April 7, 2017


Political Stories

Top stories


Gas-tax increase to pay for road repairs clears Legislature — The state Legislature on Thursday passed a sweeping $52 billion transportation plan that will raise California gas taxes after leaders struck deals with wavering lawmakers to fund road projects in their districts. Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article


ACE train to extend to Ceres, Merced thanks to deal approving gas-tax increase – In a legislative win for Valley lawmakers, a state bill to raise the gasoline tax statewide will provide funds for bringing the Altamont Corridor Express to Ceres and Merced. State Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, held a pivotal vote on the $52 billion transportation bill and demanded funds for the ACE train, which carries passengers between Stockton and Lathrop and job centers in the Bay Area but has no stops in Stanislaus County. Modesto Bee article


In Devin Nunes’ home district, they say he was right to step away from House investigation — Rep. Devin Nunes’ decision to recuse himself in the probe by the House Intelligence Committee into possible Russian influence in American electoral politics was the right choice for him to make, his constituents are saying. Fresno Bee article; Bill McEwen in Fresno Bee: ‘Expect no apologies from Devin Nunes. He’ll keep punching until the end’

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures


Here’s why Dianne Feinstein could well become the longest-serving senator in U.S. history – If she won and stayed in office through 2022, she would become the longest-serving U.S. senator in California history, surpassing the 28 years Hiram Johnson served starting in 1917. More to the point, Feinstein would be 91 years old at the end of her term; at age 83, she is already the Senate’s oldest member. She has until a March 9 filing deadline to make up her mind. LA Times article


Sen. Kamala Harris sees a path out of the wilderness for Democrats – but can she sell it to them? — Amid all the self-reflection and infighting among Democrats about how they find their way out of the wilderness, Harris is emerging as a more nuanced political character than many on either side of the political line expected. LA Times article




AP-NORC poll: Most Americans oppose funding border wall – Most Americans oppose funding President Donald Trump’s wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and even many of his supporters reject his proposed budget cuts to scientific and medical research, according to poll released Thursday by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs ResearchAP article


Kerman farmer to CNN: I support Trump but not his immigration policies — Kerman farmer Paul Betancourt told CNN this week that balancing agriculture, business and politics remains “messy” under President Donald J. Trump through he also thinks some clarity could come in the future under the administration. Fresno Bee article


Farmers: Eliminating immigrant laborers hurts us — Harold McClarty of HMC Farms in Fresno County hires up to 1,500 farm laborers each year to tend and pick his orchards full of peaches, nectarines, plums and apricots and knows many of those workers have family members here illegally. Visalia Times-Delta article


Most California dentists are immigrants.  Where else do immigrants work? — It’s well known that most California farmworkers are immigrants. But did you know that so are most dentists, medical scientists, butchers and nursing aides? California depends on its immigrant workforce more than any other state in the nation. Nearly 40 percent of the state’s full-time, year-round workers are immigrants, the highest rate in the nation, according to a Bee review of the latest census data. Sacramento Bee article


Other areas


Appeals court upholds California’s cap-and-trade system – Assemblywoman Autumn Burke says she just wants to help children whose unidentified vision problems may be holding them back academically. But her bill encouraging more comprehensive eye exams when students enroll in school has divided eye doctors – the latest skirmish in a long political history of medical groups squaring off over their scope of practice. Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article


The largest effort to expand rent control in decades is on hold in Sacramento – A state bill that would let cities dramatically expand rent control has been put on hold for a year by its author amid fierce opposition from landlords. LA Times article


Eye doctors battle over bill to expand exams for students — Delicato Family Vineyards has acquired the Blossom Hill Winery in San Benito County, a major investment for the Manteca-based company. Modesto Bee article


Trying to revive health bill, GOP adds $15 billion for sickest Americans — Under intense pressure from President Trump, House Republicans took a small step Thursday to revive legislation to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, adding a $15 billion fund to help insurers pay claims for their sickest customers. New York Times article


Presidential Politics


Trump loses an advocate as Nunes steps out of Russia probe — Questions about whether the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee inappropriately revealed classified information led the California congressman to step aside Thursday from his panel’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election. Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif, said he was taking the action “temporarily” while “while the House Ethics Committee looks into this matter.” McClatchy Newspapers article; San Francisco Chronicle article


