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'No open debate': Blue state judge removes controversial ballot initiative after backlash over parents' rights

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'No open debate': Blue state judge removes controversial ballot initiative after backlash over parents' rights

The controversial Equal Rights Amendment, which was on the ballot for the November elections in New York, has been tossed by a judge on procedural grounds.

The ruling is a victory for Republicans and opponents of the bill who say it was written too broadly and could trample parents’ rights when it comes to decisions like children receiving gender-affirming procedures.

The ERA was a rapid response by New York Democrats to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson’s Women’s Health Organization decision in June 2022. The amendment passed both houses of the New York legislature in a special session just one week after the Dobbs decision was rendered.

The amendment, which advocates say is meant to enshrine women’s right to abortion in the Empire State, was passed so quickly that a judge in Livingston County determined the legislation was fatally flawed due to a procedural mistake.

NY BALLOT INITIATIVE COULD BLOCK PARENTS FROM SAY IN CHILD’S TRANS SURGERY, CRITICS WARN IN FIERY CAMPAIGN

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New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (AP Photo/Hans Pennink/File)

Bobbie Anne Cox, the attorney who sued the legislature to stop the referendum, said, “They put forth this amendment to the constitution. There was no open debate. There was no public hearings, there was nothing.”

“They referred it to the AG that day, but then they voted that same day. They didn’t even wait one day,” Cox continued.

The New York constitution requires that a proposed amendment must be presented to the attorney general to ensure that the proposal is not in conflict with other provisions of the constitution. The AG has 20 days to respond.

New York state capitol

The New York State Capitol (AP Photo/Hans Pennink/File)

DOCTOR DEFENDS GIVING TRANSGENDER TREATMENTS TO 8- AND 10-YEAR-OLDS: ‘RESPECT KIDS AS INDIVIDUALS’

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Supreme Court Justice Daniel J. Doyle declared the amendment “null and void” because the Democrats did not wait for the AG’s analysis.

“For them to violate the constitution and to want to do that in order to change the constitution is not acceptable, in fact it’s dangerous for the people, for the citizens,” Cox said.

Following the decision, Democrats have promised an appeal. Gov. Kathy Hochul said in a statement, “Our decades-long fight to protect equality and reproductive freedom will not be thrown off track by one extremist judge and I look forward to casting my ballot for the Equal Rights Amendment in November.”

Flier against New York's Equal Rights Act proposal

The Coalition to Protect Kids – New York says an upcoming ballot proposal would ban parents from approving their child’s transgender surgery. (Coalition to Protect Kids – New York)

GENDER DYSPHORIA GROWING AMONG YOUNGER ADULTS AMID ‘INCREASING ACCEPTANCE,’ STUDY FINDS

Opponents of the amendment include former House Republican John Faso, who praised the decision to toss the referendum, calling the amendment “a cynical maneuver to try to boost [voter] turnout based on a false premise that abortion is at risk.”

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Faso pointed to the legislature’s adoption of abortion rights legislation in 1970. He said the ERA goes far beyond guaranteeing a right to abortion.

“It would, for instance, give a minor a right to so-called gender-affirming care, puberty blockers even surgeries, without permission, without consent of their parents,” Faso said.

“It would also, for instance, say that biological males could compete on girls sports teams,” he added.

“Any decent lawyer will take one look at the Proposition One language and say, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,” Greg Garvey, the executive director of the Coalition to Protect Kids – New York, a group “dedicated to defeating the Equal Rights Amendment,” said in a statement to Fox News Digital.

“This ballot initiative is written so broadly and so poorly that it could cause irreparable harm to children and families,” he continued. “This is no soft-sounding equal rights amendment, it’s nothing less than the parent replacement act.”

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Democrat MaryJane Shimsky, a member of the New York State Assembly and advocate for the referendum, pushed back on opponents’ criticism, saying, “We need the ERA now precisely because of the extremists who would scapegoat children for political gain and the dangers their culture wars are creating in our communities.”

“New Yorkers know that we are stronger together and when we stand up for each other,” Shimsky continued. “Should the ERA proposition be restored to the ballot, I expect that it will pass with broad popular support.”

New York Senate leadership did not respond to Fox Digital’s request for comment.

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Top manager of California's largest water supplier accused of sexism and harassment

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Top manager of California's largest water supplier accused of sexism and harassment

The board of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California voted to place General Manager Adel Hagekhalil on leave Thursday while the agency investigates accusations of harassment against him by the agency’s chief financial officer.

Chief Financial Officer Katano Kasaine made the allegations in a confidential letter to the board, which was leaked and published by Politico. She said Hagekhalil has harassed, demeaned and sidelined her and created a hostile work environment.

