July 17, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories 

California drought bill roils Capitol Hill waters – A Republican-drafted California water bill approved by the House of Representatives on Thursday now faces a serious test in the Senate and beyond. McClatchy Newspapers article; LA Times article; AP article; KVPR report; ‘Reaction to House passage of Valadao drought bill’ in Hanford Sentinel

Marijuana legalization in California: Leading group moves to place initiative on 2016 ballot – Proponents of a proposition that would make California the fifth state to legalize pot for pleasure are a few weeks away from kicking off their November 2016 campaign, supporters said Thursday on a conference call with reporters. Contra Costa Times article 

Dan Walters: New Age phobias emerging — New-age phobias such as fear of vaccinations, fear of genetically altered foods, fear of fracking, fear of tobacco and, most potently, fear of climate change have arisen as successors to those earlier motivators. And politicians, forever looking for political waves to surf, have not hesitated to exploit them as energetically as their predecessors did. Walters column in Sacramento Bee


Gov. Brown 

Gov. Brown signs bill closing loophole in sexual assault law — Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed into law a bill that blocks adults sued in California civil court by minors over sexual assault allegations from using the defense that the child consented to the sexual contact. LA Times article; AP article


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Introduce a bill and pay a fee, says proposed ballot measure – California lawmakers are considering upping the price of direct democracy by increasing to $2,000 the decades-old $200 fee to file a ballot measure. Sacramento Bee article

Congressional campaign fund filings show incumbents ahead of challengers – The elections are more than a year away, but already, front-runners are emerging in some key California congressional contests, and most endangered incumbents are well ahead of their challengers in fundraising, campaign filings show. LA Times article

Harris leads money race, but poor Republicans could propel Sanchez – Kamala Harris fortified her front-runner status this week when her latest report showed she’s raised $4.1 million since entering the U.S. Senate race in January, bringing her cash on hand to nearly $3 million roughly a year ahead of the primary. Fellow Democrat Loretta Sanchez raised $618,000, transferred $516,000 and reported $1.1 left to spend at the end of last month. Sacramento Bee article

Joel Fox: Rise of the referendum – but not for all issues — Other major issues that could arise from the special sessions will not face referendums. If tax increases are passed by the legislature, they will become law without opponents having the opportunity to refer that action to voters. Article 2, Section 9 (a) of the state constitution prohibits referendums “providing for tax levies or appropriations for usual current expenses of the state.” Fox in Fox & Hounds



Immigrant advocates tell Sheriff Mims to get ICE out of Fresno jail — One week after Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims announced a new collaboration with Immigration and Customs Enforcement, immigrant rights activists said she’s gone too far. Fresno Bee article; KVPR report

San Francisco deputies union ties pier killing to sheriff’s order – The union representing San Francisco sheriff’s deputies filed a formal complaint against Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, linking the Pier 14 killing of Kathryn Steinle to a March order that barred them from communicating with federal immigration agents, according to documents obtained by The Chronicle. San Francisco Chronicle article 

Jeb Bush, in San Francisco visit, says Trump is preying on immigration fears — Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush on Thursday condemned his rival Donald Trump for making incendiary remarks about illegal immigration. LA Times article


Other areas

E-cigarette, smoking age bills revived in Legislature – After several anti-tobacco bills stalled in the state Legislature, California lawmakers said Thursday they will revive the proposals in special session in order to bypass their reluctant colleagues. San Francisco Chronicle article; Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article

Bill barring grand juries in use-of-force cases clears California Assembly – Legislation that would prohibit California from turning to grand juries after police officers use lethal force squeaked out of the California Assembly on a 41-33 vote Thursday. Capitol Alert; LA Times article

Michael Fitzgerald: The rights of cops and wingnuts – In this marketplace, government tolerates free speech because the free exchange of ideas leads to the truth. Falsehoods and bigoted baloney sink of their own weight. Or so the theory goes. I haven’t heard a better one. Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Bid to link sports and charity raffles divides California nonprofits – A ticket to a basketball or baseball game could soon let fans enjoy two contests: the game on the field and a charity lottery with a substantial prize at stake. In a rematch of a previous legislative fight, California is considering a bill allowing nonprofits associated with professional sports teams to conduct raffles at games and handsomely compensate the winner. Sacramento Bee article 

