April 15, 2016


Political Stories

Top stories

Northern California lawmakers question huge Westlands Water District deal — Northern California lawmakers are turning up the heat on the Westlands Water District, with coordinated calls for congressional hearings and tougher Obama administration scrutiny. McClatchy Newspapers article

Kingsburg Democrat Joaquin Arambula sworn in to state Assembly — Kingsburg Democrat Joaquin Arambula hadn’t officially won his 31st Assembly District race, but that didn’t stop him Thursday from becoming an official member of the California State Legislature. Fresno Bee articleAP article

Valley politics

Colorful answers, not many surprises at first Bakersfield mayoral forum — Nearly all of Bakersfield’s record 25 mayoral candidates attended the race’s first forum Thursday, and weren’t shy about sharing opinions on everything from green energy to improving relations between residents and police. Bakersfield Californian article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Robin Abcarian: Abortion foes want Kamala Harris to resign – for doing her job —  On a shady downtown sidewalk, antiabortion activists were preparing for their lunchtime protest. Members of Students for Life gathered outside Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris’ office. Her sin on this day? Her investigation of the antiabortion activist who created an elaborate ruse to “expose” Planned Parenthood’s perfectly legal practice of providing fetal tissue for medical research. Abcarian in LA Times

Counties brace for busy primary election season — California counties are scrambling to prepare for the presidential primary in June, and a large number of ballot initiatives have increased the pressure. KQED report

Stockton Record: Immigration shows American Dream knows no boundaries — Obviously, there are immigration problems that need to be addressed. Whether it be a path to citizenship or a process for people to come here, there are problems that must be solved. Yet in the rhetoric, among the shouting, too often we forget the contribution made to our society by those who have elected to make this country their home. Stockton Record editorial

Minimum Wage

George Runner: Rushed minimum wage increase is a huge mistake – The member of the California State Board of Equalization writes, “Special interests struck a backroom deal to raise California’s minimum wage to $15 an hour in just six years. The deal was rushed through the Democratic-controlled Legislature with little public input and signed into law by the governor in less than a week. It’s almost as if no one wanted to take the time to stop and listen. If they had, they might realize they’re making a huge mistake.” Runner op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Other areas

California Politics Podcast: Progressively Brown — This week: Gov. Jerry Brown gives progressive Democrats another win. We also discuss Donald Trump’s new California play and offer a preview of state budget tax revenues. With John Myers of the Los Angeles Times and Anthony York of the Grizzly Bear Project. California Politics Podcast

California Latinos gravitating toward Bernie Sanders – In a Field Poll released last week, Sanders had not only cut Hillary Clinton’s onetime 63-point lead in California to six points, he had also trimmed her lead among Latino voters to seven points less than two months before California’s June 7 primary. In October, Sanders trailed by 30 points.  San Francisco Chronicle article 

Local TV stations counting on political ads worry about Donald Trump’s ability to get free airtime — GOP bigwigs aren’t the only ones worried about Donald Trump winning the Republican presidential nomination. Trump has emerged as the Republican candidate to beat while spending far less on television advertising than his rivals, a source of anxiety for TV station owners across the country who are banking on a record level of political ad spending. It’s a novel campaign strategy of generating free TV coverage with ever more outlandish events and statements. LA Times article

Tech journalist Kara Swisher plans to run for San Francisco mayor — Talk about changing career paths. Prominent technology reporter Kara Swisher says she plans to run for San Francisco mayor — in 2023. San Francisco Chronicle article

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Stories

Top Stories

California court upholds teacher tenure, dismissal laws — The controversial ruling that declared California’s teacher tenure and dismissal laws unconstitutional was overturned Thursday by a state appeals court, flipping the momentum in a landmark case that will head next to the highest court in California. Sacramento Bee articleLA Times articleEdSource articleNew York Times article

Land purchase in Sacramento-San Joaquin River delta challenged – Officials fighting plans by the state to build two giant tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to send water south took their case to court Thursday, seeking to block one of the project’s main backers from finalizing a key land deal. San Joaquin and Contra Costa counties say Metropolitan Water District of Southern California failed to perform environmental reviews before entering into a $175 million deal to buy sprawling delta islands east of San Francisco. AP articleStockton Record article

Valley Nordstrom project lands $11 million state tax credit – The Nordstrom fulfillment center project proposed for the Central Valley has received an $11 million state tax credit. The Business Journal article

Stanislaus County roads suffer from dwindling gas-tax revenue — This year, county revenue from the gasoline tax is $3.4 million less than in the 2014-15 budget year. Another $1 million decline is expected for the fiscal year that begins July 1. Officials say road maintenance funding is evaporating because of cheaper fuel prices and growing numbers of fuel-efficient and electric vehicles on the highways. In addition, California’s gasoline tax has remained at 42 cents per gallon for 22 years. Modesto Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

