January 8, 2015


Political Briefs


Top stories

California income, corporation tax revenue surged in December — California income and corporation tax collections surged in December, pushing estimated tax revenue since July to about $3.6 billion above what lawmakers projected when they approved the current budget, according to preliminary totals compiled by the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.  Sacramento Bee article

Democrats press Jerry Brown to increase help for poor – Anticipating a second year of surplus, Democratic state lawmakers are pressuring Gov. Jerry Brown to increase spending on welfare, health care, child care and other social programs to assist the poor.  AP article


Gov. Brown 

Brown: History will affirm wisdom of building bullet train — For all the people applauding him and the planned train system, Brown knows there are plenty of critics who would like to derail the plan. He tackled those concerns right off the bat, saying initially, he too, had doubts about the project.  KQED report

George Skelton: The forecast: Blowing hot? Cold? Only Gov. Brown knows — Jerry Brown, who has blown hot and cold over the years, seems to have settled down. But you never know …. Throughout Gov. Jerry Brown’s record-length political career, we’ve never known quite what to expect. What’s real and what’s not? He has blown hot and cold.  Skelton column in LA Times


Valley politics

In their own words: Valley representatives on the start of the new Congress — Congress is back in session with a new party in command. Valley representatives were asked for their thoughts on what’s ahead.  Fresno Bee article

Olivier endorses Brand’s mayoral bid after it was suggested Olivier run — Last month, influential Republican businessman Tal Cloud suggested that Fresno City Council Member Clint Olivier should run for Fresno mayor in 2016. Cloud at the time was unhappy with Olivier’s council colleague, Lee Brand, who had voted in support of the controversial 2035 general plan, which Cloud felt was anti-free market. Cloud’s dig was directed at Brand, who is the only person thus far to publicly say he’ll run for mayor next year. Now, it looks like that won’t happen. Brand and Olivier met recently, and Olivier gave Brand a signed endorsement. Both Oliver and Brand are, like Cloud, Republicans.  Fresno Bee article



DMV cites low pass rates on first day of new driver’s licenses — Spanish-language test takers fared worse than English-language applicants on the first day a law took effect allowing people who are in the country illegally to obtain California driver’s licenses, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Only 36% of people who took the Spanish-language written test for a driver’s license received a passing score on Friday, the first day AB60 was in effect, compared with 54% of those who took the test in English, the DMV said.  LA Times article

DMV expects 100,000 undocumented to seek licenses by week’s end — Massive interest in a new law granting driver’s licenses to people living in the country without documentation resulted in California issuing nearly 1,000 licenses on the first day alone, and motor vehicle offices across the state are on pace to see 100,000 applicants by the end of the week.  San Francisco Chronicle article; Visalia Times-Delta article 

Nearly 700 Fresno area residents seek DMV licenses on first day undocumented can apply — Fresno area Department of Motor Vehicle offices saw nearly 700 applicants during the first day undocumented immigrants became eligible for California driver’s licenses, but no statistics were available on how many of them passed their written test.  Fresno Bee article

House GOP plots immigration strategy — House leadership plans to move as early as next week on legislation to override Obama’s actions that could protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportations. That move is likely to be paired with spending for the Department of Homeland Security, which got only short-term funding from an agreement in December.  Politico article


Other areas

Interest groups sponsor inaugural festivities for California politicians — Labor unions, law firms, Indian tribes, large corporations and wealthy individuals donated tens of thousands of dollars for swanky parties hosted by Gov. Jerry Brown, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Treasurer John Chiang. Controller Betty Yee, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson, who raised money from many of the same groups during their runs for office, used leftover campaign funds for their inauguration events.  Sacramento Bee article

Sacramento Bee: Kamala Harris makes right move on race and policing – We commend Attorney General Kamala Harris for joining the debate on race and policing in America and California and urge her to make it a top priority of her second term.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Dan Walters Daily:  Undemocratic last-minute bills must end – The Legislature’s habit of sneaking bills through in the final hours of session in unworthy of California, Dan says. Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

