April 7, 2015

07Apr

Political Briefs

Top stories

CD21: Fowler Democrat Parra says he’ll challenge Valadao — Fowler Democrat Daniel T. Parra on Monday officially said he will seek to oust incumbent Hanford Republican David Valadao from the 21st Congressional District seat. Parra, Fowler’s mayor pro-tem, has been considering a 21st District run for the past month or so. He will be the third Democrat to try and take out Valadao. The first two — John Hernandez in 2012 and Amanda Renteria last year — failed badly.  Fresno Bee article; LA Times article

Democrats push to extend health, legal rights to immigrants — Responding to federal inaction over immigration reform, California Democrats on Tuesday will propose a package of 10 bills that would extend health care, legal rights and business protection to immigrants who are illegally living in the state.  AP article; LA Times article

 

Gov. Brown 

Dan Walters: Jerry Brown now a champion for farmers – What made Brown’s stout defense of California farmers a little odd is that, as the old saying goes, they have history – mostly of conflict. During his first stint as governor that began four decades ago, Brown repeatedly clashed with the nation’s biggest agricultural industry, first over farm labor policies and later over his initial refusal to use pesticides against an invasion of Mediterranean fruit flies and his plan to transport water around the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta via a canal.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee 

Joel Fox: Jerry Brown, the farmers’ friend – Jerry Brown 1.0 stood up to farmers 40 years ago while Jerry Brown 2.0 is standing up for farmers during the current drought crisis. In 1975, to the consternation of many framers, Brown signed the Agricultural Labor Relations Act allowing collective bargaining by farm workers. In 2015, Brown’s mandated 25 percent cutback on water usage for most Californians that largely left the farmers alone.  Fox in Fox & Hounds

Governor pardons four from Kern — Four people convicted of drug crimes in Kern County were among 83 pardoned by Gov. Jerry Brown on Easter.  Bakersfield Californian article

Jerry Brown reflects on sister, power of ‘family system’ — The Browns occupy such a prominent place in California history that, in eulogizing his sister Monday, Gov. Jerry Brown offered a reflection, too, on the power of family.  Capitol Alert

 

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures 

Kamala Harris raises $2.5 million for U.S. Senate run — Kamala Harris, seeking to establish herself as the prohibitive front-runner in next year’s Senate contest, on Monday reported raising $2.5 million for her campaign.  Capitol Alert; AP article 

Gavin Newsom takes risks by seeking to legalize recreational pot use – Newsom, a Democrat, is the highest-ranking state official to support legalization. If an expected 2016 ballot measure to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana includes safeguards that he views as crucial, Newsom will endorse it and effectively be the public face of the effort.  LA Times article

Wealthy scientist tries to rescue California’s shrinking GOP — The California Republican Party struck another new low last week when news came that its shrinking ranks now make up less than 28% of the state’s registered voters. But Charles Munger Jr., a courtly Palo Alto physicist who fancies bow ties and suspenders, is determined to reverse the party’s two-decade slide in California.  LA Times article

 

Other areas

California lawmakers’ campaign debt piled high in 2014 – November’s election is in the rearview mirror, but many California lawmakers and unsuccessful candidates continue to live with reminders of costly campaigns. Lawmakers reported about $3.7 million in unpaid bills and personal loans, according to state filings reviewed by The Bee.  Capitol Alert

Farmers back bill to subsidize biomass plants – Local farmers are adding their support to legislation that would divert revenue from California’s cap-and-trade program to biomass plants that generate power by burning agricultural and urban green waste.  Bakersfield Californian article

Opponent of transgender student law agrees to pay fine – A conservative activist from New Jersey has agreed to pay $2,400 in fines for failing to properly report $200,000 he spent on a campaign to block California’s transgender students rights law.  LA Times article 

