January 13, 2017


Political Stories – Top stories

Dan Walters: California will see scramble if U.S. Senate seat opens up — We already know that Brown will retire from the governorship for a second time, and about a half-dozen Democrats are in the mix to replace him. When Dianne Feinstein, the state’s 83-year-old U.S. senator, announced this week that she had had a pacemaker implanted, it renewed speculation that she might step down in 2018 after 26 years in the Senate. Even before her announcement, former Assembly Speaker and San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown speculated she would retire and anoint Jerry Brown as her successor. Walters column in Sacramento Bee

As a deficit looms, here’s a look at some of the plans in California’s new budget — Gov. Jerry Brown’s newly unveiled state budget calls for spending $179.5 billion in the coming fiscal year, while offering ways to avoid what he believes would otherwise be California’s first deficit in more than three years. Here’s an overview of some of the most important proposals outlined by Brown in the budget he presented to the Legislature on Tuesday. LA Times article

State budget

Governor’s budget gives a glimpse into challenges ahead for prison parole overhaul in California – Gov. Jerry Brown is asking lawmakers to set aside $10.6 million to begin the sweeping overhaul of prison parole he convinced California voters to approve last fall, a proposal that corrections officials say reflects his continued commitment to public safety and reforms. LA Times article

Jerry Brown doesn’t want to give doctors a cut of new tobacco tax money – Reimbursement rate increases were absent from Brown’s budget proposal released Tuesday. Instead, the proposal appropriates $1.2 billion of Proposition 56 money to cover cost increases for the Medi-Cal program. The administration predicts the state will have to pay an additional $1.8 billion into Medi-Cal, which they attributed to a “one‑time retroactive payment of drug rebates to the federal government and miscalculation of costs” associated with a coordinated care initiative. Now the California Medical Association, which represents some 43,000 doctors, is crying foul. Sacramento Bee article

Clean drinking water acknowledged in state budget proposal – The proposal acknowledges that many of California’s disadvantaged communities rely on contaminated groundwater and lack the resources to operate and maintain safe drinking water systems, but it stops short of any additional funding to fix the problem. Valley Public Radio report

Joel Fox: What’s behind the cap and trade urgency budget proposal — Why is an urgency vote necessary when four years remain before the expiration date? A simple majority vote could eliminate any uncertainty for the immediate future. However, the governor has grander goals. In 2015, he introduced a plan to extend deeper greenhouse gas reduction targets to 2030. In support of achieving the targets, the Air Board offered up three potential plans that included a carbon tax, a business sector specific emissions program, and continuation of the Cap and Trade program. Fox in Fox & Hounds

Gov. Brown plans to stop suspending licenses to collect traffic debt – Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing to eliminate the suspension of driver’s licenses for Californians who fail to pay traffic tickets and related court fees, according to the $179.5 billion budget plan released Tuesday. KQED report

Sacramento Bee: A traffic infraction shouldn’t lead to the poorhouse — In his new budget, Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing to decouple the inability to pay traffic fines with the potential loss of drivers licenses. In the interest of fairness, that makes a great deal of sense. Sacramento Bee article

Gov. Brown 

Gov. Jerry Brown laments the ‘political language’ of the times in celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. — Gov. Jerry Brown carefully dipped his toes into the national political debate on Thursday, sounding a note of disappointment about the language of politics while praising the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. In brief remarks at a Sacramento event honoring the slain civil rights leader, Brown noted the contrast between King’s “elegance” and the acrimony in the wake of last year’s presidential election. LA Times article

Valley politics

Bakersfield council, petitioners call for special election in Ward 5 — Jeff Tkac’s seat on the Bakersfield City Council should be filled in a special election, a majority of his fellow council members said this week. But, just to make sure, a group of labor leaders and other community organizations is rushing to collect signatures to force a special election to fill the Ward 5 seat left vacant when Tkac took his own life on Jan. 5. Bakersfield Californian article


Obama scraps policy granting residency to Cubans arriving without visas – President Obama ordered an immediate end Thursday to the long-standing U.S. policy of granting easy residency permits to Cubans who reach U.S. shores, probably the last major foreign policy initiative of his tenure. LA Times articleNew York Times article

