December 17, 2016


Political Stories – Top stories

Obama signs water bill; what does it mean for the Delta? – President Barack Obama on Friday signed a massive infrastructure bill designed to control floods, fund dams and deliver more water to farmers in California’s drought-ravaged Central Valley. Obama signed the $12 billion bill in a distinctly low-key act. Controversial provisions that critics fear could harm fish in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta were wrapped inside a package stuffed with politically popular projects, ranging from Sacramento-area levees to clean-water aid for beleaguered Flint, Mich. McClatchy Newspapers article

From guns to sex crimes to texting, the new laws affecting California in 2017 – What follows is a list of the laws taking effect Jan. 1 (some of them passed in prior years but were designed to kick in on Jan. 1, 2016). Sacramento Bee article

 Valley politics

Obama signs bill by Rep. Denham to get rid of surplus federal properties —  President Barack Obama on Friday signed long-sought legislation by Rep. Jeff Denham, a Republican of Turlock, Calif., designed to help Uncle Sam slim down by shedding excess property. McClatchy Newspapers article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Brulte wins high-profile GOP support for re-election bid — California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte is mounting a re-election bid and high-profile GOP figures are already lining up to back him. Sacramento Bee article

Highs and lows of California’s (certified) November election — Secretary of State Alex Padilla on Friday certified results of the Nov. 8 election, closing the books on a fall campaign season that featured high-profile statewide races, a bevy of ballot measures, and dozens of district contests. Sacramento Bee article

California Politics Podcast: Out with a bang — This week, we discuss Gov. Jerry Brown’s feisty speech that edged a little closer to taking on the president-elect. And in our final podcast of 2016, we discuss some of our top takeaways for the year that’s passed and the year ahead. With John Myers of the Los Angeles Times and Marisa Lagos of KQED News. California Politics Podcast

Joel Fox: The voters speak, the Legislature interprets – not always correctly – The voters speak, the legislature interprets—and sometimes the translation is not faithful to the original meaning. We saw that last week with resolutions and rules changes that seem to fly in the face of the newly passed Proposition 54 demanding a waiting period before any measure is passed and last session with SB 1107, which ignores the clear language contained in 1988’s Proposition 73.  Fox in Fox & Hounds

Presidential Politics

Foon Rhee: How much will Trump reverse course on mass incarceration? — California has been leading the way on prison and sentencing reform, a cause that Barack Obama embraced in the final stretch of his presidency. But it looks like mass incarceration will be another huge policy U-turn from President-elect Donald Trump. Rhee in Sacramento Bee

News Stories – Top Stories

Unemployment ticks down in California, but job growth softens – Unemployment fell in California last month despite modest growth in payrolls, state officials said Friday. Statewide unemployment dipped to 5.3 percent, a drop of two-tenths of a percentage point, the Employment Development Department reported. However, payrolls grew by just 13,600 jobs in November, about a third as many as the month before.  Sacramento Bee articleLA Times article

Bakersfield Police department chief invites FBI to review evidence in shooting of unarmed 73-year-old man – Bakersfield Police Chief Lyle Martin has asked the FBI to review evidence in the shooting earlier this week of an unarmed 73-year-old man by a Bakersfield police officer. Bakersfield Californian article

Jobs and the Economy

Unemployment rates up in Valley in November – Unemployment rates rose throughout the eight-county San Joaquin Valley in November but remain below rates from a year ago, according to data released by the California Employment Development Department.  Here are the November jobless rates, followed in parentheses by the October 2016 and November 2015 rates:


  • Fresno–9.3 percent (9.1, 10.0)
  • Kern – 9.2 percent (9.1, 9.5)
  • Kings– 9.3 percent (9.0, 10.4)
  • Madera– 9.0 percent (8.4, 10.4)
  • Merced– 9.5 percent (8.5, 11.2)
  • San Joaquin– 7.8 percent (7.6, 8.7)
  • Stanislaus– 7.9 percent (7.8, 9.0)
  • Tulare– 10.8 percent (10.8, 11.3)

 As season farm jobs leave Merced, jobless rate still better than last year — Merced County’s unemployment rate continued to improve year over year, falling to 9.5 percent in November compared with 11.2 percent at the same time in 2015, according to labor market analysts. Merced Sun-Star article