MWD Board Chair Adán Ortega Jr. announced the decision after a closed-door meeting, saying the board voted to immediately place Hagekhalil on administrative leave and to temporarily appoint Deven Upadhyay, an assistant general manager, as interim general manager.

“This board is determined to act with unity and swiftness in order to protect everybody,” Ortega said. “My hope is that under Deven’s leadership in the coming months, that we will find some common purpose, that we will realize the urgency of the policies and the tasks that confront us.”

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Ortega said in an interview after the meeting that there are “several investigations” underway. He declined to comment on the other investigations, and said Hagekhalil will be on administrative leave for up to 90 days.

“We’re calculating that that’s the amount of time it will take to complete the investigations,” Ortega told The Times.

Ortega began the meeting by announcing that the board had decided earlier this week to open an investigation. He called a vote allowing him to publicly discuss confidential matters discussed during that Tuesday meeting, and he criticized the release of the letter.

“The person who released this sensitive document knows that we as a board and as individuals are constrained by law not to reveal closed-session proceedings and related documents,” Ortega said. “They were trying to take advantage of that. But I’m not letting them. At minimum, by releasing the document, that person has tried to set a narrative that is potentially harmful to the general manager, the chief financial officer, this board and this agency, and they know it.”

Ortega said the board acted to start the investigation “in order to avoid the leak that happened anyway.” He said he and other board members believe that both Hagekhalil and Kasaine “deserve the due process prescribed by law.”

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Thursday’s special meeting was scheduled while Hagekhalil was traveling in Singapore for a water conference. According to the board meeting agenda, the closed session included a review of Hagekhalil’s performance as well as a discussion of potential discipline or dismissal. On those two items, Ortega said, there were “no reportable actions” during the closed meeting.

Board members voted unanimously to place Hagekhalil on administrative leave, with one abstention and several board members absent.

Kasaine said in her letter that throughout 30 years of government work, “I have encountered toxic work environments, but none as hostile and dysfunctional as Metropolitan.”

“Despite my tireless dedication and outstanding performance ratings, it has become incredibly stressful to even show up for work. I am constantly scrutinized, sidelined, and demeaned for standing up against issues that are not in Metropolitan’s best interest,” Kasaine said in the May 27 letter, which following the leak was released by the district.

Hagekhalil responded to the accusations in a text message, denying any wrongdoing.

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“I’ve always treated our MWD staff with complete respect, professionalism and kindness. Always,” Hagekhalil said. “I stand by my record of reforming the agency’s workforce policies and creating a healthy, supportive and inclusive work environment. Any investigation of these unsubstantiated claims will reveal that they are false, and I look forward to returning to my work at MWD to serve our staff and our community as soon as possible.”

He said the claims are “disagreements on management decisions.”

“When I started at MWD, I increased Katano’s responsibilities on an interim basis, and as CFO, she has had an important leadership role in recent MWD actions, including overseeing the agency’s adoption of a two-year budget and development of a long-range financial plan,” Hagekhalil said.

MWD is the nation’s largest wholesale supplier of drinking water, serving cities and agencies that supply 19 million people across Southern California.

Ortega lamented that with the release of the letter, “the confidentiality that they were to enjoy in order to correct matters, has now been compromised for the benefit of an undeclared individual who, depending on our silence, thought that they could deceive the press.”

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“Thus, the person who released the document should not be considered a whistleblower, but should be questioned by those listening to him or her about their motives and the personal gain they would like to achieve by violating the rights of others and trying to taint our agency,” Ortega said, reading from a prepared statement. “While I can’t reveal the extent of our continuing deliberations today, or guarantee outcomes, on behalf of the board, I want to assure our workforce that we will continue to act in a transparent way to bring security, harmony and protection of rights for everyone who works here so we can do the work of bringing water to Southern California.”

Several people spoke at the meeting, expressing support for Hagekhalil and calling for a fair and impartial investigation.

“Due process has been tainted in a major, major way,” said Mark Gold, director of water scarcity solutions for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “It’s a personnel issue that you need to investigate and keep private as much as possible.”

Gold also said Hagekhalil “lives and breathes water in this agency more than anyone I’ve ever seen.”

Hagekhalil has led the agency at a time of major challenges, including negotiations aimed at addressing shortages of Colorado River water, plans for building the country’s largest wastewater recycling facility, and the MWD board’s consideration of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to build a $20-billion water tunnel in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

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Hagekhalil previously worked for the city of Los Angeles leading programs focusing on sewers and streets. He was appointed MWD’s general manager in 2021 after a bitter power struggle among board members. He earns $503,942 a year as general manager and chief executive, leading more than 1,900 employees and overseeing more than $2.2 billion in annual spending.

Hagekhalil has said he is seeking to transform the district to make the region’s water supplies resilient to the effects of climate change.

