April 28, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

Dan Walters: California Senate duel will affect ‘job killer’ bills — Only 19 or 20 Democratic senators, just short of a majority, are reliable votes for the most contentious business-related bills, such as those on the CalChamber’s target list. The May 19 election could tip the balance either way. A Bonilla win would enhance the bills’ chances in the Senate, while a Glazer victory would make their passage even more difficult. Walters column in Sacramento Bee 

California’s automatic voter registration bill advances – A proposal to automatically register Californians to vote when they get a driver’s license was approved Monday by a state Assembly panel after Secretary of State Alex Padilla noted there are about 6.7 million state residents who are eligible but not registered.  LA Times article


Valley politics 

Visalia looks to increase Hispanic representation with council districts — The valley city of Visalia will soon complete the transition from at-large elections to district elections for their city council. The change comes as a result of a voting rights lawsuit that claimed at-large elections cut the city’s substantial Latino population out of the political process. The transition is not exactly popular. KVPR report


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Union group submits 2016 initiative to boost California’s minimum wage – One of the state’s largest and most active health care unions — SEIU United Healthcare Workers West — submitted an initiative on Mondayto boost California’s statewide minimum wage to $15 an hour by the year 2021. The increase would happen incrementally, with the wage rising $1 a year for the next five years. California’s current minimum wage, $9 an hour, is already slated to rise to $10 an hour next January. KQED report 

Rocky Chávez raising money for many campaigns – Republican Assemblyman Rocky Chávez acknowledges he has a lot of ground to cover when it comes to raising money for his U.S. Senate candidacy. Chávez, a retired Marine colonel from Oceanside, finished the last quarter with about $5,000 in his Senate account. So it was curious to see that Chávez is headlining a fundraiser tonight for his state campaign. Sacramento Bee article

Joel Fox: Acting out the minimum wage drama — The minimum wage debate may morph into a discussion over exceptions to any minimum wage adjustments so that more jobs are not lost. It could be part of a broader solution so that, to use a show biz phrase, the show must go on. Fox in Fox & Hounds


Other areas

Today’s the day: Gay marriage arguments at U.S. Supreme Court — Tuesday is a potential watershed moment for America’s gay and lesbian couples. After rapid changes that have made same-sex marriage legal in all but 14 states, the Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether it should be the law of the land. AP article; NPR report; LA Times article; New York Times article

Gavin Newsom in DC for SCOTUS marriage cases – California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom will attend Tuesday’s oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in cases challenging state laws that prohibit same-sex partners from exercising the same rights as opposite-sex partners.  Political Blotter

Aaron McLear: Republicans should embrace gay marriage – The member of Young Conservatives for the Freedom to Marry writes, “Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on whether same sex-couples have a constitutional right to marry. I’m proud to be one of more than 300 Republicans who signed an amicus brief in support of the court ruling in favor of marriage equality.”  McLear op-ed in Sacramento Bee

California lawmakers soften proposed tobacco ban at baseball venues — Chewing tobacco would be banished from California’s major league baseball parks but could be used at some local fields, as could electronic cigarettes, under a watered down Assembly bill that passed a legislative committee on Monday. Capitol Alert 

Bill seeks to change ‘Redskins’ mascot name in public schools — Tulare’s oldest mascot may have to go. Sarah Koligian, Tulare Joint High School District superintendent, said the district will follow state legislation that calls for banning using the mascot name “Redskins” in California’s public schools. Visalia Times-Delta article

Companies tied to Industry ex-mayor racked up fortune – A 20-year jackpot of City of Industry contracts that included $4.9 million for lawn mower rentals and street cleaning fees billed at six times a competitor’s rate has enriched a handful of companies owned by the tiny town’s former mayor and his family by more than $326 million, an audit has found.  LA Times article


California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories 

Assembly kills Republican bill to speed dam construction — Drought-inspired legislation to hasten the construction of water-storage facilities died in a California Assembly panel on Monday. Assembly Bill 311, by Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, would have streamlined environmental review for the Sites Reservoir in the Sacramento Valley and Temperance Flat on the San Joaquin River near Fresno.  Sacramento Bee article; Capital Public Radio report

After years of layoffs, California schools on a teacher hiring binge – After years of pink slips and layoffs, California school districts have emerged from the recession with plans to hire 21,500 teachers for the 2015-16 academic year at a pace not seen in a decade, according to new state data.  Sacramento Bee article