Deportation force is ‘not happening,’ Paul Ryan tells undocumented family – House Speaker Paul D. Ryan walked a delicate line on the issue of immigration — one considerably more delicate than President-elect Donald Trump’s — during a nationally televised town hall meeting hosted by CNN on Thursday. Confronted by an undocumented Oklahoma woman, who is protected from deportation under an Obama administration program, Ryan (R-Wis.) said he was working with Trump’s transition team to find a “good, humane solution” for the families protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and said there would be no “deportation force” coming for her family. Washington Post article

AP Exclusive: Lie detectors trip applicants at border agency — Two out of three applicants to the CBP fail its polygraph, according to the agency – more than double the average rate of eight law enforcement agencies that provided data to The Associated Press under open-records requests. AP article

Other areas

Rendon orders Assembly staffing overhaul — Two months after Democrats won a two-thirds supermajority in the Legislature, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon is moving to overhaul the Democratic caucus’ political operation, closing the Speaker’s Office of Member Services and forcing dozens of staffers to reapply for positions in a new office, sources familiar with the staffing changes said Thursday.  Politico article

Can’t tell if it’s fake new or the real thing? California has a bill for that — Here’s something that absolutely, undeniably, 100 percent happened: California lawmakers introduced legislation to help students become more media literate. Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, D-Los Angeles, and Sen. Bill Dodd, D-Napa, on Wednesday both announced bills that would direct a state curriculum board to develop resources for schools to teach students how to distinguish what news stories they can trust. Sacramento Bee article

Russian hackers could go after Congress next – and not just to read their email — Members of Congress are vulnerable to hacking, and lawmakers fear they could be next on the Russian target list. McClatchy Newspapers article

Sunne Wright McPeak: California and CA Fwd should double down on Smart Government – The President and CEO of the California Emerging Technology Fund writes, “In this era of societal divisiveness and political volatility in search of an intersection of sanity and common sense, California Forward should seize the opportunity to advance substantive government reform by doubling down on Smart Government.” McPeak commentary in California Forward

Pompeo tells Kamala Harris he won’t discriminate against LGBT workers at the CIA — Newly minted Sen. Kamala Harris of California used her time Thursday to question CIA nominee Mike Pompeo about his views on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees at the agency. McClatchy Newspapers article

John Gerardi: Right to Life view: Congress should shift funds away from Planned Parenthood – The attorney and executive director of Right to Life of Central California writes, “Planned Parenthood may provide services other than abortion, but abortion accounts for 86 percent of its nongovernmental revenue. Given how money is fungible, taxpayer dollars should not help bankroll the less-profitable activities of an abortion provider, simply to free up their ability to do abortions.” Gerardi op-ed in Fresno Bee

Jack Ohman: The GOP and the ACA – The latest editorial cartoon from Pulitzer Prize-winning Jack Ohman.  Ohman editorial cartoon in Sacramento Bee

Presidential Politics

Mexico’s president warns that if Trump wants to talk trade, he’ll have to talk security, too – Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto has warned that Mexico will push back if U.S. President-elect Donald Trump attacks Mexico on trade or other fronts — using its cooperation on crucial issues such as immigration and security as leverage. LA Times article

Justice Department investigators will probe FBI actions during presidential campaign – The FBI’s controversial actions during the 2016 presidential campaign will be investigated by the Justice Department’s internal watchdog agency, officials revealed Thursday. McClatchy Newspapers articleLA Times articleNew York Times article

Joe Mathews: Schwarzenegger suggests a way to battle Trump — Has Arnold figured out how to counter The Donald? Trump, via Twitter, went after the Governator last week—dissing him for the low ratings of the first episode in which Schwarzenegger took over for Trump on “Celebrity Apprentice.” Mathews in Fox & Hounds

News Stories – Top Stories

More than 40 percent of California no longer in drought, data show – A week of powerful storms has significantly eased California’s water shortage, pulling a  large swath of the state from drought conditions, officials said Thursday. The federal report underscores what experts have been saying for several months about the drought. As a series of storms have hit Northern California this winter, the drought picture there is improving, but water supply remains a concern in Southern California and the Central Valley. LA Times articleSacramento Bee article

