February 19, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

Congressional Republicans target six California Democrats – but not Costa — Fresno Democrat Jim Costa last November had his second close race in his past three congressional reelection bids, barely beating underfunded and unheralded Republican Johnny Tacherra. Still, it appears national Republicans don’t think Costa is vulnerable in 2016.  Fresno Bee article 

Valadao named to program for Republicans in competitive districts — Hanford Republican David Valadao is two-for-two in congressional races, posting convincing victories over his Democratic opponents in 2012 and 2014. Still, it seems congressional Republicans consider him to be in a competitive district.  Fresno Bee article

State budget

Flanked by kids, California senators seek childcare vouchers — Framing access to childcare as a tool to alleviate poverty, California’s Senate leader on Wednesday previewed a budget battle in announcing legislation to increase childcare vouchers and help caretakers unionize.  Capitol Alert; LA Times article 

Prop 47 sentencing reform is reaping savings so far — California voters passed Proposition 47 last November in hopes it would save money. And so far, it seems to be working. In fact, a report released Tuesday by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO)  found that Prop. 47 will save California $100 million to $200 million annually, starting next year.  KQED report


Valley politics

CD9: Police union chief eyes run for Congress — The president of the union that represents police officers in Stockton has established a campaign committee and is considering running for the U.S. House of Representatives against incumbent Democrat Jerry McNerney in 2016.  Stockton Record article


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Kamala Harris not opposed to legalizing marijuana – California Attorney General Kamala Harris, the state’s top cop and Democratic front-runner in the race for a U.S. Senate seat next year, said Thursday she has “no moral objection” to legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, but cautioned that special care will be required to assess the impacts on children and public safety.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Exclusive: Kamala Harris makes ‘no apologies’ for aggressive Senate campaign – California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris said Wednesday that she makes “no apologies” for an aggressive U.S. Senate campaign that some fellow Democrats have complained is aimed at keeping others, notably a Latino candidate, out of the race.  LA Times article

Kamala Harris says all ‘qualified’ candidates should run – In her first comments since launching a bid for U.S. Senate, Democrat Kamala Harris pushed back against supporters’ calls to keep others out of the race, inviting anyone with the qualifications and desire to challenge her for the seat.  Capitol Alert; KQED report

George Skelton: Rocky Chavez may be a moth drawn to a flame – Assemblyman Rocky Chavez would be a fine Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. But would giving up a safe Assembly seat for a practically unwinnable Senate chase be a fine move for Chavez? Very probably not. More on that later. Skelton column in LA Times

Joel Fox:  Initiative chess-like moves — Much has be written about the potential cascade of initiatives headed for the November 2016 ballot because of the lower total of signatures needed to qualify ballot measures. But, those who study the initiative landscape see as much maneuvering as you would find in a chess match before all the pieces fall into place and we have a clear picture what the voters will be deciding.  Fox in Fox & Hounds

Joe Mathews: A very early start is appropriate for governor — It may seem a bit strange that Gov. Gavin Newsom has already declared he is running for governor in 2018, more than three and a half years before the actual election. Or it may just seem strategic, given the advantages of getting out in front in a state that doesn’t pay much attention to politics. But let’s also be clear – starting early in running for governor of California is also the right thing to do.  Mathews in Fox & Hounds



California issues 59,000 driver’s licenses to immigrants — California has issued 59,000 driver’s licenses to immigrants in the country illegally during the first month of applications. The state’s Department of Motor Vehicles said Wednesday that 236,000 immigrants began applying for a driver’s license in January.  AP article

Sacramento Bee: Thanks to an activist judge, Republicans have it both ways on immigration reform — Now that the GOP has got some judicial activism working in its favor on immigration, there’s no reason to hold up DHS funding.  Sacramento Bee editorial
Other areas

GOP targets 6 California House Democrats — The National Republican Congressional Committee on Wednesday announced its top Democratic targets in next year’s House races, including six in California. The California Democrats include five that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee listed last week among its most vulnerable members, plus Rep. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove). The others are Reps. Ami Bera of Elk Grove, Julia Brownley of Westlake Village, Pete Aguilar of Redlands, Raul Ruiz of Palm Desert and Scott Peters of San Diego. LA Times article 

