January 10, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

California budget plan stays largest the same for health, social services — Even as anti-poverty activists organized protests around the state, Gov. Jerry Brown released a spending plan Friday that would restore few recession-era spending cuts to social services. Brown instead called for restraint, including paying down long-term debt and increasing California’s budget reserves. Public schools stand to receive billions of new dollars under the state’s school funding guarantee.  Sacramento Bee article; Sacramento Bee editorial; LA Times article; AP article: ‘Key aspects of the governor’s proposed California budget’; ‘Highlights of Gov. Brown’s budget plan’ in Sacramento Bee

Jerry Brown’s budget battle starts with $120 million threat to UC — Gov. Jerry Brown preached fiscal restraint Friday in opening six months of state budget negotiations with lawmakers, then sent a similar message to University of California leaders whose recent vote to raise tuition by 28 percent over the next five years drew his ire. Brown’s message: Rescind the tuition increases or lose $120 million in the next fiscal year.  San Francisco Chronicle article

California drought: Jerry Brown unveils proposal on how to start spending $7.5 billion water bond — On Friday, as part of his budget proposal, Gov. Jerry Brown identified how he would like the first wave of that money to be spent. State residents expecting construction on huge new reservoirs will have to wait, however. Brown’s budget — much of which is expected to be approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature in Sacramento — calls for spending $532 million from the water bond.  San Jose Mercury News article


State budget

Brown adds out-of-state enrollment cap to UC budget proposal – Despite a major push for more funding by the University of California, Gov. Jerry Brown held steady on an already-promised $120 million increase in his proposed budget Friday, and added new strings to the allocation – including a cap on nonresident enrollment.  Sacramento Bee article; AP article

John Myers: The shrewd politics of Jerry Brown’s new state budget – Friday’s release of Brown’s new state budget — a $164.7 billion fiscal blueprint that boosts school spending, assumes a continued expansion of health care for the poor, and sets aside $4 billion for either debt repayment or cash reserves. But it’s what the budget doesn’t include that opens Brown up to criticism for being inconsistent … and yet highlights the potential areas for negotiation with legislators and interest groups.  Myers in KQED

Counties find much to like in Brown’s proposal – The California State Association of Counties, whose president is Stanislaus County Supervisor Vito Chiesa, said Friday that it applauds Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal for striking a delicate balance between maintaining fiscal discipline and investing in critical programs important to all Californians.  Modesto Bee article

Gov. Brown promises to pay off debt to cities, counties – After getting shortchanged for more than a decade, local governments across San Diego County and California on Friday applauded Gov. Jerry Brown’s pledge to pay back $533 million for programs the state required but didn’t pay for. Altogether, the state owes cities and counties about $1 billion.  U-T San Diego article

Fresno rally urges Gov. Brown to restore funds for health and human services — Community advocates gathered Friday in downtown Fresno to urge Gov. Jerry Brown to bring down the “wall of poverty” by restoring funds to programs that boost health and human services.  Fresno Bee article

California state pay, benefits costs to grow by $560 million – The pot of money for state workers’ salary and benefits would grow by more than a half-billion dollars in the coming fiscal year, under the terms of Gov. Jerry Brown’s 2015-16 budget proposal.  Sacramento Bee article

Gov. Brown: ‘Not a lot left in budget’ to cover undocumented – Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled his $164.7 billion budget proposal Friday and while health figures big, the governor also stopped short of funding some key advocacy goals. For starters, there’s no money set aside in the budget to provide health insurance to undocumented immigrants.  KQED report 

Jerry Brown wants state workers to pay ahead for retirement benefits — Gov. Jerry Brown says he wants state workers to begin contributing toward their retiree health benefits and that he will take up the issue at the bargaining table beginning this year.  Sacramento Bee article
Gov. Brown

Jerry Brown addresses anti-policy brutality protests for first time — In his first public comments on anti-police brutality protests in Oakland and around the country, Gov. Jerry Brown said Friday that the nation has made progress on race relations since the 1960s but that “we still have issues” of disparities.  Capitol Alert

