June 19, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

 CEQA exemptions for water projects inserted into budget bill — Some drought-related groundwater and water recycling projects would gain exemptions from the California Environmental Quality Act under late-emerging legislation at the Capitol. The exemption, contained in a budget-related trailer bill, offers a narrower exemption than a broader one Gov. Jerry Brown originally proposed. Sacramento Bee article

 Unions target Costa over trade vote — The Democrats’ battle over trade is not yet over, but unions are already zeroing in on a scapegoat: California Rep. Jim Costa. Union leaders in the Golden State declined to comment on who they are in talks with to run against Costa next year. But three Democratic operatives in California said union groups are courting state Assemblyman Henry T. Perea. Roll Call article

 Drug companies have donated millions to California lawmakers but report no involvement in vaccine legislation – Critics of Senate Bill 277, which would eliminate the personal belief and religious exemptions for schoolchildren, accuse the measure’s supporters in the Legislature of doing the bidding of donors who make vaccines and other pharmaceuticals. The bill’s proponents and drug companies dismiss the charge. The companies’ lobbyist filings for the first quarter of this year as well as legislative committee reports show no connection between the pharmaceutical industry and SB 277. Sacramento Bee article

State budget

 Development deals tied to state budget sidestep ‘green’ rules — Under those deals, water recycling and groundwater replenishment projects would receive less environmental scrutiny. Reviews would also be expedited for a $200-million high-rise development in Hollywood and a new arena for the Warriors basketball team in San Francisco. LA Times article

 The Budget Deal Explained: California Politics Podcast — It took less than 24 hours for legislators to send a state budget proposal to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk and then concede that it was a spending plan in need of an overhaul. Such is politics. This week, we take a deep dive into the politics of the budget plan agreed to by Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders. California Politics Podcast in KQED

Gov. Brown

 Jerry Brown names state conservation chief from UC Davis — Gov. Jerry Brown has appointed a former fish and game official and University of California, Davis, academic to lead the embattled California Department of Conservation, his office said Thursday. Sacramento Bee article; KVPR report

 Valley politics

 New campaign account doesn’t always mean run for office On March 12, Assembly Member Henry T. Perea formed a fundraising committee for a 2018 state Insurance Commissioner run. So, that means he’s in, right? Well, maybe yes. But, probably no. Fresno Bee article

 Catalano mulls Fresno Council District 6 run — Cary Catalano is just seven months off an election for the Fresno City Council, a hard fought battle that saw him lose by 5 percentage points to Esmeralda Soria. That was in District 1, which covers west-central Fresno. How about District 6 in 2016? It might happen. Catalano, 41, says he’s been encouraged by supporters to relocate to the northeast part of Fresno and run for the seat. Fresno Bee article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

 Joel Fox: 2018 governor’s race highlights political panel — Republicans will have a serious, competitive candidate for governor in 2018, Republican consultant Kevin Spillane told a conference sponsored by the Civil Justice Association of California (CJAC) last week. When pressed which Republican might be that competitive candidate, Spillane mentioned first San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer. He also suggested that Fresno mayor Ashley Swearengin and former Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner could fit the role. Fox in Fox & Hounds

 Proposition 13 revamp eyed for ballot — Changing Proposition 13, the landmark, tax-cutting ballot initiative that California voters approved in 1978, is the goal of a constitutional amendment aimed at next year’s ballot. Capitol Weekly article


 Pointing a laser at someone is not enough to deport, court says – Pointing a laser at a law enforcement officer is a crime. But it’s not the kind of morally reprehensible crime that can get a legal immigrant deported, says a federal appeals court. San Francisco Chronicle article

 One dead after board with suspected immigrants capsizes near Encinitas – A woman aboard a boat packed with suspected immigrants died early Thursday after the vessel collided with a Border Patrol boat that had intercepted it, authorities said. LA Times article

 Other areas

California Forward offers policy framework for special legislative session on road funding — While state leaders agreed on a $167 billion budget this week, Gov. Brown also called a special legislative session to solve a funding challenge the last three governors have struggled to address: a $59 billion backlog in state road and highways maintenance. CA Fwd highlighted this shortfall as one of the state’s biggest fiscal issues in its Financing the Future series—and this week offered lawmakers a detailed set of revenue options for closing funding gaps, while also improving the governance of the transportation system. California Forward article