Unemployment in Stanislaus County ticks up but is below year-ago estimate — The unemployment rate in Stanislaus County was 7.9 percent in November 2016, up from a revised 7.8 percent in October 2016 and below the year-ago estimate of 9.0 percent. This compares with an unadjusted unemployment rate of 5 percent for California and 4.4 percent for the nation during the same period. Modesto Bee article

Casino wars: California tribes, card rooms take their fight to Elk Grove — All Elk Grove wanted was a shopping mall. Instead, it wound up in the middle of a long-standing statewide turf war over gambling. Sacramento Bee article

Region’s housing market reported to be hot amid low inventory — Shrinking inventory, rising sale prices and strong buyer demand continued to dominate the greater Sacramento area housing market in November, according to two new reports from regional real estate brokers. Sacramento Bee article

Phil Angelides: The many reasons why CaPERS shouldn’t reinvest in tobacco – The former state treasurer and former CalPERS board member writes, “As the nation’s largest public pension fund, CalPERS has a special responsibility to strive to invest in ways that meet its fiduciary obligations, but also strengthen our economy and society. If CalPERS reverses course now, it will irreparably damage its credibility as a responsible investor and at enormous cost to California.” Angelides op-ed in Sacramento Bee

California biodiesel companies hunker down – and hope — With a new Trump administration coming into the White House, Case is concerned the Renewable Fuel Standard in general and the biodiesel tax credit in particular may end up on the chopping block. LA Times article

San Diego County pay proposal would boost pensions, too — San Diego County supervisors gave initial approval this past week to a proposal that would increase their own pay — and not just their current paychecks. San Diego Union-Tribune article


Assemblyman Adam Gray: Water board operates in a silo; we have better ideas – The Merced Democrat writes, “We must rebuild our rivers and groundwater aquifers, rebuild our water infrastructure, and rebuild our economy. We all agree on these three goals, but only when they are done together and in unison. A comprehensive approach would address the issues we all want solved and would force all parties to act in good faith, a quality that many believe is in short supply in the water board’s current proposal.” Gray op-ed in Modesto Bee

Oakland Irrigation District, South San Joaquin Irrigation District warn of harm from river flow plan – New Melones Reservoir would hold virtually nothing in about one in seven years if the state’s river flow plan goes through, water managers said Friday. Modesto Bee article

Dave Long and Scott Koehn: State’s water grab will devastate jobs, economy in Merced – Long, Merced Irrigation District board president, and Koehn,  the board’s vice president, write, “Our community’s way of life is under direct attack by Sacramento’s plan to take our water and send it to the Bay-Delta for the benefit of others.” Long/Koehn op-ed in Merced Sun-Star

Officials urge residents to speak out Monday on Bay-Delta plan – The Merced-area community will have one local opportunity to speak directly to officials from the State Water Resources Control Board about the controversial Bay-Delta plan, and that one chance will come Monday. Merced Sun-Star articleMerced Sun-Star editorial

State approves rate hikes, infrastructure improvements for Cal Water – The California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday approved a package that authorizes California Water Service Co. to make $58.9 million in Bakersfield-area infrastructure improvements over the next three years and to raise rates for customersBakersfield Californian article

Ted Page: We need president to sign the Water Infrastructure Act – The president of the Kern County Water Agency board of directors writes, “Today, S. 612, the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act, or WIIN Act, is in front of President Obama for his signature or veto. The Kern County Water Agency is a strong advocate for the president to make the bill the nation’s newest law.” Page op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

A $1-billion desalination plant might be coming to Huntingdon Beach, but it will test California’s environmental rules — Poseidon Water hopes to help quench Orange County’s thirst, but first the company’s proposed desalination project must slake a thirst of its own. LA Times article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

District attorney declines to charge two Fresno police officers who shot Dylan Noble — Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp announced late Friday afternoon that the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Dylan Noble did not involve any criminal conduct by Fresno police Officers Raymond Camacho and Robert Chavez. Fresno Bee article

