March 10, 2017


Political Stories – Top stories

California insurance chief: 5 million in state could lose health coverage under ‘Trumpcare’ — California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones took a hard-line stance this week against the Obamacare repeal House Republicans are staking out, saying it could reverse advances California has made under the Affordable Care Act and strip 5 million Californians of their health coverage. Sacramento Bee article

‘Babies before booze’ bill would raise liquor tax to pay for tax-free diapers, tampons — The assemblywomen unveiled their proposal, Assembly Bill 479, at a press conference on Thursday. It would raise the liquor tax by about a third – to $4.50 from $3.30 per gallon – which they said equates to less than 2 cents per drink. That revenue would offset the cost of exempting diapers and products like tampons and pads from sales taxes, estimated by state officials last year at $55 million, half of which goes to the general fund. Sacramento Bee articleLA Times article

Gov. Brown

Sacramento Bee: Brown will place his stamp on the high court, partisanship aside — The partisan virus that ails the U.S. Supreme Court and many state courts is a non-issue on the California Supreme Court, to the credit of the current justices and to governors of both parties who appointed them. Sacramento Bee editorial

Valley politics

Denham seems to lean toward Obamacare recall — Rep. Jeff Denham, who has not held a townhall meeting on the proposed recall of Obamacare, on Thursday issued a statement that seemed to support some of the principles of the Republican-authored substitute. Stockton Record article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Could Dianne Feinstein face a Democratic challenge in 2018? – By every indication, California Sen. Dianne Feinstein is running for re-election next year. In an interview with KQED in January, Feinstein indicated she would be a candidate and has since begun raising money. But some in the party wonder if it isn’t time for the 83-year-old Feinstein to step aside and let a younger Democrat take the baton. KQED report

Schwarzenegger for Senate? – Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — the “Terminator” action hero who made “I’ll be back” one of filmdom’s most iconic phrases — may be mulling a political comeback, according to several GOP political insiders in California. Politico article

Does AG candidate Dave Jones recall his vote on legal pot? ‘I truly do not’ — California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, campaigning to become the state’s top law enforcement official, has forgotten how he voted four months ago on the statewide initiative to legalize recreational marijuana. Sacramento Bee article

Garcetti now has a mandate – but how he will use it has City Hall and the political world guessing — Outside City Hall. The mayor is known for being risk-averse, but he now faces a crucial decision: Stay in the job or run for higher office. LA Times article

California Democrats look to special election as ‘resistance’ test – The race to replace Xavier Becerra in Congress will test engagement with politics and the fractures within the Democratic Party. Politico article

Green Party convention being held where? — The Green Party is about to hold its state convention. Where do you think it will be? Berkeley? Humboldt? West Los Angeles? No, Bakersfield. Bakersfield Californian article


Growing signs of trouble for Trump’s border wall – Illegal crossings are down. Trump’s budget chief suggests the project is hardly underway. And powerful Republicans are voicing reservations. Politico article

State schools chief seeks clarity on federal immigration policy after LA incident – California’s top education official announced on Thursday that he has asked federal authorities to clarify whether they are changing a policy that in the past has avoided immigration actions near schools. LA Times article

Advocates question Trump’s claims to have already cut illegal immigration — President Donald Trump remains committed to building the 2,000-mile wall along the U.S.-Mexico border despite a significant drop in border apprehensions. Leading advocacy groups have been pushing back against the administration’s claim that it’s already slashed illegal immigration after just a month of office. McClatchy Newspapers article

Even before the wall, migrants find the U.S. forbidding — In interviews with migrants, their advocates, and workers at shelters and soup kitchens in Mexico, the United States and Central America, few quibbled with the idea that President Trump had altered the climate for immigration. New York Times article

Other areas

Here are the factions opposed to GOP’s Obamacare replacement plan – The long-promised GOP bill to repeal and replace Obamacare is facing opposition from all sides, and a constellation of conservative and moderate Republicans have attacked the legislation, even though it has the support of President Donald Trump.  McClatchy Newspapers article

