February 15, 2016


Political Stories

Top stories 

California Legislature poised to pass replacement tax on health care plans — After months of uncertainty, the Legislature appears poised to approve a tax on health care plans that would generate $1.27 billion annually and could substantially boost funding for developmentally disabled Californians for the first time in more than a decade. San Jose Mercury News article
Dan Walters: Scalia’s death likely saves teacher union in dues case – Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s death affects many cases, but none more controversial than one from California. During oral arguments on a case dealing with dues that California’s public employees must pay to unions even if they don’t belong, Scalia left no doubt that he would vote to overturn the law. Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Gov. Brown

Jerry Brown: McConnell should ‘at least wait until the funeral’ — After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said the vacancy should be filled not by Obama, but by his successor, Brown responded on Facebook, “Couldn’t Mitch McConnell have the decency to at least wait until the funeral before playing cynical politics with this vacancy. Such obstruction and sheer arrogance is unconscionable and deserves the condemnation of all Americans.” Sacramento Bee article

Other areas 

How Scalia’s death impacts Supreme Court’s pending cases, future – The death of Justice Antonin Scalia, leader of the court’s dominant conservative bloc, impacts pending cases on issues such as abortion, immigration and the viability of public employee unions. Over the longer term, a shift in the court’s majority could reshape rules that govern some of the fundamentals of the democratic process, such as campaign financing and voting rights. A newly composed court could also revisit the death penalty and access to firearms. San Francisco Chronicle article

Who Obama might nominate to replace Scalia on Supreme Court – The biggest question facing Obama: whether he and his team feel there’s any realistic chance they can persuade Republicans to allow a vote. AP articleMcClatchy Newspapers articleLA Times article

Stoner icon makes a comeback in marijuana business, politics — Now Tommy Chong, who turns 78 in May, is reemerging as a wry sage in the marijuana politics movement. He stars in aviral video endorsement for Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, in which he backs the Vermont senator as the next “Commander in Kush.” Sacramento Bee article

San Diego rejects political correctness, embracing the term ‘founding fathers’ — Mayor Kevin Faulconer has bowed to pressure from a conservative legal group that protested long-standing guidelines in the city’s correspondence manual asking employees not to refer to the nation’s “founding fathers,” but to instead just call them “founders.” LA Times article

News Stories

Top Stories

California public universities consider tuition hikes you can count on – The tuition freeze at California’s public universities is set this fall to stretch into its fifth year. But nothing lasts forever. The University of California and California State University are now looking beyond the end of their budget deal with Gov. Jerry Brown, which will hold costs flat through next summer. UC has tentatively proposed at least two years of increases beginning in the 2017-18 academic year, and CSU launched a discussion about the future of its financial stability last week at a meeting of its governing board. Sacramento Bee article

Fresno struggles with what to do about its crumbling downtown parking garages – City officials recently hired the engineering firm Walter P. Moore and Associates to assess the five downtown garages’ maintenance needs and put together a 10-year repair plan, as well as estimating how much the fixes will cost. In the spiral garage alone, it is $2.76 million in deferred maintenance by 2025. Of that total, more than $860,000 in repairs are considered high priority. Fresno Bee article

Jobs and the Economy 

Adding up Modesto’s budget numbers – This is a story about the Modesto city budget and how confusing it can be when you add up the numbers. City officials Friday updated the reasons behind why Modesto has a $5 million surplus from its roughly $118 million general fund budget for its 2014-15 fiscal year, which ended June 30. Modesto Bee article

San Diego pension-to-401(k) reform goes to court — A San Diego pension reform approved by voters nearly four years ago, regarded as a model by some, is headed for a court test — but not because all new hires, except police, receive a private sector-style 401(k) retirement plan rather than a public pension. Calpensions article

Property tax increase proposed for Sacramento levee fixes — Sacramento flood-control officials plan to ask landowners for more money to improve the city’s levees, amounting to an average $42 increase in property taxes. Sacramento Bee article

Lodi wineries look south for sales – Four Lodi wineries will be featured this week in seminars, media presentations and tastings in both Bogota, Colombia, and Mexico City, as a part of the Wine Institute’s export program. Stockton Record article

Space tourism projects at a glance — Virgin Galactic later this month in Mojave, California, is preparing to roll out its new SpaceShipTwo, a vehicle the company hopes will one day take tourists to the edge of space.  A look at projects currently under development. AP article


In contest between Godzilla and the Blob, Blob is winning — This was supposed to be the year of the “Godzilla” El Nino, the season of monster rains, punishing hail, and threats of flood and ankle-deep mud. What happened to our monster weather? Or as Blue Oyster Cult may be asking, “Where have you gone, Godzilla?” Not only has the weather been warm for more than two weeks, several California cities, including Bakersfield, have set new high-temperature records for this time of year. Bakersfield Californian article

Don Curlee: Farmers detect political drift — Although most farmers prefer farming to politics they know that the political process affects them directly, so they try to keep an eye on it. What they are detecting currently is a noticeable drift, particularly in California. Curlee column in Visalia Times-Delta

Turlock Irrigation District farmers will hear about 2016 water outlook on Tuesday — Farmers in the Turlock Irrigation District will get their first glimpse of the 2016 water supply Tuesday night. The district board will hold a rare evening meeting to hear a presentation by Tou Her, assistant general manager for water resources. No estimate of a possible water allotment was provided in advance of the meeting. It will be formally set at a later date. Modesto Bee article 

