January 9, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

Jerry Brown’s budget plan will hold the line on higher education spending — Gov. Jerry Brown plans to propose a $113.3 billion general fund state budget Friday that holds fast in response to the University of California’s threat to raise tuition unless the state gives the university system more money.  Sacramento Bee article;Capital Public Radio report; AP article

Here’s who’s poised to fight for Barbara Boxer’s seat — While plenty of California politicians are staring into a mirror today and seeing a U.S. senator look back, they might want to check their wallets before jumping into the contest to replace retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2016.  Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin mentioned as potential GOP candidate.  San Francisco Chronicle article; LA Times article; Sacramento Bee article; John Myers in KQED; Dan Walters column in Sacramento Bee; Dan Morain column in Sacramento Bee; Sacramento Bee editorial

State budget

California’s soaring healthcare costs bode ill for the budget — California’s budget, which bounced back after years of deficits, is now being squeezed by rising healthcare costs for the poor and for retired state workers. The mountain of medical bills threatens to undermine Gov. Jerry Brown’s efforts to strengthen state finances — his central promise of the past four years.  LA Times article

Gov. Brown

Carson Bruno: Brown has political capital to pursue big reforms on budget, pension and taxes – The fellow at the Hoover Institution writes, “To fully address California’s urgent structural problems, the state needs a leader who has the respect of his own side and who will go against his allies and demand change. Jerry Brown has the tools to “go to China” and for the sake of California’s long-term fiscal security, here’s hoping that he takes the trip over the next four years.” Bruno op-ed in Sacramento Bee

A California First Lady unlike any other — The Assembly chambers were packed as Jerry Brown made history – the first California governor ever to be sworn in for a fourth term. And Anne Gust Brown stepped up to the podium to introduce her husband.  Capital Public Radio report

Valley politics

Stockton mayor to seek second term — Mayor Anthony Silva says he will name Christina Fugazi his vice mayor, a decision that caught the newly seated councilwoman off-guard when she was apprised of it late Wednesday afternoon. Silva also said Wednesday that after hedging publicly late last year, he has decided to seek a second four-year term in 2016.  Stockton Record article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Boxer’s actions often angered Valley, but she also did some good – She stood up for Valley poultry ranchers and citrus farmers, for horses and mule packers operating in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park wilderness areas, for keeping federal agencies — and their employees — in downtown Fresno and for the farm bill’s Market Access Program, which helps overseas promotions and advertising. And her state director, former Fresno City Council Member Tom Bohigian, has been locally based and in that post for 10 years — part of a more than two-decade career with Boxer.  Fresno Bee article

Congressional colleagues, others heap praise on Barbara Boxer — Longtime California Sen. Barbara Boxer’s announcement Thursday that she plans to not run for reelection spawned a deluge of plaudits acknowledging the Democrat’s career in Washington, which spans more than three decades.  LA Times article


Almost 200 seek licenses in Merced, Los Banos after undocumented allowed to apply — Close to 200 people applied in Merced County offices for a driver’s license on the first day undocumented immigrants became eligible in California, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles.  Merced Sun-Star article

Other areas

Sarah Longwell: Reserve ignition interlocks for hard-core offenders – The managing director of the American Beverage Institute writes, “California lawmakers are currently considering whether to expand a pilot program that mandates costly and ineffective ignition interlock devices for all drunken-driving offenders. Considering that a recent progress report of the pilot program’s effectiveness found its results “inconclusive,” there are serious reasons why legislators should be cautious about foisting this costly program on the entire state.” Longwell op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Roaches, other violations prompt recent closure of Capitol’s basement cafeteria — Health inspectors recently shut down the state Capitol’s basement cafeteria after finding an “active infestation” of cockroaches, layers of grease and other health and safe code violations.  Capitol Alert

Nicole Boxer, filmmaker, continues tradition of political offspring — Boxer was an executive producer on a pair of documentaries by Kirby Dick: “The Invisible War,” an Oscar-nominated investigation into sexual assault in the U.S. military, and “The Hunting Ground,” which probes rape crimes on college campuses and premiers at the Sundance Film Festival later this month, then on CNN.  Capitol Alert

