April 22, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

California vaccine bill changes seek to protect education — With a crucial committee vote looming, a California bill conditioning school enrollment on vaccination has been amended to allow unvaccinated California children to complete their education in multi-family home schools or in publicly sanctioned independent courses.  Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article; Sacramento Bee editorial; State PTA President Colleen A.R. You op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Backers of legal pot in California face challenges in crafting a ballot measure — With Californians facing a possible vote next year on whether to legalize the recreational use of marijuana, supporters are scrambling to craft a measure that can win broad public support.  LA Times article

Valley politics

Campaign starts now for those seeking Fresno mayor’s post — Who wants to be Fresno’s next mayor? For those thinking about leading the state’s fifth-largest city after Mayor Ashley Swearengin reaches her term limit next year, it’s a question that should already be answered. The primary election is a little more than 13 months away, and a run this big requires a lot of advance planning. Fresno Bee article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Dan Walters: Senate competitor may reveal the real Kamala Harris — Harris, it would seem, believes she can simply coast into the Senate without saying or doing anything significant. But that could change if she faced a serious rival, particularly another Democrat. And Loretta Sanchez, a Southern California congresswoman for the past two decades, could pose that challenge.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

LGBT groups worry about rise of hostile ballot measures — First, there was the Sodomite Suppression Act, a proposed state ballot measure allowing for the killing of gays and lesbians. That proposal begat a counter-proposal: the Intolerant Jackass Act. Now, another group is trying to use the state initiative process to restrict transgender people’s use of bathrooms in government-owned buildings — including public schools. LA Times article


Bill would require agencies to approve U visas for immigrants helpful in investigations — A bill in the California legislature would require local law enforcement agencies to sign off on federal U visas if victims have been helpful in investigations. U-Visas are designed to let immigrants report crimes without fear of deportation. Capital Public Radio report

Other areas

California bill would ban ‘Redskins’ as school team name or mascot — Public schools in California would have to phase out the use of the term “Redskins” for their athletic team name or mascot under a bill advanced Tuesday by a state Assembly panel based on concern that the term is derogatory to Native Americans.  LA Times article; Stockton Record article

Citing privacy concerns, Airbnb slams bill on short-term rentals — Popular home-sharing website Airbnb is stepping up its opposition to the first statewide measure aiming to regulate short-term rentals, arguing the proposal would harm consumer privacy.  LA Times article

Obama won’t declare killings of Armenians in 1915 to be genocide — White House officials have decided that President Obama will not use the word “genocide” to describe the killings of more than 1 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks when he commemorates the deaths Friday, the 100th anniversary of the massacres.  LA Times article; McClatchy Newspapers article

Fresno Armenian community to mark genocide centennial – Valley Edition spoke with two leaders of the local Armenian community to reflect of the history of the genocide, the politics that continues to make it a controversy today in Turkey, and the upcoming events in Fresno. KVPR report

Many young Americans want to build a new Armenia — Young North Americans of Armenian descent are still flocking to the country – taking up citizenship, starting high-tech companies or going into local politics. One reason for their interest is the country’s educated workforce, and a tradition of tech-savviness that dates to when Armenia was known as the Silicon Valley of the Soviet Union.  McClatchy Newspapers article

David Lazarus: Federal data-breach bill would replace dozens of stronger state laws — It’s called the Data Security and Breach Notification Act of 2015, and, if passed into law, it would be the first federal rule requiring businesses to let consumers know that their personal information may be in the hands of hackers. Sounds good, right? It’s not.  Lazarus in LA Times

Death in secret: California’s underground world of assisted suicide – Physician-assisted suicide is illegal in California. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Sick patients sometimes ask for help in hastening their deaths, and some doctors will explain, vaguely, how to do it.  KQED report

John Pappas: Time is right to approve, regulate internet poker – The executive director of the Poker Players Alliance writes, “California could take a major step forward to provide millions of consumers with needed protections, and to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue to the state, by authorizing Internet poker.”  Pappas op-ed in Merced Sun-Star