The tax man cometh, and California rich – getting richer – pay most – Friday is Tax Day, or would be but for the observance of Emancipation Day in Washington, D.C., meaning that Californians who file returns have until Monday to get their forms in. Whenever it arrives, the filing deadline is a closely watched benchmark of California state government’s fiscal well-being. A deeper look at the data has plenty to offer on the topic of income inequality, a major theme in both parties’ presidential primary races this year. Sacramento Bee article 

California fast-food workers shift focus from minimum wage to unionizing – The fast-food and other low-wage workers rally Thursday across the country for a $15 minimum wage, the Fight for $15 campaign in California will be shifting its focus to another goal: unionizing. LA Times article

California hands out $70.5 million in job tax credits, including $12.7 million for electric cars – A California economic development board handed out $70.5 million in tax credits on Thursday for private companies promising to create jobs in the state, including $12.7 million for electric car-maker Faraday Future, which broke ground a day earlier on a new manufacturing facility in neighboring Nevada. AP article

Field Poll: California voters think income taxes are too high – With the 2016 tax deadline on the horizon, it’s the time of year Californians grumble about Uncle Sam slashing their income. In fact, a new poll found that 54 percent of Golden State voters think they pay too much income tax. The latest Field Poll also shows that 40 percent of Californians actually believe they’re taxed just enough. Only 2 percent said taxes are too low. Sacramento Bee article

Asparagus Festival: Let the crown jewel sparkle – “There’s nothing better than Stockton asparagus,” Tony Noceti declared Thursday while preparing for today’s opening of the San Joaquin Asparagus Festival at the County Fairgrounds. In saying so, Noceti guaranteed that the only asparagus being served during the three-day run of the city’s signature party would be fresh from the fields surrounding Stockton. Stockton Record article

Uber and Lyft have devastated LA’s taxi industry, city records show — The rise of Uber and Lyft have dealt a swift, brutal blow to the Los Angeles taxi industry, city records show. Since the ride-hailing services began operating in Southern California three years ago, the number of L.A. taxi trips arranged in advance has fallen by 42%, according to city data, and the total number of trips has plummeted by nearly a third. LA Times article 

California pension system reconsiders tobacco divestment – Anti-smoking groups are pressuring the nation’s largest public pension system to drop plans to consider re-investing in tobacco stocks 15 years after selling them off. AP article

Merced to host budget transparency tool training — City employees plan a free training session next week for residents who want to learn how to use a transparency tool to delve into Merced’s budget. The demonstration of OpenGov, an online tool for which the the city pays, is 5:30-6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 21, in the Sam Pipes room of City Hall, 678 W. 18th St. Merced Sun-Star article

GET weighs fare hike, Delano water rate increase overturned – The Golden Empire Transit District is considering raising its bus fares to meet a state requirement that at least 20 percent of the agency’s revenues come from its passengers. Also, Delano activists are hailing a recent Kern County Superior Court ruling on the city’s 2013 move to increase its municipal water rate by 75 percentBakersfield Californian article

UC Merced student wins business contest with food-processing device – Agustin Roldan of Merced won a business startup contest with a device that could help keep food processors humming. His idea for predicting electronic motor failure impressed an expert panel and audience voters at the seventh annual San Joaquin Entrepreneur Challenge. Modesto Bee article

Modesto restaurants begin their run on ‘Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives’ – The popular food series “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” begins serving up a slice of Modesto Friday. The first of three Modesto eateries will be featured on the Food Network show starting this weekend. Modesto Bee article

Jim Luff: It’s about time food truck ordinance is updated – The marketing director for a national credit card processing company writes, “I am thrilled to see that the Bakersfield City Council is finally progressing on modifying laws governing food trucks. The existing ordinances were drafted in 1982 by council members who were concerned about the proliferation of what was described in city council notes as “taco trucks” coming in and invading our city.” Luff op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Garcetti talks up economic recovery in 2016 State of the City speech – Mayor Eric Garcetti sought to draw attention to Los Angeles’ march toward economic recovery during his annual State of the City speech Thursday, celebrating declining unemployment even as he acknowledged that many Angelenos — including tens of thousands who sleep on the streets each night — have missed out on the benefits of rebounding jobs and real-estate development. LA Times article

Major League Soccer commissioner believes Sacramento will join league by 2020 – The commissioner of Major League Soccer all but handed Sacramento an expansion team Thursday, saying he believes Sacramento Republic FC will play in MLS by 2020. Sacramento Bee article