Jobs and the Economy 

Visalia council may seek additional revenue Increasing Internet sales are reducing the city’s sales tax revenues. At the same time changing demographics mean a smaller percentage of individuals’ income is subject to sales tax. As a result of these trends, it is likely that the city’s ability to fund needed projects and current service levels will not be sustained over the long term, according to a new city report.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Merced Downtown Neighborhood Association seeks input – A roughly 2-month-old group is looking for people from around Merced to get involved with efforts to revitalize downtown neighborhoods. Merced Sun-Star article

Turlock scrutinizes visitor bureau spending – Officials are questioning how the Chamber of Commerce handled $241,297 in city money earmarked for promoting tourism and conventions. Modesto Bee article

Sacramento budget replaces firehouses, funds downtown housing study — Sacramento City Manager John Shirey released a proposed budget for the 2015/16 fiscal year Monday that includes funding for the replacement of two firehouses, more than $2 million to study ways the city can encourage residential development downtown and money for park upgrades, homeless services and police force diversity efforts. Sacramento Bee article; Sacramento Bee editorial

Port truck drivers strike against four companies – Some truck drivers who haul goods from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach walked off the job Monday, launching a protest against four trucking firms they accuse of wage theft. LA Times article; AP article

Official claims bad blood with union boss bred West Coast port crisis – A lawsuit filed last month in Los Angeles Superior Court offers a vividly detailed picture of the obscure waterfront politics that brought Pacific Rim commerce to its knees for several tense weeks earlier this year. LA Times article

San Joaquin County supervisors’ pay not a contentious issue — San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Kathy Miller said supervisors’ salaries will probably not face the same contention being discussed for elected officials on the Stockton City Council. That’s because the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors does not have a salary-setting commission to dictate its compensation package like the Stockton City Council does, and salaries have been set forth by the county municipal code.  Stockton Record article



Modesto looks to tighten watering rules – The Modesto City Council on Tuesday night is expected to adopt additional outdoor watering restrictions as California weathers its fourth year of a devastating drought. Modesto Bee article

Congressman Devin Nunes: No, farmers don’t use 80 percent of California’s water – The Valley congressman (R-Tulare), writes, “This is a textbook example of how the media perpetuates a false narrative based on a phony statistic. Farmers do not use 80 percent of California’s water. In reality, 50 percent of the water that is captured by the state’s dams, reservoirs, aqueducts, and other infrastructure is diverted for environmental causes. Farmers, in fact, use 40 percent of the water supply.” Nunes op-ed in National Review

Richard Goode: The California drought crisis is everyone’s fault – The professor of geology at Porterville College writes, “We have a bad habit of declaring a drought over when we receive several wet years in a row. But the damage of this drought is not reversible. Until we can recharge the groundwater at a rate equal to the withdrawal, California will be in a drought, no matter how much rain it receives. We may have already waited too long.”  Goode in Zocalo Public Square

San Francisco groups oppose lawsuit aimed at emptying Hetch Hetchy – The health, safety and economic well-being of 1.7 million residents and 30,000 businesses would be threatened if Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park is drained, says a San Francisco water agency in reaction to a new lawsuit over the reservoir. Fresno Bee article; KQED report 

Stanislaus County leaders to consider costs for well permits – Stanislaus County leaders will consider charging $106 an hour for staff time to conduct a more stringent review of well permit applications. Modesto Bee article

Panel amends bill on Valley river flows – Modesto-area farmers and their allies did not get the vote they wanted Monday on a bill involving river flows, but their cause is still alive.  Modesto Bee article

Water rights place neighbors at odds – A squabble among neighbors unfolding just outside Visalia illustrates just how ambiguous water law in California is. Specifically, what can you do when a neighbor punches a deeper well and you start losing water pressure? The answer — for now — is not much. Visalia Times-Delta article 

Experiment in Irvine takes crops’ water use to new lows – The South Coast Research and Extension Center was established in 1956 as part of the University of California system’s agricultural and horticultural studies. Some of the center’s recent efforts have been related to the drought, such as the blueberry experiment and creation of a demonstration garden fit for California weather.  LA Times article

Big water buys to ease East Bay drought shortages – With one emergency water supply already flowing in, the East Bay’s largest water district plans to buy three others to bolster its drought defenses. Contra Costa Times article

Reaching high conservation rate may be difficult for Sacramento area – Proposed regulations from the State Water Resources Control Board would require more than a dozen local water suppliers to conserve 32-percent or more. For the most part, those agencies have used education to get people to conserve.  Capital Public Radio report

