May 12, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

Gov. Brown, legislators, state officials get 3 percent raise — A committee appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown voted Monday to give 3 percent raises and better benefits to the governor, top statewide elected officials and California lawmakers, the third consecutive annual pay increase after their salaries were cut during the recession. AP article; John Myers in KQED; Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article 

Amended California vaccine bill bypasses appropriations committee — California’s controversial proposal to eliminate the personal and religious belief exemptions for vaccinations could come up for a vote in the Senate as early as Thursday after amendments were quietly made to the bill last week. Senate Bill 277 no longer includes a provision that would require schools to notify parents of their immunization rates, removing the financial costs associated with the legislation and allowing it to skip the Senate Appropriations Committee. Capitol Alert; AP article


State budget

Public education stands to benefit most from increased state funds – As Gov. Jerry Brown prepares to release his updated budget proposal Thursday, the funding formula is expected to direct billions of dollars in unexpected revenue to schools and community colleges. LA Times article; Capital Public Radio report

Sacramento Bee: Amid plenty, Brown should not forget the poor – These are good times for California, and tax collections reflect that. This is as good a time as any to ensure that the least fortunate among us get the help they need to get by in this expensive state, and that all the children and young people of California have a chance to join in the state’s economic success. Sacramento Bee editorial 

Child care advocates find warmer reception at Capitol this year — Later this week, Gov. Jerry Brown will release his updated California budget proposal. If past is prologue, he’ll again call for fiscal restraint. But legislative Democrats are considering a few areas for limited new spending – including child care. Capital Public Radio report

David Crane: Brown must beware the bull market – The former economic advisor to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger writes, “Brown doesn’t have to be a victim of the same pattern that felled Davis and Schwarzenegger. But to avoid that fate, Brown and the Legislature have to act now to solve four core budget issues: employee pensions, health care costs for retired employees, explosive growth in Medi-Cal spending and a tax system overly dependent on unpredictable revenues.” Crane op-ed in Sacramento Bee



Merced groups seek health coverage for undocumented immigrants – More than 250 people gathered at Tenaya Middle School in south Merced on Friday to ask that health care be accessible to all, regardless of immigration status. Merced Sun-Star article

LA County supervisors expected to end controversial deportation action in jails — The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is expected to vote Tuesday to end an agreement with the federal government that allows Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents inside the county’s jails to determine if inmates can be deported. LA Daily News article


Other areas

Assembly votes to make pro sports cheerleaders employees – The state Assembly voted without debate Monday to make cheerleaders of professional sports teams employees. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, said her bill is aimed at “treating the women on the field with the same dignity and respect” as the male athletes. She was a cheerleader at Stanford University. Capitol Alert; LA Times article; AP article

Bill would add gender parity in workers compensation claims – Lawmakers have approved a bill that would update California’s workers’ compensation law so that medical problems primarily affecting women will no longer be considered pre-existing conditions in calculating compensation. AP article

Joel Fox: It’s not about fairness, it’s about more tax money — The campaign to change Proposition 13 by the self-styled “Make it Fair” coalition is not about fairness, it is all about more tax money.  Fox in Fox & Hounds 

Union alum starts petition against AB30 – Recent Tulare Union High School graduate Lisette Rodriguez hopes to become an English teacher at her alma mater one day. Preferably a Tulare Union still using the “Redskin” nickname, she says. Visalia Times-Delta article

Bill and Nadia Lockyer’s happy news: ‘We are pregnant!” — Former state Treasurer Bill Lockyer and his wife, Nadia — whose tawdry sex and drug scandal cost her her job as an Alameda County supervisor and nearly ended their marriage — are expecting their second child.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Santa Ana mayor concedes to Political Reform Act violations in deal — The longtime mayor of Santa Ana has agreed to pay $13,000 to settle accusations that he profited from a real estate deal with an auto parts dealer and then voted to make the business owner the city’s exclusive contractor. LA Times article