Special session: Fixing the potholes – Gov. Brown’s call for a special legislative session to fix California’s crumbling roads, highways and bridges comes as music to the ears of those who build big projects. Capitol Weekly article

 Dan Walters: Our roads are just shameful – Whichever path is followed, the Legislature should begin by explaining, or demanding others to explain, why our fuel taxes are so high now but our spending on vital maintenance is so low. Without some reasonable explanation, and guarantees that new roadway money won’t be squandered, drivers will be rightfully reluctant to pay more, no matter how it would be imposed. Walters column in Sacramento Bee

 Obama: U.S. must face up to the kind of violence that happened in Charleston –  At a town hall meeting in South Carolina this year, President Obama looked back on the most difficult moment of his presidency — the shooting deaths of 20 children and six educators in the Newtown school massacre in Connecticut — and expressed regret over his inability to enact stricter gun laws. LA Times article

 Sacramento Bee: A prayer that Emanuel AME horror won’t recur – States must put aside politics and enact stricter gun laws.  Sacramento Bee editorial

 Bill Whalen: It’s silly season under the dome – The calendar says summer doesn’t officially commence until Sunday, but rest assured that California state government is well into its silly season. Whalen column in Sacramento Bee

Arnold Schwarzenegger freaks out Hollywood tourists dressed as the Terminator — Arnold Schwarzenegger brought Hollywood magic to Hollywood Boulevard recently, dressing up as the Terminator and generally messing with people’s heads. LA Times article

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

 Kern County faces tighter finances – Tight financial times lie ahead for Kern County. The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will consider approving the first version of the county’s 2015-2016 budget. The $2.5 billion spending plan is made up largely of mandated state and federal spending programs. Bakersfield Californian article

 First lawsuit filed in water rights clash – Tracy-area farmers on Thursday filed the first in what will likely be a series of lawsuits challenging the state’s decision to cut off some of the region’s oldest water-rights holders. Stockton Record article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Jobs and the Economy

 Salida fire district voters turn down assessment increase – By a narrow margin, voters in the Salida Fire Protection District turned down an increase in fire suppression assessments. Fire Chief Dale Skiles said Thursday the vote was 52 percent opposed and 48 percent in favor of the proposed assessments, which would have raised the annual levy from $45 to $156 per home.Modesto Bee article

 Fresno Bee: Mayor Swearengin ignores a glaring need – It’s clear to us that Mayor Ashley Swearengin doesn’t subscribe to the notion that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The plan that she pitched and the Fresno City Council approved Tuesday for allocating $4.1 million in state money not previously figured into the 2016 fiscal year budget ignores the needs of Fresno youth. Fresno Bee editorial

 Negative bailout solution for Stanislaus County has new life – A better state funding formula for Stanislaus County has a pulse again now that it’s being folded into a different budget trailer bill in Sacramento. Modesto Bee article

 Louisiana firm invests in Fresno County oil fields – A new Louisiana-based oil and gas company has acquired three Fresno County oilfields with a goal of increasing production of crude from their wells. Fresno Bee article

 Tesla bags $15 million in new state tax credits – Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors has won a fresh $15-million tax break from the state of California. The company has said it will use the money to add more than 4,000 jobs to its Bay Area factories and plants — enough jobs to make it the largest manufacturing employer in the state. LA Times article; AP article

 California home sales rise; median price tops $400,000 – California home sales are continuing to rise and so are prices, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area, thanks to job growth and low mortgage rates and despite tight supply. AP article

 Builders want to change state’s lease-leaseback law – A group of California building organizations is rallying to change state law in hopes of torpedoing a recent court opinion on school construction projects — and fend off school districts looking to be repaid for multimillion-dollar school projects built under illegal deals. Fresno Bee article

 Bakersfield’s Texas 28 being sold; Wall Street Café closed – Not even a force as powerful as Texas could save a downtown restaurant/bar that has struggled to find an identity — and audience — for nearly four years: The owner of Texas 28 confirmed Thursday he is selling the 18th Street building that once housed legendary live music venue Fishlips. Bakersfield Californian article