More outdoor advertising OK’d for Golden 1 Center, other large venues – Sacramento’s City Council voted Thursday night to loosen city rules about signs to make way for a potential 3,206-square-feet of outdoor advertising at the Golden 1 Center and other large entertainment venues. Sacramento Bee article

Placentia financial manager arrested for allegedly embezzling $4.3 million — The financial services manager for Placentia has been arrested for embezzling $4.3 million from city accounts, officials said. LA Times article


Odds of La Nina increase for next winter, bringing concerns the drought may drag on – In what may be an ominous sign for the end of the drought, the El Niño that brought Northern California its wettest winter in five years is continuing to weaken and appears to be giving way to its atmospheric sibling — La Niña. San Jose Mercury News article

In sophisticated shell game, thieves hit Central Valley nut growers – On Thursday, about 150 farmers, processors and shippers crowded into a convention center in Modesto vowing to stop the thieves this year. It was the second emergency meeting in just five months. The first one, in Visalia in December, apparently wasn’t sufficient to prevent at least three more heists from companies whose representatives attended it. LA Times articleModesto Bee article

Nut theft task force closer to reality – An idea to form a multi-county task force to combat high-value nut thefts that began with Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux has overcome its first major hurdle toward becoming a California law. Visalia Times-Delta article

Buddy Mendes: Dams and groundwater storage go hand in hand – The vice president of the San Joaquin Valley Water Infrastructure Authority and chairman of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors writes, “Yes, we need more groundwater storage, particularly now that the Valley must meet the state’s new groundwater sustainability standards. But we must realize that to capture these floodwaters and percolate them into below-ground storage will take a far bigger above-ground cup. That “cup” is Temperance Flat Reservoir.” Mendes op-ed in Fresno Bee

Stockton Record: Water rate meetings are must-see reality – Mark these dates: April 25, May 9 and May 18. Those are the dates of water rate meetings in Stockton. Stockton Record editorial 

Taking the Pulse — Chair of the Kaweah Delta Water Conservation District Don Mills says runoff on both the Kaweah and Kings River should be around 73 percent of average based on the snowpack – a whole lot better than 27 percent of average last year. Hanford Sentinel article

San Diego residents find turf rebates are taxable — Some San Diegans who got money from the San Diego County Water Authority for taking out their grass last year are now startled to find they owe taxes on those turf rebates. And some homeowners only received those notifications a few weeks ago, after they had already filed their taxes. KPBS report

In wastewater, Stanford researcher sees an untapped resource — Historically, we’ve treated wastewater as something to be treated and dumped – a liability and not a resource. But Sebastien Tilmans may change our minds about that. Tilmans is the director of operations at theWilliam and Cloy Codiga Resource Recovery Center at Stanford University. KQED report

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Prison officials: Inmate accused of stabbing officer at CCI-Tehachapi has attacked before – The inmate accused of stabbing a female correctional officer in the head Tuesday at the California Correctional Institution in Tehachapi has attacked officers while incarcerated about 20 times, prison officials said Thursday. Tehachapi News article 

Michael Fitzgerald: Should cops shoot at moving vehicles? – Police on Wednesday fatally shot a fleeing suspect who jumped into a passing vehicle and tried to carjack it. I wonder whether shooting into moving vehicles is always the right thing to do. Though I’ve stood with police repeatedly when officers shot suspects in moving vehicles, I continue to have nagging doubts about the law that allows deadly force in that situation. Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Bakersfield detective acted within policy in shooting of knife-wielding man, review board says – A Bakersfield police detective was determined to have acted within department policy and state and federal guidelines in shooting a man who approached him in a threatening manner while armed with a knife. Bakersfield Californian article

Nadine Ono: Mentoring program offers Kern County offenders a pathway away from jail — In Kern County, one of the ways the criminal justice system is trying to reduce offenders’ rate of return to jail is to partner with community-based organizations (CBOs) which work with the formerly incarcerated. Garden Pathways, a nonprofit based in Bakersfield, is one of those CBOs that has partnered with several Kern County criminal justice agencies, including the Sheriff’s Department and the Probation Department. The organization works with 350-400 formerly incarcerated individuals, offering mentoring services in an effort to transform their lives and permanently keep them out of jail. Ono commentary in CA Fwd

Board recommends parole for Charles Manson follower Leslie Van Houten; victim’s daughter vows to oppose – A California review board recommended parole Thursday for former Charles Manson “family” member Leslie Van Houten, who was convicted along with other members of the cult in the 1969 killings of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. LA Times articleSan Francisco Chronicle article

