January 30, 2015

30Jan

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Political Briefs

Top stories

California could gain a congressional seat after next census — California, which failed to gain an additional congressional seat after the 2010 census for the first time in the state’s history, is likely to see a one-seat gain following the 2020 census, a new national analysis says. Sabato’s Crystal Ball, a project of University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato, made the projection after analyzing mid-decade population data for all 50 states.  Capitol Alert

Growth, energy, education top state Senate Dems’ 2015 priorities – California Senate leader Kevin de León laid out wide-ranging priorities for the year, saying Thursday that the Democrats will focus on economic growth, education, energy, the environment and income equality.  San Francisco Chronicle article; LA Times article

Gov. Brown

Jerry Brown has nearly $24 million left for future ballot campaigns – Gov. Jerry Brown has nearly $24 million on hand to put toward any future ballot campaign or to give to other candidate or causes, according to newly filed state reports.  Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown spends less than $6 million on reelection – Gov. Jerry Brown spent less than $6 million on his run for reelection, a remarkably low sum for a California governor, and he finished 2014 with nearly $24 million in the bank for unspecified campaigns ahead, according to newly filed finance reports.  LA Times article

Joel Fox: Brown’s popularity key to Prop 30’s future — Governor Jerry Brown’s job approval ratings are sky high in the recent Public Policy Institute of California Poll, which means the fate of Prop 30 could hang on a word from the governor. Brown continues to remind those who want to see Proposition 30 extended or made permanent that he campaigned for a temporary tax increase.  Fox in Fox & Hounds

Senate leader says Brown needs better understanding of the poor – The leader of the state Senate said Thursday that it is imperative California expand child care for working mothers and suggested Gov. Jerry Brown would make room for it if he had more education about the plight of the working poor.  AP article

Jerry Brown praises Serra, says even saints ‘not perfect’ — When Gov. Jerry Brown was asked Thursday about Pope Francis’ plans to canonize the Junípero Serra, the governor at first demurred, calling the matter “well within the jurisdiction of the papacy.” But his reluctance was short-lived.  Capitol Alert

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Kevin de León touts plans for government oversight — Government oversight is the responsibility of every California senator and Senate staff member, not “the job of a small group of individuals in a room,” Senate leader Kevin de León said during a speech Thursday to the Sacramento Press Club, where he laid out broad policy priorities for the year.  Capitol Alert

Dan Walters Daily:  Independent redistricting faces legal challenge — California will be thrown for a loop if Arizona legislators win their Supreme Court case to maintain control of redistricting, Dan says.  Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

Immigration

Barack Obama threatens to veto attacks on his immigration policy — President Barack Obama vowed to House Democrats on Thursday night that he would “happily” veto any legislation that would “compound” the country’s immigration problems — posing yet another challenge to Republican efforts to pass a Homeland Security spending bill by next month’s deadline.  Politico article

Other areas

Bill would raise California smoking age to 21 — In an effort to keep cigarettes out of the hands of teenagers, state Sen. Ed Hernandez, D-Azusa, announced legislation Thursday that would raise the legal smoking age in California from 18 to 21.  Capitol Alert; LA Times article; KQED report; San Francisco Chronicle article

California Supreme Court sex-crime ruling criticized as unfair to gays – The California Supreme Court decided Thursday that adults convicted of engaging in unforced oral sex with minors must register as sex offenders — while those guilty of sexual intercourse with minors may not have to.  LA Times article

Dan Walters: Bill to ban a word is just censorship – The willingness to violate the First Amendment and censor politically incorrect speech is not confined to academe. And proof of that is found in Assembly Bill 30, which would bar California high schools from using “Redskins” as sports team names.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Doug Henton: State must look at tax reform – The CEO of Collaborative Economics writes, “We don’t need to follow Florida’s tax policies. However, California could learn to evaluate our tax reforms using pro-competitive principles to promote innovation, opportunity and prosperity.”  Henton op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Senate approves Keystone XL pipeline bill despite veto threat — After three weeks and nearly 50 amendment votes, the Senate on Thursday approved legislation to expedite construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Passage secured not only a top Republican policy victory, but a political success for new Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who made Keystone his priority. The issue also became the first test of his promise to return the Senate to freewheeling debate and a more open amendment process.  LA Times article