California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories 

California farmers in line for more drought cutbacks — California’s drought regulators spent last week hammering cities and suburbs, implementing first-ever cutbacks in urban water use. Now they’re turning their attention back to agriculture. State Water Resources Control Board officials said Monday they expect to issue “curtailment orders” soon to the state’s most senior water rights holders, effectively shutting off the flow of river water to some of the major agricultural districts in California.  Sacramento Bee article

Area’s special districts offer generous pay and benefits, Modesto Bee analysis shows — Special districts in this region, many providing water services, pay generous salaries and benefits compared to other government jobs throughout California, a Modesto Bee analysis finds. The Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts, which also sell retail electricity, provide especially attractive health and retirement benefits amounting to more than a third of total compensation, according to 2013 data recently made available by the California State Controller’s Office. Modesto Bee article
Jobs and the Economy

Fresno parks high on city leaders’ budget priorities – Fresno City leaders are vowing to use growing revenue to restore neglected city parks. Many parks fell into disrepair as a result of budget cuts during the recession. With the city’s tax base recovering, the Mayor and City council members say now is the time to fix and expand the city’s public parks. The Business Journal article; Fresno Bee article

Sacramento’s Pacific Ethanol reports first-quarter loss of $4.7 million – Coming off record profits for all of 2014, Sacramento’s Pacific Ethanol Inc. hit a wall in this year’s opening quarter. The Sacramento-based producer and marketer of low-carbon renewable fuels reported a net loss of $4.7 million for the quarter ended March 31. Still, that was a substantial improvement over a loss of $11.1 million in the first quarter of 2014.  Sacramento Bee article

Fresno council member Lee Brand wants tighter controls of big projects Fresno City Council Member Lee Brand wants stronger oversight of expensive public construction projects. That three high-profile jobs — Fulton Corridor, the water-system upgrade and Bus Rapid Transit — are rushing this way explains part of his motivation. Fresno Bee article

Patterson prevails in hotel tax case – In a final ruling, Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Roger Beauchesne said the city of Patterson is owed $237,147 in unpaid taxes from Patterson Hotel Associates. Modesto Bee article

Daniel Borenstein: Retirement board rolls back payments from egregious pension spiking scheme — The Contra Costa retirement board, seeking to end years of egregious pension spiking by county hazardous materials workers, on Wednesday trimmed one recent retiree’s inflated claim and set a precedent that should be used by others. Borenstein in Contra Costa Times

Dan Walters: A veteran’s long battle – Bill Connell makes his living with a hot dog stand in the scenic little coastal community of Carpinteria, aptly called “Surf Dogs.” But Connell’s passion isn’t dispensing tube steaks to surfers and tourists. Rather, for 22 years, it’s been persuading – as forcefully as he can – politicians and bureaucrats in Sacramento to honor a 122-year-old California law exempting military veterans who peddle low-cost goods from paying taxes and license fees. Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Sacramento-area gas prices slow down after rapid rise – Sacramento-area gas prices, which spiked nearly 60 cents over three weeks in late April and the first few days in May, settled down over the past week. Sacramento Bee article

Homelessness up 12 percent in LA city and county – The homeless population jumped 12% in the last two years in both the city and county of Los Angeles, driven by soaring rents, low wages and stubbornly high unemployment, according to a report released Monday. LA Times article

Why CalPERS retirees flee California – Now Las Vegas draws a new generation of settlers epitomized by California transplant Joe Beck: CalPERS pensioners who have made Sin City their No. 1 destination for retirement outside California. Sacramento Bee article; ‘Interactive: CalPERS retirees located throughout the U.S.’ in Sacramento Bee 

Organization to donate $10,000 to save senior exercise classes in Stanislaus County — The nonprofit Stanislaus Senior Foundation said it will donate $10,000 for the Young at Heart senior exercise classes, which are losing their grant funding in June. Foundation President Elizabeth Price said the group’s board members approved the donation Monday after a story on the program’s funding crisis appeared in The Bee.  Modesto Bee article

