February 20, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Polluter fees in California could boost state budget, analysts say — California could generate much more revenue from fees on polluters than Gov. Jerry Brown expects, legislative analysts say in a report released Thursday. Administration officials have estimated $1.7 billion in revenue from the fees by June 30, 2016, the end of the state’s next fiscal year. But legislative analysts say the state could rake in between $3.3 billion and $7.7 billion in that period.  LA Times article

Bill seeks to reverse Prop 47’s DNA rollback – Police officers would regain powers to collect DNA that a voter-approved initiative stripped away under legislation announced Thursday by Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove, with the backing of district attorneys and lawmakers from both parties.  Capitol Alert

State budget

See California’s largest tax breaks — California’s portfolio of tax credits, deductions and other tax breaks totals about $55 billion, according to a new tally by the Legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal analyst prompted by some Democratic lawmakers’ concerns during a recent budget hearing.  Capitol Alert

Valley politics

Stockton Record: Political switcheroos — Stockton City Council members are taking a ride — or attempting to do so — over to the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors at an ever-increasing rate.  Stockton Record editorial

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

John Myers: Places, Everyone: California politics podcast – Our weekly podcast on all things California politics revolves around one simple narrative this week: is everyone in place for the policy and political debates that are coming? It’s a question worth asking in the race for the U.S. Senate, the discussion over more help for California’s low-income workers, and in the conversations now beginning over new ways to fix the Golden State’s aging transportation infrastructure.  Myers in KQED

Joel Fox: Political notes:  Senate race; Chargers football; party registration — With the Field Poll on the U.S. Senate race showing Condoleezza Rice as a leader along with Kamala Harris, many political observers stated that if Rice ran – and she says she won’t – her opponents would try to wrap the unpopular (in California) George W. Bush around her.  Fox in Fox & Hounds

John Opdycke: Top-two primary is working for voters – The president of Open Primaries writes, “The fact is top-two primaries are working. Every voter in California can now participate in the first round of voting and is free to choose candidates from any party. Politicians have to (gasp) engage with voters outside their own parties from the get-go. The number of competitive election contests has increased.”  Opdycke op-ed in Sacramento Bee


Joseph Rodota: Immigration reform could raise cash for UC – The CEO of Forward Observer writes, “Immigration reform is stalled in Washington, in part because the financial benefits would either be broadly distributed throughout the economy, or sent to the federal government. A new proposal that steers funds to public universities or other purposes in each of the 50 states could expand the political constituency for immigration reform.” Rodota op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Other areas

California ethics panel rejects exceptions to lobbyist fundraising rules – The state ethics watchdog panel adopted regulations Thursday banning political fundraisers in the homes of lobbyists, rejecting exceptions to the rule proposed by a group representing legislative advocates.  LA Times article

Bill would allow artificial grass in HOAs —  Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, known for her matter-of-fact approach, is pushing something artificial. Artificial grass, that is. The San Diego Democrat pitched a bill this week that would allow residents in homeowner associations to replace their lawns with synthetic turf without fear of fines.  U-T San Diego article

Field Poll: Obama support surges in California — A new statewide Field Poll shows President Barack Obama’s approval rating among California voters has grown to 57 percent, its highest mark in two years.  Sacramento Bee article

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Report: Central Valley leads nation in falling groundwater levels; crisis blamed on almonds and drought — Groundwater levels appear to be sinking faster in the Central Valley than anywhere else in the United States, the U.S. Geological Survey says in a new report. The paper does not pinpoint causes, but a USGS expert on Thursday blamed, in part, increased agricultural pumping to make up for drought, now entering its fourth year.  Modesto Bee article

State promises $195 million loan for Fresno water project — Fresno’s ambitious water project has qualified for a state loan big enough to make a sizable dent in the typical home’s monthly bill. The help from Sacramento lenders could be enough to give Mayor Ashley Swearengin a winning hand when she pitches her water-rate plan to the City Council Feb. 26.  Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article; KVPR report; ‘George Hostetter: Thoughts on the big water project’ in Fresno Bee

Modesto mayor calls for tax increase for safety needs – Mayor Garrad Marsh called Thursday for putting a tax increase on the November ballot to hire more police officers, keep all 11 of Modesto’s fire stations open and address other pressing needs.  Modesto Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Bakersfield office market improved in 2014, new report says – Bakersfield’s office market posted strong results at the end of last year as citywide vacancies fell significantly and rental prices increased, according to a new report by Cushman & Wakefield. The city’s overall vacancy rate declined to 6.5 percent in the last three months of 2014 from 8.1 percent in the same period a year before, the report said. This performance was in line with a downward trend since a peak of about 12 percent in 2009. Bakersfield Californian article

