June 18, 2016


Political Stories

Top stories

What got done in California’s new state budget and what didn’t — Every year in California’s state Capitol, some budget issues get resolved and others get pushed further down the road. And it’s a mixed bag in the new deal passed by lawmakers on Wednesday. More work on budget-related bills is expected next week. Although the $170.9-billion spending plan includes more funding for programs that help the state’s poor, a few other longstanding issues remain unresolved. LA Times article

California will vote on death penalty repeal in November — California voters will get to decide in November whether to repeal the state’s death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Sacramento Bee article; San Francisco Chronicle article

State budget

Remember when California’s budget was always late? Here’s why fiscal gridlock is  a thing of the past – Voters changed the system with Proposition 25 in November 2010, amending the state Constitution to allow a simple legislative majority vote on the budget as well as a political sweetener of canceling lawmaker paychecks for every day after June 15 they wait to approve a spending plan. LA Times article

Budget has $270 million to upgrade county jails – Counties will get another $270 million for jail construction under the budget approved by California lawmakers this week, even though opponents say the money could be better spent on rehabilitation programs. AP article

Homeless youth shortchanged in new California budget deal, advocates say – While this year’s state budget deal includes money set aside for housing and bolsters social safety net programs, advocates question how much of those dollars will actually benefit young people living on the streets. Teens and young adults face barriers to accessing services for the wider homeless population, they say. KQED report

Will new California budget ban orca’s captivity? — A ban on orcas in captivity is part of the state budget package making its way through the Capitol – or maybe not. Sacramento Bee article

Valley politics

AD 26: Ruben Macareno continues to gain votes – Visalia Republican Devon Mathis appears headed to face Democrat Ruben Macareno in a November runoff election for the state Assembly District 26 race, according to the latest results of the June primary from the California Secretary of State’s Office. Fresno Bee article

Hanford councilman blamed by grand jury for misleading voters – The Kings County grand jury issued a report this week critical of a Hanford City Council member, but the report didn’t bother to name that politician. Not to worry. Francisco Ramirez, elected in 2014, said it’s about him. Fresno Bee article

Voters have ‘no confidence’ in candidates on ballot — The names include most of the cast of Game of Thrones, as well as Satan, Darth Vader, Harry Potter, Herman Munster and the “Lord Christ Almighty.” One is simply “Help!” This primary election season, many Kern County voters were clearly fed up with their choice of candidates on the ballot. So they wrote in their own — more than in previous election years, according to Kern County Chief Deputy Registrar of Voters Karen Rhea. Bakersfield Californian article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

California Politics Podcast: Of Budgets and Bullets — This week’s episode takes a close look at the newly approved California state budget, and we also discuss political and policy news on gun control issues which came just days after the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla. With John Myers of the Los Angeles Times and Anthony York of the Grizzly Bear Project. California Politics Podcast

Other areas

Yosemite welcomes Obama, first family – President Barack Obama and the vacationing first family landed here Friday evening in the iconic valley framed by sheer granite cliffs, becoming the fifth sitting president – and the first in more than 50 years – to visit the famed park. Fresno Bee article; Visalia Times-Delta article;Merced Sun-Star article

Legislature delays vote on ‘right to build’ proposal – The Legislature’s planned vote on Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to streamline the state’s housing approval process with “right to build” legislation has been delayed until August. San Francisco Chronicle article

State, local and LGBT leaders call for gun control after Orlando attack – A coalition of state and local lawmakers, LGBT advocates and police officers gathered in Los Angeles on Friday and called for tougher gun safety laws in the wake of the massacre at a gay nightclub in Florida that killed 49 people. LA Times article; Sacramento Bee article

Where do California legislators, candidates stand on gun regulation? – The massacre at an Orlando nightclub has reignited the national debate over gun laws. Where do California’s state legislators and Senate and Assembly candidates stand on the issues of gun laws? Read how they answered those questions in March, when they submitted information for the 2016 Sacramento Bee Voter GuideSacramento Bee article

