December 23, 2014


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Political Briefs

Top stories

California plastic bag ban may soon qualify for ballot — Opponents of California’s statewide ban on single-use plastic bags are close to getting their repeal initiative on the 2016 ballot.  KQED report

AM Alert: Was Tim Donnelly the year’s biggest California politics story? — Here’s a look at the blog’s ten biggest headlines of the year, which features a surprising political player at the top of the list.  Capitol Alert


Immigrants line up for Arizona driver’s licenses — Dozens of young immigrants protected from deportation under an Obama administration policy lined up outside government offices Monday in Arizona to apply for driver’s licenses, a privilege first denied by the state but now given to them by the courts.  AP article; LA Times article

Other areas

Leondra Kruger confirmed for California Supreme Court – A state commission Monday unanimously confirmed Gov. Jerry Brown’s appointment of Leondra R. Kruger, a federal government lawyer, to the California Supreme Court.  LA Times article; Capitol Alert

Project to make searchable database of California legislative hearings — There are thousands of hours’ worth of California legislative committee hearings available for viewing – if someone knows where to look. By next spring, though, it could get a lot easier to track down the quotation needle in the testimony haystack.  Sacramento Bee article

A lull in Berkeley and Oakland, where protests are steeped in tradition — Protesters of police brutality planned another march one recent night, but whether because of rain or passage of time since the latest provocation, only about 50 people came.  Sacramento Bee article

News Briefs

Top Stories

Court upholds ruling for California delta salmon – A federal appeals court on Monday upheld a 2009 federal decision that called for reducing the amount of water pumped from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in order to protect salmon and other species.  AP article; KQED report; LA Times article; Stockton Record article; San Francisco Chronicle article

New law could affect criminal sentences in marijuana cases — In a sharp reversal of federal drug policy, Congress has prohibited the Justice Department from interfering with laws in California and other states that allow the medical use of marijuana. And the turnabout caught the immediate attention of federal judges, who want to know its impact on some recent criminal convictions under the federal law that classifies pot as one of the most dangerous drugs.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Poll finds most optimism about quality jobs since before recession –  In another positive sign for the labor market, Americans this month showed the most optimism about the availability of quality jobs than at any time since the start of the Great Recession, according to a Gallup poll released Monday.  LA Times article

Jobs and the Economy

U.S. growth rate at 5 percent, strongest in a decade – The U.S. economy grew at its quickest pace in 11 years in the third quarter, the strongest sign yet that growth has decisively shifted into higher gear.  Reuters article

California ranks near top in federal, state, local government pay — California ranks near the top nationally in how much government workers earn, according to new U.S. Census Bureau data, and more of them work in the Golden State than anywhere else. Still, when considered on a per-capita basis, the ratio of public employees to residents in the nation’s most-populous state is among the nation’s lowest.  Sacramento Bee article

Judge strikes down wage boost for home workers – A federal judge has struck down Labor Department regulations extending minimum wage and overtime pay to nearly 2 million home health care workers.  AP article

Monthly real estate numbers for Valley counties (Bee graphic) – The traditional end-of-the-year slowdown in real estate has Fresno County home sales and prices falling.  Fresno Bee graphic

Valley lodges see slowdown in November – Business slowed for Valley lodges in November, but revenues were still up compared to recent years. According to a monthly lodging report by STR, the average occupancy rate in the Fresno area stood at 55.9 percent in November. That’s down from 59.9 percent in October but above 53.3 percent in November 2013.  The Business Journal article

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee signs equal pay law – Companies that contract with the city of San Francisco will have to disclose pay data in an attempt to ensure men and women are equally compensated, after Mayor Ed Lee signed legislation Friday.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Berkeley recruits ‘panel of experts’ for soda tax implementation – Last month, voters in Berkeley made the city the first in the country to pass a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages. On Monday, the city moved forward on implementing one of the  requirements of the measure, staffing its “panel of experts.”  KQED report

Mediator is sought for West Coast port labor impasse – Port terminals and shipping lines operating along the West Coast are asking for a federal mediator to break a seven-month impasse in contract talks with dockworkers.  LA Times article

Chain, Cohn, Stiles keeps downtown Bakersfield presence — When Morris B. Chain left the University of Southern California in 1934, law degree in hand, the fresh-faced lawyer didn’t find many help-wanted signs in Depression-era Bakersfield. So he made his own opportunity. Opening a practice in the Haberfelde Building downtown, the Russian emigre, who grew up in Bakersfield, began laying the foundation for what would become one of the most prominent and longstanding law firms in the valley. And now, on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the practice’s founding, the firm is on the move again.  Bakersfield Californian article

