March 12, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

 Countering criticism, Steinberg says mental health law showing results – Seeking to quell criticism that his signature mental health initiative lacks accountability, former state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg pushed back Wednesday with a study he commissioned showing declines in homelessness, arrests and incarcerations for people receiving treatment under the law.  LA Times article; Sacramento Bee article; Sacramento Bee editorial

 Former San Jose mayor relaunches California pension initiative — Former Mayor Chuck Reed is following through on his promises to try and get a statewide pension reform measure on the ballot, saying Wednesday his group may submit an initiative for review by state officials as soon as May.  San Jose Mercury News article

Valley politics

 Chicken? Yup, there’s now a congressional caucus for that — In fact, it seems there’s a caucus for just about everything. This Congress, there’s more than 250. So it’s not surprising that on Tuesday Rep. Jim Costa, a Fresno Democrat, joined with Steve Womack, an Arkansas Republican, to announce formation of the Congressional Chicken Caucus.  Fresno Bee article

 Ceres moves toward putting district elections on November ballot — Like many other local governing bodies around the state acting under the threat or reality of a lawsuit, the Ceres City Council voted unanimously this week to proceed with the steps necessary to make the switch to district elections.  Modesto Bee article


 Feds allege sweeping immigration fraud in LA trade schools — Authorities arrested the operators of four Los Angeles-area trade schools for allegedly running an elaborate “pay-to-stay” scam in which foreign nationals used student visas to stay in the United States without actually going to school.  LA Times article

 Other areas

 Joel Fox: Throw the penalty flag in football and politics – The campaigns for the Senate District 7 special election and building a Los Angeles area football stadium are two rough and tumble affairs that have something in common – the need to throw a penalty flag on deceptive plays in the campaigns.  Fox in Fox & Hounds

 Dan Walters Daily: Legislative oversight on the menu – Lately, legislators have been roasting state agencies they don’t believe are doing very well, Dan says. Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

 Confidence in government falls to record low, survey finds – Americans’ confidence in all three branches of government is at or near record lows, according to a major survey that has measured attitudes on the subject for 40 years. The 2014 General Social Survey finds only 23 percent of Americans have a great deal of confidence in the Supreme Court, 11 percent in the executive branch and 5 percent in Congress.  AP article

 William Bedzek: Gun violence is a health crisis – The fellow of the American College of Physicians writes, “The ACP considers gun violence a national health crisis. They have proposed six starting steps needed to begin to bring this crisis under control.”  Bedzek op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

 Obama visiting LA for ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live’ appearance — President Obama is scheduled to travel to Los Angeles on Thursday and will make a guest appearance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live.” LA Times article

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

 State suspends use of test scores to measure school quality — State education officials moved Wednesday to dramatically recast California’s system to evaluate school quality by suspending the use of standardized test scores as the major yardstick in favor of a broader array of measures. LA Times article; EdSource article

 Undocumented immigrant drivers signing up to donate organs may be reason for 30 percent boost — The California law allowing undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses may have an unexpected benefit for thousands of people waiting for organ transplants in the central San Joaquin Valley and statewide.  Fresno Bee article

 Jobs and the Economy

 California a majority Latino state? Not so fast — California is no longer on track to become a majority Latino state – at least not before 2060, according to projections from the state Department of Finance.  Grizzly Bear Project article;

 California will see slow population growth, big Latino gains – California’s population will continue to grow over the next 45 years, but very slowly, a new projection by the state’s demographers reveals, with Latinos and Asian-Americans providing virtually all growth and the white population shrinking dramatically. Sacramento Bee article

 Nunes takes bow for saving jobs at Cigna center in Visalia — Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Tulare, visited the Cigna Corporation health insurance claims processing center here Wednesday to take a bow for saving hundreds of jobs at one of the city’s largest employers.  Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article