Fresno State president says he stands with undocumented students, pledges inclusion – Fresno State President Joseph I. Castro Thursday addressed the university’s stance on undocumented students in his Spring Assembly speech at the Save Mart Center. “We stand with every single students at Fresno State,” Castro said to the gathering of faculty and staff. Fresno Bee article

Amazon says it will create 100,000 full-time jobs over the next 18 months, 4,000 jobs coming to California — Amazon.com on Thursday announced plans to create more than 100,000 full-time jobs over the next 18 months, a massive hiring spree that suggests the e-commerce company expects a run of breakneck growth in its retailing operations and lucrative cloud computing division. Washington Post articleModesto Bee articleNew York Times article

Jobs and the Economy

State stops refusing extra welfare to moms who have more children – Along with some 95,000 other families across California, the Zavalas have just begun receiving a larger monthly welfare payment thanks to the repeal of a controversial state law known as the Maximum Family Grant rule. CALmatters article

Chargers make it official: They’re moving to Los Angeles – The Chargers are leaving San Diego for Los Angeles, owner Dean Spanos announced Thursday in a letter posted on the team’s website. LA Times articleAP article

Michael Hiltzik: Chargers move is a reminder that it doesn’t pay for cities to do business with the NFL — For years, we’ve been documenting how cavalier the National Football League and its franchises can be when its member billionaires’ quest for public money trumps such family values as loyalty and tradition. We’ve shown that, when threats to relocate turn into reality, you can count on the billionaires to shed crocodile tears for the fans they’re leaving behind, while pledging eternal fealty to their new marks. Hiltzik column in LA Times

Sam Farmer: Chargers’ move a risky proposition for more than just the team – Gambling isn’t allowed in the NFL, but this Chargers relocation feels like one big roll of the dice. There’s extreme anger in San Diego, where betrayed fans are discarding their Chargers jerseys in front of team headquarters. And there’s apathy in Los Angeles, where the arrival of a second team was met Thursday with a collective yawn. Farmer analysis in LA Times

Consumer Watchdog collects millions, but does it lower your rates? – California is the only state that allows outside groups to participate in the home and auto insurance filing process. Yet there is still far from consensus on what the process has saved state residents, if anything.  Sacramento Bee article

Bethany Clough: Closings: What’s taking out some of your favorite Valley stores – There’s several big picture challenges driving the closures: All those predictions about online shopping hurting brick-and-mortar stores are coming true. Bargain hunters are increasingly turning to discounters and away from stores that have been household names for decades. And fast fashion stores like Forever 21 are also stealing young customers away from department stores. Clough in Fresno Bee

Mexican food maker in the Valley accused of discriminating against non-Hispanic job applicants – Marquez Brothers International, a leading maker of Mexican food products which has operations in Hanford and Fresno, is being sued by the federal government for discriminating against non-Hispanic job applicants. Fresno Bee articleThe Business Journal article

Greg McGiffney: Hart Park needs to add a parking fee, or else – The Kern County Parks and Recreation commissioner for Supervisorial District IV writes, “Without any additional allocation of resources, nothing will change at Hart Park. Facilities will continue to deteriorate and that in turn will attract fewer and fewer park goers. No one likes raising taxes or implementing additional fees, but there is no free lunch.” McGiffney op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

A hub for startups? Sacramento taps tech innovation firm to renovate historic train station — Sacramento plans to tap its economic innovation fund for several million last-minute dollars to finish rehabilitating the city’s 90-year-old train station at Fourth and I streets. The rationale: The extra money is needed to make the historic Sacramento Valley Station attractive as office space to startups and high-tech companies. Sacramento Bee article

First Fresno Bank sees record 2016 profits – Fresno First Bank’s parent company announced record annual profits of $3.1 million for 2016, up 21.1 percent from the year before. Communities First Financial Corp. also reported fourth quarter revenue of $932,000 last year, up 73 percent from the same quarter of 2015. The Business Journal article

