May 18, 2017


Political Stories – Top stories


Trump’s man in Congress: Fewer on Capitol Hill are closer to President Trump than Bakersfield’s Kevin McCarthy — On paper, McCarthy is the second-most powerful member in the House after Speaker Paul Ryan, but in reality, no politician has more clout with the Trump White House than he does.  CALmatters article


George Skelton: Gov. Brown stiffed doctors, dentists and hospitals by not increasing provider fees with new tobacco tax money — The way Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing to spend — or not spend — the hefty new tobacco tax is an example of why citizens are so cynical about government and politics. Skelton column in LA Times


State budget


California budget panel seeks new limits on state tax board staffing and funding — Amid concern over management problems at California’s state tax board, a legislative panel recommended Wednesday that next year’s budget scale back an expansion of the agency’s staff and supported limits on the budgets of each of the four board members. LA Times article


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures


Free booze and celebrity appearances: How candidates for governor will court California Democrats this weekend – Top candidates to replace termed-out Gov. Jerry Brown will gather at the California Democratic Party’s annual convention later this week, giving the most crucial speeches of their campaigns to date, courting activists and wooing donors and powerful party leaders. LA Times article


Jolted by Trump, Orange County Democrats see a shot at victory on GOP turf — Despite the vocal optimism from activists and local dissatisfaction with Trump, it will be an uphill battle for Democrats to flip the four heavily Republican congressional districts in Orange County, all but one of which the incumbent won in 2016 by double digits. LA Times article


Joel Fox: AG Becerra: Lifting the poor will boost the economy –At a Sacramento Press Club appearance this week, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra claimed California has the “secret sauce for economic success.” The formula includes growing the economy by boosting lower income individuals and immigrants. However, that secret sauce contains some bitter ingredients that has left many behind.  Fox in Fox & Hounds




Arrests on civil immigration charges are up 38 percent in 100 days since Trump’s executive order – Federal immigration agents have arrested more than 40,000 people on civil immigration charges since President Trump signed executive orders expanding the scope of deportation priorities in January, a 38% increase over the same period last year. LA Times article; AP article


Livingston becomes Merced County’s first ‘sanctuary city’ – A heated meeting ended Tuesday night at City Hall in Livingston with a divided council formally declaring the city a ‘sanctuary’ for undocumented immigrants, prompting cheering and hugging in the audience. The Livingston City Council voted 3-2, becoming the first city in Merced County to choose a side in an ongoing national debate. Merced Sun-Star article


Trump reassures farmers immigration crackdown not aimed at their workers – President Donald Trump said he would seek to keep his tough immigration enforcement policies from harming the U.S. farm industry and its largely immigrant workforce, according to farmers and officials who met with him. Reuters article


Special breaks for refugees would include state jobs, in-state tuition – If approved by the state Senate and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the legislation would make all refugees eligible for in-state tuition at community colleges as soon as they arrive in California. It could also give preference for state government jobs to Special Immigrant Visa, or SIV, holders who had worked with the U.S. military in Iraq or Afghanistan. Sacramento Bee article


Immigrants’ fear cited in declining food stamp use in San Francisco – Since the election, fewer eligible San Franciscans are taking advantage of food stamp benefits because of fears about immigration crackdowns under the Trump administration, said Trent Rhorer, executive director of San Francisco’s Human Services Agency. San Francisco Chronicle article


Other areas


Housing crisis causes legislative avalanche: 130 bills proposed in Sacramento –Home prices keep rising to shocking levels around the Bay Area, while rents remain out of sight. Now, state lawmakers in Sacramento are responding with a torrent of proposals. Legislators have introduced about 130 bills to address what has become a statewide housing crisis. The sheer quantity “is unprecedented,” said Jason Rhine, legislative representative for the League of California Cities. San Jose Mercury News article


Timber! Loggers hope to fire up chain saws with help of Trump, GOP-run Congress — Western timber industry leaders have new hope for easier logging in national forests, aided by their Capitol Hill allies and perhaps the still-shorthanded Trump administration. McClatchy Newspapers article
‘I am sorry’: Assemblyman drops effort to end communist ban in California government – Under pressure from California’s large Vietnamese community, Assemblyman Rob Bonta has pulled a bill to repeal a Red Scare-era law allowing California governments to fire public employees for being communists. Sacramento Bee article