Port talks deadlocked over fate of arbitrator – California political leaders voiced growing exasperation Thursday with a labor standoff that has clogged West Coast ports, as word spread that the main sticking point in negotiations has been the fate of a single, low-level official who rules on disputes involving Los Angeles and Long Beach dockworkers.  LA Times article

Port of Oakland shut down by union meeting – The bitter contract dispute at 29 West Coast ports intensified Thursday when dockworkers shut down the Port of Oakland amid tense negotiations that have prompted government intervention and calls for a settlement from across the nation.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Infographic: West Coast ports:  What comes in, what goes out, and what it’s worth – A flotilla of ships — filled with cars, electronics, clothes and other goods from Asia — have anchored off the coast waiting for the docks to clear. Both sides blame each other for the severe traffic jam. Here’s a look at the volume and variety of imports and exports at the ports along the West Coast.  LA Times article

As oil prices tank, firms large and small feel the pain – It’s a painful time to be in the oil business. With the price of crude oil about half what it was six months ago, companies large and small are being pressured to cut costs. On the front lines are oil services companies that do everything from drilling to providing electrical power at well sites. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are threatened as companies try to adjust. NPR report

Gas prices jump after Torrance refinery explosion – Wholesale gas prices rose 6 to 10 cents in California after a large explosion at the Exxon Mobil refinery in Torrance injured four workers and shut down a portion of the plant.  LA Times article

Race to build California bullet train shows value of U.S. market – California has set off a global race to supply train cars for the state’s nascent high-speed rail line, a $1 billion contract proponents say could fuel a U.S. manufacturing boom worth far more than that.  Bloomberg article

As California burned, firefighters’ overtime grew – Driven by an ongoing drought that increased the number of wildfires in California, average total pay for full-time employees represented by Cal Fire Local 2881 rose to $99,215 last year, a 17 percent increase from 2012. Average overtime pay increased 13 percent to drive the trend, according to an analysis of payroll data from the State Controller’s Office.  Sacramento Bee article

Insights from California state pay data – What do you think of these numbers? Last year, full-time state workers’ average total wage rose 6.8 percent to $73,776, according to The Sacramento Bee’s analysis of the latest state payroll data. Negotiated pay raises and the end of furloughs in mid-2013 had a lot to do with it.  Sacramento Bee article

Madera County housing supply jumps in January – Madera County is swimming in a nine-month supply of homes for sale, a jump from only five months at the end of last year, according to the California Association of RealtorsFresno Bee article

Mayor Johnson’s signature mistakenly included in letter supporting minimum wage hike – Mayor Kevin Johnson’s signature showed up on a letter to state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, expressing support for raising the statewide minimum wage to $13 by July 1, 2017. The only problem: the mayor’s staff said Johnson’s signature was included due to a “staff miscommunication.”  Sacramento Bee article

Funding for California victims of housing crash trickles down – California has delivered less than half of $2 billion in federal aid to help victims of the housing crash.  LA Times article

Walmart pay hike may put pressure on other low-paying industries – Facing rising minimum wages in California and other states, competition for employees and a poor corporate image, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Thursday it would raise the minimum pay to $9 an hour for nearly 40% of its U.S. workforce. The action is a major milestone in the growing movement to lift the pay of the nation’s lowest-paid workers as the gap between rich and poor has widened.  LA Times article

Audit: New $1.7 billion Medi-Cal system risks delays – If history is a guide, the $1.7 billion case management computer system that Xerox is rolling out for California’s Medi-Cal program is in trouble. A new report from State Auditor Elaine Howle about the California Medicaid Management Information System notes that similar Xerox projects in much smaller states have encountered lengthy delays. Howle also flagged concerns that the project is unorganized.  Sacramento Bee article

Women business owners share stories of success — The number of women-owned businesses has grown at one and a half times the national average for new businesses during the last decade, according to a recent study by the National Association of Women Business Owners. That trend is having a big impact on industries throughout the Central Valley as more and more women found their own startups and expand their entrepreneurial efforts. While the size and focus of their business ventures vary greatly, many local business-owners report overcoming similar challenges during their path to ownership.  The Business Journal article