 Sacramento housing market still gaining strength – Home prices in much of greater Sacramento continue to improve steadily, if not spectacularly. Median prices for all houses and condos sold in Sacramento County increased to $275,000 in May, market researcher CoreLogic said Thursday. That represents a 1.8 percent increase over April, and a 5.4 percent increase from a year ago. Sacramento Bee article

 FCC to phone companies: You can stop unwanted robocalls — Tired of automated phone calls urging you to vote for a certain candidate or pitching you a cruise vacation? You can now tell your phone company that federal regulators say it’s OK to block them. The question now is whether the phone companies have the technology to do it in a way consumers want. AP article

 ‘We’re out of time’ – so says Chargers stadium spokesman – There is nothing left that the city of San Diego can do to solve the stadium issue before the NFL owners vote on whether to allow the Chargers to move to Los Angeles, Chargers spokesman Mark Fabiani said. KPBS report; San Diego Union-Tribune article

 Audit: California State Bar went easy on lawyers to cut complaint caseload – A state audit issued Thursday paints an unflattering picture of the California State Bar as willing to settle attorney discipline cases too quickly, track case data too loosely and spend too freely, all at the expense of its mission to protect the public from bad lawyers. Sacramento Bee article

 Bathroom stop leads to lottery win in Modesto — Jennifer Daniel stopped to use the restroom at a CVS store in Modesto, then came out $5 million richer. Modesto Bee article


 Kings’ crop value hit record in 2014 – In the middle of a surface water drought, Kings County managed to achieve record agricultural output in 2014, racking up $2.47 billion worth of products and breaking the previous year’s record of $2.27 billion, according to the annual crop report released this week. Hanford Sentinel article

 Tulare County well failures continue to mount – Well failures in Tulare County are now being logged at more than 20 a week with corresponding permits to drill new wells rising rapidly as well. Visalia Times-Delta article

 Robin Abcarian: A farmer’s straight talk on drought: Listen up, city dwellers – It was heating up in the San Joaquin Valley this week. Joe Del Bosque, a farmer who had to make some hard decisions this year, was driving toward an asparagus field he’s about to plow under. The windshield of his white Yukon was splattered with dead bugs. He didn’t seem to notice. As he drove, he told me a story that has become all too familiar in the last few months. Abcarian in LA Times

 Harry Cline: The color purple could keep Valley green – The Fresno resident writes, “The ominous solution to California’s water crisis seems to be turning the green Golden State into brown California. One far better solution is to add color to the picture; the color purple. Purple is the color of PVC pipe that carries recycled water or tertiary treated water to irrigate urban parks, golf courses, landscape around large buildings and the like.” Cline op-ed in Fresno Bee

 A plan to revive navel orange sales – The demand for navel oranges has declined in recent years, but the chairman of the board of the second-largest grower of navels in the U.S. told growers Wednesday that efforts are underway to boost their popularity. Visalia Times-Delta article

 Synthetic turf has lovers and haters — Fresno residents either love synthetic turf or hate it. Fresno Bee article

 Modesto Bee: Pope, farmers have more in common than they know — When you’re doing God’s work, you don’t always have to wear a backward collar or a robe; sometimes mud-caked boots and ballcaps work, too. Modesto Bee editorial

Criminal Justice/Prisons

 California Highway Patrol to test body cameras next year – California’s best-known law enforcement agency will begin testing body cameras next year under a proposal included in the state budget that lawmakers will consider on Friday. AP article

 The story behind San Francisco Police Department body cam program’s many delays — A KQED investigation found the department spent nine months obtaining a sole-source waiver allowing it to purchase cameras from Taser International, without considering other bids. Documents and interviews with top police officials reveal that the department requested a no-bid contract after field-testing only Taser cameras. After receiving the waiver, another 14 months passed before the department signed a deal with the company. KQED report

 Fresno police move to head off retaliatory shootings – A 40-year-old man shot Thursday morning in central Fresno was the fourth gang-related shooting in 24 hours in the city and police say they are focusing on known gang members to bring the violence to a stop. Fresno Bee article