 Report says Bakersfield leads cities with wide-ranging gas prices — In a national ranking released this week, Bakersfield led second-place Washington, D.C., in price variability. Six of the list’s top 10 cities were in California, with Fresno placing 10th. By analyzing retail pricing from 2014, the company determined Bakersfield gas prices varied by an average of 85.5 cents per gallon, as compared with Washington’s 82.9 cents.  Bakersfield Californian article

 Fresno, Hanford and Corcoran drivers pay too much for gas, study shows – Fresno and the Hanford-Corcoran area are among the top 10 places nationwide where drivers are likely to overpay for gas. GasBuddy, a Los Angeles-based company that tracks gas prices, released its ranking this week. Hanford-Corcoran ranked No. 7 and Fresno was No. 10.  Fresno Bee article

Kings jobless numbers: January 2015 – The Hanford Sentinel takes a look at unemployment rates in Kings County communities in January 2015.  Hanford Sentinel article

 Study: Many workers could see cuts in pension benefits — A new federal study says many workers in employer-funded pension plans that fail could see their benefits reduced under the current system of government support.  AP article

 Stockton Record: Cottage industry? – The widespread nature of ADA lawsuits is a harmful approach.  Stockton Record editorial

 City focus shifts from football to expanding LA Convention Center – Now that sports and entertainment giant AEG has dropped plans to build a downtown stadium for an NFL team, tourism leaders say the city can focus on expanding and modernizing the Los Angeles Convention Center to attract bigger, more profitable gatherings.  LA Times article

 Advisory group picks Mission Valley for proposed San Diego NFL stadium – San Diego has taken a step toward keeping the Chargers — but team officials aren’t likely to be satisfied by it. The Citizens Stadium Advisory Group, assembled by Mayor Kevin Faulconer, unanimously selected Mission Valley over downtown as the preferred location for a Chargers stadium.  LA Times article

 Court: Juries to decide if state Uber, Lyft drivers are employees – Juries must decide whether California drivers for the ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft are employees entitled to minimum wages, expenses and other workplace benefits, two San Francisco federal judges ruled Wednesday, rejecting the companies’ argument that the drivers must be considered independent contractors.  San Francisco Chronicle article

 Sacramento Bee: Sacramento food truck rules are fully cooked, finally – For a case study in how a good idea can get bogged down, look no further than giving food trucks more room to roam on Sacramento’s streets.  Sacramento Bee editorial

 Cutbacks still felt deeply in California’s civil courts – The improving economy is slowly allowing the state to pump more taxpayer dollars back into the trial court system, but court officials and lawyers say the deep cuts can still be felt — particularly in civil courts.  KQED report

 Former Fresno Bee publisher Ray Steele Jr. honored by Fresno Chamber of Commerce – Ray Steele Jr., former publisher of The Fresno Bee, was honored Wednesday as the 2015 winner of the Leon S. Peters Award. The Fresno Chamber of Commerce presented the award during the annual Valley Business Awards luncheon held at the New Exhibit Hall. The Peters award recognizes a local businessperson for success in business, leadership and community service.  Fresno Bee article

 Downtown Sacramento lofts building sells for $57 million – As the downtown Sacramento real estate market continues to heat up, the 800 J Lofts building has been sold for $57.4 million.  Sacramento Bee article

 Outdoor advertising thrives in increasingly digital world — The rise of social media and new technology has led many companies to increasingly rely on sleek new digital marketing techniques. However industry experts warn that it’s too soon to write off more traditional strategies like outdoor advertising.  The Business Journal article


Bill would provide $15 million for drought-stricken communities like Cantua Creek – A bill that proposes using $15 million to help drought-stricken communities like Cantua Creek is being proposed by Assembly Member Henry T. Perea, even as Fresno County officials try to get Cantua Creek residents to consider a new vote on water rate increases.  Fresno Bee article

 Mark Grossi: Earth Log: NWS says there’s always a chance the long-term outlook might miss — The National Weather Service wanted to add perspective to my blog item this week about the drought winter and the federal long-term forecast of slightly above average precipitation in Central and Southern California.  Grossi in Fresno Bee