Chargers make $3.3 million in profit rather than pay $23 million in rent — The San Diego Chargers were paid nearly $3.3 million by the city to play at Qualcomm Stadiumfrom 2006 through 2013, thanks to rent credits and reimbursements from a settlement that made the stadium compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. AP article



Regional tensions linger in California drought – The drought shaming started at the top last month, when Gov. Jerry Brown, announcing water restrictions from a barren meadow in the Sierra Nevada, mocked “the idea of your nice little green grass getting lots of water every day.”  Sacramento Bee article

Why California farmers are conflicted about using less water – The drought across much of the Western U.S. is now in its fourth year. In California — where it’s the most intense — farms are not under the same strict orders to conserve as cities are. And inside the agriculture industry, farmers are quietly debating how best to respond to the drought. Given uncertainty around pending state regulations, some say there may be an incentive to not invest in water-saving technologies right now.  NPR report

San Jose to face mandatory water rationing with monthly allotments – In a dramatic sign of the increasing severity of California’s drought, Silicon Valley’s largest water company will impose mandatory water rationing on 1 million people next month, marking the first time in more than 20 years that South Bay residents will be given monthly water allotments and face fines if they exceed them. San Jose Mercury News article

Fresno City Council member Brandau uses billboard to tout pro-dam, anti-bullet train message – Fresno City Council Member Steve Brandau says he sees at least 20 different water-related articles just about every day, but still, “nobody is paying a damn bit of attention to it.” As California suffers through its fourth year of drought, Brandau isn’t referring to increasing water conservation efforts. It’s increasing water storage that is being ignored, he says. Fresno Bee article

Celebrities are now targets of #DroughtShaming – As California enters its fourth year of drought, #DroughtShaming has become a big thing. People on social media call out neighbors who waste water. Others are using apps to show water wasters in their neighborhoods. And now the government is asking California residents to report wasters. Over the weekend, this extended to celebrities. LA Times article

Don Curlee: Drought reveals farmers’ foes – The devastating drought in California has created at least one positive result for the state’s farmers — it’s proving that they have few friends, maybe none, in the radical environmentalist community. Curlee column in Visalia Times-Delta 

Merced adds new water advisory committee – With even deeper water reductions hanging over the city’s head, Merced City Council has designed a committee to look at water usage and conservation in Merced during the state’s historic drought.  Merced Sun-Star article

Matt Beekman: Angry mayors acting on bad advice – Hughson’s mayor writes, “I hope the mayors of the six cities have taken the time to reread the amendment and have reconsidered their demand for a special meeting to remove me from LAFCO. We have many urgent issues threatening the stability and success of our region. Agricultural preservation should be a unifying issue in our county.” Beekman op-ed in Modesto Bee 

10,000 gallons of water flood West Hollywood after main pipe breaks — The 12-inch main ruptured before 5 a.m. and gushed water down the 1200 block of North Formosa Avenue near Santa Monica Boulevard on Sunday morning, flooding a parking garage and nearby homes, LADWP officials said. The break sent more than 10,000 gallons of water into the street,CBS2reported.  LA Times article

Michael Hiltzik: Don’t praise Starbucks for moving its water bottling out of California — The company described the move as consonant with “our mission to be a globally responsible company” and a way of standing fast with the people of California in the teeth of “this unprecedented drought.” But it should be seen as something else: an example of how a corporation seems to be doing something to solve a problem, without really accomplishing much at all. Let’s examine why. Hiltzik column in LA Times

Allysia Finley: Hetch Hetchy makes San Franciscans a touch tetchy — Environmentalists want to tear down a dam, but their usual liberal allies balk at surrendering the water. Finley in Wall Street Journal


