January 3, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

Hope – and some anxiety – as immigrants seek new California driver’s licenses — Signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2013 after more than 15 years of lobbying by immigrant advocates, AB 60 requires applicants to prove only their identity and California residency, rather than their legal presence in the state. Under the law, which took effect at the beginning of this year, about 1.4 million undocumented immigrants are expected to apply for the special licenses over the next three years.  Sacramento Bee article; Fresno Bee article; Bakersfield Californian article; Merced Sun-Star article; Stockton Record article; San Francisco Chronicle article; LA Times article

John Myers: Viewer’s guide to California politics in 2015 — There’s no crystal ball that can predict the best and biggest political stories in California for the new year, but there are some signs out there of what’s ahead — from Capitol clashes to the chess match of 2016 campaigns and beyond. And so consider this a viewer’s guide of sorts to what seems to be on the state’s political horizon.  Myers in KQED


State budget

California ready to cope with rainy-day budget fund — Gov. Jerry Brown will lay out his Proposition 2 course of action when he releases his proposed budget next week. Parts of the reserve law are open to interpretation, experts say.  Sacramento Bee article



 Licenses for migrant drivers means more will be insured – in theory –  As thousands of immigrants who are in the country illegally queued up Friday to apply for a California driver’s license, supporters of the controversial new law that made the licenses possible predicted a flood of new motorists in the automobile insurance market.  LA Times article
Other areas

 New Congress will have more women, minorities than ever — The 114th Congress that convenes Tuesday will count more minorities and women than ever, although lawmakers remain overwhelmingly white and male in the Republican-controlled House and Senate.  AP article 

Fight on guns is being taken to state ballots – The gun control movement, blocked in Congress and facing mounting losses in federal elections, is tweaking its name, refining its goals and using the same-sex marriage movement as a model to take the fight to voters on the state level.  New York Times article

Bakersfield Californian: Scalise affair was good opportunity missed – Caretakers caretake; leaders lead. Here was an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the difference. Here’s hoping the Republican leadership doesn’t miss the next one.  Bakersfield Californian editorial

Bill tries to catch hit-and-run drivers – A state lawmaker is hoping to curtail hit-and-run deaths by giving police an additional tool to locate fleeing suspects. A bill introduced in the California Legislature would allow law enforcement agencies to use the state’s emergency alert system — typically used as Amber Alerts for child-abduction cases — in instances of hit-and-run crashes that result in serious injuries or fatalities.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Congressional Democrats have a list of resolutions for Obama – Returning to Washington with fewer numbers and increased doubt about their direction in the new Congress, Democrats are pushing President Obama to pursue a more aggressive economic agenda that lays the groundwork for a political rebound in 2016 by focusing sharply on helping the middle class.  LA Times article

F.A. Hart: Can’t we talk, laugh at ourselves? – The Fresno resident writes, “Let’s get a life. Liberals and conservatives need to learn from each other, respect each other, learn to laugh at ourselves — and, golly, laugh at each other.”  Hart op-ed in Fresno Bee


News Briefs

Top Stories

California poverty:  Three metro areas in Central Valley rank among the poorest in the nation — Three metropolitan areas in California’s Central Valley, the region with the highest farm revenues in the country, rank among the poorest in the state and nation, Census figures released Thursday show. Fresno, Modesto and Bakersfield-Delano areas are among the top five U.S. regions with the highest percentage of residents living below the poverty line.  AP article

More condemnations ahead for high-speed rail — The California Public Works Board will hit the ground running to start 2015, with condemnations of 29 properties in Fresno and Madera counties on tap for the board’s first meeting of the year.  Fresno Bee article
Jobs and the Economy 

Gas prices rise for first time in weeks; California cap-and-trade effect cited – Hours after 2015 arrived, gasoline prices in Sacramento and throughout California inched upward for the first time in weeks. Experts called the uptick a subdued response to the state’s new requirement that oil companies buy credits to offset the carbon emitted by cars and trucks.  Sacramento Bee article

Yosemite bid documents provide inside look at lucrative concessions – The next contract to run the concessions at Yosemite National Park is a lucrative and complicated package that’s shedding light on business in the park even as it raises questions about who owns some famous park names.  Fresno Bee article

Hispanic growth key to Kings’ future – Kings County’s Hispanic population will increase steadily for the next 45 years while other groups experience rates of growth near zero. That’s the gist of California Department of Finance numbers released this week that confirm what savvy county watchers already knew: the local Hispanic majority is here to stay, and Latinos are a growing force to be reckoned with.  Hanford Sentinel article

Overseas problems won’t derail growing U.S. economy, analysts say – All the overseas problems put together, though, are not enough to derail a strong U.S. economy, Wall Street analysts say. The Commerce Department stunned markets Dec. 23 by reporting that the nation’s total economic output grew at an annual pace of 5% in the third quarter. The result blew past an already strong estimate of 3.9%.  LA Times article

5 keys to the U.S. economy to watch in 2015 – Ask five economists what they expect for 2015 and you’re likely to get scores of answers. Don’t fret: We’ve narrowed it down to five pivotal issues that will decide just how strong the U.S. economy grows this year.  McClatchy Newspapers article