 Kings buying portable tank for well failures — Failing residential water wells are among the worst drought impacts in Kings County, a point brought home Tuesday as county supervisors approved a grant to spend up to $8,000 on a 1,000-gallon portable water trailer. The purpose? To hook it up to a pickup and haul it out to rural residents who run out of water this summer and fall.  Hanford Sentinel article

 Hanford brothers inspire grass bill — For two teenage brothers, a dream to save water in California is getting closer to becoming a reality. Assemblyman Rudy Salas introduced legislation on Feb. 24 that would establish a tax credit for residents who replace their grass with synthetic or drought-resistant turf. The idea for the legislation was proposed by Arijeet and Rajvarun Grewal, brothers who live in Hanford.  Hanford Sentinel article

 New fertilizer heralded for yield, lower water demand — A new type of fertilizer introduced in Salinas last week has been shown to reduce nitrogen runoff, increase yield and lower water demand, particularly for almonds, a $246 million crop in Tulare County, while using produce scraps as a base ingredient.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

 Gov. Brown appointees sway high court to rehear death penalty case – Gov. Jerry Brown’s two newest appointees to the California Supreme Court provided enough votes Wednesday for reconsideration of a death penalty case, the first example of the impact Brown is having on the state’s highest court.  LA Times article

 Lawmakers criticize law enforcement profiling guidelines – Lawmakers sent a letter on Wednesday to the Justice Department saying new guidelines restricting federal law enforcement agencies from racial profiling don’t go far enough.  AP article

 Anti-recidivism program debuts at LA County Jail — James Williams has been in and out of jail since he was 17. Now, at 27, he is hoping this stint behind bars will be his last. He is enrolled in a pilot program at Pitchess Detention Center that aims to educate inmates in trades such as welding and dog grooming, as well as life skills such as how to deal with a supervisor at work.  LA Times article


 Gauging value of colleges’ community service programs can be tough – Providing opportunities for students to contribute to the public good has become an important part of the mission of the vast majority of the nation’s colleges and universities. Campuses incorporate community service into their strategic plans and reward faculty for designing courses that involve students in such activities. There has been less attention, however, to how colleges define and measure community service, whether such programs say anything about how schools prepare students and whether communities actually benefit.  LA Times article

 Fresno State’s Henry Madden Library ranked among nation’s best college libraries – Fresno State’s Henry Madden Library beat out USC and Ivy League schools Princeton, Yale and Cornell and cracked the top 25 in a national list that ranked the country’s best college and university libraries.  Fresno Bee article

 Schools use alternatives to suspension, see student behavior improve – The decline reflects an ideological shift as school districts have asked administrators and teachers to reserve the harshest penalties for only the most severe behavioral problems. Districts say the data also show that preventive measures, such as regularly using positive reinforcement on campus, have proved effective.  Sacramento Bee article

 Fresno Unified to install high-tech security cameras, flood lights on campuses –  More than 900 high-definition security cameras will soon go up at Fresno Unified middle and high schools to help law enforcement battle break-ins, vandalism and other mischief during and after school hours.  Fresno Bee article

 State keeps same contractor for testing California schools – The state Board of Education voted unanimously Wednesday to award a three-year, $240 million contract for testing academic achievement in California’s K-12 school system to Educational Testing Service, the state’s test contractor for the past dozen years.  Capitol Alert

 Fresno-area high school students try their hands at building trades (video) – Nearly 60 Fresno-area high school students had the opportunity Wednesday to learn more about a variety of trades and speak with apprentices and trades employers during the Apprenticeship Day for high school students at Plumbers, Pipefitters and HVACR Service Technicians Training Center in Fresno.  Fresno Bee article

 Reinventing high school: How Fresno prepares the kids in the middle – CART began with the glimmer of an idea: that we could do better at educating students, especially those who were having trouble finding their way in a more traditional American high school environment. CART sought to offer an unconventional education, one where students could discover or follow their passions with a clear path toward a career.  The Atlantic article

