April 16, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

California vaccine bill stalls as parents worry about keeping students in school — Bowing to concerns from parents and lawmakers that children would be denied a public education, a state Senate committee Wednesday held off voting on a bill requiring most parents to vaccinate their children as a condition of enrolling them in school. With multiple legislators expressing doubts, Pan agreed to postpone a vote until next Wednesday.  Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article; KQED report; AP article; San Francisco Chronicle article

With funding in doubt, immigrant health care bill advances — After stalling last year because of funding concerns, a scaled-back plan to expand health coverage to Californians in the country illegally passed its first Senate committee on Wednesday.  Sacramento Bee article


Gov. Brown

How Jerry Brown could end agencies’ job transfer game – The state audit sampled about 800 transactions in 10 departments. The majority ranged between questionable to flat-out illegal. An administration spokeswoman said Brown’s May budget revision “will include specific proposals to respond to the issues raised in the audit.” So what might they be? We asked former Finance Director Mike Genest for Brown’s options. Here were his suggestions.  Sacramento Bee article


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Harris Senate run fueled by lawyers, Hollywood executives – California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris reported more than 2,800 contributions to her U.S. Senate campaign in a report Wednesday that underscored her quick emergence as a top contender to succeed Democrat Barbara Boxer.  LA Times article

Republican Rocky Chávez off to sluggish start in U.S. Senate race – California Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, the only announced Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate, has gotten off to a slow fundraising start, bringing in less than 1/2 of a percent of the total taken in by Democrat Kamala Harris.  Capitol Alert

Latino leaders call for district based elections – Latinos make up 40 percent of California’s population, but just about 15 percent of the state’s mayors and city council members. A bill backed by the state’s legislative Latino caucus is seeking to make city governments more representative. It would require some cities with populations of more than 100,000 to hold district-based municipal elections, instead of at-large elections.  Capital Public Radio report

Joe Mathews: Finally, California politicians see lieutenant governor the way I do — Lieutenant governor is quite simply the best job in this state. It’s got good pay, benefits, even staff — and you don’t really have to do anything. Yes, I know you serve on university boards and the state lands commission, but those can be treated as light duties and frequently skipped.  Mathews in Fox & Hounds



H-1B visas: Immigration debate sparked by record number of applicants – Companies are seeking more foreign workers than ever before to fill highly skilled jobs in technology and other industries, but the United States will grant visas to just a fraction of them in a lottery that began this week.  San Jose Mercury News article


Other areas

Bill to tighten public officials’ financial disclosures passes first hurdle – A bill that would force California’s public officials to reveal more about their wealth, property and business interests easily passed its first legislative hurdle Wednesday.  Contra Costa Times article

Joel Fox: BOE study on service taxes sets off debate — Just in time for Tax Day, the Board of Equalization issued a study requested by the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance estimating the revenue take from taxing untaxed services would be $122.6 billion. The study will become fodder in the coming debate over Senator Bob Hertzberg’s effort to restructure the state tax system to include taxes on the service economy.  Fox in Fox & Hounds

With Medicare, Iran deals, is Congress back in business? — After a rocky start to its stewardship of the House and Senate, the Republican majority is rounding the first 100 days of the new Congress with notable – and rare – bipartisan accomplishments.  LA Times article

Bill McEwen: Who do you stand for? We want to know — The Bee’s Editorial Board is asking, “Who do you stand for?” By putting a face to the Armenian genocide recognition movement, we hope to inspire President Obama and Congress to finally do the right thing. Send us a photo of yourself and the name of a family member who was killed in the Armenian genocide. If you aren’t of Armenian descent, include the name of a friend’s ancestor who was a victim of the Armenian genocide with your photo. McEwen column in Fresno Bee

In their words: Armenian genocide centennial stories from Valley residents — They remember relatives killed and lives uprooted while trying to escape invading soldiers. Some were captured and carried away and never seen again. The Armenian genocide remains fresh in the memory of the central San Joaquin Valley’s Armenian community.  Fresno Bee article

James Steyer: We need vigilance on student online privacy – The CEO and founder of Common Sense Media writes, “We must continue the fight against powerful interests working to create and exploit loopholes in the law that will allow them to market to our children. We strongly urge the Legislature to stop this bill in its tracks.”  Steyer op-ed in Sacramento Bee