Most expensive home of 2014: $2.83 million in Fresno — While several homes included in The Business Journal’s list of Most Expensive Home Sales (published Dec. 26, 2014) were purchased for more than $1.5 million, the top honor went to a home in Northwest Fresno that sold for $2.38 million in February. Located at 7296 N. Gentry Ave., the 7,200-square-foot home is in one of the most popular areas of the Central Valley’s luxury home market, said Guarantee Real Estate agent Rama Ambati.  The Business Journal article

New home loan helps lower-income borrowers build equity quickly – The key feature of the so-called wealth-building home loan is a sharply reduced interest rate on a 15-year term. Instead of requiring a down payment, banks allow borrowers to use their money to pay interest upfront, often called “buying down” the rate.  LA Times article

Sometimes talk of a tech bubble is mostly babble – Tech bubble talk — like booms and busts themselves — comes in cycles. There is always someone out there crying bubble, it seems, but it’s often specific news events that bring on tech bubble panic.  San Francisco Chronicle article

With limited oversight, the wealthy get a charitable tax break — In exchange for making the nation’s third-largest individual charitable contribution of 2014, Nicholas and Jill Woodman — founders of the high-tech GoPro camera company — will receive a huge tax deduction for their donation of 5.8 million shares of company stock to a donor-advised fund at the Silicon Valley Community FoundationSan Francisco Chronicle article 

Robert Longer: Fast-track trade deals are bad for American workers – The legislative-political director for Communications Workers of America Local 9421 writes, “Since the fast-tracking of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994, California has lost more than 432,000 manufacturing jobs. Nationwide, 5 million manufacturing jobs have been lost, with large numbers of service-sector jobs now going offshore. How did we get into this mess?”  Longer op-ed in Sacramento Bee



Valley citrus growers tackle another cold night before a warmup begins – Three consecutive nights of freezing temperatures in the Valley could cause some damage to oranges on trees in outer rows of groves in the region’s coldest areas, a citrus grower’s industry group said Friday, but it will minimal.  Fresno Bee article

Whose watching the henhouse to enforce California’s new egg law? — Some producers, like Hilliker, are building brand-new facilities. Others are simply putting fewer hens into traditional battery cages and removing the partitions to allow more space. What’s not clear is just who will be coming around to make sure farmers like Hilliker are complying with everything Prop. 2 spelled out.  KQED report

Vogel: The ‘first voice of agriculture’ – Not long after the gavel fell on Ken Vogel’s last meeting as a San Joaquin County supervisor, he sat in his top-floor office while grey clouds enveloped downtown Stockton and forecasts predicted a storm on the way.  Stockton Record article

Farm Beat: Rain greens up cattle grazing land — The abundant rain in December brought new growth to rangeland that has suffered badly in three years of drought. Beef cattle, a major industry in and near Stanislaus County, once again have something to eat up there.  Modesto Bee article

Citing drought, California town rushes water plant — California’s drought declaration has triggered only local limits such as restrictions on washing cars or watering lawns, but one Pacific Coast tourist town has seized it as an opportunity to build a long-desired desalination plant. The new project will turn salty water to drinking water for the 6,000-resident town of Cambria.  AP article


Criminal Justice/Prisons

 Fresno Bee: Mental illness should not be a death sentence — The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, which sets minimum requirements for police training, needs to raise the requirements for handling mentally ill civilians. If they won’t do it, state lawmakers should step in.  Fresno Bee editorial

 State may alter death-row policy for mentally ill — A practice of withholding calls and visits at a new psychiatric unit on death row at San Quentin State Prison can discourage inmates from seeking the treatment they need, a court-appointed overseer said this week.  AP article

 Local police follow strict protocols – Excessive force cases involving officers in Ferguson, Mo., Staten Island, N.Y., and various other cities across the United States, have prompted Kings County law enforcement officials to open up about what happens after force is used on a citizen in the community.  Hanford Sentinel article

 Local black residents sound off on shooting, unrest – So what does Kings County’s black community think of the recent deaths of black men at the hands of police officers in Ferguson, Mo., Staten Island, N.Y., and Cleveland, Ohio? Depends on who you ask.  Hanford Sentinel article

 Mike Boudreaux sworn in as Tulare County sheriff — Don’t call him “acting” sheriff anymore. Despite having run the Tulare County Sheriff’s department since early October of 2013, Mike Boudreaux was sworn in Friday as the 30th Tulare County Sheriff.  Visalia Times-Delta article

 Dismissal of charges in three 2013 slayings roils Merced County law enforcement — Three teenagers died in separate gang-related shootings in March 2013 during a large high school party outside of Atwater. Those shootings resulted in a series of arrests last year of multiple suspects, including the Merced County district attorney’s son, and set in motion a high-profile criminal case with potentially far-reaching implications for law enforcement in Merced County in the new year.  Merced Sun-Star article



Gov. Jerry Brown appoints top aide to UC Board of Regents — Possibly strengthening his sway on the UC Board of Regents, Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday named a top aide from his office to serve on the university system’s governing board. Brown’s appointee, Gareth Elliott, 44, has worked as the governor’s legislative affairs secretary since 2011. LA Times article; Sacramento Bee article