Criminal Justice/Prisons

FBI: Number of officers slain on duty rose in 2014 – The FBI is reporting an increase in the number of law enforcement officers from across the country who were killed in the line of duty last year. Preliminary statistics issued Monday during National Police Week show that 51 officers were killed on duty in 2014, compared to 27 the year before. That was lower than usual. AP article

Police officers rescue disabled man from northwest Fresno house fire – Three Fresno police officers are being hailed as heroes after rescuing a disabled man trapped in a burning home early Monday morning. Lt. Joe Gomez identified the three as Sean Cowart, Sgt. Diana Trueba and Jeremy DeMoss. Fresno Bee article 

Bill bars California police from destroying video evidence – State lawmakers are considering a bill that would bar police from tampering with video evidence. California law already makes it a felony for a law enforcement officer to alter or plant physical evidence that could be used to charge or convict someone of a crime. AP article

How a Caltrans job changed one parolee’s life — Today, however, the barrel-chested 38-year-old is a redemption story. He’s no longer boozing. Caltrans hired him last year as a highway maintenance worker. He has reunited with his family. He’s mending his credit and hopes to soon purchase another home.  Contreras’ transformation started with a program for parolees that took him after he served 18 months of his sentence. Sacramento Bee article 

LA County supervisor wants to give companies incentives to hire ex-cons — Employers are often reluctant to hire the formerly incarcerated, according to Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis. She’s proposing using the county’s contracting process to give employers an incentive to hire the formerly incarcerated.  KPCC report

Push to end prison rapes loses earlier momentum – After decades of societal indifference, Congress unanimously passed the Prison Rape Elimination Act in 2003. But the urgency behind that consensus has dissipated.  New York Times article

Sandy Banks: Another LA police shooting, another prolonged investigation — This is the second time in two months that a homeless man has been killed by LAPD officers. It’s unfortunate that only after their deaths did we pay attention to their lives.  Banks column in LA Times



Judge: Abstinence-only curriculum is not sex education – California’s sex-education law prohibits school districts from indoctrinating students on the need to remain celibate before marriage or teaching them that abstinence is the only safe way to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, a judge has ruled.  San Francisco Chronicle article 

Merced College set to pass out 1,130 degrees, certificates – Merced College is set to award more than 1,130 degrees and certificates to students who are graduating during a ceremony this month.  Merced Sun-Star article 

Online Common Core testing lays bare tech divide in schools — Across the country, school districts in rural areas like New Cuyama and other pockets with low bandwidth are confronting a difficult task: Administering the new standardized tests to students online, laying bare a tech divide in the nation’s classrooms. AP article

In Palo Alto’s high-pressure schools, suicides lead to soul-searching — Palo Alto, in the heart of Silicon Valley, is home to some of the nation’s most competitive public schools. The factors that lead to suicide are extremely complex, and simple lines cannot be drawn between academic stress and young people taking their own lives. But there’s been a great deal of soul-searching about the pressures on high school students in the wake of these deaths. KQED report

Alternate assessments for special education students delayed – Some California educators say the state’s students with the most severe cognitive disabilities will not have the same opportunity this spring to have their learning assessed as other students taking the Common Core-aligned assessments. EdSource article 

Modesto middle schoolers teach nano science to youngsters at neighboring campus — Eighth-graders used the tiniest things to make the biggest impact, sharing nano science experiments with youngsters at the school next door. Hanshaw Middle School students with the college-bound AVID program crossed a grassy field to neighboring Bret Harte Elementary Wednesday, bringing a small piece of National NanoDays2015 to south Modesto. Modesto Bee article

San Francisco schools’ iPad handout pivots from LA’s $1.3 billion scandal — From 350 miles north, San Francisco school officials watched the $1.3 billion iPad program in Los Angeles schools implode amid allegations of illegal spending, improper bidding on contracts and software bugs, not to mention students hacking the devices to bypass security blocking social media and other online sites.  San Francisco Chronicle article 