Raiders, Chargers plan possible shared Los Angeles-area home – The Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers are planning a shared stadium in the Los Angeles area if both teams fail to get new stadium deals in their current hometowns. The teams announced plans for the $1.7 billion stadium in Carson in a joint statement Thursday night.  AP article; LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article; ‘Q&A: How does Chargers/Raiders stadium plan affect NFL in LA issue?” in LA Times

Covered California sends out 100,000 inaccurate tax forms – California’s health exchange apologized Thursday for sending about 100,000 incorrect tax forms last month to people who purchased private coverage, a mistake that could delay tax filings or force households to amend their taxes.  AP article

Merced will cut fees in bloated maintenance districts — Some homeowners in the city of Merced will see lower fees next year because of shrinking city maintenance bills after a vote this week by the City Council.  Merced Sun-Star article


California’s snowless winter worsening; Oregon also in trouble – California’s unusually high temperatures and shortage of precipitation — especially snow — will probably continue into the spring, federal scientists said Thursday.  San Francisco Chronicle article

South Valley farming partners to limit water exports in deal with irrigation district — A group that owns South Valley farmland has reached an out-of-court settlement with an irrigation district by agreeing to keep pumped groundwater within a specific area instead of exporting it across the Valley.  Fresno Bee article

State water chief admits mistakes in management – The head of the watchdog agency overseeing California water said he was “mistaken” last year when he approved emergency actions that harmed threatened fish.  Stockton Record article

Above normal temperatures melts ‘dismal’ Sierra Nevada snowpack — The U.S. Drought Monitor said Thursday that the highest level of drought, “exceptional drought,” expanded in parts of California and Nevada, after another week without precipitation. Capital Public Report article

Steven Mayer: In the Valley, we’re praying for some good old-fashioned sunshine amid all this sunshine — A gathering storm, in literature and in life, has long foreshadowed trouble on the horizon, a coming crisis. But here in California’s Great Central Valley the opposite is true.  Mayer in Bakersfield Californian

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Bakersfield’s top cop keeps same boss – After considering giving the city’s police chief seven new bosses, a Bakersfield City Council committee decided against it. At its meeting Tuesday, the Legislative and Litigation Committee of the City Council wanted to find out whether changing the city charter to give the City Council the power to hire and fire police chiefs was a good idea.  Bakersfield Californian article


Joseph I. Castro: Here are 10 more reasons to love Fresno State – Fresno State’s president writes, “As the semester moves into full swing, the Fresno State campus is lively with activities and initiatives that I’d like to share with our alumni and friends throughout the Valley. Here’s my Top 10 unranked list.”  Castro op-ed in Fresno Bee

Common Core lessons aim to close persistent achievement gap – Proponents of the Common Core State Standards – the most ambitious education reform in decades – say the standards will help close the nation’s achievement gap. Just how is that supposed to happen, and how likely is success?  EdSource article

California task force urges reform of special education funding — Federal and state funding rates for special education would be equalized across California and new special education teachers would be authorized to teach general education if draft recommendations from a task force presented on Wednesday are implemented.  EdSource article

UC Davis student court says campus senators overreached on Israel divestment vote – UC Davis’ student court on Wednesday ruled against the student senate’s resolution calling for the University of California to divest itself of businesses with ties to Israeli military actions.  Sacramento Bee article

Third Cal State Northridge fraternity suspended over hazing allegations – A third fraternity at Cal State Northridge has been suspended after an investigation of hazing and sexual misconduct allegations, officials said.  LA Times article

San Francisco archbishop fires back at lawmaker critics — San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone fired back Thursday at state lawmakers who characterized as intolerant and possibly illegal his effort to have teachers at four Catholic high schools sign a labor contract declaring their opposition to same-sex unions, abortion and contraception.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Oil industry takes aim at California’s war on carbon – California’s effort to combat climate change was subjected to a fresh round of scrutiny Thursday as oil-industry representatives urged regulators to scale back the state’s “low carbon fuel standard,” a centerpiece of its effort.  Sacramento Bee article

Roger Bales and Roland Winston: Keystone XL pipeline does nothing to help our region – The founding faculty members with the School of Engineering at UC Merced write, “The Keystone XL pipeline represents America’s past – a past where people were chained to fossil fuels. But if Keystone and fossil fuels are our past, California – specifically the University of California – is the country’s future.”  Bales/Winston op-ed in Modesto Bee

Utility agency taps $882-an-hour lawyer – The California Public Utilities Commission has hired one of the top criminal defense attorneys in the state to respond to investigations of improper contact between regulators and the utility companies they oversee.  U-T San Diego article

