December 2, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

California lawmakers set goals as new Legislature convenes — The new legislative session officially began Monday, with lawmakers converging on the Capitol to take the oath of office and legislative leaders signaling that the proposed University of California tuition hikes will be a pivotal policy battle in the coming term.  LA Times article

Voters to university leaders and lawmakers:  Find the money — Interpreting poll results is often a dicey proposition, given that it’s not always clear what Californians are saying they want or don’t want. The latest statewide poll is, however, crystal clear: Don’t balance the books of the University of California or Cal State by raising tuition. But don’t ask us for any new taxes either. Simple message, but a tough issue — and no doubt some intense political debate is coming in the weeks and months ahead.  KQED report; Sacramento Bee article; San Jose Mercury News article; AP article

State budget

Democrats blast UC hikes in Legislature’s return — Democratic legislative leaders took aim at tuition hikes approved by the University of California as they returned to the state Capitol to kick off a new session on Monday. Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins called for implementing so-called zero-based budgeting for the state, starting with the UC’s system. That process requires agencies to justify each line item instead of working automatically from their previous year’s spending plan.  AP article

California’s temporary tax increase should be extended, most say – A majority of Californians are willing to renew the Proposition 30 taxes they voted for two years ago, even though Gov.Jerry Brown said the boost in the state sales tax and the income tax of the richest residents would be temporary, a new Public Policy Institute of California poll shows.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Jon Coupal: Making Prop 30 tax permanent could sink state – The president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association writes, “Instead of asking whether we should make Proposition 30’s temporary tax hikes permanent, a better question would be whether those tax hikes were even needed in the first place or, better yet, did they inflict more harm than good? There is compelling evidence that California today would be enjoying a bigger slice of the national economic recovery had we not passed Proposition 30 at all.”  Coupal op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Valley politics

Modesto Bee: Valley legislators make ADA reform top priority — Two members of the Valley Delegation (we’re capitalizing those letters intentionally) unveiled their most important priority Monday, the first day of the new legislative session: halting abuse of a law meant to guarantee access for those with disabilities.  Modesto Bee editorial

Post-election resignation leads to a mess in Tulare — Council will add another twist to the story today, when they likely will appoint a replacement for Ben Brubaker, who declined to take the seat after he was hired as CEO of the Tulare Chamber of Commerce. And now the same activists who sued the city to move to district elections are threatening legal action if one of the two losing candidates, Maritsa Castellanoz Munoz or Art Cabello, isn’t appointed to the city council seat.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

California’s record-low voter turnout stirs anxieties — Though three small counties have yet to report, voter turnout in the midterm election stood Monday at just 42.2 percent, and isn’t expected to change significantly. That will obliterate the state’s modern-era record for voter apathy of 50.6 percent in 2002, when Gov. Gray Davis cruised past Republican Bill Simon.  Sacramento Bee article


Sacramento Bee: Sen. Lara’s office for immigrants comes from the heart, but at what cost? We can’t help but think that 120 legislators, each with district offices and eager aides, could provide many of these services to new immigrants, documented or not. This is an important discussion for the Legislature to have when it returns in January, but it is one that must turn on the question of financial obligation.  Sacramento Bee editorial

California preparing for undocumented driver licenses – Beginning January 2, undocumented Californians can apply for driver licenses in the state. One-point-four million people are expected to apply for “AB 60” licenses over the next few years.  Capital Public Radio report

Conservatives work to block Obama on immigration – Conservatives circulated draft legislation Monday aimed at blocking President Barack Obama‘s executive actions on immigration from taking effect, as Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson prepared to offer GOP critics a full-throated defense of the new policies.  AP article

Other areas

John Myers: Legislature convenes; let the battles begin — Think of it as the biannual celebration in Sacramento of cognitive dissonance. Politically speaking, that is. The pomp and circumstance of a new session of the California Legislature always leaves one with a sense of hope and optimism. New and familiar faces, a sense of starting fresh and pledges of working together for the good of all Californians. And yet, that sense of conflicting thoughts and feelings — the cognitive dissonance of it all — was also on display via the bills and issues being bandied about by Monday afternoon.  Myers in KQED

Dan Walters: California Legislature’s new session gets a preview – The Legislature returned to Sacramento on Monday – or, as a dystopian might say, to the scene of its previous crimes. It was a brief return, just long enough for everyone to be sworn in for the biennial session, for promises of bipartisan comity and high-minded motives, for snapshots of several dozen newbies with their proud families, and, of course, for celebratory gatherings.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

California Republicans seek cap-and-trade exemption for fuels — Returning to an issue that has divided legislative Democrats and permeated campaigns, Republicans on Monday announced a pair of bills preventing California’s cap-and-trade program from expanding to cover oil and gas.  Capitol Alert