Amid California’s drought, should cemeteries stay green? — Across California, the people who take care of cemeteries are stuck. The state’s new drought mandate is forcing them to cut back on sprinkling, and many expect their grass to go brown this summer. It’s a wrenching call: the concern is that visiting family members who see parched grass on their loved ones’ graves may feel insult on top of loss. KQED report

San Jose, Santa Clara mayors drink recycled sewage to push expanding reclaimed water – San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, Santa Clara Mayor Jamie Matthews and other Silicon Valley leaders on Monday took big gulps of recycled water — filtered, cleaned and disinfected sewage — to show that it is safe and should be a growing part of Silicon Valley’s drinking water future.  San Jose Mercury News article 

Earth Log: Among drought questions – so, what is Friant Water Authority? — This intense drought is highlighting some pretty unfamiliar things for many of our readers — like, what is Friant Water Authority? The authority is in the headlines because the drought is causing a shakeup in the organization. The long-time General Manager Ron Jacbosma has stepped aside, and eight of its 21 water district members have bailed. Never heard of this authority? Read on. Fresno Bee article

Steve Knell: Too much water for too few fish – The general manager of the Oakdale Irrigation District writes, “In a simple business analysis, that is nearly 1,000 acre-feet to produce one returning steelhead trout. That’s enough water for 1,000 families for an entire year in order to “produce” one fish. That’s not muck, that’s fact.”  Knell op-ed in Sacramento Bee

New rules better protect workers from heat — Beginning May 1 new rules dictating the working conditions in agriculture, construction, landscaping and other outdoor professions will take effect. Amy Martin is Chief Counsel of Cal-OSHA. She says the rules require that shade be made available when the temperature reaches 80 degrees, which is five degrees cooler than the previous requirement. Capital Public Radio report

Don Curlee: Workers earn pay by waiting — Farm work sometimes involves a lot of “hurry up, and wait” activity, and recent legislation has made sure that workers receive pay for time spent waiting. Some demands to cover past waiting times will be burdensome for employers.  Curlee in Visalia Times-Delta


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Crime, sentencing reforms gain traction – For decades, Californians and their representatives in the state Capitol had a “lock-‘em-up-and-throw-away-the-key” approach to lawbreakers. But that view is changing.  Capitol Weekly article 

Officials seek to bring forensic medical exams for sexual assault victims in Merced County – Effective sexual assault response can be a challenge for rural communities. In Merced County, for example, when a person is sexually assaulted, she or he has to be transported outside the county for proper examination and collection of forensic evidence. Such services are not available here.  Merced Sun-Star article 

Judge won’t delay order on inmate sex reassignment surgery – A federal judge refused Monday to delay his order for California to provide sex reassignment surgery for a transgender inmate.  AP article 

Prayers offered in Modesto for police, communities – About 75 police officers, pastors, city officials and community members gathered Monday evening in front of the Modesto Police Department to pray for members of law enforcement and for the people and communities they serve and protect. Modesto Bee article

Settlement expected over U.S. allegation that LA Sheriff’s Department targeted minorities – Los Angeles County supervisors are expected to vote Tuesday on a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice over allegations that sheriff’s officials systematically targeted racial minorities in the Antelope Valley.  LA Times article 

Man is stopped by police a day after $650,000 settlement reached in beating – A man kicked and punched by a group of San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies was stopped by police for running through several backyards a day after he reached a $650,000 settlement for the beating. LA Times article



More Fresno Unified students are graduating high school – Here’s some good news coming out of Fresno Unified School District high schools: Seniors are graduating at higher rates and fewer are dropping out, new data show. Districtwide, the number of graduates last school year jumped by 3.1 percentage points, Superintendent Michael Hanson said during a news conference on Monday. Fresno Bee article 

Senate expands community colleges’ reach on sexual assault – The California Senate has passed a bill that would allow community colleges to expel or suspend students who are accused of sexual assault even if the attack happened off campus.  AP article

Heald College begins shutdown of Fresno campus – On the day that Heald College’s Fresno campus is closing, teachers arrived on campus to pick up their personal belongings, and meet with campus officials as the Heald shutdown began taking shape here and on campuses around the state. Fresno Bee article

Hundreds of students stranded by Heald College’s Modesto campus closure – Students and teachers gathered at the shuttered Modesto campus of Heald College on Monday to vent their outrage and draw support from what they called their Heald family.  Modesto Bee article

Sudden closure of Heald College shocks many – Hundreds of students at Heald College’s Stockton campus have been left wondering what will be the next step in their educational careers in the wake of its closing Monday.  Stockton Record article

