August 26, 2016


Political Stories

Top stories

Farmworker overtime bill postponed — In a dramatic public escalation of the political dispute over a bill to give farmworkers more overtime pay, the leader of the California Assembly vowed to laborers massed outside the legislative chambers Thursday that he would champion the issue after an expected vote failed to materialize. Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article; KQED report

Dan Walters: Bill on State Bar dues displays Legislature’s cross-Capitol friction — While cross-Capitol rivalry often flares during the final daysof any session, even though Democrats dominate both houses, this year’s version is particularly sharp. In part, it’s institutional. The Assembly is becoming more assertive in challenging the Senate’s recent status as the more dominant house. In part, it’s ideological, with a bloc of moderate, pro-business Democrats setting the Assembly apart from the more liberal Senate. In part, it’s personal, with clashes of personality between the leadership cadres of both houses. Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Gov. Brown

Sacramento Bee: Hey, Margaret, wait for the tone — The recording of the governor’s call to Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims got us imagining our own Brown-style law-and-order voicemails. Sacramento Bee editorial

Valley politics

City Beat: ‘Who you gonna call?’ ask Goh and Carter — Your ears weren’t playing tricks on you at Tuesday’s mayoral forum. Mayoral candidate Karen Goh really did make a “Ghostbusters” reference. And mayoral candidate Kyle Carter really did borrow it moments later to get one of the biggest rounds of applause of the night. Bakersfield Californian article

Stockton council candidate may seek new prosecution — City Council candidate Sam Fant, who is charged with conspiracy and election fraud, said Thursday that he may request the San Joaquin County District Attorney’s Office be removed as the agency prosecuting his case. Stockton Record article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Reining in drug prices now up to voters with Prop 61 — A ballot measure in November would prohibit state agencies from paying more for drugs than the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The campaign for Proposition 61, backed by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in Los Angeles, is shaping up to be the most expensive one for a measure in California’s history. San Francisco Chronicle article

Bakersfield California: Vote ‘no’: Prop 53 is not taxpayer ‘protection’ — The wealthy Stockton farmer who is bankrolling Prop. 53 on the November ballot would have us believe his “No Blank Checks Initiative” is all about stopping legislators and government officials from driving up the state’s debt. In reality, it is his ploy to stop the construction of a state public works project that he opposes: the construction of water diversion tunnels through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Bakersfield Californian editorial

California teachers union to push bilingual education proposition — The California Teachers Association is on board with Proposition 58, the initiative to roll back a nearly two-decade-old limit on bilingual education in the state according to its chief proponent, state Sen. Ricardo Lara. Sacramento Bee article

Other areas

Bill to install breathalyzers in DUI offenders’ cars goes to Gov. Jerry Brown – Californians arrested for driving under the influence will have to temporarily install breathalyzers in their vehicles to get their driver’s licenses back under a measure headed to Gov. Jerry Brown. Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article

California would build database of violent deaths under bill sent to governor – Californians might soon be able to look up data on violent deaths in the state if the governor signs a bill the state Senate sent him Thursday. LA Times article

Developer incentive to build low-income housing passes state Senate — A measure to expand incentives for developers who agree to build low-income housing cleared the state Senate on Thursday. LA Times article

Assemblymember Adam Gray: It’s time to stop the cheaters from stealing from businesses, workers – The Merced Democrat writes, “Thanks to support from the California Chamber of Commerce, California’s counties, and labor unions representing honest, hard-working Californians, AB 1244 has a good chance of making it to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. And given Brown’s record of cracking down hard on fraud of all kinds, I am confident he will sign AB 1244 into law.” Gray op-ed in Merced Sun-Star

Votes pile up during final days of legislative session – Lawmakers have been voting fast and furious, rushing between floor sessions and committees. Through midweek, there had been more than 1,200 votes on the floor and almost 1,800 votes in committee in the weeks since lawmakers returned from their summer recess Aug. 1, according to legislative data. Sacramento Bee article

Cancer claims Greg Schmidt, California Senate’s top staffer for 18 years — Greg Schmidt, the state Senate’s chief administrator for 18 years, died Wednesday night after what friends described as a brief battle with cancer. He was 69. Schmidt was a career legislative staffer, mostly as a top aide to his long-time friend, Bill Lockyer, during the latter’s legislative career. Both had been aides to East Bay legislator Bob Crown, whom Lockyer succeeded in 1973. Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article

After opposition from Mayor Eric Garcetti and others, bill to restructure LA County MTA is shelves for year — Facing growing opposition from the political establishment, a state lawmaker has dropped a bill for the year that would have reorganized the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board to give more voice to the dozens of small cities in the county. LA Times article

State Sen. John Moorlach: State should focus on roads instead of creating retirement plans – The Orange County Republican writes, “With poorly maintained roads, severely underfunded pensions and a high-speed rail boondoggle, the Legislature has plenty of fixing to do before it pursues another ‘do good and feel good’ social program.” Moorlach op-ed in Sacramento Bee

California agency drops probe of former Sen. Ron Calderon — With former state Sen. Ronald Calderon having pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges in June, the state’s campaign finance watchdog agency said Thursday that it is dropping its investigation into whether he violated political finance rules. LA Times article

Presidential Politics

Poll finds rejection of many of Trump’s views on immigration – A new Pew Research Center poll finds Americans broadly rejecting many of Donald Trump’s views on immigration, at a time when Trump is striking a markedly different tone on the issue to make inroads with minority voters and turn around depressed poll numbers generally. Washington Post article

Boxer predicts Hillary Clinton will ‘whip’ Donald Trump in debate — U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer told a Fresno banquet hall filled mostly with women Thursday that they have to be tough to run for political office, and later said no one should question Hillary Clinton’s strength in this presidential campaign. Fresno Bee article

Trump sounds a lot like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio on immigration – sort of – For more than a year, Donald Trump took the hardest line on immigration – vowing to deport 11 million illegal immigrants en masse and pillorying his GOP primary rivals as favoring “amnesty.” But 11 weeks before the election, Trump is suddenly sounding a lot like the opponents he repeatedly ridiculed. Washington Post article

Angelo Haddad: Coarseness trumps corruption: It’s about the Supreme Court, folks! – The lifelong Bakersfield resident writes, “This election comes down to a choice between a highly successful businessman who is an egocentric narcissist and a self-serving corrupt politician who is a pathological liar. Comparing a Donald J. Trump presidency to a Hillary R. Clinton presidency is akin to equating double parking with hit and run! The next president will likely appoint one or more justices to the Supreme Court over the next four to eight years. Judicial restraint vs. judicial activism hangs in the balance. Haddad op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

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News Stories

Top Stories

Visalia-based solar firm soars in Inc. 500 business-growth rankings – A Visalia-based solar company has roared into the uppermost ranks of fast-growing businesses since it was founded just four years ago. CalCom Solar was ranked third on Inc. magazine’s Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing private companies. Fresno Bee article

Waste, ethics violations by state workers uncovered by auditor — The state auditor on Thursday blasted various California agencies for ethics violations and wasteful practices, including the failure to collect nearly $315,000 in rent and utilities over five years from tenants of a mobile home park owned by Caltrans. LA Times article; AP article; Sacramento Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Kiplinger: California is nation’s least tax-friendly state – again – California defended its dubious title as the nation’s least tax-friendly state on Kiplinger’s 2016 list evaluating all 50 states. Sacramento Bee article

Employees of teachers’ union picket to negotiate retirement fix – Employees of the California Teacher’s Association held a rally outside the union’s headquarters on 10th Street Thursday, calling on the union to “secure” their pension benefits. Sacramento Bee article

After federal ruling, California on the verge of creating state-run IRA – The U.S. Department of Labor adopted a landmark rule Thursday that will let states set up retirement accounts for private-sector workers who don’t have access to employer-sponsored plans, such as a 401(k). The move could have a resounding impact on California, where the Legislature is on the verge of passing a bill that would create this type of state-run plan. San Francisco Chronicle article

Fresno bond debts upgraded by ratings service — A large chunk of bonded debt carried by the city of Fresno has been upgraded to investment grade in a credit opinion issued Thursday by Moody’s Investor Service. Fresno Bee article

Fresno cash home sales rose in May – Cash sales accounted for 30 percent of total U.S. home sales in May, down 2.5 percent year over year from May 2015, according to the latest report from CoreLogic. But in Fresno, the cash sales share increased for the month of May over the same period last year and sits at 23.3 percent, a 1.4 percent increase compared with May 2015. The Business Journal article

Homeless encampment near I-5 cleared out – for now – Every three or four weeks, some 60 homeless people living along Mormon Slough pack up as much as they can carry by 7 a.m. and relocate to other areas nearby. Not long after they have vacated the area they have dubbed “the path,” Caltrans arrives and clears out debris and any personal belongings left behind. Stockton Record article

Outreach workers offer help to homeless light-rail passengers – Ramos, 26, is an Army veteran and actor. Since February, he has worked for a new partnership between Sacramento Regional Transit and Sacramento Steps Forward, the region’s lead agency working to end homelessness. He approaches homeless people on trains, at light-rail stations and in homeless camps near light-rail lines. His mission: to connect people with services and housing. Sacramento Bee article

Proteus Inc. CEO in Visalia to retire after 32-year career — Michael E. McCann, chief executive officer of Proteus Inc. in Visalia, will retire Sept. 2 after more than 32 years at the nonprofit organization. He has served as CEO since 2000. Robert Alcazar, executive director and chief operating officer, will succeed McCann, the organization announced Thursday. Fresno Bee article


Fresno Irrigation District extends season through September — Fresno Irrigation District has extended its season through September. The district board OK’d the extension at its Aug. 16 meeting. Gary Serrato, the district’s general manager, said the extra water is because FID has received more water than expected from Kings River runoff and extra allocation from Millerton Lake. Fresno Bee article

Agency gives Oakdale Irrigation District the OK to annex, provide water to border parcels – The Oakdale Irrigation District can annex and provide water to 1,070 acres in 14 scattered parcels on its borders north and east of Oakdale, a growth-guiding agency decided Wednesday, setting aside irksome memories of fallout from OID’s 2013 annexation of mega-grower Trinitas Farming. Modesto Bee article

San Fernando Valley will soon store 5 billion gallons of stormwater – The Tujunga Spreading Grounds may look like a vast, barren plot of dirt. But it’s what’s beneath the dirt that matters. Earlier this week, officials brandished shiny shovels to break ground on a project there that they say will play a key role in bolstering the region’s water supply and protecting against future droughts. LA Times article

Citing late filing, judge may toss class-action lawsuit against Modesto Irrigation District — A judge is inclined to throw out one of two class-action lawsuits against the Modesto Irrigation District because it was filed 13 days after a statute of limitations expired, the judge said in a tentative ruling Thursday. Modesto Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Fewer ex-cons return to prison as crime rates remain steady –
Corrections officials say former California prison inmates are being arrested and convicted of new crimes at a relatively steady rate after release. But more are going to county jails instead of state prisons under a law that took effect nearly five years ago. AP article

Bill McEwen: How does Jerry Dyer celebrate 15 years as Fresno police chief? – The chief isn’t perfect. He’s made mistakes. We all do. He has his cheerleaders and his critics. But leading the police department in Fresno, a city fraught with serious economic and social challenges, for 15 years is, indeed, worth celebrating. McEwen in Fresno Bee

Obama’s lawyers challenge the money bail system: Can people be kept in jail just because they’re poor? — President Obama’s civil rights lawyers are seeking a potentially far-reaching ruling to hold that the Constitution forbids the common practice of keeping people in jail prior to a trial, even for minor offenses, just because they are too poor to pay for bail. LA Times article

Farmersville mayor arrested in domestic violence call — Farmersville Mayor Gregorio “Greg” Gomez has been arrested on suspicion of domestic violence, police said Thursday. Fresno Bee article; Visalia Times-Delta article

Judge in Stanford case asks for more to civil cases — A California court said Thursday that a judge who was criticized for ordering a lenient six-month jail sentence in a rape case against a former Stanford University swimmer will no longer hear criminal matters by his own request. AP article; LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article

San Jose police officers found to be staying in RV’s outside HQ — With a police shortage in San Jose, coupled with mandatory overtime that adds up to 17-hour workdays, it turns out that at least a dozen officers are living in RVs outside of the San Jose Police Department. San Francisco Chronicle article


Cal State system pushes students in graduate in four years, improve low completion rates – Now, the California State University trustees are scheduled to adopt plans in September that would aim to dramatically boost those rates by 2025. For the system, the trustees are discussing preliminary targets as high as 35 percent for freshmen graduating in four years and as high as 70 percent by six years. Even higher targets are under consideration for transfer students. EdSource article

Kern students improve test scores, but lag behind state – Kern County students made marginal improvements on their state standardized test scores this year, but are still trending below the state average. Overall, about 62 percent of county students failed to meet state standards in English, 10 percentage points more than the state average. In math, 75 percent of students didn’t meet state standards, compared to the 63 percent state average. Bakersfield Californian article

Good news on school test scores can’t disguise achievement gap – Students in every grade and every ethnic group improved over last school year, and yet African American, Latino and economically disadvantaged children lagged well behind their white, Asian American and wealthier peers. This gap remains firmly embedded in California’s schools despite billions of dollars in federal and state spending and the best efforts of the brightest minds in education. San Francisco Chronicle article

Fresno State invests $86.5 million in campus infrastructure – As the new semester begins at Fresno State, campus construction continues with more than $86.5 million in improvement projects completed or underway. The Business Journal article

Sacramento State chief starts year by asking students to ‘Finish in Four’ – Sacramento State President Robert S. Nelsen used his fall address Thursday to emphasize his drive to get students to graduate within four years, a benchmark that very few at the school have accomplished in recent years. Sacramento Bee article

Mobile farm brings ag life to students — Though Campus Park Elementary is in the heart of California where milk is a top commodity, Thursday was the first time many of the Livingston students ever saw or touched a cow. Merced Sun-Star article

How cuts are pushing college students out of state – Declines in state support for public universities have helped reshape the geography of college admissions, forcing many students to attend universities far from home, where they pay higher, out-of-state tuition. An analysis of migration patterns among college freshmen shows the states students leave each year and where they go. New York Times article

With huge endowment, LA Community College looks to give more students a shot in music — Thanks to a $10.1 million donation, hundreds of music majors at the Los Angeles City College will be able to study for free starting next fall. KPCC report


Cedar Fire at more than 26,000 acres, 15 percent contained — The Cedar Fire grew another 3,000 acres from Wednesday evening into Thursday for a total of 26,135 acres at 15 percent containment, according to fire officials. Bakersfield Californian article; Fresno Bee article; Visalia Times-Delta article

The future of national parks is going to be a lot hotter – Parks are projected to have summers that are 8-12°F hotter by 2100. That means currently cool mountainous parks could be as hot as the plains. Parks in the Southeast, already a pretty hot place, will face even more extreme temperatures with a climate more like southern Texas. And otherworldly Joshua Tree National Park in southern California will face the greatest geographical climate shift, with temperatures more like Abu Dhabi by 2100. KQED report

Destruction from Italy quake a grave warning for California’s old brick buildings — Surveying the devastation of centuries-old villages pummeled by a major earthquake in central Italy this week, it’s easy for Californians to think that the more modern buildings here would better survive the shaking. But seismic experts and structural engineers say there remain many buildings across California that could not withstand the type of magnitude 6.2 temblor that on Wednesday hit Amatrice and other rural villages in the Apennine Mountains that form Italy’s spine. LA Times article

Despite pleas and amid 20,000 comments, frogs get designated habitat — The Fish and Wildlife Service has stuck to its guns and is designating 1.8 million acres of mostly public California land as habitat critical for the preservation of the Yosemite toad and two frog species peculiar to the Sierra Nevada mountains. McClatchy Newspapers article

Health/Human Services

What the EpiPen price jump means to families with allergies – For some California families, the start of a new school year means it’s time to restock on EpiPens, the pocket-sized devices used to deliver a lifesaving antidote called epinephrine to people with severe allergies to food, insect stings or medications. When parents make the purchases this time, however, they may experience a severe reaction to the price tag, which has increased more than 600 percent during the last decade. Sacramento Bee article