Cathleen Decker: Nunes’ role turns from controversial to untenable – Thursday, a new investigation — this time by the House Ethics Committee into whether Nunes had inappropriately released classified information — marked a more serious turn for the Republican congressman. Much is unknown about what happens next, but what has happened so far cut into the congressman’s desire to be seen as a public servant with unsullied integrity, caught in the whirlwind of partisan warfare. Decker in LA Times


Many California Democrats say Trump should have asked them before he bombed Syria — Democrats in California’s congressional delegation were quick to weigh in Thursday on the U.S. bombing of a Syrian airbase, expressing horror at atrocities committed by Syrian President Bashar Assad during a years-long civil war, but most faulting President Trump for not going to Congress before launching the missile strikes. LA Times article


Trump cuts leave bridge and rail projects hanging — Mr. Trump’s budget proposal would slash the Department of Transportation’s spending by 13 percent, end subsidies for Amtrak’s long-distance trains and eliminate the Obama administration’s “Tiger” grant program, which has helped fund mass transit systems across the country. New York Times article


News Stories

Top Stories


New homes in Fresno get slapped with $4,000 water fee — Despite staunch developer opposition, Fresno City Council members on Thursday supported a new fee that imposes a charge of $4,246 for every new single-family home to provide water for future growth. Fresno Bee article


Why a few sentences of legalese make all the difference in curbing California’s pension costs – More than 20 times in the last 15 years, political leaders looking to control California’s fast-growing public pension costs have tried to put reform initiatives before the voters. None of the proposals has made it onto the ballot. LA Times article

Jobs and the Economy

Unsheltered homeless on the rise in San Joaquin County, Stockton – A biannual census taken in January shows that the number of unsheltered homeless residents in San Joaquin County increased from 2015 to 2017, with Stockton bearing the most severe brunt of the problem. Stockton Record article


U.S. employers add just 98,000 jobs; unemployment rate falls to 4.5 percent – Job growth slowed sharply last month, surprisingly tumbling to its lowest level in nearly a year although bad weather probably depressed the numbers. The U.S. economy added just 98,000 net new jobs, a little more than half of what analysts had expected, the Labor Department said Friday. The figure was well off the 219,000 positions created in February. LA Times article


Mayors of New York, Sacramento stress importance of immigrants to business – New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg presented a united front Thursday on the important role of immigrants in their local economies. Sacramento Bee article


Delicato acquires Blossom Hill Winery — Delicato Family Vineyards has acquired the Blossom Hill Winery in San Benito County, a major investment for the Manteca-based company. Modesto Bee article




Sen. Andy Vidak clashes with farm group over cover-up claim involving ALRB appointee — Republican Sen. Andy Vidak, a cherry farmer from Hanford, has raised the ire of the California Fresh Fruit Association over allegations that the Fresno-based farmer group helped cover up reported threats made by an Agricultural Labor Relations Board member. Fresno Bee article


Oroville Dam fix to span two years, but some key work due before winter rains — State officials sketched a two-year recovery plan Thursday for the battered Oroville Dam spillway, revealing a blueprint that’s far from complete, still in need of a price tag and certain to leave the structure partially damaged as the next rainy season approaches.Sacramento Bee article; San Francisco Chronicle article


Mighty LA water agency wants a share of Valley’s Sites Reservoir – and is willing to pay — Southern California’s most powerful water agency is prepared to invest in Sacramento Valley’s proposed Sites Reservoir, a move that could broaden support for the $4.4 billion project but also raise alarms about a south state “water grab.” Sacramento Bee article; Sacramento Bee editorial


Criminal Justice/Prisons


The kind leading the blind: Cops assist visually impaired kids on egg hunt — If you think tough cops don’t cry, think again. There was burly Senior Officer Thomas Hernandez, in full Bakersfield Police Department uniform, walking hand-in-hand with tiny 3-year-old Jordan Mondragon. The pair were on the hunt Thursday — for Easter eggs. And with the friendly cop’s help, Jordan ended up with a basketful. Bakersfield Californian article


There’s been a rise in vehicle burglaries in northwest Fresno — Fresno County sheriff’s officials warned residents in northwest Fresno of an increase in vehicle burglaries since the start of the year. Fresno Bee article




UC president walks downtown Merced, future site of administrative center – The president of the University of California system stopped in Merced on Thursday to check progress on UC Merced’s future downtown administrative building and tour the neighborhood. Janet Napolitano toured the construction site for the $45 million Downtown Center, which is expected to be the workspace for some 370 employees when it opens early next year. Modesto Bee article’; ‘UC President Napolitano brings can-do message to Johansen High’ in Modesto Bee


