March 17, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

California revenue beats estimates for another month – California tax revenue continues to outpace expectations, Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration announced Monday. The state has collected $633 million more than expected in the current fiscal year, which ends in June. Most of the bump, $385 million, comes from taxes on personal income. Sales taxes produced $163 million more than administration estimates.  LA Times article

Dan Walters: Legislature mandates ‘sunshine’ for others, operates in darkness — Do as we say, not as we do. Over the decades, the California Legislature has passed However, the Legislature has either exempted itself from the sunshine laws it imposes on others or passed very weak versions for itself.   Walters column in Sacramento Bee


Valley politics 

More districts switch to even-year elections — Tulare County supervisors are expected to approve requests from 18 special districts to have their elections held on even years rather than on odd years. The Alta Irrigation District, Orange Cove Fire Protection District, Orosi Public Utility District and Sequoia Memorial District are among the latest in a long list of district opting to switch election years.  Visalia Times-Delta article


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Gavin Newsom running marathon race for California governor — Gavin Newsom followed his announcement that he will run for governor in 2018 with a quick burst of fundraising and, last weekend, an email promoting an article about raising boys.  Capitol Alert

John Myers: California’s special elections may be overdue for an overhaul — For a myriad of reasons, there is very little that’s ‘special’ about special elections these days in California. In fact, they’ve become quite commonplace.  Myers in KQED


Other areas

Filings sometimes obscure California political ad details — Government records, though, can make it particularly challenging for people to track the money behind election-season ads that blanket the airwaves.  Sacramento Bee article 

Dan Walters Daily: Unions key in special Senate election — On special election day, Dan says, political minds are focused on an intriguing battle among three Democrats in California’s East Bay.  Dan Walters Daily in Sacramento Bee

Voting at 16 in San Francisco? Supervisor says the time has come — Sixteen-year-olds can drive, work, pay taxes and be sentenced to life in prison. Now, some want the right to vote, too. On Tuesday, San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos will attempt to make that happen by introducing a measure that would extend the right to vote to 16- and 17-year-olds.  San Francisco Chronicle article


California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

California public workers may be at risk of losing promised pensions – As millions of private employees lost their pension benefits in recent years, government workers rested easy, believing that their promised retirements couldn’t be touched. Now the safety of a government pension in California may be fading fast. Feeling the heat is the state’s huge public pension fund, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, known as CalPERS.  LA Times article 

Sales tax drop comes as Bakersfield budgeting begins – Bakersfield had a good sales tax year in 2014 overall, but it had a bad fourth quarter, casting a pall over the new city budget coming in less than eight weeks.  Bakersfield Californian article 

Dorothy Leland: UC Merced needs a new strategy to expand – The UC Merced chancellor writes, “Our role is to open the door to opportunity, not close it. So the campus must develop a new strategy for expansion at a time when the state no longer provides sufficient funding for construction as it did for other public campuses. After careful consideration of the alternatives, we have adopted a strategy modeled on other successful public building projects in the United States and the world.” Leland op-ed in Sacramento Bee


Jobs and the Economy

Tulare council to consider Cartmill development plan – The Cartmill Preferred Growth Area Strategic Plan may cost the city $300,000, funds that may be used to complete an economic analysis and assess infrastructure needs. If approved, this plan will represent a new approach in bringing regional commercial development to Tulare’s northeast, expected to become the city’s prime development area after the Cartmill Interchange opens next year.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Downtown Stockton vibrancy to begin at Sutter and Weber – Developing downtown Stockton into the vibrant urban space that its boosters envision will take years, if not decades. But in a few weeks, barring unforeseen last-minute delays, one corner on one downtown block will spring to life.  Stockton Record article

Kern County could explore privatizing public libraries – One of the budgets that’s been under pressure in recent years has been the one for the Kern County Library. Many branches are only open two or three days a week and two-thirds of libraries lack wifi. And unlike many counties, the Kern County library system is almost entirely reliant on money from the county’s general fund.  KVPR report 

