February 23, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories 

California senator says ‘welfare queen’ law must go — The law passed two decades ago, with Democrats in charge of the Legislature: In California, a family that conceives and births an additional child while on welfare is barred from getting an increase in its grant. Today, with Democrats still in the majority, the measure’s base of support is eroding. Advocates for the poor are mounting their strongest effort yet to repeal the so-called “maximum family grant” rule, a big-ticket spending item that could bleed into state budget talks.  Capitol Alert 

Early campaigns are double-edge sword — Getting an early start is important for birds seeking worms and children hoping to get into a top college. But when it comes to prominent politicians angling for higher office, starting years in advance may simply allow more time for troubles to mount, political experts say. So what the heck are Kamala Harris and Gavin Newsom thinking?  Contra Costa Times article



Immigration courts ‘operating in crisis mode,’ judges say – As Congress debates the fate of President Obama’s immigration policies, the nation’s immigration court system is bogged down in delays exacerbated by the flood of unaccompanied minors who crossed the southern border last summer.  NPR report 

Border Patrol sees little reform on agents’ use of force – Nearly a year after the Obama administration vowed to crack down on Border Patrol agents who use excessive force, no shooting cases have been resolved, no agents have been disciplined, a review panel has yet to issue recommendations, and the top two jobs in internal affairs are vacant.  LA Times article

Iñárritu calls for ‘dignity and respect’ for immigrants in Oscar speech — Sunday’s Academy Awards saw its fair share of political issues, perhaps none more contentious than that raised by filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu during his third acceptance speech of the night: immigration reform.  LA Times article


Other areas

George Skelton: How we die should be a personal choice, not the government’s — Many terminally ill patients fear dying slowly in pain. They’d like to cut short the agony. But some with disabilities worry about being pressured into suicide. Still others believe their god insists they die naturally even if suffering. Me, I’d like to make my own decision, thank you. No government or religion telling me what I can or cannot do with my own body. Skelton column in LA Times 

Sacramento Bee: After Ferguson, our lawmakers seek answers — We hope that lawmakers can set reporting standards and requirements for every agency in the state to follow. This should not be a police vs. the public discussion. Everyone will benefit from better policing, including police, who cannot do their important jobs without the public’s confidence.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Steven Miller: California is running out of time to ante up for online poker – The California state director of the Poker Players Alliance writes, “Poker is legal in California and has been for more than a century. Legislators don’t balk at online retail stores, online banks or online grocers, and they shouldn’t consider Internet poker any differently. But if California legislators continue to stall, they risk losing this opportunity altogether. That would be a shame.”  Miller op-ed in Sacramento Bee
California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories 

Fresno water-rate battle heads to a key vote — The Fresno City Council is slated Thursday to vote on higher water rates. Sounds simple. Events, however, almost certainly will unfold in memorable fashion. Mayor Ashley Swearengin will ask the council to approve five years of rate hikes needed to begin paying for a $429 million upgrade of the city’s water system.  Fresno Bee article

California to spend $20 million on building part of ‘hydrogen highway’ — The California Energy Commission reports that it’s spending $20 million to build nearly half of the approximately 100 stations needed to give a driver of a hydrogen car enough range to travel freely through most parts of the Golden State.  LA Times article


Jobs and the Economy 

Dockworkers ordered back on job in Port of Oakland dispute – Dockworkers returned to work at the Port of Oakland on Sunday night after a dispute over relief breaks caused a daytime disruption on what was to have been the first full day of port operations since a tentative agreement on a contract was reached.  San Francisco Chronicle article

San Diego mayor and Chargers president meet to discuss stadium issue — After a week of acrimony, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Chargers President Dean Spanos met privately Sunday to discuss the increasingly complex and controversial issue of building a new stadium to keep the team from moving to the Los Angeles area. LA Times article; U-T San Diego article