California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Cities, water agencies criticize water cuts as unfair, unrealistic – Representatives of urban water suppliers and advocacy groups from across the state have criticized a plan from state water regulators that would force some to cut water consumption by as much as 35% over the next year.  LA Times article

California water commission hears from supporters of Temperance Flat dam – The California Water Commission came to Fresno on Wednesday to collect comments on how to spend $2.7 billion in bond money for water storage projects. The message the commissioners heard was loud and clear: build Sites Reservoir and Temperance Flat dam. Fresno Bee article


Jobs and the Economy

Fresno workers rally to raise minimum wage to $15 – Fresno workers participated for the first time Wednesday in the Fight for $15, a 2 1/2-year-old national campaign to raise wages for what organizers said were underpaid employees.  Fresno Bee article

Protests in Sacramento, nationwide demand $15 hourly wage – Demonstrators demanding $15 an hour in wages protested Wednesday morning at a south Sacramento McDonald’s restaurant, part of a nationwide wave of protests organized by labor groups and others.  Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article; Contra Costa Times article

Report: Valley home prices rose in March – California’s housing market continued to pick up steam as existing home sales and prices increased in March, according to a new report issued today by the California Association of Realtors.  The Business Journal article 

Existing home sales on upswing – San Joaquin County existing home sales rose nearly 20 percent in March compared to the same month a year ago, the California Association of Realtors reported Wednesday. Average sales prices also are up, nearly 11 percent over the year to a median $272,500 for a single family home, the association said.  Stockton Record article

Foreclosures on downward slide – Foreclosure-related filings on San Joaquin County residential properties declined dramatically in the first three months of the year, compared to a year ago, RealtyTrac Inc. reported Thursday.  Stockton Record article

House hunting? Hurry. Homes in California are moving faster — If you’re hoping to buy a house this spring, you might want to hop to it. Southern California is home to four of the nation’s nine fastest-moving housing markets right now, according to a new report out Wednesday. And the pace is picking up.  LA Times article 

Fresno County retirees not liable for $3.4 million mistake – Fresno County’s retirement board Wednesday rejected making about 6,750 retirees pick up the tab for a $3.4 million overpayment error.  Fresno Bee article 

Vote delayed on downtown Riverbank plan – City leaders like the idea of a pedestrian bridge over railroad tracks linking downtown to future homes and shops at the former cannery site, rather than an underpass accommodating vehicles. However, the City Council on Tuesday postponed until April 28 a vote altering the Riverbank Downtown Specific Plan because of last-minute revisions.  Modesto Bee article

Turlock bans mobile food vendors downtown – The city has banned food trucks in most of downtown most of the time, but fans can still get their fill nearby. The City Council voted 5-0 Tuesday night to make a temporary ban from 2013 permanent. The vote came at the behest of brick-and-mortar business owners who objected that the trucks do not pay the extra property tax for downtown maintenance.  Modesto Bee article 

Alon stock deal won’t impact Bakersfield refinery for at least a year – A stock transaction announced this week will give a Tennessee-based company a 48 percent stake in the ownership of the refinery on Rosedale Highway, but the deal is not expected to have any immediate effect on plans to upgrade the plant.  Bakersfield Californian article 

Small traffic fines can lead to big problems for some Californians – Well over 4 million Californians have had their licenses revoked because they failed to pay traffic fines or appear in court, DMV records show. Annual suspensions rose during the recession as the cost of traffic-related citations increased. A $100 ticket now can cost about $500 after fees and assessments, increasing to more than $800 if the driver misses an initial deadline to pay or appear. Sacramento Bee article

California ratepayers getting electric bill rebates – Almost 11 million customers of the state’s for-profit electric utilities will be getting credits averaging $27 per household on either their April or May bills.  LA Times article

Carson council to vote on NFL stadium plan after signatures verified – The Carson City Council will vote Tuesday on a plan to build a $1.7-billion professional football stadium, according to City Clerk Jim Dear.  LA Times article; AP article

Mayor, Sacramento Republic outline next milestones on MLS plan – Their dream for a Major League Soccer franchise on hold, Sacramento officials Wednesday pledged to achieve a series of milestones by year’s end in order to finalize the city’s bid for MLS admission.  Sacramento Bee article