Wisconsin and California lawmakers take aim at ‘stealthing’ — Democratic lawmakers in at least two states want to criminalize “stealthing,” in which someone removes a condom or another contraceptive device without permission during intercourse. Wisconsin state Rep. Melissa Sargent and California state Rep. Cristina Garcia both say exposing partners to the risk of a sexually transmitted disease or an unwanted pregnancy without their knowledge amounts to sexual assault and should be treated as such under the law. AP article


Presidential Politics


Robert Mueller, former FBI director, named special counsel for Russia investigation – The Justice Department has appointed Robert S. Mueller III, the former F.B.I. director, to serve as a special counsel to oversee its investigation into Russian meddling in the election, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein announced on Wednesday. New York Times article; LA Times article; Washington Post article; AP article


House majority leader to colleagues in 2016: ‘I think Putin pays’ Trump – A month before Donald Trump clinched the Republican nomination, one of his closest allies in Congress — House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy — made a politically explosive assertion in a private conversation on Capitol Hill with his fellow GOP leaders: that Trump could be the beneficiary of payments from Russian President Vladimir Putin. Washington Post article; Bakersfield Californian article; New York Times article


Nunes backs Trump as scandals mount – President Donald Trump’s style “sometimes causes problems for him,” but he’s simply facing the backlash that comes with trying to “drain the swamp,” the head of the powerful House Intelligence Committee told the Times-Delta Wednesday. Visalia Times-Delta article; Fresno Bee article


Trump’s pick for a top Interior post has sued the agency on behalf of powerful California water interests — When President Trump nominated David Bernhardt for the No. 2 spot at the Interior Department, the administration cited his extensive expertise. What the announcement failed to mention was that much of that experience was lobbying and doing legal work to elude or undermine Interior Department policies and protections. LA Times article; Sacramento Bee editorial


Strong economic outlook may help cushion Trump through economic turmoil — After days of brushing aside the political turmoil engulfing Trump’s presidency, Wall Street finally took notice and sent stocks reeling Wednesday in their worst drubbing in months. Whether the retreat marks a reset of investors’ sentiments remains to be seen, but there’s one important thing Trump has going for him that some of his similarly embattled predecessors did not: The economy looks pretty good and many signs point to even better days ahead. LA Times article


8 reasons that GOP leaders haven’t deserted Trump — The latest controversies rocking the White House have not seemed to stir Republican leaders to any new level of urgency. New York Times article


California state legislator introduces legislation calling for Trump’s resignation or impeachment –The California Legislature has readily embraced its status as vanguard of the “resistance” against President Trump. Now, a Silicon Valley Democrat is ramping up that opposition with a formal measure calling for Trump’s removal from office. Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) introduced a resolution on Wednesday asking the president to resign from office — and if he doesn’t, calling on Congress to impeach him. LA Times article;


Antonio Villaraigosa: Donald Trump ‘should and will be impeached if he doesn’t resign’ – Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa, a candidate for California governor, said Wednesday that President Donald Trump should quit or be impeached if media reports on his activities are accurate. Sacramento Bee article;


Trump’s first full education budget: Deep cuts to public school programs in pursuit of school choice — Funding for college work-study programs would be cut in half, public-service loan forgiveness would end and hundreds of millions of dollars that public schools could use for mental health, advanced coursework and other services would vanish under a Trump administration plan to cut $10.6 billion from federal education initiatives, according to budget documents obtained by The Washington Post. Washington Post article


The right builds an alternative narrative about the crisis around Trump – Enemies from within have launched a “deep-state” smear campaign, news organizations are acting with ulterior motives, and the worst attacks are yet to come. Pushing back against the biggest threat so far to Donald Trump’s young presidency, his most fervent supporters are building alternative narratives to run alongside the “establishment” media account — from relatively benign diversions to more bizarre conspiracies. New York Times article


California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Stories

Top Stories


Hanford attracting medical pot interest –Now that the Hanford City Council seems willing to accommodate them, more and more medical pot-related businesses are expressing a desire to come to Hanford’s industrial park. Hanford Sentinel article


You could fill Shasta Lake 7 times with farm groundwater pumped during state drought – Central Valley farmers pumped enough groundwater to fill an empty Shasta Lake seven times in order to keep their profitable orchards alive during California’s epic five-year drought. Sacramento Bee article


Jobs and the Economy


Tejon Ranch CEO Gregory Bielli: 11 layoffs this week at the southern Kern County company were a ‘necessary step’ – Tejon Ranch Co. laid off 11 employees Monday in what it said was a difficult but necessary response to less than favorable agricultural and commodity prices, including tepid prices for crude oil. Bakersfield Californian article


