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September 2016 Archives

California's rape laws will change dramatically when the clock strikes midnight on New Year's Eve, thanks to a host of legislation signed by Governor Brown this week.

Earlier this week, the governor signed legislation that removes the statute of limitations for rape and other sexual offenses. Today, Brown signed two more bills, to expand the legal definition of rape and impose mandatory minimums for rape convictions. The new laws go in to effect on January 1st, 2017.

Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill yesterday that eliminates the statute of limitations on rape and other sexual offenses. The new law, S.B. 813, adds rape and similar crimes to the list of criminal acts that can be prosecuted regardless of how long ago the criminal act occurred, such as first degree murder, treason, and embezzlement of public money.

The bill's passage "shows victims and survivors that California stands behind them, that we see rape as a serious crime, that victims can come forward and that justice now has no time limit," the bill's sponsor, State Sen. Connie Leyva, said. The push to remove the statute of limitations for rape was inspired in part by allegations against the comedian Bill Cosby. Cosby has been accused of sexually assaulting dozens of women over several decades, with most of the alleged acts having occurred too far in the past to be prosecuted.

When grading teacher performance, school districts aren't required to incorporate students' standardized test scores, a judge in Northern California ruled last week. Contra County Superior Court Judge Barry Goode rejected arguments by the nonprofit group Students Matter that the school districts were required to make standardized test scores a central part of teacher evaluations.

School districts have broad discretion in how to evaluate their teachers' performance, Judge Goode ruled, and all of the 13 districts sued by Students Matter were complying with their legal obligations.

Yosemite National Park may be one of the world's most impressive landscapes, with its granite cliffs, towering waterfalls, and ancient sequoia groves. But while the beauty of the valley and surrounding mountains is a product of 10 million years of geologic shifts and slow evolution, the park itself is a legal creation, and a very important one at that. Yosemite became the nation's first parkland set aside for preservation when Congress passed the Yosemite Grant Act, signed into law by Abraham Lincoln on June 30, 1864. That act planted the seed that would grow into the National Parks System, or, as the writer Wallace Stegner described them, "America's best idea."

Now, Yosemite is growing larger still, with the addition of 400 acres of meadowland and ponderosa pine, the park's largest expansion in two generations.

A recent decision out of California's First Appellate District could open the door for benefit reductions for public sector pensions, Bloomberg reports. In that case, the court upheld a 2013 law changing pension benefits calculated in an effort to prevent "pension spiking," or gaming the system in order to retire with an inflated pension.

But, Bloomberg's Romy Varghese notes, the court's decision could open the door for other rollbacks, so long as the pension remains "reasonable" for workers.