Home sales, prices rise in San Joaquin County – Based on closed escrow sales from multiple-listing service reports, the industry group said $270,750 was the county median sales price for February, up 2.8 percent from January’s $263,360 median. It was up even more sharply, 15.2 percent, from the median of $234,930 tallied in February 2014.  Stockton Record article

San Bernardino defends CalPERS payment plan in bankruptcy – Defending its plan to fully repay its debts to CalPERS, the bankrupt city of San Bernardino has asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit by creditors demanding equal treatment.  Sacramento Bee article

Officials reflect on the switch to frozen food for Merced County seniors – The jury is still out on whether serving frozen meals to Merced County’s homebound senior citizens really works. It’s been six months since the county swapped hot meals for frozen entrees in a cost-saving measure.  Merced Sun-Star article

Report: California should go slow in changing state workers’ medical insurance – Lawmakers should slow down Gov. Jerry Brown’s move to overhaul state employee and retiree health benefits, a new report says, and hold hearings despite the governor’s desire to settle the issue via union negotiations.  Sacramento Bee article 

Realtors: California housing market bounces back in February – Slowing home price appreciation and improving inventory combined to boost California’s housing market in February as existing home sales and median home prices increased from both the previous month and year, according to a California Association of Realtors report issued Monday.  The Business Journal article

How much income do you need to afford a home in Central Valley? – Home prices are up, but mortgage interest rates have remained low. What does that mean for affordability? The Bee’s sister paper, The Sacramento Bee, has a nifty interactive graphic that shows you how much you need to make to afford a median-priced house, assuming a 20% downpayment.  Fresno Bee article

Food industry waging a bitter battle over proposal on added-sugar labels – Of all the issues the Obama administration is grappling with, a modest redesign of what food labels say about sweeteners might not have seemed among the more controversial. But ever since First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled the plan last year, a lobbying frenzy has ensued.  LA Times article

New California state worker website launches — With state labor talks about to restart, the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office debuted a new state workforce website on Monday that includes its easy-to-read analyses of current and former state-employee contracts.  Sacramento Bee article 

Major League Soccer confirms talks with Minneapolis – Major League Soccer announced Monday that it is in serious discussions with a group from Minneapolis to award an expansion franchise to that city, dealing a blow to Sacramento’s immediate hopes of joining the major league ranks.  Sacramento Bee article 

Atwater fire officials reveal equipment prices, but not in detail – Atwater fire officials last week disclosed some equipment prices for the city’s new firetruck after a Merced Sun-Star article reported the agency’s refusal to do so, but the list provided to the public didn’t include a detailed breakdown of each item’s cost.  Merced Sun-Star article

Sierra at Tahoe ski resort closes due to lack of snow — The Sierra at Tahoe Resort, annually a busy spot for skiers and snowboarders, announced Sunday that it is closing abruptly due to a lack of snow. Sacramento Bee article

Demolition of Italian building at Kern fair on hold – The Kern County fair board of directors decided to delay a vote on demolishing the Italian Heritage Dante Association kitchen and pavilion after a fair food concessionaire expressed interest in taking over the building.  Bakersfield Californian article

Sacramento Bee: Sacramento council should limit trash rate hike – Of all the unpleasant tasks local elected officials must undertake, raising garbage rates ranks right up there. Sacramento City Council members won’t please everyone whatever they decide Tuesday night, but they can lessen the hit, at least a little.  Sacramento Bee editorial

San Diego’s job growth humbled — Looking back, San Diego County’s job growth in 2014 was not nearly as robust as economists first estimated.  U-T San Diego article 

McDonald’s facing complaints over worker burns — Fast-food giant McDonald’s is facing more than two dozen workplace safety complaints from workers who allege that they suffered burns on the job, a labor-backed advocacy group announced Monday.  LA Times article



Sacramento Bee: With reservoirs depleted, Water Resources Control Board must restrict water use – Amid the worst drought in at least a generation, and possibly the worst in modern California history, the state Water Resources Control Board today will consider tougher restrictions on outdoor watering by residential and business users. The action is long overdue.  Sacramento Bee editorial 