UCLA works to seal the deal with thousands of freshmen admitted for 2017 – Crenshaw High School senior Jarrin Brown was pretty sure he wanted to leave Los Angeles to attend the University of Wisconsin. His classmate, basketball standout Ramone Wagner, was considering playing ball at a community college. Dorsey High School’s Martin Recendez was leaning toward UC Merced. Then they met Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, UCLA’s vice provost of enrollment management. LA Times article


Local control formula closing funding gap but not equity gap, report says – Four years after its passage, the Local Control Funding Formula has narrowed and, by some measures, reversed the funding gap between the lowest- and highest-poverty districts in California.  EdSource article


College readiness program aims to boost AP scores — With less than a third of the combined students at two high schools scoring high enough to earn college credit on Advanced Placement tests in English, math and science, the Oakland Unified School District was a perfect candidate for a national program that aims to help students – especially low-income, African-American and Latino teens – improve their performance on AP tests.  EdSource article


UC Merced stabbing survivor honored on Capitol Hill with ‘unsung hero’ award — A UC Merced employee who was wounded in the 2015 stabbing attack at the campus was honored this week in Washington by Rep. Jim Costa and the Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus.  Merced Sun-Star article




Delta could be designated state’s first national heritage area — Congress will yet again consider whether the Delta should be designated as California’s first “national heritage area.” But don’t get too excited. This is the fourth go-around. Stockton Record article


Health/Human Services


$2 million fund created to boost healthcare careers, recruit doctors to region — Stanislaus County has a shortage of health care providers, and the situation is more acute in neighboring Tuolumne County. A $2 million grant will give a boost to health careers and create incentives for bringing healthcare professionals to the region. Modesto Bee article


Land Use/Housing


Michael Fitzgerald: Historic plan will restore city – For far too long Stockton’s growth was controlled by those who profited from it. On Tuesday, the council listened to citizens and steered toward a better city. In a historic shift, the council voted 6-1 to adopt a General Plan 2040 that rejects sprawl in favor of fixing long-neglected neighborhoods. Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record


Consultant points to risk in approving new town – Quay Valley — Before they convince young urbanites to move to an isolated part of Kings County, the developers of Quay Valley must convince the Kings County Board of Supervisors that the economics of this new town proposal is worth the risk. Hanford Sentinel article




Fresno council votes against airport fees for Uber, Lyft drivers – Fresno City Council members Thursday morning overwhelmingly struck down a proposal to charge Uber and Lyft drivers fees for dropping off and picking up passengers at Fresno Yosemite International Airport. The Business Journal article


Is Visalia stuck in traffic? — Do you carefully plot your daily commute? Are you convinced there is a faster route for dropping off your children, getting your caffeine fix and making it to the office on time? Have you ever wondered how long before the temporary traffic signals are removed from Akers Streets and Ferguson Avenue? Visalia Times-Delta article


Southwest Airlines adding new routes, new cities for Sacramento fliers — Southwest Airlines on Thursday announced the biggest boost in flights at Sacramento International Airport since the recession a decade ago – six daily flights this year, including new routes to Long Beach and Spokane, and added flights on existing routes to Seattle and San Diego.Sacramento Bee article
Other areas


Judge Armando Rodriguez, who broke barriers in law and politics, dead at 87 — Retired Fresno County Superior Court Judge Armando O. Rodríguez, the son of Mexican immigrants who grew up in Fresno’s west side during the Great Depression and later became one of the most influential Latinos in the San Joaquin Valley, died Wednesday at the age of 87. Fresno Bee article



Valley Editorial Roundup


Bakersfield Californian Relax, some things are definitely looking up in California.


Fresno Bee – U.S. Senate will just be another House after Gorsuch and the “nuclear option.


Sacramento Bee –- Republicans are putting Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court via a simple majority, thanks to the “nuclear option.” Now it’s a matter of time before the new rules cover controversial legislation, allowing the party to pass sweeping bills without broad public buy-in or compromise; Sites Reservoir should be part of a broad portfolio of waste water recycling, storm water capture, desalination, conservation and environmental protection. If Metropolitan Water District’s deep pockets help pay for that effort in the form of Sites Reservoir, the rest of us should welcome it.