March 2, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories 

Lawmakers tinker with crime measure recently OK’d by voters — Four months after California voters lowered penalties for certain crimes, state lawmakers and law enforcement officials are lining up with proposals to repeal portions of the new law that they say have created unintended consequences, such as reducing the number of DNA samples taken from suspects.  AP article

Supreme Court ruling could affect congressional districts in California — If the challengers win, the ruling could eliminate the role of California’s voter-approved redistricting commission in drawing congressional districts and similar bodies in several other states and halt what many reformers have seen as the best check on partisan gerrymandering.  LA Times article; San Francisco Chronicle article


Valley politics

Modesto mayor sitting on lots of campaign cash ahead of election – There are about eight months until voters go to the polls, but Mayor Garrad Marsh already is sitting on about $75,000 in campaign cash in his bid for a second term, with most of the money coming from an October fundraiser.  Modesto Bee article

Merced City Council to decide on committee for new election districts — Two lists of candidates are being recommended for the committee charged with carving the city into districts for local elections, and the Merced City Council will decide whether to approve the nominees during the regular meeting Monday.  Merced Sun-Star article


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Gay group wins formal recognition from state Republican Party —  In a historic move, the California Republican Party on Sunday officially recognized a gay GOP group. The Log Cabin Republicans, a 38-year-old organization that had unsuccessfully sought a charter from the state party several times in the past, received the formal imprimatur on an 861-293 vote at the party’s biannual convention in Sacramento.  LA Times article; Capitol Alert; San Francisco Chronicle article

Gay Republicans’ acceptance: A long, twisting journey –The California Republican Party’s decision Sunday to officially recognize a gay group comes after decades of debate about the role that gays should play in the party. Here is a look at the move toward greater acceptance.  LA Times article

Jim Brulte reelected California Republican Party chairman — California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte, a former state legislator who took over the party at a low point two years ago, was overwhelmingly reelected to another term on Sunday.  Capitol Alert

Facing long odds, Rocky Chávez marches toward Senate run — Republican Rocky Chávez, a soon-to-be U.S. Senate candidate, refused to accommodate conventional wisdom as he shuffled between meetings with some of his party’s most devoted members over the weekend.  Sacramento Bee article


Other areas 

California Legislature hits a lull – It’s quiet at the California Capitol. While activity traditionally lags in the first few months of a legislative session, it’s downright sleepy at the statehouse.  LA Times article

George Skelton: Chewing over a proposal to ban ballpark chaw – When a rookie legislator introduced a bill to ban big leaguers from chewing tobacco at ballparks, my immediate reaction was: How silly!  Skelton column in LA Times

See every gift given to state leaders, aides – Corporations and interest groups have given California leaders and their aides tens of thousands of gifts worth more than $5 million since 2000, including $900,000 in gifts given during 2012 and 2013, according to a Bee review of state data. Use this database to search all gifts given by lobbyist employers since 2000.  Sacramento Bee article

Boehner, GOP vow continued fight over Homeland Security funds – House Republican leaders flooded the Sunday TV talk shows, seeking to battle widespread criticism after an internal revolt by the party’s most conservative wing nearly cut off funding Friday for the agencies that protect the nation’s borders, ports, airports and other key areas.  LA Times article


California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Central Valley, Delta water rights under scrutiny — Hundreds of property owners across California’s Central Valley and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta are scrambling to prove they have a right to divert water from the region’s streams, the result of a state order that comes due in just four days.  Sacramento Bee article

Development Code: Fresno City Hall’s next battlefield – Fresno City Hall’s to-do list of earth-shaking chores now looks like this: Bankruptcy (avoid) — check. General plan (approve) — check. Water rates (approve) — check. Don’t think about relaxing, Fresno. The next big policy debate is just around the corner, and it’s supposed to tie together the other three in a way that finally makes sense of recent events at City Hall. We’re talking about a new development code.  Fresno Bee article


Jobs and the Economy

Stockton bankruptcy’s unsettled pension legacy – On the day that Stockton emerged from bankruptcy last week, ending 32 months of debt protection, the final court argument was about the “cram down” imposed on the only creditor that did not cut a deal. Is Franklin bonds getting a 12 percent payment from Stockton for a $36 million loan or, as the city contends, a 17 percent payment?  Calpensions article 

