February 10, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Analyst says revenue could be billions higher than Brown’s plan — The Legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal analyst continues to believe that the state will collect an additional $1 billion to $2 billion, and maybe more, through June compared to what the Brown administration estimated in its January spending plan.  Capitol Alert

Central Valley: A U.S. Senate battleground? — As state attorney general, Kamala Harris has given key issues of the Central Valley particular attention, which could play politically well for her 2016 run for Sen. Barbara Boxer’s soon-to-be vacant seat. Rich in Latinos, most of whom are Democrats, the Central Valley also could prove to be a decisive battleground, especially if a Latino enters the fray. Capitol Weekly article

State budget

Dan Walters Daily:  California budget launches generational war — Senior citizens are feeling squeezed out of Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal in favor of spending for children, Dan says.  Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

Education funding debate begins at California Capitol — California’s economy is on the rebound, but there’s little extra revenue to go around for the next state budget. Yet there’s one area that will see a big increase in funding: education. And that’s sparking a debate at the Capitol over how to spend the money.  Capital Public Radio report

Valley politics

San Joaquin County supervisor candidates raising big bucks — Two candidates have already put more than a total of $100,000 on the table to fund their 2016 bids for a seat on the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors.  Stockton Record article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

In California, a ‘golden’ political opportunity for U.S. Senate seat carries risks — To some of the more politically ambitious members of the U.S. House of Representatives from California, it’s a long-awaited opportunity. For the first time in more than two decades, an open contest for a U.S. Senate seat from the Golden State beckons next year. It’s also no small challenge, and one, if taken, could potentially upset an otherwise secure political perch on Capitol Hill.  McClatchy Newspapers article

Other areas

California Legislature wants oversight on water bond money — In total, California has $7.5 billion in bond revenue to work with. Most will be allocated to state departments through the budget process. Democrat Mark Levine chairs the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife committee, which will hold an oversight hearing on the bond. Levine says the state should be cautious. Republican Assemblyman Frank Bigelow is also concerned about how the money will be spent. He has some priorities he’d like the state to focus on. Capital Public Radio report

Bruce Maiman: How about honesty and transparency on road fees? – She gets credit for trying, but Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins’ idea for funding road repair and maintenance with $1.8 billion in annual fees on California drivers is another example of “yeah, but” legislation and a reminder of how government is often its own worst enemy. Maiman in Sacramento Bee

Handwriting is on the wall for Supreme Court gay marriage decision — The Supreme Court on Monday gave its strongest signal yet that advocates seeking the legalization of gay marriage nationwide have won even before April’s arguments.  LA Times article

Obama to return to California for cyber summit at Stanford — President Barack Obama will return to California this week to deliver remarks at a cybersecurity summit at Stanford University. The president is scheduled to arrive Thursday at San Francisco International Airport.  AP article

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File


News Briefs

Top Stories

Storm not nearly enough to bust California drought – With the wet weather gone, and sunny skies in the forecast for at least the next week, the drought picture hasn’t brightened much. The big reservoirs that provide the bulk of the state’s drinking water remained much lower than normal on Monday, as did the Sierra snowpack that fills them. San Francisco Chronicle article; Stockton Record article

Rail foes ask court to overturn federal board’s decision to block state law – Two Valley counties and a collection of nonprofits that oppose California’s high-speed rail project filed a petition Monday with the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal, hoping to overturn a federal agency’s ruling that state courts cannot enforce the state’s environmental law against the rail line.  Fresno Bee article; Hanford Sentinel article

California pledges to protect underground water from oil, gas operations – California is proposing broad changes in the way it protects underground water sources from oil and gas operations, after finding 2,500 instances in which the state authorized oil and gas operations in protected water aquifers.  AP article

Jobs and the Economy

Chukchansi tribe’s 2010 council backed in federal appeals decision – A federal judge ruled Monday that the Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians should be led by a group that was elected in 2010, the last undisputed tribal council election.  Fresno Bee article

Merced holds up homeless, firefighters as budget concerns – A Merced budget study session to look at the “big picture,” according to city staff, had the City Council on Monday talking about adding firefighters and finding ways to deal with the homeless.  Merced Sun-Star article