Fearing Trump threat to state emissions law, California lawmakers plan a fight – The Trump administration could move at any time to revoke California’s right to impose stricter auto emissions standards than the federal government does, and the state’s senators are already mounting a fight. McClatchy Newspapers article

California is sick of being a presidential campaign afterthought. Here’s one lawmaker’s fix – It’s been nearly 50 years since California held a truly consequential Democratic presidential primary and more than half a century since Republicans in the state voted in a nominating contest that really mattered. So an effort is underway once more to move California’s primary up closer to the start of the 2020 balloting, theoretically elevating the state’s import and, thus, ensuring a greater political say. LA Times article

Sacramento Bee: Commercial weed in California just got more complicated— California, its cities and counties, and the federal government aren’t on the same page about the recreational marijuana. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has threatened a crackdown, which could make it harder to create an industry of growers and sellers. Sacramento Bee editorial

Victor Davis Hanson: Don’t sweat the big, futuristic stuff.  Fix lousy bridges, roads, dams first — Governors who cannot build a reservoir have little business fantasizing about 200 mph super trains. And dense celebrities who cannot open the right envelope should not be sought for cosmic political wisdom. Hanson column in Fresno Bee

California Republican leader under consideration for key Department of Justice post — Harmeet Dhillon, a California GOP leader, is under consideration to run the civil rights branch of the U.S. Department of Justice. The post will be heavily scrutinized given the Trump administration’s positions on issues such as voting rights, and because of past controversial statements about race made by the department’s leader, U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions. LA Times article

At UC Berkeley, Justice Sotomayor discusses obstacles to justice —  Poor people don’t have enough access to the U.S. legal system, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor told students at UC Berkeley on Wednesday. San Francisco Chronicle articleAP article

Presidential Politics

Is Trump being investigated? ‘No comment,’ Justice Department says – President Trump’s weekend Twitter message asserting that former President Barack Obama had tapped his phones forced the White House into ever more verbal contortions on Thursday as aides struggled to defend the president’s charge. In the latest iteration, the Justice Department declined to comment on whether Mr. Trump is — or is not — the subject of an investigation. “No comment,” a department official said. New York Times article

Congress wants to know what Trump’s doing with his deleted tweets – In a rare display of bipartisanship in Congress, the leaders of the House Oversight Committee want to make sure Trump is taking proper care to ensure the electronic records of his Twitter missives are preserved. McClatchy Newspapers article

News Stories – Top Stories

Fresno Mayor Brand proposes citizen board to review police incidents, improve trust in department — Fresno Mayor Lee Brand will seek the City Council’s support next week for his promised Citizens Public Safety Advisory Board, a nine-member panel that will conduct grand jurylike reviews of major incidents, such as officer-involved shootings. Fresno Bee article

After near-record Northern California storms, signs of El Nino rise – If you don’t think California has seen enough rain this year, just wait. There may be more to come. Federal forecasters said Thursday that the chances of an El Niño developing by fall are on the rise — now between 50 and 55 percent —an outlook that could skew the odds in favor of yet another wet winter. San Francisco Chronicle articleLA Times article

Jobs and the Economy

U.S. economy creates a healthy 235,000 jobs in February – U.S. employers added a robust 235,000 jobs in February, and wages rose at a healthy clip — signs the economy remains on solid footing after nearly eight years of recovery. LA Times article

Hanford council reverses course, kills bed tax hike idea – In an abrupt reversal this week, the Hanford City Council killed a proposal that would have raised the hotel tax in Hanford and used the increase to fund downtown revitalization efforts. Hanford Sentinel article

Stanislaus County leaders concerned about costs of in-home support program – Stanislaus County officials are upset about a state plan to shift rising costs of In-Home Support Services to counties. Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent budget proposal would shift about $625 million in IHSS costs to counties, with Stanislaus County’s share of the costs jumping from $11.2 million this year to $17.1 million next budget year. The costs are projected to keep rising from there, and counties say they can’t afford it. Modesto Bee article

