June 22, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

 George Skelton: Brown gets cranking on highways and healthcare — Gov. Jerry Brown finally is kicking it in gear on California highways. For years — going back to his first governorship in the ’70s — he annoyingly sat in idle. Now Brown has decided to fill up the tax tank to fuel spending on badly needed repairs, restoring the gleam to California’s highway system. Skelton column in LA Times

 California cigarette tax backers commit $2 million — Hoping to influence a special health care budget session, a coalition of labor and medical groups has put $2 million into an initiative to raise California’s tobacco tax and use the revenue to fund health care for low-income Californians. Sacramento Bee article


 Jose Gaspar: Kern DA’s office starts helping undocumented victims of crime — It’s good to see that the Kern County District Attorney’s office has come around in recognizing the need to get involved. It recently re-visited its long-standing policy on U visas and decided to make some changes. Gaspar column in Bakersfield Californian

 Other areas

California bill gives terminally ill patients Right to Try experimental drugs — The so-called Right To Try legislation would allow terminally ill patients who have exhausted all other options the opportunity to try experimental drugs, products or devices that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Contra Costa Times article

 Orange County family waits for federal ruling on same-sex marriage — Their case deals with one end of the constitutional question the high court is facing: Should the marriages of couples who’ve been legally wed in one state be recognized in a state where gay marriage is illegal? Mansell and Espejo were married in California but their union counted for little when they moved to Tennessee. LA Times article

 At mayors conference, a focus on tech, praise for Ed Lee — Mayor Ed Lee began his Sunday morning at Glide Memorial Church, which served up amazing singing and a hearty endorsement of the gay and transgender community as a dozen or more mayors looked on. A few hours later, Lee hailed the innovation of corporate America, lauding “business communities’ commitment to becoming true long-term stewards of our cities” at the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Such is the dichotomoy of Lee and San Francisco: Still a liberal bastion socially, but also one that has emraced the business community wholeheartedly. San Francisco Chronicle article

 Some say President Obama’s Palm Springs golf outing sends wrong message – The problem, critics say, is that it takes a lot of water to keep the Coachella Valley’s 123 golf courses green and California is in the midst of a severe drought. Cities and towns are struggling with a statewide mandatory 25% reduction in water use. LA Times article

 ‘Bow Tie Caucus’ forms in California Senate — And now for a Capitol fashion report: Bow ties are officially “in.” A longtime favorite of state Sen. Isadore Hall, the Compton Democrat has for months been a lone standard-bearer in the upper house, sporting colorfully striped bow ties that stand out among his colleagues’ more traditional neckwear. Capitol Alert

 California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

 Cities add meters to cut water use in drought — Fresno and Visalia are fully metered, but many smaller cities still have large numbers of unmetered connections. While Kerman, Chowchilla, Selma, Madera and Kingsburg have launched programs to get as many connections metered as possible, other towns are stymied by the high cost. Fresno Bee article

 Illicit drugs ‘rampant’ in California state prisons – California inmates are dying of drug overdoses at nearly triple the national rate and it’s unclear whether the tough steps state officials took this year to stop illicit drugs from getting into prisons are having any effect, though they are prompting criticism from civil rights advocates. AP article

 As its water dwindled, Fresno cracked down hard – With water monitors like Wells on the prowl, Fresno is taking a more aggressive tack than most cities in California’s battle against the severe drought. In one month, Wells and his water conservation team handed out 347 of the 838 penalties issued by all the water districts statewide. LA Times article

Jobs and the Economy

 Floating restaurant dream goes bust – After spending a year collecting barnacles instead of cooking up seafood dinners for downtown waterfront diners, the 91-year-old fixer-upper ferry known as The Sherman is expected to leave Stockton as soon as next week. Stockton Record article

 Egg shortage cutting into restaurant profits, menu items — Those who like to indulge in a good omelet or quiche at the local cafe should prepare to pay a little more — if it’s even on the menu. AP article

 New move to reduce CalSTRS Social Security cuts — The CalSTRS board voted this month to “watch” a new cost-neutral bill in Congress that would reduce what has been an unpleasant surprise for some teachers and a shock to others — joining CalSTRS can cut Social Security benefits. Calpensions article


