January 17, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

Supreme Court agrees to rule on same-sex marriage – Setting the stage for a potentially historic ruling, the Supreme Court says it will decide whether same-sex couples nationwide have a right to marry under the Constitution. The justices said Friday they will review an appellate ruling that upheld bans on same-sex unions in four states.  AP article; LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article; New York Times article

Hepatitis C drug’s high cost hits California budget — The drug is expensive – about $1,000 a pill, or $84,000 for a regular course of treatment – and many people it could help receive publicly funded care. In California last week, Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration quantified the impact: Tucked inside Brown’s annual spending plan was $300 million for the cost of new hepatitis C drugs, including Sovaldi, the drug approved in December 2013.  Sacramento Bee article

Valley politics

State Sen. Cannella considers 2018 lieutenant governor’s race – State Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, has filed a statement of intent to run for lieutenant governor in 2018, he confirmed Friday. Cannella, 45, said he hasn’t made a final decision.  Merced Sun-Star article

Riverbank wrestles with balancing poor neighborhoods’ needs with self-representation – Riverbank leaders are having trouble combining requirements of the California Voting Rights Act, which aims to help minorities get elected from geographic districts instead of at large, with a desire that poor neighborhoods enjoy broad representation.  Modesto Bee article

Retired Madera County sheriff Anderson takes job with state senator — State Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres announced Friday that he hired retired Madera County Sheriff John Anderson as his 12th District field representative and law enforcement liaison, representing Madera and Fresno communities.  Fresno Bee article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Interactive: Poverty rates by California legislative district — Poverty rates vary widely by legislative district. At the high end are the districts of Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, and state Sen. Andy Vidak, R-Hanford. The districts with the lowest poverty rates are those of Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin, and state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo.  Sacramento Bee article

Dan Morain: Why Glendale matters in race to replace Boxer — If you’re handicapping the race to replace Barbara Boxer in the U.S. Senate in 2016, factor in Armenian Americans of Glendale. I’ll explain.  Morain in Sacramento Bee


Five facts about immigrants living in the country illegally – A study released Thursday by the Migration Policy Institute shed new light on the national origin, employment and education status of the roughly 11.4 million immigrants living in the country illegally.  LA Times article

Other areas

California lawmakers heading to policy retreats to prepare for year – Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich, who has written extensively about the gap between the nation’s rich and poor, will be among the speakers to be heard as California Senate Democrats embark on a two-day policy retreat later this month.  LA Times article

Unrest shows MLK’s work unfinished, California lawmakers say — Nearly half a century after his struggle for civil rights cost Martin Luther King Jr. his life, California lawmakers Friday pointed to the social unrest of 2014 in arguing that King’s dream has not yet been realized.  Capitol Alert

GOP presidential candidates due for at least 9 debates — Republican presidential candidates will debate at least nine times in the 2016 election cycle, starting in August, the Republican National Committee announced Friday.  McClatchy Newspapers article; Capitol Alert

News Briefs

Top Stories

California zooms past Russia, Italy and soon Brazil in economic might – California is overtaking Brazil as the world’s seventh-largest economy, bolstered by rising employment, home values and personal and corporate income, a year after the most-populous state surpassed Russia and Italy.  Bloomberg article

Valley nut, citrus exports halted in port dispute — Nut crops and citrus are among California’s hottest exports this time of year. But stalled labor negotiations between West Coast dock workers and terminal operators has put the brakes on overseas shipments, causing warehouses to begin filling up and impatient buyers to cancel contracts. Fresno Bee article

Jobs and the Economy

Plunging energy prices cause biggest cost-of-living drop in six years — Plunging energy prices last month led to the biggest decline in the cost of living in six years, keeping inflation well below the Federal Reserve’s target and possibly complicating plans for the central bank to start raising interest rates.  LA Times article

Lemoore chamber contract could be costly – A proposed five-year agreement between the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce and the city could get complicated. In past years, the city contributed about $50,000 per year to the chamber, plus up to $6,000 annually for a downtown coordinator position. That money was paid via the city’s redevelopment agency, which received funding through property taxes.  Hanford Sentinel article