New California senators take oath of office; bills introduced — Ten freshmen took the oath of office Monday to join the California Senate, and a flurry of bills, many of them recycled from last year, were announced on the first day of the two-year session.  LA Times article; Sacramento Bee article; Capitol Weekly article; Visalia Times-Delta article

LA teacher sex case prompts bill on age of consent — The state’s criminal code already says 18 is the age of consent, but a recent civil case in which the Los Angeles Unified School District argued that a 14-year-old girl consented to have sex with her 28-year-old teacher prompted Assemblywoman Nora Campos to call for a change.  Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article

Videos show violent clash between protestors, cops in San Francisco — Several videos posted online and on social media show a San Francisco police officer getting broadsided by a thrown barricade amid Friday’s unruly clash with demonstrators during an anti-Black Friday demonstration.  San Francisco Chronicle article

LA County tallies about 1.5 million ballots – just a 33 percent turnout — Los Angeles County officials have finished counting all 1,518,835 valid ballots from the Nov. 4 election. While that may sound like a lot, that number represents just 33.42% of eligible voters, elections officials said Monday. Statewide, turnout was about 42%, according to the secretary of state’s office.  LA Times article

News Briefs

Top Stories

State Water Project expects scant deliveries next year – The State Water Project, which carries runoff from the mountains of Northern California to much of the state, expects to limit annual water deliveries to 10 percent of what is requested in the coming year due to the prolonged drought.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Modesto employees in line for wage increases worth $1.6 million — A few hundred Modesto workers and managers are poised to receive pay raises and other salary increases that eventually will cost the city $1.6 million annually. These employees also are in line to receive extra paid holidays and special leave.  Modesto Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Mark Leno will try again to hike California’s minimum wage — After announcing over the weekend that he will not run for mayor of San Francisco next year, Sen. Mark Leno began the new legislative session Monday with a proposal to increase California’s minimum wage to $11 in 2016 and $13 in 2017.  Capitol Alert

Valley regional economic forecast – While no one’s expecting a flurry of activity, a number of new developments have locals leaders counting on steady economic growth throughout Fresno, Kings, Madera and Tulare counties next year.  The Business Journal article

Ringing in the holiday sales – online – With the holiday shopping season underway, some local retailers aren’t waiting for consumers to darken the doors of their shops. They have websites set up for online sales.  Hanford Sentinel article

Cyber Monday shoppers give retailers sales bump – Cyber Monday is turning into Cyber Month. Retailers rolled out discounts and free shipping deals on Cyber Monday, with millions of Americans expected to log on and shop on their work computers, laptops and tablets after the busy holiday shopping weekend.  AP article

Patterson, Vidak look to blunt coming cap-and-trade change that likely means higher gas prices – A controversial plan to lower greenhouse gases could raise the cost of gasoline in California — starting Jan. 1. The big question is how much. Fearing the worst, two central San Joaquin Valley Republican legislators on Monday introduced legislation that would kill the plan, which will add transportation fuels to the state’s cap-and-trade program.  Fresno Bee article

Bakersfield tightest in country for office space – Offices in Bakersfield, which have been easier to come by than warehouse, industrial, or retail space, may be approaching historic levels of scarcity. Third quarter vacancy rates for city office space are nearing 7.4 percent, which is the lowest in the nation and the third lowest in North America, and developers continue planning at least four new office complexes to meet demand.  Bakersfield Californian article

Lower oil prices will help U.S. economy, two top Fed officials say – Two top Federal Reserve policymakers said Monday that falling oil prices will help the U.S. economy even though the drop adds to concerns about low inflation.  LA Times article

California trying to give back $20 million in tax refunds — The United States Postal Service returned nearly 47,500 income tax refunds this year, mostly because taxpayers moved after they filed their returns, but never provided new addresses. The state Franchise Tax Board says it has more than $20 million in returned checks, ranging from $1 to $50,000.  LA Times article

California used car sales up 2.5 percent over last year — California’s used vehicle sales market saw about a 2.5 percent year-over-year gain through the first nine months of this year, according to the Sacramento-based California New Car Dealers Association.  Sacramento Bee article

Valley sees slight drop in business sales — Business sales dipped throughout the San Joaquin Valley in November, although the region fared better than the state as a whole.  The Business Journal article

Stockton auto dealership moving to Trinity Parkway from longtime West Lane lot — Berberian European Motors, the Mercedes and Volvo dealership long located on West Lane, said it will begin working this month on a new facility on Trinity Parkway south of Eight Mile Road with plans to move there in about a year.  Stockton Record article


California drought boosts ‘cash for grass’ programs — It would take a truly drenching winter to declare California’s drought over and, at least so far, that hasn’t materialized. One way water companies are nudging homeowners to conserve? Asking them to rip out their grassy lawns. In some places, they’ve been paying people to do it, and that’s given a boost to companies hawking alternatives.  KQED report