Fate of downtown Merced market remains unclear; fire investigation ongoing – Investigators are still picking through the charred remains of a downtown Merced market that burned in December, leaving a hole in the city’s entertainment district.  Merced Sun-Star article

Another diesel scandal: This time it’s Fiat Chrysler — Another automaker has been accused of rigging diesel vehicles to cheat on air-pollution regulations, prompting new investigations from the federal government and California officials. Sacramento Bee articleAP article

NASA safety advisory group raises concerns about SpaceX rocket fueling process — A major NASA safety advisory group urged the agency to scrutinize SpaceX’s rocket fueling process ahead of future launches of astronauts to the International Space Station. LA Times article


Snowfall from 67 percent to 161 percent: Huge shift in California drought — Recent storms bearing some of the heaviest snow and rain to hit Northern California in decades have helped bring a dramatic turnaround after more than five years of drought, which covered the state just a year ago. Here are key numbers to know as the record dry spell eases. AP articleKQED report

Drought over in many areas – To the surprise of no one who has seen a river or a creek the last few days, the drought is over in most of Northern California, at least as it’s defined by the federal government. Stockton Record articleSacramento Bee article

Low-income communities hit hardest by drought, says report – A report released this week argues the consequences of the drought have been more pronounced in some communities than others. Valley Public Radio report

As rains soak California, farmers test how to store water underground – Six years ago, Don Cameron, the general manager of Terranova Ranch, southwest of Fresno, Calif., did something that seemed kind of crazy. He went out to a nearby river, which was running high because of recent rains, and he opened an irrigation gate. Water rushed down a canal and flooded hundreds of acres of vineyards — even though it was wintertime. The vineyards were quiet. Nothing was growing. Valley Public Radio report

California citrus harvest stalled by rainfall – California citrus is a nearly three-billion dollar industry. Heavy rains have soaked the Central Valley with the greatest impact on the citrus groves of Fresno and Tulare County. The downpour has brought the citrus harvest to a temporary halt. Capital Public Radio report

Lawmakers tour location of proposed Sites Reservoir — As Northern California skies begin to clear, California lawmakers are using the storm that pelted the region over the last week as a catalyst to talk about the state’s water management system.  Sacramento Bee article

Bill Templin: Improved flows key to salmon’s future – The president of the Sac-Sierra Chapter of Trout Unlimited writes, “Salmon and steelhead, and the angling economies that depend on them – salmon alone provide more than 23,000 jobs and are worth more than $1.4 billion annually -have disproportionately shouldered the burden of providing water to California. While higher salmon returns this fall and winter (likely due to favorable ocean conditions three years ago) are a hopeful sign, we can and must do better in balancing how we manage our limited water supply. It’s time to try what the most current science suggests actually will work: ensuring that salmon and steelhead have enough water from February through July in the lower San Joaquin River.” Templin op-ed in Stockton Record

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Stockton police lay out new strategic goals – Reducing crime and blight is at the top of the Stockton Police Department’s latest version of its strategic goals. Within that goal, the No. 1 objective remains reducing violent crime. It’s a clear sign the department’s priorities are firmly aligned with those of the vast majority of Stocktonians. Stockton Record article

Mobile home intended for child molester catches fire — A mobile home in Squaw Valley east of Fresno that was intended as housing for a convicted child molester burned Thursday morning, Fresno County officials said. Jeffrey Snyder, 61, was supposed to be housed in the mobile home at 36188 Sage Lane, near the corner of Sage Lane and Hawthorne avenues. Fresno Bee article

Report on crash that killed pilot and deputy hints at cause — National Transportation Safety Board report about the airplane crash that killed a Tulare County sheriff’s deputy and a pilot last year said the airplane apparently fell almost straight down before the crash. Fresno Bee article

LAPD’s watchdog rolls out smartphone app to share more information with public — There are smartphone apps for dating, delivering food, tracking exercise routines — and now, in Los Angeles, there’s one for civilian oversight of policing. The Police Commission’s inspector general formally unveiled the app this week, saying it was designed to help Angelenos more easily access information from the five-person panel that oversees the Los Angeles Police Department.  LA Times article


