December 18, 2014


Political Briefs


Top stories

Brown aims at retiree care costs — It’s official: Gov. Jerry Brown’s January budget proposal will include a plan to reduce the nearly $72 billion in unfunded promises the state has made to pay retiree health benefits. Now how to pay it? Answer: Money in the rainy day fund that voters approved just last month, Proposition 2. Sacramento Bee article 

George Skelton: A smart California tax bill points the way to needed reform – Sen. Robert Hertzberg’s tax increase — introduced as SB 8 immediately after he was sworn in Dec. 1 — actually is long-needed tax reform, the kind that causes most politicians to avert their eyes. The measure finally would extend the state sales tax to services, the fastest growth sector of California’s economy. Skelton column in LA Times


Valley politics 

McCarthy leads delegation to Middle East — Bakersfield Congressman Kevin McCarthy just returned from leading a congressional delegation to the Middle East, including Iraq, to learn more about the fight against ISIL and other regional threats, his office announced Wednesday. Bakersfield Californian article


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Joe Mathews: How I fear the 2016 Taxapalooza will go — Here’s my hope for the coming 2016 Taxapalooza of various tax-hiking initiatives: The debate will create a healthy discussion and convince various initiative sponsors, the legislature and the governor to come together and advance a tax reform that preserves our progressive tax structure, lowers some rates for competitiveness, taxes our service-based economy more fairly, and produces at least $20 billion a year in new revenues.  Mathews in Fox & Hounds



Supreme Court says Arizona must issue driver’s licenses to immigrants — The Supreme Court decided Wednesday that Arizona must offer driver’s licenses to young immigrants who entered the country illegally as children but were later shielded from deportation by President Obama. LA Times article


Other areas

California delegates’ reaction to U.S.-Cuba softening falls across party lines – While some San Joaquin Valley agricultural organizations have long sought more open trade with Cuba, California political reactions to Wednesday’s news that efforts are underway to normalize relations between Cuba and the U.S. fell at least in part along partisan lines. McClatchy Newspapers article

Congressional Republicans look to block Cuba policy changes – The shift in U.S. policy toward Cuba triggered fierce partisan warfare Wednesday in Congress, as some Republicans vowed to take strong steps to block the changes. AP article

California Senate’s fiscal outlook hinges on complex spending formula – A major ingredient in the state Senate’s recently revealed fiscal troubles, which prompted the layoffs of more than three-dozen workers last month, is that the formula controlling legislative budget growth came in much lower than expected for the 2014-15 fiscal year. Capitol Alert

California Senate announces committee chairmanships – Sen. Ricardo Lara has landed one of the most powerful committee chair assignments in the California Legislature, overseeing the Senate Appropriations Committee that decides the fate of hundreds of bills each year. Capitol Alert

See the political makeup of every Sacramento neighborhood – Much of the Sacramento region is sharply segregated by political affiliation, with Democrats largely clustered around the urban core and Republicans dominating the eastern suburbs. For those keeping score, the area with the highest proportion of Democrats sits between Davis High School and UC Davis; the area with the highest proportion of Republicans surrounds the Granite Bay Golf Course. This map shows the political breakdown for each voting precinct as of June 2014, just before the statewide primary election. Sacramento Bee article

Tim Donnelly won’t enter California Senate special election — Former Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly for now is holding fast to his own mantra: “Patriot, not Politician.” The unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate has announced in a statement that he will not relocate his family to run for the 21st Senate seat being vacated by Rep.-elect Steve Knight. Capitol Alert
California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Wealth gap in America widens to record levels, report says – The wealth gap between middle- and upper-income households has widened to the highest level on record, says a new report. LA Times article

New Cuba policy could help California – President Obama’s bold move to normalize relations with Cuba has huge political and financial implications not only for the nation, but for California, with enormous potential to expand jobs and partnerships with the state’s technology, biotech and agricultural sectors. San Francisco Chronicle article; Sacramento Bee editorial


Jobs and the Economy 

Business groups cheer Obama’s move to normalize Cuba relations – President Obama’s decision to start normalizing relations with Cuba gives American business a fresh opportunity on an island once known as a travel hub for the U.S. jet set. San Francisco Chronicle article; McClatchy Newspapers article

