February 5, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Road user fee drives California Assembly Speaker’s transportation plan – Drivers would fund repairs to California’s roads with a new user charge under a proposal unveiled Wednesday by California Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego.  Capitol Alert; AP article; LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article

George Skelton: All-powerful Democrats find new adversaries: Each other – Latinos feel insulted by blacks. Angelenos are suspicious of San Franciscans. Democrats are squabbling. It’s inevitable. It’s the unintended consequence of one-party domination in California. Democrats have conquered Republicans. So they’re turning on each other in the struggle for political power.  Skelton column in LA Times

State budget

Jerry Brown’s state insurance plan could hurt retirees – If you’re a state retiree or planning to become one, a piece of Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2015-16 budget proposal could hit your wallet. The governor’s plan envisions a new high-deductible, lower-premium health insurance policy for state workers. It would be paired with a tax-advantaged health savings account and take effect Jan. 1, 2016.  Sacramento Bee article

Valley politics

DA, judge races dominate Fresno County campaign spending in 2014 In 2014, Fresno County’s legal world ruled its political world. The final campaign finance numbers are in, and the Fresno County District Attorney’s race between Lisa A. Smittcamp and Elizabeth Egan, as well as the Fresno County judge’s race that pitted Lisa Gamoian against Rachel Hill, garnered a grand total of more than $2.2 million in contributions. Even bigger was the campaign spending — in excess of $2.3 million total by the four candidates in the two races.  Fresno Bee article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Mark Baldassare: The debate over extending Proposition 30 – The president of the Public Policy Institute of California writes, “Many observers think that the voters will take their cues from Governor Brown if they are asked to weigh in on this issue. After all, it was the governor who brought this tax measure to the voters when the legislature failed to act.” Baldassare in Fox & Hounds

Joe Mathews: Who cares what voters think? — A new PPIC poll finds that more Californians think their elected officials are doing a good job. But what do Californians know? Not much, as the same poll found. Mathews in Fox & Hounds

Other areas

Oil industry doubled spending on lobbying in California last year – The oil industry nearly doubled its spending on lobbying in California last year, as the Jan. 1, 2015 date approached for gasoline to be included in the state’s cap-and-trade program.  Capitol Alert

With climate change on California Legislature’s agenda, utilities ‘making the rounds’ – Soon after Gov. Jerry Brown proposed expanding greenhouse gas reduction policies in his State of the State address, California’s influential utilities praised Brown’s agenda but moved quietly to craft a version that could be easier for them to meet. Sacramento Bee article

California Gov. Jerry Brown appears open to restricting vaccine waivers – Gov. Jerry Brown, who preserved religious exemptions to state vaccination requirements in 2012, on Wednesday appeared open to legislation that would eliminate all but medical waivers.  LA Times article

California bill would require more vaccinations – With measles breaking out in California, two state senators introduced legislation Wednesday that would eliminate the ability for parents of school children to opt out of vaccinating their kids based on a personal belief.  Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article; AP article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Feinstein, Boxer ask California to reconsider vaccine exemptions — Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, in a letter to state Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley, said the two parental exemptions allowed under California law, on religious grounds or due to a personal objection made after consulting with a health professional, are “flawed.’’ The senators support exemptions for medical reasons, such as a child with immune deficiency.  LA Times article

Dan Walters Daily: Vaccine requirements challenge personal liberty – Should California require parents to vaccinate their children? The debate gets at a fundamental tension between personal liberty and collective welfare, Dan says.  Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

Additional allegations filed against former state Sen. Leland Yee – Former state Sen. Leland Yee’s legal troubles have worsened with a second superseding indictment issued by a federal grand jury alleging additional wrongdoing by the Democrat from San Francisco.  LA Times article

