April 6, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Jerry Brown defends agriculture’s water use amid drought — Gov. Jerry Brown defended the agriculture industry’s heavy water use in an interview aired Sunday, but he said historic water rights are “probably going to be examined” if the drought persists. “Some people have a right to more water than others,” Brown said of senior water rights holders on ABC’s “This Week.” “That’s historic. That’s built into the legal framework of California. And yes, if things continue at this level, that’s probably going to be examined.”  Capitol Alert; LA Times article; AP article

George Skelton: Why do farmers get a free pass from Brown? — Gov. Jerry Brown targets the 20% of developed water that flows to urban use; ag takes up the other 80%.  Gov. Jerry Brown is talking tough about cutting back water use, but he’s making one thing clear: He is not going to tell farmers what they can or cannot grow.  Skelton column in LA Times

John Myers: April taxes hated everywhere … except Sacramento — It has become an annual ritual in Sacramento: watching the daily tally from millions of taxpayers handing over their cash, a tally that largely sets the course for many of the year’s political and policy debates in California. And as those tax dollars start to trickle in to the California Franchise Tax Board, the general consensus is that the state is headed for another year of better-than-expected revenues.  Myers in KQED

Gov. Brown

Gov. Jerry Brown pardons 83 on Easter – Gov. Jerry Brown announced Sunday that he had pardoned 83 people for years-old crimes, continuing his practice of granting pardons around major days on the Christian calendar. The pardons, announced on Easter, were given to people released from prison and not convicted of any crimes for at least a decade, according to Brown’s office.  Capitol Alert; Governor’s Office news release; San Francisco Chronicle article

Gov. Brown pardons man facing deportation for crimes committed as a teen – A Bay Area immigrant fighting deportation after spending more than two decades in prison for a robbery conviction was among dozens of people granted pardons by Gov. Jerry Brown on Easter Sunday.  LA Times article

Valley politics

Visalians to give opinions on by-district voting maps — After a lawsuit, two dozen carefully constructed maps, and countless discussions, only three more public hearings remain before a decision will finally be made on the boundaries for future Visalia City Council elections.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Other areas

California vaccine exemption bill faces crucial first test on Wednesday – On Wednesday, a controversial bill proposed by three state lawmakers to abolish all vaccine exemptions in the Golden State — except for medical reasons — begins an uphill journey through the Legislature.  San Jose Mercury News article

Dan Walters: California lawmakers work together to protect privacy – As improbable as it may seem, there are some major issues in the California Legislature that attract bipartisan interest and cooperation. A big one is protecting privacy in an age of ubiquitous, picture- and video-taking smartphones, camera-carrying drones, retail payment terminals, interactive cable television sets and countless other forms of digitized intrusion.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Palliative car expert is vocal opponent of Death with Dignity law – Ira Byock, one of the nation’s leading experts on hospice and palliative care, rushed into Westlake High School’s advanced anatomy classroom. Delayed by traffic on the 405, he was late for a talk with students at the Westlake Village school about some serious stuff: dying, pain, loss. Inevitably, he knew, he’d face a question or two about assisted suicide.  LA Times article

California seeks to make way for statue of Sally Ride in U.S. Capitol — If California legislators succeed, a statue of Sally Ride, astronaut, physicist and educator, will be enshrined in the nation’s Capitol. But first they will have to remove an impediment: the statue of the Rev. Junipero Serra, an 18th-century Catholic priest who established California missions and is about to be canonized by Pope Francis. In the Capitol’sNational Statuary Hall Collection, there is not room for both.  New York Times article

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Fire districts facing tough choices with rising pension costs — The rising cost of providing retirement benefits for firefighters has officials at fire districts worried tough decisions could be on the not-too-distant horizon for the districts providing fire protection to areas of San Joaquin County not covered by municipal fire departments.  Stockton Record article

Beneath California crops, groundwater crisis grows — Farmers are drilling wells at a feverish pace and pumping billions of gallons of water from the ground, depleting a resource that was critically endangered even before the drought, now in its fourth year, began.  New York Times article

Jobs and the Economy

A varied response to LA County’s vote to study minimum-wage boost — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors’ vote last week to study the potential effects of boosting the minimum wage caught the attention of business owners across a wide swath of the region, including in Altadena, one of about 140 unincorporated communities that would be covered by any county law imposing a hike beyond the current state minimum of $9 an hour. Their responses were as diverse as the businesses themselves.  LA Times article

Insurance commissioner, consumer advocate split over Allstate rates —  In the California insurance world, activist Harvey Rosenfield and Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones have been longtime collaborators. Until recently. The two once-solid allies are at loggerheads over Rosenfield’s contention that Allstate Insurance Co. is overcharging for homeowners, rental and condominium policies.  LA Times article

CalSTRS makes early move on coal divestment — The CalSTRS board directed its staff and consultants last week to evaluate the risk of investments in thermal coal companies, jumping ahead of pending legislation that would require CalSTRS and CalPERS to divest thermal coal holdings.  Calpensions article

Sacramento Bee: Ditch tax break for pro arenas — Public subsidies for major-league sports teams and their wealthy owners are hard enough to swallow when local taxpayers are asked to foot the bill. But the idea that residents of Sacramento should have to pay to help build a new basketball arena in, say, Seattle, boggles the mind.  Sacramento Bee editorial


