February 14, 2016


Political Stories

Top stories 

Scalia’s death likely to change outcome of key cases – With the death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, a narrowly divided Supreme Court now enters even trickier terrain. Tie votes and tougher calculations will become the order of the day. McClatchy Newspapers article

Dan Morain: Death penalty continues in death spiral — Say both measures pass. The state constitution says the initiative that receives the most votes would take precedence. But that legal concept has never been applied to competing death penalty measures. The question would be litigated, the death penalty would remain in limbo. And Michael Allen Hamilton, the guy who killed his pregnant wife in Tulare County in 1981, will turn 65 this year, on death row. Morain in Sacramento Bee

State budget

Fact check: When is a tax hike really a tax hike? — With legislative votes possible as early as this week on extending and expanding a tax on health care plans, some Republican lawmakers and others have stepped up their criticism, calling the proposal a tax hike. The label carries weight because the measure requires votes from Democrats and at least some Republicans to pass. Sacramento Bee article

Valley politics 

Turlock City Council not hampered by campaign money limits — Turlock Mayor Gary Soiseth appears to be businessman Matt Swanson’s favorite local target for political contributions, having received $12,000 total in four contributions in less than two years from companies associated with Swanson. But all other City Council members also have benefited from the generosity of Swanson, whose daughter is married to the man hoping to replace Turlock’s nonprofit farmers market with a for-profit venture.  Modesto Bee article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Reimagine higher education; restructure state tax system – Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom sat down with The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board last week to discuss a wide range of issues facing the state. Here are edited excerpts of a few of the topics discussed. Sacramento Bee article

Other areas

Obama vows to fill vacancy on Supreme Court, setting up clash with Republicans – President Obama said he would make his third nomination to the Supreme Court to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and called for a “timely vote” in a Senate led by Republicans who have said the choice should be left for the next president. LA Times articleSacramento Bee editorial

How Scalia’s death may save teachers unions – for now – The death of U.S Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia could deal a major blow to a California lawsuit that had been widely expected to weaken the financial muscle of teachers unions across the country. LA Times article

Could Scalia’s successor be Justice Clinton or Justice Obama? — Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton has said it would be “a great idea” to nominate President Barack Obama to the Supreme Court after he leaves office. With the death Saturday of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, will that support turn into a possibility? McClatchy Newspapers articleMcClatchy: ‘How are Supreme Court justices selected?’

Valley jurists mourn loss of Justice Scalia – U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was remembered Saturday by Valley jurists as a man whose at-times acerbic persona at court was in sharp contrast to the warm friendliness and humor he showed his friends, family and associates. Fresno Bee article 

Sacramento mayoral candidates discuss diverse issues at forum – Sacramento’s mayoral candidates answered questions about law enforcement, the Black Lives Matter movement, education and homelessness Saturday at a forum hosted by a local NAACP branch. Sacramento Bee article
Former surgeon general calls for marijuana acceptance – On Saturday morning, Jocelyn Elders formally opened the weekend marijuana policy conference with a fiery condemnation of America’s drug enforcement policies. The marijuana legalization advocate called for an end to federal policy that classifies marijuana as a Schedule I drug with no accepted medical use – listed as worse than methamphetamine or cocaine. Sacramento Bee article 

Brandi Orth: Check out our new online voter tool – The Fresno County clerk/registrar of voters writes, “The Fresno County Clerk’s Office is excited to offer a newly created online tool for you in this busy election year. It’s called Fresno County VOTES, representing verification, online access, 24/7, elections matter and speak out.” Orth op-ed in Fresno Bee

News Stories

Top Stories 

Lois Henry: How far will our water let us build? — Perhaps it seems crazy that Bakersfield has actually ramped up home construction during one of the worst droughts in California history. Especially crazy since the city’s river rights dried up last summer, bringing 20,000 residents harrowingly close to running out of water. Add to that the fact that we have a boatload of development left over from the pre-recession days already approved. Henry in Bakersfield Californian 

Teacher contract avoids threatened strike in Modesto – Tensions rose to a fever pitch over this year’s teacher contract, but if a newly announced deal holds, the rhetoric will calm and talk of a strike will be done, at least in Modesto. Details of the settlement were not disclosed by either side pending a teachers union meeting Wednesday. Modesto Bee article

