January 7, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

Capitol Hill Californians will push for drought legislation again — Another year, another California water fight. This week, as the 114th Congress commences, lawmakers prepare to revive anti-drought proposals that divided the state last year. Tactics and strategies are still being crafted and the outcome is uncertain, as are the lessons that may or may not have been learned.  McClatchy Newspapers article

California issues 970 immigrant driver’s licenses on first day — Almost 1,000 driver’s licenses were issued on the first day of a new law granting licenses to immigrants living in California illegally, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles.  Sacramento Bee article


Gov. Brown

George Skelton: Gov. Brown sends mixed signals as he begins his fourth term — Gov. Jerry Brown offered a bold vision of clean energy for California’s future. That was the highlight as he launched his historic fourth term. But he also sent mixed signals.  Skelton column in LA Times

Cutting oil use by 50 percent difficult but doable, experts say – Gov. Jerry Brown’s goal of cutting California’s oil use in half may sound like an impossible task in a state famous for freeways and sprawl. But by one measure, we may be halfway there.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Joel Fox: Brown the Juggler — Jerry Brown, the adroit political juggler, was on full display during his Inaugural Address/State of the State Speech keeping in the air at the same time the notion of more spending while also tossing about the importance of fiscal responsibility.  Fox in Fox & Hounds

Dan Walters Daily:  Jerry Brown’s gas reduction goals almost impossible — Gov. Jerry Brown’s suggestion to cut in half the amount of transportation fuel California uses is a tall order, Dan says.  Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee


Valley politics

Vidak breaks out Latin phrasebook for his reaction to Gov. Brown’s speech — State Sen. Andy Vidak probably sent everyone on his email distribution list scrambling for Google’s translation program. Or, at least those not living in Vatican City, because the term he used in a Monday news release, facile largire de alieno, was Latin.  Fresno Bee article 

Perea, Swearengin attend rail groundbreaking; a year ago, Perea passed in similar situation — A year ago, Fresno County Supervisor Henry R. Perea was to be part of the groundbreaking for the new First 5 Fresno County building currently under construction in downtown Fresno. Perea then backed out. Then First 5 Executive Director Kendra Rogers said at the time that the reason was because she had invited Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin to both attend and speak at the event. On Tuesday, a similar set of circumstances didn’t stop Perea.  Fresno Bee article



Watchdog report calls border drones ‘dubious achievers’ – Drones patrolling the U.S. border are poorly managed and ineffective at stopping illegal immigration, and the government should abandon a $400 million plan to expand their use, according to an internal watchdog report released Tuesday.  LA Times article

Illegal Immigration, State Law and Deterrence — A critical immigration policy question is whether state and federal policy can deter undocumented workers from entering the U.S. We examine whether Arizona SB 1070, arguably the most restrictive and controversial state immigration law ever passed, deterred entry into Arizona. National Bureau of Economic Research working paper


Other areas

Kristin Olsen: Assembly GOP will work to restore California Dream – The Assembly Republican Leader writes, “My goal is to unite Assembly Republicans around core priorities that will make Californians’ dreams more achievable again: a quality and affordable education, a healthy and growing economy and a government that works for us, not against us.” Olsen op-ed in Sacramento Bee

California Republicans look forward to control of Congress – Republican members of California’s congressional delegation on Tuesday celebrated GOP control of Congress, pointing to passage of drought relief legislation for the San Joaquin Valley as one possible benefit. Still, GOP lawmakers weren’t promising any breakthroughs, knowing that it may be difficult to overcome filibusters or presidential vetoes without significant help from Democratic lawmakers.  AP article 

Dianne Feinstein reintroduces bill to repeal DOMA — U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Tuesday reintroduced her bill to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act, and to ensure all those same-sex couples married under their states’ laws are treated equally under federal law. This Respect for Marriage Act is almost certainly DOA in this new GOP-controlled Congress, but Feinstein, D-Calif., toils on.  Political Blotter


California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Officials gather in Fresno to ‘break ground’ for high-speed rail project — With California Gov. Jerry Brown leading the way, a ceremony Tuesday in downtown Fresno marked the start of construction on the high-speed rail project, more than six years after voters approved a $9.9 billion bond act that will help fund the system.  Fresno Bee article; Fresno Bee editorial; Hanford Sentinel article; Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article; AP article; New York Times article; Dan Walters column in Sacramento Bee; Sacramento Bee editorial; The Business Journal article; KVPR report

Valley’s poor towns need public health to drink healthy water, breathe clean air, EPA leader says — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sees a connection between cleaning up the air and water and helping the economy grow, says Gina McCarthy, who leads the federal government’s environmental guardian.  Fresno Bee article
Jobs and the Economy 