Michael Hltzik: Is the oil crash about to snuff out the ‘Texas miracle’? – One aspect of the Texas economic “miracle” that made the triumphalism of its promoters so hard to stomach was the way they glossed over one of its key drivers: the oil boom. Now that global oil prices are plummeting — down 50% since the summer — Texas may be facing a less than miraculous future.  Hiltzik column in LA Times

Turlock Irrigation District could have deal with workers – The district board will consider a contract that would provide most of the 40 or so employees with a trio of 3 percent raises. One would be retroactive to the start of 2014, the second would take effect Jan. 1, and the third would happen a year later. The raises would be 5 percent for the “troubleshooter” position.  Modesto Bee article

Would-be investor sues Sacramento Bee owners – California lobbyist Darius Anderson, who was part of the early efforts to keep the Sacramento Kings from leaving town, sued two of the team’s lead investors Monday after being denied a share of the club when it changed hands last year.  Sacramento Bee article

Sacramento K Street development about to start – The developers behind a large mix of apartments and shops planned for the decrepit 700 block of K Street have closed escrow on financing for the project and should begin work within days, the developers said Monday. The project would transform a blighted, empty stretch of the street into a row of restaurants, bars and coffee shops run by some of the region’s best-known operators.  Sacramento Bee article

Sacramento area’s fourth-largest shopping center is sold — The Sacramento area’s fourth largest shopping center was sold Monday, as developer Buzz Oates Group unloaded the property that is home to the region’s only Ikea store and one of its first Walmart Supercenters.  Sacramento Bee article


Mark Grossi: Earth Log: Those trillion-gallon stories on storms, drought last week were confusing – I shared your confusion briefly last week. Readers called and emailed, wondering if the drought had ended after two separate news stories featuring the numbers 10 and 11 – each followed by 12 zeroes. We’re talking trillions of gallons of water. Sorry, that’s already confusing. I’ll straighten it out.  Grossi in Fresno Bee

A thirsty town debates need for new source of water — The coastal tourist town of Cambria, located just below Big Sur and adjacent to Hearst Castle on California’s central coast, will begin pumping about 300 gallons a minute of treated water into the local aquifer this week. The new water source is part of a controversial emergency solution—built just this fall—to keep the community from running dry.  KQED report

2014 in Review: Tulare first in ag — During a Board of Supervisors meeting earlier this month, a lawyer made the mistake of calling Tulare County the “second” top agricultural county. This drew a quick and united response from many in the audience, who called out, “Number One,” because for the first time since 2001, Tulare County was named 2013’s top-producing agricultural county not only in California but in the U.S.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

California prison population drops slightly – The number of inmates housed in California’s 35 state prisons has ticked down slightly compared to last year. There are currently about 116,000 inmates in prison, down from nearly 119,000 last year.  Capital Public Radio report

Sacramento Bee: A reminder that police lives matter, too – The killing of two New York police officers on Saturday as they sat in a patrol car on a Brooklyn street is a reminder that the men and women who put on a badge face unthinkable risk every day.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Why cellular tracking device is so secret – The San Diego City Attorney’s office released several documents Monday that shed some light on how police are using secretive and controversial cell phone tracking technology and why details about the device remain under wraps.  U-T San Diego article

Bakersfield woman named associate director to CDCR post – Connie Gipson, of Bakersfield, has been appointed associate director of general population male offenders at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.  Bakersfield Californian article

Arizona changes execution drug after inmate took two hours to die — Arizona plans to stop employing the drug combination it used to execute an inmate who took nearly two hours to die, the head of the state Department of Corrections said Monday.  LA Times article

After botched execution, Oklahoma is to resume lethal injections — A federal judge in Oklahoma City on Monday said that the state can resume executing prisoners this winter, rejecting the argument by some medical experts that using the same sedative involved in the bungled execution of Clayton D. Lockett in April amounted to an illegal experiment on human subjects.  New York Times article


At Fresno State, research a key to growth – Many promising careers have begun at Fresno State with the inspiration students receive helping faculty members with their research projects. Each year, organizations like the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Health put up millions of dollars to fund collegiate research that involves the participation of both graduate and undergraduate students.  The Business Journal article

Yes Means Yes law going into effect — In 2015 any California college or university that receives state financial aid must begin using a “yes means yes” approach toward sexual assault. That means both parties must give ongoing, affirmative consent during any sexual activity. Rishi Ahuja a senior at UC Berkeley and the student government’s Student Advocate. He says the change in approach has begun to permeate the student culture.  Capital Public Radio report

UC Merced professors get grants, expect $5 million in funding — UC Merced will be awarded about $5 million from the greater University of California system to continue research conducted on water and solar sustainability, the university announced Monday.  Merced Sun-Star article