‘NAFTA on steroids’ pact pits Silicon Valley against big labor – It may be one of the thorniest, and most critical, votes the California congressional delegation has faced in decades, a proposal pitting Silicon Valley and Hollywood against big labor over a trade pact the Obama administration calls a linchpin of its economic agenda.  San Francisco Chronicle article

CalPERS board member says his authority thwarted by Kamala Harris — CalPERS maverick board member J.J. Jelincic is taking on his colleagues and Attorney General Kamala Harris over a policy that excludes him from performance and pay decisions for the fund’s top executives. Harris says that Jelincic shouldn’t participate in those decisions to avoid conflicts of interest.  Sacramento Bee article

As gig workers, Uber and Lyft drivers struggle with taxes — Uber and Lyft provide drivers with statistics about their rides, but on their websites they urge drivers to seek professional tax advice. Whatley says people who come to him, like Enrique, are unprepared come tax time. KQED report 

Sacramento-area engine maker Aerojet disputes comments on rocket explosion — Aerojet Rocketdyne and its Rancho Cordova parent company this week fought back against suggestions that an engine it refurbished was the cause of a spectacular explosion of an unmanned rocket last October.  Sacramento Bee article



Redistribute California’s water? Not without a fight – The state of California is asking a basic question right now that people often fight over: What’s a fair way to divide up something that’s scarce and valuable? That “something,” in this case, is water. NPR report

Delta smelt survey tallies one fish, heating up debate over water supply – There’s only one place left on Earth where imperiled Delta smelt are thriving, where their water remains cold and clean. In the wild, the fish is on the brink of extinction. This month, in their April trawl survey, state Fish and Wildlife scientists caught only one of the pinky-sized, politicized fish with an outsized role in California’s water wars, an alarming indication of just how few smelt are left. And the drought may inflict the final blow.  San Jose Mercury News article

California to build temporary Delta dam – The California Department of Water Resources plans to install a temporary rock barrier in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to reduce salinity that might otherwise result from the drought, officials said Wednesday.  Sacramento Bee article; Stockton Record article 

Drought pressure creates cracks in powerful farm water authority – In the San Joaquin Valley’s frenzied attempts to cope with the drought crisis, five farm water districts have left the Friant Water Authority, the cornerstone of farm water delivery along 1 million acres. The powerful authority lost a quarter of its membership in the last month over differences in how to battle for more water in an east-Valley farming belt worth several billion dollars annually.  Fresno Bee article 

Tulare County well failures decline, solutions rise – For only the second time since records began being kept in January 2014, the number of well failures in Tulare County has inched down, thanks to more people being added to emergency water supplies. Visalia Times-Delta article

Tulare records decrease in underground water pumped – Tulare officials said 275,000 gallons of water were pumped up for city service during February, the lowest amount over the last 14 months. The amount of water pumped during February is less than half of what was pumped during July, when the largest amount of water was pumped out. Visalia Times-Delta article

Joe Mathews: My lawn is worse than yours – and I’m proud – Forgive me for bragging, but my front lawn looks a lot worse than yours. As the drought deepens and the state plans for mandatory restrictions, California’s lawn culture has flipped, dirt-side up. Your local community pillars, once celebrated for lawns even greener than their money, run the risk of becoming social outcasts.  Mathews in Sacramento Bee

LA pushes to use shower, bathwater to combat drought – Faced with a worsening drought, there is a new push to allow Los Angeles residents to better harness leftover water from daily showers, dish washing and laundry.  LA Times article

Leadership Fresno dives into ‘water-wise’ class project — In a sign of these drought-stricken times, members of the current Leadership Fresno class have chosen an apt challenge for their class project: creating a xeriscaped “demonstration garden” in northeast Fresno’s Woodward Park.  The Business Journal article

A guide to rebates on MWD drought-tolerant landscaping – Interested in lawn replacement but don’t know where to start? Here are some tips.  LA Times article

Homegrown California landscaping in Hanford — Drought blues got you thinking about switching from that English-manor, green-grass look to something more, well, drought-tolerant?  Hanford Sentinel article 

In record drought, California golf course ethically keeps greens green — Golf is a $6 billion industry in the state and employs nearly 130,000 workers, according to the California Golf Course Owners Association. So while the greens are staying green, some golf courses are saving every drop of water they can.  NPR report