U.S.-Cuba dethaw a victory for fans of Cuban cigars – The historic decision to rebuild ties between two Cold War-era foes is an aromatic victory for U.S. fans of Cuban cigars. Fresno Bee article

Stanislaus road tax vote rolling toward 2016 – A Stanislaus countywide ballot initiative in 2016 to raise the sales tax for road projects moved a step closer to reality Wednesday with unanimous approval from transportation leaders. Modesto Bee article

Valley home sales spiral down in November – Homes sales plummeted in the Central Valley during November as prices continued to tick up, straining affordability for many. The Business Journal article

Consumer prices post biggest drop in 6 years on lower gasoline costs Plunging gasoline costs led to the largest drop in consumer prices in six years last month and added another complication for Federal Reserve policymakers as they try to determine when to start raising interest rates. LA Times article

Lance Christensen and Victor Nava: Stockton and Detroit exit bankruptcy leaving pension systems as-is The failure to significantly address public pension debt and make structural changes to the pension systems in both Stockton and Detroit does not bode well for the economic future of either city post-bankruptcy. It also presents an interesting conundrum for other cities in dire fiscal distress that bear significant pension costs and unfunded liabilities. Are more cities to follow the path to pension cuts in bankruptcy? Christensen/Nava in Fox & Hounds

Fed signals it will go slow on lifting key interest rate – The American economic outlook, bolstered by robust job growth and a sharp drop in gasoline prices, was boosted a little more with the Federal Reserve’s signal that it would take as long as three years to raise interests to once-normal levels. LA Times article

Lemoore council rejects Kings EDC — Amid budget concerns and other issues, the Lemoore City Council voted not to resume its relationship with the Kings Economic Development Corp. The council voted 2-3, rejecting a six-month contract to allow the organization to continue providing services to attract and retain industrial development in Lemoore. Hanford Sentinel article

Business owner vows legal action in street project – A West Tulare business owner says he will seek legal recourse if city officials and the property owner where his convenience store sits agree to a real estate deal allowing for a street realignment project. Visalia Times-Delta article

Business owners review disabled access laws – A workshop Wednesday on how businesses may deal with disabled-access laws and the threat of lawsuits, drew more than 50 people; support from area business groups and elected officials; and calls for legislative reform. Stockton Record article

Sony scraps ‘The Interview’ release; North Korea blamed for hack — Sony Pictures Entertainment’s extraordinary decision to scrap the Christmas release of “The Interview” came amid mounting pressure from powerful theater owners and other studios concerned that the film’s release could keep moviegoers away from multiplexes during the holidays, one of the most lucrative periods for Hollywood. LA Times article



California drought: We need 11 trillion gallons of water in the bank – A series of rainstorms — one of which was powerful and destructive for residents statewide — helped deposit needed moisture to California, but it’s going to take 11 trillion gallons of water in storage to recover from the drought, NASA scientists said this week. LA Times article

Stockton soaks up increase in rain – With another half-inch of rain on Tuesday, the city has now received more rain in the first six months of 2014-15 than it did in all of 2013-14. A total of 7.62 inches of rain have fallen in Stockton since July 1. Just 7.51 inches fell here from July 2013 through June 2014. Stockton Record article

States in parched southwest take steps to bolster Lake Mead — With a 14-year drought in the Colorado River basin showing few signs of breaking, states along the river’s path are taking new steps this month to ensure that Lake Mead — the Colorado River reservoir that is the water source for much of the Southwest — does not fail them. New York Times article

Tulare water rate increase approved – The Tulare City Council ratified Tuesday an increase in local water rates. Councilman Carlton Jones alone voted to oppose the increase. Visalia Times-Delta article

2014 was a tough year for California farmers and ranchers – California’s farmers and ranchers have endured a challenging 2014. Capital Public Radio’s Lesley McClurg reports on how they’re weathering the drought. Capital Public Radio report