PG&E bills over $600 blindside customers — A 21 percent increase in gas charges from December 2015 to December 2016 was a major cause for higher bills, according to Brandi Merlo, a PG&E spokeswoman. She said that, combined with damp and colder days this winter, fueled high heating bills. San Jose Mercury News article

Report: South Valley a home flipper’s paradise – More than 193,000 homes were “flipped” across the U.S. last year, the highest number in a decade, and Tulare County had one of the highest flipping rates in the nation. The Business Journal article

Sacramento mayor faces council pushback on plan giving housing vouchers to homeless – plan by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg to shift federal housing vouchers to homeless people is being resisted by his fellow City Council members as government agencies decide how to issue the scarce affordable housing subsidies. Sacramento Bee article

Biz Beat: Little Jeweler gets bigger, new rides from Modesto to SFO, Amazon goes solar — The Little Jewel isn’t so little anymore. The downtown boutique, which opened last year, has expanded into a new space in the same building, while retaining its original K Street address. Modesto Bee article

Could Sacramento’s downtown get by with less parking? Some say yes — The search for a parking spot downtown can be frustrating. Street parking spots are limited, and garages near state offices are full. If downtown adds another 10,000 apartments and condos in the next decade, as city leaders hope, will Sacramento have a parking crisis on its hands? Some city officials and developers are beginning to say the opposite may happen. Sacramento Bee article

BART looks at ways to raise funds, reject some ticket increases — Facing a menu of unpalatable fare-increase proposals to cover losses from declining ridership, BART directors Thursday rejected the idea of raising the lowest fares and had little taste for a plan to discard a discount on high-priced tickets. San Francisco Chronicle article

San Francisco DA’s office investigating Uber’s Greyball program — The San Francisco District Attorney’s office confirmed on Thursday that it is investigating an Uber program called Greyball, a tool the ride-hailing company developed to show individual riders different versions of its app. The news comes a day after Uber said it would prohibit employees from using the program to thwart regulators. San Francisco Chronicle article


Sunkist handles challenges of big navel crop – Sunkist Growers, with operations throughout Tulare County, had a strong year in 2016 despite the challenges of a large navel orange crop, tough competition in both foreign and domestic markets. Visalia Times-Delta article

What happened at Lake Oroville? — A wet winter brought to light problems at the nation’s tallest dam, which controls water delivered across California. As storms raged in early February, dam operators from the state Department of Water Resources released heavy flows down the Feather River, but a crisis began when a crater opened on the main spillway. Days later, water poured over an emergency spillway – essentially a hillside – that had never been used. The erosion of the hillside prompted the evacuation of nearly 200,000 people downstream. San Francisco Chronicle article

Damaged Oroville Dam spillway may need to be used by next week, state officials say – A damaged flood control spillway at the Oroville Dam may have to be used as early as next week as storm runoff and snowmelt continue to fill the massive reservoir on the Feather River, state water officials said. LA Times article

Some say Farm to Fork is all wet when it comes to new motto on I-5 water tower – As Sacramento changed its water tower motto from “City of Trees” to “America’s Farm-to-Fork Capital,” critics sharpened their knives Thursday. Sacramento Bee article

Lemoore City Council discusses water — After a 1 ½ hour study session on ethics, the Lemoore City Council conducted a very brief meeting with reports on water and new rules on the city’s skate park and official logo. Hanford Sentinel article

End of drought not all good for Bay Area oyster farms — The “atmospheric river” that dumped rain on Northern California this winter was good for farmers — on land, that is. Tomales Bay oyster farms had to stop operations during the storms to protect customers in case pathogens from runoff were in the water, a byproduct of the bucolic dairy farms on the hillsides. San Francisco Chronicle article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Multiple police, deputies shoot suspect in Smelling following lengthy car chase – A lengthy police chase ended late Thursday in Snelling when six law enforcement officers shot the driver after he opened fire on them, the Merced County sheriff confirmed. Merced Sun-Star article