2014 farmworker drought aid went fast – One thing that is known is how much money Kings Community Action Organization and Proteus have provided for food, rent and utility assistance. Recipients have to prove that they have suffered direct harm from the drought, and that means mostly farmworkers.  Hanford Sentinel article

Wet Seal files for bankruptcy protection — Troubled Orange County retailer Wet Seal Inc. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, a week after it closed two-thirds of its locations and laid off thousands.  LA Times article; AP article

George Lucas says museum could land in LA if Chicago falls through – George Lucas said Friday that complications in his plan to build his Lucas Museum of Narrative Art on the Chicago lakefront may put Los Angeles back in the running.  LA Times article

Experts: Bidart handling apple recall well — Bidart Bros. is doing a reasonably good job of damage control since a food poisoning crisis was linked to its apple processing plant, according to industry watchers.  Bakersfield Californian article

LA to require all taxis to use ‘Uber-like’ mobile apps by summer All taxicab drivers in Los Angeles will be required to use mobile apps similar to Uber and Lyft by this summer, according to a measure passed by the Los Angeles Taxicab Commission this week.  LA Times article

Cuddling business in Roseville offers hugs for hire — Set inside the Holistic Light House wellness center in downtown Roseville, Cuddle Connection is the first cuddling business in the Sacramento region and part of a growing industry across the nation. Proprietors tout the benefits of touch therapy and an open ear. The going rate at the Roseville store: $60 an hour.  Sacramento Bee article


Groundwater concerns shared at Stanislaus water summit – The drought and concerns over groundwater dominated Stanislaus County politics in 2014, and it looks like that will continue this year. More than 170 people showed up Friday for an all-day Water Summit focused on groundwater and what the county must do to ensure it’s managed in a sustainable way for future generations.  Modesto Bee article

‘Substantial’ ad campaign for twin tunnels – A group calling itself Californians for Water Security launched a public relations campaign Friday in support of Gov. Jerry Brown’s twin tunnels project.  Stockton Record blog

Steven Greenhut: Delta tunnels ignore local market changes — A new analysis from the Legislative Analyst’s Office pointed to a more pressing problem: “some sources of funding — such as state bond funds for ecosystem restoration activities — may not materialize. In addition, the costs to implement the Delta Plan are unknown but potentially significant.”  Greenhut column in U-T San Diego

Raisin farmer Horne will get his day in Supreme Court — Fresno County raisin farmer Marvin D. Horne is returning to the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of harvesting a final victory. On Friday, the court announced it would hear Horne’s case against the Agriculture Department. Horne and his allies contend the raisin industry’s marketing order can amount to a taking of private property, for which compensation is owed.  McClatchy Newspapers article

Farm Beat: Chicken raisers must watch for bird flu, experts warn – People who raise chickens – whether it’s a few in a backyard or tens of thousands on a commercial farm – are getting advice on protecting them from bird flu.  Modesto Bee article

Higher Tulare water rates take effect this month — Tulare residents will see a 15 percent increase in their utility bills later on this month. The increase is the third of five previously approved increases. Last month, the Tulare City Council ratified the increase after the Board of Public Utilities approved it.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Tomato canneries expect all-time record — California tomato processors have contracted or intend to contract for 15 million pounds of canning tomatoes this year, an all-time record, federal farm officials reported.  Stockton Record article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

School shooter takes plea deal, eligible for parole in less than 13 years – In a stunning turnaround, the teen who had faced a life sentence for shooting and seriously injuring a student in a Taft Union High School classroom instead Friday pleaded no contest to two counts of unpremeditated attempted murder and will be sentenced to 27 years, four months in prison.  Bakersfield Californian article

Two more officers join Merced police – Additions bring the Merced Police Department up to 84. City staff is researching the cost of hiring one to three more officers each year for the next five years to bounce back from years of cuts to the department.  Merced Sun-Star article

Holder limits civil asset seizure; SoCal law enforcement benefitted most in state — Attorney General Eric Holder has moved to limit the federal government’s role in a civil asset forfeiture program that has allowed local and state law enforcement agencies to seize and spend billions of dollars of Americans’ assets, and newly available data show the top beneficiaries of the program in this state were all based in Southern California.  KPCC report