Artist lofts lead downtown Sacramento renaissance – As downtown embarks on a new era, K Street gets a lot of the attention and so does the downtown arena. But walking through the corridors of the new Warehouse Artist Lofts, it becomes clear right away that R Street is this city’s next urban destination.  Sacramento Bee article

California to pay $24 million settlement over state properties — The state of California will pay $24 million to investors to end a legal battle over a proposed deal to sell $2.3 billion in state properties during the height of California’s fiscal crisis.  San Francisco Chronicle article; AP article

CalPERS, activist shareholder battle Whole Foods — James McRitchie of Elk Grove, a retired state worker and publisher of a corporate governance website, asked Whole Foods Market last fall to allow its large, long-term shareholders to put their candidates for the board of directors on the company ballot.  Calpensions article

Working class struggles in Silicon Valley – When we think of Silicon Valley, a lot of us think of hard-working people living high on the corporate hog: high-end restaurants on campus, on-site gyms, concierge services, et cetera. But this fabulous work world full of people dreaming up new ways of doing business sits on a base of people doing business the Old-Fashioned Way. KQED report

LA County’s small-theater community speaks out on proposed wage hike –  An impassioned, two-hour, open-mike meeting about the future of Los Angeles County’s small-theater community Saturday at the Renberg Theatre at the Los Angeles LGBT Center in Hollywood drew an overflow crowd of well over 200 theater folks. With just one exception, the dozens of speakers, including a calmly emphatic Tim Robbins, were motivated by a deep fear of what a proposed higher wage might do to their artistic scene.  LA Times article

Silicon Valley dirt flies as sex-harassment case heads to jury — A jury is about to hear claims by the now-interim chief executive of the news and social-networking site Reddit that a high-flying Silicon Valley venture capital firm made her a victim of its culture of sexism when she worked there.  San Francisco Chronicle article 

Disney hikes ticket prices at U.S. theme parks — A one-day ticket for either Disneyland or California Adventure in Anaheim, California, is now $99 for anyone 10 or older, the company said. That’s up from $96. Single-day tickets for the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, are now $105, up from $99.  AP article



California’s drought exposes long-hidden detritus — The message from park rangers, amateur metal detectors and regular fisherman at California’s Lake Perris is unanimous: the water is lower than they’ve ever seen it. The state’s severe ongoing drought has affected everything from agriculture to urban life. Here, the impact is made visible: As the water level has dropped, sunken treasures, trash and forgotten boats have risen above the surface.  KQED report

Turlock Irrigation District board will talk about two water projects — The board of the Turlock Irrigation District will talk in closed session Tuesday about two major water projects in the offing.  Modesto Bee article


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Bee Investigator: A high bail doesn’t always keep criminals behind bars – In Stanislaus County, a drunken driver who kills someone can get out of jail on a $100,000 bond. Had that same drunken driver been involved in the same crash, but just a few miles north in San Joaquin County, he would be held on $1 million bail. In fact, just about every crime committed in our neighboring county to the north carries higher bail than in Stanislaus County.  Modesto Bee article 

On Duty with the CHP: Memorials can help us find inspiration — The CHP, together with the California Association of Highway Patrolmen and the surviving family members, work together to get a memorial posted.  On Duty column in Fresno Bee

Sonya Christian: Bakersfield College’s new four-year degree a great opportunity for students – The president of Bakersfield College writes, “Bakersfield College’s Baccalaureate in Applied Science for Industrial Automation is a landmark opportunity for local students and businesses. It is the most exciting new development of its kind at BC in many years. And because the community and BC partnered closely in the program’s proposal and will continue to work together in its evolution, it’s a program about which everyone involved can be justifiably proud.”  Christian op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

UC Merced naturalist program will expand on $103,000 gift – Three naturalist classes offered at UC Merced will expand spring and fall course offerings at the university’s reserve and Yosemite National Park thanks to a grant, the school announced last week.  Merced Sun-Star article

College students prefer reading books in print over e-books on mobile devices – Textbook makers, bookstore owners and college student surveys all say millennials still strongly prefer print for pleasure and learning, a bias that surprises reading experts given the same group’s proclivity to consume most other content digitally. A University of Washington pilot study of digital textbooks found that a quarter of students still bought print versions of e-textbooks that they were given for free.  Washington Post article