Calderon prosecutors: FBI agents should be disguised in court — Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles asked a judge to allow three FBI undercover agents to testify in disguise in the upcoming corruption trial of former Sen. Ronald Calderon, who is accused of taking more than $80,000 in bribes.  Capitol Weekly article

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Brown administration to stick with strict conservation targets, despite court ruling — Gov. Jerry Brown is sticking to his statewide mandatory water conservation targets, his administration said Tuesday, even as a new appeals court ruling limits the ability of cities and water districts to hit people with punishing rates to encourage them to save water.  San Jose Mercury News article

Audit says jail releases jumped 37 percent after realignment — The number of inmates being released by county jails increased by 37 percent statewide during the first three years after California began sending lower-level offenders to local lockups instead of state prisons, state auditors said Tuesday.  AP article

Jobs and the Economy

Kern supervisors order redo of library survey, meeting schedule – Kern County supervisors decided Tuesday to take a deep breath, slow down and take this whole library privatization thing a bit slower. County Administrative Officer John Nilon presented supervisors a proposed public survey and community meeting schedule that aimed to gather input on what library patrons want from their library. Bakersfield Californian article

Supervisors approve layoffs at Merced County revenue department – Merced County will lay off five employees from its Revenue & Reimbursement Department in July, the first move in dissolving a county department losing one of its most significant accounts.  Merced Sun-Star article

Merced County supervisors plan discretionary funds discussion after heated board meeting – Tensions over the use of discretionary funds by the Board of Supervisors for projects in their districts mounted during a meeting Tuesday, but led to the board scheduling a future discussion.  Merced Sun-Star article

Stockton transfers $8.5 million in redevelopment funds – More than three years after the state dissolved more than 400 city redevelopment agencies, Stockton is transferring $8.5 million in unspent loan proceeds from the defunct program into its coffers, with plans for the use of the funds still to be determined.  Stockton Record article

California officials propose higher rates for some – California households that use the least electricity would start paying more for it, under a proposal put before state utility regulators on Tuesday intended to bring the prices charged for electricity more in line with its actual costs.  AP article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Electric automotive developer considers plant at Castle Commerce Center – The largest vacant facility at the former Castle Air Force Base – empty for more than a decade – may soon be home to the manufacturer of a self-driving electric car.  Merced Sun-Star article

Energy companies can be sued for manipulating natural gas prices during California’s energy crisis, Supreme Court says – The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that energy companies can be sued under state antitrust laws for illegally manipulating natural gas prices more than a decade ago during California’s energy crisis.  AP article

City of Sacramento shorted employees on benefits, union says – Nearly 100 city of Sacramento employees did not receive medical coverage or other benefits despite working enough hours to qualify for them, the city’s largest labor union charged in a grievance filed Monday.  Sacramento Bee article

City council approves plan for NFL stadium near LA – A local City Council on Tuesday night unanimously voted to clear the path for a proposed $1.7 billion stadium near Los Angeles that could become the shared home to the NFL’s San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders. AP article; LA Times article

Activists fasting outside LA City Hall tell council to hike minimum wage – A light breeze blew outside Los Angeles City Hall on Tuesday as a nurse took the blood pressures of eight women in the midst of a 15-day fast designed to pressure officials into approving a $15 an hour minimum wage.  LA Times article

State Senate bill targets businesses that fail to pay employees – Workers in California are paid less than the legal minimum wage about 372,000 times every week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. New state Senate legislation introduced Tuesday aims to give state authorities more power to collect back wages from violators. LA Times article

Ghost of NAFTA haunts proposed Pacific Rim trade deal  As lawmakers gear up for a rancorous debate on a bill that would help President Obama secure a massive Pacific Rim trade deal, congressional Democrats and their allies are making the case that such an agreement would be disastrous for American jobs and wages. For many, Exhibit No. 1 is the North American Free Trade Agreement. LA Times article