Wofford Heights residents on alert as big rains expected — In fire-scarred areas in Kern’s mountain regions, especially the town of Wofford Heights near Isabella Lake, heavy rains raise the potential for mudslides and debris flows.  Bakersfield Californian article

Rancho Santa Fe ranked as state’s largest residential water hog — Behind the groves of orange trees and gated driveways in this wealthy San Diego County enclave lie estates boasting Gatsby-sized lawns, resort-style swimming pools, water falls and even putting greens. It is Southern California’s denial of its dry geography writ large. LA Times article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Obama seeks $263 million for training, body cameras for police —  President Obama is ordering up new rules for giving local police agencies access to surplus U.S. military equipment such as the armored vehicles, assault rifles and body armor that police in Ferguson, Mo., used in an unsuccessful attempt to quiet protests this summer.  LA Times article; AP article

Jail expansion contract headed to Kern supervisors – After more than six years of debate, the Kern County Board of Supervisors is poised Tuesday to approve a $100.5 million design-build contract for the construction of more than 800 new beds at Lerdo Jail.  Bakersfield Californian article

LA City attorney needs more staff for 8,800 new Prop 47 misdemeanors – Because California voters reduced penalties for a number of drug and theft crimes by passing Prop. 47, Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer asked the City Council on Monday to let him hire more employees to file roughly 8,800 more cases expected annually – crimes that used to be handled by the district attorney as felonies but now are misdemeanors.  LA Times article

Women inmates wrap up sentences outside prison walls – She married the wrong person, started doing drugs with him, and by the time they broke up, she’d lost her job. In order to buy drugs, she wrote bad checks and got caught. That’s how Christina Contreras ended up in prison. Seven years into her sentence, Contreras felt ready to leave — and start a new life.  KQED report

Stockton Police Department adds another new member, three trainees – Police Chief Eric Jones administered the police oath to Frank Gervacio on Monday, increasing the ranks of sworn Stockton police officers to 372.  Stockton Record article

Bryan Oliver trial postponed two days because of ‘issue’ with juror — The trial of school shooter Bryan Oliver was postponed for two days Monday for what the trial judge called a “minor issue” with a juror. Judge John W. Lua did not explain the issue and told jurors to return Wednesday morning.  Bakersfield Californian article

Fresno man sentenced to three years in prison for setting fire under Jerry Dyer’s patrol car — A Fresno man was sentenced Monday to three years in prison for starting a fire under Police Chief Jerry Dyer’s patrol cruiser outside police headquarters this summer, just five months after he got out of Fresno County Jail.  Fresno Bee article


Fresno State President Castro to attend White House summit on college access — Fresno State President Joseph Castro will be on Capitol Hill this week as part of the White House College Opportunity Summit, a confab for education leaders aimed at improving college access and graduation rates among first-generation and low-income students.  Fresno Bee article

Eggman hoping for ‘Stockton State’ – A California State University campus of its own could be in Stockton’s future after Assemblywoman Susan Talamantes Eggman introduced a bill Monday, the first day of the 2015-16 legislative session, that would require the state to weigh the feasibility of establishing such a campus here.  Stockton Record article

Poll shows support for high-quality preschool — A vast majority of California registered voters believe attending a high-quality preschool is important to a student’s future success in school, according to a Field Poll conducted in partnership with EdSource.   EdSource article

Guidance offered on career preparation — Ensuring schools are adequately preparing students for careers is just as important as ensuring they prepare students for college, says a new paper that proposes districts add specific career-readiness measures, such as the number of students who complete work-based learning programs, to their accountability plans to the public.  EdSource article

Bruce Maiman: Businesses can help chart a smarter path to college, careers – Employers need to get involved with Linked Learning. They’ll be not only helping students, but helping themselves.  Maiman in Sacramento Bee

Sandi Taylor named Bakersfield College’s athletic director — Bakersfield College President Sonya Christian announced Monday that Sandi Taylor has been selected as the college’s athletic director.  Bakersfield Californian article

Northwest Modesto district lowers bond costs by $6.6 million — A refinancing of school bond debt will save homeowners within the Stanislaus Union School District $6.6 million over the next 25 years.  Modesto Bee article


Stockton City Council could approve climate-change fighting policy – A six-year process that began with a legal settlement and spanned Stockton’s economic collapse and subsequent bankruptcy could finally conclude tonight with the City Council approving a 482-page plan for combating climate change.  Stockton Record article

U.S. sees voluntary emissions cuts as key to climate change accord — The United States is championing a new international approach to cutting greenhouse gases that offers the best chance of prompting countries to take action to avert the worst effects of global warming, the nation’s chief climate negotiator said Monday.  LA Times article