Fresno Bee: Fresno County Supervisors should keep development fees program – The Board of Supervisors showed smarts and courage in 2008 when it adopted the public facilities fee in 2008. Seven years later, it remains to be seen if a majority of this board has the intelligence and gumption keep the program in place.  Fresno Bee editorial

George Hostetter: 12 statistics we need for the water debate The Fresno City Council’s big vote on water rates is slated for Feb. 26. The fate of Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s proposed $429 million upgrade to the city’s water system is in the hands of Thomas Esqueda. Debate over the past two years has been full of statistics. New statistics will determine whether the council approves or rejects Swearengin’s project.  Hostetter in Fresno Bee

Sacramento considering half-cent county transportation tax — A decade ago, Sacramento County voters approved a temporary 1/2-cent sales tax increase for transportation projects. Now, planners are wondering: Will county residents be willing to tax themselves another one-half cent next year for more improvements, even though the existing tax is still in effect?  Sacramento Bee article

Sacramento-area gas prices spike 17 cents in one week — The average retail price of gasoline in the Sacramento area surged 17 cents over the past week, according to Monday’s weekly report by national gas price tracker GasBuddy.com. GasBuddy, which does a daily survey of 720 gas outlets in the region, said the average gas price in the area is now $2.50 a gallon.  Sacramento Bee article

Investor group will hear Valley business pitches – Two young businesses will make funding pitches to potential investors at a Wednesday night event in Modesto. It will be the first Pitch Night for Valley Angels, an investor group founded last year by business leaders in Stanislaus and Merced counties.  Modesto Bee article

Ship unloading resumes at West Coast ports amid labor dispute – Dockworkers resumed unloading ships at West Coast ports Monday after employers suspended those operations over the weekend amid an ongoing labor dispute.  LA Times article

LA residents divided over proposed $15 minimum wage – Los Angeles is considering raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour, from $9 currently. The dramatic proposal is causing excitement and some anxiety.  NPR report

Sacramento Kings arena foes try again in court – With both sides facing tough questions, opponents of the new Sacramento Kings arena made another attempt to disrupt the project in court Monday. It seemed unlikely, no matter how the case turns out, that construction will be brought to a halt.  Sacramento Bee article

NFL forms LA committee, reminds teams they need to OK, memo says — As the owner of the St. Louis Rams inches closer to a possible relocation of his team to Los Angeles, the NFL on Monday reminded all 32 teams in a memo that the league as a whole – not an individual club – will make the major decisions regarding relocation.  LA Times article

Robots replacing human factory workers at faster pace — A new report says that cheaper, better robots will replace human workers in the world’s factories at a faster pace over the next decade, pushing labor costs down 16 percent.  AP article

New Elk Grove construction spurs hope for housing market — Builders in the region’s second-largest city pulled 238 residential permits in the final six months of 2014, an increase of more than 240 percent over the 69 housing permits issued by the city during the same six-month period in 2013, according to figures tucked inside Elk Grove’s midyear budget review.  Sacramento Bee article


Northern California getting much more rain than southern – Lots of issues divide Southern and Northern California: The Dodgers vs. the Giants. Hollywood vs. Silicon Valley. Southern Californians say “the” before naming a freeway; northerners don’t. Now, after this past weekend’s soaking storms, there’s a new difference emerging: the drought.  San Jose Mercury News article

Southern California may face water cuts — Southern Californians may face water cutbacks this summer, the Metropolitan Water District warned Monday after outlining options for rationing amid the state’s fourth straight year of drought.  U-T San Diego article

Top federal ag official to discuss pending trade deals at Tulare’s World Ag Expo –  A top federal agriculture official will be at the World Ag Expo Tuesday to encourage support for two proposed trade agreements that could expand markets for Valley farmers.  Fresno Bee article

Federal drought update: How do those reservoirs look? — As expected, the big rains that have fallen in the northern half of California have boosted storage at the state’s principal reservoirs. So now we’re confronted with a glass half-full/half-empty proposition when we appraise how they’re looking.  KQED report

Modesto Irrigation District drought strategy pondered – Modesto Irrigation District leaders Tuesday morning could revive last year’s drought-combating measures, which enjoyed only marginal success, for the coming season. They include a costly per-acre drought surcharge, open-market water sales between farmers, district-managed transfers between growers at a fixed price and the district buying groundwater from private pumps.  Modesto Bee article

