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POSTED April 17, 2013 9:22 p.m.




APPEALS COURT HEARS CHALLENGE TO GAY THERAPY BAN: SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — California's novel law seeking to ban licensed counselors from trying to turn gay teens straight is boiling down to a question over whether the therapy is free speech or a medical treatment that can be regulated by government.

It's the "pivot point" of the legal debate, Judge Morgan Christen of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Wednesday.

Morgan and two other judges on the nation's largest federal appellate court considered 90 minutes of legal arguments over the ban on "sexual-orientation change" counseling of minors, which other states are considering.

The three-judge panel is considering two challenges to the law approved in California last fall. It took no action Wednesday and will issue a written ruling later.

The law was to go into effect Jan. 1, but the court put it on hold pending its decision.

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski noted the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a California ban of violent video games because the state failed to show a compelling reason to infringe on game-makers free speech rights to manufacture the products.

He said it appeared the same argument could be applied to the evidence lawmakers relied on in passing the prohibition on sexual-orientation change therapy.

5 HURT AS SUV CLIPS BUS, RUNS INTO OC RESTAURANT : SANTA ANA  (AP) — Authorities in say an SUV collided with a school bus then crashed into a Santa Ana fast-food restaurant and injured five people.

Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna says the Ford Explorer driven by a 50-year-old man clipped the bus at about 12:30 p.m. Wednesday.

County fire Capt. Jon Muir tells the Orange County Register ( the SUV jumped a curb, smashed through the front of Big K's Burgers and into a table where a family of three was eating. A mother and son had only minor injuries but the father was trapped under the Explorer, had to be extricated and was hospitalized with serious injuries.

Another mother and a 5-year-old girl also had minor injuries. The drivers of the two vehicles and the only child on the bus were not hurt.

CALIF. BILL TO THWART ANIMAL INVESTIGATIONS KILLED: SACRAMENTO AP) — After weeks of opposition from animal welfare advocates, labor groups and First Amendment experts, a California assembly member withdrew a bill that would limit undercover abuse investigations before it could advance past its first step.

California now joins Arkansas and Wyoming in declining in recent weeks to advance bills that seek to punish the documenter of farm animal abuse rather than the abuse itself.

In Tennessee, however, lawmakers on Wednesday were close to approving a bill similar to the one in California.

The California bill introduced by Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, originally would have required anyone collecting evidence of abuse to turn it over to law enforcement within 48 hours or be guilty of an infraction, which advocates say does not allow enough time to show a pattern of illegal activity under federal humane handling and food safety laws. In an effort to ease criticism, he amended the bill last week to increase reporting time to 120-hours.

CALIF. UTILITIES COMMISSION HEAD GETS GRILLING: SACRAMENTO  (AP) — Lawmakers grilled the California Public Utilities Commission's executive director about a recent report on the agency's poor safety culture, and ordered him to return to Sacramento next week with a plan to fix the problem.

Members of an Assembly budget subcommittee said Wednesday the report raised serious concerns about whether the agency had done enough to improve oversight of the utilities it regulates since the deadly 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno.

The confidential survey of commission staff by Business Advantage Consulting highlights employees' concerns that the CPUC doesn't prioritize safety and has a cozy relationship with industry.

Executive director Paul Clanon testified at the hearing that it will take several more years to instill a focus on safety, and he plans to use the findings to develop strategies for broader accountability.

13-YEAR-OLD BOY KILLS SELF AFTER RUNNING AWAY: PALMDALE  (AP) — A 13-year-old boy who apparently took his father's gun when he ran away from home shot himself in a restaurant and later died at a hospital, authorities said.

Nigel Hardy had been suspended from Hillview Middle School in Palmdale and was last seen by family members on Monday morning.

His father later learned his gun was missing and found a suicide note in the boy's room, according to published reports.

That evening the boy ate at a restaurant in Rosamond about 20 miles north of his home. He sat alone for at least 90 minutes before asking for a piece of paper on which he wrote a telephone number, restaurant owner Jin Hur told the Antelope Valley Press.

Then he pulled out a .45 pistol and shot himself, Hur said.

"He told my waiter to do him a favor, to call his dad. That's the last words he said, and he shot himself," Hur told the newspaper.

LAFD TO REASSIGN MANY FIREFIGHTERS TO AMBULANCES: LOS ANGELES (AP) — Dozens of Los Angeles firefighters will be reassigned from fire engines to ambulances as the agency deals with a sharp increase in emergency medical calls.

Fire Chief Brian Cummings announced the reassignments Tuesday, saying the reassignments are necessary as firefighters' primary workload shifts away from fighting fires.

The Los Angeles Times finds medical emergencies account for more than 80 percent of 911 responses.

Labor groups representing firefighters and department commanders decried the change, warning it would put firefighters at greater risk.

The newspaper says the chief's plan, which takes effect May 5, would reassign about 60 firefighters citywide to ambulances.

The Fire Department has been criticized for months over its 911 response times.



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