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Obama plan would make community colleges nearly free for millions – Aiming to dramatically expand access to higher education, President Obama on Thursday proposed making community college virtually free for millions of high school graduates — a potential boon for California’s system, the largest in the nation.  LA Times article; Washington Post article; AP article; McClatchy Newspapers article; New York Times article

Valley Children’s Hospital to train pediatricians, specialists with new program — Valley Children’s Healthcare will train pediatricians, along with pediatric surgical and medical specialists, in a graduate education program it is establishing at Valley Children’s Hospital. The Valley Children’s Pediatric Fellowship Program will train doctors in specialties such as gastroenterology and emergency medicine, the hospital said Thursday.  Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article; KVPR report

Jobs and the Economy

Senate majority asks attorney general to guard against gas price hikes – A majority of the state Senate members wrote to California Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris on Thursday, asking that her office watch to make sure gas prices are not increased without justification by the oil industry to undermine the state’s cap-and-trade program.  LA Times article

Creditors launch challenge to CalPERS in San Bernardino bankruptcy – Two bond firms have filed a formal challenge to bankrupt San Bernardino’s plan to pay its pension obligations to CalPERS, setting up another big court fight over the sanctity of public pensions in California.  Sacramento Bee article

New legislation targets predatory ADA lawsuits – Yet another San Joaquin Valley lawmaker has introduced state legislation to dampen predatory lawsuits against businesses brought in the name of greater access for disabled people.  Modesto Bee article

U.S. economy adds a solid 252,000 jobs in December – The United States capped its best year for hiring in 15 years with a healthy gain in December, and the unemployment rate reached a six-year low. The numbers support expectations that the United States will strengthen further this year even as overseas economies stumble.  LA Times article; AP article

Healthy U.S. hiring should make 2014 best since 1999 — The best year for U.S. hiring since 1999 likely ended with another solid gain in December, supporting expectations that the United States will strengthen further even as overseas economies stumble.  AP article

On-call workers entitled to pay for all hours spent at job, court rules – Employees who while on call are required to stay at a worksite should be compensated for all their hours, including sleep time, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday.  LA Times article

Fewer Fresno homeowners underwater on mortgages — Home equity continues to improve in Fresno County and elsewhere across the country with underwater mortgages approaching pre-recession levels, according to a third quarter negative equity report released Thursday.  Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article

Visalia chamber losing lease with city – A bad economy led to the Visalia Chamber of Commerce selling its downtown headquarters in 2012 to the city of Visalia and instead lease part of the building. Gail Zurek, recently appointed president and chief executive officer of the chamber, said that on Monday, after the end of the Visalia City Council meeting, a city staff member informed her that the lease was being terminated.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Training to expand horizon for drought-impacted – Only one person showed up earlier this week for an information session on a College of the Sequoias course soon to be offered free to workers and employers affected by the drought. The course will prepare participants for an entry-level position as a production technician.Visalia Times-Delta article

Ethanol acquisition is largest Sacramento takeover in years – It wasn’t that long ago that Sacramento’s Pacific Ethanol Inc. was running low on cash and struggling to lift its production plants out of bankruptcy. Now it’s strong enough to buy a Midwestern competitor in one of the largest takeovers by a Sacramento company in several years.  Sacramento Bee article

Sacramento County settles panhandling suit, clearing the way for enforcement – Sacramento County has settled a federal lawsuit over panhandling restrictions, clearing the way for enforcement of an ordinance banning solicitation in medians, near ATMs and other locations.  Sacramento Bee article

Boston beats out LA, San Francisco to be sole U.S. bidder for 2024 Olympics – A campaign to bring the Olympics back to Los Angeles for a third time fell to defeat Thursday when national officials selected Boston to be the nation’s sole bidder for the 2024 Summer Games. The Massachusetts capital city prevailed after a two-year competition that saw each candidate submit detailed proposals to the U.S. Olympic Committee.  LA Times article; AP article; San Francisco Chronicle article