Ted Page: Valley gets needed help from congressmen on water crisis – The president of the Kern County Water Agency board of directors writes, “Here in the southern San Joaquin Valley, water isn’t just our lifeblood. It’s our life. We are in the fourth year of a severe drought that is taking a heavy toll on our economy and our way of life. Yet a bright spot for the valley is the leadership of Congressmen Kevin McCarthy and David Valadao. Their exhaustive efforts reflect their deep understanding of how much water means to our valley.”  Page op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Automation feeds Top 10 at World Ag Expo – Sometimes the best and simplest agricultural technologies don’t begin in a lab; they start in the orchard. Such is the case of the “Nut Crowder,” a triangular scraper that does the work of four or five people in a thin slice of the time it would take a harvesting crew. Visalia Times-Delta article

Dairy processors urge change in milk pricing – Three of California’s largest dairy processors are urging a major change in how farm milk prices are set. The farmer-owned cooperatives want to shift to the federal pricing formula, replacing state rules that critics say have squeezed profit margins on the farms.  Modesto Bee article

UC Davis, strawberry growers settle big lawsuit — UC Davis and California strawberry growers settled their big lawsuit Monday over the future of the university’s strawberry-breeding program, with Davis announcing the hiring of a new lead plant breeder.  Sacramento Bee article

Dan Walters: Warm rains dictate new reservoirs – After decades of inaction, the state’s new water bond contains some money for storage, but whether that money is spent quickly and effectively or just sits there depends on whether the Capitol’s politicians are willing to stop talking and start acting.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Sacramento’s three-day storm total: 2.21 inches of rain — In the vernacular of dice players, the weather came up sevens this weekend as a warm storm plowed across the Sacramento region, dropping 1.07 inches of rain on Friday, 0.07 on Saturday and 1.07 again on Sunday. In all, that’s 2.21 inches.  Sacramento Bee article

Mark Powell: Behind the scenes at World Ag Expo – All eyes in the agriculture world are on the Central Valley this week thanks to the World Ag Expo, which is open to the public today through Thursday in Tulare. Californian multimedia reporter Mark Powell was there Monday for Media Day, and he caught a sneak peek at some of the highly anticipated products and exhibits.  Powell in Bakersfield Californian

Farmers eligible for drought aid – Declaring 55 of California’s 58 counties drought disaster areas, federal farm officials have effectively opened relief programs to farmers and ranchers throughout the state, as well as adjoining areas of Oregon, Nevada and Arizona.  Stockton Record article

Farmer, manager, welder, teacher: UC Davis grad continually evolves his ag roots – Native Sacramentan Andy Johas has taught welding, animal science, construction and business finance, but he also could teach plenty of life lessons about making your own opportunities and delivering what people want.  Sacramento Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Bakersfield crime rate hits 10-year low – Bakersfield’s crime rate hit a 10-year low last year, with 442 reported crimes per 10,000 citizens, police officials said Monday. Year over year, crime dropped 13.2 percent, the Bakersfield Police Department said.  Bakersfield Californian article

CHP officers’ pay up 11 percent; number of officers declines — Payroll costs for California Highway Patrol officers grew an average 11 percent per employee last year, new state data show, fueled by a mandated raise, more overtime and the end of furloughs in 2013. Meanwhile, the number of officers was down nearly 2 percent from the previous year. Sacramento Bee article

San Joaquin County sheriff diversifies deputies with new hires – In an effort to recruit and hire a more diverse work force reflective of San Joaquin County, Sheriff Steve Moore on Monday swore in two new deputies with prior law enforcement experience who both speak Southeast Asian languages.  Stockton Record article

Debra Saunders: Yes, California, there is a death penalty – What happened to California’s death penalty? There has not been an execution since 2006, when a federal judge ruled against the state’s three-drug lethal injection protocol.   Saunders column in San Francisco Chronicle

Charles Manson’s fiancée allegedly wanted to marry him for his corpse — Absolutely no one was devastated when news broke last week that 26-year-old Afton Elaine “Star” Burton would not be marrying 80-year-old psychopath felon Charles Manson after all. But as it turns out, there’s more to the story than their wedding license expiring. The New York Post is reporting that journalist Daniel Simone learned the true reason behind the nixed nuptials: Manson’s fiancee was marrying him to get access to his corpse.  San Francisco Chronicle article