Inspection finds substandard care at fifth California prison – A fifth state prison is still providing substandard care despite billions of dollars spent for improvements and a decade of federal oversight, California’s inspector general reported Thursday. Care at Wasco State Prison, 30 miles north of Bakersfield, remains inadequate, the inspector general said. AP article

Fresno County probation chief placed on administrative leave – Rick Chavez, Fresno County’s probation chief, has been placed on administrative leave by the Superior Court’s presiding judge. That has triggered a question among county supervisors about who has jurisdiction over that post. Fresno Bee article

Erika D. Smith: Diversity in criminal justice is about more than just cops – One by one, the teenagers in skinny jeans and suit jackets and sun dresses filed past their parents and worked their way to the front of a room at the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department Community Service Center. Smith column in Sacramento Bee

Protective vest donated to Bakersfield Police Department K9 — A Bakersfield Police Department K9 has received a protective vest through a donation from a nonprofit organization, police said Thursday. Hamer, a 3-year-old German Shepherd partnered with Bakersfield police Officer Chris Moore, now has a bullet and stab protective vest from Vested Interest in K9s, Inc. The vest was sponsored by Meryl Shapiro of New York, N.Y. Bakersfield Californian article

Police: Empire man admits tagging jail to get sent to jail — A man looking to go to jail put himself in the right place early Thursday: right in front of it. About 3:45 a.m., a passerby saw a man painting gang graffiti on the H Street wall of the jail and notified deputies, said Modesto Police Department spokeswoman Heather Graves. Modesto Bee article


Across the country, school districts are quietly arming teachers for the next shooting — The Kingsburg Joint Union High School District in Kingsburg, Calif., is the latest district to pass such a measure.  While proposals to arm teachers have been familiar refrains in Texas and Indiana, the passing of such a mandate on the West Coast signals that the strategy is being considered elsewhere in the country. Washington Post article

Three more lawmakers call for UC Davis chancellor to resign — Three more lawmakers called Thursday for the resignation of resignation of UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi, saying they were moved to do so over revelations about her efforts to scrub the Internet of negative postings about campus police pepper spraying students. Sacramento Bee article

Sacramento Bee: When the #pepperspray won’t go away – Too bad UC Davis Chancellor Linda P.B. Katehi didn’t glance at the university seal before reacting to the furor over the pepper-spraying of student in 2011. She might have just opted for swallowing her pride and enduring the bad publicity until the air cleared. Sacramento Bee editoria

Advocacy groups urge state board to tighten LCAP requirements – In separate analyses, three nonprofit student advocacy groups have concluded that most school districts’ explanations of their priorities and annual spending under the state’s new funding law are confusing, inadequate and sometimes contrary to the law’s purpose of directing more resources to underserved students. EdSource article

Parlier heralds grand opening of school-based health center – The health center, which opened in January, is a 900-square-foot facility designed with medical exam rooms and a behavioral health office in a state-of-the-art healthcare environment, Phillips said. Fresno Bee article

UC Merced opens up for all visitors – Bobcat Day at UC Merced is Saturday, when university officials invite prospective students, their families and anyone else interested in the campus to stop by for a visit. Merced Sun-Star article 

UC pays $4.7 million in suit over Cal football player Ted Agu’s death — The family of Cal football player Ted Agu, who died after a team drill in 2014, and the University of California settled a wrongful-death lawsuit for $4.75 million, bringing months of negotiations and litigation to a close, the two sides said Thursday. San Francisco Chronicle article


Environmentalists sue to halt refinery project observers call moot — In case unfavorable market conditions haven’t already killed a proposal to reopen the Alon refinery on Rosedale Highway, environmental groups filed a lawsuit this week asking federal officials to challenge the plant’s air permits. Bakersfield Californian article

California salmon season cuts planned to protect struggling fish — First, there was no crab in the cook pot. Now the grill may be left short of salmon. Responding to profound threats to California’s quintessential catch, federal fishery regulators laid out new restrictions Thursday for the state’s commercial salmon fishing season, scheduled to begin next month, as well as to the sport season, which started April 2. San Francisco Chronicle article

Health/Human Services 

Child care costs more than college tuition in California – There is bipartisan agreement that the state’s early childhood system is broken. Gov. Jerry Brown has proposed overhauling it, but his proposal doesn’t have the support of experts and leaders in the field. Now two new reports reinforce the myriad of problems with the current system and present alternative suggestions for improving the lot of children under the age of five. KPCC report

Health care report: Area uninsured rates fall, capacity constraints grow — A new report from the California Health Care Foundation (CHCF) says that while “insurance coverage and financial stability” have greatly improved in the Fresno area, health care “capacity and access challenges” have also grown. The Business Journal article