CHP reports vehicle thefts in California declined for second consecutive year – The number of vehicle thefts in California declined for the second year in a row, according to 2014 statistics released Thursday by the California Highway Patrol. Sacramento Bee article

 Devout racist’s religion doesn’t trump racial segregation in prison, appeals court says – In a case featuring a clash of constitutional interests, a federal appellate court ruled Thursday that California may hamper an inmate’s religious worship in order to avoid the potential for unconstitutional racial segregation in its prison system. Sacramento Bee article

 Celebrity attorney Mark Geragos takes third Bakersfield civil case — Celebrity attorney Mark Geragos has taken on a third civil case in Bakersfield alleging wrongdoing on the part of local law enforcement. Bakersfield California article

 Sacramento police unveil new community policing initiative — Sacramento is taking a new approach to policing that focuses on what police Chief Sam Somers Jr. called one of the biggest challenges facing the department: bettering law enforcement’s relationship with the community. Sacramento Bee article

 Justice Kennedy practically invites a challenge to solitary confinement – Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, in an unusual separate opinion in a case wrote that it may be time for judges to limit the use of long-term solitary confinement in prisons. LA Times article

 6 inmates on San Quentin death row sue over time in solitary — A group of Death Row inmates has sued the state for keeping them in solitary confinement for years or even decades, locked in windowless cells with no phone calls or human contact. It’s treatment, they said, that “amounts to torture.” San Francisco Chronicle article


 Los Banos group calls for more Hispanic representation A group of advocates is demanding that the Los Banos Unified School District make formal changes to try to increase the number of teachers and school leaders of color. Merced Sun-Star article

 Fresno State getting $4.9 million from Mountain West — Fresno State’s share of a record $47 million to be distributed by the Mountain West Conference this year will be $4.9 million, a number that exceeds athletic department projections and will help to balance a budget that hit the mark in some areas and missed it in others. Fresno Bee article

 Teachers file complaints against Virtual Academies – Teachers from the California Virtual Academies, an online charter K-12 school, filed numerous complaints to nine state school districts on Thursday in an effort to bring to light what they say are several questionable practices and improper use of federal funds that affect thousands of their students. Stockton Record article

 Stanislaus United Way targets seventh grade with program to raise high school graduation rates – The program is led by the United Way along with the Center for Human Services, which implements the program. Graduation coaches seek to build long-term sustained relationships with students, improve attendance, reduce behavioral problems and set them on the right academic path. Modesto Bee article

 Middle school years so taxing, so critical to future success – The tween time, that pull-parents-close-just-to-push-them-away age, confounds us all. But research shows those tumultuous years are the pivot point for young lives. The slide toward dropping out in high school most often begins right here, in the middle school years. Those who work every day with the most at-risk junior high students, however, have hope. Modesto Bee article

 Alex Prasad: Middle schools trying hard to prevent bullying; students need to help, too – The eighth-grade teacher at Dutcher Middle School in Turlock writes, “Changes in students’ behavior to prevent bullying do not just happen from one day to the next or in just one lesson. It takes time and continuous support from all school staff, parents and members of the community so that students can learn to make good choices both in school and in their community.” Prasad op-ed in Modesto Bee

 Planada middle schoolers get tech training, future career options – All those sleek black boxes – amazing when they work, maddening when they don’t – are the refrigerators for this generation, the technology no preteen or teenager can imagine living without. Bringing tech job skills to middle schoolers, therefore, seemed like a natural fit to Domingo Flores, information technology director for Planada Elementary School District. Modesto Bee article

 Mark Twain Junior High raises the bar with student study lounge – Making a place for teens to check on assignments, get some help and spend some quiet time studying has worked at Mark Twain Junior High, where good grades have gained a cool factor. How cool? As the school year ended this spring, 59 percent of Mark Twain eighth-graders had at least a 3.0 grade point average, Principal Mike Berhorst noted with pride. Modesto Bee article

 Eco-friendly Atwater school welcomes tweens who messed up – A fresh-start school for tweens and teens who made mistakes gives adolescents a year to catch up in schoolwork and catch on to better life skills. Modesto Bee article

Riverbank Unified tables three hefty raises for now – Board members tabled a plan to boost the titles and pay of two top Riverbank Unified administrators and a secretary after rank and file packed the boardroom to protest the move. Modesto Bee article