Are smartwatches dangerous?  Lawyer wants $1 billion campaign to warn drivers — On Monday, an attorney filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles County Superior Court against Apple, Samsung, Microsoft and Google that seeks a court order for the technology companies to fund a $1-billion public education campaign about the dangers of using a smartwatch while driving. In his lawsuit, Stephen Joseph says smartwatches represent a bigger distraction for drivers than smartphones because the vibrations and the sounds from the wrist-worn device will be tougher to ignore.  LA Times article

Fresno businesses to close Friday in remembrance of Armenian genocide – Dozens of Fresno businesses will be closed Friday in remembrance of the Armenian genocide.  Fresno Bee article

LA actors send union strong message against enacting pay hike — With leaders of the national stage actors’ union poised to deliberate Tuesday on a new $9 hourly minimum wage in small Los Angeles theaters, the rank and file in L.A. has voted overwhelmingly against the pay hike.  LA Times article

Judge rules that blind passengers can sue Uber for discrimination – A federal magistrate will allow a lawsuit to move forward on behalf of blind Californians accusing the ride-hailing company Uber of discriminating against passengers with guide dogs. One advocate says the ruling sets a precedent for holding technology companies accountable under civil rights laws.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Meat market owners seeing butchering trade fading – Over the last few decades, artisan butchers have been watching the slow decline of their trade as younger generations expressed little interest in training or shopping at dedicated butcher shops.  The Business Journal article

Scouts’ monkey business will bring smiles to kids — A couple of Modesto Girl Scouts did a good deed and gained some financial savvy in the process. Modesto Bee article


Amid drought, El Niño builds over Pacific – but don’t jinx it – With federal forecasters again saying El Niño conditions are ripe for this fall, few on the West Coast are listening. In fact, many seem to be dismissive of any potential for an El Niño to help deliver a wet winter in 2015-16. San Francisco Chronicle article

California cities fret over tiered water rates after court decision – Roseville, the sun-splashed suburb of about 125,000 residents, has been among the statewide leaders in saving water. Relying on a tiered pricing plan that charges heavier water users more, the city in recent months has outclassed the region in residential water conservation.  Sacramento Bee article

Ruling forces California water districts to review rates – An appeals court decision striking down punitive water pricing that was intended to encourage conservation had water agencies reviewing rates Tuesday and some residents exploring whether to bring similar challenges.  AP article

California raisins go back before U.S. Supreme Court –  The California raisins go back before the U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday, this time to decide whether a Depression-era farm program that propped up prices for raisins unconstitutionally took the private property of a disgruntled grower. LA Times article

Students, campuses in state add saving water to college life – In the grip of a severe drought and facing mandatory water restrictions, the state’s colleges are under intensified pressure to reduce consumption and ramp up other conservation measures. They have many advantages: faculty researching the cutting edge of sustainable technologies and students eager to embrace the cause.  LA Times article

Navel crop could be crippled by lack of water – Navel orange trees have shown plenty of bloom around Tulare County, but with zero allocations of water, growers fear a devastating season. Visalia Times-Delta article

Developer changes mind on farming in Merced, cites drought – A Merced County developer announced his intentions publicly to back off of a plan he made in the last few months to farm land previously designated for new houses in north Merced.  Merced Sun-Star article

Caltrans: Freeway trees may perish from drought – Two weeks before a state board considers requiring 30 percent cuts from local water agencies, a Caltrans official said Tuesday the agency has reduced its water usage by about half in the Bakersfield area. Bakersfield Californian article

San Francisco’s Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite faces new legal challenge – San Francisco is unreasonably monopolizing spectacular Hetch Hetchy Valley by using it as a 117-billion-gallon reservoir, says a new lawsuit in a decades-old fight to restore theYosemite National Park landmark.  Fresno Bee article

Oakdale Irrigation District farmers to pay more for less – Farmers enjoying cheap water prices will pay more money for less water this year, the Oakdale Irrigation District board decided Tuesday. Modesto Bee article

San Jose looks to adopt 30 percent water reduction goal – San Jose officials on Tuesday unanimously voted to raise water conservation goals to 30 percent, and Mayor Sam Liccardo said it’s time to move past just educating residents on how to save water and bring out real penalties for waste.  San Jose Mercury News article

Farm water use comes under scrutiny – At any time of the day, all Percy needs to do is open an app on his manager’s iPhone to check the precise condition of the soil. Remotely, he can tap a button and release more or less water from his pumping station, so that not a single gallon goes wasted. Now that California is in its fourth year of drought, such technology has become all the more necessary — not just to stay financially solvent, but to meet the demands of the public.  Desert Sun article

State revises water cuts – Numbers released late Friday by the State Water Resources Control Board require Hanford and Lemoore to conserve water by 32 percent compared with June 2013 through February 2014. Corcoran would have to cut water use by 36 percent.  Hanford Sentinel article

Joel Fox: Background: Misuse of assessments and fees brought on Prop 218, which took down the tiered water fee plan — San Juan Capistrano’s water fee usage plan ran afoul of Proposition 218’s taxpayer shield to protect taxpayers from being charged taxes disguised as fees and assessments. Fox in Fox & Hounds

Lockeford researchers boost conservation efforts – The topics were perhaps a bit esoteric — providing habitat for pollinators, primarily native California bees, and promoting healthy soil with a balance of plant and microbial life. But interest in such research, promising benefits to farming and conserving the environment, brought several dozen people together Tuesday at the annual open house of the Lockeford Plant Materials Center, operated by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service. Stockton Record article

Delta smelt collapse part of drought’s toll on California – The latest survey of California’s endangered Delta Smelt has turned up just one fish. While the population has been in decline for years, UC Davis biologist Peter Moyle says the drought has stressed the species to the brink of extinction. KVPR report

Court ruling affects private and public water entities differently – A California Court of Appeals ruling -that tiered water rates must correspond to the cost of service- affects public water agencies. But, it does not affect private companies. This month, the state Public Utilities Commission voted to allow a higher, second tier on the billing of 180,000 people in the Sacramento area. Capital Public Radio report

Joe Altschule: We need serious treatment of water issues — The drought deserves important attention to every detail, and every possible means to find a solution so that we might preserve our state’s large urban areas, small towns, our vast and critical agricultural economy and our very way of life.  Altschule column in Visalia Times-Delta

Tom Fife: Gov. Brown caused much of state’s water woes — Gov. Brown is not looking for real solutions to California water problems; he never has. Jerry Brown is one of the primary reasons California has water shortages today. Fife column in Visalia Times-Delta

Farmers turn to Tinder for app inspiration — This past weekend a group of computer coders courted a group of farmers in Fresno County to create phone apps for their farms. Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports. KVPR report

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Prison officials – including victim – shocked by shooting — The 52-year-old correctional officer shot  on a North Kern State Prison yard from outside the facility’s security perimeter is “still kind of in shock that this happened to him,” authorities said Tuesday. The officer, an unidentified 18 1/2-year veteran of the state corrections department, was resting at home after suffering a minor wound in the freak incident Monday evening.  Bakersfield Californian article

San Bernardino County to pay $650,000 after deputies beat horse pursuit suspect — The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors has agreed to pay $650,000 to a man who was punched and kicked by a group of deputies following a pursuit on horseback.  LA Times article; AP article

San Francisco jail deputies to wear cameras in wake of inmate fights – San Francisco sheriff’s deputies who guard one of the city’s jails will soon wear body cameras following allegations that inmates were forced to fight while deputies gambled on the battles.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Fleeing deputies drive call for higher salaries in Contra Costa County –  Contra Costa County is losing sheriff’s deputies and other law enforcement officials to higher paying agencies at an accelerating rate, department leaders warned during a Tuesday budget hearing.  Contra Costa Times article

Dionne Wilson: California’s approach to crime is costly and shortchanges victims – The current approach is not working; it’s expensive and not making us safer. This realization led me to work with Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice, a statewide network whose members were in Sacramento on Monday and Tuesday to call for new priorities that better aid survivors.  Wilson op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Beck: Releasing video of LAPD altercation could harm criminal case — Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck on Tuesday defended his decision not to publicly release a video showing an altercation involving an officer who has been charged with assault, saying doing so could jeopardize the criminal case.  LA Times article