Stockton bankruptcy hearing rescheduled – A court hearing on Stockton’s bankruptcy case that had been slated for this morning in Sacramento has been rescheduled for Tuesday as the city’s legal team works to finalize legal documents. City spokeswoman Connie Cochran said she expected key documents to be filed no later than this morning, ahead of next week’s hearing.  Stockton Record article

George Hostetter: Mayor Swearengin and governor meet after high-speed rail ceremony Mayor Ashley Swearengin gave the words of welcome. Gov. Jerry Brown, the keynote speaker, headed with staff and big-wigs to nearby Chukchansi Park after the event. Swearengin went, too. She got the Governor to one side for a brief chat. The sole item on Swearengin’s agenda: Encourage Brown to consider state help in developing “the ability to finance projects in inner-city Fresno,” she said.  Hostetter in Fresno Bee

Kern supervisors give lobbyist new contract, but want better results – Kern County supervisors told their Sacramento lobbyist on Tuesday to come back with more cash or come back “on his shield.” They awarded Paul Yoder, of Shaw / Yoder / Antwih, Inc., a three-year contract of $82,000 per year. It can be canceled within 30 days without reason or if his work with other counties conflicts with Kern’s needs.  Bakersfield Californian article

San Joaquin County ponders strategy to become ‘destination’ – San Joaquin County doesn’t have the hotels, the meeting spaces or the demand to become a new conference-center destination in Northern California. Not yet, anyway. But the recently released report that laid out the county’s shortcomings as a conference hub also served as a catalyst for a renewed push to attract people from outside the county to taste Lodi wine, play tournaments in south county sports fields or sample what else the county has to offer.  Stockton Record article

Contra Costa supervisors to reconsider 33 percent raise on Jan. 13 John Gioia, the incoming chairman of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, announced at Tuesday’s board meeting that he would place an item on the board’s Jan. 13 agenda calling for the supervisors to reconsider the 33 percent raise they awarded themselves by a 4-1 vote last fall.  San Jose Mercury News article

Hispanics underrepresented in California state government – Hispanics are the most underrepresented ethnic group in California’s largest state agencies, according to a Sacramento Bee analysis, while both whites and blacks comprise a larger percentage of the state civil service than they represent in the general population.  Sacramento Bee article

Federal mediator to help resolve West Coast port contract dispute – West Coast dockworkers and their shipping line employers have agreed to federal mediation to help resolve a contract dispute that has been partly blamed for severe congestion at ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach.  LA Times article

Next stage coming up for San Francisco’s Olympics bid – The U.S. Olympic Committee is expected to decide Thursday on whether San Francisco or one of three other finalist cities will be the country’s candidate to host the 2024 Olympics.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Feds poised to lift building restrictions in Natomas – Housing and commercial development could resume in Sacramento’s Natomas region as soon as June, more than six years after flood risks prompted the federal government to shut down construction.  Sacramento Bee article

Annual contest helping build Lathrop business – It’s always a challenge to open and sustain a new business, but Nathaniel Montgomery Sr. of Lathrop is seeing positive results for his garage-based startup making and selling reusable ties — nylon cord loops with a locking slider.  Stockton Record article

In LA, conditions placed on developers go unheeded — Worried about how new shops, bars and apartments might affect Los Angeles neighborhoods, community groups and city officials have tried to tie strings to local development.  LA Times article

Caltrans reviewing Dixon’s downtown ‘depot’ financing — State officials have launched a review into whether the city of Dixon has violated transportation grant fund requirements by leasing its downtown “train depot” building to the city’s Chamber of Commerce.  Sacramento Bee article

Pasadena residents outraged over $6.4-million embezzlement scandal —  An angry crowd of residents confronted Pasadena officials at a special meeting Monday, the City Council’s first public response to a corruption scandal revealed last week.  The L.A. County district attorney’s office has charged a city employee and two others in an alleged embezzlement scheme that involved more than $6 million in public funds. LA Times article



November water use down 10 percent — Californians used nearly 10 percent less water in November of last year than they did in 2013, state water regulators announced Tuesday. That’s an improvement over October, when water savings fell to just under 7 percent, after several months of steadily improved conservation.  U-T San Diego article; San Francisco Chronicle article; Bakersfield Californian article; Stockton Record article; AP article

Realtors want a voice on Merced County groundwater ordinance – Farmers aren’t the only people concerned about Merced County’s impending groundwater ordinance. More than 60 Realtors met with county administrators and elected officials Tuesday during a Merced County Association of Realtors meeting. The group wants to be included in discussions about the proposed groundwater ordinance, which has been under development since May.  Merced Sun-Star article

Oakdale Irrigation District approves fallowing program and water sales – Pasture owners around Oakdale willing to go without water will be paid for fallowing their land this year, Oakdale Irrigation District directors decided Tuesday. The water saved by idling fields will be sold to thirsty out-of-county water agencies.  Modesto Bee article