 Gift to Pacific means endowed chair for economics – A gift of $2.09 million from alumnus John C. Beyer, who earned his bachelor’s degree in philosophy from College of the Pacific in 1962, will be met with $2 million in matching funds from the University’s Powell Fund to bring the endowment to $4.09 million, which will finance not only the John C. Beyer Chair in Economics, but also will establish an internship program for economics students.  Stockton Record article

 State bar considers requiring all law students to do free legal work – The State Bar of California is hoping to get more help to people like Pegues by requiring that law students complete 50 hours of legal work for free or substantially reduced rates within one year of obtaining their license to practice law.  LA Times article

 Peer program a success – Wednesday, Vandenburgh spoke to some 800 middle and high school leaders gathered together for Stockton Unified’s inaugural Peer Leaders Uniting Students Summit at University of the Pacific, a daylong symposium of forums and breakout sessions aimed at equipping them with tools and strategies to tackle everything from bullying to anger management to human trafficking.  Stockton Record article

 Merced College to let dean’s contract expire — The Merced College board of trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to cut ties with Everett Lovelace, the dean of student services at the college, as of July 1. The decision to not renew his contract came at the end of the monthly board meeting at the college after several students, colleagues and others spoke about Lovelace. Merced Sun-Star article

 Students start Little Free Library in Visalia – The little library in front of Jostens is targeted for adults, with over 40 book ranging in genres — from the classics, including “Jane Eyre,” to dystopian novels, fantasies, mysteries, romance and more. And no library card or money is required. This library is perhaps a little unique from most others, as it was started by 10 Willow Glen Elementary students as a project for the Tulare County Step-Up youth program.  Visalia Times-Delta article

 Muslim college gains accreditation – A Berkeley-based college has become the first accredited Muslim campus in the country after it received approval from a key educational association. LA Times article


 Report: PUC needs tougher rules on contact between utilities, commissioners — The need for tighter PUC control over improper communications is the central issue in an unfolding scandal at the powerful regulatory agency. The “backroom deals” and “overly cozy” contacts between utility brass and PUC bosses are the target of criminal investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice and the California Attorney General.  LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article

 PUC’s Peevey pushed terms of 2003 SDG&E energy deal, lawyer testifies – The then-president of the Public Utilities Commission strong-armed a deal that forced a San Diego utility to buy more than $700 million in “costly and unneeded” power from a private generating company, state lawmakers were told Wednesday.  LA Times article

 A climate change group here? In Bakersfield? – The heart of California oil country might not be the easiest place to sign up climate-change believers who would support a new tax on the petroleum industry. Then again, what better target than the home of the second highest-ranking Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives?  Bakersfield Californian article

 Crude oil train shipments dwindle in California, for now – “Crude oil shipments from out of state have virtually stopped,” said Paul King, rail safety chief at the California Public Utilities Commission. “Our information is that no crude oil trains are expected for the rest of this month.”  Sacramento Bee article

 Turlock council hears about crude oil train safety — The City Council heard about safety concerns involving crude oil trains, some of them using tracks just a block from City Hall. Turlock Fire Chief Tim Lohman briefed the council Tuesday night on the trains, which carry oil from the Bakken shale deposits in North Dakota to refineries in California and elsewhere.  Modesto Bee article

 Boost for Mokelumne River protection – Last year’s legislation might have died, but the cause itself lives on. Supporters of a “wild and scenic” designation for the upper Mokelumne River were heartened this week when the stream’s thirstiest water user, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, voted unanimously to support such a designation.  Stockton Record article

 Stockton Record: Levee plan should ‘reclaim’ 17 – We’re grateful for the potential federal investment in the San Joaquin Delta in and around Stockton. We urge the Corps, state officials and elected leaders to have dialogue about District 17 and the potential for it to be included in a plan that could be a tremendous benefit for the area.  Stockton Record editorial