Oakland to pay $275,000 in police shooting of teenager — The city of Oakland agreed Tuesday night to pay $275,000 to settle lawsuits filed in connection with the police shooting of a 16-year-old boy who was mistaken for a robbery suspect.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Fresno Bee: Ignorance is not bliss when subject is sex education – Once again, Fresno finds itself looking like a third-world nation. This time, it’s news that sex education quietly has disappeared from Fresno Unified School District curriculum. Fresno Bee editorial

David Melendez: CSU Bakersfield Foundation isn’t ‘sitting’ on any scholarship money – The vice president for university advancement and director of the CSUB Foundation writes, “I want to reassure you that, regardless of what was reported recently, it is not accurate that the university is “sitting” on the scholarship funds. It is important for the community to know that there are no students who were promised scholarship funds who have not received their funds. We have established a process to award this scholarship carry-forward that is consistent with both the fiduciary responsibilities of the Foundation and with the intent of our donors.” Melendez op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

LA school board backs tentative teachers pact with 10 percent raise – The Los Angeles Unified Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday to back a tentative labor agreement that would give teachers a 10% raise over two years — their first pay increase in eight years.  LA Times article

Hit by recession, family child care homes are coming back – Five years ago, during the recession, Maria Morcera lost her house to foreclosure in Atwater, a city in California’s Central Valley. The house wasn’t just where Morcera, her husband and their four children lived. It also was licensed by the state as a family care home, where Morcera offered child care to children ranging in age from infancy to 5 years old.  EdSource article

The power of small helps students think big – A small campus that enables students to take both high school and community college classes at the same time could serve as a model for the entire state, Tom Torlakson told teens during a quick afternoon visit Tuesday to Middle College High School @ San Joaquin Delta College. Stockton Record article

Easton’ Delbert Cederquist honored as nation’s longest-serving school board member – Delbert Cederquist has served on California school boards for 62 years, and he is not finished yet. State education leaders and local politicians honored Cederquist Tuesday at the annual Fresno County School Trustees Association spring dinner. Fresno Bee article

UC Merced: Clothesline project promotes sexual assault awareness — T-shirts of various colors, with messages against sexual violence, waved in the wind at UC Merced as part of Tuesday’s Clothesline Project display.  Merced Sun-Star article

UC Merced Connect: Campus going all-out for Earth Day — With a carnival, movie and other events, this year’s Earth Day festivities at UC Merced are shaping up to be bigger, more fun and more educational than ever.  UC Merced Connect in Merced Sun-Star


Ross Borba Jr.: Let’s try balanced fixes for environmental challenges – The fourth-generation member of a Valley farming family writes, “Today is Earth Day. It’s always an appropriate time to review how environmental laws are working. But especially now, during our historic drought, we should ask whether they’re easing — or exacerbating — the problems facing the human and natural environments. Unfortunately, the answer isn’t always encouraging.”  Borba op-ed in Fresno Bee

Health/Human Services

No autism-vaccine link, study finds — No association was found between autism and getting the MMR vaccine, according to a study published Tuesday in JAMA. The study of 95,000 children with older siblings also examined those at high risk for autism spectrum disorder (ASD), namely those who have an older autistic sibling. No link between the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine and autism was found in these high-risk children, researchers said in the study.  U-T San Diego article; LA Times article

Bills move forward to curb overuse of psychiatric medications in California foster care – Following powerful testimony by former foster youth, a package of reform bills designed to rein in the excessive use of psychiatric drugs in California’s child welfare system met unanimous approval in the state Senate on Tuesday — the first step in a series of legislative moves ahead.San Jose Mercury News article

Efforts to improve Denti-Cal heat up – A California program that subsidizes the cost of dental services for millions of low-income children and adults has come under scrutiny in recent months for the relatively small number of people served. Critics say they hope the attention will finally drive positive changes in the program commonly known as Denti-Cal.  Sacramento Bee article