LA’s choice of UC Berkeley institute to study wage plan is criticized – A research team that provided a largely favorable analysis of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti’s plan for raising the citywide minimum wage has been tapped by city leaders to conduct a politically sensitive review of his proposal — and a move to push base pay even higher.  LA Times article

Venture capitalists sweeten pot, invest in marijuana industry – Bay Area venture capitalists have built an industry on risky investments. But until Thursday, the largest firms have kept their distance from one unpredictable market: marijuana.  San Francisco Chronicle article;

President opens the door to homeownership – President Barack Obama announced, on Thursday, a move to shave mortgage insurance premiums allowing more people across the country to make homeownership a reality.  Fresno Bee article

Judge’s order was violated as Chukchansi tribal factions continue to bicker – In a move that will trigger a new appearance before a federal judge, one faction of the Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians is accusing the group overseeing casino operations of defying the judge’s order by failing to pay all tribal members. Fresno Bee article

Michael Fitzgerald: Indie bookstores run by indie guys — Can I just say what bugs me about Barnes & Noble? Staff is so scripted. I can help the next in line. Are you a member of Barnes and Noble’s Book Club? Etcetera. This manner is not a problem at The Miracle Mile Bookstore, which is run by Phong To, a funny Vietnamese refugee.  Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

‘First Look’: Skateland’s new owners continue local skating tradition — When Helen Swall heard the iconic Bakersfield Skateland was going out of business to be replaced with a warehouse, she knew something had to be done to prevent the closure.  Bakersfield Californian article

Ranking: Rocklin top California city for young families — Rocklin was recently named one of the top 100 cities for young families – and the best in California – according to a survey by Apartmentlist.com. The Placer County city placed No. 13 overall. The survey by the San Francisco apartment search company ranked cities based on: crime rates, both violent and property; cost of the average two-bedroom apartment; high school graduation rate; and children as a percentage of the population. Sacramento Bee article

Why Obamacare means one of the most complicated tax seasons ever – Most days in early January, tax preparation offices are dead. Most people won’t get their W-2 or other tax documents until later this month.  KQED report

Sale of Stockton Thunder moving closer to completion – The next step in the impending sale of the Stockton Thunder to the Calgary Flames of the NHL is awaiting the approval of city officials. City staff documents were released Thursday recommending City Council consent to the transfer the team lease at Stockton Arena to Adirondack Flames Canada, an affiliate of the Flames. Stockton Record article

State worker lies about telecommuting to take 2nd full-time job — A state employee with the Department of Industrial Relations lied to his boss about needing to telecommute — saying he needed to care for his ailing mother — in order to secretly take a second full-time job at a San Francisco hospital, according to a report from the state auditor.  San Francisco Chronicle article


2014 ag highlights:  Miya, Medeiros set the standard — If the purpose of an agriculture award is to highlight the best and brightest in the field, then the honors given out in 2014 to Hanford walnut farmer Michael Miya and Hanford dairy operator Brian Medeiros hit the mark.  Hanford Sentinel article

Two forums will focus on groundwater issues next week — The drought may or may not be over, but concerns remain regarding Stanislaus County’s water supply. Two free public events will focus on water issues next week.  Modesto Bee article

New soil erosion study may help sustainable farming practices — A study of rivers in the southeastern United States shows that as American cotton and tobacco farmers occupied once-forested lands, they wasted those fertile soils by causing them to wash away 100 times faster than the natural rate of erosion.  KQED report

Stockton Record: Water savings must continue – Any success the state has in dealing with the drought will take constant and consistent conservation efforts. Stockton Record editorial

U.S. Humane Society president stops in Fresno to talk about Prop 2 — The president and chief executive officer of The Humane Society of the United States is in Fresno Thursday as part of a weeklong tour of California to celebrate the new egg-laying hen protection law that went into effect on Jan. 1.  Fresno Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Judge: Harry Baker will stand trial on molestation charge March 12 — Hoping to end nearly six years of delays, a judge Thursday scheduled a March 12 criminal trial for former Madera County Supervisor Harry Baker, who is accused of molesting a 13-year-old girl in a Fresno motel room.  Fresno Bee article