Kern County Sheriff’s Office: Deputy-involved shooting in Tehachapi violated department policy — A Kern County Sheriff’s Office Incident Review Board has determined the use of force by a deputy who shot a Tehachapi man in December violated department policy. Bakersfield Californian article

Silva talks about jail conditions, not charges – Former Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva, currently in the San Joaquin County Jail awaiting trial on six felony charges alleging a multimillion-dollar embezzlement and money-laundering scheme, is being held in protective custody “ultimately for his protection,” according to Sheriff’s Office officials. Stockton Record article‘Lawyer: Silva trip had been planned for weeks’ in Stockton Record

Boy, 13, sues off-duty LAPD officer who fired gun in videotaped clash with teens in Anaheim – A lawsuit has been filed against an off-duty Los Angeles police officer who fired his gun during a videotaped clash last month with several teenagers in Anaheim. LA Times article

Joel Fox: The crime issue rises — The murder of Whittier Police Officer Keith Boyer and the big increase of property crimes have highlighted growing concern over the consequences of recent legislation and ballot measures that have opened prison doors. The crime issue, so powerful in the final decades of the last century, is rising again in the public consciousness. Fox in Fox & Hounds

Ex-CHP chief snared in son’s escape from rape trial seeks disability pension —  A former California Highway Patrol assistant chief who allegedly helped his son flee to Mexico after being accused of rape is eligible for a tax-free disability pension because the state agreed not to discipline him when it accepted his resignation four years ago. Sacramento Bee article

Sex allegations emerge in court documents against key witness in Los Banos public corruption probe — A motion filed Monday by the defense attorney representing Greg Opinski, a contractor charged with bribing public officials, details allegations that the prosecution’s key witness in the case, Dominic Falasco, used his position as a defense attorney to solicit sex from a client’s girlfriend. Merced Sun-Star article

Sacramento police: Transmitter bracelets help track people prone to wander — The Sacramento Police Department is joining a nationwide program that allows families to use radio-frequency technology to track loved ones who are prone to wander off due to certain medical conditions. Sacramento Bee article


UC sexual misconduct files show faculty resigned, retired; Merced professor was demoted – The cases, among a trove of confidential files released last week by UC officials, show that the same lack of transparency and lax discipline that critics complained about during a UC Berkeley sexual harassment scandal involving faculty members last year also occurred at UC’s nine other campuses. AP article

Mayahuel Garcia: Student appreciates Fresno Unified’s Safe Place resolution – The senior at Edison High School and youth leader with Californians for Justice writes, “After weeks of student, teacher and community testimony at school board meetings, the Fresno Unified School District board of trustees approved the Safe Place resolution. This victory for our community is a first step in protecting students and families and a reminder to everyone that schools are places where trust and relationships matter.” Garcia op-ed in Fresno Bee

Little impact expected on California as Congress rescinds school accountability rules — The U.S. Senate followed the House’s lead Thursday and, on a mostly partisan vote, narrowly rescinded regulations that strengthened provisions of the Every Student Succeeds Act holding schools accountable for improving student performance. The action removes one uncertainty among a constellation of larger ones facing California education officials as they await the Trump administration’s expected budget cuts and policy shifts. EdSource article

Turlock Christian’s new campus gives kids a little wiggle room — Where Medic Alert office workers once typed in their cubicles, the next generation is learning in a next-century version of desks and chairs. Flexible seating – standing, lying, pedaling, kneeling or leaning – and sleek, mobile tables and storage, have transformed the standard classroom at Turlock Christian School’s new elementary campusModesto Bee article


Toxic priorities: Switching cleanup rules, state risks leaving homes contaminated — Struggling with what officials call the largest and most expensive toxic contamination in California history, embattled state regulators have changed the formula for assessing the level of lead-laced soil in residential areas—a move that could result in a significant number of homes falling off the priority cleanup list. CALmatters article