 Special education school wing complete in Merced — Area educators and public officials plan a ceremony Friday to celebrate the completion of a $1.9 million special education building on the campus of a Beachwood-area elementary school. Merced Sun-Star article

 Modesto teen creates online Museum of Middle School — “If there is anything middle school has, it’s heart. There is heart in those that desperately please, in those that genuinely, and creepily, in a sweet way, are obsessed with something. There is heart in awkwardness and it is sad that we are ashamed of a time in our lives where heart was okay to have,” Hannah Hightman writes. Modesto Bee article

 Ins and outs of education in Kern County – Education officials in the Delano Union School District are mulling a host of changes that could, as early as this summer, mean a new superintendent and administrative arm, more like a shared one with the Delano high school district. Bakersfield Californian article

 Erika Brooks: Time for the Kern High School District to make some changes – The chair of the Kern Education Justice Collaborative writes, “There is an education crisis in our community, and the Kern High School District is being held accountable.” Brooks op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

 Stockton Unified teacher sentenced for incident with student — Stockton Unified School District teacher Denny Peterson was formally sentenced Thursday on misdemeanor battery for trying to drag a student across concrete and into a campus swimming pool earlier in the school year. Stockton Record article

 Burbank High School teacher’s Shakespeare aversion draws national attention — Most high school English teachers adore William Shakespeare’s works. Dana Dusbiber does not. In an essay published this month on a Washington Post education blog, the Luther Burbank High School teacher explained she does not want to teach Shakespeare’s works despite his esteemed place in American education because his perspective does not speak well to her ethnically diverse students. Sacramento Bee article


 Pope blasts California’s cap-and-trade system – Pope Francis, in his highly anticipated call to action against climate change, took an unexpected swipe at the cap-and-trade systems used in both California and Europe to control greenhouse gases. They may sound good, the pontiff argued. But they won’t work. San Francisco Chronicle article

 10 emails detail PG&E’s cozy relationship with its regulators – KQED has taken a detailed look into this correspondence, which reveals in granular detail the familiar relationships between key decision-makers and PG&E executives that lasted well beyond the San Bruno incident. KQED report

 Leno: ‘It’s time for reform’ at the California Public Utilities Commission – Is it possible to change the culture of a regulatory agency by enacting a new law? “I can’t tell you I know that it can be definitively done,” state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) acknowledged in a recent interview with KQED. “But we’ve got to start somewhere.” KQED report

 Fed scientists: 2015 on pace to be world’s warmest — This year is on track to be the globe’s hottest on record, federal scientists said Thursday, continuing a warming trend that even Pope Francis called worrisome in a remarkable 184-page papal letter. San Francisco Chronicle article

 Sacramento Bee: Amen to Pope Francis’ historic Laudato Si — Pope Francis’ call to confront global warming is the strongest sign yet of the issue’s urgency.  Sacramento Bee editorial

 Proposed rule for big trucks aims at cutting emissions – The Obama administration is set on Friday to unveil a major climate change regulation intended to rein in planet-warming carbon pollution from heavy-duty trucks. New York Times article

 Oakhurst-area fires spreads to 300 acres – A brush fire in the mountains of Madera County caused by a vehicle fire has grown to 300 acres, and campgrounds are being evacuated as firefighters attempt to gain an upper hand on the blaze. Fresno Bee article

 Mega injections of wastewater triggers more quakes, study says — The more oil and gas companies pump their saltwater waste into the ground, and the faster they do it, the more they have triggered earthquakes in the central United States, a massive new study found. AP article

 Battle over new oil train standards pits safety against cost – The federal government’s new rules aimed at preventing explosive oil train derailments are sparking a backlash from all sides. NPR report

 Felled trees at Clovis shopping center will be replaced — It’s been about 10 years since the Trading Post Shopping Center has thrived as a Clovis shopping site. Today, the transition of the center at Clovis and Herndon avenues is obvious, but so far, it’s not being looked upon favorably. Most of the old trees — about 90% by one city official’s estimate — have been chopped down. Fresno Bee article