Police: Gang member arrested after advertising his drug deal on Facebook — One man was arrested Thursday after police say he posted on Facebook a picture of himself with a gun and his exact plans for a drug deal in southeast Fresno.  Fresno Bee article


Fountains for schools with limited water access – More than 100 schools in California’s Central Valley will receive water purification stations under a new program designed to give kids fresh water instead of sugary drinks with lunch. Capital Public Radio’s Bob Moffitt reports.  Capital Public Radio report

Big City College of San Francisco decisions loom: college’s future at stake – January is a crucial month for City College of San Francisco. The commission trying to revoke its accreditation voted privately this week on whether to grant the college two more years to comply with standards, and could announce its decision at the end of its three-day meeting Friday in Sacramento — or delay the announcement for days or weeks.  San Francisco Chronicle article

UC Merced recognized for community engagement – UC Merced was recognized by the Carnegie Foundation for its commitment to collaborating with the community in research and service, campus officials announced Wednesday.  Merced Sun-Star article

New foundation aims for student success — For Dinuba High School Senior Monse Hernandez, quality books have been a hard-to-come-by commodity. Attending a school with a very limited book selection and living in a small, unincorporated town with no library, Hernandez has struggled over the years to find the books she wants to read. However, thanks to a new project created by two local educators, Hernandez got her own personal library last month filled with nearly 30 books of her own choosing. Hanford Sentinel article

Bakersfield students program robots to compete — Centennial High students wired, tested and reconfigured robots Wednesday in a robotics room on their Hageman Road campus. While one group tried to get its robot to pick up cube- and pole-shaped objects, another student wired a bot shaped like a scissor lift. Bakersfield Californian article

Gas leaks addressed at Cruickshank, say school officials — Natural gas leaks at Merced’s Cruickshank Middle School have prompted the shifting of students and teachers to different classrooms but safety was never an issue, Greg Spicer, associate superintendent of administrative services for the Merced City School District, said Thursday.  Merced Sun-Star article


2014: California’s warmest year on record – Federal climate scientists confirmed today that 2014 stands as California’s warmest year on record. The state’s average temperature for the year clocked in at 61.5 degrees Fahrenheit, 4.1 degrees higher than the 20th century average. Last year’s average bested the previous record, set in 1934, by nearly two degrees.  KQED report; San Francisco Chronicle article

Great weather but awful air – Bakersfield can’t seem to win for losing. Few cities in the nation this time of year can boast the sort of idyllic, spring-like daytime temperatures residents of the southern San Joaquin Valley have been enjoying over the past several days. But in Bakersfield, delightful winter weather often equals horrible winter air.  Bakersfield Californian article

Oil company involved in Arvin gas leak investigated for oil tank emissions – The Bakersfield oil company responsible for a March gas pipeline leak in Arvin forcing the nearly nine-month-long evacuation of three dozen residents, was issued a notice of violation Dec. 29 for emitting gas from nearby oil storage tanks without a permit.  Bakersfield Californian article

Roger Bales: How Lima climate talks will impact Central Valley – The founding faculty member at UC Merced and director of the Sierra Nevada Research Institute writes, “The 20th session of the Conference of the Parties, or COP20, places increased importance on the ability of areas of the world with the political and financial ability to reduce greenhouse emissions to do so, and to demonstrate the economic, social and environmental benefits of those making those reductions.”  Bales op-ed in Merced Sun-Star

PG&E removing long-ago contaminated soil from Oakdale site — Not many locals remember when a plant on West J Street produced gas for cooking, lighting and keeping people warm in their homes. For the next five months, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. will remove contaminated soil from the site in a significant cleanup operation. Modesto Bee article