Poll: Scott Walker, Jeb Bush top California GOP preferences – More than a year before the presidential primary reaches California, this much can be said about the voting public: Democrats like Hillary Rodham Clinton, Republicans like Scott Walker and Jeb Bush, and a lot of people still haven’t made up their minds.  Capitol Alert

Hillary Clinton easy Dem choice in 2016 in California, poll says – Hillary Rodham Clinton is the overwhelming choice for California Democrats in the June 2016 presidential primary, but the Republican race is wide open, a new Field Poll shows.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Dan Walters Daily: LA politics in for game of musical chairs — Rep. Janice Hahn’s plan to run for the powerful Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors will ripple through local politics, Dan says. Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

Facing Wall Street challenges, Herbalife goes on offensive in Sacramento – Herbalife, the Los Angeles-based nutritional products company, made a boisterous show of force at the state Capitol Wednesday: swarming the halls with neon green-shirted supporters, conducting calisthenics on the outside steps and offering product samples near the basement cafeteria.  LA Times article

Shooting case could lead to life term for former Tollhouse gubernatorial candidate — A Tollhouse man who campaigned for governor was ordered Wednesday to stand trial for shooting and injuring a man and killing a horse during an argument over road work last year. In court, Tye Glenn Champ’s lawyer, Eric Schweitzer, claimed his client was defending himself when he shot John Harrison Price III. Price, 40, was shot in the stomach on Aug. 7 and was hospitalized for seven days.  Fresno Bee article

Brik McDill: Obama administration remains out of touch against terrorism — Wow! The thoughtlessness and insensitivity of it all. The audacity of this presidency has come full circle in presidential spokesman Josh Earnest’s Feb. 10 hideous ranking of three problems: global warming inflicted globally; out-of-the-blue terrorism inflicted with calculation and premeditation; and the ISIS torturous killing of captives.  McDill column in Bakersfield Californian


California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

UC delays start of tuition increase — Amid ongoing budget discussions with the state, the University of California has postponed a proposed 5 percent tuition increase from summer quarter until the fall.  Capitol Alert; LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Citrus growers say port dispute could be worse than freeze — Agricultural products from the Valley that should be making their way to countries like China, Japan, and Australia are sitting on the docks of west coast ports due to a labor dispute. While the ports reopened Tuesday, their shutdown over the weekend has caused a slowdown that has growers worried. KVPR report; NPR report


Jobs and the Economy

Port dispute is felt all along West Coast – The high-volume harbors at Oakland, Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., also have battled severe bottlenecks for months as the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and employer group Pacific Maritime Assn. have wrangled over a new contract for 20,000 dockworkers at ports from San Diego to Bellingham, Wash.  LA Times article 

Exxon Mobil explosion in Torrance compounds fears of higher gas prices –An explosion Wednesday morning at the Exxon Mobil Corp. refinery in Torrance is compounding concerns that limited oil refining capacity in California could push up fuel prices.  LA Times article; ‘South Bay oil refineries: A history of destructive explosions’ in LA Times 

Hanford starts land buy for Costco project – In preparation for the much-anticipated Costco project, the Hanford City Council approved the purchase of the first of eleven properties needed for the relocation of a portion of East Lacey Boulevard.  Hanford Sentinel article 

Sharp decline in San Joaquin County home sales – Here, existing single-family home sales based on data from the Realtors multiple-listing services totaled 363 in January, down 28 percent from 506 units in December and off 22 percent from 466 sales in January 2014.  Stockton Record article 

Fresno’s Security First Bank to merge with LA financial company – Fresno-based Security First Bank is merging with Los Angeles-based SunPac Financial. SunPac will provide capital for Security First Bank to expand its physical presence and lending in Fresno. SunPac Financial will continue to be headquartered in Los Angeles and the Fresno Security First Bank office at Palm and Nees avenues will continue to operate as normal.  Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article 

Court dismisses environmental challenge to new Sacramento King arena – An appellate court Wednesday dismissed a citizens’ lawsuit challenging the new Sacramento Kings arena on environmental grounds, removing one of the last remaining legal obstacles to the $477 million project.  Sacramento Bee article