Grand jury rips Tulare hospital over stalled tower – In a strongly worded report, the Tulare County grand jury said Tulare Local Health Care District should release “without delay” a full accounting of how $85 million in general obligation bond money was spent on a still-unfinished hospital project. Fresno Bee article

Number of deadly infections from dirty scopes is far higher than previously estimated – The number of potentially deadly infections from contaminated medical scopes is far higher than what federal officials previously estimated, a new congressional investigation shows. LA Times article 

Debbie Poochigian: Fresno-Clovis event focuses on fighting prescription drug abuse – The Fresno County supervisor writes, “Volunteers supporting the Stomp It Out event walked door-to-door in the Fresno and Clovis area this week to raise awareness of an epidemic sweeping our nation: prescription drug abuse.” Poochigian op-ed in Fresno Bee

Covered California takes novel step to reduce C-section rate – California’s health insurance exchange will use the threat of exclusion from its approved provider networks as a way to motivate hospitals and doctors to reduce the number of medically unnecessary Cesarean sections. KPCC report

C.V. Allen: Despite misleading ads, allowing drug negotiations would lower prices – The semi-retired physician in Modesto writes, “Sunday’s Bee included an advertisement (Page 2A) picturing Rep. Jeff Denham and a concerned elderly lady on Medicare being told ‘you could lose access to medicines you need.’ The ad thanked Denham for ‘protecting’ Medicare Part D prescription coverage and urged readers like the woman pictured to oppose a bill in Congress that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug costs directly with pharmaceutical companies. But such negotiations are a common cost-control method already used by the Veterans Administration, Medicaid and every industrialized nation that runs a health care system for its citizens. Allen op-ed in Modesto Bee

Land Use/Housing

Fresno’s future growth area could be carved up – More than a quarter of Fresno’s future growth area was on the verge of being lopped off by county officials before an 11th-hour lobbying effort stopped it. Fresno Bee article

Danielle Shapazian: What happens when the last acre is gobbled up? – The Fresno nurse and writer writes, “Our Valley dirt serves as a reminder: Nature doesn’t discriminate. Whether you’re wealthy or poor, influential or not, your potential lies everywhere. Success depends upon some good watering and the stability of the ground where you land.” Shapazian op-ed in Fresno Bee

Police find 16 people crammed into squalid Fresno home — A Fresno police investigation into drugs and stolen property uncovered 16 people found living in squalid and cramped conditions at a rundown home in the city’s Tower District on Wednesday. Fresno Bee article


Bill would force airlines to refund fees if they lose bags — Airlines will still be allowed to jam passengers into ever-smaller seats and charge them for checked luggage, but they will have to provide refunds when those bags are delayed or lost under a bill set for Senate passage. Bloomberg article

BART to crack down on ‘seat hogs’ with fines — “Seat hogs” who take up more than their fair share of space on crowded BART trains will soon be in for an expensive penalty after BART directors approved a new rule Thursday making it a ticket-able offense to use an empty seat for a backpack or luggage, or to stretch out. San Francisco Chronicle articleKQED report

Other areas

Chairman Buddy Mendes bellows at speaker at Fresno County supervisors meeting — Buddy Mendes, chairman of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors and a farmer known for his colorful language during meetings, rattled the supervisors’ chambers Tuesday by loudly accusing an environmental advocate of lying about water prices charged to poor farmworker communities. Fresno Bee articlevideo in Fresno Bee

Claim filed against Modesto firefighters’ Clown Program – Modesto is facing potential legal trouble after one of its firefighters reportedly tripped and fell on a third-grader and broke her arm during a Fire Department safety event called the Clown Program, in which firefighters dress up as clowns and superheroes as they teach schoolchildren such basics as when to call 911 and how to get out of a burning house. Modesto Bee article 

San Francisco firefighter leaders say morale is a problem – and the chief should go — Leaders of several groups representing San Francisco firefighters say that more than a year after a no-confidence vote in Chief Joanne Hayes-White, morale continues to ebb amid concerns over staffing, operational problems and what’s widely described as the chief’s unresponsiveness to rank-and-file concerns. KQED report

Grand jury recommends charges against former GM, director at Mt. Meadows CSD — The Kern County Grand Jury recommended Thursday that the District Attorney charge the former general manager and a former board member of the Mountain Meadows Community Services District with malfeasance. Tehachapi News article

‘First Look’: Kern Sheriff Youngblood recalls times with musician Merle Haggard — One man who remembers the musician fondly is Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood. During a 30-minute interview on “First Look with Scott Cox,” Youngblood reminisced about his experience with Haggard. Bakersfield Californian article