Residents Flood Bay Area Hospitals After Fire

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A hazardous materials official says small amounts of materials are burning in Chevron’s refinery near San Francisco after a fire Monday night sent black smoke over Bay-area cities. Scores of residents went to hospitals complaining of breathing problems early Tuesday. Smoke and flames could be seen for miles. The blaze at Chevron’s plant in Richmond, about 10 miles northeast of San Francisco, was contained late Monday although company spokeswoman Heather Kulp said it was not immediately known when the flames would be extinguished. A shelter-in-place order for Richmond, North Richmond and San Pablo was lifted around 11:15 p.m. Contra Costa County hazardous materials program director Randy Sawyer tells the San Jose Mercury News early Tuesday smoke was not leaving the refinery property. Well over 200 people went to hospitals with breathing problems. Residents said they heard loud blasts around 6:15 p.m., when the fire broke out, although Chevron officials could not confirm those reports.

Same Sex Marriage Fight in CA Could be Winding Down

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The bitter, four-year court fight over California’s same-sex marriage ban could soon be resolved. Backers of Proposition 8 have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule a federal appeals court that struck down the measure as unconstitutional. If the high court declines to take the case, it would clear the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California. In Tuesday’s filing, lawyers for the coalition of religious conservative groups that sponsored the voter-approved ban argued that the ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is “tantamount to a judicial death sentence for traditional marriage laws throughout the Circuit.” Lawyers for two same-sex couples who first challenged Proposition 8 in 2009 said they would urge the Supreme Court to reject the case. The high court is expected to act on the petition this fall.

Federal Court Taking Second Look at CA DNA Law

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – A federal appeals court is taking a second look at California’s DNA collection law. Voters overwhelming approved the Proposition 69 law in 2004. The law allows police to collect DNA samples from anyone arrested for a felony, even if they haven’t been convicted. The state has long collected DNA from convicted felons. Prosecutors say it is a vital crime-fighting tool. State Attorney General Kamala Harris says collecting arrestee DNA has solved thousands of crimes. The Los Angeles Times says a majority of judges on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco voted on Wednesday to reconsider a February decision by a three-judge panel that had upheld the program.

New Report Finds Fewer Felons Skipping out on Probation Under CA Prison Realignment

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – A new report says fewer felons are skipping out on probation under California’s new criminal justice realignment than under the state’s old parole system. The report obtained by The Associated Press is the first six-month snapshot of trends in all 58 counties. It found less than 4 percent of felons failed to report to their county probation officers after their release from state prison, compared to 14 percent who faced fugitive arrest warrants under the old system. More than 23,000 ex-convicts are supervised at the county level after a law took effect in October to save the state money and reduce prison crowding. The report released Wednesday by the Chief Probation Officers of California says early concerns that many felons might go unsupervised appear to be overstated.

Mill Fire Contained in Colusa County

FORESTHILL, Calif. (AP) – Crews have won full containment of several wildfires blackening the Golden State amid cooler temperatures and higher humidity. A 46-square-mile blaze in the Mendocino National Forest was fully surrounded Wednesday, as were wildfires in San Luis Obispo and Trinity counties. In Placer County, most of the evacuations ordered because of the Robbers Fire near Foresthill have been lifted. The 4-square-mile blaze that has destroyed one home and four outbuildings and injured 12 people is 75 percent contained.

Effort to Undo CA Gay History Law Fails

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Opponents of a law that requires California public schools to cover the contributions of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people have again failed to qualify a ballot measure that would have overturned the requirement. Pacific Justice Institute lawyer Kevin Snider said the Stop SB48 campaign did not gather enough signatures by Monday’s deadline to put an initiative on the 2014 ballot that would exclude sexual minorities from the list of groups whose roles in history and social science schools must teach. Snider estimates that the all-volunteer petition circulating effort, which focused largely on churches, collected about 446,000 signatures out of the 504,760 required. The group’s earlier attempt to put the gay history lesson law to a popular vote this year also did not qualify. Senate Bill 48 took effect in January, but most school districts have not implemented it.

CSU System Warns of Bleak Options if Voters Reject the Governor’s Tax Measures

LOS ANGELES (AP) – California State University is looking at either hiking tuition or slashing enrollment to make up for a $250 million loss of state money if voters do not approve Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax measures in November. Assistant Vice Chancellor Robert Turnage told reporters Monday that the 23-campus system faces two bleak scenarios that the Board of Trustees will discuss at its Tuesday meeting. Under one scenario, enrollment would not be cut, but students would see a tuition increase of $150, or about 5 percent, per semester starting in January. Non-California residents would pay almost twice that. Additionally, employees would see a 2.5 percent cut in salaries and benefits. Turnage says an alternative plan calls for tuition to remain the same, but enrollment would be reduced by 1.5 percent, or 6,000 students.

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