Dan Walters: Tax breaks mostly help the masses – Critiquing California’s state and local tax structure – which generates more than $200 billion a year – has become something of a cottage industry.  Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Visalia planned to renovate convention center – The Visalia City Council could approve two construction contracts Monday worth more than $5 million to renovate the Visalia Convention Center and improve streets surrounding Lincoln Oval Park.  Visalia Times-Delta article 

San Joaquin Valley home construction shows signs of life Home construction in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, by far the economic sector most battered over the past decade, is showing signs of life. Builders took out permits for 1,552 houses in 2014, according to the Building Industry Association of the Greater Valley. That was a fivefold increase over 2008, when the business hit bottom, but still far off the peak of 11,518 in 2003.  Modesto Bee article

Business drops near freeway work – Road work zones can be tough on nearby merchants whose customers might not have patience with congestion and changing traffic patterns. “Nobody was coming in when it first started,” said Jesse Singh about an ongoing remodel of the Kiernan Avenue interchange with Highway 99. He has time to watch the action from the door of his House of Liquor in Salida, where he said business has slowed about 40 percent.  Modesto Bee article 

Daniel Borenstein:  Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf faces tough choices fixing the fiscal mess Jean Quan left behind — The size of the fiscal mess former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan left behind came into sharp focus last week with the release of the city’s five-year financial forecast. Even with increasing tax revenues from an improving economy, Oakland faces an annual shortfall of $39 million next fiscal year that will rise to $58 million by 2020 largely because of rising pension costs and deferred debt payments that will start coming due.  Borenstein in Contra Costa Times

Sequoia/Kings Canyon see uptick in visitation – Both Sequoia and Kings Canyon saw a major uptick in visitation in January 2015 according to NPS figures. Total recreation visits to Sequoia National park were up 36 percent in January 2015 compared to January 2014 from 26,055 visitors to 35,569.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Fans pumped for Chargers forum — Thousands of devoted Chargers fans plan to swarm a public forum hosted Monday night by Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s stadium task force, with some eager to share their emotions and others prepared to offer constructive advice.  U-T San Diego article 

Fresno business sanitizes, sells used hotel furniture — The father and son team of Ray and Andrew Ranta are giving hotel furniture a second chance at life in another room — at a motel or a house — through a hotel liquidation company they started in Fresno a year and a half ago.  Fresno Bee article 

Bee Investigator: When fuel prices increase, so does suspicion at the pump — When gas prices are on the rise, so are complaints to the Stanislaus County Department of Agriculture and Weights & Measures.  Modesto Bee article 

Closing of Sammy Hagar restaurant deal blow to Roseville’s downtown revival effort — Roseville civic and business leaders are searching for answers after a heavily hyped, celebrity-themed rock restaurant shuttered in February, the second time it has closed in less than two years.  Sacramento Bee article


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Wounded Merced police officer released from hospital – A police officer shot over the weekend in a gunfight with a suspected gang member has been released from the hospital and is recovering at home with his family, the Merced police chief said Sunday in a news conference.  Merced Sun-Star article 

Michael Fitzgerald: An end-run around the shouters – The “Use-of-Force Listening Tour” sounds like a rock band’s string of stadium dates. But the tour is an attempt by city government to hear police critics being drowned out by louder voices. Even if that takes Stockton’s Chief of Police into somebody’s living room.  Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record 

Chowchilla police officer shoots fleeing suspect – Chowchilla police are investigating an officer-involved shooting that happened during a foot pursuit Sunday afternoon.  Fresno Bee article

Police: Two Fresno officers hurt when DUI suspect runs red light — Police arrested a woman early Sunday morning after they say she ran a red light in central Fresno and collided with a patrol car, injuring the two officers inside.  Fresno Bee article

LAPD shooting of man caught on tape — Authorities said Sunday night that Los Angeles police fatally shot a man on skid row during a struggle over an officer’s weapons.  LA Times article; AP article



Report blasts quality of virtual schools — In the Public Interest, a Washington, D.C.,-based think-tank funded in part by labor unions, paints a grim picture of the state’s largest provider of online public education. Albeit colored with anti-charter-school rhetoric, its new report on California Virtual Academies features state education data showing growing enrollment in most cases but little growth in academic performance.  Bakersfield Californian article