Sacramento Bee: Why tuition increases make sense at UC and CSU – The University of California remains a good deal for students. They’ll have to ante up as California girds for expensive clashes with Donald Trump. Sacramento Bee editorial

Stockton Unified teachers contract vote delayed – Stockton Unified School District teachers will have to wait another week before ratifying their new contract. Stockton Record article

CSU faculty say in new report that funding losses have hurt students of color – The decline in per-student funding within the Cal State University system has coincided with campus student bodies becoming more diverse, thus making it more difficult for young people of color to obtain a degree, faculty members said in a new report. LA Daily News article

45,000 Valley college students have a new police chief.  Here’s what he’s up against – State Center Community College District’s new police chief told the board of trustees Tuesday that combating crime on campus is essential to education. “Everyone here can’t do their work unless they feel safe and do not have a fear of crime or violence,” Chief Jose Flores told the board at its monthly meeting. Fresno Bee article‘Armed man taken into custody on Fresno City College campus’ in Fresno Bee

Bakersfield City School District will appoint trustee to replace Andrae Gonzales — Bakersfield City School District trustees voted 3-0 Thursday to appoint a new board member to replace Andrae Gonzales, the 34-year-old rising star in the local Democratic Party who was elected to the Bakersfield City Council in November. Bakersfield Californian article

Daniel Borenstein: Cal simply can’t afford a top-tier football team — In the wake of Cal’s costly firing of Coach Sonny Dykes, it’s time for university officials to admit they cannot afford to field a top-ranked football team. Borenstein in San Jose Mercury News

Sacramento State paper wins fight to stay on main campus — Sacramento State’s student-run newspaper will stay on the main campus while its current office is renovated, avoiding a scenario in which staff would have been relocated a mile away, to the other side of Highway 50. Sacramento Bee article


Storm floods Fresno, Clovis streets, closes two Yosemite highways – A powerful Pacific storm drenched a wide area of the San Joaquin Valley on Thursday, flooding neighborhoods in Fresno and Clovis, closing two routes into Yosemite National Park and blanketing the mountains with a winter wonderland of snow. Fresno Bee article

Michael Fitzgerald: Voted off the island by Mother Nature – Island-dwelling homeless people camping on the Calaveras River in Stockton received an “eviction notice” this week from Mother Nature’s rising waters. As heavy rains and dam releases raised the usually tame river from three to 13 feet, cold, swirling waters swept away campsites, makeshift, Gilliganlike features and trash. Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Delta levees laboring hard in storm’s aftermath — You could practically hear 1,100 miles of Delta levees groaning on Thursday as they fought to hold back a thick slug of water still making its way toward San Francisco Bay after this week’s storms. Stockton Record article

Sacramento OES warns of possible Lost Slough levee failure — Sacramento officials warned late Thursday that a levee could fail at Lost Slough, a waterway at the north end of the Delta west of Interstate 5. Sacramento Bee article

Bay Area flooding: Multiple Delta levee breaches reported — After three days of king tides and massive rainfall, levees in the Delta have begun to fail, flooding islands, duck clubs and other land north of Pittsburg, an island owner and emergency official said Thursday. East Bay Times article

Trash piles up in Hanford sump — Illegal trash is a common sight for thousands of drivers passing a drainage basin next to the westbound Highway 198 on-ramp from 11th Avenue. But the piles of rain-soaked junk currently in and around the basin may be the worst ever seen there. Hanford Sentinel article

Health/Human Services 

Experts only have a hazy idea of marijuana’s myriad health effects, and federal laws are to blame – For all its ubiquity, a comprehensive new report says the precise health effects of marijuana on those who use it remain something of a mystery — and the federal government continues to erect major barriers to research that would provide much-needed answers. LA Times article

What’s blocking women from timely breast cancer treatment? UCLA study asks lawmakers to eliminate hurdles – It’s one of the most high-profile, well-funded cancers out there, but breast cancer treatment is still hobbled by obstacles for thousands of California women who get diagnosed each year. That’s the prognosis by a UCLA research team that cited three main roadblocks: uneven insurance coverage, time limits on treatment programs and language/cultural barriers. Sacramento Bee article