Mother Teresa, capitalism and Jerry Brown’s approach to poverty in California — On Friday, with liberal activists preparing to rally against a “wall of poverty” in response to the release of his annual spending plan, Brown offered this defense: The state does spend a lot on poor people, he said, and income inequality is a force of capitalism outside of his control.  Capitol Alert
Valley politics

Tulare’s Devin Nunes jumps into fire as new House intelligence panel chief — Rep. Devin Nunes started his new spy-oversight work with a jolt. On Tuesday, at the opening of the 114th Congress, the Tulare Republican claimed the gavel as chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. About 18 hours later, two men carrying automatic weapons and shouting “Allahu Akbar” — “God is great” — killed 12 people and wounded 11 at the Paris office of a French satirical magazine.  McClatchy Newspapers article
Statewide politics/Ballot Measures 

Political deal on California offices could hold peril for Newsom, Harris – Gavin Newsom, 47, and Kamala Harris, 50, have had a cordial but not especially warm relationship; their close quarters and parallel ascent up the political ladder have kept the two in steady competition, one eye cast warily on the other. It makes perfect sense, though, for one to stand aside in the Senate race, lest each seek the office and, in a crowded field, thwart the efforts of both by splintering the Northern California vote. The huge question under that scenario is who would defer to whom, averting a collision of egos and all that wasted exertion.  LA Times article 

Swearengin faced long odds in controller’s race – Republican Ashley Swearengin didn’t beat Democrat Betty Yee in the Nov. 4 state controller’s race. But all things considered, Fresno’s mayor turned in a strong effort. Fresno Bee article

Joel Fox: Plenty of Dem & Rep names for Boxer seat; what about an independent? — The floodgates of conjecture opened wide with the announcement by U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer that she would not seek re-election in 2016. Potential senatorial candidates from the Democratic and Republican Parties made it into news reports. But with California now working under the top two primary system an independent candidate could also challenge to get one of the top two positions in a primary race.  Fox in Fox & Hounds



House GOP takes broad aim at Obama immigration policies — House Republicans announced plans Friday to take broad aim at President Barack Obama‘s immigration policies and eliminate protections for immigrants brought illegally to this country as kids.  AP article


News Briefs

Top Stories 

UC and Cal State hope for more funding than Brown offers – After Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal was announced Friday, reaction from California’s public universities showed that much lobbying and political maneuvering is ahead to establish higher education spending levels for next year.  LA Times article

Spanish-led builders poised to win high-speed rail contract for second segment — The California High-Speed Rail Authority is poised Tuesday to award a contract to a construction team headed by a Spanish firm to design and build a stretch of the bullet-train route from Fresno to the Tulare-Kern county line.  Fresno Bee article

Merced County jail population falls in wake of Prop 47 — Jail bookings in Merced County have fallen by more than 25 percent over the last two months with the passage of Proposition 47, which reduced certain drug-related crimes from felonies to misdemeanors.  Merced Sun-Star article


Jobs and the Economy

Federal Reserve to send record $98.7-billion profit to Treasury — The Federal Reserve said Friday it made a record $98.7 billion in profits last year, mostly from interest on the more than $4 trillion in bonds it has purchased since 2008 to stimulate the economy.  LA Times article

New contract for San Joaquin County’s mid-level managers – San Joaquin County government and about 190 mid-level managers inked a three-year contract that offers a minimum raise of 3 percent and has the employees taking on a larger part of the cost to provide retirement benefits.  Stockton Record article

Fresno protest ballot count nears 30,000 – Fresno City Hall officials said 29,323 non-duplicate water-rate protest ballots had been received as of Friday. The rate of return has slowed considerably. City Hall received about 17,000 ballots over several days in December.  Fresno Bee article