New flood insurance law not a cure-all, officials say — Still staggering under $24 billion in debt, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will increase flood-insurance rates up to 18 percent next year for those living in high-risk flood zones, including the Smith Canal area of Stockton.  Stockton Record article

Flood insurance mandate still a threat for Twin Creeks — The Federal Emergency Management Agency still intends to launch a process that could place the Twin Creeks subdivision in northwest Stockton into a high-risk flood zone, which would require residents there to purchase flood insurance.  Stockton Record article

Health/Human Services

Fresno County supervisors weigh teen psychiatric crisis contract — Fresno County supervisors could decide Tuesday to contract with a mental health services firm to provide crisis psychiatric care for teens who are now shipped outside the county to for lengthy mental health stays.  Fresno Bee article

Ceres recovery center expanding drug, alcohol treatment — Stanislaus County Behavioral Health and Recovery Services is adding more group counseling space at its Ceres recovery center as it prepares to provide drug and alcohol treatment through the expanded Medi-Cal program.  Modesto Bee article

Obama administration announces major decline in medical errors — Infections and other medical errors that harm patients in hospitals have declined significantly, the Obama administration announced Tuesday, hailing the progress as a sign that new efforts to improve patients’ safety are bearing fruit.  LA Times article

Land Use/Housing

Merced council Oks zoning change on West 23rd parcels — Though a zoning change in central Merced did not receive a recommendation from the city’s Planning Commission, the Merced City Council approved it Monday.  Merced Sun-Star article


LAX increases market share as that of Ontario airport, others shrink — Most airports in the area are growing again, but figures released Monday underscore just how much Los Angeles International Airport dominates the market and continues to frustrate the goals of a lawsuit settlement to spread airline traffic across the region.  LA Times article

Port Oks Navy Drive underpass widening — Port officials approved Monday widening the Navy Drive railroad undercrossing to accommodate four lanes of traffic, complementing the planned Crosstown Freeway extension. Stockton Record article

Other Areas

Fresno County supervisors weigh changes to zero-tolerance marijuana rules – Fresno County supervisors will consider a variety of options Tuesday to alter the county’s stringent, zero-tolerance rules for medical marijuana. But the only thing they appear inclined to change is to have someone other than themselves take over the chore of hearing marijuana appeals.  Fresno Bee article

New council members to be sworn in – City councils in Hanford and Lemoore will both swear in their newly elected members during their meetings on Tuesday.  Hanford Sentinel article

Supreme Court appears unlikely to protect Facebook threats –  In its first case testing the limits of free speech on social media, the Supreme Court showed little interest Monday in extending new protections to people who post messages threatening to kill or hurt others.  LA Times article

Nashville’s verdict: Hag is the best — On Tuesday Merle Haggard will be declared the best there is. But it’s not the message that’s notable — tell Bakersfield something we didn’t know — it’s the messenger: Nashville. Perhaps the most insular and self-congratulatory of all music capitals, the epicenter of country has reached beyond its city limits to name the Bakersfield Sound outlier the Artist of a Lifetime.  Bakersfield Californian article

Susan Reep: Wendy’s Words Libraries turn 2: Local generosity made it happen – The local artist and photographer writes, “So here is what has happened: Nov. 28 was our two-year anniversary, a time of Thanksgiving, and we have 34 Wendy’s Words Libraries to be thankful for! The more libraries, the more we fulfill our mission statement: Promoting reading, encouraging literacy and fostering neighborhoods, all goals Wendy believed in.”   Reep op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Clear out of Silicon Valley homeless camp coming — Shouting and banging on doors, city officials in Silicon Valley stapled and taped notices on hand built structures, tents and tree trunks warning more than 200 residents of what is likely the nation’s largest homeless encampment that the bulldozers are coming.  AP article

Sacramento Bee: Sacramento mayor is leading the way on Ferguson — You can fault Mayor Kevin Johnson for some things, but his response to Ferguson is not among them.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Proposition 35 belongs in the scrap heap of flawed initiatives.

Merced Sun-Star – Two members of the Valley Delegation (we’re capitalizing those letters intentionally) unveiled their most important priority Monday, the first day of the new legislative session: halting abuse of a law meant to guarantee access for those with disabilities.

Modesto Bee – Two members of the Valley Delegation (we’re capitalizing those letters intentionally) unveiled their most important priority Monday, the first day of the new legislative session: halting abuse of a law meant to guarantee access for those with disabilities.

Sacramento Bee – Sen. Lara’s office for immigrants comes from the heart, but at what cost?; Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson is leading the way on Ferguson.

Stockton RecordCheers and jeers for a caring community, runners helping to feed the hungry and other issues.