Budget fight looms as Obama wants 7 percent spending hike — Setting up a showdown with the new Republican-controlled Congress, the Obama administration said Thursday that the president’s proposed 2016 federal budget would include a $74 billion increase in discretionary spending that blew past the caps in place under current budget law.  McClatchy Newspapers article; AP article

Bill Whalen: To win White House in 2016, GOP must appeal to middle class — If history is any guide, a Republican should win the White House in 2016. Only once in the past century has a nominee of the same party succeeded a retiring two-term incumbent. George H.W. Bush pulled off the feat in 1988, following fellow Republican Ronald Reagan. So how can the GOP snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Simple – keep doing what it did last week.  Whalen column in Sacramento Bee

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Snow levels in the Sierra drop to among lowest on record – Chicken Littles they are not, but California water officials are fretting a bunch over the weather. They are concerned about the fact that nothing at all is falling from the sky and the precious snowpack in the Sierra is dropping like a rock in a Central Valley well. The troublingly clear skies and disturbingly gleaming sun over the past month have combined to reduce the California snowpack to 25 percent of normal for this time of year, on par with some of the worst years on record. But it was even worse last year at this time when the snowpack statewide was 14 percent of normal.  San Francisco Chronicle article; KQED report;Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article; AP article; Visalia Times-Delta article

State reaches court-ordered inmate levels one year ahead of schedule – California’s prison system hit a milestone at midnight, with new figures showing Thursday that the current inmate population inside the state’s 34 adult prisons has fallen below a court-ordered cap more than a year ahead of schedule.   Sacramento Bee article; AP article

Jobs and the Economy

Government work declines in California, but on the rise elsewhere – With the trends moving in opposite directions, Texas now has a larger share of its workforce in government jobs than California. With a civilian workforce of just over 13 million, about 14.3% of all working Texans have government jobs. In California, with a civilian workforce of about 18.8 million people, just 12.6% is employed in government.  Grizzly Bear Project article

Labor agreement gives raises to Merced County court employees – Nearly 100 Merced Superior Court employees will receive a 2 percent raise this month, union leaders said this week. David Partida, director of organizing for the Merced County Public Employees Union Local 1, said the agreement affects 83 clerical employees, such as processing clerks and court reporters. In addition to the salary increase, the employees will get a one-time payment of $750.  Merced Sun-Star article

Fresno council approves selling $330,000 Chukchansi Park stage for $25,000 — The Fresno City Council Thursday gave its blessing to selling a unique city asset — the mobile entertainment stage at Chukchansi Park that originally cost $330,000, but will be sold to a food-services company for a steal of $25,000.  Fresno Bee article

City Beat: Bakersfield Rotary gets downtown update — Bakersfield’s downtown has come a long way, but as Community Development Director Doug McIsaac told members of the Bakersfield Rotary Club’s downtown chapter on Jan. 21, it still needs work.  Bakersfield Californian article

Gas unlikely to fall below $2 in Fresno – Cities north of Fresno may see cheaper gas prices because they are closer to the refineries or there is less demand, Allison Mac, on oil analyst at GasBuddy, said. Fresno is between Los Angeles and San Francisco where travel is heavy and prices can be a bit higher, she said.  Fresno Bee article

Mayor Johnson: Sac 3.0 will see downtown bloom again — Mayor Kevin Johnson, entering his seventh year in office, threw a hip-hop party Thursday night at Memorial Auditorium and squeezed in a State of the City speech as well, offering a road map of his 2015 agenda. Top topics included body cameras for police, a potential local minimum wage, and a push to build 10,000 new housing units in downtown over the next decade.  Sacramento Bee article

 

American Airlines’ fuel-buying bet pays off in record profit – American Airlines, the world’s largest carrier, took a big gamble in fuel buying last year — and it paid off in record profit. The Fort Worth airline reported 2014 net income of $4.2 billion, up 115% from the previous year, thanks partly to huge savings in fuel costs.  LA Times article

Two Valley food-processing firms sued for alleged wage-and-hour law violations – A Pennsylvania law firm has filed nearly identical federal lawsuits against two central San Joaquin Valley food processors, saying they are violating wage-and-hour laws by not paying workers for on-site preparation like donning and doffing required sanitary gear.  Fresno Bee article

Lawmaker wants NFL cheerleaders protected by state wage laws — While NFL fans focus on Sunday’s Super Bowl in Arizona, one California lawmaker is turning her attention to helping improve conditions for a group of workers on the sidelines—cheerleaders. Legislation introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) would treat cheerleaders of professional sports teams as employees under California law.  LA Times article