Merced wonders how to woo ‘wet users’ – Attracting industry that uses large amounts of water, or “wet users,” is high on the priority list of the City Council, so the city is working on a plan to get those businesses to call the water-strapped city home.  Merced Sun-Star article

2014 gave local businesses reason to smile – Going into the 2014 holiday season, there was plenty of doubt about whether sales would live up to expectations. Now the data is starting to come in, it looks like the performance will meet or even exceed the forecast.  Hanford Sentinel article

$80,000 more for Atwater firetruck equipment irks some on council – Some officials compared needing to pay an estimated $80,000 to outfit the city’s new firetruck with tools and equipment – a decision the City Council will wrestle with Monday – to buying a new car without its steering wheel and tires.  Merced Sun-Star article

New review seeks simplified California civil-service system — State officials have said it for years: California’s civil-service system needs to boil down the number of job classifications and rewrite titles and duties so that government outsiders can more easily find jobs and apply for them.  Sacramento Bee article

Two LA councilmen ask to reconsider team set to study minimum wage – Two Los Angeles city councilmen want to restart the process of picking an outside group to study proposals to boost the citywide minimum wage, saying the city “should seek data from a neutral source.”  LA Times article 

Local businessman appointed to Ex-Im committee – Why would a conservative local businessman work his tail off to save an 80-year-old government program formed during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal? The answer is simple, says Don Nelson, president of Bakersfield-based ProGauge Technologies. Because it’s good for business.  Bakersfield Californian article

Workers’ comp case traps Alabama woman in Bakersfield for three years – Alabama nurse Althea Hart didn’t anticipate she’d still be in Bakersfield three years after agreeing to work here in 2011 under a 13-week contract with optional renewals.  Bakersfield Californian article

St. Louis pitches new stadium plan to keep Rams — St. Louis struck back in its bid to keep the Rams, unveiling plans for a new downtown stadium that civic leaders here hope will persuade team owner Stan Kroenke and NFL executives that the footloose franchise should stay put.  LA Times article 

LA might have been unable to control reasons for losing Olympic bid — A USOC news conference Friday offered only partial insight into the decision-making process, leaving just as many questions about a selection that caught many by surprise.  LA Times article 

Behind the scenes with Guy: ‘He ate a lot of food’ — Does Guy Fieri really eat all that food? What’s he like? Did he try the pickled tongue? Julie Crawford, owner of Pyrenees Cafe, offers a peek into the three-day “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” shoot at her Old Town Kern Basque restaurant.  Bakersfield Californian article

SpaceX launches rocket, but booster plan falls short — Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched a rocket loaded with cargo to the International Space Station before dawn Saturday morning, but failed to successfully land the craft’s first-stage booster on a barge floating in the ocean.  LA Times article; AP article



Court upholds California grape commission patents – A tangled legal fight over grape patents ended Friday in a victory for the California Table Grape Commission. Capping years of courtroom battling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled the Fresno-based industry group has licensed valid patents for the Scarlet Royal and Autumn King grape varieties. Fresno Bee article 

Avenal could get more water amid drought – Avenal was on the painful receiving end of water shortages last year, but under a new draft environmental impact statement released last November and given an extended public comment period this week by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the small Kings County city could receive more water during drought.  Hanford Sentinel article

Analysts: New regulation could cause spike in egg prices – Now that the state’s cage law went into effect Jan. 1, requiring farmers to house hens in cages with enough room to spread their wings, the cost of eggs is expected to rise.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Farm Beat: Beekeepers have to watch for thieves — Beekeepers also deal with the fact that their colonies are spread across wide areas that are hard for sheriff’s deputies to patrol. Johnson said growers need to know their bee suppliers and to watch for people and vehicles that should not be around the boxes.  Modesto Bee article
Criminal Justice/Prisons

Activists target Stockton police with flier — Community activists who have protested a series of officer-involved shootings in Stockton in recent years distributed fliers this week offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest or termination of police officers.  Stockton Record article



Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget for CSU nearly $100 million short of what trustees say they need – Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday released a budget that will essentially keep funding for the Cal State University system stagnant, falling well short of what officials in the state’s largest university system had hoped to get.  San Bernardino Sun article

Education funding surges in governor’s budget – Increases in state money for K-12 schools and community colleges are projected to slow starting in two years, when temporary taxes from Proposition 30 start drying up. But for now, there’ll be buckets of money.  EdSource article; ‘Education wins big in budget’ in EdSource

Gov. Brown targets teacher preparation – Taking on an issue that has received relatively short shrift in the raft of reforms being implemented in California schools, Gov. Jerry Brown ventured for the first time during his governorship into the challenge of preparing – and retaining – teachers.  EdSource article

Obama’s community college plan stirs interest in California, but many questions remain — It’s unclear what President Barack Obama’s free community college proposal would mean for students in California, which already boasts the lowest fees in the nation and waives costs for 40 percent of its students.  Sacramento Bee article; Q&A on plan in AP

Yosemite Community College District leaders welcome Obama’s ‘Promise’ – The promise of two free years of junior college was welcomed by local community college leaders. But, they noted, few specifics are known about the initiative unveiled by President Barack Obama on Friday.  Modesto Bee article

Michael Hiltzik: Obama’s free education plan: Why stop at community colleges? — The proposal fails to address one glaring flaw in the nation’s overall system of public higher education: It should all be free. That’s the way it is in Germany, for instance, where there is a long tradition of low-cost university study.  Hiltzik column in LA Times

Obama’s community college plan could affect thousands of Bay Area students — If passed, the program could affect thousands of Bay Area college students. San Jose Evergreen Community College District alone serves over 20,000 students from diverse backgrounds at its two campuses. Chancellor Rita Cepeda is optimistic about Obama’s proposal and says she hopes partisan politics won’t get in the way of investing in education.  KQED report

Valley school districts facing deep substitute teacher shortage — In schools across Fresno Unified, a shortage of substitute teachers is becoming more apparent, especially in classrooms in the city’s southeast and southwest corners, school district data show. The situation here is not unique — an improved economy has pulled teachers who took substitute jobs during the recession back into the classroom and depleted the substitute pool as a result. Teachers and administrators in Fresno, Clovis, Central and Sanger agree a growing problem is at hand.  Fresno Bee article

White coats a symbol of hopeful future for Stockton Unified students – The 105 seniors at the Health Careers Academy in Stockton Unified School District on Friday received white lab coats from Dignity Health and St. Joseph’s Hospital.  Stockton Record article

School districts join in repeal effort — Several local school districts have joined in a statewide effort to repeal or modify a new law that would limit districts’ reserve funds.  Hanford Sentinel article

New Merced high school trustee confirms living outside his district — More than two months after Greg Opinski narrowly won his seat on the Merced Union High School District board of trustees, questions about whether the 52-year-old lives in his district are still brewing.  Merced Sun-Star article

Brown’s spending plan helps battle Delta weeds — More greenbacks from the state could help tame the Delta’s green menace later this year, if Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget is ultimately approved. His budget calls for almost $4 million in new funding for the state Division of Boating and Waterways, the agency charged with keeping Delta waterways clear of troublesome water hyacinth.  Stockton Record article


Health/Human Services

New program could mean end for UCSF-Fresno, Valley Children’s partnership — Valley Children’s plan for a new medical education program for pediatric residents and fellows might lead to the breakup of a long running partnership in local medicine. The new program will train doctors to become pediatric sub-specialists at the hospital, and will establish a fellowship program. The hospital’s choice to have its own residency program means that the hospital’s 40 year medical education partnership with UCSF – Fresno could come to an end.  KVPR report

Kaiser-Fresno mental health workers plan weeklong strike – Kaiser Permanente-Fresno mental health workers plan to go on a weeklong strike Monday, joining hundreds of their colleagues statewide to protest what they say is the health system’s inadequate staffing to provide mental health services.  Fresno Bee article