“This is at a time when MWD is at a crossroads,” said Bruce Reznik, executive director of Los Angeles Waterkeeper, who has supported Hagekhalil’s efforts at MWD. “The old way of doing business, the old model for water, doesn’t work in our climate change reality, and I know MWD is wrestling with these very challenging issues. And I think Adel and his team have done an amazing job of starting to tackle that.”

Some of Hagekhalil’s supporters questioned why the matter was brought to the board while he was traveling, and suggested the public airing of grievances appeared to be a calculated ambush.

Kasaine wrote in the letter that she has been “maligned, harassed, bullied, and sidelined from my core responsibilities.” She said Hagekhalil’s “preference for male colleagues/staff over me has continued to sow the seeds of sexism and belittling.”

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She also criticized Hagekhalil’s hiring of a team of trusted, highly paid consultants, calling it “an entire shadow leadership team, wielding more power than those holding official titles.”

Kasaine said Hagekhalil has told her that she will no longer have oversight responsibilities leading the district’s human resources and diversity, equity and inclusion offices.

“Taking these core services from me without any justification or reason is highly suspect and leads me to believe it is retaliation for speaking up on key concerns,” Kasaine wrote in the letter.

During Thursday’s meeting, many speakers said the matter demands a thorough and impartial investigation.

Ellen Mackey, chair of the employee union’s women’s caucus, told the board that as the situation stands, “we don’t have facts, just accusations.”

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Some environmental advocates said they suspect a link between the surfacing of allegations against Hagekhalil and his work leading efforts to take the district in a new direction by developing a climate adaptation plan, investing in local water sources and revamping MWD’s financial model.

Charming Evelyn, who chairs the Sierra Club’s water committee in Southern California, said Hagekhalil has brought positive changes to the MWD, and that has put him in conflict with the district’s “old guard.”

The California Water Impact Network, an advocacy group, said in a press release that the possibility that Hagekhalil’s efforts might lead the board to eventually vote against the proposed Delta Conveyance Project “has led to an attempted mutiny” by supporters of the tunnel among the district’s board members and staff.

The group noted that Kasaine currently serves as treasurer of the Delta Conveyance Design and Construction Authority, the entity that was created to finance the tunnel project.

Max Gomberg, a board member of the California Water Impact Network, charged that the move against Hagekhalil appears to be a “political power play” designed to push through the tunnel project.

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Leaders of Indigenous tribes and other environmental groups also voiced concerns.

Krystal Moreno of the Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians said that while the accusations should be independently investigated, “we also ask that the investigation include the questionable and concerning timing of these allegations and the board’s swift attempt to remove Adel without any investigation while he has been out of the country.”

Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of the group Restore the Delta, which opposes the tunnel project, said the allegations and the timing of the claims are “equally problematic.”

“Both deserve a thorough and fact based investigation with transparent findings and due process,” she said.

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Trump has 'sort of a pretty good idea' of VP pick, will probably announce during RNC convention

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Trump has 'sort of a pretty good idea' of VP pick, will probably announce during RNC convention

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Former President Trump said he has “sort of a pretty good idea” of who his vice presidential running mate will be but will probably announce his selection during this summer’s Republican National Convention. 

Trump spoke with Fox News’ Aishah Hasnie at the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the Republican National Committee on Thursday following meetings with the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

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He was asked if his pick was present at any of the meetings.

TRUMP RILES UP FIERY SWING STATE CROWD IN FIRST RALLY SINCE NEW YORK CONVICTION

Aishah Hasnie spoke with President Trump at the Republican National Convention headquarters in Washington, D.C., following his meetings at the National Republican Senatorial Committee on Thursday. (Fox News)

“Probably. I don’t want to go, but I think (it) will probably get announced during the convention,” Trump said. “During the convention. There were some good people and, we have some very good people.”

The convention will be held from July 15-18 in Milwaukee. Trump said that Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, could be on the short list. 

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“And I think I could consider that,” he said. “Yes. I haven’t been asked that question, but he would be on that list.”

Hasnie also asked Trump about his thoughts on President Biden as a father following Hunter Biden’s conviction on federal gun charges. 

“Well, I think it’s a very serious thing,” Trump said. “I understand that whole subject. I understand it pretty well because I’ve had it with people who have it in their family,” referring to the younger Biden’s history of drug addiction. 

BIDEN CAMP JABS AT TRUMP’S ‘FAILED’ BUSINESS RECORD AS FORMER PRESIDENT LOOKS TO SWAY NATION’S TOP CEOS

President Biden says he won't pardon Hunter

President Biden, left, and his son Hunter Biden. (Getty Images)

“It’s a very tough thing. It’s a very tough situation for a father,” he added. “It’s a very tough situation for a brother or sister. And it goes on and it’s not stopping. Whether it’s alcohol or drugs or whatever it may be. It’s a tough thing. And so that’s a tough moment for the family. It’s a tough moment for any family involved in that.”