Deputies endorse Hennessy over Mirkarimi in San Francisco sheriff’s race — San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi’s re-election bid was dealt yet another blow Monday. The 735-member Deputy Sheriffs’ Association said it had voted “overwhelmingly” to endorse Mirkarimi’s opponent, former chief deputyVicki Hennessy, in the November election.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Next for Steyer: Put GOP candidates on climate change hot seat – San Francisco activist Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate Super PAC said Monday that the billionaire Democrat will wage a campaign to put Republicans on the “hot seat” about climate change and spend “what it takes” for an aggressive new high-tech war room to track — and attack — GOP candidates in 2016.  San Francisco Chronicle article 

VIDEO: Lawmakers cruise the Capitol on electric wheels — After an initial attempt last year was tabled to tweak the language, Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen has reintroduced her bill to legalize electric skateboards in California. AB 604 would allow users to ride the motorized boards, early versions of which were prohibited in 1977, in bike lanes, on sidewalks and wherever bicycles are permitted.  Capitol Alert

Tom Fife: Clinton will join Pence on 2016’s ‘thinned list’ – Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is latest victim of herd thinning. When caught in an embarrassing situation, Pence looked awkward leaving the impression with he is not ready for prime time. But the attacks on Indiana and on the governor are over-done and make the left look silly.  Fife column in Visalia Times-Delta 

Joe Altschule: Indiana Gov. Pence epitome of GOP problem — Indiana Gov. Mike Pence became a national embarrassment dragging his state along with him. Pence decided to become the darling of the right by striking a blow for “religious freedom.”  Altschule column in Visalia Times-Delta

 

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Oil woes partly to blame in Bakersfield sales tax drop – A lackluster performance from the oil and gas industry, specialty stores and sales of building materials helped account for Bakersfield’s recent 1.9 percent drop in year-to-year fourth quarter sales tax revenue. In mid-March, city officials said sales tax for 2014 was up overall for the year compared to 2013 — but down nearly $1.4 million in October, November and December relative to the same period in 2013.  Bakersfield Californian article

Valley cities in the bull’s eye for water cutback rule — Look closely at the first-ever order for mandatory water cutbacks in California. Just beyond the nine paragraphs that start with “where as,” you find something San Joaquin Valley residents should notice. Read No. 2, the one describing the 25% reduction in water use. It says the state is going to be toughest on those who use more water. Fresno Bee article

State will unveil specifics on drought water cuts soon — The State Water Resources Control Board hopes to announce a preliminary framework by Tuesday that will outline how it plans to implement the historic mandatory water restrictions Gov. Jerry Brown ordered last week.  LA Times article

 

Jobs and the Economy

Merced police, City Council agree to contract with raises – The city and the union agreed to a five-year contract that would deliver a 2 percent raise on July 1, followed by raises of 2.25 percent, 2.5 percent and 2.75 percent in the next three years.  Merced Sun-Star article

California workers’ comp costs could decline – California employers pay the nation’s highest workers’ compensation insurance premiums but rates could decline a bit under a recommendation from the California Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau.  Capitol Alert

James Fallows: Creating California’s New Bohemia – in an unexpected locale The people in Fresno who have gotten our attention are those who are bored by or tired of Fresno’s sad-sack positioning and believe it is already being turned around. We’ve talked about the mayor and other city officials; and leaders of a downtown tech startup who think Fresno can become the hub of technology for the farming world and go from there to other strengths; and the originators of creative approaches in the elementary and high-school sectors of the public schools. To which we now add: the city’s pioneers in the arts. Fallows in The Atlantic; Donald Munro blog in Fresno Bee 

How California property taxes compare with other states’ – Here’s a bright spot in the middle of tax season — at least Californians, on average, don’t have to pay as much in property taxes as residents of Vermont, Michigan and New Jersey.  LA Times article

Local technology industry sees ‘tide is rising’ – Employment surveys and job reports have traditionally drawn attention to the lack of science, engineering, technology and math (STEM) degrees held by Central Valley residents. However, recent activity by local technology companies suggests the industry is experiencing a steady growth spurt.  The Business Journal article 

