April 17, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

KQED Political Muscle:  For California’s powerful, following the law often means writing it yourself — Cooley is one of dozens of legislators who introduce “sponsored bills,” legislation instigated by outside groups. The term sounds benign, and it sometimes certainly is. It’s also opaque. And optional. In fact, KQED News’ detailed review of thousands of pieces of legislation over the past three years shows relatively few sponsored bills — and staffers and lobbyists privately say that’s because legislators often refuse to publicly identify the groups involved. KQED report

Jerry Brown argues against ‘Big Brother’ picking crops in drought – With almonds and alfalfa coming in for criticism amid California’s drought, Gov. Jerry Brown argued Thursday against any “Big Brother” effort to curtail production of water-heavy crops.  Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article

After small victory, Gray pulled from water committee – Adam Gray on Wednesday was booted off the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee, one day after an unlikely victory when the committee narrowly approved his legislation aimed at protecting communities near the Stanislaus, Tuolumne and Merced rivers.  Modesto Bee article

State budget

California is nation’s top tax collector — California is not only the nation’s most populous state but the 800-pound gorilla of taxation, a new Census Bureau report reveals. During the 2013-14 fiscal year that ended last June, California collected $138.1 billion in taxes of all kinds, 16 percent of all state taxes collected in the nation and more than the next two states, New York and Texas, combined.  Capitol Alert

Gov. Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown appoints SEIU spokesman to CalHR post — After working seven years for California’s largest public employee union, Jim Zamora has been named deputy director of communications for the state’s Department of Human Resources.  Sacramento Bee article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Kamala Harris talks federal issues, but not Clinton endorsement – U.S. Senate candidate Kamala Harris tackled some national issues Thursday, expressing support for President Obama’s nuclear arms deal with Iran and for authorizing military force against the Islamic State, but she declined to take stands on Internet privacy and easing restrictions on marijuana.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Elizabeth Warren to headline California Democratic Party convention — Elizabeth Warren, a champion of the Democratic Party’s liberal wing, will headline the California Democratic Party’s annual convention next month in Anaheim, organizers said Thursday.  Capitol Alert

Taxation, Vaccination, Education: California Politics Podcast — On this week’s political podcast, we tackle three big subjects in the news: April tax receipts and the budget battle to come; the behind-the-scenes Capitol politics of the vaccination debate; and a new poll suggesting strong support for changes to the state’s teacher tenure laws.  California Politics Podcast in KQED


Obama’s immigration overhaul, halted by judge, comes before appeals court – Justice Department lawyers on Friday will urge the federal appeals court here to let President Obama immediately move forward with his overhaul of the nation’s immigration and deportation policies, despite a legal challenge by more than half of the states.  New York Times article

Video: Jerry Brown sidesteps immigrant health care question — Gov. Jerry Brown declined Thursday to specifically address a proposal to expand health care coverage to Californians in the country illegally. But what he said about legislation, generally, could give the bill’s proponents pause.  Capitol Alert

Other areas

California vaccine bill faces uphill battle – Rather than playing out as a straightforward public health issue, a bill requiring California schoolchildren to be fully vaccinated is extraordinarily contentious. The measure has galvanized citizen opponents, following a pattern that helped bury similar bills in Oregon and Washington, divided Sacramento’s Democratic majority and left proponents scrambling to salvage the legislation.  Sacramento Bee article; Sacramento Bee editorial

Lending skills or taking refuge? Ex-state lawmakers take Capitol jobs — Legislative leaders defend the practice of appointing and hiring former officials, saying it provides the state with expertise. Taxpayer activist Lew Uhler disagreed, saying such hiring shows a lingering system of political patronage at the state Capitol.  LA Times article

Many of California’s vulnerable House members fundraising ahead of 2016 – Hoping to inoculate themselves against challenges next year, most of California’s vulnerable House members already are building campaign war chests. LA Times article