Citrus quarantine applies to homeowners, too — Recently, all of Tulare County was placed under quarantine by The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) because the Asian Citrus Psyllid has been found here. This quarantine applies to homeowners, too. Visalia Times-Delta article


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Crime-fighting eye in sky comes with high price tag for Stanislaus County – Right now, a consumer can pay $300 for a video camera as a nice gift to put under the tree. The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department will pay slightly more for a surveillance camera to take video of suspected drug dealers in action. The Wescam MX-10 long-distance surveillance camera will be mounted on the department’s Cessna 206 airplane, which often is used for drug-trafficking investigations. The camera system will cost an eye-popping $414,060 for the equipment – and installation is not included. Modesto Bee article

‘First Look’: Lois Henry discusses Bryan Oliver trial outcome — On Tuesday afternoon after Judge John W. Lua declared a mistrial in the Bryan Oliver case, Californian columnist Lois Henry thought about the conversations she’d been having with other staff. “I would hate to be a juror in this trial,” Henry said Wednesday on “First Look with Scott Cox.” Bakersfield Californian article

Taft superintendent ‘disappointed’ by Bryan Oliver mistrial – Blanca Cavazos, superintendent of the Taft Union High School District, said in a statement Wednesday she was “disappointed” by Tuesday’s mistrial in the Kern County Superior Court trial of school shooter Bryan Oliver. Bakersfield Californian article

What does video from the new LAPD body camera look like? Check it out here — The cameras, produced by Taser International, are roughly the size of a police badge and can be outfitted on the center of an officer’s chest or elsewhere, depending on the model. As the video above shows, the quality of the images are on par with today’s camera phone videos and capture what an officer sees and hears in the field. The images do blur during quick movements, however. LA Times article

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson wants police to consider body cameras — Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson has asked the city police department to explore broad changes to the way it recruits and trains new officers, examine how cops engage with the community and launch a pilot program to equip officers with body cameras. Sacramento Bee article

Oakland police: We had no idea CHP officers dressed as protestors — Although California Highway Patrol officials said they had planted plainclothes officers within recent demonstrations in Oakland and Berkeley with the approval of the cities’ respective police departments, Oakland police officials said Wednesday that they were unaware that the CHP had undercover officers within their jurisdiction the night one pulled a gun on protesters after his partner was attacked. San Francisco Chronicle article

San Diego Police Department sued over cellular tracking tech — The San Diego Police Department is being sued by a civil rights organization demanding more information about how the department uses a controversial cellphone tracking technology, information the group says should be disclosed under the California Public Records Act. U-T San Diego article

Linda Eviston: A DUI task force may make our lives safer at all times of year – The executive director for STEPS writes, “The district attorney, Mothers against Drunk Drivers, Kern County Mental Health and TAASK have all expressed a strong interest in working to establish Kern County’s DUI Task Force. Let the work begin, and the saving of lives continue.” Eviston op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

President Obama pardons Clovis man in conspiracy case — President Barack Obama on Wednesday deployed one of his most powerful and rarely used tools on behalf of a Clovis man when he pardoned John Marshall French for a long-ago, nonviolent crime. French, 45, was the only California resident on Wednesday to receive a presidential pardon. Fresno Bee article


California schools step up efforts to help ‘long-term English learners’ – In its inaugural data released Wednesday, the state has identified nearly 350,000 students in grades six through 12 who have attended California schools for seven years or more and are still not fluent in English. They make up three-fourths of all secondary school students still learning English. LA Times article 

Twin Rivers, Fresno Unified subject of study by education expert Michael Fullan – Twin Rivers Unified is one of four California school districts being studied by Canadian education expert Michael Fullan to evaluate how they attract, train and use staff. Long Beach Unified, Whittier Union High School and Fresno Unified school districts also will participate in the study, which is funded by the Stuart Foundation, a philanthropic organization that focuses on improving the school system in California. Sacramento Bee article

Andrew Policano: UC tuition increase can broaden access for California students – The director of the Center for Investment and Wealth Management at UC Irvine writes, “The UC regents proposal offers the option for the Legislature to provide necessary funding in lieu of tuition increases. Still, the proposal to increase tuition with targeted increases in financial aid can both increase access and enhance quality.” Policano op-ed in Sacramento Bee