Lois Henry: Fallowing used to be a dirty word, but not anymore — Fallowing productive land used to be anathema to just about everyone involved in agriculture. But outlooks have changed, largely due to the groundwater sustainable act passed last year.  Bakersfield Californian article

Six things to know about Central Valley agriculture in 2015 — So what will 2015 bring? We asked two industry experts to join us and offer their perspectives on six issues that will help define the valley’s largest industry in the new year.  KVPR report


Criminal Justice/Prisons 

California bill would create third-party oversight of police shootings – Police officers who fatally shoot suspects would be subject to an outside review under California legislation being introduced by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento.  Sacramento Bee article

Merced will look at cost of adding police, crime-fighting tech – Merced city staff will formally study the costs related to crime prevention ideas proposed recently by the mayor, though some members of the City Council said even more research is needed before they can support the funding. The council voted 6-1 during Monday’s meeting to have staff study what it would cost to hire from one to three officers a year over the next five years.  Merced Sun-Star article

LA police to get Tasers that activate body cameras when used – Los Angeles police on Tuesday ordered Tasers that, when used, automatically activate cameras on officers’ uniforms, which will create visual records of incidents at a time of mounting concern about excessive force by U.S. law enforcement officers.  Reuters article

$5 million in legal fees awarded to jail brutality victims — Five jail inmates who alleged that they were brutally beaten and shocked by Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies have been awarded more than $5 million in legal fees.  LA Times article 

Varney formally succeeds Anderson as Madera County sheriff — Outgoing Chowchilla Police Chief Jay Varney was sworn in Tuesday as the new sheriff of Madera County, taking over from four-term Sheriff John Anderson in a brief ceremony at the sheriff’s headquarters on the 14000 block of Road 28.  Fresno Bee article

Tulare supervisors approve undersheriff position — The Tulare County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday authorized the county Sheriff’s Department to once again have an undersheriff. And newly-elected Sheriff Mike Boudreaux said he could pick the person to be his second in command within a couple of weeks.  Visalia Times-Delta article



CSU Chancellor: We’re not raising tuition, but we still need more money — Chancellor Tim White says the CSU needs another $100 million from the next state budget – just as the UC does. “Our demand exceeds our capacity to serve, and we’re concerned about that for California’s long-term future,” White says. Capital Public Radio report

Move to simplify federal student aid application form gains traction – Sentiment has grown among education leaders and lawmakers that the 100-question form is too complicated, and that many students, believing they won’t qualify for financial aid, don’t bother to apply. That is especially true for low-income students or members of families with no college-going experience, who trail in applying for aid and attending four-year universities, education experts say.  LA Times article

Armona district opposes reserves cap – The Armona Union Elementary School District is taking action against a new law that could mean less money for improvements or financial emergencies.  Hanford Sentinel article

UC Merced Connect: Student embraces campus’ pioneering ways — Even in its 10th academic year, many opportunities for innovation still exist at UC Merced. Armando Lomeli, a senior from Los Banos, wouldn’t have it any other way. As a psychology major minoring in Spanish and management, he embraces the pioneering spirit for which the campus is known.  UC Merced Connect in Merced Sun-Star

Oakland teachers curtail workload as they wait for contract — Frustrated with the pace of contract negotiations, teachers at Montera Middle School are no longer leading after-school tutoring, sports or student clubs and are not assigning homework, union officials say.  Oakland Tribune article



New report calls for better oversight of oil injection wells — In a report with strong implications for Kern County’s oil industry, an environmental activist group called Tuesday for changing the process for exempting aquifers from federal groundwater protections.  Bakersfield Californian article 

Shopping bag law not in the bag — Though the law is supposed to take effect July 1 for grocery stores and pharmacies selling food larger than 10,000 square feet — followed by smaller stores, including convenience stores, in 2016 — it may not happen because the American Progressive Bag Alliance announced at the end of December that it has more than 800,000 signatures from California voters supporting a state referendum that would determine whether to put the new law on the November 2015 ballot.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Fisher species under growing threat from illegal pot cultivation — The federal government is considering whether to list fishers as a threatened species in California because of the harm being done by rat poison and other toxic chemicals used on illegal pot farms on public land.  Sacramento Bee article


Health/Human Services

UCSF Fresno receives training grant to aid underserved areas — UCSF Fresno’s Family and Community Medicine Residency Program received a $206,000 grant Tuesday that will be used to train doctors to practice in underserved areas over the next three years.  Fresno Bee article

It’s union versus union in proposal hospital sale — Unions are sparring every day this week over the fate of six safety-net hospitals in California, showcasing how splintered the health care labor movement has become. At issue is the same of the financially-distressed hospitals currently owned by the nonprofit Daughters of Charity. The leading buyer is for-profit Prime Healthcare.  KQED report