Health/Human Services

 CalPERS approves 7.2 percent increase in HMO rates as drug costs climb — Citing higher drug prices, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System said its HMO premiums are rising by 7.2% next year. LA Times article

 Cynthia Duenas: Promotoras build bridges to improve community health – The executive director of the Stanislaus County Center for Human Services writes, “A promotora is a Latino community member who receives specialized training to provide basic health education to improve the well-being of residents in underserved communities. The promotoras movement is building bridges by linking neighborhood residents in need of mental health care, social services and, more recently, access to health care providers.” Duenas op-ed in Modesto Bee

Land Use/Housing

 Rodeo proposal for farmlands moves forward – Stockton-based attorney Michael Hakeem told the San Joaquin County Planning Commission on Thursday night that the rodeos his client wants to hold in agricultural areas are not going to be the kinds of events put on by promoters or commercial associations. Stockton Record article

 Luxury townhome development breaks ground in downtown Bakersfield — Downtown Bakersfield is about to get another new housing development. Officials including Mayor Harvey Hall are celebrating the groundbreaking of the 17th Place Townhomes.  Project manager Austin Smith says the 3 story,  44-unit complex is the first market rate luxury housing development in downtown Bakersfield in years.” KVPR report


 Blasts test foundations for high-speed rail bridge over Highway 99 – Engineers and contractors for California’s high-speed rail authority had quite a blast Thursday — four of them, actually. Using increasing amounts of an explosive called nitrocellulose, they conducted four stress tests on a concrete piling festooned with sensors and buried 80 feet deep in the earth near Highway 99 at the south end of Fresno. Fresno Bee article

 California reveals details of self-driving car accidents — California state officials released reports Thursday detailing six accidents that involved self-driving car prototypes, reversing a policy that had shielded details of how the next-generation technology is performing during testing on public roads. AP article; LA Times article

 Who wants to design a Hyperloop for Elon Musk? — It’s been two years since Elon Musk of Tesla Motors and SpaceX fame unveiled his concept for a Hyperloop, a high-speed vacuum tube of sorts that would whisk travelers between Los Angeles and San Francisco at speeds up to 760 mph. Turns out he’s hoping somebody else will come up with the blueprints — and there are people game to do it, too. KQED report

Other areas

 Lemoore hires new city manager – Following a months-long search for a new city manager, the Lemoore City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to hire Andrea Welsh for the job. Hanford Sentinel article

 Fresno fire crews depleted to ‘basically nothing’ from chaotic 72 hours – The Fresno Fire Department is recovering after a 72-hour span in which virtually all of its resources were sapped fighting a half-dozen major fires within the city. Fresno Bee article

 City Beat: Sidewalk issues, and no plans to ban legal fireworks at city parks – Kern County may be planning to ban legal fireworks in its public parks, but there’s currently no talk about doing the same in Bakersfield city parks. Bakersfield Californian article

 Half of American whites see no racism around them — A Washington Post analysis of Pew Research Center polling on racial issues shows that half of white people do not sense black people are treated less fairly than whites — by police, employers, doctors, restaurants and schools, and at the ballot box. Washington Post article

 Stockton Record: Stockton’s Rocky Mountain High – We know the naysayers are out there. How can Stockton be All-America as it emerges from bankruptcy, as crime problems linger, as the unemployment rate still hovers around double digits? But Stockton has a spirit that can’t be extinguished. Stockton Record editorial

 Residents file claim against Stockton, officials — Residents of Gateway Court say it would begin with a knock at the door and go downhill from there. Almost before the residents knew what was happening, they say, a police officer and multiple housing-code enforcement workers would be inside their townhomes or apartments, ostensibly to search for unfit living conditions but incidentally rummaging through closets, crouching to peer beneath beds, and examining bottles of prescription medications. Stockton Record article

 Decades before Rachel Dolezal, there was Mark Stebbins in a Stockton scandal — The Dolezal case has sparked often passionate debate over identity, privilege and, in lighthearted moments, the proper deployment of a hair weave. She quit as president of the NAACP chapter in Spokane, Wash., after her parents outed her as white. In Stockton in 1983, the protagonist was Mark Stebbins, a man with white parents who called himself black, who ran for City Council against a black man named White. LA Times article