California appeals overturning of foie gras ban — California Attorney General Kamala Harris came to the defense of a statewide ban on foie gras sales Wednesday, serving notice that the state will appeal a federal court ruling striking down the ban.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Jerry Hill: SB 24 will be good for kids – The Democratic state senator writes, “SB 24 takes significant steps to keep e-cigarettes away from children and to protect them from e-cigarette liquid poisonings. The bill would regulate vape shops and e-cigarette stores to ensure that they comply with the state law that has reduced youth purchases of cigarettes, the Stop Tobacco Access to Kids Enforcement Act.”  Hill op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Capitol minister aims to deliver state leaders from temptation — Amid the crush of lobbyists, lawyers and lawmakers packing the hallways of the Capitol in the final days of each legislative session, one figure moves through the corridors with noticeable serenity. Tall and lean, Frank Erb might be mistaken for a lobbyist: the dark business suit, the black leather shoulder bag. But he isn’t interested in hotly contested bills and votes, and his bag contains a Bible, not checks made out to campaign committees.  LA Times article

State senator wants Sally Ride statue in U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall – A California state senator is proposing to place a statue of pioneering astronaut Sally Ride in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall, which would make Ride the first woman to represent California and the first known gay person to be included in the collection.  LA Times article

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Economist looks at what’s ahead for region, nation – An economist told a luncheon audience Wednesday that the Modesto area is taking part, however hesitantly, in the recovery from the Great Recession. The jobless rate has dropped and home prices have risen in the area, said John Mitchell, a consultant based in Portland, Ore., at a gathering sponsored by the Bank of Agriculture and Commerce.  Modesto Bee article

Study finds college freshmen party less, worry about money more – The current crop of college freshmen showed up at school as less experienced party animals than their older peers but with more mental health and emotional issues, according to a national survey by UCLA researchers.  LA Times article

Jobs and the Economy

San Joaquin Valley Business Conditions index remains positive – The latest San Joaquin Valley Business Conditions Index remains positive, indicating the area’s economy will remain in an “expansionary” mode for the next three to six months.  The Business Journal article

Fresno lags most U.S. metro areas in ‘advanced industry’ jobs, wages – Fewer of Fresno’s labor force works in “advanced industries” — sectors where jobs focus on science, engineering or technology — than almost every other major American metropolitan area.  Fresno Bee article

Gas prices start ticking upward again in Fresno and the Valley — Gasoline prices in Fresno and the central San Joaquin Valley appear to have bottomed out and are beginning to climb once again, by anywhere from a few pennies to a few nickels or more per gallon over the past few days at some stations.  Fresno Bee article

Merced supervisors approve group discussions on Los Banos industrial park – It’s the first in the journey of a million steps, but Los Banos City Manager Steve Carrigan called it a victory. On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors authorized county staff participation in a working group to discuss a proposed industrial park in the West Side of Merced County. The supervisors also accepted the project’s “guidance package,” a document that outlines the project details, and approved receiving quarterly updates about the endeavor.  Merced Sun-Star article

Turkhan Foods expanding in Stockton – Turkhan Foods Inc., a fast-growing nut processing and distribution company, has purchased a 126,000-square-foot industrial building in south Stockton where it will house 200 to 250 corporate, sales and almond processing workers.  Stockton Record article

Former Fresno Bee publisher Ray Steele Jr. wins Leon S. Peters Award — Ray Steele Jr., a Fowler native who rose from young reporter to president and publisher of The Fresno Bee, was named the 2015 winner of the Leon S. Peters Award on Wednesday. Per its tradition, the sponsoring Fresno Chamber of Commerce surprised the winner with the announcement at what Steele thought was a lunch with Fresno State President Joseph Castro on campus.  Fresno Bee article

Economic development chief: Let’s build the Sacramento brand — As the crew building the new Sacramento Kings arena downtown worked in the background, the region inaugurated a new era of economic development Wednesday, welcoming an aggressive transplant from Phoenix who vowed to shake up the business community’s status quo.  Sacramento Bee article

West Coast port employers:  Shutdown could be 5 days away – West Coast seaports could shut down in as soon as five days — hobbling U.S. trade with Asia — if dockworkers and their employers cannot reach a new contract, the head of a maritime association warned Wednesday in remarks intended to pressure an agreement after nine months of negotiations.  AP article