Bill to limit how districts investigate school residency — Assembly Bill 1101 does not specifically prohibit investigators from posing questions to children, as occurred with the Zvik family, but it does require school boards to adopt a policy for residency investigations.  Contra Costa Times article 

Visalia Unified boundaries could be selected Tuesday – The goal for Visalia Unified School District is to have selected, by the end of this current school year, new attendance boundary maps dictating which middle and high school campuses students will attend beginning with the 2016 school year. Visalia Times-Delta article

Delano student arrested, suspended after allegedly punching P.E. teacher — A student at Cecil Avenue Math and Science School was arrested and now faces the possibility of expulsion after he allegedly punched a physical education teacher late last month. Bakersfield Californian article



New rules on oil trains drawing flak from firefighters, too — Lawmakers and environmental and industry groups criticized the federal government’s new safety measures for oil trains when they were announced earlier this month. Now another group has expressed disappointment in the new rules: Emergency responders. They’re among the first in danger when a fiery derailment happens. McClatchy Newspapers article

Stanislaus County could reduce landfill fees for cities – Stanislaus County and its smaller cities will remain partners in garbage disposal and recycling programs for 10 more years if county leaders sign a new agreement Tuesday. Supervisors could approve a regional pact that lowers the fees charged to cities for sending their garbage to Fink Road Landfill and the waste burner near Interstate 5 in the western part of the county. Modesto Bee article

Daniel Weintraub: In California, even toilet paper has a carbon footprint — If you think the most controversial thing about toilet paper is the age-old argument over which way to hang the roll, you haven’t seen bathroom tissue’s carbon footprint. Weintraub in Sacramento Bee


Health/Human Services

Departure of Kern Medical Center’s psychiatry chairman creates havoc – The termination of a Kern Medical Center contract with Tai P. Yoo, chair of the Department of Psychiatry at KMC and head of the Kern-UCLA residency program, has thrown the program into turmoil, triggering resignations and leaving student doctors unsure where they will get their training or how they will complete their schooling. Bakersfield Californian article 

Grove bill would close two state-run developmental centers, transfer funds to nonprofits – Assembly Bill 1405 would shut Fairview Developmental Center in Orange County and Sonoma Developmental Center in Eldridge but not Tulare County’s Porterville Developmental Center, which, unlike the other two, treats people referred by the criminal justice system in addition to treating others with developmental disabilities. Bakersfield Californian article 

Dutch report details European superbug outbreak linked to faulty scopes – More than a year before a medical scope infected patients with a superbug at UCLA and Cedars-Sinai medical centers, a similar outbreak in the Netherlands prompted Dutch regulators to ask the manufacturer to prove the device was safe.  LA Times article

U.S. closes insurance loophole on preventive care – The Obama administration Monday closed a series of insurance loopholes on coverage of preventive care. AP article 

Kaweah Delta earns ‘A’ in hospital safety — There are a few “firsts” going on at Kaweah Delta Health Care District and it’s leaving staff and administration feeling proud. The level III Trauma Center just received the top letter grade “A” for patient safety in the latest hospital safety score. Visalia Times-Delta article

Leonard Zasoski: We cancer survivors celebrate more than birthdays – The four-year prostate cancer survivor writes, “We are in amazing times medically and the advances in today’s treatments and early detection procedures are benefits from the funding of more than $4 billion toward research since 1946 provided by the American Cancer Society.” Zasoski op-ed in Bakersfield Californian


Land Use/Housing

Family sues over unauthorized demolition of vacation home — The owner of a patch of Mojave Desert land upon which a small vacation home once stood is suing a wind farm developer that demolished the cabin without authorization. Bakersfield Californian article



State ready to seek bids for third high-speed rail segment in Kern County – The California High-Speed Rail Authority is expected to invite contractors to submit bids to design and build the third segment of the proposed bullet-train route through the San Joaquin Valley.  Fresno Bee article