How much income do you need to afford a house in Fresno County? – How much annual income do you need to afford a median-priced house in Fresno County? About $49,000. That would have been enough to get you in the door of a $238,000 home in the first three months of this year, according to the California Association of Realtors. By California standards, that’s pretty cheap. Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article


Report: Tourism spending spikes in Central Valley — Visitors to the Central Valley spent more than $1.96 billion in Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties last year, according to a new report that local tourism officials say forecasts good things to come. The Business Journal article


Johnson on a mission to revitalize downtown Hanford –Dwarfed by the gym beside it, the size of the Main Street Hanford office gives a false impression of the amount of work this program does. With only two full-time staff members, Main Street Hanford’s office is furnished with just two desks and a conference table. However, when it comes to projects, it is the program’s “heart” – its many volunteers – who get the job done. Hanford Sentinel article


Bowling, laser tag, booze – new Bakersfield fun center to have it all, in 45,000 square feet – The 45,000-plus-square-foot venue will occupy the long-vacant Home Base building on Buck Owens Boulevard and feature 22 “state-of-the-art” bowling lanes, 60 interactive arcade games, a two-story locally themed laser tag arena, three bars, huge patio area, full “gastro-pub-style” menu and two bocce ball courts — what even is bocce ball, by the way? Bakersfield Californian article


Region’s home inventory up, but not for these buyers, report says – Some home-for-sale inventory gains were seen throughout the greater Sacramento region in April, but the number of available entry-level homes continues to lag, according to new figures reported by Lyon Real Estate. Sacramento Bee article


U.S. household debt tops 2008 peak, but this time Americans’ finances are better – The recovery from the Great Recession has hit a milestone: Total household debt climbed to $12.73 trillion in the first quarter to top the peak reached in 2008 before the housing market crash and severe economic downturn led to a historic reduction, according to government data released Wednesday.  LA Times article


California to get additional $66 million in Volkswagen deals – California will receive an additional $66 million from Volkswagen under the latest deals approved by a judge overseeing lawsuits stemming from the automaker’s emissions cheating scandal. AP article;


More organizations join in opposition to LA’s 2024 Olympic bid – A political organization that is opposing Los Angeles’ bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics announced Wednesday that it has been joined by eight other groups. LA Times article


Did the Sacramento County assessor and her staff get lower tax bills? – Sacramento County has ordered three investigations this year into the office of Assessor Kathleen Kelleher, who resigned Friday and cited health reasons, The Sacramento Bee has learned. Sacramento Bee article


State worker’s bosses ignored his allergies. Now he’s $3 million richer — A Caltrans employee in Nevada County who claimed his supervisors harassed him by ignoring his documented allergies to perfume and certain cleaning products will receive a $3 million payout from a lawsuit he filed against the state. Sacramento Bee article




Experts: Nut prices, not water, account for swing in ag land values – Over the past year-and-a-half, demand for U.S.-grown nuts has softened, and with it the values of ag land in the Valley, said Fumasi and other local real estate experts. Certainly, there were a number of factors involved, “but one of the most critical was a rapid rise in tree nut prices and tree nut profitability,” he said during his presentation last month on the Fresno County Economic Development Corporation’s 2017 Real Estate Forecast. The Business Journal article


Some Fresno residents couldn’t believe what was in their water.  Now they’re suing – A second group of northeast Fresno residents are suing the city over water problems – including lead and discoloration – that they say lasted for years before officials took concerted action to solve the concerns. Fresno Bee article


Oroville Dam spillway shutting for summer repairs — Water will stop flowing from Oroville Dam’s badly damaged spillway on Friday, in the hopes it’s the last time it will be used before the next rainy season. Sacramento Bee article


Funding needed for drought relief – Local advocates are calling on Gov. Jerry Brown to make funding available and address the need for clean drinking water in the San Joaquin Valley. Visalia Times-Delta article


Bee industry buzzing: Stolen hives recovered in California –The bee industry is buzzing over the arrest of a man accused of stealing thousands of hives worth nearly $1 million from California’s almond orchards in one of the biggest such thefts on record. The case has thrown a spotlight on a business many city slickers probably never knew existed: Beekeepers in the U.S. move their colonies around the country by truck and rent them out to farmers to pollinate their flowering crops. AP article