Weather keeping Riggs helicopters out of the sky in Merced County – A week of wet weather in Merced County frequently grounded Riggs Ambulance Service helicopters, slowing efforts to rush some patients to emergency medical care outside the county. Merced Sun-Star article

Diabetes deaths exploding in California’s under-55 population — Deaths from Type II diabetes in California among people under age 55 were practically unheard of 15 years ago. Just 24 people in that age group died from the disease in California in 1999. Times have changed. In 2015, 390 Californians under age 55 died from the disease, according to new figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sacramento Bee article

Stanislaus County reports first death from influenza — Local health officials said a 59-year-old man died from influenza Monday, the first death of the current flu season in Stanislaus County. Modesto Bee article

 Land Use/Housing

Clovis approves development standards for new urban growth area – Clovis has approved the development standards – which is the look and feel – of its next growth area named Heritage Grove located northwest of the city. The planned urban center bounded by Willow, Shepherd, Copper and Sunnyside avenues is named for the cultural legacy and agricultural heritage of the area. Fresno Bee article

Move that big RV: Fresno toughens street parking ordinance — Woe to the owners of those big RVs parked on a Fresno street for days because there’s no room in the driveway. The Fresno City Council gave final approval Thursday to an ordinance that limits to 24 hours a week how long a recreational vehicle longer than 18 feet can be parked on any city street. The law also applies to tractor-trailer rigs or trailers.  Fresno Bee article

Obama adds six sites to California Coastal National Monument – President Obama on Thursday added six areas to the California Coastal National Monument, including a prized parcel on the Santa Cruz County coast and some small islands off the coast of Orange County. All of the sites, totaling 6,230 acres, are currently managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The monument designation adds another layer of protection by closing the areas to new development, such as gas and oil drilling. LA Times article


Car crashes abound on Scenic Drive in Modesto, and ‘friction course’ may be solution — Stanislaus County’s project to put a permanent safety barrier next to a building on Scenic Drive served to draw attention this week to traffic hazards on this busy Modesto street. Modesto Bee article

Other areas

Learning from Pete Dern’s near tragedy: Fresno fire chief describes safety, training improvements — Fresno Fire Department commanders and firefighters have gone through more than 63,000 hours of training, and new training officers have been hired as the agency recovers from criticism in the wake of a March 2015 fire that seriously injured Capt. Pete Dern. Fresno Bee article

San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters to retire in March — After more than 30 years serving the county in a variety of roles, San Joaquin County Registrar of Voters Austin Erdman is retiring. Stockton Record article

Ghost Ship fire prompts San Francisco Fire Department to consider random warehouse inspections — The fire that killed 36 people in an artist collective in Oakland last month has led top San Francisco fire officials to contemplate randomly inspecting the city’s nearly 1,000 warehouses for safety violations, a possibility strongly rejected by artist and tenant advocates. KQED report

Staffing thin at Los Banos Animal Shelter — The phone kept ringing at the Los Banos Animal Shelter as Kathy Wilber, a volunteer for 13 years, prepared canine distemper vaccinations for dogs brought in the night before. Wilber darted around the office preparing the vaccinations while looking at records and answering calls from an animal sanctuary for the Los Banos Volunteers for Animals organization. Los Banos Enterprise article

Cox apologizes to Visalia council members — Phil Cox apologized Monday for comments he made late last month about fellow Visalia council members and their practice to approve sponsoring cadets through the police academy as a recruitment tool. Visalia Times-Delta article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Merced Sun-Star – President-elect Donald Trump’s first press conference in nearly six months displayed how he is trying to redefine acceptable behavior for the leader of the free world. What he’s doing is not OK.

Modesto Bee – President-elect Donald Trump’s first press conference in nearly six months displayed how he is trying to redefine acceptable behavior for the leader of the free world. What he’s doing is not OK.

Sacramento Bee –- Why tuition increases make sense at UC and CSU; In his new budget, Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing to decouple the inability to pay traffic fines with the potential loss of drivers licenses. In the interest of fairness, that makes a great deal of sense.