Amoroso announces retirement — The city of Avenal’s first appointed Chief of Police Jack Amoroso announced that he will be undergoing knee surgery next week and has planned to retire following recovery.  Hanford Sentinel article

Report urges greater transparency at LA County Sheriff’s Department — The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department lags behind other major law enforcement agencies, including the LAPD, in releasing information about officer-involved shootings, complaints from the public and internal disciplinary action against officers, a report by the department’s new inspector general has found.  LA Times article


Bakersfield Californian: Time for Taft to address Bryan Oliver fallout — No one ever said teaching civility to teens, “troubled” or not, was easy, but Taft’s recent experience should demonstrate that the stakes are too high not to look hard at options. This is a task the entire community, not just the school district, must take on. Bakersfield Californian editorial

UC coaches’ pay tied to athletes’ academic success in new policy – Newly hired coaches and athletic directors at the University of California will lose lucrative bonuses — potentially millions of dollars — if student athletes fail in the classroom, under a new policy beginning Thursday. The change marks the first time UC coaches and others who make money from students’ athletic performance have financial incentives to ensure that academic performance is also up to par.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Avenal center dispute sparks lawsuit — A disagreement over a new West Hills Community College center in Avenal has turned into a lawsuit. Several community members in Avenal, including Mayor Harlan Casida, filed a lawsuit in November alleging that the West Hills district broke its promise to build a standalone facility. Instead, the district has decided to renovate the science classrooms at Avenal High School.  Hanford Sentinel article

More than $1 million planned for Planada program — Officials gathered Friday in Merced to announce more than $1 million in federal funding that will go to a new education program for Planada’s youngest learners.  Merced Sun-Star article

San Joaquin Delta College: Students create, film half-hour sitcom — Teenagers across America might stand and salute, if only they could hear what San Joaquin Delta College student Samantha Sha Johnson said during her moment of glory this week: “All those years of sitting on the couch watching TV — they paid off,” the 18-year-old Lodi High School graduate said with a grin.  Stockton Record article

Larry White: Equal funding needs to provide equal access — Believe it or not, all students are special, all are at-risk, and all need attention, often extra. Educational institutions constantly struggle to find a sense of equilibrium in providing the resources to meet the diverse needs of all students.  White column in Stockton Record

Judge says accrediting panel denied San Francisco college a fair review – In revoking the accreditation of City College of San Francisco, a private commission violated the law in ways that denied the 80,000-student school a fair hearing, a judge tentatively ruled Friday.  LA Times article


How hot was it? 2014 was earth’s warmest year on record, data show – The average surface temperature on Earth was higher in 2014 than at any time since scientists began taking detailed measurements 135 years ago. LA Times article

PG&E fails to publicly report pipe bomb discovered along pipeline – In San Bernardino County, California, authorities found a live pipe bomb along a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. pipeline last month, near the site of one of the state’s most highly publicized environmental disasters.  Center for Investigative Reporting article

Local energy coalition forms — A group of local business, educational and nonprofit leaders has formed to support Kern County’s petroleum industry in the face of heightened regulatory scrutiny. Kern Citizens for Energy, which debuted Friday with an email advertisement from the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce, calls itself a grassroots organization advocating for continued oil and gas production in the county.  Bakersfield Californian article

Modesto threads the needle with hundreds of feet of sewer pipe laid — Workers spent about a couple of hours Friday threading 675 feet of plastic sewer pipe through a hole underneath the Tuolumne River in south Modesto, part of a roughly $3.2 million upgrade to the city’s sewer system.  Modesto Bee article

Citizen scientists fill the void on Stockton’s forgotten Calaveras River — Two dozen scientists swarmed the north bank of the Calaveras River on Friday, identifying mushrooms, trapping insects and harvesting plant samples. True, these scientists lack advanced degrees. They haven’t even graduated from high school.  Stockton Record article

California’s only known wolverine nearing end of natural life — California’s only known wild wolverine is still alive and roaming somewhere in the Tahoe National Forest, but he is nearing the end of his natural life.  LA Times article

Health/Human Services

California measles outbreak expands to 51 cases; more likely – The measles outbreak centered in California is rapidly expanding, with officials now confirming 51 cases of the illness — nearly double the number reported Tuesday — and warning that more people will likely fall sick with the highly contagious virus.  LA Times article