Criminal Justice/Prisons


Hate crime not ruled out in slaying of transgender woman in Fresno –Police have not ruled out a hate crime in the early morning slaying of a transgender woman who was shot multiple times in Fresno, Police Chief Jerry Dyer said Wednesday, adding that he has directed detectives to solve the case “very quickly.” Fresno Bee article


VIPER money played key role in massive gang sweep in Merced, officials say — Last week’s Operation Scrapbook went off without a hitch, but county officials say it wouldn’t have been possible without VIPER, a program signed into California’s budget by the governor. Merced Sun-Star article


Keith Foster denies he was a drug ‘kingpin’ when he was Fresno’s deputy police chief –Keith Foster said Wednesday he was no drug “kingpin” when he was Fresno’s deputy police chief, and he blamed politics and the press for his downfall. In five hours of testimony spread over two days in his federal drug trafficking case, Foster tried to portray himself as a good cop whose actions were misunderstood and whose career was unjustly ruined. Fresno Bee article


CHP probes video for clues into crash that killed Stanislaus County employees – In its investigation into the wreck that killed two Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department employees on Saturday, a California Highway Patrol spokesman said Wednesday his agency is looking at several clips of surveillance videos to try to figure out just what happened. Modesto Bee article


Jeff Jardine: Rules prevent fallen community service officer from place among sworn at Lakewood – When Mary Ann Donahou was struck by a car and killed while gathering shell casings following a shooting in Hughson in 2011, the question arose: How should a crime scene technician killed in the line of duty be memorialized?Jardine column in Modesto Bee


Somber procession brings deputy’s body home — Wiping away tears of grief outside the DeYoung Memorial Chapel on California Street, Melanie Ou said her Sreouy “Phillip” Khin was the greatest spouse anyone could have. Stockton Record article


Carmen George: This cop loves being a cop, even after being stabbed in the head by a knife-wielding attacker — When the knife smashed into his skull, Fresno police Officer Jon Linzey thought he was being struck by a fist. The reality of what was happening rushed at him seconds later as blood flowed down his face and into his eyes, blurring his vision as he fought to stay alive. George in Fresno Bee


Carmen George: This cop arrived just in time to save a disabled man stuck on railroad tracks — Fresno Police Officer Arturo “Art” Rivera had about 30 seconds to save an elderly disabled man’s life. The man’s electric wheelchair was stuck in loose rocks beside railroad tracks near Fresno City College last summer as a train barreled toward him. He rocked back and forth, trying desperately to get out of danger’s path, to no avail. He didn’t yell for help, but Rivera spotted him and knew he needed some. George in Fresno Bee


Merced sheriff meets with Atwater officials to discuss inmate escape –The Merced County Sheriff said he met with prison officials on Tuesday morning to discuss the best ways to handle any future inmate escapes from the federal prison in Atwater. Merced Sun-Star article


LA sheriff says feds should restore military gear for police — The leader of the nation’s largest sheriff’s department said Wednesday that federal officials should restore the flow of surplus military equipment to local law enforcement agencies to ensure officers aren’t put in danger when responding to active shooter calls and terrorist attacks. AP article




UC Regents to consider audit, out-of-state enrollment cap – The governing board of one of the most prestigious public university systems in the country is scheduled to vote on a proposal to cap out-of-state undergraduate enrollment at 18 percent. AP article


Students protesting hidden funds shut down UC Regents meeting –Dozens of University of California students and workers briefly shut down a meeting of the UC regents Wednesday, protesting revelations that the president’s office kept $175 million in secret funds as it raised tuition.  San Francisco Chronicle article; LA Times article


Nan Austin: Phish bait: As kids get laptops, how do schools keep them safe in cyberspace? – As the latest cyberattack spread Monday, the ransomware targeting Microsoft, Hughson Unified was among the school districts breathing easy. The 1,760 laptops in the hands of the most phishing-vulnerable folks in the district would be fine. The kids have Chromebooks. And when it does get hit by a cyberattack, as it did in recent weeks, the company’s full resources deploy, said Ross Middle School teacher Jeff Welch. Austin in Modesto Bee


Major changes could come to LA schools after charter school movement’s big win — Supporters of charter schools appeared to win control of the Los Angeles school board Tuesday, a watershed moment with huge implications for how students are taught in America’s second-largest school district. LA Times article


Visalia natives earn Fresno State top honors – Two Visalia natives were selected by California State University Fresno faculty members as Dean’s Graduate Medalists – a top honor among graduates. Visalia Times-Delta article