Valley Children’s Hospital celebrates $1 million donation for pediatric intensive care unit – Skip Nugent, owner of Best Buy Markets, and his family were honored Friday for helping raise $1 million for the pediatric intensive care unit at Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera County.  Fresno Bee article

Blue Shield, Sutter Health dispute doesn’t immediately affect plan members — For the next few months, health plan members affected by a contract dispute may continue to see their Sutter Gould doctors while Blue Shield of California and Sacramento-based Sutter Health battle over reimbursements.  Modesto Bee article

California reports first flu death of person in Southern California — The California Department of Public Health said Friday the state has had its first flu death this season. The death was an adult in Southern California.  Fresno Bee article; LA Times article

19 measles cases reported with ties to Disney theme parks – Nineteen people from three states who visited Disney theme parks in California last month have now fallen ill with measles, health officials said Friday.  AP article

Bakersfield apple packer makes total recall; fruit may be linked to Listeria deaths — Bakersfield-based Bidart Bros. is doing a total call of all of its Granny Smith and Gala apples still available in the marketplace after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration confirmed that two strains of Listeria monocytogenes were found at the apple processing facility. They are believed to be the same strains associated with the outbreak.  Central Valley Business Times article; Sacramento Bee article

LA County weighs merger of health agencies — Amid a change in top leadership at Los Angeles County, the Board of Supervisors is considering a major overhaul of the way the county provides health services to its 10 million residents.  LA Times article



Sacramento business leaders challenge RT: Clean up your act — Sacramento’s light-rail train system has long been an afterthought for many commuters, unused and even disdained. Now, with an entertainment and sports arena under construction downtown, business leaders are calling on Sacramento Regional Transit to take steps now to make its service an inviting option for arena-goers.  Sacramento Bee article
Other Areas 

Worthley to discuss Tulare County’s ‘finest hour’ – Tuesday will be the fourth time Tulare County Supervisor Steve Worthley delivers a state-of-the county address. And though it has never easy to catelogue the county’s accomplishments over the past year and his own goals for the Board of Supervisors for the coming year, Worthley said he’s looking forward to giving this year’s speech.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Obama renominates Drozd to fill Ishii’s federal judge post in Fresno — President Barack Obama this week renominated longtime Sacramento federal magistrate Judge Dale A. Drozd to become a U.S. District Court judge in Fresno.  Fresno Bee article

Tough on crime? Gamoian will have to be tough on landlords first — Former prosecutor Lisa Gamoian’s successful judicial campaign last year centered on a basic message — if elected, she’d be tough on crime. As she starts her career as a Fresno County Superior Court judge, however, she’ll have to content herself with being tough on landlords and tenants.  Fresno Bee article

Modesto’s deputy city manager leaving for Berkeley job – Modesto Deputy City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley is leaving to become Berkeley’s deputy city manager.  Modesto Bee article

Aviator memorial group plans to continue service – It’s been more than three months since the aviator memorial statue debuted at Naval Air Station Lemoore, but the team responsible for the monument isn’t finished yet.  Hanford Sentinel article

1 Yosemite climber just 1,000 feet from summit on free climb – One of the men making a grueling ascent of a half-mile of exposed granite in California’s Yosemite National Park is just 1,000 feet from finishing the groundbreaking climb and the other had climbed one of the hardest sections as of Friday.  AP article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Cosby ticket-buyer to Fox: I want my money back — As of Friday, the Feb. 12 Bill Cosby show will go on at the Fox Theater in Bakersfield, but it’ll have to go on without Lyn Kalar, stuck with an $80 ticket she can’t get refunded but refuses to use.  Bakersfield Californian article


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – We must never surrender the right to free speech.

Modesto Bee – Our Views: Moving ahead on big projects, a fitting pyrotechnic showcase, and other issues.

Sacramento Bee – The state budget season is back, with Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed $164.7 billion spending plan and a projected surplus. Happy days are here again. Or not.