Monthly Sacramento home sales down 29 percent in January – Sacramento County’s up-and-down housing market slid in January, according to the latest monthly report released Wednesday by Irvine-based CoreLogic DataQuick. January sales of all homes – new, resale and condos – in the county totaled 1,257, down 29 percent from 1,770 in December and a 5.1 percent decline from 1,325 in January 2014.  Sacramento Bee article

Relief funds to aid seniors struggling with reserve mortgages – A federal relief effort that set aside nearly $2 billion in housing aid for troubled Californians is being expanded to help older homeowners avert foreclosures on their reverse mortgages.  LA Times article 

January a hopping month in Sequoia, Kings Canyon parks – Both Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks saw a major uptick in visitation in January, according to figures from the U.S. National Parks Service.  The Business Journal article

LA Convention Center shortcomings cost area $5 billion in four years – Los Angeles lost out on nearly $5 billion in economic benefits over the last four years from 271 conventions that bypassed the city because its convention center was either too small or lacked enough hotel rooms within walking distance.  LA Times article 

Amid rancor, Chargers boss to meet with San Diego mayor over stadium – Dean Spanos, president of the San Diego Chargers, has agreed to meet with Mayor Kevin Faulconer over the hot-button issue of building a stadium to keep the team from moving to Los Angeles.  LA Times article; U-T San Diego article 

Airbnb pays millions in back taxes to San Francisco – The short-term housing rental service Airbnb has agreed to pay back taxes that ran into the millions of dollars to the city of San Francisco.  AP article; San Francisco Chronicle article

California state officials have breakfast, lunch at Mulvaney’s — Department of Public Health officials recently dined at one of Sacramento’s top restaurants, courtesy of a Santa Rosa-based company with two quarter-million-dollar contracts to help the department become more efficient.  Sacramento Bee article



Bakersfield water conservation rose in January – After a December rated the fifth warmest and fifth wettest on record by the National Weather Service, residential water users somehow continued their trend of using less water last month, Bakersfield’s city water board learned Wednesday.  Bakersfield Californian article

Not easy for strawberry growers to avoid methyl bromide – Organic strawberry fields are synthetic fumigant-free, but the nurseries supplying their starter strawberries use toxic methyl bromide, and there are zero organic nursery alternatives.  Visalia Times-Delta article 

Fresno State alumnus honored at national agriculture conference — Fresno State alumnus Levy Randolph was named national champion at the annual American Farm Bureau Federation and Young Farmers and Ranchers Collegiate Discussion Meet in Nashville, Tennessee, on Feb. 15.  Fresno Bee article


Criminal Justice/Prisons

California court revives DNA collection from felony arrestees – California law enforcement officials can continue collecting and processing DNA from people arrested for felonies after the California Supreme Court announced that it will hear a case challenging the state’s policy of gleaning genetic material from felony arrestees.  Capitol Alert



John Myers: Can UC answer these 5 big questions about its spending? – If there’s one place to watch the really hard choices about what government can afford to spend on higher education and what a college degree should cost, it’s the meat grinder that now faces the University of California in Sacramento.  Myers in KQED

California schools fall short on foster youth services, study says — Most major California school districts still fall short in boosting support for foster students, as the state’s revised school funding system now requires, a new study says.  LA Times article; EdSource article 

Head Start programs in California rebound as funding increases – There is more money, and enrollment in programs, particularly for children from birth to age 3 who are in Early Head Start, is rebounding across the state.  EdSource article

Technology center of Merced County schools report – Plans and efforts for transforming education in Merced County schools through technology were the focus of a presentation Wednesday during the fourth annual state of education report from Superintendent Steve Gomes.  Merced Sun-Star article 

Nan Austin: School is free, but parents still asked to pitch in – An advisory issued by the California Department of Education this year lays out that no public school can require parent participation or charge fees, not even charter schools. It does, however, allow schools to request contributions, participation in fundraisers and classroom volunteering. The line in the sand appears to be barring kids from joining in if parents do not ante up.  Austin in Modesto Bee

A bid for guns on campus to deter rape – As gun rights advocates push to legalize firearms on college campuses, an argument is taking shape: Arming female students will help reduce sexual assaults.  New York Times article