Senate Oks bill barring sexual consent of minors as defense — The California Senate has advanced a bill that prevents defendants in civil cases from claiming the sexual consent of a minor as a defense. It comes after the Los Angeles Unified School District successfully argued last year that a 14-year-old girl who had sex with a male teacher shared responsibility, despite her age.  AP article

California bill would force Uber to guard passenger privacy – A bill pending in Sacramento would force Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing companies to follow stricter privacy rules. AB886 specifies that the smartphone-ordered ride services cannot disclose any data on passengers except to combat fraud or other crimes. It also says the companies must destroy all personal information when customers cancel their accounts.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Assembly adjourns in memory of transgender teens who committed suicide —  An emotional Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) adjourned the state Assembly session Thursday in memory of two transgender teenagers from northern San Diego County who committed suicide.  LA Times article

Scott Wilk: Let voters shift high-speed rail money to schools – The Republican assemblymember from Santa Clarita writes, “On Monday, the Assembly Transportation Committee can take the first step in derailing the bullet train by passing Assembly Bill 6. It would give voters the chance in November 2016 to cancel high-speed rail and redirect the $8 billion to build schools and college facilities.”  Wilk op-ed in Sacramento Bee

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

California almond growers to keep planting, despite drought – They’ve been blamed for planting too many almond trees and making the drought even worse. Their response? Plant more trees. California’s almond farmers are likely to continue planting new orchards in the coming years, increasing production by 2 percent to 3.5 percent a year over the next decade, one of the state’s leading farm economists said Thursday.  Sacramento Bee article

James Fallows: 3 ways of thinking about Fresno (and why you should care) — Fresno has become another of our new Favorite Cities—along with GreenvilleSioux FallsAllentown, Duluth, and on down the list. Some of the reasons include innovative public schools, an arts scene with ambitions to become California’s next bohemia, tech startups that take advantage of the city’s location in the middle of one of the world’s major agricultural zones, and an ambitious plan to remake what is now a very tattered downtown.  Fallows in The Atlantic

Jobs and the Economy

Working on the railroad: High-speed rail sparks new career interest – With work on California’s High-Speed rail about to take off, interest in the trades that the rail will need appears to be increasing. That’s according to groups that run pre-apprenticeship programs that teach people the skills necessary to work on building the train. Talk of the project is driving interest in programs intended to train the men and women that will be needed to build it.  KVPR report

Michael Fitzgerald: The sadder but wiser city — CalPERS, the state pension Hogzilla, is raising pension contribution rates again, over 9 percent. That will cost state government and school districts nearly $600 million. Before the end of the year, the pension monster will probably jack up the bill to cities, too. Making me wonder whether Stockton on its tight post-bankruptcy budget will founder. Good news. “We were aware of CalPERS pension reform efforts when we developed the model and we planned for increases,” says city spokesperson Connie Cochran. Fitzgerald blog in Stockton Record

Fresno Bee: Fresno’s impressive battle plan for winning the war on poverty – The poverty that grips the San Joaquin Valley is well documented, as are the shortfalls in educational attainment that cause our economy to sputter. But there is hope for better times, because Fresno leaders have put together their own model to help the poor and the unemployed get off public assistance and into the work force. It is called the Fresno Bridge Academy.  Fresno Bee editorial

Project will be ‘new footprint for downtown’ Stockton – At the earliest, the planned Grand View Village affordable housing/retail project for downtown Stockton will not open until late 2017. But developers Wednesday afternoon held an open house to discuss the project, which Carol Ornelas of Visionary Home Builders said will be part of “a whole new footprint for downtown.” Stockton Record article

Six San Joaquin County companies receive investment support via tax credits – California officials approved tax credits Thursday that would support $26 million in new investment and generate more than 340 new jobs by six companies with existing or potential facilities in San Joaquin County.  Stockton Record article

Michael Fitzgerald: Asparagus Festival 2.0 deserves shot at success – Stockton’s Asparagus Festival rises Lazarus-like from the dead today, though it’s not clear whether Lazarus will party hearty or collapse back onto his slab.  Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Aera CEO leaving his post – The head of one of Kern County’s largest oil producers, Bakersfield-based Aera Energy LLC, is stepping down this summer and being replaced by a vice president from Shell.  Bakersfield Californian article

Blackstone Avenue Smart & Final deal dead – A Southern California-based developer has pulled out of a proposed deal to build a new Smart & Final-anchored shopping center at the southwest corner of Blackstone and Clinton avenues.  The Business Journal article

Housing market sees hopeful signs – Two new reports, one from the California Association of Realtors (CAR) and another from the Fresno Business Journal, show an uptick in the positive rebound of the Visalia/Tulare real estate market.  Visalia Times-Delta article

LA spends $100 million a year on homelessness, city report finds – The city of Los Angeles spends more than $100 million a year coping with homeless people and the medical, mental health and sanitation problems they bring, including as much as $87 million on arrests and other police services, according to a new report.  LA Times article

Relief predicted at pump this summer – Relief is predicted at the pump this summer, with prices anticipated to average $1.10-$1.15 per gallon less than last summer’s prices for retail gasoline, diesel fuel and brent crude oil, according to the United States Energy Administration.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Report: Pending sales of Sacramento’s luxury homes on the rise – Luxury homes sales this quarter posted 118 new open escrows, or pending sales, which Lyon Real Estate on Thursday called the strongest quarterly showing in the high-end segment since September 2007. Lyon’s report on the region’s upscale homes – those priced at $900,000 or more – was based on information provided by Sacramento-based real estate tracking firm Trendgraphix Inc.  Sacramento Bee article

Southern California home sales jump, prices rise in March – After a year of sluggish demand, more homes sold and prices perked up in March as an improving economy and short supply pushed up the median home price by $10,000, according to a new report.  LA Times article

NFL officials meet with Chargers, Raiders about Carson stadium – Representatives of the San Diego Chargers, Oakland Raiders and the city of Carson met with NFL officials Thursday in downtown Los Angeles to discuss a proposed $1.7-billion stadium. LA Times article

Sacramento ranked as No. 1 most affordable city to leave near wine country — Hey Sacramento, you’re No. 1. Maybe it’s not in terms of basketball, but when it comes to wine country you are the tops. In a survey conducted by Food & Wine magazine and the Redfin real estate blog, Sacramento’s ranks tops in the country as the most affordable city to live near wine countrySacramento Bee article

Marijuana delivery service expands in state after LA operations halted – A medical marijuana delivery app that was shut down in Los Angeles announced Thursday that it will be offering its services in other cities across California and in Seattle and Portland.  LA Times article

Financial incentives Ok’d for workplace wellness programs — In a victory for business, federal regulators said Thursday that employers can continue to use financial penalties and rewards to nudge staff to participate in fast-growing workplace wellness programs.  AP article

Stanislaus judge advances class action against dairy products company — A class-action lawsuit by employees of Central Valley-based dairy manufacturer and distributor Super Store Industries is going forward.  Modesto Bee article


Slow progress in congressional water talks – When it comes to California drought relief legislation, it’s been a dry year so far on Capitol Hill. As Kitty Felde reports from Washington, Central Valley politicians and farm interests have been in Congress this week to remind lawmakers about the dire situation back home.  Capital Public Radio report

Robin Abcarian: Almonds, the demons of drought? Frustrated growers tell another story — It’s not clear exactly when almonds became the scapegoat for the California drought. Maybe it was last August, when the Atlantic posted “The Dark Side of Almond Use,” implicating the tasty little nut in every environmental crisis from bee colony collapse disorder to the struggles of the state’s Chinook salmon population.  Abcarian in LA Times

Even in a drought almonds make farmers money – California’s drought has brought increased scrutiny to the San Joaquin Valley’s almond industry, which is one of the largest users of water in the state. But as Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports, industry leaders say the drought is actually helping to fuel the shift towards nut crops. KVPR report

Almond Board defends nut against critics – Officials at the Almond Board of California held a press conference Thursday to defend the little nut, which has been facing withering criticism as an alleged water hog amid California’s drought.  Hanford Sentinel article

California faces fight over historic water rationing plans – More than 200 letters leveling criticisms at a plan to force Californians to slash urban water use by 25% make it clear just how difficult it will be for regulators to enforce Gov. Jerry Brown’s unprecedented mandate.  LA Times article

Talks sprout in water conflict – Farmers within the Delta and farmers south of the Delta aren’t exactly bosom buddies. Not when it comes to water. But this spring, as their lawyers geared up for another year of fighting over limited supplies, farmers on both sides quietly started talking. Stockton Record article

To shield tech executives, California’s biggest water users are secret – In the midst of a historic drought, Californians have no way of knowing who’s guzzling the most water. That’s not an accident. It’s by design, thanks to an obscure 1997 measure that weakened one of the state’s chief open government laws, the California Public Records Act.  Center for Investigative Reporting article

California Assembly members push to speed up water storage construction – Amid a crippling state drought, several state Assembly members are pushing a bill intended to speed up construction of water storage facilities by changing the state-mandated environmental review process.  LA Daily News article

Concerns grow over Safeway plant in Merced bottling and selling groundwater – Officials in the parched Central Valley hang their hats on a few ways to save water – limiting outdoor watering and taking shorter showers – but some residents say they’re not addressing concerns about a Safeway bottling plant in Merced that’s pulling groundwater from city wells to be bottled and sold.  Merced Sun-Star article

Comparing Valley water consumption, conservation – Compare water consumption and conservation among the Valley’s urban water users in this interactive chart. You can also see how per-person, per-day consumption at other urban water agencies in California compares with the Valley’s urban water agencies.  Fresno Bee article

Meters could catch water wasters — John Doyel, Hanford’s deputy public works director, said Hanford’s automated water meters were purchased in 2009 to reduce labor needed to check meters and to educate customers about their water use. Doyel said that a typical household should have at least one hour per day with zero water use. If a meter shows water activity 24 hours a day, there might be a problem.  Hanford Sentinel article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Local police agencies review policies on where sex offenders can live – In Stanislaus County, authorities said the court decision does not specifically apply to the county, but agencies are reviewing their residency policies for registered sex offenders. Jill Silva, the county’s chief probation officer, said the department has changed its policy and now considers on a case-by-case basis where sex offenders can live. The department keeps track of convicted sex offenders who are on probation.  Modesto Bee article

Cellmate of former Nebraska football star Lawrence Phillips died of ‘neck compression asphyxia’ — The cellmate of former college football star Lawrence Phillips died of “neck compression asphyxia” and his death is a homicide, a coroner’s office news release said Thursday.  Bakersfield Californian article; LA Times article

Kern DA’s office creates Family Violence Unit — District Attorney Lisa Green announced Thursday the formation of a Family Violence Unit within her officer that will prosecute all cases of felony domestic violence, sexual assaults, physical child abuse and elder abuse.  Bakersfield Californian article

Hughson gets a new chief of police — Stanislaus County sheriff’s Lt. Larry Seymour has been appointed Hughson chief of police, the department announced Thursday. He was selected by the county and city to replace Lt. Darin Gharat, who recently retired from the county. Hughson is among the small cities that have contracts with the county to provide police services.  Modesto Bee article