State audit questions California judiciary’s administrative spending — Questionable financial and operational decisions by the administration of California’s judicial branch has limited the amount of money available to the courts, a new state audit has found.  Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article; John Myers in KQED; Stockton Record article

Uncertainty surrounds charges for arrested anti-police protestors — Hundreds of protesters who took part in anti-police and Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the East Bay in December will need to wait, possibly up to a year, to find out if they have been charged after they were arrested during the protests.  KQED report

House requires calculation of economic impact of major bills — House Republicans have changed they way congressional number crunchers calculate the economic impact of major bills, a controversial step that will make it easier to cut taxes.  LA Times article

Foie gras can go back on menus, judge rules – Foie gras can go back on the menu. U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson issued a ruling Wednesday overturning California’s law banning the sale of the fatty goose liver. LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article; AP article; Sacramento Bee article

Jerry Brown adviser joins Sacramento lobbying firm – A senior adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown is leaving the governor’s office to become a lobbyist with the Sacramento Advocates firm that represents corporate giants including Wal-Mart, Microsoft and Kraft Foods. Gareth Elliott, whom Brown recently appointed to the University of California governing board, has been the governor’s legislative affairs secretary since 2011.  Capitol Alert

New bill would more thoroughly restrict ivory sales in California – A bill that conservationists hope will prompt strict enforcement of a ban on the sale of ivory in California was introduced Wednesday in an attempt to halt the catastrophic decline of African elephants.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Tenoch Flores leaving ‘therapeutic’ Democratic Party post — Tenoch Flores, the California Democratic Party’s communications director, said Wednesday that he plans to leave the party to freelance – including for the Democrats – and teach. But first, he said, he will help the party find his replacement.  Capitol Alert 

Hundreds gather to grieve in San Francisco after Charlie Hebdo massacre – Several hundred people gathered in front of the French consulate in downtown San Francisco on Wednesday night to grieve and stand up for freedom of expression after an attack on a satirical newspaper in Paris that claimed 12 lives earlier in the day.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Sacramento Bee: A cowardly attack on freedom of speech — The best way to combat the assault on free expression is more free expression. It’s the most effective weapon journalists, cartoonists and opinion writers have.  Sacramento Bee editorial


California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File


News Briefs

Top Stories

 Delta smelt legal battle heads to Supreme Court — The delta smelt may be a small fish with a short life, but it has spawned a decades-long legal battle over water in California. At issue has been a series of orders under the Endangered Species Act that at times reduce water deliveries from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to San Joaquin Valley growers and urban Southern California.  LA Times article 

Small price decline sparks theories about Bakersfield home market – Every month, the dean of Bakersfield’s home market issues a sheet with 50 numbers on it summarizing how things went the month before, the implication being that to focus on just one of them it would be folly. Still, for people who know what they’re looking at, one figure fairly jumps off Gary Crabtree’s preliminary report for December: -1.5 percent.  Bakersfield Californian article


Jobs and the Economy

Main Street gets keys to downtown tax in Merced – The Merced Main Street Association, which is made up of dozens of business owners, was awarded a contract this week to oversee the downtown marketing and a tax paid by business owners in the area.  Merced Sun-Star article

Gov. Brown’s renewable energy plan could boost solar, wind industries – Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal this week to significantly boost the amount of energy California derives from renewable sources could reinvigorate the state’s utility-scale solar and wind industries, as well as launch another land rush in the Mojave Desert.  LA Times article

Look for U.S. recovery to continue as San Joaquin County lags – Expect a strong national economy in 2015, with continued job growth and economic expansion, while San Joaquin County continues to lag behind the U.S. and California recovery, economists said Wednesday.  Stockton Record article

U.S. oil producers cut rigs as price declines – With oil prices plunging at an ever-quickening rate, producers are beginning to slash the number of drilling rigs around the country.  New York Times article 

Workers paying more for health insurance, but getting fewer benefits – Although the Affordable Care Act has not led to soaring insurance costs, as many critics claimed it would, the law hasn’t provided much relief to American workers either, according to a new study of employer-provided health benefits. Workers continue to be squeezed by rising insurance costs, eroding benefits and stagnant wages, the report from the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund found.  LA Times article

Wet Seal closures to include some Valley stores – Struggling teen and women’s clothing retailer Wet Seal is closing two-thirds of its stores, including at least two in the Valley. Recently opened “Wet Seal +” stores that catered to plus-sized customers have already closed — one in the Clovis Crossing Regional Shopping Center and the Visalia store at 4021 S. Mooney Blvd. in the Packwood Creek West Shopping Center. Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article

Wet Seal to close 338 stores, lay off nearly 3,700 employees — Struggling teen fashion retailer Wet Seal said Wednesday that it was closing 338 of its retail stores and would lay off 3,695 full and part-time employees.  LA Times article

Hanford Costco project may draw grant funds – As the proposed Costco shopping center on East Lacey Boulevard moves forward, the Hanford City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to pursue a federal grant to pay for new sewers to support development in the area.  Hanford Sentinel article

Turlock’s MedicAlert looks to stay competitive in changing landscape – MedicAlert, which announced Monday that it had cut one-third of its workforce, is not leaving Turlock and is optimistic about competing in a changing health care environment, a top executive said.  Modesto Bee article 

Talbot’s set to close later this month – Talbots, a women’s clothing store and among the original tenants of the Stonecreek Village shopping center opened in June 2008, will close Jan. 24, a company official said Wednesday.  Stockton Record article

Local developer breaks window in Fresno product demo — The City of Fresno may soon require property owners to use materials other than wood to board up abandoned homes.  A formal recommendation on the subject has yet to be made by the city’s code enforcement team, but Mayor Ashley Swearengin said it is likely to happen as the city looks for ways to combat urban blight. The Business Journal article; Fresno Bee article 

California export trade takes a dip in November – Weakening economies abroad and a strong dollar were among the factors experts cited Wednesday that put a dent in California export trade’s momentum in November, experts said Wednesday.  Sacramento Bee article

Standup guy: Fieri grubs down, meets fans in Bakersfield – The red Camaro was a dead giveaway: Guy Fieri’s in town. Fieri showed up early Wednesday afternoon to continue his tour of Bakersfield restaurants, which began Tuesday with stops including Pyrenees Cafe and KC Steakhouse. Fieri plans to open a restaurant in Bakersfield this year.  Bakersfield Californian article

Fresno area’s most expensive home sold for $2.38 million in 2014 – A northwest Fresno house with views of the San Joaquin River, the San Joaquin Country Club and the mountains was the area’s most expensive home sold in 2014. The North Gentry Avenue house, which sits on almost two acres, was on the market for two years before it sold last February for $2.38 million, said Realtor Rama Ambati, of Guarantee Real Estate who listed and sold the home.  Fresno Bee article

AHL to Bakersfield another step closer – All of the pieces of the puzzle are now apparently in place for a seismic shift in minor league hockey, which will result in a California-based western division of the American Hockey League and a likely relocation of three California ECHL franchises.  Bakersfield Californian article

St. Louis leaders: Rams won’t return our calls — City officials said Wednesday that the owner of the Rams isn’t returning their calls, so they plan to work directly with the NFL on efforts to keep a team — any team — in St. Louis amid speculation the Rams are headed back to Los Angeles.  AP article; LA Times article

Hoped-for Oakland stadium in mix for Bay Area Olympic bid – San Francisco’s regional bid to host the 2024 Olympics was tweaked Wednesday on the eve of an expected decision by the U.S. Olympic Committee, adding a proposal to have the Opening and Closing ceremonies — and track-and-field events — at a hoped-for new stadium in Oakland.  San Francisco Chronicle article

LA City Council asks for law banning for-profit parking apps — The Los Angeles City Council Tuesday requested that city lawyers draft a law banning digital media applications that identify available parking on city streets and charge fees to reserve the spots.  LA Times article

Judges fight for better pensions — When does a judge become a judge? The answer to that question is at the heart of a lawsuit filed by six elected Superior Court judges who say they’ve been stiffed on their pensions.  Sacramento Bee article

LA councilman seeks better ways to ensure developers keep their word — Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin called Wednesday for the planning department to come up with new and more effective ways of ensuring that real estate developers follow through on the commitments they make to City Hall in return for permission to build.  LA Times article



Drought Watch: Managing – and learning – from scarcity – As unpleasant as droughts are, they offer an opportunity to assess how well prepared California is for managing its water resources. The usual approach to learning from droughts is to conduct assessments after the drought ends. Unfortunately, once the rains come—as they certainly will—the pressure to prepare for the next drought is greatly reduced. Recognizing the need to learn from drought while it is ongoing, the Public Policy Institute of California will hold a half-day conference on January 12 in SacramentoPPIC blog

Psyllid find prompts citrus quarantine in Madera County — A 100-square-mile portion of Madera County has been placed under quarantine for the Asian citrus psyllid after agriculture officials found a psyllid in the northeast section of Madera last month.  Fresno Bee article

‘First Look’: Columnist Lois Henry talks about land fallowing — The term land fallowing — purposely retiring productive farmland — had not been uttered in the agriculture or water industries in some years. That is what Californian columnist Lois Henry said Wednesday on “First Look with Scott Cox.”  Bakersfield Californian article

Waterwise: How to save water at the office — The Southwest Florida Water Management District — social media friends with the Water Wise column — put together a water-saving list for the place the typical American worker spends at least eight hours a day: The office. According to SFWMD, office buildings use an average of 14,695 gallons per day of water. Visalia Times-Delta article


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Stabbed Stockton police dog recovers in Sacramento after officer-involved shooting — A Stockton police dog is recovering at a Sacramento veterinary hospital after being stab by a man who was eventually killed by officers.  Sacramento Bee article; Stockton Record article

Trafficking story hits close to home — As a drive down Union Avenue can attest, human trafficking hits much closer to home than a Hollywood story. And that’s exactly what local groups want you to realize.  Bakersfield Californian article

A part of the community — Community Service Officer Ray Fratus is an integral part of the Lemoore Police Department’s daily operation. Whether it’s setting up for major events or helping those in the community who have animal issues, Fratus does it all.  Hanford Sentinel article

San Diego police chief gives public a role in her reform strategy — In a city with 125 patrol areas and dozens of interest groups, Zimmerman is determined to meet with as many as possible, as quickly as possible, often giving out her cellphone number. More than just a peripatetic work style is at play.  LA Times article



U.S. officials step up efforts to help students learning English – Concerned that too many public schools are failing to adequately help students learning English, federal officials Wednesday unveiled guidelines on the legal requirements to identify and support them.  LA Times article

California higher ed leaders make pitches to lawmakers — Higher education leaders made the Capitol rounds this week, getting some decidedly different receptions from lawmakers.  Capitol Alert 

Report: State no longer at bottom in spending – Education Week’s annual state rankings on K-12 education had welcome, though outdated, news for California: No longer rock-bottom, California moved from 50th to 46th in per-student state spending in 2011-12, the latest data cited.  EdSource article 

Fresno Unified adds three new top administrative jobs – Three new administrative positions, each fetching salaries over $122,000, will soon be added to Fresno Unified’s payroll. One of the new jobs, called senior executive, carries a $136,409 starting salary, while the other two positions, instructional superintendent for school leadership and instructional superintendent for curriculum, will each start at $122,921. School board trustees voted to approve the new jobs at their meeting on Wednesday.  Fresno Bee article

