January 5, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

Key issues for returning California Legislature — There will be no shortage of issues to occupy them. Some of the debates likely to arise this year, such as how California funds public universities and handles medical marijuana, have smoldered for years. Others, such as questions about the new “sharing economy,” reflect the rise of new industries and increasingly influential interest groups.  Sacramento Bee article

Dan Walters: California often follows social activism at local level — The plastic bag conflict is interesting enough unto itself, but it also reflects an expanding model for political activism in this very culturally diverse state. Those on the left side of the political spectrum, often frustrated in the Capitol by adroit lobbying of business groups, have been pushing their causes at the local level with some success.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee
State budget

Will Brown propose judges paying pension debt? — In what has been a futile annual ritual, CalPERS President Rob Feckner sent the governor and Legislature a letter last March urging advance funding of a closed judges pension plan, a change estimated to save $753 million to $2.3 billion in the long run.  Calpensions article


Gov. Brown

Jerry Brown to begin historic fourth term in Capitol – When Jerry Brown takes the oath of office on Monday morning, it will be the fourth time he’s recited the same 84 words.  LA Times article

Dan Walters Daily: Jerry Brown kicks off 2015 politics — With an election in the rear view mirror, Gov. Jerry Brown will do something a little different to start the next round of California politics.  Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures 

Sacramento Bee: Ambition is fine, but Newsom, Harris and others should focus on task at hand — Party labels aside, the politicians who deserve to become governors and U.S. senators are the ones who work hard, display independence and authenticity, and understand they’re beholden to the citizenry, not their donors.  Sacramento Bee editorial


Other areas

Republicans take helm of Congress, but initial course is unclear –  As Republicans take control Tuesday of both chambers of Congress for the first time in eight years, party leaders hope to move quickly to confront President Obama and showcase their conservative ideology, including austere budget cuts and dismantling government regulation. But continuing GOP divisions, a lack of clear leadership and some recent high-profile scandals are already distracting from the party’s ambitious policy agenda. LA Times article; New York Times article 

Bill would keep kids in rear-facing seats until age 2 — Children would ride in rear-facing car seats until they are at least 2 years old, a full year longer than what’s currently required by law, under a bill proposed by a California lawmaker.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Incoming Senate chairman: Gas tax increase on the table – The incoming chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee says raising the federal fuel taxes is among the options under consideration to replenish the dwindling Highway Trust Fund. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota says all options must be looked at to fill an enormous shortfall when the existing highway legislation expires in May.  AP article

Black Lives Matter sparks community call for change in San Francisco — The recent killings of unarmed black men by police across the country have inspired more than vandalism and retaliatory rampages through cities. They’ve awakened black communities like Bayview-Hunters Point in San Francisco to demand an end to repressive conditions they say lead to the deadly confrontations.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Jose Gaspar: Hola, Cuba! — With a little help from a higher power, the United States and Cuba are finally restoring diplomatic relations. Que bueno!  Gaspar column in Bakersfield Californian


California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File
News Briefs

Top Stories

Modesto: More specialty police units could be lost if staffing continues to drop — Next week, 10 Modesto Police Department officers will be reassigned from special assignments in order to address a serious staffing shortage on patrol. Chief Galen Carroll said the move is a temporary fix as a high number of officers are retiring or leaving for better-paying jobs in the Bay Area faster than the department can train new officers to replace them.  Modesto Bee article

Fresno County restoring crisis mental health services – A major effort to restore Fresno County’s mental health services has started this winter inside a building on the old University Medical Center campus at Cedar Avenue and Kings Canyon Road.  Fresno Bee article

Disappearing water at Fairmead – Lawyer Cooper’s family left Arkansas in the 1940s for a country life in the San Joaquin Valley.  Seventy years later, their water is disappearing – not from the sky, but from the earth.  Now he and his wife have to decide what they’re willing to give up for this place.  Mark Arax in California Sunday Magazine


Jobs and the Economy

Owner of St. Louis Rams plans to build NFL stadium in Inglewood — The owner of the St. Louis Rams plans to build an NFL stadium in Inglewood, which could pave the way for the league’s return to Los Angeles.  LA Times article

Controversial DNA startup wants to let customers create creatures — In Austen Heinz’s vision of the future, customers tinker with the genetic codes of plants and animals and even design new creatures on a computer. Then his startup, Cambrian Genomics, prints that DNA quickly, accurately and cheaply.  San Francisco Chronicle article



December rains stoke big flows in Bay Area waterfalls — Heavy rainstorms have awakened the Bay Area’s slumbering waterfalls, providing the biggest and showiest water rush in the hills since three years of drought began.  Contra Costa Times article


