the 15th floor should have been self-closing, blunting the spread of smoke, but the doors malfunctioned and stayed fully open, fire officials said.

Mexico’s president announces he has COVID-19 for the second time. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said he tested positive after sounding hoarse at a morning news briefing. He contracted COVID-19 the first time in early 2021.

HOLLYWOOD AND THE ARTS

How Bob Saget created the defining TV dad of his generation. Though there were plenty of beloved TV dads before him, and plenty since, it’s hard to overestimate how Saget’s displays of affection on “Full House,” beamed into the living rooms of millions of homes, soothed a generation of young viewers.

This is what happened inside the Golden Globes show that wasn’t televised. Still rebounding from months of controversy triggered by a February 2021 Times investigation, largely shunned by the industry and hampered by a coronavirus surge, the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. held its 79th awards ceremony, for all intents and purposes, in the dark.

Despite Omicron surge, ‘Scream’ will only screen in theaters. Film critics weigh the risk. Record COVID-19 rates have some journalists who cover Hollywood, especially those who are high risk or have friends or family who are, rethinking going to the movies.

BUSINESS

Tesla’s most prominent Black executive steps down from top HR job. Valerie Capers Workman has been a prominent voice from within the company on issues of race and has also played a key role in leading Tesla’s response to COVID-19 hazards. She is joining career network firm Handshake next week as chief legal officer.

Amazon is the focus of a push to curb ‘rank-and-yank’ worker ratings. A proposed law in Amazon’s home state of Washington could make it harder for companies to terminate workers without explaining why.

SPORTS

Defying the odds, a Mexican figure skater will compete in the Olympics. In a country with nearly three times as many international airports than skating rinks, Donovan Carrillo is mostly unknown. All that could change next month in Beijing, where he will become just the third Mexican figure skater — and first since 1992 — to compete in the Winter Games.

Bryce Young is ready for his big moment: How his father guided him there. Young, a Pasadena native and Mater Dei High School standout, is on the brink of leading Alabama to a national championship. His L.A. journey helped him prepare for it.

USC quarterback Jaxson Dart enters the NCAA transfer portal. The move likely clears the way for the most coveted transfer quarterback in college football to join the Trojans.

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OPINION

The Omicron surge makes the case for California’s single-payer healthcare proposal. Two long years into the COVID-19 pandemic, more people are getting and staying sick. A piece of legislation up for debate in the California Assembly on Tuesday, aiming to create single-payer healthcare in the state, couldn’t be more timely.

A COVID surge is not the time to push the homeless into group shelters. The Los Angeles City Council should stop banning dozens of sites for homeless camping and authorities should hold off on enforcement on the sites they have already designated — at least for now.

ONLY IN CALIFORNIA

Reuniting dogs with their owners is her passion. Seven years ago, Babs Fry was devastated when a pregnant terrier mix dog she was fostering at her Jamul ranch in eastern San Diego County disappeared without a trace.

Then she got an email from a professional pet tracker offering some unusual dog recovery tips that blew Fry’s mind: “I got a call from this woman and I thought she was crazy.” But sure enough, 10 days later, the dog was with her again. After that, the longtime Realtor made a major life shift, opening up A Way Home for Dogs, which provides free tracking and recovery advice and services to find lost family dogs, as well as strays.

Since she started training as a tracker and trapper seven years ago, Fry estimates she has helped in the recovery of hundreds, if not thousands, of dogs throughout Southern California and beyond.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Three people in swim trunks stand on the beach,  covered in oil
Jan. 15, 1927: Swimmers, covered in oil, await the start of the Wrigley Ocean Marathon at Isthmus Cove on Catalina Island.
(Los Angeles Times)

Ninety-five years ago this week, 102 swimmers competed in a marathon swim from Catalina Island to the mainland, at Point Vicente. It was organized by William Wrigley Jr. to bring offseason attention to his summer resort centered on Avalon harbor.

The wintry water hovered at 54 degrees, The Times wrote in 2005, and “the heavy betting” in the contest, which had drawn widespread attention, “landed not on Olympic hero Norman ‘Big Moose’ Ross or other champions but on ‘no finisher.’” But 17-year-old Canadian George Young emerged triumphant to take the $25,000 top prize. It took him 15 hours and 44 minutes.

Sports Illustrated wrote of the harrowing contest in 2017: “Young had removed his trunks a few miles from shore while negotiating a snarl of kelp, leaving him clad in only a coating of grease (for insulation) flecked with graphite (as shark repellent). He swam on, his body in open revolt, propelled by force of repetition and the belief that when he reached land, his life would be transformed.”

We appreciate that you took the time to read Today’s Headlines! Comments or ideas? Feel free to drop us a note at headlines@latimes.com. — Elvia Limón and Laura Blasey

For the Record: Friday’s newsletter mistakenly said Kamala Harris was evacuated from DNC headquarters when a pipe bomb was found Jan. 6, 2020. It was, of course, 2021.


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