Complaints against airlines rise, Frontier ranks worst — Consumer complaints against airlines are rising even as the carriers get slightly better at staying on schedule. The U.S. Department of Transportation said Monday that it received more complaints from consumers in March than it did in either the previous month or March of 2014. AP article 

Bay Bridge revelations are ‘game changers,’ panel chief says – The head of the panel overseeing the new Bay Bridge eastern span acknowledged Monday that revelations of possible saltwater flooding at the base of the landmark tower and anchor-rod failure “are game changers,” as he and his colleagues approved spending up to $4 million in toll payers’ money to find out how bad the problems are. San Francisco Chronicle article

Bay Bridge: Tests expedited on rods exposed to water — Amid mounting concerns over the integrity of the huge steel rods securing the Bay Bridge’s main tower to its base, a key panel on Monday approved $4 million for more testing.  Contra Costa Times article 

Google acknowledges 11 accidents with self-driving cars — Google Inc. revealed Monday that its self-driving cars have been in 11 minor traffic accidents since it began experimenting with the technology six years ago. AP article


Other areas 

Fresno inmate injured in gun range explosion dies — A Fresno County Jail inmate injured when a natural gas line ruptured in a fireball at the Fresno County Sheriff’s Foundation gun range in northwest Fresno has died, the sheriff’s office said Monday night. Fresno Bee article

Merced County Fair exec to retire after fair – The Merced County Fair’s top executive announced on Monday his plans to retire at the end of June, according to a news release. Tom Musser, 63, the chief executive officer of the fair, said he will retire effective June 30, shortly after this year’s fair ends. “It’s time for me to spend more time with family,” he said in a news release. Merced Sun-Star article 

Stockton mayor to spend night with city’s homeless – Mayor Anthony Silva is planning to spend a night sleeping under the Crosstown Freeway this week, the second consecutive year he has done so to dramatize the plight of Stockton’s homeless residents. Stockton Record article

Homelessness spurs Hanford man to tell forgotten stories on video blog — Leo Gonzalez knows what it’s like to not have a place of his own. The 20-year-old, homeless on and off for most of his life in Hanford, has slept in his mother’s car, on a borrowed couch and in a shared room. Fresno Bee article 

Berkeley’s latest help-the-homeless effort: Cash boxes on the street – The “Positive Change” program will install up to 10 tamper-proof donation boxes around downtown Berkeley in which donors can drop off money to pay for social services geared to help reduce homelessness. Collected by the Downtown Berkeley Association once a week, the donations will go into a bank account from which the Berkeley Food and Housing Project can allocate funds. KQED report 

Mayoral salary among issues facing council committee – Mayor Anthony Silva’s salary may suffer a 30 percent slash in about seven weeks thanks to a provision of Stockton’s governing charter that seems to put absolute control of his paycheck in the hands of an appointed five-member citizens commission. Stockton Record article 

It’s ‘swoosh’ in Lodi – The Amgen Tour of California was such a big deal that schools here let out early Monday, so Elaine Gonzales grabbed her three grandchildren shortly after lunch and off they went to the southwest corner of Elm and Hutchins streets. Stockton Record article 

Judge dismisses suit challenging LA’s 72-hour street parking limit – A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by a West Los Angeles couple that challenged the city’s 72-hour limit for parking vehicles on the street. LA Times article 

Stockton Record earns 7 CNPA honors – The Record received second place in General Excellence in its circulation division among seven overall awards in the California Newspaper Publishers Association’s 2014 Better Newspaper Contest. Stockton Record article 

The Business Journal takes 2nd in statewide awards — The Business Journal won two 2nd-place awards as part of the California Newspaper Publishers Association Better Newspapers Contest.  The Business Journal article


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno BeeDigital transparency finally comes to California Capitol.

Sacramento Bee – This is as good a time as any to ensure that the least fortunate among us get the help they need to get by in this expensive state, and that all the children and young people of California have a chance to join in the state’s economic success.

Stockton RecordCheers and jeers on graduating seniors, being careful behind the wheel and other issues.