April 20, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Money shapes power of Capitol committees — A KQED and Maplight.org analysis of data, along with interviews with current and former lawmakers, shows that the most powerful committee chairs in the state Assembly share a knack for prolific fundraising and a propensity to funnel this money to the Democratic Party and other Democrats running for office. Our analysis looked at campaign finance contributions from when each current member entered office through the end of 2014.  KQED report

Loretta Sanchez seen as unscripted alternative for U.S. Senate — Loretta Sanchez, a congresswoman from Santa Ana, paused briefly and then smiled after taking a question recently on what distinguishes her from fellow Democrat Kamala Harris, the early favorite to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer.  Capitol Alert

Other areas

Willie Brown: For Hillary Clinton’s running mate: Jerry Brown – Having ticked off half the world by suggesting Gavin Newsom as a possible running mate for Hillary Rodham Clinton, I want to double down and make a better suggestion: Jerry Brown.  Brown column in San Francisco Chronicle

Sacramento Bee: Some burning questions to mull on 420 Day – Monday is 420 Day, the annual national celebration of marijuana, and you need not feel so all alone. Nor must everybody get stoned. But let’s look at where the United States and California presently stand on this burning subject.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Pot’s holy day brings attention to legalization debate – April 20 – 4/20 – is a cultural landmark for the evolution of marijuana in American society. Fueled by the legend of the California high school students who in 1971 used to get high at 4:20 p.m. each day, “420” is now a marketing term for pot doctors and retail marijuana stores stocked with designer bud strains that glisten in showcases like emeralds.  Sacramento Bee article

Bill would limit aggressive repossession by Buy Here Pay Here dealers — California lawmakers again are taking action to curb abuses in financing used car sales with Buy Here Pay Here loans.  LA Times article

Mirkarimi tries to wipe domestic violence conviction from books — San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, facing a tough re-election battle this year and grasping for any advantage he can find, will send his attorney into court Monday seeking to have his domestic violence-related misdemeanor conviction wiped clean from his record forever.  San Francisco Chronicle article

In brief to justices, former military officials support same-sex marriage — The law firm that filed the brief, now called Sidley Austin, has filed a new one by former military officials in the same-sex marriage cases to be heard next week. Their message this time is that the patchwork of marriage laws around the country hurts military families and threatens national security. New York Times article

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Dan Walters: California-Texas economic rivalry still rages – California is the nation’s most populous state with about 39 million residents, while Texas is No. 2 at 27 million. California is a true blue state politically, while Texas is among the reddest of the red when it comes to politics. They also are rivals in many spheres outside of politics, from cuisine to music. But no competitive arena is more contentious than economics.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

New project to address health disparities among blacks in Merced County — Merced’s black population, one of the smallest in the county, is also one of the most affected by health disparities, according to local health leaders. On Friday, organizers at Merced’s Healthy House kicked off a community project that is supposed to address these disparities over the next several years.  Merced Sun-Star article

Jobs and the Economy

Stockton utility workers unhappy without contract – When contract bargaining began a year ago between Stockton and its utilities employees, the city kicked off the proceedings by proposing workers begin paying for their own protective steel-toed work boots. Stockton Record article

Small CalPERS fund on autopilot 1,736 percent funded – A small CalPERS fund that provides payments to the survivors of workers who die before retirement has a surplus rarely if ever seen in the pension world — 1,736 percent of the funds needed to pay future obligations.  Calpensions article

LA restaurants push for tips to count toward minimum wage — As L.A. leaders weigh raising wages for businesses across the city, scores of local restaurateurs argue that the city should count tips toward the added amount they would have to pay workers to reach the proposed $13.25 or $15.25 minimum wage.  LA Times article

Jamie Court: Sacramento Bee: Big Oil has a lot of explaining to do on gasoline price spikes – The president of Consumer Watchdog writes, “To death and taxes, add one more certainty: Big Oil will always triumph at the expense of our families unless California starts standing up to oil companies by refusing to tolerate a system rigged in their favor.” Court op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Program offers jobs to teens – For the past 31 summers, students from low-income families have been given the opportunity to enter the work force and learn much-needed skills to prepare them for life after high school. Positions offered include administrative, maintenance and retail jobs, all through San Joaquin County Worknet’s Summer Youth Employment and Training Program. Stockton Record article

Stanislaus supervisors will consider grocery store for downtown Salida — A full-service grocery store is coming to downtown Salida if Stanislaus County supervisors give the green light Tuesday. Walid Ali, managing partner for the venture, said the 8,800-square-foot market would have grocery products, a meat department, fresh produce, and a bakery and deli.  Modesto Bee article

