Thursday Must Read: Tax the Rich to Pay for Schools; Feds Open Criminal Probe of PG&E

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Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Californians want to maintain funding for public schools and they want the rich to pay for it with higher taxes, the Chron reports, citing a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California. The poll showed that 68 percent of voters support raising the personal income tax rate for wealthy Californians in order to avoid more cuts to K-12 education — a proposal supported by the state teachers’ union, but not by Governor Jerry Brown or state Democratic leaders. By contrast, voters overwhelmingly oppose Brown and the Democrats' proposal to restore a tax increase on all residents that expired in January and a 1 percent sales tax hike that will sunset on July 1.

2. Democratic state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, meanwhile, seconded a proposal made by Treasurer Bill Lockyer to target Republican districts for service cuts if GOP legislators continue to block Brown’s tax measure proposals, the CoCo Times reports. “It's basic fairness,” Steinberg told reporters. “You don't want to pay for government, well, then you get less of it.” Steinberg said the cuts would involve “convenient services to adults” and would not be targeted at children in Republican strongholds.

3. Federal prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation into PG&E’s deadly gas-line explosion last September in San Bruno, AP reports. Federal prosecutors declined to reveal the exact nature of the probe, but have subpoenaed numerous records from PG&E. A former federal prosecutor who brought charges against a pipeline company in Washington said that such a voluminous records request likely would result in criminal charges against PG&E.

4. State regulators, meanwhile, indicated that they would force PG&E to conduct thorough and expensive tests of its gas pipelines in Northern California, the Chron and Mercury News report. PG&E is seeking a waiver of the tests even though the utility has admitted that it has can’t find records of the pipelines and doesn’t know whether they contain the same type of faulty welds that likely led to the San Bruno disaster.

5. In a big defeat for consumers and workers, the US Supreme Court’s conservative majority sided with corporations yesterday in a decision that greatly curtails class-action lawsuits, the Chron reports. In a 5-4 decision, the high court overturned a California Supreme Court ruling, and said that corporations could require consumers and employees to sign contracts that force arbitration and block class-actions. The ruling is expected to significantly affect the ability of consumers and workers to seek redress in courts for corporate wrongdoing.

6. In a surprise move, President Barack Obama released his long-form birth certificate yesterday after obtaining a waiver from the state of Hawaii. The president was attempting to finally end false and thoroughly discredited rumors that he wasn’t born in the United States. Obama had previously released his short-form birth certificate — which is all that is required under law — but right-wing “birthers,” led by TV reality star Donald Trump, have falsely alleged that he was hiding his long-form certificate.

7. And jurors heard a voice recording yesterday of the ex-girlfriend of Yusuf Bey IV, who told police that Bey IV had said to “take out” Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey, and then said after Bailey was murdered: “I did what I had to do,” and “That will teach him to fuck with me.” The ex-girlfriend, Sheavon Williams, testified last week that she couldn’t remember telling police that Bey IV had said those things, the CoCo Times reports.

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