CSU Bakersfield students move into new digs — Friday was move-in day for his 19-year-old daughter and 385 other students relocating from CSUB’s old student dormitories to the university’s new, $41-million student housing complex.  Bakersfield Californian article

Villalobos resigns from Modesto City Schools board — Rubén Villalobos has resigned, effective Sunday, from the Modesto City Schools Board of Education.  Modesto Bee article

Interior Secretary: Local fracking bans are ‘wrong way to go’ – President Obama’s chief custodian of federal lands says local and regional bans on fracking are taking regulation of oil and gas recovery in the wrong direction.  KQED report

Don’t let chilly ending fool you; California was toasty in 2014 – A cold snap this week brought snow and freezing temperatures to much of California during the final days of the year, but for the most part 2014 was hot. In fact, it was the warmest year for California since record-keeping began in 1877.  LA Times article

Brigette Bowers: Plastic bags not worth the harm – As the first state to require an alternative to the wide-spread use of plastic and paper bags, we have an opportunity to lead by example once again. Though 800,000 Californians recently signed a referendum to repeal SB 270, I’m counting on the 17 million registered voters in this state to uphold the bill in November 2016.  Bowers column in Merced Sun-Star

Bird carcasses along Pacific shore baffling biologists — The carcasses of thousands of small birds called Cassin’s auklets have been washing ashore over the last few months from Northern California up to the north coast of Washington.  LA Times article


Health/Human Services

Deciding whether that Covered California subsidy is worth the hassle – With the deadline looming to re-enroll in California’s insurance exchange, Kuei Lin Liu faced a tough question: Do I want to go through this all over again? After a year of bureaucratic snags, data glitches and inexplicably dropped coverage, Liu wondered whether Covered California was worth the effort.  KQED report

Stanislaus County recognized for extended foster-care services – Stanislaus County officials are reporting success with a program that extends services to foster youths after they turn 18. Modesto Bee article

Kaiser mental health staff plans California strike — Hundreds of Kaiser Permanente’s mental health professionals plan to go on a weeklong strike in California starting Jan. 12 to protest what they say is the health care provider’s failure to offer timely, quality mental health care.  AP article

LA County supervisors ready to tackle child-protection problems – A new majority on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors say they want to place child welfare back at the center of their agenda this year, including reconsidering a series of reforms that their predecessors refused to authorize last year.  LA Times article

Scientists explain how stem cells and ‘bad luck’ cause cancer — Why are some types of cancer so much more common than others? Sometimes it’s due to faulty genes inherited from one’s parents and sometimes to behaviors like smoking a pack of cigarettes every day. But in most cases, it comes down to something else – stem cells.  LA Times article



California leaders set for high-speed rail groundbreaking Tuesday — California on Tuesday will break ground in Fresno on its ambitious but controversial high-speed rail project, marking another milestone for Governor Jerry Brown and for foreign manufacturers waiting to bid on lucrative train contracts.  Reuters article

Visalia considering bus service to Fresno – After years of receiving requests for bus service between Visalia and Fresno, Visalia city officials are ready to give it a try. On Tuesday the Visalia City Council will be asked to authorize city staff to apply for a $538,053 grant from the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District to buy three buses to provide transit between the two cities. Visalia Times-Delta article

Airport bus switches charter companies while company pursues license – There’s a new twist on a local businessman’s effort to keep buses running between Bakersfield and Los Angeles International Airport. Airport Valet Express owner Phil Rudnick said Friday he has chartered a San Luis Obispo company to operate the service temporarily while he works to obtain a bus license, as required by the California Public Utilities Commission.  Bakersfield Californian article

In San Francisco, free Muni for seniors, disabled seems likely — San Francisco’s Municipal Transportation Agency has a program that provides free Muni to low- and moderate-income youth, and on Jan. 20 its board will consider extending the free passes to seniors and disabled riders. SFMTA spokesman Paul Rose says the program has broad support and is likely to pass.  KQED report


Other Areas

Warming center in Merced a no-go for lack of volunteers — Citing a lack of volunteers to run it, Merced County Rescue Mission leaders said the warming center will not be going up this year.  Merced Sun-Star article

Calling it a career: San Joaquin County district attorney retiring after 36 years — After 36 years of serving the county, District Attorney James Willett says farewell and retires on Monday as the county’s chief prosecutor. Willett is being succeeded by gang unit prosecutor Tori Verber Salazar, who will be sworn in Monday.  Stockton Record article


Valley Editorial Roundup

Bakersfield Californian Scalise affair was good opportunity missed: Caretakers caretake; leaders lead. Here was an ideal opportunity to demonstrate the difference. Here’s hoping the Republican leadership doesn’t miss the next one.

Fresno Bee – The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, which sets minimum requirements for police training, needs to raise the requirements forhandling mentally ill civilians. If they won’t do it, state lawmakers should step in.

Modesto Bee – Looking back at two who helped make Modesto a better place.

Sacramento Bee – The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, which sets minimum requirements for police training, needs to raise the requirements for handling mentally ill civilians. If they won’t do it, state lawmakers should step in.