California | KNKX

California

Updated at 9:20 p.m. ET

The Justice Department is suing California and two top state officials, accusing them of interfering with federal immigration efforts by passing and enforcing state laws that hinder U.S. operations against undocumented people.

The lawsuit filed late Tuesday in federal court in Sacramento, Calif., points out that the Constitution gives the U.S. government sweeping authority over immigration.

Anytime someone is booked into a county jail for a crime in the U.S., his or her fingerprints are automatically sent to federal authorities. If the suspect happens to be an undocumented immigrant, what happens next could depend on where the jail is located.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement often asks jails to hold undocumented people, so federal agents can pick them up and put them into deportation proceedings.

Tim Durkan / Tim Durkan Photography

If the cool and cloudy weather that’s been dominating in the Puget Sound region this week has got you down, hang in there. KNKX weather expert Cliff Mass says the weekend forecast is “improving” and there will be a fair amount of sun poking through, especially on Sunday.

The speed and ferocity of the wildfires raging through Northern California's wine country have caught many residents off guard and left state officials scrambling to contain the flames.

But for fire researchers, these devastating blazes are part of a much larger pattern unfolding across the Western United States. So far this year, fires in the U.S. have consumed more than 8.5 million acres — an area bigger than the state of Maryland.

Updated at 6:30 p.m. ET

Thousands more people were fleeing their homes as some of the worst wildfires in California's history continued to sweep through wine country, leaving a trail of smoldering destruction and a death toll that authorities say has reached 31.

Updated at 6:17 p.m. ET

At least 15 people have died in intense wildfires that have destroyed thousands of buildings in Northern California, where firefighters are battling 17 large blazes in the state's wine country, including Napa and Sonoma counties. Together, they've burned 115,000 acres, according to Cal Fire.

Wildfires burning in the Western U.S. are threatening some of America's most treasured national parks – and in some areas, the damage has already been done.

Last week in Montana, a 20-square-mile blaze burned the historic Sperry Chalet, a hotel and dining room built in 1914 and only reachable by trail.

After millions of dollars of flood damage and mass evacuations this year, California is grappling with how to update its aging flood infrastructure. Some say a natural approach might be part of the answer.

All the water that poured down spillways at the Oroville Dam in northern California did a lot of damage to the area — and for miles down the river.

"It looks like a bomb's gone off," says John Carlon of River Partners, a nonprofit that does river restoration. "That's what it looks like."

In some parts of the country, cold weather is threatening crops. Meanwhile, California has been so unseasonably wet that its deserts are experiencing what's called a "super bloom." After years of drought, the normally arid desert is lush.

"It just looks like a sea of flowers," says Janet Gordon, a geologist from Los Angeles.

"You got purple, red, yellows and blues," adds Joe Sheidness, visiting from San Diego.

A powerful winter storm in California has brought down an ancient tree, carved into a living tunnel more than a century ago.

The "Pioneer Cabin Tree," a sequoia in Calaveras Big Trees State Park, saw horses and cars pass through it over the years. More recently, only hikers were allowed to walk through the massive tree.

Over the weekend, a powerful winter storm slammed into California and Nevada, prompting flooding and mudslides in some regions. The Associated Press reports it might be the biggest storm to hit the region in more than a decade.

California's decision to legalize marijuana was touted as a victory for those who had argued that the state needed a system to decriminalize, regulate and tax it.

But the new law, approved by voters on Nov. 8, also could be a boon to the tobacco industry at a time when cigarette smoking is down and cigarette companies are looking for ways to expand their market, according to researchers in Los Angeles County and around the state.

President-elect Donald Trump has vowed that he will repeal and replace Obamacare. Specifics are scarce, but one plan Trump has outlined would change how the federal government funds Medicaid, health coverage for low-income people.

Twenty-million Americans now have health coverage because of Obamacare. A full quarter of them are in California. And most of them are covered by Medi-Cal, California's version of Medicaid.

California voters rejected a ballot measure that would have abolished the death penalty, and narrowly approved a competing measure designed to streamline the execution process.

Proposition 62, which was opposed by about 56 percent of voters, would have repealed the death penalty for murder and replaced it with life in prison without parole.

A wildfire in the mountains of California's Santa Clara County has destroyed a dozen homes and consumed about 4,400 acres of forest.

The Loma fire has been burning in the Santa Cruz mountains since September 26, and although it is more than 60 percent contained, it still threatens more than 150 structures, according to Cal-Fire, the state agency in charge of wildfire efforts. Almost 2,000 personnel, including inmate fire crews, are fighting the blaze.

California State Sen. Ed Hernandez and his wife, Diane, are optometrists.

Diane handles some insurance matters for their practice, and she recently told him that a health plan had emailed to request more information: It wanted confirmation that they were both participating providers.

"I didn't say anything because I was afraid she'd be mad at me," says Hernandez, D-West Covina.

That's because the additional paperwork was probably his doing.

Maria Diaz sorts green bell peppers along an outdoor conveyor belt on a farm 25 miles west of Sacramento, discarding leaves and stems quickly before peppers are swept away by a mini-roller coaster onto a tractor-trailer.

Diaz, a single parent of three, is one of roughly 800,000 farmworkers in California. Under a bill recently passed by the California Legislature, Diaz could collect overtime pay.

Diaz says growers should pay overtime after eight hours. She adds that those extra earnings would help her cover child care.

In a major victory for teachers unions in California, the state Supreme Court has upheld teacher tenure laws. By a 4-3 vote, a divided court decided not to hear Vergara vs. California, a case challenging state tenure laws.

Fire crews in California were battling three major wildfires, gaining ground on two of them but hampered by steep terrain while fighting a third blaze.

In central California, the Mineral Fire saw "extreme fire behavior" overnight, burning 5,000 acres off Highway 198 in Fresno County, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. As of Wednesday afternoon, the blaze was just 10 percent contained despite the efforts of some 1,000 fire personnel.

Voters in California will decide this November whether to legalize the use of recreational marijuana in the nation's most populous state.

California's dental health system for the poor is dysfunctional, according to a report by a bipartisan oversight commission.

A more vivid description comes from Pedro Nava, the commission's chairman: "In California we have kids' teeth rotting out of their heads," he says. "That's utterly inexcusable."

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed landmark legislation last October that would allow terminally ill people to request life-ending medication from their physicians.

But no one knew when the law would take effect, because of the unusual way in which the law was passed — in a legislative "extraordinary session" called by Brown. The bill could not go into effect until 90 days after that session adjourned.

The California Senate voted Thursday to raise the legal age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. The measure is part of a larger package of legislation aimed at cracking down on tobacco.

If Gov. Jerry Brown signs the bill, California will become the second state, after Hawaii, to raise the age limit for buying cigarettes and other tobacco products. More than 100 cities around the country, including New York and Boston, have already raised the age limit.

An experiment has been underway in California since November 2014, when voters approved Proposition 47: put fewer lawbreakers in jail without increasing crime. The measure converted a list of nonviolent felonies into misdemeanors, which translated into little or no jail time for crimes such as low-value theft and possession of hard drugs.

Police didn't like Prop 47 when it was on the ballot, and now many are convinced they were right to oppose it.

Updated at 9:15 p.m. ET.

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed landmark legislation Monday, allowing terminally ill patients to obtain lethal medication to end their lives when and where they choose.

In a deeply personal note, Brown said he read opposition materials carefully, but in the end was left to reflect on what he would want in the face of his own death.

A wildfire burning in Northern California has destroyed 162 more homes, making it the fourth worst fire in California history.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said the fire was 69 percent contained but it was still threatening thousands of other structures.

The Associated Press reports: