April 14, 2017


Political Stories

Top stories 

Rift opens between the Brown administration and legislators over new marijuana laws in California – A proposal by the Brown administration to revise marijuana laws in California is drawing backlash from lawmakers and police chiefs who say it would repeal rules approved by the Legislature two years ago and benefit the pot industry over the public. LA Times article 

California police unions push bill on public disclosure in use-of-force cases — California law enforcement unions are pushing a new law they say will increase public disclosure in cases involving police use of force, but the ACLU says the effort does little to peel back the curtain into police investigations of their own conduct. Sacramento Bee article

Gov. Brown 

Jerry Brown calls for probe into troubled tax board, restricts its spending, hiring — Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday asked the state Department of Justice to investigate California’s troubled Board of Equalization and severely restricted the tax agency’s ability to do business. Sacramento Bee article

Valley politics

Assemblyman Flora’s Modesto office broken into, vandalized — California Assemblyman Heath Flora’s district office in Modesto was broken into and vandalized early Thursday morning. Modesto Bee article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures 

Bill Whalen: Why Feinstein might not want six more years in the Senate – Befitting a political career that’s spanned almost five decades, let’s look at Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s prospects through the prisms of two television commercials that aired back when California’s senior senator was cutting her teeth on San Francisco city politics. Whalen column in Sacramento Bee 

Joel Fox: Progressive policy agenda could benefit with advanced primary election – While the focus on Sen. Ricardo Lara’s bill to move California’s presidential primary from June to an earlier date so as to increase the state’s influence in presidential contests, there is an overlooked aspect to the change that could also advance the progressive state issues cherished by the majority in the California legislature. Fox in Fox & Hounds


California debates whether to become a ‘sanctuary’ state — It’s a murder that is still driving debate nationally about so-called sanctuary cities. Thirty-two-year-old Kate Steinle was walking along the San Francisco waterfront on July 1, 2015, when shots rang out and she fell to the ground. KQED report 

ACLU sues for LA’s Trump travel ban enforcement records — The ACLU is suing the U.S. Department of Customs and Border Protection’s Los Angeles office for information about how LAX border patrol agents enforced President Donald Trump’s executive orders on immigration. KPPC report

Other areas 

Disrespected by Legislature – Dozens of small business owners went to Sacramento on April 4 to testify at the Assembly Judiciary Committee on behalf of Assembly Bill 150, a bill proposed by Assemblyman Devon Mathis (R-Visalia) dealing with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Before any of the business owners could testify, Assembly Judiciary Chairman Mark Stone (D-Monterey Bay) denied them their opportunity to speak. Hanford Sentinel article 

‘Mother of All Bombs’ was tested in Kern County — The powerful “Mother of All Bombs” U.S. forces dropped Thursday on an Islamic State tunnel complex in eastern Afghanistan was tested eight years ago for blast characterization at the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station in northeastern Kern County. Bakersfield Californian article 

Presidential Politics 

Is this a new Trump? Abrupt reversals may reflect experience – President Donald Trump is abruptly reversing himself on key issues. And for all his usual bluster, he’s startlingly candid about the reason: He’s just now really learning about some of them. AP article; New York Times article 

Trump’s land official meets with Brown: ‘We want to be the friendly, yep organization’ –Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, President Donald Trump’s chief land manager with control over vast amounts of the United States, met with Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday and discussed several California projects managed by his agency, but announced no immediate action. Sacramento Bee article 

Behind closed doors, Trump signs bill allowing states to strip federal family planning funds from abortion providers – President Trump signed legislation Thursday allowing states to withhold federal family planning dollars from clinics that provide abortion services, a move that could deprive Planned Parenthood and several other family groups of tens of millions in funding. Washington Post article

Trump has been easing Obama-era gun restrictions.  You just may not have heard — With little attention, President Donald Trump’s administration has been quietly loosening firearms restrictions in the United States after successfully seeking the support of gun owners on the campaign trail. His agencies narrowed the definition of “fugitive,” a change that cuts the number of people who’ll be included in a database designed to keep firearms from people who are barred from owning them. McClatchy Newspapers article

News Stories

Top Stories 

The price of safety on California’s bullet train is only now becoming apparent — Although construction on California’s high-speed rail is already underway, designers are still sorting out safety’s place in a delicate balance that also requires staying on budget and getting passengers from Los Angeles to San Francisco on time. One safety concern playing out at the moment stems from the fact that the bullet trains will run in some places at 220 mph, alongside lines carrying everything from toxic chemicals to military tanks. LA Times article 

Fresno State cancels lecturer’s classes next week after anti-Trump tweets — The Fresno State lecturer who is being investigated by the Secret Service after posting to Twitter about President Donald Trump will not be teaching his regular classes next week. On Thursday, Fresno State officials told students of Lars Maiskchak – who has taught history courses at the university since 2006 – that classes scheduled for Monday and Tuesday have been canceled “in an effort to minimize disruption and ensure campus safety.” Fresno Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Who pay the most and least income tax in California – Taxpayers in Los Angeles, Santa Clara, Orange, San Diego and San Francisco counties had the highest total federal tax liability – the amount of taxes owed – in 2014, the most recent data available, according to Internal Revenue Service statistics. In terms of average liability per return, seven Northern California counties – Marin, San Mateo, San Francisco, Santa Clara, Contra Costa, Napa and Alameda – lead the state. Sacramento Bee article 

Optimism increasing in local housing market – Bakersfield’s single-family housing market is on the upswing, say local real estate professionals, and there appears to be hard evidence to back up their bump in optimism. Bakersfield Californian article

New plan for state worker bonuses should mean a lower tax bite – California state workers won’t lose as much of their $2,500 bonus checks to taxes as they once thought. Reversing a previous decision, the State Controller’s Office is working to issue the bonuses in such a way that they won’t be taxed at a higher rate than workers normally see on their paychecks. Sacramento Bee article 

Mortgage rates tumble to lowest level of 2017 — Benchmark mortgage rates have fallen to their lowest levels of 2017, according to Thursday’s Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey. The average rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage loan was 4.08 percent, down two basis points. A 15-year fixed rate loan was 3.34 percent, sinking two basis points. And the average rate on a 5-year adjustable rate mortgage loan was 3.18 percent, down one basis point. San Jose Mercury News article

Tight home supply keeps driving up real estate prices in Bay Area and nation — After Denver and Seattle (where newly listed homes spent just eight days on market), Oakland and San Jose were the fastest-moving markets in the nation with 13 and 14 median days on market, respectively. What’s more, Redfin ranked the nation’s most competitive markets like this: No. 1, San Jose, where 69.6 percent of homes sold for more than their listing price; No. 2, San Francisco (66.7 percent); No. 3, Oakland (65.9 percent). No. 4 was Seattle (56.6 percent) and Tacoma, WA (44.4 percent).  San Jose Mercury News article 

Chasing higher returns, public pension funds spent $10 billion on investment in 2014 — State pension funds across the nation shelled out more than $10 billion in fees in 2014 as they chased higher returns from increasingly complex and risky investments, according to a new report from the PEW Charitable Trusts. Sacramento Bee article

California approves $91 million in tax breaks for 114 firms – A state economic development board on Thursday approved an $8 million tax credit for General Motors as the company looks to expand its autonomous vehicle division in San Francisco. AP article


San Joaquin rain stations seeing third wettest year on record – As of Thursday, 68.2 inches of precipitation had been tallied by the five-station index for the San Joaquin portion of the Sierra Nevada, the Department of Water Resources reported. An eight-station index for Northern California had tallied 89.7 inches as of Thursday, breaking that region’s 34-year-old record for precipitation. Merced Sun-Star article

Wet winter means Fresnans can water three times a week this summer – Fresno City Council members voiced no objections Thursday to allowing residents to water their landscaping up to three days a week during the hot summer, and two days a week during the milder spring and fall months. Fresno Bee article 

Wet winter sets participation record in Northern California – A series of late-season storms has vaulted this winter into the history books, making it the wettest winter for California’s northern Sierra Nevada in nearly a century of record-keeping, according to the California Department of Water Resources. As of Thursday, an astonishing 89.7 inches of precipitation across a zone of eight stations in the northern Sierra has been recorded since October. That breaks the record 88.5 inches that fell by the in the 1982-83 rainy season. LA Times article; Sacramento Bee article

Thunderstorm dumps nearly two inches of rain on Fresno airport in one hour – A thunderstorm rare in its intensity formed over Fresno Yosemite International Airport on Thursday and dropped nearly 2 inches of rain in one hour. Fresno Bee article

Officials plan to release water on damaged Oroville Dam spillway ahead of more wet weather –  As Northern California braces for more wet weather, state officials plan to resume releasing water down a damaged spillway at Oroville Dam. LA Times article

California’s water chief says he may release Oroville Dam documents after trying to keep them secret – California’s top water official said Thursday he’s considering releasing redacted copies of safety and progress reports at the troubled Oroville Dam after his office had tried to keep them secret because of terrorism concerns.  Sacramento Bee article

Why farmers getting more water won’t lower produce prices — Don’t expect more water to trickle down to lower prices in your local produce aisle. “You won’t notice,” said Daniel Sumner, a professor of agricultural economics at UC Davis. That’s because even during the driest days of the drought, farmers kept growing the kinds of high-value crops consumers buy in the grocery store, even if it meant pumping groundwater, he said. KPCC report

Almonds from Escalon fuel NASCAR driver – A longtime almond processor has launched a snack label aimed in part at motorsports fans. And it is sponsoring a stock car racer who is among the rising stars. Nut Up, an offshoot of the Roche family’s four-generation business, has 10 flavors of chopped almonds in 1.5-ounce bags available at many grocery stores. It is promoting them with the help of Dylan Lupton, a Sacramento-area product racing on the NASCAR Xfinity circuit this year. Modesto Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Corcoran prisoner evacuation plan scrutinized — As Corcoran prepares for the possibility of flooding, the question has come up: Where would Charles Manson and the thousands of other hardened criminals be taken to if the prisons were evacuated? There’s been some concern that the state might try to take inmates to the Kings Fairgrounds, according to Joe Neves, Kings County Office of Emergency Services director. Hanford Sentinel article

New prison parole overhaul guidelines win initial approval from California regulators – California state regulators have given their initial approval to a new set of guidelines that expand the credits inmates can earn for demonstrating good behavior and completing rehabilitation programs behind bars. LA Times article

Fresno police get offices in Tower District, northeast part of city — The City Council on Thursday approved lease agreements for the Fresno Police Department to open a pair of small report-writing offices: one in the Tower District in central Fresno, the other on East Shaw Avenue near northeast Fresno’s El Dorado Park neighborhood west of Fresno State. Fresno Bee article

Sacramento Bee: Why bill parents for locking up their kids? –Sacramento County is the latest to stop charging fees for juvenile detention and probation. More officials are concluding that the fees are self-defeating because many of the juveniles come from poor families and the fees add up quickly for families struggling to pay the rent. Sacramento Bee editorial

Corrections officer arrested as part of Stockton gang investigation — Stockton Police on Thursday announced the results of a gang sweep, and among those arrested was an employee of the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office, officials said Thursday.  Stockton Record article

DA: No charges for San Francisco officers who fatally shot 20-year-old from behind — There is insufficient evidence to criminally charge two plainclothes San Francisco police officers who fatally shot a 20-year-old Guatemalan immigrant from behind more than two years ago, the city’s district attorney announced on Wednesday.  KQED report


Bakersfield Californian: Bringing education to those who crave it – Arvin, among the most economically depressed communities in the state, is on the verge of a breakthrough: access to higher education. Arvin has been pushing for a Bakersfield College satellite campus in the town center for a decade now, and on Thursday the Kern Community College District formally signaled its willingness to oblige them. Bakersfield Californian article

Graduation rates continue to climb in San Joaquin, Calavaras — Seniors in San Joaquin County are graduating at about the same rate as seniors across the state, according to figures released Tuesday. Stockton Record article

Gustine school trustees respond to criticism of bond management, transparency — Trustees on the Gustine Unified School District governing board clashed with each other and members of the public Wednesday night over criticisms of the board’s transparency and district management of the Measure P bond.  Merced Sun-Star article

New science standards raise hopes for narrowing achievement gap – As California rolls out new K-12 science standards, some educators believe the new curriculum will spark a love of science and boost test scores among African Americans and Latinos, and ultimately lead to a more diverse STEM workforce. EdSource article

California audit clears LA’s largest charter school network of misspending – A state audit released Thursday of Alliance College-Ready Public Schools has cleared the charter school network of any financial wrongdoing in relation to its efforts to fight unionization. LA Times article

Health/Human Services

Foundation pledges $3 million to address health disparities in Valley – The Center at Sierra Health Foundation announced an ambitious initiative Thursday, donating $3 million to 69 nonprofit groups — 11 of which are Kern County-based — to create policy change aimed at creating better health outcomes for those struggling in the San Joaquin Valley. Bakersfield Californian article

A Valley county has the highest kindergarten vaccination rate this school year — A lot of kindergartners in Tulare County rolled up their sleeves for vaccine shots this school year. The county has the highest kindergarten vaccination rates for the 2016-17 school year, according to a report released Wednesday by the California Department of Public Health. Fresno Bee article

How California got more children vaccinated after the Disneyland measles outbreak –  In early 2015, vaccinations became a national story in California after an outbreak of measles at Disneyland. The situation drew attention to the number of parents who receive exemptions from getting their kids vaccinated. And that prompted new state legislation. LA Times article

Syphilis, chlamydia are on the rise in Merced County – A rise in reported cases of syphilis in Merced County is drawing the attention of health officials who aim to curtail the spread of sexually transmitted diseases through education and increased awareness. Merced Sun-Star article

Type 2 diabetes, once considered a disease for adults, in increasingly common in tweens and teens – For years, health experts have bemoaned the rise of childhood obesity in the United States. About 17% of kids and teens in the U.S. are now considered obese, a figure that has more than tripled since the 1970s, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. LA Times article

Stockton Record: $1.18 million grant will help Pride Center provide youth services — There have been many times over the years when we’ve bemoaned the state’s unwillingness to provide San Joaquin County with resources to meet serious needs. It’s uplifting when things happen in the other direction. Stockton Record article

Bacteria infected 10 infants at UC Irvine hospital, but the public is just finding out — Over the course of eight months, a lethal bacteria infected 10 already critically ill infants in UC Irvine Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit – an outbreak that the public is only finding out about now. None of the infants have died, hospital officials said. LA Times article


Battling bumper bigotry: DMV fights ugly messages on the road — Since last spring, the agency has denied as many as 80 plate requests a month for being possibly associated with white supremacy and intolerance. The DMV does not track specific reasons for denials year to year, making historic comparisons difficult. San Francisco Chronicle article

Michael Fitzgerald: But I hated United Airlines first … — United Airlines’ PR fiasco, “the Hindenburg of airline customer service episodes,” brings back warm memories of my own United Airlines ordeal. All too warm. Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

United apologizes – again – after attorney describes dragged passenger’s injuries —  A man who was dragged off a United Airlines flight suffered a broken nose and concussion and lost two front teeth, according to lawyers who are preparing a lawsuit against the Chicago carrier. LA Times article; McClatchy Newspapers article

Why airlines sell too many seats and why it might make sense – Overbooking is a regular practice in the airline industry and it results in more than 40,000 passengers involuntarily removed annually from seats they purchased. Why do most airlines routinely sell more tickets than available seats for flights? And why does federal law allow it? LA Times article

California tells Uber it’s sloppy about ditching drunken drivers – California regulators want to slap a $1.13 million fine on Uber for failing to investigate and/or suspend drunken drivers, according to an order filed by the state Public Utilities Commission, which regulates ride-hailing companies. San Francisco Chronicle article

Other areas

Loved ones of Golden Gate suicide victims see hope in net – John Brooks clutched a photo of his daughter, Casey, showing the 17-year-old smiling as she posed for her high school senior portrait shortly before she jumped to her death from the Golden Gate Bridge. Brooks and his wife, Erika, returned Thursday to the iconic Art Deco span to commemorate the beginning of construction on a suicide deterrent system they hope will spare other families the pain they’ve endured since Casey’s death Jan. 29, 2007. San Francisco Chronicle article

Tulare council picks 4 BPU commissioners — Tulare council filled last week four vacancies on the Board of Public Utilities, following two removals and three resignations announced late last month. Visalia Times-Delta article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Bakersfield Californian Arvin, among the most economically depressed communities in the state, is on the verge of a breakthrough: access to higher education. Arvin has been pushing for a Bakersfield College satellite campus in the town center for a decade now, and on Thursday the Kern Community College District formally signaled its willingness to oblige them.

 Fresno Bee – President Trump isn’t returning the favor to loyal supporters, who are dying in shockingly high numbers in middle age. Their lives are not going to get much better by cutting health care coverage or by slashing social programs, as Trump proposes.

Sacramento Bee –- Sacramento County is the latest to stop charging fees for juvenile detention and probation. More officials are concluding that the fees are self-defeating because many of the juveniles come from poor families and the fees add up quickly for families struggling to pay the rent; Domestic violence happens in every community, and studies show that the presence of a gun dramatically increases the risk that the relationship will end in death.

Stockton Record – There have been many times over the years when we’ve bemoaned the state’s unwillingness to provide San Joaquin County with resources to meet serious needs. It’s uplifting when things happen in the other direction.