Jobs and the Economy 

Fresno merchants lag in readiness to handle ‘smart cards’ — A canvass of about 40 merchants and restaurants at northwest Fresno’s popular Fig Garden Village shopping center last week revealed that half have not yet installed new card readers capable of processing transactions with the new “smart-card” technology. Nearly a dozen others have updated readers installed – but not activated – at their checkout counters. Fresno Bee article 

Turlock mayor caught up in farmers market controversy — Energetic Mayor Gary Soiseth – a man on the move, by all appearances – has managed to anger an apparently broad sector of the community in love with its farmers market. Modesto Bee article

Unsung hero: Photographer relies on his own history to help Stockton’s homeless — Nick Burnette learned a hard lesson about 10 years ago: homelessness doesn’t discriminate. At 22 and living in Daytona Beach, Florida, constant partying consumed his paychecks and left him living under a pier. That lesson, the now 33-year-old said, is his motivation and reason for working to find ways to help Stockton’s homeless. Burnette is a photographer and co-founder of Stockton 209 Cares, a grass-roots effort to provide services to people without a roof. Stockton Record article 

Anita Chabria: Awash in cash, state’s marijuana businesses can’t take it to the bank – The Sacramento freelance writer writes, “Kimberly runs a nonprofit medical marijuana dispensary, and like the rest of the industry, she can’t use a bank. Her business is legal by state standards, but it’s still a criminal enterprise to the federal government. Banks won’t do business with her. Nor will security companies, armored-car companies, insurance brokers, credit card vendors or any of the usual providers of protection that the rest of society has. She even has trouble buying money orders.” Chabria op-ed in Sacramento Bee


Johnny Amaral: California needs action on water, not more rhetoric – The deputy general manager for external affairs for Westlands Water District writes, “Water policy is tough business, filled with many competing agendas. But there is consensus around the fact that the status quo is unacceptable and that government policies need to change to make more water available now and in the future. Outside agitators aren’t helpful if they deliver more rhetoric instead of more water.” Amaral op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Stockton police union head: Retention a problem – The president of the union that represents Stockton police officers has joined the chorus of those voicing deep concern over staffing levels at the undermanned department. Kathryn Nance, who heads the Stockton Police Officers’ Association, says the department has a serious “retention issue,” echoing strong concerns voiced earlier this month by Police Chief Eric Jones. Stockton Record article 

Marek Warszawaki: Who shot Day Day? Unsolved killing of Deondre Howard still reverberates throughout Fresno — Preston Scott keeps the audio file. Scott can’t explain why his phone recorded one of his many, many conversations with Deondre “Day Day” Howard, his best friend since second grade. He’s just thankful it did. Warszawski in Fresno Bee 

Modesto’s plan for police aircraft on hold after fatal crash — The Modesto Police Department’s proposal to spend about $660,000 for a light sport aircraft is on hold after a fatal crash involving the same type of airplane in Tulare County. Modesto Bee article

‘I’m a nice guy’: Orange County escapee asserts innocence in jailhouse interview — The suspected mastermind of a three-man escape from a Southern California jail says he never intended to harm anyone during his eight days on the run. In a jailhouse interview, Hossein Nayeri told the Orange County Register that he didn’t want anyone to get hurt and asserted that he was innocent of the kidnapping and torture charges that landed him in jail two years ago. LA Times article


Stanislaus State president search to start with community forum – The search is on for a leader to succeed retiring California State University, Stanislaus, President Joseph Sheley, with an initial meeting of the selection committee open for community input. Modesto Bee article

Fresno State, UC Merced join forces to expand small business services – In an effort to expand its services to more small businesses in the Central Valley, Fresno State has announced it will partner with the University of California at Merced’s Small Business Development Center. Fresno Bee article

UC says the cost of its secret snooping system is secret — University of California President Janet Napolitano’s office is refusing to disclose the price of those controversial Internet snooping scanners installed recently at the 10 UC campuses — or reveal whether the taxpayerfinanced security system went through competitive bidding. San Francisco Chronicle article 

UC Davis cancer researcher weighs risk of leaving campus against reward of cutting-edge startup — UC Davis researcher Michael Degregorio will receive a little more than $6 million in venture capital for his startup company – if he hits benchmarks set by investors. His company,ImmunoTess, aims to produce potent, targeted treatments that will boost cancer patients’ immune systems to help them fend off the disease. The hard part, Degregorio told me, is making the decision to leave behind his job security, his grant-funded lab and the opportunity to continue growing his pension. Sacramento Bee article