Lincoln Unified creates STEM charter school – It does not yet have a name or a principal, but it does have a facility and a clear mission. A new charter school in Lincoln Unified is scheduled to open in six months, a K-6 site with a special focus on science, technology, engineering and math that will be located at a former Head Start facility not far from the district’s Swain Road headquarters.  Stockton Record article

Low-profile retail titan’s gift to UCSF: $100 million – A $100 million gift to UCSF has made an ex-billionaire who is determined to give away all his money the largest single donor not only to the academic medical center, but to the entire UC system.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Students learn of career pathways at high schools – Tulare Joint Union High School District, like many Tulare County districts, are now offering four-year academies to high school students. Tulare high schools offered two academies for the first time this current school year and will add two more in the fall.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Archbishop on crash course with San Francisco, state — San Francisco’s archbishop is trying to make its Catholic schools more Catholic, but city and state officials are poised to push back, saying any effort to discriminate against employees will be met with legal action.  San Francisco Chronicle article



San Joaquin Valley growers help control greenhouse gases – San Joaquin Valley row-crop growers should be allowed the benefits of so-called “cap-and-trade,” according to new research from U.C. Agricultural and Natural Resources.  Visalia Times-Delta article

State air regulators expected to advance ‘low carbon fuel standard,’ cleaner-burning fuels – California air regulators vote Thursday on recommitting to the low carbon fuel standard, a key part of the state’s greenhouse gas reduction plan that promotes switching to cleaner-burning fuels.  KPCC report 

Relax, oil train skeptics:  Kern gets little or no oil by rail from North Dakota – Kern County residents should take special note of these accidents, because each could have been much worse. But it’s not time to freak out, either. A pair of oil-by-rail terminals approved over the past year would bring in as many as four of these mile-long trains every day through the Bakersfield area. Both projects face lawsuits aimed at closing them down, though only one is operational.  Bakersfield Californian article

In California’s oil patch, activists fight new crude-by-rail terminal — Farmer and activist Tom Frantz lives in Shafter, a town just up the road from Bakersfield where oil rigs are as common as almond trees. But these days, his attention is focused on oil coming from outside the state, oil that comes in by train and unloads at crude-by-rail terminals.  KQED report

Young salmon readied for release into San Joaquin River – Biologists on Wednesday placed 54,000 young salmon into the San Joaquin River near Friant Dam, acclimating the fish to the river in hopes of having them return to spawn in a few years. The effort is part of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program, a long-term project to reconnect the river with the ocean and re-establish salmon runs.  Fresno Bee article

SunEdison shows off 663-acre solar plant near Lamont — Solar power developer SunEdison on Wednesday celebrated its new, $300 million photovoltaic plant generating 60 megawatts on 663 acres northeast of Lamont. Opened in November, the Regulus Solar plant at 13651 E. Panama Lane generates enough electricity to power about 25,000 average California homes.  Bakersfield Californian article

Federal prosecutors deny cover-up in Moonlight fire case — Federal prosecutors in Sacramento have launched a blistering new attack on Sierra Pacific Industries and its lawyers, accusing the timber giant of “deception” and “scandal mongering” in its efforts to reverse a $100 million settlement it agreed to pay over the 2007 Moonlight fire, which burned huge swaths of the Plumas and Lassen national forests.  Sacramento Bee article
Health/Human Services

Superbug linked to 2 deaths at UCLA hospital; 179 potentially exposed — Nearly 180 patients at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center may have been exposed to potentially deadly bacteria from contaminated medical scopes, and two deaths have already been linked to the outbreak.  LA Times article; ‘Q&A: What makes CRE superbugs so dangerous’ in LA Times

California lawmakers address importance of vaccinations – At a time when California is gripped in one of the worst measles outbreaks in recent history, several lawmakers are pushing for new legislation that would ensure more children are protected against measles and other transmittable diseases.  AP article 

Oakland VA office botched benefits, forgot about claims – The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ regional office in Oakland shoved thousands of compensation and disability claims into a filing cabinet without processing them, leaving many veterans or their surviving family members without needed benefits, the agency’s inspector general said in a report issued Wednesday.  San Francisco Chronicle article 

Despite early fears, Sacramento County flu death toll substantially lower this season – As the flu season wanes, the death toll in Sacramento County is substantially lower than last year’s, health officials say. There have been just five county-reported fatalities from influenza this year, compared to 26 at this time in 2014Sacramento Bee article