 John Logan: Why environment should take precedence over profits – The former Modesto Bee visiting editor writes, “Our environment is both delicate and sturdy, but it can take many years for it to repair man-made damage. It is our duty to protect it and be good stewards. The viability of our environment should take precedence over profits.” Logan op-ed in Modesto Bee

 Joe Mathews: You can’t even see California’s scary weather — Horror film directors will tell you that nothing is more frightening than what you can’t see. By that logic, California has never had a scarier winter than this one. Where is all the snow that should be in the mountains? How could San Francisco possibly go all of January without any rainfall? And what happened to the February frosts on cars and lawns that once gave Angelenos a hint of winter?  Mathews in Fresno Bee

 Health/Human Services

 Measles case puts Merced community on high alert – Measles awareness in Merced County has heightened since last week’s report of a child in the area testing positive for the highly contagious viral disease.  Merced Sun-Star article

 Nan Austin: Chasing immunity – vaccines, fears and moral dilemmas – The statistics of the grim diseases vaccines prevent are crystal clear. Those who choose not to vaccinate are assuming their children will not catch what were once every parent’s nightmares. This creates another moral hazard, because their assumption depends on the vast majority of children being vaccinated to protect them.  Austin in Modesto Bee

 Donation will help ease doctor shortage – A few more much-needed doctors will come to town through a $1.35 million donation to one of San Joaquin General Hospital’s residency programs, a move officials say would increase access to medical care in a region where physician shortages remain a concern.  Stockton Record article

 H7N9 bird flu has makings of a pandemic virus, scientists warn — Scientists in China have identified an influenza virus that they say has the potential to spread around the world, sickening and killing people whose immune systems have never faced a threat like it.  LA Times article

 California rejects thousands of requests for antipsychotic drugs for poor kids, foster youth — State regulators are rejecting thousands of requests from California physicians to prescribe antipsychotic drugs to poor children and foster youth, a dramatic first step in the state’s new effort to curb the excessive prescribing of powerful mind-altering medications.  San Jose Mercury News article

 Feinstein and Boxer say pregnant women should get special Obamacare enrollment – U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein are calling on California’s health insurance marketplace, Covered California, to allow women to sign up for coverage when they become pregnant.  KQED report

 State announces $1 million settlement with Mercury Insurance — California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced a $1 million settlement with Mercury Insurance Co., Mercury Casualty Co. and California Automobile Insurance Co. in connection with various compliance violations.  Sacramento Bee article

 Young-Bergman resigns from CASA — Nancy Young-Bergman has resigned from her position on the Court Appointed Special Advocates board of directors. Young-Bergman was one of the founders of the Merced County chapter of CASA, which helps foster children and abused or neglected youths navigate their way through the court system.  Merced Sun-Star article

 Land Use/Housing

Sierra Ridge Apartments in Clovis sold for $18.3 million — The Sierra Ridge Apartments, a 180-unit complex, in Clovis has sold to a local investor for $18.3 million.  Fresno Bee article


Fresno-Madera traffic study expanded — A study of traffic patterns between Fresno and Madera Counties is being expanded. The two counties are looking at the potential impacts of a new community just over the county line.  KVPR report

 Who’s at fault in pedestrian deaths? Often the pedestrian — Poor areas of Kern County where sidewalks are rare, street lights are spotty and major roads host high-speed traffic are deadly for pedestrians and bicyclists. The question now is how to fix a problem that killed 15 people on Kern County and city of Bakersfield roads in 2014.  Bakersfield Californian article

Other areas

 Stockton councilman tells kids to make wiser decisions than he did – Councilman Michael Tubbs has been speaking before large audiences for years, but as he waited to address students Wednesday morning in east Stockton, he admitted to a case of nerves. Tubbs, 24, said he is used to telling of his successes. But this time, he said, he was nervous because he would be discussing a failure — his arrest last October for driving under the influence of alcohol.  Stockton Record article