Kern High School District talks earlier school year – School officials in districts throughout Kern County are considering plans to start the 2015-2016 school year a couple of days early. Kern High School District trustees voted last school year to start the 2015-2016 year Aug. 24.  Bakersfield Californian article

Fresno elementary school volunteer takes to social media to promote healthy eating — A volunteer at a southwest Fresno elementary school is making it her personal mission to encourage 6- and 7-year-olds to eat more healthfully — even if it means tweeting about school lunch hamburgers she calls “god-awful terrible.”  Fresno Bee article

Alice Waters, Jamie Oliver talk healthy eating at Sacramento school — Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver rolled into Sacramento once again Wednesday, kneeling in the dirt of the Pacific Elementary School garden as students shuffled around him to point out crops they’d planted with their own hands.  Sacramento Bee article


2014 was hottest in Sacramento’s history — Sacramento plodded through its hottest year on record in 2014, with an average high temperature a full degree above the city’s next-hottest year, according to a Bee analysis of records from the National Climatic Data Center.  Sacramento Bee article

New research links scores of earthquakes to fracking wells near a fault in Ohio – The study, published this week in The Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, indicates that hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, built up subterranean pressures that repeatedly caused slippage in an existing fault as close as a half-mile beneath the wells.  New York Times article

State PUC blistered in audit for slow, sloppy probes – The state agency responsible for ensuring Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and other utilities operate their natural-gas systems safely has a two-year backlog of unfinished investigations, and its probes are often poorly documented and seldom result in penalties against the companies, a federal audit has found.  San Francisco Chronicle article

More delays for Modesto’s Virginia Corridor — Those eager to use the long-delayed extension of the Virginia Corridor – the paved trail popular with walkers, bicyclists and joggers – are going to have to keep waiting and waiting.  Modesto Bee article

Discount store forced to open purse strings — A San Joaquin County judge has approved a settlement requiring 99 Cents Only Stores to pay more than $2.3 million for allegedly dumping hazardous waste into the regular trash, officials said this week.  Stockton Record article


Health/Human Services 

Seven Californians who visited Disney parks in December infected with measles – Seven Californians who visited Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park in December have measles and three others may have been infected, state health officials said Wednesday.  Fresno Bee article; AP article; LA Times article; KQED report

Latest measles outbreak highlights a growing problem in California – Measles has become a growing concern among California health officials. Before the December cases, 2014 was already the worst year of measles cases in California in nearly two decades. Another disease, whooping cough, also known as pertussis, was recorded as having the highest rate in 2014 in this state since 1958. The rise of these diseases come as a smaller percentage of California’s kindergartners are getting a full set of immunizations by the time they enter school.  LA Times article

Changes loom for Covered California board — Three seats on the powerful board that governs California’s multibillion-dollar health insurance exchange are up for grabs, giving the Brown administration – whose allies already comprise a majority on the five-member board — an opportunity to name two new directors.  Capitol Weekly article

Peters Foundation gives $540,000 to Valley Children’s for Fowler health center — Valley Children’s Hospital has received a $540,000 from the Leon S. Peters Foundation for a new outpatient specialty care center in Fowler.  Fresno Bee article

Michael Hiltzik: Amazing fact: Obamacare ‘beyond repair,’ yet brings insurance to millions — When it comes to the Affordable Care Act, you have two choices about what to believe. You can go with objective statistics from Gallup, a respected survey organization, which indicate that the law has increased the number of Americans with health insurance by more than 10 million. Or you can go with self-interested partisanship from the likes of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who states that the law is “beyond repair” and backs that up with manifestly bogus and dishonest assertions. Hiltzik column in LA Times article