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Fresno leaders react to Keith Foster report — Fresno’s Police auditor is recommending seven changes at the department to prevent criminal behavior among their officers. The changes are being made in the wake of the arrest of a Deputy Chief on drug trafficking charges.  KVPR report

California grapples with where sex offenders can live — California cities and counties are grappling with how far they can go to restrict where sex offenders can live amid a shifting legal landscape.  AP article

More than 100 gather to honor fallen Merced police officer — Michelle Gray wiped tears from her cheek Wednesday morning as Merced police officers raised the American flag above the memorial to her fallen husband, Stephan, on the 11th anniversary of his line-of-duty death.  Merced Sun-Star article 

Ceres settles lawsuit against police for $312,500 — The city has paid $312,500 to settle a lawsuit that alleges one of its officers broke a handcuffed woman’s arm as he slammed her against a police car.  Modesto Bee article

Crime rise puts LAPD in a difficult position — The city’s first major crime increase in more than a decade has Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck trying to maintain a delicate balance. He wants to swarm high-crime neighborhoods with more than 200 highly trained officers from the elite Metropolitan Division without undermining years of progress the department has made in building better relationships with those communities.  LA Times article

Police investigate confrontation involving Merced DA, resident — Merced police on Wednesday opened an investigation into an incident involving District Attorney Larry Morse II and a county resident who claims the veteran prosecutor knocked him to the ground.  Merced Sun-Star article



Colleges grapple with cheating in the digital age – Studies find that students feel under more pressure than ever to succeed and increasingly see cutting corners as nothing serious. And they are being aided by cheating-friendly technology.  LA Times article 

Bakersfield City School District teachers approve tentative raises – Most of the 933 Bakersfield City School District teachers who voted Tuesday on a new contract gave that contract and the two 3.5 percent raises it comes with an overwhelming yes at Sequoia Middle School.  Bakersfield Californian article 

LA school district ditches iPad curriculum, seeks refund from Apple — The Los Angeles Unified School District has canceled further plans to use expensive curriculum that was part of a $1.3-billion effort to provide iPads to every student, teacher and campus administrator. In addition, the district wants a substantial refund from Apple, maker of the iPad.  LA Times article

Board voting on arts-infused Denair charter school with Spanish immersion strand – Plans to fold Denair Elementary and the Denair Academic Avenues charter into a new charter school next year will have a critical vote Thursday night.  Modesto Bee article

Three Golden Valley school trustees to face recall election – Three Golden Valley Unified trustees will face recall elections, a move that comes amid community concern over a board vote this winter that forced out Superintendent Andrew Alvarado. Fresno Bee article 

Stockton Unified business official takes Alameda job – Stockton Unified trustees accepted the resignation Tuesday night of the district’s top business official, who is leaving to serve as associate superintendent of business services for the Alameda County Office of Education.  Stockton Record article 

Delhi school gets new digs — Students, faculty and Delhi residents turned out for a dedication ceremony this month for a new $3.2 million building at El Capitan School, which serves kindergarten through eighth-grade pupils.  Merced Sun-Star article



Boxer: Regulators’  ‘head should roll’ over Diablo nuclear plant — Weeks before Pacific Gas and Electric Co. released a long-awaited seismic report about the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant last year, Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials had already drafted talking points declaring the plant safe from earthquakes, Sen. Barbara Boxer said Wednesday.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Agencies prepare for early fire season – Fire agencies in Tulare County and other parts of the Valley are moving next week to increased levels of staffing and greater numbers of fire engines, bulldozers and air tankers available for dispatch. Before the drought, this ramp-up often occurred at the end of May or June, CAL FIRE officials said.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Panel recommends cutting sardine fishing season — Sardine fishing on the West Coast, already set to end June 30, could be banned within weeks because of concerns that the silvery fish’s population has dropped below sustainable levels.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Health/Human Services

California officials want monthly cap on patients’ drug costs – State officials grappling with the tremendous costs of specialty drugs to treat chronic illnesses such as hepatitis C agree there should be a cap on what patients pay each month for pills that can cost $1,000 a day or more. But what those limits should be is proving contentious.  Sacramento Bee article