Corinthian shutdown: What it means for students — Corinthian Colleges Inc., a Santa Ana company that was once one of the nation’s largest for-profit college chains, announced that it is shutting down its remaining two dozen schools effective Monday — a move that leaves 16,000 students scrambling for alternatives. LA Times article 

Students express anger after abrupt closure of Heald, Corinthian colleges – Several dozen students gathered outside Heald College in Roseville Monday morning, sharing frustration and some tears with classmates and teachers after the abrupt weekend closure of Heald and other colleges run by for-profit Corinthian Colleges. Sacramento Bee article

Corinthian students reeling from news of colleges’ closure – For almost a year now, the impending collapse of career-college giant Corinthian Colleges has been widely publicized, worrying students who had taken out huge loans for a chance to better their lives. But on Sunday, when the final word hit students’ email inboxes and cell phones that Corinthian’s Heald, Everest and WyoTech campuses were closing for good, effective Monday, it still came as a shock to some, given the reassurances they had received from recruiters.  San Jose Mercury News article

Conway says she’s excited with new appointment by governor — Connie Conway said she’s excited about her appointment to the California Community Colleges Board of Governors. “I am grateful for the opportunity,” she said. “I am looking forward to it.” Conway, whose appointment was announced earlier this week, said community colleges are the place where returning students get the education they are seeking and young students start their path in higher education. Visalia Times-Delta article

Chris Holden and Kristin Olsen: Lawmakers can ease the path to college with dual enrollment – Assembly Majority Leader Holden and Assembly Republican Leader Olsen write, “With the introduction of Assembly Bill 288, we hope to expand opportunities for students to take community college courses while still in high school.”  Holden/Olsen op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Common Core tests well underway – With less than two months of instruction time left before summer vacation for most California schools, roughly half of the 3.2 million students expected to take the first online tests aligned with the Common Core State Standards have begun to do so, the California Department of Education reported Monday.  EdSource article

Project-based learning on the rise under Common Core — As part of their efforts to help students meet the Common Core State Standards, adopted in 43 states including California, teachers in Santa Ana and elsewhere throughout California are increasingly turning to the strategy of “project-based learning” as exemplified in Siebert’s raft-building exercise.  EdSource article

Cal State LA gets $1.6 million for ‘Dreamers’ student resource center – Cal State L.A. on Monday announced a $1.6-million gift to help fund a campus resource center for students who are in the country illegally.  LA Times article

San Francisco school board divided on using interns as teachers – With 500 teaching jobs to fill by the first day of school this fall, San Francisco’s superintendent has asked the school board to let him hire more Teach for America interns for hard-to-staff schools. But some board members are balking, saying students in those schools deserve experienced teachers.  San Francisco Chronicle article 

Data science class offers LA Unified students a new handle on math — The class gives students an alternative to traditional math; its curriculum is grounded in hands-on data collection, plus lessons in computer programming so students can get answers from data, a trade highly valued in many industries.  LA Times article 

UC Merced Connect: Campus recognized for green practices – For the first time, UC Merced made the Princeton Review’s list of the most environmentally responsible colleges. The education-services company, known for its test prep and tutoring services, books, and college rankings, features UC Merced in the 2015 edition of its free book, the Princeton Review Guide to 353 Green Colleges.  Merced Sun-Star article

Ceres teens Pay It Forward with good deeds for youngsters, soldiers, homeless and elderly – Freshmen at Central Valley High have a busy week of good deeds ahead, tied to Pay It Forward Day (Thursday) and an urge to show the world that teens can be awesome.  Modesto Bee article

BYOB: It’s brew your own beer at UC Davis, Cal Poly – A bachelor’s in beer? A master’s in malt? Not quite. But these days some colleges are teaching students to make beer as part of their studies. AP article

Hundreds protest San Francisco archbishop’s push on morality clauses – Hundreds of Catholic-school teachers and supporters gathered outside the San Francisco Archdiocese on Monday afternoon waving rainbow banners and preaching acceptance of gays and lesbians — all in protest of efforts by the archbishop to require employees to embrace church opposition to “homosexual relations,” “fornication” and other “gravely evil” sexual activities.  San Francisco Chronicle article 

Swastikas found at three student residences at Stanford University — Stanford University is investigating a series of hate-fueled graffiti, including swastikas, found at student housing units and a fraternity house on campus. LA Times article; AP article; San Francisco Chronicle article



Ag, business and education coalesce to boost new Valley power-line project — Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s plans to build a new set of high-power transmission lines across the central San Joaquin Valley are gaining support from agricultural, economic and educational organizations in the region.  Fresno Bee article