Earth Log: State water officials will be in Fresno to talk about this ugly droughtState officials will be in Fresno on Thursday to tell the public how dire California’s four-year drought has become. The topics in the briefing will range from lack of precipitation above to the sinking groundwater below. But, maybe more important now, they’ll talk about this summer and how the major water projects will operate.  Fresno Bee article 

LA is willing to pay highest price ever for water – Los Angeles is offering rice farmers in the Sacramento Valley more money than the city has ever paid for water — $700 per acre-foot. At this price, rice farmers could make more money selling water than they can make on their crops.  KQED report

Oakdale Irrigation District weighs historic water cap — Because of prolonged drought, irrigation leaders Tuesday morning will consider capping the amount of water delivered this year to farms around Oakdale and east of Riverbank.  Modesto Bee article

Chowchilla could sell water to Madera County – The city of Chowchilla could sell as much as 2 million gallons of drinking water to Madera County after a vote last week.  Merced Sun-Star article

Well problems force Sierra residents to take conservation seriously — Residents in the small community of Shaver Springs bordering the Sierra National Forest, six miles west of Shaver Lake, could probably teach people living in water-short communities a few lessons.  Fresno Bee article


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Released murderers mentor other ex-lifers on parole — The state Division of Adult Parole Operations is operating four pilot projects in which ex-lifers are helping each other make a successful transition to the outside.  KQED report

Decision by May on death penalty for bank robbery suspects — A county prosecutor is expected to announce in May whether the District Attorney will seek the death penalty for the two men charged in the death of a bank robbery hostage, who police say was used as a shield in a shootout with law enforcement.  Stockton Record article; AP article



Fresno Unified superintendent proves he is an ally for Obama education plan — President Barack Obama on Monday found an ally in Fresno Unified School District Superintendent Michael Hanson. During an hour-long meeting, Obama pitched his education priorities to Hanson and other superintendents. For the school leaders and administration officials now facing some high-stakes legislative struggles, the White House session came at a key time.  Fresno Bee article

State approves Bakersfield College’s first four-year degree program — It’s official. Bakersfield College got the final OK Monday to add its first-ever four-year degree, a program in industrial automation. BC will be one of the first community colleges in California to offer a bachelor’s degree.  Bakersfield Californian article 

Stockton Unified teachers, district optimistic about meeting – Stockton Unified and teachers union officials were optimistic after their all-day fact-finding session, both sides reported Monday.  Stockton Record article

How California’s graduate schools compare with nation’s best – Stanford, a perennial powerhouse in postgraduate education, again sits at the head of the class in U.S. News and World Report’s annual rankings of the best graduate schools in the nation.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Bill seeks to curb lawsuits over physical education minutes – On the verge of a final settlement of a lawsuit over noncompliance with physical education requirements, three of the largest districts in the state are supporting a new bill they believe will curtail litigation in the future.  EdSource article

Next up from Fresno: High school for overlooked kids ‘in the middle’ Public schools often end up concentrating on students with obvious promise at the very top, and with obvious problems at the bottom. Here is one designed to foster opportunities for everyone else.  The Atlantic article 

UC won’t get Peevey party money — The University of California’s public policy school won’t be receiving money raised in its name at a farewell soiree last month for former California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Peevey.  U-T San Diego article

Fresno middle school teacher on leave after saying on video, ‘I don’t like black kids’ — Scandinavian Middle School vice principal Joe DiFilippo was placed on paid administrative leave Monday after being recorded on video saying, “I don’t like black kids,” Fresno Unified School District officials said. Fresno Bee article



Endangered Delta smelt may be extinct – “Prepare for the extinction of the Delta Smelt in the wild,” UC Davis fish biologist Peter Moyle told a group of scientists with the Delta Stewardship Council. He says the latest state trawl survey found very few fish in areas of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta where smelt normally gather.  Capital Public Radio report

Flooded farmland helps baby salmon – Researchers flooded 2 acres of riverside farmland near Modesto last month to see if it might do baby salmon some good. Judging by the rapid growth – the 120 salmon tripled their weight on average over three weeks – the experiment succeeded.  Modesto Bee article 