Few California workers win back pay in wage-theft cases – A 2013 UCLA Labor Center study found that workers in California collected only 42% of the back wages the state said they were owed from 2008 to 2011. Only 17% of workers who obtained a judgment against their employer saw any money at all during the three-year period, the report found.  LA Times article

Old Soul coffee shop, restaurant join Sacramento R Street revival — An Old Soul coffee shop and an “American classics” restaurant are likely going into the now-vacant Capital Wholesale Electric building at 12th and R streets, bringing another new retail presence to the quickly transforming industrial corridor of downtown Sacramento.  Sacramento Bee article

Business travelers opt for Airbnb listings instead of hotels – Travelers who first used new services such as Airbnb and Uber outside of work are now using them to book rides and rooms during business trips. That acceptance demonstrates how the San Francisco startups have gone mainstream, and show a fertile ground for further expansion.  San Francisco Chronicle article 

Airbnb to begin charging hotel taxes in Malibu on April 20 — The popular lodging website Airbnb said Monday that it would begin to charge Malibu’s 12% hotel tax on April 20 on behalf of residents in the coastal city who turn over their homes to visitors for short-term stays.  LA Times article 

Start-ups offer Bay Area travelers alternatives to crowded bus system – Pincus’ ride, operated by Leap, is one of several start-ups providing an alternative to San Francisco’s aging, crowded bus network. LA Times article

Sacramento Bee: Curbing retiree health care costs will be painful – Officials in Sacramento and elsewhere wouldn’t be doing their fiduciary duty if they ignored retiree health care. The longer they wait, the more expensive and painful the solution will be for people who ultimately must pay, the taxpayers.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Apple’s ban on felons for construction project draws criticism — An Apple policy barring workers convicted of felonies from the construction of its new campus has drawn criticism from union leaders and advocates, who say the jobs are a key source of labor for ex-convicts trying to find a foothold in society.  San Jose Mercury News article; San Francisco Chronicle article

 

Agriculture/Water/Drought

California cities pressured to step up to slash water use – Cities statewide are facing increased pressure to slash water use after Gov. Jerry Brown last week ordered a mandatory statewide 25 percent drop in urban water use compared with 2013 levels. AP article 

From steaks to mangoes, California’s most water-hogging foods — Almonds are far from the only thirsty foods. Others include beef, pork, lamb, chickpeas, lentils, peas, goat, mangoes and asparagus. Less thirsty crops? Cabbage, strawberries, onions, lettuce, carrots, eggplant, grapefruit and tomatoes.  LA Times article

Almond rush raises touch questions during dry times — Conveyer belts carry millions of kernels through sorting machines in a giant processing plant in the western San Joaquin Valley near Newman, California.  Last year Stewart and Jasper Orchards hulled and shelled more than 40 million pounds of almonds — most of which were headed overseas. Eighty percent of California’s almonds are exported.  Capital Public Radio report

Oakdale Irrigation District outlook remains murky – Farmers showing up Tuesday morning to say their piece about irrigation leaders’ watering plan this year won’t have much to go on. But the drought has kept everyone guessing how much water OID will get in the season that started three weeks ago. Officials will present options Tuesday morning, according to a pre-meeting report.  Modesto Bee article

Irrigation and pumping rules go before Modesto Irrigation District board – The rocky road to new watering rules taken by the Modesto Irrigation District could come to an end at Tuesday’s board meeting.  Modesto Bee article

Drought raises electricity rates in Sacramento – SMUD customers will begin paying more for electricity this month, thanks to the historic drought. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District said customer bills are going up 1.3 percent as the utility copes with the shortage of inexpensive hydroelectricity.  Sacramento Bee article

Metropolitan Water District plans to ration water to Southland districts, cities – Faced with dwindling regional reserves and a fourth year of drought, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is expected to vote next week to ration imported water that it supplies to 26 Southland water districts and cities, something the agency has done only twice before.  LA Times article