Kevin McCarthy and Jon Coupal: California should halt high-speed rail – McCarthy (R-Bakersfield), the U.S. House majority leader, and Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, write, “With no federal money and no current private sector investment, this project is now California taxpayers’ worst nightmare as they are left holding the bag. While this week’s groundbreaking may serve as a political maneuver to gloss over the very real risks that could affect the quality of life of every Californian, we remain committed to fighting this boondoggle and protecting taxpayers.” McCarthy/Coupal op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Map: What different phases of high-speed rail will look like – All of which begs the question: where exactly will the train take you while you’re sipping that fancy cocktail? Fortunately, the folks at UC Davis’ Information Center for the Environment created this fascinating interactive “story map”, in partnership with the California High Speed Rail AuthorityKQED report 

Bakersfield council approves $16 million Rosedale widening – After hearing new details on the city’s many major road projects, the Bakersfield City Council kicked one into high gear, approving a $16 million construction contract to widen Rosedale Highway and improve the area’s water system.  Bakersfield Californian article 

Air service concerns spark Visalia bus action — Visalia Transit Manager Monty Cox said he believes the city has a good shot at being awarded a more than $500,000 grant that would help launch shuttle service between Visalia and Fresno.  Visalia Times-Delta article


Other Areas

PPIC: 2014: Year in Review – California is implementing sweeping changes that affect all of us—in climate policy, corrections, K-12 education, and health care. Last year, the Public Policy Institute of California examined the short-term impact of these policy shifts as they unfolded. We also encouraged policymakers to focus on long-term challenges by bringing leaders from around the state together at high-profile events. And PPIC has helped turn the drought emergency into an opportunity to improve the way the state manages water. Please take a moment to read about our accomplishments in the 2014 Year in Review. PPIC Year in Review

Stockton Record: Political gamesmanship – We hope that the two new members of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors and one holdover who may have other political aspirations did not spend part of their holiday vacation holding illegal meetings to cook up this little coup.  Stockton Record editorial 

Livingston council Oks trash scavenger ban and smoke shops – Despite one council member calling it “dumb” and “ridiculous,” an ordinance that penalizes people for rummaging through other people’s trash is one step closer to becoming law.  Merced Sun-Star article

Merced DA’s office to cut down on paper use – Officials at the Merced County District Attorney’s Office this week announced the office will be cutting down on its use of paper. According to a press release from the District Attorney’s Office, as of Monday all prosecutors began bringing their laptops or iPads to court to conduct business.  Merced Sun-Star article

Summons issued in lawsuit against Bakersfield, Kern, state, driver by girl hit in crosswalk – A student struck and severely injured in a crosswalk outside Foothill High School in October has filed a lawsuit against several government bodies and the car’s driver. Named in the suit filed Dec. 23 were the City of Bakersfield, Kern County, the State of California and 26-year-old Esmeralda Sanchez, the driver in the Oct. 16 accident.  Bakersfield Californian article

Longtime Modesto Red Cross official leaves — The American Red Cross in Stanislaus County is starting the new year without one of its key employees, Rebecca Ciszek. She served as the nonprofit organization’s Stanislaus County regional manager for eight years before resigning Dec. 31 as part of a reorganization of the Red Cross’ Sacramento-based Gold Country Region, whose 24 counties include Stanislaus.  Modesto Bee article


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – The best way to combat the assault on free expression is more free expression. It’s the most effective weapon journalists, cartoonists and opinion writers have.

Merced Sun-Star – The best way to combat the assault on free expression is more free expression. It’s the most effective weapon journalists, cartoonists and opinion writers have.

Modesto Bee – The best way to combat the assault on free expression is more free expression. It’s the most effective weapon journalists, cartoonists and opinion writers have.

Sacramento Bee – The best way to combat the assault on free expression is more free expression. It’s the most effective weapon journalists, cartoonists and opinion writers have; We commend Attorney General Kamala Harris for joining the debate on race and policing in America and California and urge her to make it a top priority of her second term; Build smarter in the Natomas basis.

Stockton Record – We hope that the two new members of the San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors and one holdover who may have other political aspirations did not spend part of their holiday vacation holding illegal meetings to cook up this little coup.