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In California: Newsom’s nominee for state Supreme Court would make history

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 10/6/2020 Winston Gieseke, USA TODAY

If confirmed, Martin Jenkins would be the court's first gay Black member. Plus, California is the 6th happiest state, and Uber and Lyft spend nearly $100 million trying to overturn a state law that would make them classify drivers as employees.

I'm Winston Gieseke, philanthropy and special sections editor for The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, welcoming you to the new week by offering up some of the top headlines in our hot but awesome state of California.

In California brings you top Golden State stories and commentary from across the USA TODAY Network and beyond. Get it free, straight to your inbox.

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Newsom nominates first openly gay Black man to state Supreme Court

Gavin Newsom wearing a suit and tie: In this July 23, 2019, file photo, Gov. Gavin Newsom talks to reporters at his Capitol office in Sacramento, Calif. © Rich Pedroncelli, AP In this July 23, 2019, file photo, Gov. Gavin Newsom talks to reporters at his Capitol office in Sacramento, Calif.

Gov. Gavin Newsom nominated former civil rights attorney Martin Jenkins, 66, to the California Supreme Court on Monday. If confirmed, he would be the court's first gay member and the third Black person to serve on it.

Jenkins, who declines to describe himself as conservative or liberal, grew up in San Francisco. He has said his family wasn't poor but they did not have a lot of extra income.

After graduating from the University of San Francisco School of Law in 1980, Jenkins worked as a prosecutor for the Alameda County district attorney's office before joining the U.S. Department of Justice as a civil rights attorney. He has since been appointed to four different judgeships by Republicans and Democrats. Jenkins retired last year to help Newsom vet judicial appointments.

Jenkins called the appointment “surreal" during an interview with The Associated Press. He said his sensibilities and experiences as a gay Black man would strengthen the court.

“At times those sensibilities are relevant to the resolution of a case and at times they are not,” he said. “I think having a Supreme Court that has a range of voices that arise from a range of different experiences, I think, produces a better end product, a fuller end product, a more robust and well-considered end product.”

New California law requires racial diversity on corporate boards

a man standing in front of a building: The new legislation will require people from underrepresented communities to have at least one seat on corporate boards in California by the end of 2021. © stock from pexels.com The new legislation will require people from underrepresented communities to have at least one seat on corporate boards in California by the end of 2021.

Speaking of diversity in high places, Newsom has signed a law requiring publicly traded corporations headquartered in California to appoint directors from underrepresented communities to their boards. It is the first law in the nation to mandate a diverse makeup of corporate boards.

The law was inspired by first-of-its-kind legislation passed in 2018 that required publicly held corporations headquartered in the state to diversify their all-male boards with women, a move that has faced legal challenges from conservative groups.

“When we talk about racial justice, we talk about power and needing to have seats at the table,” the governor said last week. The legislation will require people from “underrepresented communities” to have at least one seat on corporate boards in California by the end of 2021.

In 2022, boards with four to nine people must have at least two members from an underrepresented community and boards with nine or more people must have at least three. Underrepresented communities are defined as people who identify as Black, Latino, Native American, Asian American, Pacific Islander, Native Hawaiian or Alaska Natives. Companies can also appoint directors who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Not everyone thinks the law was a good idea. Harmeet Dhillon, an attorney and the founder and CEO of the Center for American Liberty, called the new law a tax on California corporations. “From a civil rights perspective and a corporate governance perspective, we ought to be encouraging corporations to have the best and brightest directors and that is really a function of the constituents of the corporation which are the shareholders,” Dhillon said.

August Complex fire has burned more than 1 million acres

A satellite image of the August Complex wildfire shows an extensive line of fires burning to the north of Big Signal Peak. © Satellite image ©2020 Maxar Technologies A satellite image of the August Complex wildfire shows an extensive line of fires burning to the north of Big Signal Peak.

Another day, another unfortunate wildfire milestone: On Monday, it was reported that the August Complex — which began in mid-August as dozens of fires ignited by lightning in the Mendocino National Forest and by September had become California's largest fire on record —had burned more than 1 million acres of land.

The news came one day after the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said that more than 4 million acres have been burned this year by California wildfires, more than double the previous record.

The August Complex has destroyed 242 structures, damaged a half dozen others and led to one injury. Containment was estimated at 54% on Monday.

Also in Northern California ...

Fires devastate wine country

a tree with a sunset in the background: Smoke hangs amongst charred trees on the hillside behind a vineyard in Napa Valley, Calif. on Sept. 28, 2020. © SAMUEL CORUM, AFP via Getty Images Smoke hangs amongst charred trees on the hillside behind a vineyard in Napa Valley, Calif. on Sept. 28, 2020.

It's been a tough enough year for 2020 wines in Napa Valley. The vintage has faced drought, incredible heat spikes and poor air quality as a result of the Northern California wildfires.

But The New York Times reports that "beyond the financial cost of the destruction in Napa Valley is the emotional price, as wine that’s been nurtured from vineyard to barrel flows down the drain."

At Castello di Amorosa in St. Helena, for example, more than 10,000 cases of wine were lost to fires when the heat caused bottles to explode in the warehouse. Meanwhile, a fire in Sonoma County destroyed the winery at Cain Vineyard and Winery and all the wine in the 2019 and 2020 vintages.

By Monday morning, the winds had shifted and the fires seemed less threatening. Still, "from south St. Helena to north of Calistoga, the hillside is completely charred," said Frank Dotzler, general manager at Outpost Wines. “A drive through the valley now, it’s just unimaginable.”

“Every drop of wine was like a miracle this year, the viticulture was so hard,” said Jean-Baptiste Rivail, general manager at Newton Vineyard. “It’s almost like losing a living thing. And it’s violent — to go back on site to find ashes and gutters full of wine.”

Nonetheless, Rivail remains optimistic. “We will make wine in 2021,” he said. “We will rebuild, we’ll keep making wine. We’re lucky that everybody was safe.”

California is 6th happiest state; Long Beach flag replaced by Trump banner; Uber and Lyft spend nearly $100M to fight AB 5

An article in The Orange County Register says California is the nation’s sixth happiest state, behind Hawaii (No. 1), Utah, Minnesota, New Jersey and Maryland. The study, conducted by WalletHub, considered various demographic, economic and health factors, even some pandemic trends, in creating their report. The most unhappy states, according to the list, were West Virginia, Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Long Beach police on Sunday were investigating a missing City of Long Beach flag from outside police headquarters that had been removed and replaced with a Trump campaign banner, according to Fox News. Authorities said a padlock was attached to the flagpole to prevent the banner from being removed. It was later taken down using bolt cutters.

NBC News reports that app-based driving companies Uber and Lyft have joined forces and come up with nearly $100 million to spend on a November California ballot initiative to overturn a state law forcing them to classify drivers as employees. According to a Reuters analysis, each company would face "more than $392 million in annual payroll taxes and workers’ compensation costs even if they drastically cut the number of drivers on their platforms."

And finally, The New York Times has an interesting article about vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris, an Oakland native who spent her adolescent years in Montreal — and how being a fish out of water helped shape her.

In California is a roundup of news from across USA Today network newsrooms. Also contributing: Fox News, NBC News, The New York Times, The Orange County Register.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: In California: Newsom’s nominee for state Supreme Court would make history

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