Health/Human Services 

Big money for Kids Day: Tally hits $605,000, and more to come — All those pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and dollar bills donated Tuesday in the Kids Day fundraiser to benefit Valley Children’s Hospital are adding up to big bucks: As of Thursday afternoon, the tally stood at $605,000, and there’s more cash yet to count, hospital spokeswoman Zara Arboleda said. Fresno Bee article

Hospital recall election set for July 11 — The recall election for Tulare Regional Medical Center’s board Vice Chairman Dr. Parmod Kumar will be held on July 11. Visalia Times-Delta article

‘Today, I died’: Program brings home real consequences of teen drinking — Thursday marked the end of the two-day “Every 15 Minutes” educational program at Stagg High, which gave students a somber reminder of the dangers of drunken driving. Stockton Record article

Land Use/Housing

Here’s what you need to earn to afford a two-bedroom rental in each Sacramento community — Median rents in the Sacramento region have climbed to the point that hundreds of thousands of households can’t afford a two-bedroom place, according to a Bee review of data from real estate tracking firm Sacramento Bee article


With Trump on board, Texas puts high-speed rail on fast track — Texas is closer than ever to building the first high-speed train in the United States, thanks to President Donald Trump’s fascination with these transportation projects and a well-timed pitch to his administration. McClatchy Newspapers article

Having bought Virgin, Alaska Airlines plans big SFO expansion — Three months after its $4 billion purchase of Burlingame’s Virgin America, the company said Thursday that it will add 13 routes from the Bay Area to destinations across the continent, including Philadelphia, Baltimore, New Orleans and (pending government permission) Mexico City. San Francisco Chronicle article

Other areas

Michael Fitzgerald: No more ‘Phase 4’ council meetings – The mayor needs to raise the bar for decorum. No profanity, no blowing whistles, no disrespecting others.  And the D.A. should prosecute protesters given clear evidence they crossed the line. Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

Sunshine Week: Public records, open meetings are key tools for Bee’s journalism — Public records and open meetings laws are critical for journalists who cover local government agencies – and two areas in which journalists and government officials, or their attorneys, most frequently butt heads in terms of assuring the public’s right to know. Together, the California Public Records Act and the state’s open-meeting law, the Ralph M. Brown Act, represent California’s suite of “sunshine laws” that cover cities, counties, school districts, special districts and other public agencies. Fresno Bee article

Stray cars threaten dog park – It seems no one who visits north Stockton’s Barkleyville dog park can agree on how many times cars have veered off Feather River Drive and plunged through the fence that protects both people and pets. Stockton Record article

This study says Visalians are a happy bunch.  Fresnans? Not so much — Congratulations, Visalians. You apparently feel quite good about yourself. The Visalia-Porterville area earned a high ranking in a report called “State of American Well-Being,” assembled by Gallup-Healthways. The report identifies five elements of well-being: purpose, social, financial, community and physical. Fresno Bee article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Lower-income people are fleeing California for places like Texas. One of the reasons is the exorbitant cost of housing. When will the Legislature cut the red tape for building homes and apartments so that regular folks can realize their dreams here?

Merced Sun-Star – Lower-income people are fleeing California for places like Texas. One of the reasons is the exorbitant cost of housing. When will the Legislature cut the red tape for building homes and apartments so that regular folks can realize their dreams here?

Modesto Bee – This is not the outrageous domestic mass surveillance by the National Security Agency revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013 and rightly curtailed by President Barack Obama and Congress in 2015. But WikiLeaks asserts that the CIA purposely didn’t warn Apple, Google, Microsoft and others about the vulnerabilities in their products.

Sacramento Bee – The partisan virus that ails the U.S. Supreme Court and many state courts is a non-issue on the California Supreme Court, to the credit of the current justices and to governors of both parties who appointed them; California, its cities and counties, and the federal government aren’t on the same page about the recreational marijuana. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has threatened a crackdown, which could make it harder to create an industry of growers and sellers.