State to fight lawsuit by impoverished students – State finance officials last week granted the California Department of Education $3.4 million to fight a lawsuit that demands the state fix disruptive conditions in some high-poverty schools where students allegedly are being denied the fundamental right to an education. EdSource article 

Bakersfield College wants four-year degree – Bakersfield College will be throwing its hat in the ring Thursday to become one of a few California community colleges to offer baccalaureate degrees. Bakersfield Californian article (second item)

Fresno Unified’s Parent University wins state award — Fresno Unified School District’s Parent University won the California School Board Association’s Golden Bell Award on Tuesday at the board’s conference in San Francisco. The award — which comes with a $1,000 prize — recognizes excellence in education and the best practices in operations, instruction and support services. Fresno Bee article

On Campus: Let’s talk techie – yes, they need computers — There is a tech-tonic shift happening, pardon the pun, from the inkwell world where classrooms got their start. Encyclopedias to Googling. Wide-ruled binder paper to spreadsheets. Pencils to styluses. More than the classic No. 2s have their futures on the line here. Modesto Bee article


Cheap gas is not good news for those who worry about climate change —  It seems as though low gas prices should be good news. When the cost of a gallon of gas dips well below $3 in most of the country, everybody smiles, right? Not necessarily. Wall Street is frowning. Frackers are fuming. Electric-car manufacturers are fretting. And environmentalists are freaking out. LA Times article

New furor emerges with CPUC in upheaval — Gov. Jerry Brown has yet to name a replacement for Peevey, and Clanon’s successor has not been named. Other important posts at the regulatory agency are either vacant or being filled temporarily, including the heads of its legal and safety divisions. To those who say the commission has long been in bed with the utilities it regulates, the upheaval is a moment of opportunity. San Francisco Chronicle article

Study: Huge wildfire supports need for controlled burns – A fierce wildfire that scorched part of Yosemite National Park burned less intensely in places that had fires in recent years — a finding that researchers said Wednesday supports a belief that controlled burning often curtails extreme fires. AP article

Stockton Record: Water weed words? – Sorry, but talk won’t solve Delta problem; we need action. Stockton Record editorial

After big quake, Napa fault could move 6 inches in 3 years — Think the Napa fault stopped moving after producing a 6.0 earthquake in August? Think again. The fault that caused that Napa quake is forecast to move an additional 2 to 6 inches in the next three years in a hard-hit residential area, a top federal scientist said at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco on Tuesday. LA Times article

In war on coyotes, some argue for learning to live with them — Fueled by the war on coyotes now underway across Southern California and much of the United States, debate is growing over the most humane method of executing the wily predators — as is a vigorous public push to accommodate them instead. LA Times article


Health/Human Services

New Obamacare enrollments in California top 144,000 — California’s health insurance exchange said 144,178 people have newly enrolled in Obamacare coverage during the first month of sign ups. During the initial rollout of the federal health law, 1.2 million people purchased a private health plan through the Covered California exchange. LA Times article; KQED report

Board shake-up in the offing at Covered California? — The latest round of upbeat news for the exchange comes amid a potential shakeup of its volunteer, part-time board of directors. On Monday, Dr. Robert Ross, chief executive of the California Endowment, resigned from the board effective Dec. 31, two years before his current term ends. Sacramento Bee article

How the high cost of medical care is affecting Americans – Here is a snapshot of the American experience with the cost of medical care. New York Times article

After Blue Shield pulls out of zip codes, consumers see limited insurance options — Blue Shield of California used to sell policies to individuals in every county of California in 2013, according to the Department of Managed Health Care, one of California’s two health insurance regulators. But data from the company and state regulators show that this year, Blue Shield pulled out of 250 zip codes throughout the state, including four entire counties (Alpine, Monterey, Sutter, and Yuba). Capital Public Radio report

Report finds high child abuse, neglect in Kern – Kern County children ages 5 and younger are twice as likely as their statewide peers to be victims of abuse and neglect, according to a new report. The findings were part of the Children’s Data Network project at the University of Southern California School of Social Work, which followed children born in 2006 and 2007 over a five-year period. Bakersfield Californian article