 Sacramento region a leader in snitching on water wasters – As the drought deepens, Sacramento-area residents haven’t exactly been shy about turning in their water-profligate neighbors. Area water agencies took more than 4,000 complaints related to suspected water waste from their customers in April, according to the latest figures from the State Water Resources Control Board and interviews with city officials. Sacramento Bee article

 Deepest drought issue:  Beyond shallow look at groundwater — Why is it important to understand the whole groundwater picture now? Severe droughts will become more common as the climate warms, scientists say. In the San Joaquin Valley, keeper of the state’s largest store of groundwater, the underground water is the go-to source cities and farms use to protect their residents and investments when river water is not available. In this drought, thousands of wells have dried up, and people are drilling deeper. Fresno Bee article

 Hackaton to be in fall — A two-day conference aimed at solving the state’s water challenges has been rescheduled for the fall and for only one day. Innovation Hub San Joaquin’s H20 Hackathon, originally planned to occur in March, is now taking place Oct. 9 at the Robert Cabral AG Center, Stockton. Stockton Record article

 Groundwater search turns up high carcinogen readings near McClellan — A search for new sources of water by the Rio Linda-Elverta Community Water District has found that wells closest to the former McClellan Air Force Base have the highest levels of hexavalent chromium, or chromium-6, a known carcinogen. Sacramento Bee article

 Santa Barbara’s cautious relationship with water offers a drought lesson – Santa Barbara, known for its landscapes fed by coastal fog, has always had a cautious relationship with water. And its history of conservation may hold lessons for other upscale communities such as Beverly Hills and Rancho Santa Fe being forced to slash their hefty water consumption because of the drought. LA Times article

 Is end of small water districts coming? – A potential merger of two North County water districts has revived the long-standing debate about whether ratepayers are best served by small water districts or bigger agencies that potentially can save money through economy of scale. San Diego Union-Tribune article

 Dry spell pushes boats out of Folsom Lake ahead of schedule – and on a cool day — The water level at Folsom Lake falls every year, but the ongoing drought has accelerated the process, resulting in an elevation drop the marina reports on its web site as being two-thirds of a foot per day. Sacramento Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

 Mental health training for cops can decrease use of force — Crisis negotiators usually are part of SWAT teams that take some time to assemble and respond to a scene. But three-quarters of officer-involved shootings of people intent on committing suicide by cop happen within the first 30 minutes of their encounter with law enforcement. That’s why it’s important to teach first-responders crisis intervention techniques, according to psychologist Phil Trompetter, one of the instructors during a 40-hour course at the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department last week.Modesto Bee article

 For registered sex offenders, an uphill civil rights battle – Registered sex offenders believe the laws that make their identities public and restrict where they can live violate their civil rights. In March, the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled that San Diego County restrictions on where sex offenders can live do indeed breach parolees’ constitutional rights. But victims’ advocates argue that these laws exist for good reason. NPR report

 Some question why LAPD officers handcuffed unarmed man after he was shot — The graphic video showed two Los Angeles police officers handcuffing an unarmed man who had just been shot and whose head was covered in blood. The video, which was circulated on social media on Saturday, prompted questions as to why police would handcuff a man who was seriously injured. The unidentified man remains in critical condition. LA Times article


 Dan Walters: California vocational education in danger – Even as debt-saddled college graduates hunt for jobs, often in vain, and even as too many students drop out of high school, there are serious shortages of skilled workers. If we let CTE slide again, we’ll all pay the price. Walters column in Sacramento Bee

 State to spend a half billion dollars to promote ‘teacher effectiveness’ – Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature have agreed to allocate a half billion dollars for a range of programs to enhance “teacher effectiveness” in California, the largest amount to be dedicated for that purpose in years. EdSource article

 From grade school to grad school: Stanislaus State, Modesto Junior College, Stanislaus County educators link arms – Young people look around them and dream of changing the world. But when employers look at the region, they see limited potential. The upward spiral of an educated workforce has not happened here – yet. A new partnership aims to change that.Modesto Bee article

Stockton Unified criticized for bus purchase — The 2014-15 San Joaquin County civil grand jury has criticized Stockton Unified School District officials and trustees for their handling of the purchase and sales process of 31 never-used special-education school buses. Stockton Record article

 UC San Diego reaching out to Native American youth – UC San Diego has stepped up efforts to promote college culture among Native Americans under a new partnership with the Sycuan and Viejas tribes as the university seeks to boost enrollment in underrepresented communities. LA Times article