Health/Human Services

Disneyland measles may have spread, Orange County officials warn – A measles outbreak that began at Disneyland may have spread to others in Orange County, where health officials warned the public Thursday about possible exposure.  LA Times article

Sutter Health, Blue Shield dispute could leave thousands seeking new doctors — A dispute between Blue Shield of California and Sutter Health may leave thousands of people, including residents in Merced and Stanislaus counties, with having to find a new doctor sometime in the next few months.  Merced Sun-Star article

Cash payments allowed at retail locations — More families are expected to get child support payments owed to them with the launch this week of a system allowing people to pay cash at retail and other locations throughout San Joaquin County.  Stockton Record article

New study might explain autism boost — A new study suggests the surging rates of autism over recent decades are a result of changes in the way the disease is diagnosed. Medical professionals have long thought improved and changed diagnosis practices could play a key role in the autism boom and now this large and ground-breaking study published in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics backs these assumptions with solid evidence.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Robin Abcarian: A bullet train from LA to San Francisco? Have a little faith — As exciting as it is to think about whizzing between Los Angeles and San Francisco in two or three hours, we are still many years away from riding on a high-speed train. How many years? Let me put it this way: If you were in kindergarten right now, you would be able to expect to take your first ride on a bullet train about the time you were declaring your college major.  Abcarian column in LA Times

City Beat: Validation suit not over yet — The many major road projects in Bakersfield’s Thomas Roads Improvement Program are moving along, but the city hasn’t entirely cleared one major speed bump yet: its validation lawsuit.  Bakersfield Californian article

Other Areas

Special Report: Latest climbing spectacle on Yosemite’s El Capitan draws a crowd — A group of spectators gathered in a meadow under Yosemite National Park’s famous El Capitan Thursday to watch two men trying to complete what is widely considered the most difficult free climb in the world.  Fresno Bee article; LA Times article

Esmeralda Soria takes oath as Fresno City Council member — A new face has come to the Fresno City Council. Old challenges await her and her colleagues. Esmeralda Soria was sworn in as District 1 council member on Thursday before a packed audience that came to witness a morning full of ceremonial milestones. She was one of four council survivors from 2014’s election season. But the other three — Oliver Baines, Sal Quintero, Clint Olivier — were incumbents. Fresno Bee article

Wright ready for heavy workload – As he greeted a visitor to his office at Harrison Elementary School late Thursday morning, Principal Dan Wright made a point of telling his secretary he was holding the meeting during his lunch hour and not using his employer’s paid work time.  Stockton Record article

Lemoore city manager to retire in March – Lemoore City Manager Jeff Laws will retire on March 6 after 18 years of service to the city, a press release said Thursday.  Hanford Sentinel article

Lemoore neighborhood decries barbed wire —  Residents of a Lemoore neighborhood are crying foul after the nearby Lemoore Cemetery installed a 7-foot barbed-wire fence that’s visible from their back yards.  Hanford Sentinel article

Former Modesto City Councilman Geer remembered — More than 400 people attended a celebration of life Thursday for former Modesto City Councilman Dave Geer. Geer, 72, died Dec. 28 in his west Modesto home of natural causes.  Modesto Bee article

Islamic centers condemn attack in France – Islamic centers in Fresno and Stockton have condemned the attack on the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.Fresno Bee article; Stockton Record article

Embattled Cosby plans Turlock show — Embattled comedian Bill Cosby returned to the road for a series of shows in Canada this week, plus a performance in Turlock about to get caught in the spotlight. Cosby has a Jan. 18 appearance scheduled at Turlock Community Theatre.  Modesto Bee article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Barbara Boxer’s successor must be a different kind of senator; Kamala Harris makes the right move on race and policing.

Merced Sun-Star – A wish list for the next U.S. senator from California.

Modesto Bee – A wish list for the next U.S. senator from California.

Sacramento Bee – A wish list for the next U.S. senator from California; Hard lessons are learned when the process is ignored.

Stockton Record – Any success the state has in dealing with the drought will take constant and consistent conservation efforts; San Joaquin County’s new district attorney appears set for challenges.