Where do California’s members of Congress, candidates stand on guns, fighting terror? – Where do California’s U.S. Senate candidates and our Sacramento-area congressional representatives and candidates stand on the issues of gun laws and the U.S. approach to the Islamic State? Read how they answered those questions in March, when they submitted information for the 2016 Sacramento Bee Voter GuideSacramento Bee article

After filibuster, GOP allows vote on Feinstein gun bill — The Senate could vote as early as Monday on legislation by Sen. Dianne Feinstein that would ban anyone on terrorist watch lists from buying guns, in a GOP concession to Democrats who waged an emotional 15-hour filibuster demanding action in the wake of the massacre in a gay Orlando nightclub. San Francisco Chronicle article

Joel Fox: Cap-n-trade, cigarette tax and the tale of dwindling funds — California’s cap and trade program and cigarette tax increases have something in common—the more they encourage behavioral changes in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and smoking, the less revenue they bring in. If the goal is to reduce the pollutants and the smoke then the programs can claim some success. But, these programs also appear to be about the money. Fox in Fox & Hounds

Bill Whalen: It’s misguided to recall judge in Stanford sexual assault – California deserves something more than a Perksy recall – a thought-provoking examination (and legislative intervention if need be) into life on college campuses, alcohol and the hookup culture, how the younger generation interacts and whether state laws adequately protect victims of sex crimes. The recall may feel justifiable. But much like the ruling that triggered the backlash, it’s misguided justice. Whalen column in Sacramento Bee

See where in California antigay hate crimes are reported most often — More than 1,100 gay Californians were targeted for hate crimes because of their sexual orientation between 2010 and 2014, even as the number of such crimes has fallen in recent years, according to the latest FBI statistics. Sacramento Bee article

Motorcycle lane-splitting bill moves forward in California – A state Assembly bill that would allow motorcycle lane-splitting in California has moved closer to a vote. California’s AB 51, sponsored by Assembly member Bill Quirk (D-Hayward), intends to create guidelines for safe lane-splitting, a practice the proposed legislation describes as a motorcyclist passing other vehicles “by riding between them along the lane line.” LA Times article

Should LA roll back its ‘so-called boycott’ on Arizona? – Six years ago, Los Angeles lawmakers decided to bar employees from traveling to Arizona on city business, avoiding the state in reaction to a hotly contested law targeting illegal immigration. They also urged city departments to refrain from entering into contracts with Arizona businesses. But in the years since, the City Council has repeatedly loosened those rules to allow travel to the state for meetings and training and to keep buying Tasers and other made-in-Arizona products. LA Times article

Presidential Politics

California is a tough state for the GOP.  Now it’s even tougher — Trump’s ascension to the Republican nomination for president is roiling Congressional races throughout California as GOP candidates in the liberal state struggle with how to respond to having the bombastic businessman at the top of their party’s ticket. Sacramento Bee article

News Stories

Top Stories

California adds jobs, unemployment falls to 5.2 percent — California barreled through May with continued job gains as employers added 15,200 people to their payrolls last month, according to a state data release. The state’s unemployment rate ticked down for the fifth month in a row, hitting 5.2%, still higher than the national rate of 4.7%, the Employment Development Department said Friday. LA Times article; Sacramento Bee article

Merced-area leaders discuss gang violence prevention – Better information-sharing and increased prevention efforts are part of a plan unveiled Friday by elected officials and law enforcement agents who said they are determined to attack gang violence in Merced County. Merced Sun-Star article

Jobs and the Economy 

Valley unemployment rates drop in May–  Unemployment rates fell throughout the eight-county San Joaquin Valley region in May and remained well below May 2015 rates, according to data released by the California Employment Development Department. Here are the May unemployment rates, followed in parentheses by the April 2016 and May 2015 rates:

  • Fresno – 8.5 percent (9.6, 9.7)
  • Kern – 9.7 percent (10.6, 10.2)
  • Kings – 8.6 percent (10.0, 10.0)
  • Madera – 8.5 percent (9.6, 10.3)
  • Merced – 9.7 percent (11.1, 11.2)
  • San Joaquin – 7.1 percent (8.1, 8.5)
  • Stanislaus – 8.0 percent (8.9, 9.5)
  • Tulare – 9.5 percent (10.8, 10.8)