$1 million endowment to UC Merced’s humanities – A $1 million endowment at UC Merced will allow the university to establish a new leadership position to oversee research in the humanities, officials announced Monday. The endowment comes from an anonymous $500,000 donation that was matched with $500,000 from the UC Office of the President. Merced Sun-Star article

College of the Sequoias accreditation reaffirmed — It’s been nearly two years since College of the Sequoias was told it was at risk of losing accreditation, but college officials on Monday learned accreditation has been restored.  Visalia Times-Delta article; Fresno Bee article

UC student panel calls for divestment from Israel and other nations – The statewide panel that represents student governments across the University of California voted over the weekend to urge that UC end any investments in companies that aid in the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. In addition, the UC student Assn. urged the UC regents to sell off holdings in bonds and other securities of the governments of eight other countries that activists said are violating human rights.  LA Times article

Stanislaus athletes take stand in video against sexual violence – With images of actors crying in public service announcements have helped to bring the issue of sexual violence to the masses, universities across the country are starting to do their part to make the message personal. Last week, the message was driven home at Cal State Stanislaus with the release of a video featuring 24 athletes representing all Warriors teams, plus the cheerleader squad, delivering a message calling on all students to get on board with the effort.  Modesto Bee article

Steven Gomes: Students, teachers keep FFA strong in Merced County – The Merced County superintendent of schools writes, “I believe FFA’s success centers on teachers willing to work many hours with students outside the classroom, including weekends and holidays. Agriculture teachers are part of a highly collaborative network as they attend sectional, regional and state meetings. This level of communication and collaboration was taking place well before the Internet was established.” Gomes op-ed in Merced Sun-Star

Stockton Unified tightening security policy are sporting events – Visitors at major sporting events such as football and basketball games should expect to be scanned with handheld metal detectors as Stockton Unified moves to more consistently enforce a long-standing security policy aimed at keeping weapons off of school grounds, district officials say.  Stockton Record article

Tulare students use tech to monitor cow’s health — Tulare Union High School students within three days advance notice are now learning whether cows at their school dairy are to become ill with use of tech gadgets.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Kahn Academy launches ambitious math ‘challenge’ — Over the past decade, the free instructional website Khan Academy has transformed how tens of millions of students across the globe perceive and approach math. Now, it’s pursuing a bigger aim: transforming how students perceive themselves.  EdSource article


Huge solar farm opens in California: Enough energy for 160,000 homes — About 4,000 acres of shiny black solar panels stretch across Riverside County near Joshua Tree National Park, where on Monday U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell dedicated one of the largest photovoltaic solar energy farms in the world.  LA Times article

Mark Grossi: Earth Log: Before taking away our gas-powered cars, readers say, make Bay Area clean its air — It didn’t take long for folks to bring up the Bay Area after our Sunday story on the newest proposed ozone standard — the story warning that gasoline-powered cars may have to be eliminated completely to clean up the air.  Grossi in Fresno Bee

Edison notifies regulators of ex-execs’ nuke conversation – Southern California Edison said Monday that it has given notice to the California Public Utilities Commission of a conversation between executives from the two organizations about efforts to reopen a nuclear plant that was shut down a short time later.  AP article

Former EPA official promotes realistic approach to energy production – For someone coming west from Georgia, it would be easy to assume Californians need a lesson on the benefits of an “all of the above” national energy policy. Just consider how we stack up against other states: Few have done more to regulate (and, arguably, constrain) petroleum production than California has. And perhaps nowhere is renewable energy as actively promoted by state government.  Bakersfield Californian article

Minority groups back energy companies in fight against solar power — When Florida officials pulled the plug on a significant incentive for rooftop solar systems, the move came at the urging of big power companies with a heavy reliance on fossil fuels — and of the state chapter of the NAACP. The Florida chapter is one of a number of minority organizations that have aligned with utilities. Their backing has given power companies a potent ally in their fight to slow the spread of solar energy installations.  LA Times article

Health/Human Services

Revenues up, staffing costs down as hopeful Kern Medical Center trend continues – Chalk up five straight months in the black for Kern Medical Center. The county hospital’s management team told Kern County supervisors Monday that they had booked operational profits at KMC in both November and December, adding to positive numbers in August, September and October.  Bakersfield Californian article