25 percent water cuts nothing new to East Bay district – When Gov. Jerry Brown ordered the first-ever statewide water cuts last week, there was consternation across California, with folks everywhere wondering how they could ever chop their water use by 25 percent. But Brown’s executive order is no big deal to cities in Alameda County’s Tri-Valley area, where that fight went down a year ago.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Drought turning green street medians to brown – Grassy center medians on boulevards across the state, including Sacramento’s Capitol Mall corridor, are likely to go brown this summer under Gov. Jerry Brown’s new emergency water restrictions.  Sacramento Bee article

State targets illegal water diversions by marijuana growers – The drought legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last month gives the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife new authority to crack down on illegal diversions of water by marijuana growers. A state study shows those diversions are hurting the environment.  Capital Public Radio report

Grove featured in video on drought – Assemblywoman Shannon Grove knows where to place the blame for California’s drought, and she’s doing it with a well-produced video on Facebook. By mid-day Monday, the Bakersfield Republican’s video had more than 230,000 views on Facebook and 9,900 shares.  Bakersfield Californian article

In Long Beach, smart meters spot wasteful water users — The city has reduced its water consumption 6 percent since the drought started. The new meters can detect illegal watering in real time, and they’ve helped to cut some homeowners’ use by 80 percent.  NPR report

Scott Shafer: When a radio reporter gets busted by the water inspector — It began when she hopped onto the side of my bathtub, plastic bag in hand, and told me to turn on the shower. Sue Tensfeldt hates to be called a water cop. And she’s not really a cop at all, but she is on the lookout for water wasters. She’s a senior water service inspector with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, but she likes to think of herself as an educator. And this week she taught me a thing or two about water use at home.  Shafer in KQED

 

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Fresno faith group asks city, police to be ‘transparent’ in review after deputy chief’s arrest – Faith in Community on Monday urged Fresno officials, including the police department and Mayor Ashley Swearengin, to “be transparent with the public” as Fresno Police Auditor Rick Rasmussen conducts a review of department practices in the wake of Deputy Chief Keith Foster’s arrest on federal drug charges.  Fresno Bee article

Scott Peterson hurrying death-penalty appeal — Scott Peterson will take the next step in his death-sentence appeal in less than four months, the California Supreme Court said Monday. That would represent a relatively quick response to the prosecution’s latest brief, filed in January. The Modesto man’s camp has said that Peterson, 42, wants to expedite a legal process that can take decades, while his wife’s survivors say he could end up on a fast track to the death chamber if the strategy backfires.  Modesto Bee article

Here comes the cavalry – Faced with the recent departure of 26 deputies to retirement, Sheriff Steve Moore is hard-focused on maintaining his allotment of 118 patrol deputies to cover the unincorporated areas of San Joaquin County.  Stockton Record article

 

Education 

Death of Tony Cantu, Fresno City College president, shocks campus — Fresno City College President Tony Cantu, a longtime professor and administrator who became the school’s leader in 2012, died unexpectedly over the weekend. State Center Community College officials notified staff in an email sent early Monday morning. Cantu, 64, called in sick last week, State Center Community College spokeswoman Lucy Ruiz said.  Fresno Bee article 

Fresno Bee: State Center board must focus on big challenges – Unless this board shows that it can successfully carry out the important tasks at hand, the house cleaning should continue in the next election.  Fresno Bee editorial 

Young oil engineers share work insights with students at Bakersfield College – Civil engineer Roshani Patel thought she would be designing bridges and roads by this time in her career. Instead, she’s responsible for testing about 70 oil wells in eastern Kern County. Does that mean she’s disappointed, that she regrets working in the oil business?  Bakersfield Californian article 

Another lawsuit challenges teachers’ union dues – A second group of California teachers has filed a lawsuit that’s a cousin to Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, which is challenging the right of public employees’ unions to collect mandatory dues. EdSource article