Death row inmate has a new champion in legendary lawyer who plans to have him freed — Legendary San Francisco civil rights attorney J. Tony Serra received a warm welcome Friday in Fresno County Superior Court in his first appearance in the death penalty case of Douglas Ray Stankewitz. Fresno Bee article


Clovis West student suicides not connected, but point to a larger trend, experts say — While the suicide deaths of three Clovis West High School students since August left that school reeling, mental health experts say more emphasis should be placed on prevention. Fresno Bee article

Fresno Bee: Michael Hanson gave his all to Fresno Unified — Michael Hanson was the right man at the right time for Fresno Unified School District. Fresno Bee editorial

Mayor Steinberg wins state support for idea of paid internships for Sacramento high schoolers – On his third day as Sacramento mayor, Darrell Steinberg made progress toward fulfilling his campaign promise to fund more internships for high school students in the city. Sacramento Bee article

Chancellor candidates meet with West Hills Community College District board — After three public forums this week, the four candidates for the chancellor position for West Hills Community College District interviewed with the board of trustees on Thursday. Hanford Sentinel article

For many CSU Sacramento grads, the road was mostly uphill – Alexis Griffin craned her neck from her seat at Sleep Train Arena, trying to catch a glance of her motivation for graduating – her 2-year-old son, Noah. Sacramento Bee article

UC Riverside provost to resign amid widespread faculty concerns over his leadership style – UC Riverside Provost Paul J. D’Anieri announced Friday that he would step down from his administrative post, just days after the faculty said it would meet to consider a vote of no confidence in his leadership. LA Times article

Health/Human Services

Government extends healthcare deadline as record numbers sign up, Obama says – The federal government Friday extended the deadline to get health insurance that starts on Jan. 1, citing “extraordinary demand” on the website. Dec. 19 is the new deadline to sign up for coverage that begins Jan. 1. The old deadline was Dec. 15. McClatchy Newspapers article

Young doctors could work 28 hours straight under new plan, despite possible dangers – The private group that oversees physician training in the United States has proposed rolling back rules so that young doctors just out of medical school can work shifts as long as 28 hours. LA Times article

Tulare Regional Medical Center’s secret loan — Tulare Regional Medical Center for at least eight months has been secretly funneling cash to a bankrupt Lone Pine hospital managed by HealthCare Conglomerate Associates, the same company that also operates the Tulare hospital and controls its bank accounts, records show. Visalia Times-Delta article

Emotions soar at stem cell board meeting — In an emotion-choked session, the mother of a six-year-old girl thanked California’s stem cell agency for saving the life of her daughter. Capitol Weekly article

Land Use/Housing

Tower of hope: Medico-Dental proposal would put more units downtown – DFA Development, in conjunction with Ten Space, this week unveiled a plan to convert the unused building into 30 affordably priced rental units, with 10 more available at market-rate prices. Stockton Record article


As Kirk leaves, MCAG will conduct search for new executive director — The Merced County Association of Governments will be in transition in January as the search begins for a new executive director. Marjie Kirn, the current executive director, will take a new job in the same role with the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments next year. Merced Sun-Star article

Uber defies order to stop using self-driving cars in San Francisco — Uber said it will continue to operate its self-driving cars in San Francisco despite demands from the California Department of Motor Vehicles to cease its program or face legal action. LA Times articleAP article

Other areas

Gubler is Visalia’s mayor — Visalia has a new mayor. Attorney Warren Gubler, who for the past two years served as vice mayor, was picked Friday as Visalia’s new mayor, replacing Steve Nelsen. Visalia Times-Delta article

Ghost Ship fire mystery: What did fire officials know and when did they know it? — One of the biggest mysteries to come out of the deadly Ghost Ship fire is why authorities didn’t do more to address safety and health concerns about a warehouse that some former residents described as a “death trap.” LA Times article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Michael Hanson was the right man at the right time for Fresno Unified School District; Thumbs up, thumbs down.

Merced Sun-Star – With so much less water, we will all suffer.

Sacramento Bee –- With a president-elect who blithely crosses long-established lines and who styles himself a strongman, Congress and the courts have to stand up to Donald Trump when necessary. It is essential that our system of checks and balances works to protect the republic.