Storms will boost reservoirs and bring snow to mountains but won’t be ‘drought busting’ – Technically, California’s rainy season has come and gone – but don’t tell that to the two storms rolling into Northern California early this week. These late-season showers could drop more than a foot of snow in the mountains and several inches of rain over three of California’s biggest reservoirs, all of which can use all the help they can get, officials said Sunday.  Sacramento Bee article

How much water do Californians use and what does a 25 percent reduction look like? – How much water does the average Californian actually consume and what would a 25 percent reduction look like? It’s a hard figure to quantify, and estimates vary widely. For one, while indoor residential water use is relatively steady throughout the state, outdoor use — primarily for landscape irrigation — varies dramatically, with homes in arid inland regions consuming significantly more water than those in coastal areas.  KQED report

Suburban Sacramento-area water districts eye merger — Two suburban water agencies serving half a million people combined in suburban Sacramento and Placer counties have stepped up merger negotiations, saying they can better survive the drought as a larger organization.  Sacramento Bee article

San Diego wages a different kind of water battle over costs – As Gov. Jerry Brown last week was assessing the paltry snowfall and proclaiming a hydrological emergency, a San Francisco judge was hearing opposing sides in a bitterly contested lawsuit filed by the San Diego authority against MWD.  LA Times article

John Cain and Chris Unkel: With new thinking, flood control projects can ease drought – The American Rivers officials write, “Recently, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature announced a $1.1 billion drought relief plan for California. But the $660 million allocated for flood management had many observers scratching their heads. We believe that this money could actually enhance water supply, but only if we rethink the flood system.”  Cain/Unkel op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Investigating cold cases takes determination and patience — In March, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department announced charges in the killing of Brenda Sierra, an East Los Angeles teenager who vanished while on her way to school in 2002. The Times sat down with Det. Larry Brandenburg, a 30-year veteran of the department and the lead investigator on the case, to talk about unsolved homicides and how he approaches investigations.  LA Times article


Is California about to overpay its student testing contractor? — California education officials relied on three paper slips and a box to help determine who would win a nearly quarter-billion-dollar contract to overhaul the state’s system of testing students. At a state Board of Education meeting last month, board President Michael Kirst drew each of the three firms’ names to decide the order in which they would present their case.  Sacramento Bee article

Soccer coach leads students to follow dreams, higher education — They say that a good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are. Coach Juan Perez strongly believes that.  Merced Sun-Star article


PG&E’s pollution from decades ago causing harm today, suit says — A century ago, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. generated gas for San Francisco customers from coal and oil plants in the Marina and Fisherman’s Wharf neighborhoods that deposited their waste into the ground and in waters that flowed to the bay.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Latest space technology is decidedly ‘green’ at Aerojet and NASA – The final frontier will soon get a dose of green. Aerojet-Rocketdyne, based in Rancho Cordova, has been awarded $1.2 million by the Defense Department to develop “green” propellant to replace toxic chemicals used in satellites and space missions.  Sacramento Bee article

Warm winter wrought havoc for coastal wildlife — Warm ocean waters and the recent lack of cool weather coalesced into a rough winter for wildlife on the islands known as “California’s Galapagos.”  KQED report

Health/Human Services

Ceres boy, born prematurely, has beaten the odds — Doctors told Erica and Freddy Villalovos of Ceres that their son, who was born four months premature in December, had a 15 percent chance of living. Jayce has done remarkably well despite weighing only 1 pound, 6 ounces at birth.  Modesto Bee article

Land Use/Housing

Fresno Housing Authority celebrates 75 years, still evolving – The organization, which celebrates its 75th anniversary this month, has made waves in recent years fulfilling its core mission while tackling homelessness, providing job skills and educational programs to residents and by finding opportunities to build in the city’s urban core.  Fresno Bee article

Natomas redux: Can Sacramento build a balanced community? — North Natomas was a work in progress, just two-thirds built, when construction abruptly halted seven years ago after the federal government said the community’s flood risk was unacceptably high. Now, with levee improvements underway, building is set to resume in June. Local officials vow that – this time – the growth will be more balanced and controlled.  Sacramento Bee article


Anchor rod on Bay Bridge may have snapped — Caltrans has uncovered evidence that one of the 25-foot-long rods that anchor the new Bay Bridge eastern span’s tower may have snapped after being installed, a finding that could cast doubt on hundreds of other rods exposed to corrosion-causing water for two years before a construction defect was discovered.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Other areas

Judge McNatt retires – sort of – Bob McNatt, whose most infamous cases include the child sex abuse civil lawsuits involving then-priests Oliver O’Grady and Michael Kelley, officially retires on June 1. He has, however, already cleared out and technically is on vacation.  Stockton Record article

Fitz’s Stockton:  A Stocktonian with the stamp of genius — The U.S. Postal Service just issued a series of stamps featuring the amazing artwork of Martin Ramirez, the greatest Stockton artist you maybe never heard of.  Fitz’s Stockton in Stockton Record

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Judges should not determine Medi-Cal rates.

Sacramento BeePublic subsidies for major-league sports teams and their wealthy owners are hard enough to swallow when local taxpayers are asked to foot the bill. But the idea that residents of Sacramento should have to pay to help build a new basketball arena in, say, Seattle, boggles the mind; Eric Guerra is best bet for Sacramento City Council.