‘Specialty drugs’ hit patients, states in the wallet — A practice by health insurers to shift more drugs into high-cost “specialty” categories is pushing those treatments out of the reach of California patients with chronic and life-threatening diseases and caught the attention the state’s policymakers who are looking for ways to rein in consumer costs.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Summit looks at childhood trauma’s long-term impact – Where children grow up matters. The environment to which people are exposed in their childhood plays a significant role in their adult life, according to health leaders who presented at the 12th annual Children’s Summit of Merced County.  Merced Sun-Star article

School gives back to Valley Children’s — The Sundale school community for the current year set a goal for themselves to raise $20,000 for Valley Children’s Hospital in time for Kid’s Day last month, and the student body accomplished their goal and then surpassed it.  Visalia Times-Delta article



Westside Parkway’s final phase opens to drivers — The freshly strewn wood chips along its broad shoulders are a little browner, the drought-resistant seed cover on its median a little more tan, and its chain link fences much more silvery. But the drive along the Westside Parkway’s final two miles between Allen Road and the intersection of Stockdale Highway and Heath Road — which opened to traffic late Wednesday afternoon with a ribbon-cutting — offers very much the same smooth ride as its first five miles. Bakersfield Californian article


Other areas 

U.S. judge won’t remove marijuana from most-dangerous drug list – A federal judge in Sacramento on Wednesday upheld the constitutionality of a 1970 federal law that classifies marijuana as a dangerous drug akin to LSD and heroin.  LA Times article; AP article

Stockton salary commission would have to meet by April 30 – The commission recommending a controversial and nearly immediate 30-percent slash in the mayor’s salary may meet again before the end of April to review its decision. Or it may not.  Stockton Record article 

Prominent Catholics call on pope to oust San Francisco archbishop – In an unprecedented move, more than 100 prominent Roman Catholic donors and church members signed a full-page ad running Thursday in The Chronicle that calls on Pope Francis to replace San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone for fostering “an atmosphere of division and intolerance.”  San Francisco Chronicle article

New Hanford chief addresses fire department needs – With only a few weeks on the job, Christopher Ekk said he has already been working on advancements for the department. He has been focusing on addressing the agency’s staffing concerns as well as the construction of a new facility and additional equipment.  Hanford Sentinel article

Fresno’s Fig Garden residents vote to keep fire station open — Fig Garden property owners have approved a 10-year extension for their fire service contract with the city of Fresno. About 650 parcel owners voted, and 83.2% approved continuing the relationship with Fresno Fire Department, which began with a similar vote of property owners 10 years ago. Fresno Bee article

Merced group, churches team to shed light on child abuse – Local groups are working together to spread the word on preventing child mistreatment and promoting well-being in keeping with Child Abuse Awareness Month in April.  Merced Sun-Star article

Public focuses vision for public art at new Sacramento arena – The public art vision for the new downtown Sacramento arena is coming into focus. A panel of local artists and designers agreed Wednesday to seek proposals for public art at up to four sites at the arena complex.  Sacramento Bee article

Pulitzer Prize winner Peter Arnett talks at Fresno State about war coverage — Pulitzer Prize-winning war correspondent Peter Arnett recalled more than a decade of reporting on the Vietnam War — along with touching on other conflicts, including his interview with Osama bin Laden — to a full auditorium at Fresno State on Wednesday. Fresno Bee article

Fresno man who clubbed 925 Foster Farms chickens sentenced to jail — An 18-year-old Fresno man has handcuffed in court Wednesday and sentenced to 120 days in jail for clubbing 925 chickens to death last year. Superior Court Judge Don Penner also ordered Gabriel Quintero to enroll in anger management and drug treatment programs and to take mental health counseling once he is out of jail. Quintero also has to pay Foster Farms $4,620 for the dead chickens. Fresno Bee article

Auction house decides not to sell Japanese internment artifacts — Responding to a national outcry that began in Sacramento, a New Jersey auction house has decided not to sell off about 450 Japanese internment camp items.  Sacramento Bee article; San Francisco Chronicle article; Sacramento Bee editorial



Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – The California Public Utilities Commission should evaluate splitting up PG&E.

Merced Sun-Star – Fine is good, but PG&E is too large.

Modesto Bee – Fine is good, but PG&E is too large.

Sacramento Bee – George Takei steps in to put internment art in the right place.

Stockton Record – Depending on your point of view, it’s either the 29th annual Asparagus Festival or the first “New” Asparagus Festival going on this weekend. Either way, the organizers and the event itself deserve support.