FCC’s Wheeler proposes tough net neutrality rules advocated by Obama — The head of the Federal Communications Commission said Wednesday that he is proposing tough new rules governing online traffic that would regulate Internet service like a public utility but modernize the oversight “for the 21st century.”  LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article; Sacramento Bee editorial


GOP lawmakers push EPA to rethink clean water rule – In a year the Republican-controlled Congress is expected to take a significant whack at President Barack Obama’s environmental agenda, GOP lawmakers on Wednesday told top environmental officials they should scrap what was once a fairly obscure proposal to define what is and isn’t considered a body of water by federal law.  Fresno Bee article

Pressure on in Armona to secure $330,000 grant – The fate of a $330,000 state grant to improve Armona’s water system is now in the hands of the town’s residents. Officials say it all boils down to how many of them complete a new household income survey expected to be mailed out next week to all 1,123 addresses in Armona. The survey is required to prove that Armona is poor enough to qualify for the need-based Community Development Block Grant program.  Hanford Sentinel article

From Visalia to Salinas, water use drops – A spot-check of three Central California cities — Visalia, Salinas and Soledad — points to consumers and businesses taking water conservation seriously while moving into a fourth year of record drought.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Turlock council ponders water issues – One clear message emerged from a discussion of water issues: The stuff is no longer cheap. City residents last year got the first in a series of rate increases that will almost double their bills by 2019. In the surrounding Turlock Irrigation District, farmers this year will pay more than twice their accustomed charges.  Modesto Bee article

Jeani Ferrari: Having high enough in-lieu fee protects precious farmland – The Turlock resident and member of the Advocacy Committee of the Farmland Working Group writes, “If the commissioners and staff do their homework, it should be easy to establish an in-lieu figure that reflects the county’s intent to preserve farmland. That would be the right thing.”  Ferrari op-ed in Modesto Bee

Ranchers oppose state’s drive to regulate livestock grazing — Local ranchers are speaking out against a state water protection initiative they say would threaten private property rights and hurt the industry by imposing new rules on livestock grazing.  Bakersfield Californian article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Man accused of murdering two deputies in Sacramento-area rampage: ‘I killed those cops’ — In a dramatic scene in Sacramento Superior Court, the man accused of killing two deputies in a daylong rampage last October announced Wednesday that he was guilty and defiantly asked to be executed.  Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article

New suspect wanted in slaying of 9-year-old Janessa Ramirez — Fresno police said Wednesday night that they are looking for another suspect in the Jan. 19 crossfire shooting death of 9-year-old Janessa Ramirez. The search for Donte Hawkins, 21, is focusing on Northern California, police said. They said they aren’t sure where Hawkins is located.  Fresno Bee article

Claim pushes city to ‘step up’ — Weaving together a story that sounded like the opening argument in a civil lawsuit, the attorney for Misty Holt-Singh’s family sharply criticized Stockton, its police department and Chief Eric Jones during a 40-minute news conference Wednesday and announced he has filed a claim for damages against the city.  Stockton Record article; LA Times article

A fight over access to video from LAPD cameras is shaping up – The Los Angeles Police Department is about to take this concept to a new level by outfitting every officer with a body camera that will record their interactions with the public. Officials say the 7,000 cameras will help bring clarity to controversial encounters, guard against officer misconduct and clear cops accused of wrongdoing. But unlike the King tape and countless others, these recordings are unlikely to be made public. And in this era of YouTube, that doesn’t sit well with some residents.  LA Times article

Reggie Jones-Sawyer: All CHP officers should be equipped with body cameras – The Los Angeles assemblymember writes, “I firmly believe it is crucial that California lawmakers unite to support a new plan that turns to modern technology for a solution. We should require all California Highway Patrol officers to wear video cameras.”  Jones-Sawyer op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Livingston police chief’s contract renewed for three years – Livingston Police Chief Ruben Chavez will continue working for the city another three years, the City Council determined unanimously this week.  Merced Sun-Star article


On Campus: Do-over for No Child Left Behind passes the House – The No Child Left Behind Act, cornerstone of President George W. Bush’s education policy, at last may be getting a long overdue renewal. But new versions strip away much of the original law’s idealistic intent and may not make it past the Democrat in the White House. Modesto Bee article