Flames take Stockton hockey to next level – Stockton officially became a Triple-A hockey city on Thursday as Calgary announced it would be putting its AHL franchise at Stockton Arena. The team, which will replace the Stockton Thunder of the lower-level ECHL, will play in a five-team Pacific Division in the league that is just one level below the premier National Hockey League.  Stockton Record article

San Francisco Democrats want Airbnb to pay back taxes — The San Francisco Democratic County Central Committee, the local Democratic Party’s governing body, voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to approve a resolution calling for Airbnb and other short-term rental companies to pay back taxes to the city. Opponents of legislation that legalized short-term rentals in the city, which Mayor Ed Lee signed in October, estimate Airbnb owes San Francisco $25 million for not collecting the hotel tax over the past few years.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Javier Palomarez, Alice Perez, and Dora Westerlund: Cable merger would benefit Latino community – Palomarez, president and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; Perez, president and CEO of the California Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and Westerlund, CEO of the Fresno Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Foundation, write, “The proposed Comcast-Time Warner Cable (TWC) merger has received a great deal of attention — and its share of controversy — here in California. For us, the merits are measured by whether it will create more opportunities for Latino programmers and other businesses, promote more investment in our communities in high-speed networks and help close the digital divide. On this basis, the Comcast/TWC transaction shows some promise.”  Palomarez/Perez/Westerlund op-ed in Fresno Bee

Agriculture/Water/Drought

Coalition brings clean drinking water to rural Kern County – Clean drinking water is something many Americans take for granted, but in areas such as south Kern County access to safe water is not guaranteed. A new program called Agua4All is attempting to address that. At a ceremony Thursday in Lamont, the California Endowment, the Rural Community Assistance Corporation and the Community Water Center unveiled the first of what eventually will be 60 water bottle filling stations in the area.  Bakersfield Californian article

Dairies face environmental court challenges — A ruling in Washington earlier this month defining dairy manure as “solid waste” could mean tighter regulations and lawsuits against Kings County dairies, according to sources in the industry. Hanford Sentinel article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Tentative ruling: California must adopt execution process – California must adopt a new process for executing condemned inmates after nearly three years of delays, a state judge ruled Thursday in a lawsuit filed by crime victims. The tentative ruling by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Shellyanne Chang does not order the state to resume executions, which have been on hold since 2006. But she said corrections officials can’t wait any longer to find a new way to conduct executions if they are reinstituted.  AP article

Skin tests identify inmates for valley fever-stricken prisons – Skin tests conducted by California prison officials this month show thousands of inmates have been exposed to valley fever, making them candidates for placement at two prisons stricken by the sometimes deadly fungus. Officials with the court-appointed medical receiver’s office said Thursday that as a result of the massive $5-million screening conducted two weeks ago — more than 36,000 prisoners consented to the tests — the state has a better grasp of who can safely be held at Pleasant Valley and Avenal state prisons. LA Times article; AP article

Cellphone videos show altercation before police shooting – Two cellphone videos surfaced Thursday that captured the deadly encounter between Stockton police and a man who was fatally shot by officers late Tuesday night in a north Stockton neighborhood.  Stockton Record article

Hanford police tackle medical pot grows — A citywide ban on growing and distributing medical marijuana has been in effect for about two months, and local law enforcement is cracking down on local grow operations.  Hanford Sentinel article

Details emerge to counter Scott Peterson appeal – Scott Peterson is “truly among the worst of the worst” of California’s murderers for callously slaying his pregnant wife and their unborn son in late 2002, state prosecutors said this week in a blistering reply to the Modesto man’s death sentence appeal. Modesto Bee article

Beck admits ‘mistakes’ over meeting that had ex-Mexican Mafia member — Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck admitted late Thursday that “mistakes were made in holding” a meeting this week in downtown L.A. between a convicted ex-member of the Mexican Mafia, a group of business leaders and local law enforcement officials.  LA Times article

Education

California officials:  Public schools cannot require parents to volunteer — Public schools cannot require parents to volunteer as a condition of student enrollment, state education officials have advised local school officials.  Sacramento Bee article

Districts seeking reimbursement for Common Core test costs – The state could be liable for as much as $1 billion per year in costs if a group of school districts succeeds in winning reimbursement for expenses associated with the implementation of computer-based tests in the Common Core and other new state standards.  EdSource article