 After skid row shooting, activists talk to LA mayor about homelessness – Ten days after Los Angeles police officers shot and killed a homeless man on skid row, Mayor Eric Garcetti and his staff met with local activists to discuss ways to better help the city’s homeless population. LA Times article

 Ex-tech CEO who blasted ‘degenerates’ hosts San Francisco homeless event – Several hundred tech workers, homeless-service providers, politicians and other San Franciscans gathered Wednesday night with a goal of identifying solutions to one of the city’s most vexing problems: homelessness.  San Francisco Chronicle article

 New study determines there are too many studies — A new study shows that there are too damn many new studies. And it’s not just a funny headline: There are real-world implications. The study, which surely must be aware of its own irony, found that researchers are experiencing “attention decay” because of the glut of academic papers. Just like we’re overwhelmed by the bounty of the internet, researchers are forgetting important studies because they’re swimming in nonessential ones.  San Francisco Chronicle article

 The big reason California computer projects fail — Here’s Alex Castro’s first bit of sobering wisdom for state departments considering a big technology makeover: “Just because something is a good idea doesn’t mean you can do it.”  Sacramento Bee article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – GOP senators need lessons in both civics and politics; Proposition 63 aid for mentally ill people shows some success.

Merced Sun-Star Meddling senators get in the way of Iran deal.

Modesto Bee – Meddling senators get in the way of Iran deal.

Sacramento Bee – Proposition 63’s billions help keep mentally ill people off streets, out of jail; Sacramento food truck rules are fully cooked, finally.

Stockton Record – We’re grateful for the potential federal investment in the San Joaquin Delta in and around Stockton. We urge the Corps, state officials and elected leaders to have dialogue about District 17 and the potential for it to be included in a plan that could be a tremendous benefit for the area; The widespread nature of ADA lawsuits is a harmful approach.


Next 10: UPDATED California budget challenge For the first time in a decade, California’s budget is largely in balance.  However, the state has outstanding debts of $28 million, not counting long-term pension and retiree health care costs.  Budget choices affect us all.  Take the Challenge and decide how much should be spent on programs and where the money should come from.  Next 10 California Budget Challenge

 Next 10: Federal budget challengeThe Federal Budget Challenge is based on The Concord Coalition’s Principles and Priorities budget exercise, which has been used in numerous town hall meetings across the country by members of Congress from both parties, as well as in hundreds of high school and college classrooms.  Next 10 Federal Budget challenge

 Next 10: California Water Challenge – As our state faces some of the most severe drought conditions in its history, Next 10 wants to issue a new challenge to Californians: can you create a plan to make sure there’s enough water for everyone?  Next 10 California Water Challenge

 LEGISLATORS’ VOTING RECORDS: How often has a California legislator broken party ranks, abstained or switched sides? The Sacramento Bee has a database of the voting records of every member of the state Senate and Assembly. Enter a lawmaker’s last and first names to see how he or she voted, or enter a bill number to see how every legislator voted on it. Check it out at this link.

 Maddy Institute Updates List of San Joaquin Valley Elected Officials – The Maddy Institute has updated its list of San Joaquin Valley elected officials.  The list is available here.

 Maddy Institute on Facebook and Twitter – To learn about Maddy Institute activities (e.g. The Maddy Report tv show, The Maddy Associates’ Luncheons, the Maddy Legislative Intern Program), become a fan of the Maddy Institute on Facebook or log on to And if you have a Facebook or Twitter account, please add us and follow us!

The Kenneth L. Maddy Institute at California State University, Fresno was established to honor the legacy of one of California’s most principled and effective legislative leaders of the last half of the 20th Century by engaging, preparing and inspiring a new generation of governmental leaders for the 21st Century. Its mission is to inspire citizen participation, elevate government performance, provide non-partisan analysis and assist in providing solutions for public policy issues important to the region, state and nation.

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