PUC chief says he had qualms about San Onofre cost-apportioning deal — The state’s top utilities regulator said Monday he had qualms about a deal to apportion the costs of closing the giant San Onofre nuclear power plant but voted for it anyway.  LA Times article


Health/Human Services

Vaccine refusal helped fuel Disneyland measles outbreak, study says — Although epidemiologists have not yet identified the person who brought measles to Disneyland, triggering an international outbreak, researchers now say that parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids are probably to blame.  LA Times article

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. jumps in to California vaccine debate – The California Legislature’s debate over whether to make childhood vaccines mandatory has attracted another high-profile personality: Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the son of late U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of former President John F. Kennedy.  Capitol Alert

More than 16 million gain insurance coverage under health law – More than 16 million Americans have gained coverage since President Obama’s health care law took effect five years ago, the administration said Monday. But an independent expert who used some of the same underlying data had a much lower estimate of 9.7 million.  AP article

California safety-net hospitals ‘at risk’ under health system changes – Safety-net hospitals serve a higher percentage of the uninsured, and low-income patients who have Medi-Cal. Jan Emerson-Shea with the California Hospital Association says these hospitals often don’t have enough patients with higher-paying commercial insurance to offset losses.  Capital Public Radio report

Code Blue builds skills, confidence of Modesto Junior College nurses — Every MJC nursing student goes through a Code Blue exercise before they graduate.  How much strength it takes to give CPR. How hard it is to open the injectors. Keeping straight the order and placement of suction tubes under stress. The intensity of having a man’s life literally in your hands. Modesto Bee article

Merced nonprofit to continue Medi-Cal sign-ups with new grants — Merced’s Healthy House, a certified enrollment entity under Covered California, was awarded $116,000 to continue Medi-Cal enrollment efforts in the community.  Merced Sun-Star article

Ronald Inge: Too many poor kids aren’t getting basic dental care – The chief dental officer of Western Dental writes, “Investing in kids’ oral health care is a wise investment in our future; preventive care will save the state money, increase academic performance and get all our kids ready to join the workforce with a smile. The state can make good on its promises to our neediest children and ensure that every Californian has genuine access to the basic health care that most of us take for granted.”  Inge op-ed in Sacramento Bee



Tests of Bay Bridge rods find more widespread cracking — Tests on one of the high-strength steel rods that secure the base of the tower of the new Bay Bridge eastern span show more widespread cracking than Caltrans officials had previously acknowledged, The Chronicle has learned.  San Francisco Chronicle article


Other areas

Atwater council puts off vote on homeless camping amid public comment – The Atwater City Council last week delayed adopting an ordinance that bans sleeping in parks and aggressive panhandling in the face of strong opposition from residents.  Merced Sun-Star article 

Ruben Macareno: Diversified grand jury needed in Tulare County – The chairman of the Tulare County Democratic Party writes, “Our governing bodies are supposed to be a reflection of us. In some cases it is mandated by law. The Tulare County Grand Jury is one body that falls in this category but has consistently failed to meet its racial, gender and age make-up of the county as outlined in the California Rules of Court.” Macareno op-ed in Visalia Times-Delta

Records reveal another Cal Fire manager drank on the job — A Cal Fire manager appealing his demotion for drinking on the job told investigators that he drank with other supervisors at work “on various occasions,” according to records released Monday.  Sacramento Bee article 

Tony Hoffman: A van can make a difference – The founder of the Freewheel Project writes, “Four years ago I set out to start an organization called the Freewheel Project that developed healthy life choices in youths through action sports. It made sense to start with BMX, because at the time I was an Elite pro BMX racer who traveled the country racing on the pro tour.” Hoffman op-ed in Fresno Bee



Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – From high-speed rail to NSA secrets, let sun shine in.

Merced Sun-Star – From high-speed rail to NSA secrets, let sun shine in.

Modesto Bee – From high-speed rail to NSA secrets, let sun shine in.

Sacramento Bee – With reservoirs depleted, Water Resources Control Board must restrict water use; Sacramento council should limit trash rate hike.

Stockton RecordCheers and jeers: Kristin Olsen seeks more open lawmaking, ugly racism in Oklahoma and other issues.