Fresno County jobless rates fall with seasonal farm jobs — Fresno County’s impressive employment rebound continued in May, as the county’s unemployment rate dropped to 8.5 percent, compared to 9.7 percent in May 2015. The year-over-year drop in the unemployment rate marked 57 months of consistent decreases in joblessness for the county. Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article

Unemployment slides to 9.7 percent in Kern – State figures released Friday show Kern County’s unemployment rate slid to a seasonally unadjusted 9.7 percent in May, down from April’s 10.6 percent and March’s 11.6 percent, as local farmers continued to add jobs and oil companies went on slashing them. Bakersfield Californian article

Unemployment drops to 8.6 percent in Kings – Kings County is heading into the peak summer agricultural employment season with favorable unemployment numbers. Kings’ jobless rate in May was 8.6 percent, according to the California Employment Development Department. Hanford Sentinel article 

San Joaquin County jobless rate tumbles to pre-recession levels – San Joaquin County’s unemployment rate fell sharply in May, dropping to 7.1 percent from a revised 8.1 percent in April 2016, due mostly to a seasonal surge in farm and construction jobs, as well as gains in transportation, warehousing and retail trade.Stockton Record article

Stanislaus, Merced job outlook continues to improve – The Stanislaus unemployment rate dipped from 8.9 percent in April to 8 percent in May, and Merced’s declined from 11.1 percent to 9.7 percent in the same time period. Modesto Bee article

Tulare County jobless rate falls to 9.5 percent The unemployment rate in the Tulare County was 9.5 percent in May 2016, down from a revised 10.8 percent in April 2016, and below the year-ago estimate of 10.8 percent. This May was below double digits for the first time since 2005 when the jobless rate was 8.1 percent. That May was the lowest rate between the year 2000 to the present. Visalia Times-Delta article

Sacramento Bee: The rankings that really matter – Feel good about our place in the global economy. But until the Golden State improves our other rankings, it’s not quite time to really celebrate.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Local tax credit winners to hire 44, invest up to $3.5 million – Three Central Valley companies plan to invest a combined $3.5 million on expansion projects that will also create 44 new jobs, thanks to a new state tax credit program. The Business Journal article 

LA City Council to seek voter approval for $1.1 billion bond or parcel tax to fight homelessness – Los Angeles voters will likely be asked to approve either a new parcel tax or a $1.1-billion housing bond this fall to help fund the city’s struggle to reduce homelessness. LA Times article

Rejected at ballot, Sacramento pot tax supporters turn to City Council – A Sacramento plan to fund city youth services through marijuana tax dollars is back in play, despite failing by a slim margin at the ballot box during the recent election.  Sacramento Bee article

Karma comes around again: California’s newest car factory aims to rival Tesla – A premium luxury sedan born from the ashes of the Fisker Karma – a Teslarival that wowed the automotive world before collapsing into bankruptcy three years ago – will soon begin rolling off a production line at California’s newest car factory. LA Times article

Merced Youth Council braces for funding disappointment – Leaders of Merced’s Youth Council said they expect the City Council will decline their request for a significantly larger budget when the matter goes to a vote on Monday. Merced Sun-Star article 

Stockton city contracts up for approval – City council members will be asked at their Tuesday meeting to approve new three-year contracts for two management groups and to extend some of the benefits in those contracts to other groups currently negotiating contracts with the city. Stockton Record article

Narativ PR launches with mission to tell stories of Fresno businesses – Narativ, a new public relations firm in Fresno, opened Monday with a goal of helping local businesses tell their stories. Owner and founder Tanya Osegueda has 13 years of experience in public relations and marketing, and decided to branch out on her own to help Fresno businesses succeed. Fresno Bee article 

Habitat for Humanity ReStore moves, expands in Modesto – Habitat for Humanity helps people put down roots. Now it’s putting down its own. The Stanislaus County branch of the nonprofit organization has relocated its second ReStore location from McHenry Avenue in Modesto to Kearney Avenue. Modesto Bee article

Which country invests the most in LA? The answer might surprise you — Japan continues to be the largest source of foreign direct investment in Southern California, according to a report released Friday by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation. KPCC report