California Assembly Oks measure to boost voter turnout in city elections – California cities with low voter turnouts would be required to consolidate their elections with the state elections, under legislation approved Thursday by the state Assembly. LA Times article

Farrell wants gun transactions in San Francisco recorded — Not many guns nor much ammunition is sold in San Francisco, but Supervisor Mark Farrell wants to record those transactions. He’s asking the city attorney to draft legislation to the videotaping of all such sales in the city, as well as require businesses to give the police department weekly updates on its ammunition sales. San Francisco Chronicle article

California’s presidential donations constitute 16 percent of total – California has long bankrolled presidential campaigns, and 2016 is shaping up to be no different. The state’s money has constituted 16% of all itemized contributions so far in the 2016 presidential race. That’s more than any other state – followed by New York and Texas at 13% each, based on a Times analysis of fundraising reports. LA Times article 

LA files few charges in Ferguson police shooting protests despite mass arrests – Los Angeles city prosecutors told The Times they had rejected filing criminal charges against the majority of the people detained by the LAPD during those demonstrations. The city attorney’s office has filed charges against only 27 of the 323 protesters arrested — fewer than 9% — and has formally rejected charges against 181.  LA Times article

Bill Whalen: Five ways Maine is better than California — After a few days’ stay on the other coast, one thing is clear: As Maine goes, so too should California. Whalen column in Sacramento Bee


News Briefs

Top Stories 

California says irrigation district violated 2015 drought order — California has issued its first cease and desist order telling an irrigation district to stop pumping water under this year’s tightened drought regulations, The state water board on Thursday said that inspectors in May observed the West Side Irrigation District in Tracy pumping water. AP article; Stockton Record article; LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Fresno State students to earn doctoral degrees at UC Merced – The National Institutes of Health awarded a grant that will help under-represented minority students from Fresno State earn doctoral degrees in biomedical and behavioral sciences at UC Merced. Fresno Bee article

Fewer released felons returning to California prisons – Fewer felons released from state prison are returning because of committing new crimes or having their paroles revoked, a new report from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation says. Sacramento Bee article


Jobs and the Economy

Oakdale center will nurture startup businesses – Business boosters have turned an old downtown building into a place where startup ventures can get office space and advice. The Oakdale Innovation Center, which will launch at a gathering Thursday, will offer mentoring, computer help, marketing and other services in a former variety store on East F Street. People with ideas for businesses based in the city could use the low-cost space and free wireless connection. They also could meet potential investors. Modesto Bee article 

Bill Smittcamp: Fresno Food Expo: A regional catalyst for economic growth – The president of Wawona Foods, Fresno Food Expo Advisory Committee member and founding exhibitor writes, “New, innovative businesses have emerged. New industry collaborations have been formed. New buyer connections have been made. A new, heightened awareness of our vibrant food production industry has been realized – both among industry buyers and our own community. And in turn, there is new economic growth for the San Joaquin Valley’s food production industry that continues to develop.” Smittcamp op-ed in Fresno Bee

Fresno County defends its staffing in Public Defender’s Office – Fresno County officials defended the county’s budgeting for the Public Defender’s Office in letters exchanged with the American Civil Liberties Union earlier this year after the ACLU said inadequate staffing violated the rights of criminal defendants. Fresno Bee article

Michael Fitzgerald blog: Pensions pound Stockton again – CalPERS is hitting the City of Stockton in its threadbare purse again. As reported earlier this week, CalPERS’ investment returns fell far below projections. The state pension management system projected a 7.5% return; it earned only 2.4%. So CalPERS won’t have the money it expected to pay its share of pension costs. Guess who gets to pick up the slack? Fitzgerald blog in Stockton Record 

Uber tops taxi use for business travelers, report shows – Taxis are losing business travelers to ride-hailing services like Uber, a survey shows. In the three months ended in June, Uber overtook taxis as the most expensed form of ground transportation, according to expense management system provider Certify. Uber accounted for 55 percent of ground transportation receipts compared with taxis at 43 percent. AP article