Food, paper waste get second life at Visalia schools — There’s a new routine in school cafeterias in Visalia these days and it’s catching on. Before students rush out the door for recess after lunch, they separate their lunch waste into refuse, recycling and green waste which includes leftover food and paper products.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Summit Charter opening little libraries in school garden — A south Modesto charter school has two tiny, honor-system library boxes sitting in its student-tended garden, enticing young readers to sit awhile and soak up some sun along with the stories.  Modesto Bee article

Shining some light on the science of solar power — Twenty classroom kits filled with tiny solar cells, volt and amp readers and solar car kits, valued at $750 each, are going back to campuses around Stanislaus County with the teachers. Trainers from Solar Schoolhouse and Solar 4R Schools, programs of two nonprofits, laid out the lessons to teach with the kits.  Modesto Bee article

Classroom coaches critical as teachers shift to Common Core — To break down the isolation that many teachers experience in their classrooms, California schools are using instructional coaches as a key tool to help teachers adapt their instruction to implement the Common Core standards in math and English language arts.  EdSource article

Young history scholar expected to wow air museum crowd Saturday – Centennial High School freshman Elli Cunanan may not, at first glance, look like a featured guest at the Minter Field Air Museum’s biggest event of the year. But looks can be deceiving.  Bakersfield Californian article

UC Berkeley program on human rights, war crimes wins $1-million grant – A UC Berkeley law school program that researches war crimes and other human rights violations around the world and seeks to aid victims has been awarded a $1-million grant by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.  LA Times article


Obama proposes $5 million for earthquake early warning system — President Obama has proposed spending $5 million in the upcoming federal budget on the West Coast’s earthquake early warning network, which would be a significant boost to the fledgling system if Congress approves the funding.  LA Times article

Health/Human Services

Health exchange reports enrollment figures for Stanislaus County; some are not impressed – More than 3,800 residents of Stanislaus County have signed up for health insurance during the second enrollment window under federal health reform, the state’s health exchange said. Covered California said about 13,000 have chosen a health plan in the five-county region including Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Merced, Mariposa and Tulare counties.  Modesto Bee article

Covered California announces enrollment figures for Fresno – Statewide more than 273,000 Californians have already signed up during this year’s open enrollment period, he said. Of that number, 2,600 live in Fresno and 4,600 are Fresno County residents.  The Business Journal article

Disneyland measles outbreak isn’t largest in recent memory – The largest U.S. measles outbreak in recent history isn’t the one that started in December at Disneyland. It happened months earlier in Ohio’s Amish country, where 383 people fell ill after unvaccinated Amish missionaries traveled to the Philippines and returned with the virus.  AP article

Why you should, and shouldn’t, worry about measles – Measles has become relatively rare in the United States, thanks to very effective vaccine. A recent outbreak tied to Disneyland has shown that even among some doctors, knowledge of the once-common illness is spotty. Some questions and answers about a still-dangerous disease that’s re-emerged as a leading public health concern.  AP article

Covered California makes push for enrollment – Leaders of the state’s health insurance exchange are pleased that the Affordable Care Act has dramatically reduced the ranks of the uninsured, but they’re still scrambling to reach the uncovered with open enrollment closing in less than two weeks.  Bakersfield Californian article; Dena Murphy op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

Contra Costa County adopts mental health care law — Contra Costa County became the latest county to adopt Laura’s Law, the state measure that allows courts to compel outpatient treatment of people with a record of mental health hospitalizations and violence.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Hospital’s new ‘Serenity Room’ offers privacy in medical crises – San Joaquin Community Hospital on Wednesday dedicated a new “Serenity Room” where families who are visiting the hospital’s emergency facilities can get updates on a critical patient’s condition or grieve the loss of a loved one.  Bakersfield Californian article

Hackers infiltrate Anthem, access customer details — Health insurer Anthem said hackers infiltrated its computer network and accessed a swathe of personal information about current and former customers including their incomes and street addresses.  AP article; LA Times article