U.S. officials step up port inspections after illegal engines found – Federal environmental and customs officials said Thursday they will step up inspections at the nation’s busiest port complex after discovering hundreds of imported vehicles, engines and other equipment that failed to comply with U.S. emissions standards.  LA Times article

A cow manure goldmine? — Last week, while thousands of farmers and others involved in the agricultural industry attended World Ag Expo in Tulare, a much smaller group visited the Calgren Renewable Fuels plant in Pixley. Only they weren’t there to see how the plant makes ethanol. Instead, the group of dairy operators, county officials and business people were there to see the new energy plant Calgran recently built alongside its ethanol building.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Health/Human Services

UCLA superbug: Maker of scopes in deadly outbreak under federal probe — The manufacturer of the medical scopes at the center of a deadly bacterial outbreak at UCLA Medical Center is under investigation by federal officials for possible violations of laws that ban improper payments to doctors and other customers.  LA Times article

FDA knew of design flaw in scope linked to UCLA superbug – A commonly used medical scope linked to a deadly bacterial outbreak at UCLA may be so flawed it cannot be properly cleaned, federal officials conceded Thursday. But they stopped short of recalling the device or outlining any new sterilization procedures.  LA Times article

UCLA superbug outbreak: Why the medical scope used is hard to disinfect – The medical device implicated in the superbug outbreak at UCLA’s Ronald Reagan Medical Center has a reputation for being tough to disinfect, largely due to its unique design, doctors say.  LA Times article

Disneyland measles cases hit 145, identical to Philippines virus — There are now 119 measles cases confirmed in California, state officials said, as the number of cases in the California-centered outbreak rose to at least 145 patients across 12 counties, seven other states, Canada and Mexico.  LA Times article

Number of Latino doctors isn’t keeping pace with population, study says – In a recent analysis published by the journal Academic Medicine, Sanchez and colleagues found that the number of Latino physicians was not keeping pace with population growth and suggested that correcting the imbalance could be key to addressing Latino health disparities.  LA Times article

More pressure on providers in face of Medi-Cal expansion – Medi-Cal — the public health insurance program for low-income Californians — is growing faster under federal health care reform than the state expected. Twelve million residents — nearly a third of the state’s population — now rely on Medi-Cal, and that’s increased pressure to find more doctors willing and able to treat patients for what has historically been low reimbursement rates.  KQED report

Bakersfield Heart Hospital sets up Fast Track program in ER — Bakersfield Heart Hospital is hoping to shorten wait times for less serious cases in its emergency room with a new Fast Track program. People suffering heart attacks and other major health crises will continue to be seen in the emergency room right away, but starting Friday, patients with less serious conditions will be diverted.  Bakersfield Californian article

Cholesterol is back on the menu in new Dietary Guidelines for Americans – A panel of nutrition and public health experts advising the federal government on healthy eating guidelines has recommended the withdrawal of a longstanding recommendation that Americans should avoid foods that are high in cholesterol — advice that has put eggs off limits for heart-healthy consumers for decades.  LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Report: Oversight, storage issues behind VA unprocessed claims – Claims for as many as 13,184 veterans in Northern California found socked away in a filing cabinet went unprocessed because of inadequate records storage and oversight at a the Oakland regional office of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, according to a federal report.  Stockton Record article

Saint Agnes Medical Center tells Northwest Medical Group to move out of building — Northwest Medical Group, one of the largest doctors groups in Fresno, has been told to move out of its longtime location on West Herndon Avenue by June 15.  Fresno Bee article

Land Use/Housing

More low-income housing for Visalia — If all goes as planned, work could begin by October or November to turn a five-acre vacant lot west of Highway 63 in northeast Visalia into a 36-unit apartment complex for low-income families.  Visalia Times-Delta article


Ethan Elkind: State must spend smarter on roads and ‘fix it first’ – The associate director of the Climate Change and Business Program at UC Berkeley and UCLA Schools of Law writes, “Too often, decision-makers would rather fund new road and highway projects instead of improving our existing infrastructure and providing more affordable and convenient transportation options.”  Elkind op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Other Areas

California high court sides with press in abuse cases at state-run homes — The press won in a California Supreme Court lawsuit seeking the release of details in abuse cases at government-run facilities for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled.  LA Times article; Sacramento Bee article