CoreLogic: Cash home sales see April dip in Fresno – Fewer homebuyers in Fresno peeled off actual greenbacks to buy their homes in April, according to new cash sales data from real estate research firm CoreLogic. April cash sales in Fresno represented 25 percent of total home sales, down 1.7 percent compared to April 2014. The Business Journal article

Why California’s IT chief pumped brakes on $309 million state project — One state IT leader says the project is ready to move forward. Another says it isn’t. At stake: hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds. Last week Department of Technology Director Carlos Ramos explained in a letter why he believes the Centralized Revenue Opportunity System, or CROS, shouldn’t pick a vendor until it submits a more detailed schedule that explains how it will successfully launch. Sacramento Bee article

Entrepreneurs working to create Fresno’s ‘Little Taiwan’ – A group of local entrepreneurs is moving forward with plans to raise the profile of the region’s Taiwanese population by opening businesses in what they hope will soon be known as the Central Valley’s “Little Taiwan.” The Business Journal article

Equal access at issue in PUC battle with Uber over data disclosure – The California Public Utilities Commission is demanding detailed driver data from Uber and rival ride-sharing companies — data that Uber, citing passenger privacy and proprietary business information, has so far refused to turn over. That led to a dramatic standoff Wednesday when an administrative judge for the CPUC recommended that Uber be fined $7.3 million and its operations in the state be suspended. LA Times article

Lyft, other ride-sharing companies in compliance with state regulations – Lyft and other ride-sharing companies are in compliance with California regulations, a judge said in a ruling that recommended Uber face a multimillion-dollar fine and suspension. LA Times article

One step forward for planned Hosking Avenue shopping center – The Bakersfield Planning Commission got its first look Thursday night at a draft environmental report for a shopping center at Hosking Avenue and Highway 99 that has been planned for the better part of a decade, but delayed by the recession and lack of a freeway interchange. Bakersfield Californian article

Oakland officials discuss new Raiders stadium with developer – Oakland officials on Thursday met to discuss a Raiders stadium proposal by San Diego developer Floyd Kephart. Before submitting plans to finance the $1 billion-plus stadium he proposed in a development of an 800-acre swath of land around O.Co Coliseum, Kephart asked Oakland and Alameda County to finance an estimated $100 million to $140 million in infrastructure improvements. San Francisco Chronicle article

Raley’s contemplating urban-style store in downtown Sacramento — A generation after pulling out of downtown Sacramento, Raley’s supermarket officials say they are looking to return to the city core with a new style of store fit for urban dwellers. Sacramento Bee article 

Ralph Kasarda: State should hire based on merit – The attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation writes, “It would be immoral for government leaders to ignore large racial disparities and fail to seek lawful solutions. But it would be equally reprehensible to address disparities by doling out employment opportunities on the basis of race.” Kasarda op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Free birth certificates help Sacramento’s homeless find housing, register for school — Effective July 1, AB 1733 requires county recorders to issue free birth certificates to any person who demonstrates he or she is homeless. John Bauters, policy director of Housing California, said his organization conceived of the bill to help homeless people access basic services. Without documentation, most homeless shelters in Sacramento will not allow people to enter or participate in assistance programs. Sacramento Bee article



Water managers dodge bullet with ‘May miracle’ rains – For drought watchers, it has become known as the May miracle. At a time when water levels in Lake Mead were getting so low that officials prepared for drastic cutbacks, it started raining. A series of powerful storms pummeled the mountains that feed the Colorado River, a key source of water for California, Arizona and Nevada. LA Times article 

Many of the world’s water basins are being depleted, studies find – More than a third of the largest groundwater basins in the world are being depleted faster than they are getting replenished, and there are little to no accurate data showing just how much water is left in them, according to two new studies published Tuesday.  LA Times article

Unincorporated homes with dry wells look to Merced for help – As the wait to get a new well drilled in Merced County continues to be about 18 months, a higher than normal number of people are seeking to hook up to city water sources, officials say. Merced Sun-Star article 