Julia Koppich and Daniel Humphrey: School districts appreciate local control, fiscal flexibility – Koppich, a San Francisco-based education consultant, and Humphrey, a senior researcher for SRI, write, “The Local Control Funding Formula empowers school districts to determine how to allocate dollars to best meet their students’ needs; it provides money to expand programs and services for low-income students, English language learners and foster youth; and, it requires that districts engage parents and other education stakeholders in setting spending priorities.”  Koppich/Humphrey op-ed in Sacramento Bee


PUC leader critical of San Bruno officials, email shows – Two years after a deadly gas explosion in the Bay Area city of San Bruno, California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey described the city’s mayor as “emotional” and the city manager as “nuts,” according to emails newly released by the San Francisco utility giant Pacific Gas & Electric Co.  LA Times article

PG&E discloses more emails with state regulators – California’s largest power utility released a dozen more emails Monday that it said showed improper back-channel discussions between the utility and top state regulators.  AP article

Feds reject Nevada plan to refill lake above Tahoe — The U.S. Forest Service has rejected a proposal by Nevada state wildlife officials to refill a drained lake in the mountains above Lake Tahoe and restore the scenic spot as a recreational fishery.  AP article

Sequoia Riverlands gets 43-acre Tule River easement – Sequoia Riverlands Trust of Visalia has received a 43-acre easement in a small valley along the Tule River as part of a Pacific Gas & Electric Co. settlement to protect 140,000 acres of watershed land across California.  Fresno Bee article

More money, smaller incentives for wood-burning program — The deal’s not quite as sweet, but Valley air cops have kicked in another $3.6 million in incentives for residents willing to upgrade their old polluting wood stoves or fireplaces.  Stockton Record article

Health/Human Services

Lauren Small Children’s Medical Center gets gift from farmers – Local farmers donated $2,000 to Bakersfield Memorial Hospital’s Lauren Small Children’s Medical Center Monday. Sue Benham, vice president of philanthropy at the hospital, collected two oversized cardboard checks that were only a couple feet shorter than her.  Bakersfield Californian article

Panel recommends blood pressure screening to stop a ‘silent killer’ — Health authorities in the U.S. are taking fresh aim at a “silent killer” with a recommendation that all American adults be screened for high blood pressure.  LA Times article

Land Use/Housing

Michael Fitzgerald blog:  Fresno creates a tiny house community — The builder on the video that accompanies this story says the tiny house movement is “just getting here” to the West Coast. Not so, brother! We learned about it in 2006. Here’s that column. The Fresno company is building homes under 300 feet. Our guy designed homes under 100 square feet.  Fitzgerald blog in Stockton Record

San Francisco homeless veterans get permanent place to live — Living on the streets of San Francisco since 1997, the Army veteran has been in and out of jail for over 30 years, while battling a heroin addiction. Today, Cook has been clean for six months. Earlier this month, he become one of the first 30 residents to move into 250 Kearny — a single-room-occupancy property on the edge of San Francisco’s Financial District that has been newly renovated to house 130 homeless veterans.  KQED report


Google’s expensive driverless car is worth hundreds of millions but looks like it costs $2,000 – Google officially became a car company in 2014 and just in time to catch the waning days of the year, the tech colossus revealed the first prototype of its driverless vehicle. In roughly the decade since Google began to develop self-driving cars, the company has spent what’s likely hundred of millions if not billions on the project, when you take into account all factors.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Other Areas

Smartphone app Nestdrop halts pot deliveries as LA court date nears — With a court date set for Tuesday, officials of the smartphone app Nestdrop have stopped helping medical marijuana dispensaries deliver products as they prepare to tee off in their legal battle with the city of Los Angeles.  LA Times article

New crowdfunding website helps Turlock family — A Turlock family’s heartbreaking story about the financial hardship caused by a severe illness is demonstrating the power of crowd source funding promoted via the Internet.  Modesto Bee article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – No one can accuse President Barack Obama of phoning it in any more. He’s going big, acting on his own to break the logjam in our nation’s capital.

Merced Sun-Star – No one can accuse President Barack Obama of phoning it in any more. He’s going big, acting on his own to break the logjam in our nation’s capital.

Modesto Bee – No one can accuse President Barack Obama of phoning it in any more. He’s going big, acting on his own to break the logjam in our nation’s capital.

Sacramento Bee – The killing of two New York police officers on Saturday as they sat in a patrol car on a Brooklyn street is a reminder that the men and women who put on a badge face unthinkable risk every day.

Stockton RecordCheers and jeers:  Both area NBA teams should be on TV, consumers win with bumper almond crop and other issues.