Health/Human Services

Sacramento Bee: History and the law are on vaccination’s side – Vaccination against contagious disease isn’t just good health, it’s a societal duty – even when you’re offended or conflicted or afraid. No man is an island; there’s a social contract.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Youthful binge-drinking changes the brain – for the worse – into adulthood – The adult brain that was awash in alcohol during its formative years looks different and acts differently than an adult brain that skipped the youthful binge-drinking, says a new study conducted on rats.  LA Times article

Study makes surprising link between TV time and childhood obesity – The ill effects of being a couch potato kick in fast for kindergartners, a new study suggests. Kindergarten children who watched television for more than one hour a day were 52% more likely to be overweight than their schoolmates who watched less TV, researchers said Sunday. The kids who spent at least an hour each day in front of the boob tube were also 72% more likely to be obese.  LA Times article

Kern’s Covered California health insurance enrollment – The nine-county Central Valley region had 40,372 consumers select an insurance plan through Covered California from Nov. 15, 2014, to Feb. 22, 2015. Kern, Fresno, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus and Tulare represented about 8 percent of new enrollment statewide. Bakersfield Californian article

Beating heart disease: Fresno Unified wellness program helps employees get fit — Some ran, others walked and more than one jogged behind a baby stroller along theFresno-Clovis Rail Trail. Fitness, not speed, was a goal last month at a 5K run/walk for Fresno Unified School District employees. Participants, who included classroom aides and district office workers, as well as teachers and principals, were at all levels of fitness. The event gave everyone a chance to get some exercise. Fresno Bee article

Docs’ malpractice protections don’t apply to wet hospital floors — Among the protections California has provided to the medical profession in malpractice cases for the last 40 years is a one-year deadline between the time a patient learns he or she has been injured and the last day for filing a lawsuit. But a state appeals court says the tight timetable doesn’t necessarily apply to everything that can go wrong in a medical facility – for example, slipping and falling on a wet floor. San Francisco Chronicle article


Land Use/Housing

Advocates press Fresno council members to clean up vacant housing — More than 100 community leaders and housing advocates on Monday urged the Fresno City Council to pass a revised vacant property ordinance that they believe will help clean up neglected and decayed homes.  Fresno Bee article



Fresno open house for high-speed rail will field questions, concerns – High-speed rail skeptics, supporters and those who are just downright curious about the massive public works project have an opportunity to learn more about the first rail construction section at an open house Thursday evening in downtown Fresno. Fresno Bee article 

Lawmakers shrug off charges that state is botching high-speed rail land acquisition — Complaints from Central Valley residents that the state has botched the acquisition of land for high-speed rail failed to convince lawmakers last week that the matter deserved further investigation. Sacramento Business Journal article


Other areas

Beleaguered Internet cafes take case to state Supreme Court – Internet cafes have all but disappeared in Kern County, but next week in San Francisco, the state’s highest court will consider whether they offer illegal gambling or just harmless entertainment. The California Supreme Court will hear oral arguments at 9 a.m. May 6 in an appeal of two appellate court rulings that illegalized Internet cafes last year. Bakersfield Californian article

Too rude for the road: California vanity plates rejected by DMV — Last month, the state Department of Motor Vehicles canceled the license plate of a Southern California driver after grasping its double meaning. The tag: “NOT SEE.” Perhaps more shocking than the plate, though, was the fact that it had slipped by the sharp-eyed investigators who monitor for offensive requests at the DMV’s office of personalized license plates. Their goal is to stifle indecency before it hits the highway, and they’ve just about seen it all. San Francisco Chronicle article 

The heroic stories behind California state workers’ awards — California government officials last week awarded the Medal of Valor to 52 state employees for acts of heroism. Here are the remarks from the award ceremony that detail the circumstances of each award, the highest honor that the state can bestow on its public servants.  Sacramento Bee article



Valley Editorial Roundup 

Fresno Bee – Comcast’s decision last week to abandon its bid to acquire Time Warner Cable was a victory for consumers; California needs to apply the brakes to add-on fees for minor traffic tickets; Help a Fresno park receive a $20,000 grant.

Sacramento BeeVaccination against contagious disease isn’t just good health, it’s a societal duty – even when you’re offended or conflicted or afraid. No man is an island; there’s a social contract; Proposed Sacramento budget follows Mayor Kevin Johnson’s priorities.

Stockton RecordCheers and jeers on potential fraud to Manteca Unified School District voters, drug dealers sinking to a new low and other issues.