Ken Carlson: More Latinos signing up through health exchange – The ethnic background of 230,000 who took the additional step of choosing a health plan was 38 percent non-Latino white, 28 percent Latino, 19 percent Asian and 3 percent black. Almost 30 percent of consumers did not respond to questions about their race.  Carlson in Modesto Bee

Study: Environment trumps genetics in shaping immune system – How your immune system does its job seems to depend more on your environment and the germs you encounter than on your genes, says new research that put twins to the test to find out.  AP article

The Little Leaguer’s epidemic — Travel youth baseball in age of specialization lead to outbreak of throwing injuries. The Kaweah Delta Health Care District Throwing Wise Camp will address this issue by educating parents and playersVisalia Times-Delta article

City of Industry dietary supplement maker to close after FDA probe – A Los Angeles area pharmaceuticals manufacturer has agreed to close its operations and to recall and destroy all the dietary supplements it has sold since 2011 as part of an agreement with federal regulators.  LA Times article


Workshops focus on high-speed rail junction options near Chowchilla — Residents in the Chowchilla and Fairmead areas of Madera County will learn about possible high-speed rail routes through and around their area in a pair of open-house presentations next week by the California High-Speed Rail AuthorityFresno Bee article

Other Areas

Fresno Bee: Alfonso Hernandez, mentor of youth, left a big mark on Fresno — The Fresno City Council had one of its easiest votes ever when it unanimously approved the renaming of the Chicano Youth Center at Dickey Playground in honor of Alfonso Hernández on Thursday.  Fresno Bee editorial

Cassidy takes oath as Stanislaus County Superior Court judge – Alan K. Cassidy was sworn in Friday afternoon as a Stanislaus Superior Court judge. Judge Loretta Murphy Begen administered the oath of office.  Modesto Bee article

Rescue Mission sex abuse accusations go unreported, raise policy questions – Starving and desperate, Cheryl Foursha stumbled into the Merced County Rescue Mission on a cold February evening last year, looking for a plate of food and a jacket to shield her from the freezing temperatures.  Merced Sun-Star article

Program pushes for better parenting — David Dooley wants to see the parenting of today’s children improve, even if it takes decades. Dooley is founder of Advancing Parenting, a nonprofit organization that formed in 2012. The organization’s message and parenting tips can be seen throughout Bakersfield on cars, windows, billboards and lawns.  Bakersfield Californian article

Warmerdam the rock of District 4 – Denise Warmerdam is Winn’s legislative assistant, and she required no introduction at the community meeting. In the age of term limits, she’s seen two of her bosses come and go as she has represented the elected representative of the county’s 4th District for the past 16 years.  Stockton Record article

Blanket Ladies increase production, expand services — The Blanket Ladies who volunteer each week to make blankets, pajamas, pillow cases, bags, adult bibs and stuffed animals for Tulare County children, have added another type of blanket to their repertoire and expanded services, said Barbara Cetola-Thurber.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Arrest made in vandalism of Merced war memorial – A 45-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of vandalizing the Merced County War Memorial in Courthouse Park, according to the Merced County Sheriff’s Department.  Merced Sun-Star article

April Kesterson: Why not equal compassion for the unborn? – The executive director of Tulare-Kings Right to Life writes, “Having compassion for animals is certainly noble and praiseworthy. If we are civilized enough to recognize that a pregnant mare should not be taken to the slaughterhouse, should we not also at least extend equal compassion and protection to unborn baby humans?” Kesterson op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

Valley Editorial Roundup

Bakersfield Californian No one ever said teaching civility to teens, “troubled” or not, was easy, but Taft’s recent experience should demonstrate that the stakes are too high not to look hard at options. This is a task the entire community, not just the school district, must take on.

Fresno Bee – The Fresno City Council had one of its easiest votes ever when it unanimously approved the renaming of the Chicano Youth Center at Dickey Playground in honor of Alfonso Hernández on Thursday; Thumbs up, thumbs down.

Modesto Bee – Our Views: Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh going to new heights in latest travels, hackers are all wet and other issues.