Moving beyond a single measure of a school – The State Board of Education is seizing the chance to redefine student achievement and reframe how schools are held accountable for performance. It is in the throes of replacing the Academic Performance Index, the three-digit number that has been California’s narrow gauge of school progress for a decade and a half. The question is, what will take its place?  EdSource article 

Sacramento Bee: University of Warwick could help answer region’s education needs – The Sacramento region is fortunate to have a research university as highly regarded as UC Davis and a campus like Sacramento State that churns out graduates in a wide range of professions. But for our long-term prosperity, we need more academic institutions to train skilled workers and keep and attract bright young people. So while it’s nowhere near a done deal, the prospect of a new university in Placer County is exciting.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Pace of math courses doesn’t add up for parents — Hundreds of San Francisco parents — worried that their kids won’t get into the best colleges — are waging a war against a school district policy that keeps students from speeding through math courses ahead of their peers.  San Francisco Chronicle article



Stanislaus County risks citation for damaged landfill fence — The landfill that receives trash from throughout Stanislaus County threatens to litter nearby Interstate 5. County supervisors are poised to take emergency action Tuesday to repair 740 feet of storm-damaged fence at the Fink Road Landfill, west of Crows Landing.  Modesto Bee article

Health/Human Services

If Supreme Court rules against Obamacare, states have few options – With Supreme Court arguments in the latest challenge to the Affordable Care Act just days away, a sense of impending crisis has hit state officials and patient advocates in many parts of the country. Many worry they have no good options.  LA Times article

Valley Children’s Hospital NICU performs the highest level of care – Gabby Morales adjusts the blankets around her infant daughter, Olivia. It’s a little difficult to navigate the assortment of tubes and wires that help the staff of Valley Children’s Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit keep tabs on the 3-month-old baby.  Fresno Bee article 

San Joaquin General:  Off life support, hospital’s condition improving – With a new report showing San Joaquin General Hospital could end the year with a $68 million budget surplus, it looks like years of changes developing since it showed losses topping $20 million a year have helped shore up the county hospital’s finances.  Stockton Record article

When health care is far from home — The biggest barrier to treatment for residents of a tiny town in the mountains of Northern California isn’t insurance coverage — it’s distance.  KQED report 

Scope maker Olympus faces scrutiny over patient deaths, infections — The industry leader finds itself at the center of superbug outbreaks at U.S. hospitals, including UCLA, where two patients have died and nearly 180 more people may have been exposed to deadly bacteria on contaminated Olympus scopes.  LA Times article

Most doctors give in to requests by parents to alter vaccine schedules — A wide majority of pediatricians and family physicians acquiesce to parents who wish to delay vaccinating their children, even though the doctors feel these decisions put children at risk for measleswhooping cough and other ailments, a new survey has found.  New York Times article; AP article


Land Use/Housing

Modesto to consider Village I subdivision — In another sign that the new housing market is recovering, the Modesto Planning Commission will consider Monday a request to divide nearly 34 acres in Village I into 186 single-family residential lots.  Modesto Bee article



Modesto gateways need makeovers — Does the view from Highway 99 reflect an image we want to project? If a driver’s first impression of Modesto and Ceres is based on junkyards, homeless camps and graffiti-scarred aluminum siding, perhaps we have a problem. So say transportation leaders who want to upgrade what is seen by people in 140,000 vehicles passing daily on the freeway.  Modesto Bee article


Other Areas 

Fresno project unveils prototype for eco-friendly homeless shelters — Members of a local nonprofit unveiled the latest prototype on Sunday for a small, environmentally sound structure they hope will help end Fresno’s homeless problem.  Fresno Bee article

Ron Fein: Court should protect privacy of hotel guests, not businesses – The legal director of Free Speech for People writes, “A little-noticed case before the Supreme Court on Tuesday – about hotel guest registers and the Fourth Amendment – has triggered “friend of the court” briefs from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other corporate players. And some of them believe that the full protection of the Fourth Amendment should extend to all business records.” Fein op-ed in Sacramento Bee


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – Crude-oil explosions prove the need for better rail cars.

Sacramento Bee – University of Warwick could help answer the Sacramento region’s education needs.