Cities postpone vote on Turlock Irrigation District water purchase — A vote has been postponed to next week on an agreement to provide Tuolumne River water to a proposed treatment plant serving Turlock, Ceres and south Modesto. Modesto Bee article

Fresno homebuilders reducing grass use ahead of state rule – Local builders started cutting grass out of its landscaping even before the drought. With density requirements, lots are smaller so there is less landscaping to begin with, Prandini said. Builders have looked at ways to design a yard that looks nice and doesn’t require tons of watering or maintenance. Fresno Bee article

California drought: Forecast to persist, intensify through October – Thunderstorms during the past week helped decrease exceptional drought in one county in California as exceptional, extreme and severe drought conditions dominate the state, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor released July 16. Capital Public Radio report

Ranchers sue over rule giving feds authority on state water – Ranchers in New Mexico, California and Washington state have challenged a new Obama administration rule giving federal agencies authority to protect some streams and wetlands. The Sacramento, California-based Pacific Legal Foundation announced it has filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Minnesota on behalf of the ranchers over the recent expansion of the Clean Water Act. AP article 

#drylandsCA: The man who has the power to be a water god – We’re in Chris Harp’s truck, rattling down the bumpy dirt strip between orchards and canal, while he doles out irrigation water. He’s a ditch tender – the guy who turns wheels that open and close water gates. The guy at the end of all the fussing over law and regulations about who gets what water when. LA Times article 

PPIC blog: The ‘inexact science’ of water pricing — How can the price of water help us manage the drought? Like everything to do with water management in California, there is no easy answer. The State Water Resources Control Board recently held a workshop to examine the current pricing climate and explore the state’s role in helping urban water utilities adopt conservation-oriented water rates. PPIC blog

Ag research facility slices electricity bill — An agricultural research center in Parlier just completed the third of a four-stage solar project that installers said will reduce one facility’s electricity costs by 96 percent. Visalia Times-Delta article

Mark Biddlecomb and David Guy: Cuts hit wildlife, ag just as hard – Biddlecomb, Western Region Director of Ducks Unlimited, and Guy, president of the Northern California Water Association, write, “These cuts to farmers and wildlife refuges during the past two years are significant and have real impacts to both habitat for wildlife and to farmers’ ability to make a living. To imply that either has remained unscathed by the drought or by mandatory water reductions is far from the truth.” Biddlecomb/Guy op-ed in Stockton Record 

Market Match expands into more farmers markets statewide – A recent $3.7 million grant from the USDA is helping Market Match, an innovative program that began in the East Bay, expand to more than 230 sites statewide. KQED report

District failed to notify Selleck of water theft allegations sooner, lawyer says — After the settlement was unanimously approved, the actor’s attorney issued a statement, marking the first public comment by one of Selleck’s representatives and an epilogue to a dispute that generated global intrigue. LA Times article


Criminal Justice/Prisons 

Obama becomes first president to visit prison, but reform push has limits — President Obama has made a push for broad-based reform of the criminal justice system in recent days, commuting the sentences of 46 inmates and, on Thursday, becoming the first sitting president to visit a federal prison. As ambitious as his goals are, the changes Obama can make are limited. LA Times article; Fresno Bee editorial

Another new officer, one in training – Stockton Police Chief Eric Jones introduced the two newest members of his department Thursday, one a newly sworn 23-year-old officer from Chico and the other a 40-year-old officer trainee who was raised in Iran. Stockton Record article 

Grievances aired at Pride-Police forum – As an investigation into Lt. Toby Will’s use of his title in a letter vilifying same-sex marriage is underway, leaders of the LGBTQ community and the Stockton Police Department gathered Thursday to discuss concerns over the matter. Stockton Record article 

Julian Hernandez to stand trial on murder charges — A Bakersfield man who last month led police on a high-speed chase that ended in the death of a Bakersfield police officer will stand trial on second-degree murder and five other felony counts. Bakersfield Californian article