Locals create nonprofit to combat suicidal veterans — In an effort to connect veterans to services and combat the issue, a local group of veterans have created a nonprofit organization they are calling 22Everyday Task Force. Visalia Times-Delta article

Land Use/Housing

San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose named worst cities in U.S. for renters — No newsflash here: San Francisco, after recently beating out Manhattan for both price and scarcity of offerings, has been crowned the worst city in the country for renters. But according to Forbes, the second worst city is not Manhattan. It’s Oakland. And the third worst: San Jose.  San Francisco Chronicle article


TCAG heads long-range regional transit plan — Clarissa Del Rio said she would like to see an increase in the number of times the Visalia-Hanford bus route runs throughout the day. Three times a day is simply not enough. Visalia Times-Delta article

Feds: No time limits for trains blocking Hanford roads — Hanford has a five-minute time limit on the books for trains blocking intersections, but federal law doesn’t address the issue. Hanford Sentinel article

Other areas

John Navarrette, Fresno County’s chief administrator, to retire – John Navarrette, Fresno County’s chief administrative officer, is retiring effective Oct. 23. Navarrette has worked for the county for 31 years and has spent 40 years in public service. He said it is “time to start checking off his personal bucket list.”  Fresno Bee article

Count finds 1,408 homeless in Stanislaus – An annual count of the homeless in Stanislaus County turned up 1,408 men, women and children living in shelters, cars, parks, on the streets and elsewhere.  Modesto Bee article

Several ideas for rejiggering Stockton council floated – Ralph Lee White has a plan that would change the face of City Hall if it ever were to be adopted, though it may never come to pass, at least in a form identical to the one envisioned by the ever-outspoken former City Councilman.  Stockton Record article

Michael Fitzgerald: Tubbs: Injustice causing nihilism – Earlier this month, actress Anna Deavere Smith performed a monologue at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Her talk included the words of Stockton City Councilman Michael Tubbs.  Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

LA should collect more revenue from LAFD 911 callers, audit says – The Los Angeles Fire Department should change the way it bills people who call 911 for medical help, according to an audit released Tuesday.  LA Times article

Complaint targets continued use of cross in LA County seal – Lawyers for a group of religious leaders complained to a federal judge Tuesday that Los Angeles County continues to display an official seal that includes a Christian cross, violating a legal agreement reached last year.  LA Times article

Waze, LA to share data on traffic, hit-and-runs, kidnappings – Those who use the traffic app Waze in Los Angeles will receive alerts about hit-and-runs and abducted children as part of a new data-sharing partnership between the company and the city, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Tuesday.  LA Times article

52 California state employees to receive Medal of Valor — California state government will present its Medal of Valor to more than four dozen state workers on Thursday during a ceremony from 1 p.m to 3 p.m. at the California Highway Patrol Academy in West Sacramento. The award is the highest honor the state bestows on its public servants. Sacramento Bee article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Once again, Fresno finds itself looking like a third-world nation. This time, it’s news that sex education quietly has disappeared from Fresno Unified School District curriculum.

Merced Sun-Star – Ever noticed the bumper sticker, “Protected by Smith & Wesson”? It’s meant as a warning: The occupants of this truck are armed. We get it. We think criminals would get it, too. Which is why Assemblyman Adam Gray’s Assembly Bill 1154 is entirely unnecessary. It’s also wrongheaded and would diminish what you’re allowed to know as a citizen; California shouldn’t ax school exit exams.

Modesto Bee – Ever noticed the bumper sticker, “Protected by Smith & Wesson”? It’s meant as a warning: The occupants of this truck are armed. We get it. We think criminals would get it, too. Which is why Assemblyman Adam Gray’s Assembly Bill 1154 is entirely unnecessary. It’s also wrongheaded and would diminish what you’re allowed to know as a citizen; California shouldn’t ax school exit exams; Now we see the real goal of Delta plan.

Sacramento Bee – Runners aren’t Union Pacific’s biggest safety concern; The Senate Education Committee has every reason to pass the vaccination bill authored by Sens. Richard Pan and Ben Allen when it comes before the panel Wednesday.