Oil train projects stall in their tracks – Remember the hubbub a couple of years ago about trains hauling in mile-long oil shipments from other states, and how this was going to create hundreds of local jobs and reduce the need for imported petroleum but possibly risk explosions along Kern County railroads? Well, never mind all that. The more than 70 percent drop in oil prices since mid-2014 has rendered the whole discussion moot, maybe for good. Bakersfield Californian article 

Effort to seal the formerly leaking well near Porter Ranch makes progress — The effort to permanently seal the leaking gas well that fouled the air above Porter Ranch for 31/2 months reached a prosaic stage Saturday. LA Times article

Gov. Brown had ‘had no plans’ to intervene his said said before coastal panel’s vote to fire Charles Lester – Two members of the California Coastal Commission met with Gov. Jerry Brown’s top advisor nearly two weeks before the panel voted to fire its executive director and were told the governor did not plan to intervene, the chairman of the commission said Saturday. LA Times article

Steve Lopez: ‘Disgrace’ isn’t strong enough word to describe Coastal Commission meeting –  If you’ve got a clothespin handy, you should clip it to your nose. I’m now going to tell you about the 12-hour California Coastal Commission meeting I sat through Wednesday in Morro Bay. When the spectacle was over, members of one of the most powerful regulatory agencies in the country had racked up a number of accomplishments. Lopez column in LA Times

Dan Walters: Paranoid wave hits the coast — Even Lester, in a post-firing interview with the Los Angeles Times, generally agreed that his differences with commissioners hinged on how much independence he should have. So there’s absolutely no evidence that Lester’s firing, on a 7-5 vote, was a developer coup. It was really a garden-variety clash over managerial style, which is common in state and local governments, particularly when a manager is chosen by, and therefore should be answerable to, a board. Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Health/Human Services 

California women will soon be able to get birth control from a pharmacist without a prescription – Under a law expected to go into effect by April, women in California will be able to stop by their neighborhood pharmacy and buy birth control pills without a prescription. LA Times article 

San Jose: New pharmacy offers free meds — There’s a pharmacy in downtown San Jose where the drugs are free. No copays, no deductibles, no proof of income or ID required — just a doctor’s prescription. San Jose Mercury News article

A ‘super rare’ cancer — Seven-year-old Mirella Quintero of Stockton has an extremely rare form of inoperable, cancerous tumors in her brain and spine. In 2014, there were an estimated 15,780 children between the ages of birth and 19 years of age who were diagnosed with all forms of cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. The American Childhood Cancer Organization noted that approximately 1 in 285 children in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer before their 20th birthday. Stockton Record article


Cheryl Scott: Kern County: Best investment high-speed rail can make – The vice president of Kern Economic Development Corp. writes, “The Kern County advantage resonates with the Fortune 500 companies, like Caterpillar, that have made the decision to move business here. Now, Kern4HMF hopes the California High Speed Rail Authority will agree that Kern County is the best, most cost-effective place for locating this key component of the high speed rail system.” Scott op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

George Runner: Invest tax dollars in roads, not public transportation – The member of the State Board of Equalization writes, “Government needs to get with the times and recognize consumer trends. We need roads, and we need to start investing in them again. So let’s stop wasting public dollars trying to get people to do things they’re just not interested in.” Runner op-ed in Sacramento Bee 

Other areas

Fresno Bee: Racism is among many obstacles facing Fresno youths — Expecting our schools or the police or the government to fix most of Fresno’s problems is a crutch – one that is sure to shatter under the weight of unrealistic hopes. We can do better. We must do better. Especially for our youths. The effort starts with being honest about the problems staring us straight in the face. Fresno Bee editorial

Fresno rescue dogs make trek to Seattle for Valentine’s Day – A few lucky rescue dogs are making their way from Fresno to the Pacific Northwest just in time for adoption on Valentine’s Day. Fresno Bee article

Kern turns 150: How the county got its name – The county that was formed from portions of Los Angeles, Tulare and San Bernardino counties 150 years ago took its name from one of the great rivers of the West, the Kern. Bakersfield Californian article