Farm Beat: Salmon predation issue has new twists – The photo with this column can’t help but draw your eyes. It shows a baby salmon being removed from the gut of a non-native bass that preyed upon it on the Tuolumne River. Irrigation districts have used the shot in claiming that predator control would serve the native salmon better than boosting releases from their reservoirs into lower river stretches. Modesto Bee article 

Fresno Bee ag reporter wins Farm Bureau award — Coverage of California’s drought was the main theme to journalism awards given Thursday by the Fresno County Farm Bureau, including the general print honor won by Robert Rodriguez of The Fresno Bee. Fresno Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

New California law enforcement contract has ‘fitness’ loophole – The tentative contract with the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association eliminates the requirement that covered employees pass fitness tests to receive a $65 monthly physical-fitness incentive payment. Sacramento Bee article

Sergeant’s discrimination lawsuit dismissed against Fresno police – A Fresno Superior Court judge has dismissed a workplace harassment and discrimination lawsuit against the Fresno Police Department and three detectives. Fresno Bee article

Oakland police bombshells: Racist texts, latest chief steps down — Oakland’s acting police chief Paul Figueroa stepped down Friday, becoming the third head of the Oakland Police Department to abruptly leave the top post in nine days, just as another bombshell dropped: A new internal investigation is under way, this time into racist text messages and emails shared among officers. San Francisco Chronicle article; LA Times article; KQED report

U.S. military agency launches investigation tied to Oakland misconduct scandal — A Defense Department agency is looking into an employee who reportedly recently contacted the woman at center of the Oakland police sexual misconduct scandal. KQED report

Sanger police officer dies in ATV accident at Pismo Beach — A 20-year veteran of the Sanger Police Department died in an ATV accident Friday morning in the Pismo Beach area, the Police Department said. Officer Rodney Jones performed in various assignments and contributed to furthering public safety in Sanger, the city’s Police Department said in a statement. Fresno Bee article

Oakland cop in trouble: Girlfriend allegedly wrote his reports — A veteran Oakland police detective who has headed up some of the city’s biggest murder cases is under investigation after his girlfriend told authorities she helped him write up some of his reports, two law enforcement sources familiar with the matter said Friday. San Francisco Chronicle article


Former student-athlete donates $1.5 million to Fresno State stadium plan – Fresno State athletic officials announced Friday that a former student-athlete who wished to remain anonymous donated $1.5 million toward expansion plans for Bulldog Stadium. The Business Journal article

Kern High School District places police chief on leave — Kern High School District Police Chief Joseph Lopeteguy has been placed on paid administrative leave, district officials confirmed Friday. Lopeteguy was placed on leave May 13, however officials would not discuss why, citing it as a personnel matter. Lt. Jerald Wyatt is acting KHSD police chief in the interim, KHSD spokeswoman Lisa Krch said. Bakersfield Californian article

Pro-youth program keeps kids learning through summer — With kids out of school for the next seven weeks, parents are looking for ways to keep children engaged in learning throughout the summer. Nonprofit Pro-Youth, Visalia, has a summer program that fits the bill: STEAM. Visalia Times-Delta article


Prosecutor begins PG&E trial with blistering opening statement – A jury in San Francisco heard sharply conflicting portrayals of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. at Friday’s opening session of the company’s criminal trial on charges of violating federal pipeline-inspection laws, with one attorney calling it a deceptive scofflaw that chose profits over safety, and her adversary describing it as a community benefactor that did its best to comply with unclear government standards. San Francisco Chronicle article

Why the Tesla and electric car boom could be good news for the grid – As the cars and their batteries get cheaper, they’ll become more and more accessible to buyers — even as a profusion of charging stations to service growing numbers of vehicles will help address the so-called “range anxiety.” These trends, combined with climate-change concerns, all presage a bright future for the electric car. LA Times article

California inferno supports predictions of another bad year — The California inferno appeared to support national wildfire authorities’ predictions of another dangerous and difficult year for the state after years of drought. State firefighters and the U.S. Forest Service already have fought more than 1,800 wildfires since Jan. 1, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. AP article