Delay in alerting San Francisco police brass about texts could hurt case — A decision by a San Francisco police bureau more than two years ago to shield Police Chief Greg Suhr and other top officials from officers’ racist and homophobic texts wasn’t required by a federal court order, a copy of the order shows. Now the delay in alerting police officials about the texts could jeopardize Suhr’s attempt to discipline the officers.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Oakland police discipline system broken, report says — Oakland police officers who get fired or disciplined for misconduct frequently overturn their punishment at arbitration because department officials and the city attorney’s office do a poor job investigating the cases, according to a scathing report issued Thursday.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Kevin Ayotte: Hanson misrepresents the state of the American university – The chair of the Academic Senate and associate professor of communications at Fresno State writes, “In his April 11 column published by The Bee, Victor Davis Hanson charged modern American universities with failing to teach graduates to “read critically or write effectively,” stifling debate about controversial ideas with “politically correctness,” and inadequately training students for the work force. The caricature provided in the column, however, makes little use of the very facts and critical thinking Hanson calls for, and worse does a profound disservice to the families and students who work very hard to build better lives through a university education.”  Ayotte op-ed in Fresno Bee

CSU Bakersfield Foundation owes students $1 million – The nonprofit arm of Cal State Bakersfield has, for about two years, been sitting on upward of $1 million donated to the CSUB Foundation for student scholarships, according to the Foundation.  Bakersfield Californian article

Kings students begin new state tests — Kings County school districts officially began the new computerized state testing this week, the first school year it’s required. “So far, it’s been going great,” said Doug Carlton, director of categorical programs for the Hanford Elementary School District. “We haven’t had any problems.”  Hanford Sentinel article

Bakersfield City School District board to discuss getting new trustee — The Bakersfield City School District could be short a school board member come May. Long-time board member Bill McDougle, who’s moving to Oregon, plans to attend his last board meeting as a trustee April 28, leaving the board to determine what to do in his absence.  Bakersfield Californian article

LA schools iPad program subject of inquiry by SEC — The federal Securities and Exchange Commission recently opened an informal inquiry into whether Los Angeles school officials complied with legal guidelines in the use of bond funds for the now-abandoned $1.3-billion iPads-for-all project. LA Times article

Students would benefit if LA Unified kept curriculum, Pearson exec says – A top official from Pearson said Thursday that students would benefit if the Los Angeles Unified School District continued to use its curriculum on iPads and other computers.  LA Times article

Proposed law would be first in nation to ban ‘Redskins’ school mascot – California, home to the largest number of American Indians in the country, is for the third time considering legislation that would end the use of “Redskins” as a school team name or mascot.  EdSource article

Bakersfield College to give veterans free parking in honor of young soldier — Military veterans studying at Bakersfield College may be able to park for free on campus this fall with waivers dubbed Mike’s Passes. After receiving a monetary gift from Kern Schools Federal Credit Union, Bakersfield College decided to establish the Mike’s Pass Program for new student veterans in their first semester of classes.  Bakersfield Californian article


UC Merced reserve, statewide system lauded – The University of California’s network of reserves is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, and UC Merced was home to the first such event on Thursday. UC Natural Reserve System Director Peggy Fiedler spoke to students and researchers in Merced to highlight the statewide system, which is made up of 39 reserves around California. The reserves are used for research and often bring together students from separate campuses.  Merced Sun-Star article

Joel Fox: Governors Wilson and Davis view environmental laws differently — Town Hall Los Angeles hosted a discussion between former California governors Pete Wilson and Gray Davis yesterday with the two disagreeing over environmental law regulations and touching on other policy issues and state politics.  Fox in Fox & Hounds

Merced County weed abatement program underway — Merced County authorities announced the kick off this month to the annual weed abatement program, a process that aims to reduce overgrown grass and debris from yards that cause fire hazards and other issues.  Merced Sun-Star article

250 native elk die inside fenced area at California seashore — More than 250 tule elk died inside a fenced area at a Northern California seashore over a two-year period and a lack of water is possibly the cause.  AP article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Health/Human Services

Covered California postpones vote on drug-cost cap – Leaders of the state’s health benefit exchange postponed a vote Thursday on capping the amount that patients can pay each month for expensive specialty drugs. Covered California’s governing board was considering a $500 a month cap on drugs to treat diseases such as hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS. Newer treatments for hepatitis C, a virus that can lead to severe liver damage, have list prices of $1,000 per pill or more.  Sacramento Bee article