Research on baby horses who avoid mothers triggers new autism studies — On a thoroughbred ranch in Vacaville, a 3-week-old foal gallops close to its mother. Their bond seems natural, but it didn’t start out that way. When the foal was born, it completely ignored its mother and refused to nurse.  Sacramento Bee article



Jeff Jardine: High-speed rail needs Valley-to-LA link first – Here’s why they should build that one first: Right now, you can take an Amtrak train to Bakersfield. Then you have to get off the train, board a bus and ride more than two hours over the Grapevine into L.A., your estimated time of arrival at the mercy of gridlocked L.A. traffic.  Jardine column in Modesto Bee

Turlock bicyclists urge safe, connected routes — Bicycle advocates made their case for creating safe and well-connected routes as the city lays plans for street repairs and new roads.  Modesto Bee article


Other Areas 

UC Berkeley report: California cities ‘criminalize’ homeless – Cities across California are becoming more aggressive in citing and arresting homeless people for simple activities like standing, sitting or resting in public places, according to a report to be released Thursday by a legal clinic at the University of California, Berkeley. The report, to be unveiled by the Berkeley law school’s Policy Advocacy Clinic, finds that local laws against vagrancy are increasingly “criminalizing” the homeless in an effort to drive them from communities and “make them someone else’s problem.”  Sacramento Bee article 

More homeless in Merced and surrounding county, report says – The number of people tallied during a Merced County homeless count last month was nearly 900, considerably higher than it was the same time last year, the Continuum of Care reported Wednesday.  Merced Sun-Star article

Livingston council talks fireworks stands and midyear budget – The battle over fireworks booths in Livingston has begun. The city is accepting applications from nonprofits interested in selling safe-and-sane fireworks in July, officials announced at a City Council meeting Tuesday. Although the application period just opened, two groups – the Fourth of July Committee and Livingston Youth Football – were already appealing to the council Tuesday to choose them.  Merced Sun-Star article 

Road rage is getting uglier and a lot more deadly — The number of fatal accidents involving enraged drivers has increased nearly tenfold since 2004, according to data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In 2004, police officers indicated road rage or aggression on the part of the driver as a contributing factor in 26 fatal crashes on the nation’s highways. In 2013, 247 fatal accidents met this criteria.  Washington Post article

In Ceres, firefighters learn techniques to save themselves – Every month, firefighters train to rescue residents from burning homes, free crash victims trapped in mangled cars and provide aid to people suffering medical emergencies. This week, firefighters from the region gathered at Ceres Fire Station 3 to learn how to save themselves.  Modesto Bee article

Merced supervisors look at leasing old hospital lot for warming center – Merced County supervisors are meeting behind closed doors to discuss leasing part of the old county hospital’s parking lot to the Merced County Rescue Mission for its warming center.  Merced Sun-Star article

McFarland coach touched by Disney movie – Jim White has a lot to be proud of. Not only did he train state cross country champions in McFarland year after year, but a brand new Disney movie starring Kevin Costner as himself is opening across the country.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Q&A with Kevin Costner:  Star’s Visalia roots help drive him to ‘McFarland, USA’ – Kevin Costner connected with the story because he went to Mt. Whitney High School in Visalia, where he played baseball and remembers competing against McFarland. But it was a Sports Illustrated story that exposed him to the school’s storied history.  Fresno Bee article

Craig Powell and Paula Lee: Sacramento City Hall must reform how it does business – Powell, the president of Eye on Sacramento, and Lee, president of the Sacramento County chapter of the League of Women Voters, write, “What can our city government do to help restore the public’s trust and broaden citizen involvement in civic affairs? It can make a serious commitment to honest and ethical governance, and demonstrate an enduring, customer-focused attitude by adopting robust ethics and transparency reformsPowell/Lee op-ed in Sacramento Bee


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Celebrating hard work, working people and Philip Levine.

Merced Sun-Star – Proposition 47 limits DNA collection.

Modesto Bee – Proposition 47 limits DNA collection.

Sacramento Bee – Now that the GOP has got some judicial activism working in its favor on immigration, there’s no reason to hold up DHS funding; Melissa Melendez notwithstanding, terrorism is not a fund-raising pitch.