From trash to treasure: Scientists turn plastic bags and bottles into liquid fuels – In the future, perhaps we’ll be mining our landfills and fishing through our oceans for the raw materials to make fuel. Using a two-catalyst process, a joint U.S.-China team of researchers has figured out how to take discarded plastic products, from grocery bags to plastic bottles, and turn them into useful products like fuel. LA Times article

Sacramento voters approve tax increase for flood control upgrades — Homeowners living in Sacramento’s flood plains have approved a property tax increase that will upgrade levees and bring the region into accordance with flood control standards. Sacramento Bee article

Land Use/Housing

Homes on stilts? It’s possible as new flood rules kick in – California’s aggressive plan to meet a higher level of flood protection for vulnerable river cities such as Stockton takes effect next month. And that means it will become more difficult to build new homes in the low-lying, western reaches of the city. Stockton Record article

Foon Rhee: Cities’ sprawl comes with a price in transit costs, commute time — The annual study on the cost of traffic congestion gets its share of publicity. A new one on the cost of sprawl deserves just as much attention. Rhee in Sacramento Bee
Mark Keppler: From the inside, how Fresno’s Midtown Trail project happened – The executive director of The Maddy Institute writes, “When the politicians and city administrators spoke of this project being ‘creative” or “complicated’ they were using shorthand for how we were able to pull this major project off in just 30 months (after others have been talking about trails on canal banks for 30+ years!)” Keppler in CV Observer


Expanded Amtrak service kicks off Monday — Whether you’re a Giants fan looking to catch a game or a UC Merced student planning a weekend escape, your transit options for getting to the Bay just became a little more flexible. Modesto Bee article

Other areas

Laura Gadke: Grand jury foreman was wrong, as well as out of line – The member of the Tulare Local Health Care District Board of Directors writes, “Tulare County Grand Jury foreman Chuck White is out of control. He issued a “final report” about the new Tulare hospital months before the end of the grand jury’s term – when such reports are usually published – clearly for political reasons. He did this without bothering to get all the facts, then issued a report filled with inaccuracies. His recent letter to the editor showed his bias against the hospital. Not only is his commentary inappropriate for a grand jury foreman, it is filled with errors and spreads misinformation.” Gadke op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

Dennis Mederos: Face facts, Tulare, we no longer have a public hospital – The Tulare resident writes, “I want the Hospital District construction project to succeed but not at any cost. The public and taxpayers deserve better. I cannot support this bond and I will be voting NO on Measure I.” Mederos op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

Kern Turns 150: The railroad transforms Bakersfield – It was on the last day of 1869, seven months after completion of the transcontinental railroad from Omaha, Neb., to Sacramento, that Central Pacific Co. started banging down track destined to pass through Kern County five years later. Bakersfield Californian article

Tulare County may seek compensation in failed harassment suit — Two plaintiffs whose harassment and discrimination lawsuit was denied earlier this week may have to pay for some of the cost spent in defending the suit. Visalia Times-Delta article

Claudia Gonzalez: Changing Merced through collaborative partnerships – Steve Gomes is an educator. He’s also the Merced County Superintendent of Schools. One would think he knows a thing or two about homework, but his opinion in “Collaboration far stronger than confrontation” (June 9, Page 9A) clearly shows he did not study. Gonzalez op-ed in Merced Sun-Star

Andrew Fiala: Feelings of disgust can provide emotional cover for racism, homophobia – The professor of philosophy and director of The Ethics Center at Fresno State writes, “Disgust is a dangerous emotion. Racism, homophobia, and other kinds of hate are emotional responses, closely linked to feelings of disgust. Moral development requires the mind to break free of reactionary emotions and the violence they provoke. The Orlando shooter was supposedly disgusted by homosexuality. He may also have been disgusted by his own homosexual tendencies. The result was atrocity.” Fiala column in Fresno Bee

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno BeeThumbs up, thumbs down; Yosemite is the perfect place to honor the upcoming centennial of the National Park Service. And not a bad spot to enjoy Father’s Day.

Modesto Bee – Those who serve should never be subject to hate.

Sacramento Bee – Feel good about our place in the global economy. But until the Golden State improves our other rankings, it’s not quite time to really celebrate;