Mike Klocke: 25 and 25: Literacy events reach milestones — People throughout Stockton have had similar, uplifting experiences while taking part in the Rotary Read In, which turns 25 years old this month. That’s right: a quarter century of volunteers giving their time, bringing the joy of reading to Stockton classrooms and leaving a book for the school libraries before their departure. Klocke column in Stockton Record

Lewis Griswold: Orosi graffiti artists goes legit, now does commissioned murals — Arturo “A.J.” Gomez of Orosi was arrested three years ago for spray-painting graffiti on private property. Honest guy that he is, Gomez ’fessed up when the police officer arrived. Now he has gone straight by painting murals after getting permission first. Griswold in Fresno Bee

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Racism is among many obstacles facing Fresno’s youths.

Sacramento Bee – Antonin Scalia, a giant, dies, clarifies stakes in 2016 election.

Maddy Events 

Sunday, Feb. 14, at 10 a.m. on ABC 30 – Maddy Report: Californian’s View of State Regulation and the Environment: Too Much, Too Little or Just Right?  Guests: Public Policy Institute of California analyst Dean Bonner. Host: Maddy Institute Executive Director Mark Keppler.

Sunday, Feb. 14, at 10 a.m. on Newstalk 580 (KMJ) – Maddy Report-Valley Views Edition: “Adapting to Climate Change: Implications for the Valley” – Guests: John Capitman, executive director of the Central Valley Health Policy Institute, and Seyed Sadredin, executive director of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. Host: Maddy Institute Executive Director Mark Keppler.

Sunday, Feb. 21, at 7 a.m. on Fresno Univision 21 (KFTV)– El Informe Maddy Report: “Improper Activities” – Guest: Margarita Fernandez – Chief of Public Affairs, Office of the California State Auditor. Host: Maddy Institute Executive Deputy Director Ana Melendez.

The Maddy Report airs throughout California on The Cal Channel.  Check http://www.calchannel.com to find the Cal Channel and schedule in your area.  You also can view previous Maddy Report programs in their entirety at http://www.maddyinstitute.org/policy-analysis/the-maddy-report-tv.

Community Events

  • Fresno State President Joseph Castro and other university officials will hold a Community Conversation in the West Hills Community College conference facility, 555 College Ave., Lemoore on Tuesday, March 1, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.Seating for this free event is limited, so RSVPs should be made by February 26 at www.fresnostate.edu/presidentrsvp using the code “Lemooreforum.”
  • The International Green Industry Hall of Fame will hold its sixth annual conference and induction ceremony at Buchanan High School in Clovis on March 9. Registration information is available here.


Next 10: UPDATED California budget challenge – For the first time in a decade, California’s budget is largely in balance.  However, the state has outstanding debts of $28 million, not counting long-term pension and retiree health care costs.  Budget choices affect us all.  Take the Challenge and decide how much should be spent on programs and where the money should come from.  Next 10 California Budget Challenge 

Next 10: Federal budget challenge — The Federal Budget Challenge is based on The Concord Coalition’s Principles and Priorities budget exercise, which has been used in numerous town hall meetings across the country by members of Congress from both parties, as well as in hundreds of high school and college classrooms.  Next 10 Federal Budget challenge at www.federalbudgetchallenge.org.

Next 10: California Water Challenge – As our state faces some of the most severe drought conditions in its history, Next 10 wants to issue a new challenge to Californians: can you create a plan to make sure there’s enough water for everyone?  Next 10 California Water Challenge

LEGISLATORS’ VOTING RECORDS: How often has a California legislator broken party ranks, abstained or switched sides? The Sacramento Bee has a database of the voting records of every member of the state Senate and Assembly. Enter a lawmaker’s last and first names to see how he or she voted, or enter a bill number to see how every legislator voted on it. Check it out at this link.  http://www.sacbee.com/votingrecord/ 

More Information

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Maddy Institute Updates List of San Joaquin Valley Elected Officials – The Maddy Institute has updated its list of San Joaquin Valley elected officials.  The list is available here.

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The Kenneth L. Maddy Institute at California State University, Fresno was established to honor the legacy of one of California’s most principled and effective legislative leaders of the last half of the 20th Century by engaging, preparing and inspiring a new generation of governmental leaders for the 21st Century. Its mission is to inspire citizen participation, elevate government performance, provide non-partisan analysis and assist in providing solutions for public policy issues important to the region, state and nation.

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