Skip payment.  Go to jail.  Lose job.  Repeat — Though jail is considered an effective incentive for parents who are able to pay child support, critics say punitive policies do not work for those who are poor.  New York Times article


What you need to know about the state’s proposed water restrictions – The state water board has modified its proposed conservation regulations in an attempt to incorporate feedback from urban water suppliers, interest groups and members of the public who had roundly criticized its framework. The board addressed some — but not all — of those concerns in its latest draft regulations. Here’s a look at the changes.  LA Times article

Lois Henry: Would an open water market improve things? — Almonds take too much water. Wait, alfalfa is the bad guy.  What about those water hogging geeks in Silicon Valley? No, no, no — that “evil” fracking is to blame. If it’s a day that ends in “y,” Californians are finding new water guzzling bogeymen to vilify. Meanwhile, economists are quietly shaking their heads. All this shaming and finger pointing is beside the point. It’s all about water markets, they say.  Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

Wealthy Woodside is among state’s top water wasters – The rural town of Woodside combines the leafy luxury of Marin County with the remoteness of Mendocino. Woodside is nestled in the heart of Silicon Valley, but its rustic setting off scenic Highway 280 south of San Francisco is anything but high tech. Woodside has a swanky Zip code. And it has something in common with other posh cities like Beverly Hills and Malibu: Woodside is among California’s top water wasters.  KQED report

Drought restrictions may end era:  Bye-bye front lawn – As the state prepares to implement mandatory water restrictions, prices for heavy use go up and the styles of gardens change, even high-end homeowners are questioning whether water-hungry lawns have a future.  Oakland Tribune article

Keith Law: New garden doesn’t make sense in a drought – The Merced College employee writes, “Merced College’s trustees have given a green light to the construction of a 10-acre botanical garden on the campus. It’s a beautiful idea and everyone loves botanical gardens. But Merced College is not the place to build one. We’re in a drought and the long-term future promises to hold substantial water shortages.” Law op-ed in Merced Sun-Star

Don Curlee: Methane joins milk as dairy profit item — A few California dairymen are dispensing home grown natural gas, as well as milk, as a profit item, pleasing their environmentalist friends, as well as their neighbors. They are turning their dairies’ most reliable by-product — cow manure — into odorless natural gas, which they can sell easily and profitably or use to meet costly energy requirements on the farm.  Curlee column in Visalia Times-Delta

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Prior clashes may factor into San Bernardino County beating inquiries — Before he found himself being beaten earlier this month by San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies in view of a hovering news helicopter, Francis Pusok and law enforcement had clashed more than once.  LA Times article


Sex education quietly disappears from Fresno Unified schools — In California, where schools are not mandated to offer comprehensive sex education, its history is patchy and difficult to track. The state Department of Education doesn’t keep hard numbers on whether districts offer comprehensive sex education, although spokeswoman Tina Jung says the state has anecdotal evidence showing the “vast majority” of middle and high schools do. The state’s fourth-largest district, Fresno Unified, with an enrollment of about 73,000, doesn’t.  Fresno Bee article

Little oversight of restraint practices in special education — The reported use of restraint and seclusion in special education classrooms is not rare and has increased since the state began collecting data on “behavioral emergencies” – defined as instances of unpredictable behavior that could cause serious physical harm and could not be prevented by less restrictive methods. EdSource article

First in his family to go to college, 25-year-old now has his own law practice – If helping support his family meant then-high school student Dan Arriola worked three jobs, that’s what he did. If maintaining good grades in his Advanced Placement classes meant doing homework until the wee hours of night, that’s what he did.  Stockton Record article

Fresno 4th-grader wins California Elementary Spelling Bee — As the rounds progressed and the words got tougher, Fresno fourth-grader Ananya Vinay kept her cool at the podium of Saturday’s California State Elementary Spelling Bee in Stockton. One by one, contestants were bested by words like “eponymous,” “mastodon” and “languid.”  Fresno Bee article

Andy Furillo: It’s time for UC Davis to re-examine its ‘principles’ — UC Davis’ athletics program’s growth is limited by its “inviolate principles.” The recent departure of athletic director Terry Tumey gives the Aggies a chance to examine them. Alum Mike Bellotti thinks it’s time for some changes. Furillo column in Sacramento Bee