 Fresno’s new crime-fighting ally: Trash cops – Fresno has a new ally in the fight against crime — trash. The city plans to hire three cops whose mission is to ensure scavengers don’t make a mess of things by diving into curbside recycling bins. But that’s just the start. The officers also expect to put a dent in the robberies, burglaries and blight still plaguing a city on the path to restoration. Fresno Bee article

 American recycling is stalling, and the big blue bin is one reason why — The problems of recycling in America are both global and local. A storm of falling oil prices, a strong dollar and a weakened economy in China have sent prices for American recyclables plummeting worldwide. Washington Post article

 Rising tides in San Francisco Bay demand unified solutions — Every community that rings San Francisco Bay is vulnerable to rising seas. But while some places are preparing, others are not — and no single agency is coordinating the effort, according to two new civil grand jury reports. Contra Costa Times article

Health/Human Services

 California’s Obamacare exchange to collect insurance data on patients — California’s health insurance exchange wants to know why you got sick this summer. With 1.4 million people enrolled, the state-run marketplace is embarking on an ambitious effort to collect insurance company data on prescriptions, doctor visits and hospital stays for every Obamacare patient. LA Times article

 California unaffected by Obamacare Supreme Court case on subsidies — While a Supreme Court decision to eliminate health care subsidies would throw most states into turmoil, whatever the court decides, there will be no direct impact on California. KQED report

 Health insurer Cigna rejects Anthem’s $54-billion takeover bid —  In a fiery response, Cigna Corp. rejected a $54-billion takeover bid from Anthem Inc. and unleashed several criticisms of the health insurance giant. Cigna said Sunday that the $184-a-share offer was inadequate and not in the best interests of its shareholders. LA Times article

 Sacramento Bee: E-cigarette regulation is the real issue, not raising smoking age to 21 — There’s no pressing health reason not to raise the smoking age to 21 in California. Smoking kills, and nine out of 10 tobacco users say they picked up the habit as teens. Sacramento Bee editorial

 Irene Mendes: CDC action needed to help protect Californians from meningitis outbreaks – The member of the National Association of School Nurses writes, “n order to prevent the threat of meningitis in our communities, the National Association of School Nurses urges the CDC to adopt the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommendations to ensure as many people as possible have access to the vaccine.” Mendes op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Land Use/Housing

 Affordable housing in short supply in Stockton, San Joaquin County — The choice can be between paying the rent or buying pull-ups for your toddler, or getting your 10-year-old’s hair cut, or choosing which utility bill to allow to go past due, or getting the car repaired so it can be driven safely for more than a few blocks at a time. Rent always wins, and for thousands of low-income residents in Stockton and San Joaquin County, the monthly payment gobbles up household funds to the increasing detriment of covering the costs of other basic necessities. Stockton Record article


 Merced to get new air carrier — San Francisco-based Boutique Air was recently awarded a two-year contract to provide Essential Air Service to Merced Municipal Airport, according to a news release. Merced Sun-Star article

Other areas

 By charter, a city manager has run Bakersfield for 100 years – California’s top 10 cities by population are evenly divided on the question of who runs them. Five have so-called strong mayors. Five, like Bakersfield, have a city manager that directs day-to-day business. And, bearing out a common aphorism among analysts — that having a strong-mayor government denotes a certain coming of age — four of the biggest have strong mayors, while four of the smallest have strong city managers. Bakersfield Californian article

 At Fresno vigil for Charleston shooting victims, leaders call for action against racism — Fresno faith leaders called for action against racism during a prayer vigil Sunday morning for the nine church shooting victims in Charleston, South Carolina. Fresno Bee article

 Restroom care a ‘big deal’ for Flying J – The company says it is investing $50 million in upgrading restrooms at its 680 locations, including the Flying J Travel Plaza at Lodi’s Flag City. The restroom renovations include state-of-the-art LED lighting, low-water consumption toilets, eco-friendly hand dryers and tile imported from Sassuolo, a northern Italian city considered the center of that country’s tile industry. Stockton Record article

 California Chrome misses Eclipse, heading back to U.S. — California Chrome is heading back to the United States without having competed in a race in Britain. Fresno Bee article