Measles outbreak centered at Disneyland may be declared over Friday — The measles outbreak that started in Disneyland and reached beyond U.S. borders, sparking a national debate on the merits of vaccinations, could be declared over Friday if no new cases are reported, state health officials said.  LA Times article; KQED report

E-cigarette use by teenagers soars, but smoking drops — E-cigarettes have arrived in the life of the American teenager. Use of the devices among middle- and high school students tripled from 2013 to 2014, according to federal data released Thursday, bringing the share of high school students who use them to 13 percent — more than smoke traditional cigarettes. New York Times article; NPR report

Robert Holloway: Kids in foster care are struggling – The president of the California Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry writes, “The “cheap fix” of limiting prescriptions merely limits options for all kids who have Medi-Cal. If we’re going to reduce prescribing, let’s do it the right way by giving kids and their families the support they need so they don’t reach the point of needing prescriptions in the first place.” Holloway op-ed in Sacramento Bee

 Romero: Women deserve treatment for sexual dysfunction – The Modesto resident writes, “The FDA needs to know that equitable access to health care should be a fundamental right, regardless of whether you are a man or a woman. For women who are living with the nightmare of sexual dysfunction, this needs to be a priority.”  Romero op-ed in Modesto Bee

HCCA opens West Tulare clinic – Margee Cruz said she doubted the West Street Community Health Clinic would ever open. Cruz, who resides at the Valley Oak Apartment Complex, said she would pass by the clinic and see its doors closed.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Patsy Ouellette: With cancer, stop living with fear and start living with strength – The Bakersfield resident and retired former teacher writes, “Prevention. Prevention should be where the biggest effort is spent, but instead, it’s all about treatment, testing and more treatment, when experts themselves admit that once cancer is found, the outcomes are often grim. I am here to recommend prevention, prevention, prevention.”  Ouellette op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Land Use/Housing

Visalia and Fresno builders to open new developments — A Visalia builder and one in Fresno are getting ready to open two new developments. Fresno Bee article

Lots of new housing in San Francisco, but it’s still not enough – Residential construction in San Francisco is growing at a torrid pace, but concerns continue about whether the city is getting enough of the housing it needs the most.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Central Fresno apartment complex sold for $5.5 million — The Canyon Del Sol Apartments in central Fresno has been sold for $5.5 million. A southern California investor bought the 124-unit complex on North Cedar Avenue, near McKinley Avenue, said Robin Kane of Berkadia Real Estate Advisors in Fresno who represented the buyer and the seller.  Fresno Bee article

Other areas

Community leaders concerned with rise of heroin abuse — Local health care professionals, government officials and community groups have recently expressed concern over the growing problem of heroin abuse in the Central Valley.  The Business Journal article

Atwater council to resume meeting twice a month – The Atwater City Council will go back to holding two meetings a month, a divided council determined this week. The council rejected a measure to hold only monthly meetings in a 3-2 vote. Mayor Pro Tem Larry Bergman and Councilman James Vineyard voted in favor of holding one meeting a month. The council was considering permanently reducing the number of meetings to save an estimated $57,000 a year.  Merced Sun-Star article

Madera mortuary owner accused of defrauding Madera County coroner’s office — A Madera mortuary owner was arrested Thursday on charges she’s been bilking Madera County on coroner’s services.  Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – The poverty that grips the San Joaquin Valley is well documented, as are the shortfalls in educational attainment that cause our economy to sputter. But there is hope for better times, because Fresno leaders have put together their own model to help the poor and the unemployed get off public assistance and into the work force. It is called the Fresno Bridge Academy; George Takei comes to the rescue of internment camp art.

Sacramento Bee – California has one of the most lax vaccine laws in the United States. Bringing it more in line with the rest of the country is a much-needed step, and the claim that it’s some sort of radical idea is a smokescreen.

Stockton Record – We support the right to peacefully protest and to continue this discourse. The middle of one of the busiest streets in Stockton, however, is not the proper place for these conversations.