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Hunter Biden was convicted last week of three felony charges related to the purchase of a revolver in 2018 when he lied on a federal gun-purchase form by saying he was not illegally using or addicted to drugs.

Biden has said he will not use his presidential powers to appeal his son’s conviction. He’s also said in the past that he was proud of his son and that he believes he did nothing wrong. 

Hogan Maryland

Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan speaks at an annual leadership meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas on Nov. 18, 2022.  (AP Photo/John Locher)

“As I said last week, I am the President, but I am also a Dad. Jill and I love our son, and we are so proud of the man he is today,” Biden said after the verdict. “So many families who have had loved ones battle addiction understand the feeling of pride seeing someone you love come out the other side and be so strong and resilient in recovery.”

Later in his interview, Trump said he hadn’t been asked to endorse former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, for the U.S. Senate. Hogan endorsed Nikki Haley over Trump and did not endorse him during the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. 

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“Yeah, I’d like to see him win,” Trump said. “I think he has a good chance to win. I would like to see him win.”

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Opinion: What a relief. The Supreme Court did the right thing on mifepristone

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Opinion: What a relief. The Supreme Court did the right thing on mifepristone

The same Supreme Court that overruled Roe vs. Wade two years ago on Thursday followed well-established constitutional principles to dismiss a lawsuit that sought to restrict the availability of mifepristone, a drug used to medically induce abortions. The bottom line is that the decision upholds the Food and Drug Administration’s rules for mifepristone. This is crucial for reproductive rights; it is estimated that 63% of all U.S. abortions are now medically induced rather than being performed surgically.

The mifepristone case never should have gotten this far. The challenge to the drug should have been dismissed by lower courts, but the staunchly conservative judges on those courts, out of their desire to restrict abortions, ignored basic rules about who can sue in federal court. We should be thankful that the ultraconservative Supreme Court led by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. recognized the error made by the lower courts and unanimously dismissed the case because the plaintiffs had no standing to bring the suit.

The Food and Drug Administration approved mifepristone as part of a two-drug protocol to induce abortions in 2000. In 2016, the FDA made the drug more easily available, saying it could be used until the 10th week of pregnancy rather than just to the seventh week. The agency also reduced the number of required in-person clinical visits from three to one, and allowed nurse practitioners to prescribe and dispense mifepristone. Five years later, the FDA eliminated the requirement that mifepristone be administered in person; it had been the only drug with such a restriction.

In 2022, four antiabortion groups and several doctors who opposed abortion brought a lawsuit challenging the FDA’s approval of mifepristone. They filed their lawsuit in the Amarillo division of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas where there is only one federal judge. The filing was not accidental. Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who was appointed by President Trump, is a well-known foe of abortion rights. He wrote a stunning opinion overturning the FDA’s approval of mifepristone. It was the first time in history any judge had overturned the FDA’s approval of a drug.

A conservative panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit said that Kacsmaryk erred in overturning the FDA’s 2000 approval of mifepristone, but it called the FDA’s actions making mifepristone more available “arbitrary and capricious.” If the Supreme Court had agreed, it would have been much more difficult for those wishing to terminate abortions to have access to mifepristone.

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What both the district court and the court of appeals ignored was the issue of standing. In order to sue in federal court, a plaintiff must show that he or she is personally injured by the action being challenged, as well as showing that the harm is caused by the defendant, and that a favorable federal court decision would remedy the injury. The Supreme Court’s decision Thursday exactly underlined that understanding of standing.

Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh wrote the opinion for the court, plainly declaring: “Under Article III of the Constitution, a plaintiff’s desire to make a drug less available for others does not establish standing to sue.”

At the oral arguments in the case in March, the attorney for the plaintiffs, Erin Hawley, suggested that doctors opposed to abortion could be harmed by the FDA’s mifepristone decisions because they might have to perform one if a woman who took the drug arrived in an emergency room with complications. The justices asked if that had ever happened. She couldn’t point to a single example. As Kavanaugh wrote in his opinion: “The FDA is not requiring [doctors] to do or refrain from doing anything.” Moreover, he noted that federal law protects doctors from having to perform procedures that violate their conscience. “Plaintiffs have not shown — and cannot show — that the FDA’s actions will cause them to suffer any conscience injury.”

The court’s decision is a relief for those who support abortion rights, but it does not change the reality that overruling Roe vs. Wade has led to laws severely restricting reproductive healthcare, including medically induced abortions, in two dozen states. And there is no doubt that antiabortion forces will continue to look for ways to try to restrict the availability of mifepristone, including in lawsuits brought by state governments that already are pending.

Erwin Chemerinsky is a contributing writer to Opinion and the dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law. His latest book is “Worse Than Nothing : The Dangerous Fallacy of Originalism.”

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