No-bid practice for funding school projects found illegal – Billions of dollars in California school construction projects are in legal limbo after a state appellate court ruling determined the no-bid contract used to hire a construction firm in a Central Valley school district — a kind of contract found in districts across the state — was illegal. San Francisco Chronicle article 

Fresno Unified files petition on leaseback to state Supreme Court – The Fresno Unified School District is asking the California Supreme Court to reverse a recent appellate court opinion criticizing its use of a no-bid contract, saying it could negatively impact hundreds of school districts and contractors across the state. Fresno Bee article

Group sues 13 school districts for not using test scores in teacher evaluations –  An education advocacy group sued 13 California school districts Thursday, claiming that they have ignored a state law requiring teachers’ performance evaluations to include student standardized test scores.  LA Times article; EdSource article 

Half of new teachers quit profession in 5 years? Not true, study says — A recent federal study found that a much smaller percentage of beginning teachers leave the field in their first five years on the job than the widely quoted figure of 50 percent. It’s 17 percent, according to the new research. EdSource article 

Legislature urges UC campuses to condemn anti-Semitism – California lawmakers on Thursday approved a resolution urging University of California campuses to adopt a resolution condemning anti-Semitism. LA Times article

Kevin de Leon: Senate stands ready to help on graduation rates – The state Senate president pro tem writes, “The Senate stands ready to work with (new Sacramento State President Robert Nelsen) to establish the incentive grant for Sac State students and all CSU students. It’s a 10-minute car ride between our offices. Let’s visit and work together to help more Sac State students graduate in four years.” de Leon op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Innovative summer classes mix it up with creative spins on reading, writing, ‘rithmatic’ — Better funding and community input has helped put summer school back on the calendar, with two innovative programs heralding new ways of slowing the summer slide. Modesto Bee article

Monson-Sultana faces lawsuits over sexual abuse – Lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by a former teacher were filed Thursday morning against Monson-Sultana Joint Union Elementary School District at B.F. Sisk Courthouse in downtown Fresno. The lawsuits stem from the district’s employment of David Blancas, who pleaded guilty to sexual abuse in January 2013. Fresno Bee article 

UC San Diego raises $1 billion for research — UC San Diego raised $1 billion in research funding during the fiscal year that ended June 30 — the fourth time since 2010 that the school has broken the billion-dollar mark. San Diego Union-Tribune article



Oil review targets 98 Kern injection wells for possible closure – State regulators say nearly 100 more Kern County oil field wastewater injection wells may have to be shut in after a preliminary review found that only one of 11 disputed aquifers appears to qualify for an exemption from federal groundwater protections. Bakersfield Californian article

U.S. likely to bar oil-waste dumping into 10 California aquifers – Oil companies will probably have to stop injecting their wastewater into 10 Central Valley aquifers that the state has let them use for years, in the latest fallout from a simmering dispute over whether California has adequately protected its groundwater from contamination. San Francisco Chronicle article                         

Army Corps board approves $1.3-billion LA River restoration proposal – A plan to spend $1.3 billion or more restoring the Los Angeles River and redeveloping nearby land inched forward Thursday as a federal review board agreed to let the proposal proceed. LA Times article 

State Senate resolution praises papal encyclical on climate change — The state Senate approved a resolution on Thursday praising Pope Francis’ encyclical on climate change and calling on politicians to heed its call for better stewardship of the environment. LA Times article

State is probing CPUC boss’s disclosure — Enforcement agents from the California Fair Political Practices Commission are scrutinizing the president of the California Public Utilities Commission over tens of thousands of dollars he raised from labor groups and energy lawyers to pay for a gala dinner honoring his predecessor. San Diego Union-Tribune article


Health/Human Services

Out-of-network costs lurk even in in-network hospitals – Millions of Americans get surprise bills from doctors who don’t participate with their health plan but who practice in hospitals that do. With no contract in place to dictate how much doctors get paid for services, they can bill patients for charges beyond what insurance covers. LA Times article

On Valley Edition: ‘Gap’ widens between Medi-Cal and employer-based insurance – new study from the UCLA Health Policy Institute indicates that the access gap between Medi-Cal recipients and those with private, employer-sponsored coverage continues to grow. And those with Medi-Cal benefits in the Central Valley do even worse, facing even greater challenges in finding and retaining a doctor than those with the same benefits in wealthier parts of the state. KVPR report