Land Use/Housing

Open house for tiny homes in Lemon Cove — Tiny house enthusiasts in the central San Joaquin Valley will soon get a chance to explore at least two pint-sized homes at the tiny house community in Lemon Cove. Owner Dirk Dole will have his first tiny house on site for sale — and open for tours. Dole is working with an out-of-town builder, who makes tiny houses between 100 square feet and 400 square feet in size, to sell the homes. The houses can then be placed in one of the community’s 55 sites.  Fresno Bee article


Feds offer Fresno help planning bike-share system – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will help Fresno plan a bike-share system to improve air quality and offer an inexpensive method of transportation as part of the Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program.  Fresno Bee article

Soundwalls, safety issues at 24th Street meeting – Bakersfield officials aired their plans to improve one of Kern County’s busiest highways in public Wednesday afternoon to an audience of more than 200, at a three-hour community meeting on widening 24th Street. Here’s the latest on the project’s aesthetics and design — two major reasons for the open house at Rabobank Convention Center.  Bakersfield Californian article

Another problem for new Bay Bridge span: Elevator doesn’t work — A $4 million elevator intended to take maintenance workers and well-connected investor-tourists to the top of the signature tower on the new Bay Bridge eastern span failed after just a few uses, and Caltrans is trying to figure who will pay the bill, The Chronicle has learned. San Francisco Chronicle article

Bay Area commutes are lousy, but at least they’re reliable — Yes, Bay Area, your commute by car stinks. But at least it’s consistently crummy. Bay Area commutes — the third most-congested of the nation’s 10 largest metro regions — are also the most reliable, according to data analyzed by the Metropolitan Transportation Commission in its Vital Signs report.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Other Areas

Modesto Bee: County planning to protect water, at-risk kids — Disguised by his calm demeanor, Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow threw down two challenges. The first was at the feet of state officials trying to justify their efforts to take more water out of the region. The second was a direct challenge to the people of Stanislaus County to join the board in building and supporting stronger families.  Modesto Bee editorial

Hanford chiefs pitch new idea for public safety — Chiefs of the Hanford police and fire departments presented the City Council with a plethora of ideas Tuesday to improve public safety, while making the best use of existing resources and revenue.  Hanford Sentinel article

Chowchilla hero to be honored – A park in Chowchilla will be renamed later this month in honor of Ed Ray, the unassuming bus driver who made national news when he helped free 26 kidnapped students.  Merced Sun-Star article

Fresno Bee’s ‘Yosemite at 150’ project wins McClatchy honor — “Yosemite at 150,” The Bee’s monthlong, multimedia look at Yosemite National Park as it celebrated its sesquicentennial last June, has been award a McClatchy President’s Award.  Fresno Bee article

Joe Mathews: For good comparisons, California should look to Poland — The fast-growing nation once behind the Iron Curtain is much closer to California in size and population than other regions to which the state normally compares itself.  Mathews in Sacramento Bee

Valley Editorial Roundup 

Fresno Bee – That shadow over elections is cast by Koch and friends; California’s Fair Political Practices Commission has earned a well-deserved reputation for being anaggressive and nonpartisan enforcer of the 1974 Political Reform Act. So it is more than a little disconcerting that two top officials have resigned in recent weeks.

Merced Sun-Star – California’s Fair Political Practices Commission has earned a well-deserved reputation for being an aggressive and nonpartisan enforcer of the 1974 Political Reform Act. So it is more than a little disconcerting that two top officials have resigned in recent weeks.

Modesto Bee – Disguised by his calm demeanor, Stanislaus County Supervisor Terry Withrow threw down two challenges. The first was at the feet of state officials trying to justify their efforts to take more water out of the region. The second was a direct challenge to the people of Stanislaus County to join the board in building and supporting stronger families; California’s Fair Political Practices Commission has earned a well-deserved reputation for being an aggressive and nonpartisan enforcer of the 1974 Political Reform Act. So it is more than a little disconcerting that two top officials have resigned in recent weeks.

Sacramento Bee – FCC Chairman Wheeler takes a strong stand for net neutrality; The United State should not rush to arm Ukraine.