Olivia Garcia: CSU Bakersfield unveils plans for student center — The event is part of developments highlighting a new creative arts incubator and student media center that will involve students of different areas, said Richard Collins, dean of the CSUB School of Arts and Humanities.  Garcia column in Bakersfield Californian 

Growth of competitive video gaming provides new opportunities, challenges for colleges – Like most 20-year-old college students, Loc Tran needs money for tuition, books and a daily commute. Unlike most college students, Tran covers most of his education bills by playing a video game. Tran is a member of the San Jose State Dream Team, which won $27,000 in scholarships last year at the first North American Collegiate Championship (NACC), a year-long league for Riot Games’ fantasy PC game “League of Legends.”  Fresno Bee article

Sacramento-area schools struggle to find substitute teachers – School districts across the country have struggled with a severe substitute shortage for the last few years as an economic rebound has created better job options. The shortage has grown more severe as California school districts remove teachers from classrooms to receive training in Common Core State Standards.  Sacramento Bee article 

State program to help foster students not available to some — About a third of California’s foster youth don’t receive state-funded tutoring and counseling services because they are living with relatives. Proposed legislation would change that.  EdSource article



Pixley biogas project ‘a nice little fit’ for ethanol plant, nearby dairy — A new operation just north of the Kern County border provides a fresh example of what it may take, in terms of logistics, volume requirements and government subsidies, to expand energy production from cow manure.  Bakersfield Californian article


Health/Human Services

A place to help those who served — From now on, a trip to the Tulare Public Library can provide more than books and DVDs if you’re a veteran. That’s because on Saturday, the library’s first-ever Veterans Resource Center was opened. It’s a place where veterans can get literature, advice and even computers to find out what benefits and services are available to them as well as a way to access them.  Visalia Times-Delta article



How to improve Sacramento’s light rail? The debate starts this week – Weeks after being criticized for lackluster service, Sacramento light rail and bus officials will begin a yearlong series of monthly meetings with downtown business leaders on ways to make transit more attractive before the Kings arena opens next year.  Sacramento Bee article 

When neighbors balked, train officials listened — In the 44 years that Larry Saculla has lived north of Oak Park, the sound of freight trains going past on nearby tracks has been life’s background noise. The clackety clack of the train along the tracks and the sporadic horn blasts stayed in the background even as the number of trains increased, said Saculla, 72.  Stockton Record article 

2nd Transbay Tunnel needed for late-night transit, task force says — Getting into, out of, or around San Francisco on public transportation after midnight needs to be easier, faster, safer and more reliable — and the Bay Area can’t wait for a second Transbay Tube, a city task force has concluded.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Other Areas

Livingston planning commissioner resigns over conflict of interest worry — The chairman of Livingston’s Planning Commission voluntarily resigned after elected officials threatened to have him removed because of a potential conflict of interest.  Merced Sun-Star article

Dan Walters Daily: Supreme Court victory for California press, public – It’s time that California state agencies stop trying to hide their secrets from the public, Dan says. Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee 

Fitz’s Stockton: The greatest ‘Who?’ in city history — What’s a guy got to do to get recognition in this town? R. G. LeTourneau (1888-1969) was the world’s greatest inventor of earth-moving equipment. His name is on everything form the world’s largest front-end loader to Tonka trucks. Yet ask Stockton residents about him, and you’ll get a “Le … Who?”  Fitz’s Stockton in Stockton Record


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Legislators have a responsibility to their constituents to make sure that police violence is adequately addressed. But law enforcement absolutely must be part of the discussion, which won’t happen if they just say no.

Sacramento Bee – We hope that lawmakers can set reporting standards and requirements for every agency in the state to follow. This should not be a police vs. the public discussion. Everyone will benefit from better policing, including police, who cannot do their important jobs without the public’s confidence.