California boy in legal fight dies after ventilator removed — In a swift end to a long legal battle, a brain-dead California toddler died Thursday after being taken off life support. A Los Angeles Superior Court judge made the surprise ruling to dissolve the restraining order keeping Israel Stinson on life support. AP article; Sacramento Bee article

Land Use/Housing

Fresno council Oks digital billboards along local highways — The Fresno City Council voted unanimously Thursday to approve a 20-year lease with Outfront Media to erect five digital billboards on four different city-owned properties around town. Fresno Bee article

Sign up or pay up: Kern to declare 76 Erskine Fire properties nuisances — Kern County is preparing to hit 76 property owners who lost their homes in the devastating Erskine Fire with orders to remove trash and fire debris from their land. But they can avoid the order — and costly penalties — by either cleaning up the mess or even better, signing a nine-page form letting the state do it for them for free. Bakersfield Californian article

They built towering new cities in China. Now they’re trying it in downtown LA – Chinese developers are pouring billions into the area, adding thousands of new residential units in soaring skyscrapers that will fundamentally change the city’s skyline. LA Times article

Other areas

Molly Day urges random acts of kindness – The city of Fresno has proclaimed Aug. 26 Molly Day, solidifying annual random acts of kindness in honor of Molly Griffin, who was killed by a drunken driver last year. Fresno Bee article

Modesto facing flap over flag contest? – When Julian Lopez Jr. heard Modesto may hold a design contest for the city’s first official flag, his response was: “We already have a city flag.” And Lopez – who retired from the city in 2009 as a planning assistant – should know. The City Council named his design in 1988 as the winner in a city flag competition. And his flag flew at City Hall and elsewhere in Modesto for years. Modesto Bee article

Women on the fire front lines – How do you house female and male firefighters overnight in the same quarters? The question has come to the forefront as more women join what was for decades considered to be a male-dominated profession. It’s not an academic question in Kings County. Four out of the 10 Kings County Fire Departments stations have barracks-style quarters, meaning there’s more than one bed in the same room, according to Kings County Fire Chief Bill Lynch. Hanford Sentinel article

Michael Fitzgerald: Michael McIlwrath’s Cold War divorce – Michael McIlwrath, raised in Stockton and living in Florence, Italy, wants to bring his son home to see his Stockton family. The U.S. government says no. The State Department refuses to say why. The reason presumably has to do with a high-profile, politically charged international child abduction case that made headlines in Italy and became a cause célèbre in Russia. Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Merced County Human Services Agency shows off new Castle site – When the county’s Human Services Agency first agreed to lease the old AT&T call center building at Castle Commerce Center, the building had an eerie feeling of abandonment. Now, inspirational quotes and photos of local scenes by local artists decorate the walls, new computers and modern desk chairs fill the space and hundreds of Merced County employees arrive every day, ready to help the thousands of clients who will walk through the doors each month. Merced Sun-Star article

Warren Kessler: Let’s do our best for Fresno youth – The professor emeritus at Fresno State writes, “With leadership and cooperation, Fresno can tap experts to help us identify best practices and strategies that work with children and teens across America. The opportunities to learn from others and tap movements already in practice are great.” Kessler op-ed in Fresno Bee

‘The cheapest buzz you can get on skid row’: Officials try to stop homeless from smoking spice after dozens sickened — Officials are scrambling to warn people about the drug, which can produce effects similar to those of marijuana but is actually a different plant material sprayed with a psychoactive chemical. Health experts say smoking spice is risky because it’s impossible to know what’s in each batch. LA Times article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – The California Supreme Court decision not to review Vergara cuts short an essential conversation on educational quality.

Sacramento Bee – The recording of the governor’s call to Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims got us imagining our own Brown-style law-and-order voicemails; Of all the wrongs meted out by the criminal justice system, few are more unfair to poor, mostly minority Americans than the way police abuse civil asset forfeiture laws.

Stockton Record – The local high school football season should be intriguing.