Lindsay Mann: Year ahead brings progress, improvements – The CEO of Kaweah Delta Health Care District writes, “In many conversations while I am out in the community, I am asked about new developments at Kaweah Delta. With a new year ahead, here are a few of the new developments one can expect to see at Kaweah Delta.”  Mann op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

Alcohol poisoning kills 6 Americans a day, a federal report finds — Six Americans die from alcohol poisoning daily on average, and mortality rates are highest among middle-aged men, federal health authorities reported on Tuesday.  New York Times article



LAX passenger volume reaches 14-year high as LA tourism surges — Local tourism in 2014 set its fourth record in as many years, city officials announced Tuesday, and Los Angeles International Airport exceeded its 14-year-old peak for airline travel and is now the nation’s second-busiest airport.  LA Times article

GET board decides to open at-large seat to applications — Golden Empire Transit’s Board of Directors failed to reappoint Patricia Norris as its at-large member during a Tuesday meeting, deciding instead applications for the position.  Bakersfield Californian article 

Workshops to look at South Stanislaus County freeway — The time to get serious about a South County Corridor is almost here. Public workshops, where people can argue about the best route for the future expressway linking Highway 99 to Interstate 5, begin next week. Preliminary information already is available on the Internet.  Modesto Bee article

Public can weigh in on Seventh Street Bridge design — Modesto-area residents will get a chance next week to suggest what the new Seventh Street Bridge on the Tuolumne River should look like.  Modesto Bee article

Other Areas

Open Stockton council seat goes to Wright – Harrison Elementary Principal Dan Wright was appointed to the Stockton City Council on Tuesday night, outlasting four other candidates including runner-up Rev. Dwight Williams during a public-interview session held to choose a replacement for the departed Kathy Miller.  Stockton Record article 

Michael Fitzgerald: Hardball politics, straight outta Stockton – In 1999, Supervisor Dario Marenco was about to rotate in as chair of the Board of Supervisors when he made disdainful comments about his fellow Supes to the press. Indignant, the supervisors promoted somebody else. That tragic-comic smackdown may have been the last time a supervisor lost his turn to assume chairmanship of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors — until this week. The usually amicable board voted 3-2 on Monday to pass over Carlos Villapudua and make newly elected Supervisor Kathy Miller chairwoman. And Steve Bestolarides vice chair.  Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Stanislaus County officials take oath of office – Judge Marie Silveira administers the oath of office to, from left, District 3 Supervisor Terry Withrow, District 4 Supervisor Dick Monteith, Clerk-Recorder Lee Lundrigan, Auditor-Controller Lauren Klein, Assessor Don Gaekle, Treasurer-Tax Collector Gordon B. Ford, Superintendent of Schools Tom Changnon and Sheriff Adam Christianson.  Modesto Bee article

Worthley named Tulare Board of Supervisors chairman – The first time Steve Worthley was sworn in as a Tulare County supervisors 16 years ago, his youngest son was small enough to carry in his arms. On Tuesday, after being sworn in for the board’s 2015 session, he told the audience inside the board’s chambers that same boy is a college junior.  Visalia Times-Delta article

San Joaquin County DA ready to tackle initiatives – San Joaquin County’s new top prosecutor is hitting the ground running with a diverse administration she assembled and their vision for bringing justice to victims while placing more energy on prevention.  Stockton Record article

Big crowd welcomes Fagundes as new Kings DA – Hundreds of people witnessed Keith Fagundes being sworn in Monday at the Kings County Government Center as the new DA, an event that marked the beginning of a new chapter for the key Kings County position.  Hanford Sentinel article

South Merced park will get upgrades, but residents’ input sought first — Merced will get more than $800,000 in state grant funds after a vote Monday to improve Stephen Leonard Park, but the City Council left the door open to speak with area residents and make changes to the upgrade plans.  Merced Sun-Star article

LA County’s aging animal shelter system could get major overhaul — Los Angeles County officials are considering a major overhaul of aging and outdated shelters that hold thousands of animals, mostly dogs and catsLA Times article


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Fresno and other San Joaquin Valley communities are lucky to have Gov. Jerry Brown on their side and batting cleanup in the effort to build California’s first-in-the-nation high-speed rail system.

Merced Sun-Star – Party labels aside, the politicians who deserve to become governors and senators are the ones who work hard, show independence and understand they’re beholden to the citizens, not their contributors.

Modesto Bee – Party labels aside, the politicians who deserve to become governors and senators are the ones who work hard, show independence and understand they’re beholden to the citizens, not their contributors.

Sacramento Bee – As evidence mounts about the impact of climate change, this nation must find alternatives to oil. One such alternative began to take shape in Fresno on Tuesday. Yes, it was rife with symbolism. The rail won’t be carrying passengers for years. But it was a start, and a wise step into the future.