Metropolitan Water District slashing its conservation budget; turf removal rebates could disappear — In a proposed budget for the next two fiscal years, agency staffers recommended $59 million for conservation programs — $27 million next year and $32 million the year after that. That allocation would probably be used to fund rebates for water-conserving devices such as high-efficiency toilets and washing machines, said Deven Upadhyay, an MWD manager. LA Times article


UC Berkeley’s tuition break is nearly erased — Californians seeking professional degrees have for years enjoyed big tuition discounts to attend the public law and business schools at UC Berkeley. But that benefit is nearly gone, because the university has raised prices for state residents at a rate faster than for students from out of state, a Chronicle analysis has found. San Francisco Chronicle article

George Skelton: Why veteran teachers aren’t surprised young people are shunning profession — Judging from my email, a lot of California public school teachers are demoralized and questioning their career choices. They’re not at all surprised that fewer and fewer college students are going into teaching. Skelton column in LA Times

Credentialing commission pursuing plan for new longer term teacher permit — The California Commission on Teacher Credentialing voted Thursday to move ahead with consideration of a new teacher permit that will replace a decades-old permit that limits the amount of time substitutes can fill in for teachers on medical and other legally required leaves. EdSource article 

Broken discipline tracking systems let teachers flee troubled pasts — An investigation by the USA TODAY NETWORK found fundamental defects in the teacher screening systems used to ensure the safety of children in the nation’s more than 13,000 school districts. The patchwork system of laws and regulations — combined with inconsistent execution and flawed information sharing between states and school districts — fails to keep teachers with histories of serious misconduct out of classrooms and away from schoolchildren. USA TODAY article 

New HQ going up at Modesto Junior College West Campus — The last of the showplace Measure E building projects at Modesto Junior College is taking shape on Blue Gum Avenue, standing just west of a new signal light needed in part because of the draw of cutting-edge west campus classrooms. Modesto Bee article 

Manteca Unified students, teachers benefit from exchange program — The first thing Ren “Jack” Haitao and Xu “Susie” Jing noticed about setting foot in the United States for the very first time was the clear blue sky. The two teachers, both from the Niulanshan Secondary School in Beijing, where the pollution can sometimes be nearly as thick as Tule fog, made the 12-hour journey from China to San Francisco International Airport in January to spend a month teaching in Manteca. Stockton Record article



LA gas leak plugged, but California pipelines regularly leak — Every day, pipelines across California leak tons of the same gas — methane — into the air. And the total amount collectively leaked each year likely exceeds the vast volume of methane spewed from the Aliso Canyon blowout near Porter Ranch, according to one state estimate. San Francisco Chronicle article

Thirsty continents are slowing down expected sea level rise, scientists say — Despite the accelerated melting of glaciers and ice sheets, sea levels aren’t rising quite as quickly as scientists anticipated. The reason: Continents are absorbing more of the water before it flows into the seas, according to a new study. LA Times article

Health/Human Services 

Rod implants make 11-year-old boy a ‘Bionic Boy’ – and a pioneer — Anthony Wainess will be quick to tell you that he’s the Bionic Boy. But unlike other 11-year-olds who may claim they’re Batman or Superman, Anthony is telling the truth. He really does have artificial body parts, and like the tiny slot cars he races for fun, he, too, can be remote-controlled. Fresno Bee article 

UC Davis to research Zika virus in primates – Scientists at UC Davis and the University of Wisconsin are using primates to study the Zika virus in the hopes of developing a vaccine and understanding the virus’s impact on developing fetuses. Sacramento Bee article 

Ron White: Ban youth tackle football in Kern County? Not so fast – The executive director of Golden Empire Youth Tackle Football writes, “With the continuing advancement in protective equipment, injury prevention and early recognition, as well as consistent, proper teaching techniques, combined with continued coaching education, it is my belief that youth tackle football is safer now than it has ever been.” White op-ed in Bakersfield Californian


Airlines make it too hard to file a complaint, lawmaker says — Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Los Angeles) believes that the number of complaints are relatively low because airlines have made it too hard to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Transportation. LA Times article

Other Areas

‘Respect’ is the key word at Merced event — Respect for others’ choices was just one of several lessons taught during a sex education event Saturday in Merced. Merced Sun-Star article

Ambition drives Mountain: Former foster youth wants to advocate, inspire — Xavier Mountain doesn’t hide his turbulent upbringing, which is riddled with abuse, neglect and addiction. The 24-year-old will share his story with anyone who is willing to listen, but he doesn’t do it to gain people’s pity, he said. Mountain, a junior at University of the Pacific, is a former foster youth who is using his dark past to bring light to the struggles of the 1,400 children who are growing up in the foster care system in San Joaquin County. Stockton Record article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – The death of Justice Scalia, a giant on Supreme Court, clarifies stakes in election.

Sacramento Bee – On this Presidents Day, candidates seeking to lead the nation should vow to place an overhaul of the federal campaign finance system near the top of their domestic to-do list. It surely is needed.

Maddy Events 

Sunday, Feb. 21, at 10 a.m. on ABC 30 – Maddy Report: Bad Apples: Blowing the Whistle on Improper Government Activities  Guest: California State Auditor Elaine Howle. Host: Maddy Institute Executive Director Mark Keppler.

Sunday, Feb. 21, at 10 a.m. on Newstalk 580 (KMJ) – Maddy Report-Valley Views Edition: “Exposing Fraud, Waste and Abuse in State and Local Government” – Guests: Paul Hurley, former editorial page editor of the Visalia Times-Delta, and Bill McEwen, opinion page editor of the Fresno Bee. 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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