Groups push for English learner advocate on state board – The leaders of 20 nonprofit organizations have called on Gov. Jerry Brown to name “an individual with a track record of advocating on behalf of English learners” to one of two vacancies on the State Board of Education.  EdSource article

Boundary changes upset parents in north Merced — The Merced City School District Board of Education this week approved new boundaries for elementary school students in the city, a decision that irked parents whose children will be bused miles away from home while passing much closer campuses.  Merced Sun-Star article

UC Merced Connect: Students take on translation for Valley Crisis Center — In the fall semester, UC Merced senior lecturer Virginia Adán-Lifante offered extra credit to students who volunteered to translate a portion of the Valley Crisis Center website into Spanish.  UC Merced Connect in Merced Sun-Star

Modesto City Schools board picks professor to be trustee – The Modesto City Schools board appointed Brandman University adjunct professor Desiree Romo to fill its ranks until the November election.  Modesto Bee article

Visalia Unified board in spat over trustee hotel bill — A Visalia Unified School District board member with a history of conflict with fellow board members was ordered to pay back the hotel part of the costs for a three-day, out-of-town education conference that board members said he didn’t fully attend.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Tulare County education advocate dies — Colleagues and family of a woman who pioneered early childhood education programs in Tulare County gathered Thursday at Holy Family Church to say goodbye. Senaida Garcia, former Tulare County Office of Education project director, died Jan. 23. She was 78.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Energy/Environment

Environmental lawsuit targets oil-by-train terminal near Taft – A coalition of environmental activists filed a lawsuit Thursday that attempts to shut down a new oil-by-rail terminal northeast of Taft. The suit in Kern County Superior Court alleges the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District worked with the terminal’s owner, Plains All American Pipeline LP, to minimize public scrutiny of a facility designed to receive up to two separate mile-long train shipments of oil per day from across North America. Bakersfield Californian article

Panel urges overhaul of California parks system – A panel created by the Legislature to review state parks operations will report Friday that the Department of Parks and Recreation is underfunded and mired in outdated bureaucracy, and that the parks system is out of reach for many poor people in urban areas.  Sacramento Bee article; San Jose Mercury News article; LA Times article

Toxic releases up in San Joaquin County – Businesses are releasing more toxic chemicals to land, air or water in San Joaquin County, mirroring a national trend as the economy improves and production picks up.  Stockton Record article

Amid report Michael Peevey’s home searched, Jerry Brown praises PUC — Even as it was reported that state investigators seized computers and other items from Michael Peevey’s home, Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday offered only praise for the former president of the California Public Utilities Commission.  Capitol Alert

Health/Human Services

Joaquin Arambula: Fresno health care:  forget politics, focus on people – The emergency room physician at Adventist Medical Center in Selma writes, “We can’t afford to wait. Thousands of Fresno County residents need help now. I encourage the Board of Supervisors to redouble its efforts to build out and maintain a health care system that serves us all, and that places patients above politics.”  Arambula op-ed in Fresno Bee

Insurance choices dwindle in rural California as Blue Shield pulls back – In addition to Anthem, Blue Shield of California used to sell policies to individuals in every county in the state, according to the Department of Managed Health Care, one of California’s two teams of health insurance regulators. But by 2014’s open enrollment period, Blue Shield had pulled out of 250 zip codes throughout the state, including four entire counties: Alpine, Monterey, Sutter and Yuba.  NPR report

Mercy patient being treated at UC Davis Medical Center for possible Ebola – A patient is being treated at the UC Davis Medical Center for the Ebola virus, according to representatives from the hospital and the Sacramento County Department of Health and Human Services.  Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Sacramento Bee: What about the public’s right not to be made sick? – Americans don’t ask much of each other. Our freedom to say what we want, live where we want, even ignore science if we don’t believe it, tends not to be abridged. But sometimes the common good has to supersede personal freedom. So we are asking, though in a saner world, we wouldn’t have to: Step up and vaccinate your kids.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Some doctors won’t see patients with anti-vaccine views – With California gripped by a measles outbreak, Dr. Charles Goodman posted a clear notice in his waiting room and on Facebook: His practice will no longer see children whose parents won’t get them vaccinated.  AP article