Whooping cough infections unusually high among Latino babies — Public health officials are trying to understand why Latino babies are contracting whooping cough at much higher rates than other babies. KQED report

Schools are at the front of asthma fight — California’s network of 230 school-based health clinics are set to incubate a new education program meant to address the environmental factors that trigger asthma attacks. KQED report


Land Use/Housing

Fresno city council to decide on 2035 general plan — The public has had its say; now it’s the Fresno City Council’s turn to debate, and likely vote, on a new plan intended to slow the city’s outward expansion. Fresno Bee article

Chris Moran and Matthew Jendian: Fresno’s General Plan – how to ensure it succeeds – Moran, board president of Fresno Metro Ministries, and Jendian, board member of the Relational Culture Institute and chair of the Sociology Department and Director of Humanics at Fresno State, write, “We ask the Fresno City Council to maintain the integrity of the proposed plan to achieve balanced growth and investment in all parts of our city. We look forward to building partnerships with neighborhoods, businesses, institutions, and resident leaders and working together to collectively implement the plan so this time will be different.” Moran/Jendian op-ed in Fresno Bee

California highways seeing record traffic, bucking years of decline – California’s highways are experiencing record traffic as the economy improves and gas prices plummet, reversing the declines of the recession, new state figures show. Sacramento Bee article

Bay Bridge rods, bolts are safe and can stay, draft report says — More than 2,000 rods and bolts on the new Bay Bridge eastern span whose safety was questioned last year when 32 of them cracked are not in danger of failing and should remain in place, according to a report that an oversight panel will consider Friday. San Francisco Chronicle article


Other Areas

Marijuana fine is withdrawn in Fresno County medical marijuana case – A Del Rey woman will not be fined $43,000 for allegedly violating Fresno County’s ban on medical marijuana, it was confirmed Wednesday. Fresno Bee article

Corruption case: No exoneration for former San Joaquin County supervisor, aide – A federal appeals court has rejected attempts by a former San Joaquin County supervisor and his legal aide asking to be exonerated in the county’s largest corruption scandal. Stockton Record article 

Joe Mathews: Forget Anaheim, bring Disneyland to Fresno — The state should acquire and give Disney a piece of land, with all environmental approvals and entitlements in place, large enough to build another park in California. Where? Disney could build a third park on a large piece of land next to its Anaheim resort, but hasn’t moved to do so. The perfect location: something close to the planned high-speed rail station in Fresno. Mathews in KVPR

Upgrades at U.S. border crossing thrill commuters – Motorists at the nation’s busiest border crossing were accustomed to waiting hours while vendors paraded between lanes with everything from sliced papaya and hot oatmeal to sombreros and ceramic mugs. Now, thanks to a $741 million construction project, they may not have enough time to lower their windows and order a cappuccino. AP article

Sacramento Bee: Sacramento should push ahead good government changes – How about that – an open and inclusive process that leads to more transparent and responsive city government? Now that’s something all Sacramentans can get behind – without a hint of irony. Sacramento Bee editorial

Jeff Jardine: Ex-Modestan’s company cleared for drone takeoff – Drones. Unmanned aircraft. Brian Whiteside likes to refer to them as “aerial robots.” No matter the moniker, they are the future, he says. Whiteside, a 1988 Downey High grad, is president of VDOS Global, a company that got a huge boost last week when the Federal Aviation Administration granted it and three other commercial companies exemptions from manned aviation rules. Jardine column in Modesto Bee

Former Madera County Supervisor Harry Baker to stand trial for alleged lewd act with girl — Former Madera County Supervisor Harry Baker is competent to stand trial in his long-running felony molestation case involving a 13-year-old girl, a jury ruled late Wednesday in Fresno County Superior Court. Fresno Bee article


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – California license law will make roads safer – if we do it right; Plunging oil prices are good for us, bad for Putin.

Sacramento BeeCold War with Cuba nears an end – finally; Sacramento should push ahead good government changes.

Stockton Record – Sorry, but talk won’t solve the problem of water weeds in the Delta; we need action.