Unions and LA Unified reach tentative deal on health benefits — The Los Angeles school district and its employee unions have reached a multibillion-dollar tentative agreement on healthcare benefits that would run through 2018.  LA Times article

 

Energy/Environment 

Fracking: Oil company drops lawsuit attempting to overturn San Benito County ban — One month after mounting a legal challenge to San Benito County’s ban on the controversial oil exploration practice of fracking, a Southern California oil company has withdrawn its lawsuit.  San Jose Mercury News article 

Tim Shestek: ‘Green chemstry’ is hampering goals on energy efficiency, climate change – The Sacramento-based senior director of the American Chemistry Council writes, “Unfortunately, as one part of state government encourages energy-efficient home and building standards, we get a seemingly different message from another state agency, the Department of Toxic Substances Control.” Shestek op-ed in Sacramento Bee

 

Health/Human Services 

Health status report shows some improvement in state, but Merced lags – Diabetes and colorectal cancer are bigger problems in Merced County than in most other areas of the state, according to a new report on health status indicators released Monday by the California Department of Public Health. Out of 58 counties, Merced placed 51st in deaths due to diabetes and cancer of the colon or rectum, with No. 58 being the lowest ranking.  Merced Sun-Star article

Californians increasingly visiting hospital ERs for non-injury care — Californians are increasingly likely to visit a hospital emergency room for complex medical problems rather than an injury, according to new research.  LA Times article

Health tax ruling will have big effect on women — The high court is expected to decide in June whether to continue the tax credits for Appelbaum and others who live in the 34 states where the federal government operates the health insurance marketplace. The stakes are not only high for Appelbaum but for all women who make up a majority of marketplace plan enrollees.  McClatchy Newspapers article

 

Land Use/Housing

Clovis City Council rejects planned assisted living facility — Residents in northwest Clovis crowded City Council chambers Monday night to stop a proposed 98-unit assisted living facility on West Nees Avenue near Buchanan Education Center.  Fresno Bee article

 

Other areas

Stockton council could hold vote to cut mayor’s pay – There is at least one agenda item Mayor Anthony Silva clearly plans to vote no on at tonight’s City Council meeting, an item upon which his own personal stakes are unusually high. This is the night Silva expects to learn whether his salary will be slashed from $104,970 to $72,384 beginning July 1. Stockton Record article

Fresno City Hall’s digital chief gets national honor — City Hall’s top digital expert is getting national props for her innovative use of technology to improve Fresno. Carolyn Hogg says the effort comes naturally — she loves the place. Fresno’s chief information officer has been named one of America’s top 25 “Doers, Dreamers & Drivers” for 2015 by Government Technology magazine.  Fresno Bee article

Tulare County judge accused of ethics violation takes stand – A Tulare County judge testified Monday that he was simply trying to help his court clerk overcome financial problems and improve her marriage when he gave her money and gifts, and showed her an anonymous letter accusing her of having an affair with a bailiff.  Fresno Bee article

Astronomer was a shining light in Stockton – For 23 years, he patiently explained the complexities of the universe to Stockton residents. But astronomer Trevor Atkinson, who died last week, will also be remembered for his work as a slow-growth activist with the Campaign for Common Ground.  Stockton Record article 

Fallout from Rolling Stone feared by advocates for sex assault victims — The retraction of a Rolling Stone article about an alleged gang rape has sent reverberations around the journalism industry and raised concerns about its effect on rape victims. An independent report by the Columbia Journalism Review found the piece was a “journalistic failure that was avoidable.”  LA Times article

 

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – The State Center Community College District board must focus on big challenges.

Sacramento Bee –Officials in Sacramento and elsewhere wouldn’t be doing their fiduciary duty if they ignored retiree health care. The longer they wait, the more expensive and painful the solution will be for people who ultimately must pay, the taxpayers; Setting an example by showing compassion for Josh Hamilton.

Stockton RecordCheers and jeers: Stockton poised for third All-American City honor, taxpayers foot the bill for inmate’s sex change and other issues.