Health officials warn of possible measles exposure in Delano — A person diagnosed with measles visited a Delano fast food restaurant while infectious and may have exposed others, the Kern County Department of Public Health announced Thursday. The traveler visited a McDonald’s restaurant at 618 Woollomes Ave. in Delano about 11 a.m. Sunday.  Bakersfield Californian article

Michael Hiltzik: Measles: How lawmakers can end ‘personal belief’ waivers on vaccination — If there’s a silver lining in the ongoing outbreak of measles linked to infected and unvaccinated visitors to Disneyland during the holidays, it’s that the crisis may spur state lawmakers to reverse the trend expanding exemptions from mandatory childhood immunizations.  Hiltzik column in LA Times

Sutter Health-Blue Shield dispute leaves nearly 280,000 patients in limbo — A public battle between Sacramento’s Sutter Health and insurer Blue Shield of California has left more than a quarter million patients wondering whether they’ll have to switch to another medical provider mid-year.  Sacramento Bee article

Children’s Hospital reaches agreement with insurance companies – Beginning today, 4,500 Valley Children’s Hospital patients were set to lose coverage. But following an agreement between the hospital and three insurance companies, a large amount of those affected patients will continue to get care from the medical center.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Golden Valley therapists vote to join union — Behavioral health staff members at Golden Valley Health Centers have voted to join other unionized workers.  Modesto Bee article

Land Use/Housing

Kevin Valine: Lots of room for growth — The City Council’s Economic Development Committee will review Monday how much land Modesto has for homes, stores and industry. The short answer: an awful lot. Valine in Modesto Bee

Other Areas

‘First Look’:  Census gets ‘snapshot of what the homeless population looks like’ – Developing a plan to end homelessness in Kern County has been the force and drive behind the Kern County Homeless Collaborative. Although the final numbers for the 2015 Point-in-Time County Count census has not been analyzed, the hope is that the numbers of homeless in metropolitan and rural Kern County has dropped.  Bakersfield Californian article

Connecting the homeless – Corinna Franco spent time on the streets after a series of decisions that left her homeless. Year after year, she stood in line, waiting for food and resources that might take her from a life living in alleys to living in a home. Her opportunity came last fall.  Visalia Times-Delta article

LA leaders vow to end homelessness among veterans this year – Declaring they had turned a corner in the fight against homelessness, city leaders on Thursday vowed that by the end of the year there would be no more veterans living on the streets of Los Angeles.  LA Times article

McNamara Park at center of Merced town hall discussion – Much of the discussion Thursday during the Merced City Council’s first town hall-style meeting of the year circled around McNamara Park, as well as longtime issues seen in the oldest part of the city.  Merced Sun-Star article

Stockton Record: San Joaquin supervisors take full month to reach shadowy decision – The San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors has a new chairman and vice chairman. And all before Groundhog Day! It matters not that presidents, popes, U.S. Cabinet members and ambassadors have been elected or appointed with far less fanfare and mayhem.  Stockton Record editorial

Oakdale to be short a council member – The City Council on Monday will discuss how to proceed when it loses one of its members in late February. Councilman Donald Peterson announced last week he will resign from his seat midway through his four-year term to pursue traveling, hobbies and spending time with his grandchildren.  Modesto Bee article

Boy Scouts settle California suit over sexual abuse — The Boy Scouts of America settled a sex abuse case Thursday involving a 20-year-old California man who was molested by a Scout volunteer in 2007 – a decision that will keep years’ worth of “perversion” files detailing sex abuse allegations secret from the public.  AP article; LA Times article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Thanks to voters’ compassion, California has spent a huge sum to care for severely mentally ill people in the past decade, more than any other state. Voters deserve a proper accounting of how that $13.2 billion has been spent. More to the point, the state and counties need to use that money for people who, through no fault of their own, cannot care for themselves.

Merced Sun-Star – Oil billionaires Charles and David Koch ought to disclose how they spend money to sway the electorate.

Modesto Bee – Oil billionaires Charles and David Koch ought to disclose how they spend money to sway the electorate.

Sacramento Bee – Oil billionaires Charles and David Koch ought to disclose how they spend money to sway the electorate; Americans don’t ask much of each other. Our freedom to say what we want, live where we want, even ignore science if we don’t believe it, tends not to be abridged. But sometimes the common good has to supersede personal freedom. So we are asking, though in a saner world, we wouldn’t have to: Step up and vaccinate your kids.

Stockton Record – San Joaquin supervisors take full month to reach a shadowy decision.