Hotel hopes charging station doesn’t generate shocking rates — Hotels that want to offer their guests fast-charging stations to power up the electric cars of green-minded guests may worry about getting stuck with higher electric bills.  LA Times article

Geologists study Ventura fault’s danger – including as tsunami threat – Research in recent years shows that the fault is extremely dangerous, capable of producing an earthquake as large as magnitude 8 as well as severe tsunamis that until now experts didn’t believe were possible from a Southern California quake.  LA Times article

Monday Q&A: To catch a power thief — Ed Franciosa, the Modesto Irrigation District’s assistant general manager over power transmission and distribution, oversees a team charged with catching the bad guys – ideally, before they swipe thousands of dollars of power, or blow themselves up. With improved technology and years of experience, his squad is getting better at the game, though he’s reluctant to describe techniques for fear of giving away some secrets to the crooks.  Modesto Bee article

Health/Human Services

A surge in federal funding for Mental Health First Aid could make it as popular as CPR — It’s not very often that someone can say he talked a person out of jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge. Gary Scheppke can. Scheppke, a member of the Marin County Board of Mental Health, credits completing a certified course that trains a broad spectrum of people to identify and respond to mental illness.  Contra Costa Times article

Shopping tools help patients find cash prices for medical procedures — With rising out-of-pocket expenses, patients are increasingly demanding information about price and quality that historically has been unavailable. Entrepreneurs, states and employers now offer such tools. A number of newly formed coalitions made up of insurers, pharmaceutical companies and other industry insiders are also vowing to push for the release of price information long held as trade secrets.  LA Times article

Bakersfield girls survives life-threatening flu — Second-grader Lydia Ledford is back home in Bakersfield after spending 55 days hooked up to machines because she couldn’t breathe. The child almost died from what started out as a routine case of influenza.  Bakersfield Californian article


James Burger: The story behind – and the future of – Westside Parkway – I drove the Westside Parkway for the first time back in 1999. It was harder back then, since the route was just a freeway-shaped hole in Bakersfield’s urban landscape.  Burger in Bakersfield Californian

Southwest Airlines’ new seats are wider with ‘streamlined’ armrests – The newest seats on Southwest Airline planes are expected to give passengers what they’ve been demanding: more breathing space.  LA Times article

Daniel Borenstein: BART looking to 2016 voters for property tax increase to fix ailing system — As part of rebuilding and expanding the aging system, BART officials are considering a property tax measure for the November 2016 ballot in Alameda, Contra Costa and San Francisco counties. But BART’s own polls shows the district will struggle to win over the needed two-thirds of voters.  Borenstein in Contra Costa Times

Other areas

Fresno gas line had no leaks before exploding near Highway 99, PG&E says – A natural gas line that exploded Friday near Highway 99 in northwest Fresno was inspected twice in April and found to have no gas leaks, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. said Sunday.  Fresno Bee article

PG&E hires engineering firm to probe Fresno blast – Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has hired an independent engineering firm to determine the cause of a natural gas pipeline explosion that injured 12 people in Fresno, company officials said Sunday.  San Francisco Chronicle article

211 phone service to launch in Merced – Residents in Merced and Mariposa counties will soon have a database of resources readily available with the simple dialing of three numbers. The Mountain Valley 211 Program is a referral and information system that aims to connect people to services they may need. By dialing 2-1-1, callers will be able to access information specialists who can refer them to local programs for assistance.  Merced Sun-Star article

Group aiding homeless youths gets pushback in midtown Sacramento – In the third-floor headquarters of Wind Youth Services on Friday, two young men sat in front of computers while a young woman napped on a nearby couch. Three other young people played dice at a table. Donated clothing hung on a wall, and boxes of food sat on the floor. It was quiet and safe and just the kind of environment most people would hope exists for homeless youths in this city. But it’s coming with a price.  Sacramento Bee article

Venice homeless advocates challenge beach curfew — Venice homeless advocates early Sunday defied the city’s overnight beach curfew, sipping coffee and star-gazing well past the midnight cutoff. But they failed to draw the attention of police.  LA Times article

Thousands of Valley Sikhs mark New Year with Vaisakhi celebration — Under the bright Valley sun, the thousands of Sikh men and women in bright Punjabi dress stuck out even more against the dry Selma farmland.  Fresno Bee article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – State lawmakers need to keep their priorities straight here. 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. No one has an inalienable right to endanger public health.

Sacramento Bee – Monday is 420 Day, the annual national celebration of marijuana, and you need not feel so all alone. Nor must everybody get stoned. But let’s look at where the United States and California presently stand on this burning subject.