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Bee Investigator: Using the reach of social media to solve crimes — Every week, The Modesto Bee prints and posts on its website a picture of a suspect from Stanislaus County Crime Stoppers’ Most Wanted list. Why? Because getting his picture out to the masses increases the chances that he is located and arrested.  Modesto Bee article

Little-known tax break for wealthy helps low-income college students – Two laws by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León provide College Access Tax Credits for contributions to the popular Cal Grants program that helps low-income students.  LA Times article

PBIS program gets mixed reviews — A survey of local educators administered by The Californian reveals only one concrete finding about a new approach to school discipline being widely embraced by Bakersfield school districts: The jury is still out. Opinions on the effectiveness of the approach known as Positive Behavior Interventions and Support are a mixed bag of high hopes, praise, reservations and fervent opposition. Bakersfield Californian article

EdWatch 2015: 10 issues to watch — 2015 promises to be a pivotal year for several major reforms in public education, including the continuing rollout of the Common Core State Standards, the implementation of the state’s new school financing and accountability system, and the administration of the online Smarter Balanced assessments to millions of students this spring. There will be other issues to watch. Here’s our list of the top 10.  EdSource article

Merced City School District faces decision on boundary changes – Decisions loom this month for the Merced City School District Board of Education on where school attendance boundary changes must be made for next fall.  Merced Sun-Star article

Home schooling: More pupils, less regulation — Unlike so much of education in this country, teaching at home is broadly unregulated. Along with steady growth in home schooling has come a spirited debate and lobbying war over how much oversight such education requires.  New York Times article


Health/Human Services

Big battles ahead over electronic cigarettes’ safety, regulation – Federal and state lawmakers are grappling with how to regulate electronic cigarettes — alternatively called e-cigs, vape pens, e-hookahs, vaporizers — while health experts try to decide whether they help people quit smoking cigarettes or serve as a gateway into the habit.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Odds of stroke rise sharply among young people — Although stroke has long been considered an illness of advanced age, statistics show a startling demographic reversal in recent years. Even while strokes are on the decline in older adults, decreasing by more than 25 percent for people older than 45, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention figures, the chances of stroke have soared alarmingly among people in early adulthood and middle age.  Sacramento Bee article



After two-year delay, construction on California’s bullet train set to start — California’s bullet-train agency will officially start construction in Fresno this week on the first 29-mile segment of the system, a symbol of the significant progress the $68-billion project has made against persistent political and legal opposition.  LA Times article

Las Vegas airport preps for tech-savvy travelers — By Friday at McCarran International Airport, a couple thousand outlets and USB ports under seats and inside bars and restaurants will be available for those looking for a power charge in Terminal 1 before heading home after the gadget convention.  AP article

Other Areas

Vacant Stockton council seat to be filled by selection – Tuesday night, the council will convene at City Hall to choose from five applicants hoping to serve out the final two years of the unexpired term of District 2 Councilwoman Kathy Miller, who has moved on to the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors.  Stockton Record article

San Joaquin County Superior Court judge follow diverse career path – A mentor in junior high school once told him he would make a good judge. The mentor, a history teacher, advised him to demand college-bound classes in high school instead of the usual wood- or metal-shop-type programs minority students were guided toward. It sure seems that teacher had foresight, as the future eventually would hold a place on the bench for Judge Jose Alva. Stockton Record article 

Future looks bright for south Merced park – The Merced City Council is expected Monday to accept more than $800,000 in California Housing and Community Development Department funds to improve Stephen Leonard Park, making it the second south Merced park to be targeted for improvements in recent years.  Merced Sun-Star article

Atwater must fill vacancy on ‘super’ commission – Less than a month after commissioners were selected to serve on Atwater’s newly formed “super” commission, which handles parks and recreation, planning and traffic issues, one commissioner resigned, leaving city officials looking at plans to fill his seat.  Merced Sun-Star article

LA City Council’s eye for efficiency can anger some Angelenos — Outraged chants erupted at the Los Angeles City Council last month after dozens of people who had come to the meeting discovered they wouldn’t get a chance to speak.  LA Times article

Yosemite climbers inch up El Capitan’s sheer granite face toward dreams — The tip of El Capitan, 3,000 feet above its base, glowed in late-day sunlight while a full moon rose at the other end of the Yosemite Valley on Saturday. In the shadows halfway up the sheer granite face were a pair of dots, the latest to attempt one of rock climbing’s greatest challenges.  New York Times article; LA Times article


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – In our state of great notions, six ideas for 2015.

Sacramento Bee – Party labels aside, the politicians who deserve to become governors and U.S. senators are the ones who work hard, display independence and authenticity, and understand they’re beholden to the citizenry, not their donors.