Aetna’s 21 percent rate hike amounts to ‘price gouging,’ California regulator says — California’s managed-care regulator slammed health insurance giant Aetna Inc. on Thursday for “price gouging” after it raised rates on small employers by 21%. LA Times article

Many Californians unaware of program that pays family members for caregiving – Christine McCormack quit her job as a restaurant manager two years ago to care for her 88-year-old mother-in-law. While it doesn’t make up for all of her lost income, she’s getting some financial help through an innovative program that allows many of California’s low-income senior citizens and disabled residents to remain in their home. KQED report

C.V. Allen: Despite critics, Medicare turns 50 – The semi-retired Modesto doctor writes, “Either way, 50 million Americans go to bed each night knowing medical care will be there if needed. Well done, Medicare, and many happy returns. Allen op-ed in Modesto Bee


Land Use/Housing

California Assembly Oks warnings for Airbnb-type rentals — Legislation advancing in California would require short-term rental housing websites including Airbnb to warn users they may be violating their leases. Sacramento Bee article



LAX poised to become largest U.S. airport to allow Uber, Lyft pickups — Despite protests by taxi drivers, Los Angeles airport officials agreed Thursday to permit ride-hailing companies such as Uber and Lyft to begin picking up passengers at LAX, the largest airport in the nation to fully welcome the fast-growing, mobile app-based services. LA Times article

Google self-driving car involved in first injury accident — Google Inc. revealed Thursday that one of its self-driving car prototypes was involved in an injury accident for the first time. AP article 

Dinuba plans to buy 15 bus shelters — The Tulare County Association of Governments is expected to approve on Monday a resolution to allow the city of Dinuba to accept state dollars to build 15 new bus stop shelters. Visalia Times-Delta article


Other areas

Fresno bans Confederate flag on city-owned property — The Confederate battle flag will never fly legally over city of Fresno property, the City Council said Thursday. The issue now lands on the desk of Mayor Ashley Swearengin. The mayor is on vacation, but her Communications Director Mark Standriff said she will not veto the council’s action. Fresno Bee article; KVPR report

South Merced group pledges to charge on despite City Council decision – A group of south Merced advocates said they are displeased with a Merced City Council decision last week that blocks their youth program from using a city youth center, but they remain determined to carry on with their efforts. Merced Sun-Star article

Patterson council asks Councilwoman Lustgarten to resign – Council members have asked embattled Councilwoman Sheree Lustgarten to resign from her elected post. If she does not resign, council members want her to undergo a fitness-for-duty examination. The action came at a closed special meeting Tuesday on an investigation into Lustgarten’s conduct at the Hammon Senior Center. For some time, people have complained that she has been rude and has intimidated seniors and employees at the Hammon center. Modesto Bee article 

LAFCO to begin consolidation talks with eight San Joaquin County fire districts – The San Joaquin County Local Agency formation Commission will begin coordinating meetings with rural fire districts to initiate a lengthy consolidation process. Stockton Record article

NAACP seeks apology from News & Review over caricatures – Controversial Sacramento News & Review caricatures of Mayor Kevin Johnson drew further criticism Thursday from civil rights leaders and prominent members of the black community as the local chapter of the NAACP held a news conference to demand an apology from the weekly paper. Sacramento Bee article 

Rise of coffee-spill car crashes linked to insurance scam — Thirty-three people who wrecked cars on purpose after claiming to spill coffee on themselves have been charged with insurance fraud in San Jose, prosecutors said. San Francisco Chronicle article



Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – In words and in deeds, Barack Obama is ramping up his crusade for criminal justice reform during the rest of his presidency. This is a worthy cause for the president; Fire season heats up as lakes empty.

Sacramento Bee – In words and in deeds, Barack Obama is ramping up his crusade for criminal justice reform during the rest of his presidency. This is a worthy cause for the president; A cynical attack on Planned Parenthood.


Stockton Record – Get your quaff on at Stockton Beer Week.