Outdated 911 system a factor in Delano debacle – An emergency call made last month from a middle school in Delano, after a young student collapsed and later died there, was routed to a 911 dispatcher in, of all places, Ontario, Canada. To make matters worse, when a 911 call is misrouted, as it was in the Delano case, no one agency appears to be responsible for investigating, even when such errors could potentially place lives at risk. And no one is cataloguing these incidents after they happen.  Bakersfield Californian article

Kern supervisors to consider new fireworks rules, penalties – A county ban on small, easily abused fireworks and tougher penalties on people use illegal fireworks or host parties where those fireworks are used goes before the Kern County Board of Supervisors Tuesday. The revised fireworks ordinance aims to toughen up on misuse of fireworks, which are already illegal in California and ban piccolo pete and ground flower fireworks, which are already illegal in the city of Bakersfield, in unincorporated Kern County.  Bakersfield Californian article

Lemoore city manager plan in place — The City Council approved an employment agreement Tuesday with retired Corcoran City Manager Ron Hoggard, who previously served as an assistant city manager in Lemoore.  Hanford Sentinel article

Stockton Mayor Silva says he played no role in limousine altercation – Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva acknowledged Thursday night he was a passenger during a December traffic stop in which a man was arrested and a stretch limousine sustained significant damage as the result of an altercation on southbound Highway 99 near Galt. Stockton Record article

Atwater City Council selects a new commissioner – Atwater’s newest commissioner almost didn’t make it on the panel – it took a little bit of persuasion. “A lot of people came to me and said I would be a good voice on the commission,” said James Murphy III. “I’m a little bit nervous about it.”  Merced Sun-Star article

Hollywood comes to McFarland: Community plays a big role in new Disney movie – Before Jim White arrived in McFarland in 1987, the city that straddles Highway 99 in northern Kern County was known for massive farms. White turned seven young men into state high school cross country champions and gave the community another claim to fame, one the city is proud to own. Now the story of White and his motley crew of runners serves as the basis for the new Disney film “McFarland, USA,” which opens Friday, Feb. 20, in theaters.  Fresno Bee article

Kelly Ardis: ‘McFarland’ a credit to town that inspired it – Learning about the town’s past — the devastating cancer cluster and gang activity — has made all the hubbub about the town really exciting to see, and it’s clear many of the residents are enthused about positive news for McFarland, a welcome change for them.  Ardis in Bakersfield Californian

Rick Bentley: Run, don’t walk, to see ‘McFarland, USA’ – The real strength comes from the film’s deep look at the beauty of diverse cultures and the importance of family and following a dream. Then “McFarland, USA” becomes a story of the determination, devotion and desire of seven young men to rise above the back-breaking lives of field hands and the man who helps them accomplish what always seemed like a pipe dream.  Bentley review in Fresno Bee

Michael Fitzgerald: The small, quick fox of Fresno – Philip Levine, a great poet who took root in Fresno, writing about grinding blue-collar work and schooling acclaimed Valley poets, died Saturday. He was 87.  Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Valley Writers Read: ‘The Intersection’ by Steve Yarbrough — This week on Valley Writers Read, acclaimed novelist and former Fresno State professor Steve Yarbrough reads his story “The Intersection.”  KVPR report

West Sacramento homeless get set to depart old motel as city prepares for development – The countdown had begun Wednesday at the Old Town Inn, the sign on the office window said. Ten days left to go. Ten days before a pilot program providing temporary rooms, beds, training and counseling to West Sacramento’s homeless was to call it a night, making way for the city’s plans to tear down the old motor inn for new development at its downtown doorstep.  Sacramento Bee article

Jeff Jardine: Longtime Bee columnist Williams wrote his own obituary — Shortly after his wife, Wilma, died in 2013, Walt Williams sat down and penned his own obituary. That Williams hand-wrote his own really shouldn’t surprise anyone who worked alongside him during his 32-year career as a reporter, editor and columnist for The Modesto Bee. Williams suffered a heart attack Tuesday and died a couple of hours later at Doctors Medical Center in Modesto. He was 80.  Jardine column in Modesto Bee

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno BeeActivist judge gives GOP what it seeks on immigration.

Merced Sun-Star – What’s more appealing, confident determination or fear? We’ve seen plenty of both from politicians lately.

Modesto Bee – What’s more appealing, confident determination or fear? We’ve seen plenty of both from politicians lately.

Sacramento Bee – Keep the momentum going for Sacramento streetcar line.

Stockton Record – Stockton City Council members are taking a ride — or attempting to do so — over to the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors at an ever-increasing rate.