‘Measles parties’ a bad idea, California public health officials warn — California public health officials are warning parents against “measles parties,” saying that intentionally exposing unvaccinated children to a person with measles could put them at grave risk.  LA Times article

Luther Cobb: There’s no debate that vaccines work – The president of the California Medical Association writes, “It’s time we stop debating and politicizing what is one of the greatest medical advancements ever.” Cobb op-ed in Sacramento Bee

California measles outbreak: 123 cases, latest in Solano County – The California-centered measles outbreak has spread to Solano County, as the number of cases rose to at least 123 in 11 California counties, seven other states and Mexico.  LA Times article; ‘Measles outbreak in California: What you need to know’ in LA Times

Only the sickest hepatitis C patients get high-cost drugs in Medi-Cal – The treatment Lovelace needs could cost the state as much as $85,000 for a full course.  Only people with advanced liver disease or other severe related conditions are eligible for the treatment under Medi-Cal.  Capital Public Radio report

Charlie DeGrange, 8, the former Fresno boy who has an incurable brain tumor, receives good news from doctors — An 8-year-old former Fresno boy who has an incurable brain tumor that can’t be surgically removed recently received good news from doctors.  Fresno Bee article

Fewer LA County children died of abuse in 2014 — Far fewer Los Angeles County children died because adults had neglected or abused them in 2014, leaving elected officials and experts encouraged — and pondering why.  LA Times article


Bullet train board to weigh Bakersfield pledge – The California High-Speed Rail Authority board will consider a resolution aimed at demonstrating its willingness to work with Bakersfield on a new bullet train path at its meeting Tuesday. The resolution commits the rail agency to not approve its “hybrid alignment” — which would bisect Mill Creek Linear Park, decimate the city’s corporation services yard and 526 structures — before reviewing “the Refined Locally Generated Alternative.”  Bakersfield Californian article

Commuter flights begin between Sacramento and Visalia — A small commuter airline began flying between Sacramento and Visalia starting Monday. SeaPort Airlines will fly from Sacramento International Airport to Visalia, Tulare County, located mid-way between Fresno and Bakersfield.  Sacramento Bee article; Visalia Times-Delta article; Fresno Bee article

Atherton, high-speed rail foes sue to block electrifying Caltrain — A Peninsula city and a Bay Area transportation and environmental advocacy group that has battled the state’s high-speed rail project filed suit Monday to halt Caltrain’s electrification project.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Other Areas

Modesto to repay federal funds for homeless center – The Modesto City Council is expected on Tuesday night to approve repaying the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development $232,410 in federal funds the city used in a failed attempt to turn the former downtown Social Security Administration building into a homeless services center. Modesto Bee article

California has low cigarette taxes, high smuggling, study says — California has the nation’s second-lowest rate of smoking and one of its lower rates of taxing cigarettes, but also has one of its highest rates of cigarette smuggling, a new nationwide study contends.  Capitol Alert

Arax to share more stories of the Central Valley — Noted journalist and author Mark Arax will be spreading the word in Bakersfield about a nonprofit effort built around his 25 years of Central Valley reporting. Arax, a former Los Angeles Times reporter, will publicize his newest effort at a forum to be held at 6 p.m. Thursday in Cal State Bakersfield’s Walter Stiern Library.  Bakersfield Californian article

Steven Mayer: How did a Kern 911 call get routed to Canada?  Still no answers in tragedy — No one wants to have to dial 911. But when we do, it seems reasonable to expect the call will be answered by a local 911 operator. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened when an eighth-grade boy collapsed during a P.E. class at Cecil Avenue Middle School in Delano last month.  Mayer in Bakersfield Californian

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – The Board of Supervisors showed smarts and courage in 2008 when it adopted the public facilities fee in 2008. Seven years later, it remains to be seen if a majority of this board has the intelligence and gumption keep the program in place;  The Great Almond Rush has brought billions to the state’s economy. But it has also raised existential questions about water rights, land use and development, the environment, ethical food policy, fracking, job creation and this fertile state’s responsibility to feed the world.

Modesto Bee – Some of the world’s most prestigious bankers were outed by the Center for Public Integrity and the TV show “60 Minutes” Sunday night. Outrage. Shame. … Business as usual.

Sacramento Bee – NBC shares the blame for Brian Williams’ fall.

Stockton RecordCheers and jeers: Community filled with people making a difference, hockey coach shows commitment, and other issues.