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KSBR News Briefs on Friday, July 21, 2017

California parents trying to control kids can lose custody

Our State Supreme Court has ruled our state can take wayward children away from their parents even when they are doing their best to control their kids and the kids aren't delinquents.

A unanimous court said it doesn't matter whether parents are neglectful or in some way to blame for failing to protect their children. If children face substantial risk of harm, the state can assume custody of them, the high court said.

The ruling concerns a state law that allows a court to assume control of children if they have suffered or are at substantial risk of suffering serious physical harm or illness as a result of the failure or inability of their parents to adequately supervise or protect them.

Stanford Law School expert in child welfare law Michael Wald says the law is often invoked in cases where a parent is abusing or neglecting a child. It can also apply to cases in which a parent becomes homeless or is mentally incapacitated.


California teacher pension system beats earnings target

Our state’s teacher pension system says it earned a 13.4 percent return on its investments in the last fiscal year.

The earnings surpass the 7 percent target for the first time in three years.

The returns were driven by strong performance in public and private equity, which together comprise nearly two-thirds of the $209 billion portfolio.

The California State Teachers' Retirement System covers more than 900,000 current and former public-school teachers and administrators, including community college educators.

It's the second largest public pension system in the nation after the California Public Employees Retirement System, which reported 11.2 percent investment earnings last year.

A year ago, CalSTRS had enough assets to cover 64 percent of its liabilities. Officials have not yet updated the figure to reflect the latest portfolio growth.


Lawsuit challenges changes to California recall process

An anti-tax group filed a lawsuit Thursday that alleges Democrats violated the California constitution when they changed the state's recall election process to try to save a senator facing a recall.

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and several activists say the changes illegally draw out the process for removing lawmakers from office.

The association, the California Republican Party and conservative talk-radio hosts in Southern California are looking to remove Democratic Sen. Josh Newman from Fullerton from office over his vote for a gas tax increase earlier this year. Replacing Newman with a Republican would eliminate the Democrats' supermajority that allows them to raise taxes without Republican votes.

The organization's president, Jon Coupal said in a statement the Legislature has pulled out all the stops to silence the voice of taxpayers and undermine the people's right to a fair and democratic process. Democratic lawmakers approved new recall rules last month as part of the state budget. Their changes give people time to rescind their signatures from recall petitions and let lawmakers weigh in on the potential costs of holding a recall election.

That could delay an election to remove Newman by several months, potentially allowing it to coincide with next year's statewide primary or general election, which has much higher turnout.

Howard Jarvis attorneys say in their lawsuit that the organization was aiming for a recall election this November, days after the gas tax hike takes effect.

The lawsuit names Secretary of State Alex Padilla as a respondent. It was filed in the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento. Howard Jarvis attorneys say they took the unusual step of going straight to an appellate court because they need a quick decision to prevent the Legislature from succeeding in its efforts to delay the recall.

Democrats charge the backers of the recall are misleading voters to believe the recall will repeal the gas tax increase. They say misinformed voters deserve a chance to remove their names from the recall petition.


California attorney general sues to block petroleum deal

Our state’s attorney general is suing to block a petroleum company's attempt to gain more control over oil, fearing it could further drive up gasoline prices.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the lawsuit against Valero Energy Corporation.

Valero wants to buy a San Francisco Bay Area petroleum terminal from Plains All American Pipeline. The terminal in Martinez imports and exports petroleum products.

Becerra says the sale would mean all three Northern California petroleum terminals would be controlled by refineries who could "suffocate open competition."

One of Becerra's predecessors, Bill Lockyer, forced Valero to sell the Martinez facility in 2005 as part of an anti-trust deal after the company acquired two terminals under an earlier business deal.