Researchers, advocates divided over reclassifying English learners — Researchers and language experts have long criticized the subjectivity and variations in criteria that California districts have used to determine when English learners are proficient in English. But proposed legislation to create uniform, statewide standards for doing so has hit a snag, with some of the nation’s leading academic experts expressing strong opposition to the bill. EdSource article


Student slips laxative pills into teacher’s coffee; school officials not laughing — An eighth-grade student at Jack G. Desmond Middle School in Madera has been suspended after reportedly putting laxative or diruretic pills into a teacher’s coffee drink when she wasn’t looking. Fresno Bee article


‘We want them to realize that their future begins today.’ Sixth Grade Summit at Bessie Owens enlists police, dancers and musicians to entertain – Bakersfield Police Department Capt. Joe Mullins stood in front of 180 sixth-graders and asked questions that would surely be answered differently in another part of town.Bakersfield Californian article


Ensuring college readiness at Hanford Joint Union High School District — Earlier in the school year, high schools in the state received a college readiness block grant, and Hanford Joint Union High School District has developed new programs with the money to ensure students are ready for college when they leave Hanford area high schools. Hanford Sentinel article


California fraternity faces charges after trees cut down –Federal authorities have charged a fraternity at California State University, Chico with illegally cutting down dozens of trees in a national forest during an initiation of new pledges, the U.S. Forest Service said. The complaint was filed Tuesday against the school’s Pi Kappa Alpha chapter and its president, Evan Jossey. AP article; LA Times article




Experts measure food waste not in dollars or tons, but by the toll it takes on Americans’ health — You may have heard that Americans waste more than 38 million tons of food each year, or that the value all this discarded food adds up to about $165 billion annually. That’s bad enough, but consider this: If all that lost food were put on people’s plates, it would be enough to provide more than 190 million adults with 2,000 calories of energy every day, according to a new report in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. LA Times article


Land Use/Housing


San Francisco takes step toward housing all homeless veterans – San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee stood in the lobby of a newly opened, supportive-housing complex Wednesday, and surrounded by dozens of military veterans just rescued from the street to live there, pledged to end chronic homelessness among their comrades by the end of the year. San Francisco Chronicle article


All San Francisco can walk to a park in 10 minutes. For Sacramento, it depends — Sacramento’s goal is to have a park within a half-mile of every resident, but there are big disparities and older neighborhoods such as Fruitridge/Broadway and south Sacramento fall short, The Bee’s Foon Rhee wrote when last year’s rankings were releasedSacramento Bee article




Bakersfield celebrates Highway 178 widening, latest Thomas Roads Improvement Program project to be completed — As cars whizzed by on the new lanes, former Congressman Bill Thomas joked with Bakersfield City Manager Alan Tandy during the Highway 178 widening project completion ceremony Wednesday. You got a freeway, and we finally got extra lanes, he quipped to the city manager, who lives on the west side of Bakersfield. Bakersfield Californian article


Other areas


Tubbs ready for his State of the City twinbill — Daytime today will follow the traditional “State of the City” slate, with 800 or so community members gathering in a warehouse at the Port of Stockton to hobnob, listen to speeches and eat $40 catered lunches. The evening, however, will bring something new — a free-to-the-public forum at University of the Pacific’s 872-seat Faye Spanos Concert Hall featuring live music, a panel discussion and even a couple of celebrities. Stockton Record article; Stockton Record editorial


Stood for years, dismantled in moments: Cal Water tower comes down — The water tower stood over south Stockton for 75 years, but it took less than 9 minutes on Wednesday for construction workers to bring it down. Stockton Record article


Valley Editorial Roundup


Fresno Bee – Democratic legislators purport to defend foster kids, poor children who receive subsidized school lunches and English-language learners. So they should have readily supported legislation that would have allowed those students to attend the public school of their choice. They didn’t; David Bernhardt, a Westlands Water District lobbyist, is in line to become the No. 2 person in Donald Trump’s Interior Department. Senators must seek assurances that he won’t enrich past clients.


Modesto Bee – Special counsel is the best way to get to the bottom of the Trump-Russia connecton.


Sacramento Bee –- David Bernhardt, a Westlands Water District lobbyist, is in line to become the No. 2 person in Donald Trump’s Interior Department. Senators must seek assurances that he won’t enrich past clients; It’s time for President Trump and James Comey to come clean.


Stockton Record — The idea to double Stockton’s State of the City options is a solid one. We would like it to be continued in the future — regardless of who is in the mayor’s office.