May 2, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

April state tax income revenue blows past Jerry Brown’s estimate — California income tax collections in April exceeded Brown administration estimates by more than $1.6 billion, according to data posted Friday by the state controller’s office, pushing income tax revenue for the year $8 billion higher than during a comparable period in 2013-14. Gov. Jerry Brown’s January budget proposal projected $12.2 billion in income tax revenue in April. Based on Friday’s numbers, the state netted $13.8 billion.  Capitol Alert

Injuries, illness fuel California vaccine bill partisans — A bill requiring full vaccinations for almost every California school child has charged Sacramento, mobilizing constituents who arrive from around the state for impassioned, marathon hearings. Much work at the Capitol can seem obscure and remote from most citizens, but Senate Bill 277 has connected with people on an emotional level.  Sacramento Bee article

Valley politics

Republicans add Californians, including Denham, to list of vulnerable House members – The National Republican Congressional Committee on Friday named Reps. Stephen Knight (R-Palmdale) and Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) to its Patriot Program. The program gives added attention, including fundraising help, to reelection campaigns in districts most likely to flip to the Democratic column in 2016. Knight and Denham join Rep. David Valadao (R-Hanford), who was the only Californian among the initial list of 12 vulnerable GOP representatives released earlier this year. LA Times article

Visalia council to choose boundaries for city districts — Finalizing the boundaries of council districts will be the topic Monday of a Visalia City Council public hearing as the city switches from at-large to district elections of council members. District elections are expected to improve the odds of a Latino candidate winning election.  Fresno Bee article

After four months, Visalia Assemblymember Mathis gets new chief of staff — Assembly Member Devon Mathis has been in office four months, and already he’s changing his chief-of-staff. Out is Cole Azare, who served as Mathis’ campaign manager before becoming the Visalia Republican’s main staffer. In is Sean Doherty, who happens to be the brother of actress Shannen Doherty, though that obviously played no role in his hiring. Fresno Bee article

Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Minimum wage slugfest 2015: California Politics Podcast – This week’s California Politics Podcast examines the road ahead for organized labor’s effort to boost the minimum wage via a statewide ballot initiative. California Politics Podcast in KQED

Tim Draper’s plan to slash California leaves political scars — Battles over intellectual property are commonplace in the Silicon Valley, home to Apple, Google and the wealthy venture capitalist Tim Draper, who this week launched a “Shark Tank”-style call for innovative proposals he could help put before California voters. But Draper, whose plan to divide the state in six failed to qualify for the ballot last year, may not be so innovative himself, political consultant and Draper-rival Joe Rodota alleges.  Sacramento Bee article


More than 200 march through downtown Fresno to support immigration reform — More than 200 people marched through the streets of downtown Fresno on Friday evening to push for comprehensive immigration reform following a rally at Courthouse Park.  Fresno Bee article

Marchers call for immigration reform — On a day known as International Workers Day — also known as May Day — a group of migrant workers and advocates marched Friday asking for the support of local authorities. The group converged at Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza for a demonstration along a downtown Stockton route. Stockton Record article

Other areas

Legislative considering plans to regulate medicinal pot shops, growers – California lawmakers are wading into the politically sticky issue of regulating medical marijuana, laying groundwork for state control of the sale and cultivation of cannabis with the expectation that voters will legalize recreational use next year.  LA Times article

Judge’s tentative ruling to open lawmakers’ calendar causes ‘great consternation’ – A groundbreaking tentative court ruling that orders the release of two disgraced state lawmakers’ appointment schedules has sparked “great consternation” at the Capitol, an attorney for the Legislature told a judge Friday.  Contra Costa Times article

California Democratic Party jumps into all-Democrat battle in East Day Senate race – Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla has had the endorsement of the California Democratic Party in the Concord Democrat’s quest to succeed former state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier in the East Bay’s 7th Senate District. Now she has the party’s financial backing in her May 19 runoff against Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, a fellow Democrat and former top adviser to Gov. Jerry Brown. Capitol Alert

Voting irregularities roil Democratic Party in LA area – As the California Democratic Party prepares for its convention next month in Orange County, a squabble about delegates from the La Cañada, Burbank and Glendale areas has pulled back the curtain on local allegiances and power struggles. LA Times article

After peaceful day, protests grow rowdy at night in Oakland – May Day protests grew violent in Oakland on Friday after a day of passionate but peaceful rallies on both sides of the bay — all influenced by a decision in Maryland to prosecute six officers accused of brutality.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Most LA residents believe riots unlikely to recur, poll finds – According to recent surveys by Loyola Marymount University, most Los Angeles residents say that the kind of riots that enveloped the city in 1992 will not occur in the coming years. LA Times article

Why the Koch brothers’ Hispanic outreach should worry Democrats — The Post reported Friday that a group called LIBRE, which is heavily funded by the conservitarian Koch brothers, has been doing grass-roots outreach to Hispanic voters in key states for the past several years. The outreach isn’t overtly political, but is instead aimed at gently introducing conservative priorities while assisting with the daily challenges of Hispanic residents (not all of whom immigrated legally). And that has Democrats nervous.  LA Times article

Death in secret: California’s underground world of assisted suicide – Physician-assisted suicide is illegal in California. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Sick patients sometimes ask for help in hastening their deaths, and some doctors will explain, vaguely, how to do it.  KQED report

California Assembly bill would elevate cheerleading to a sport – State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) is making a push for the California Interscholastic Federation to officially classify cheerleading as a sport.  Visalia Times-Delta article

Fresno federal judge nominee finally gets Senate Judiciary Committee hearing — Longtime Sacramento federal magistrate Judge Dale A. Drozd is again scheduled to get his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing next week, and local court officials hope this time the hearing actually happens. Fresno Bee article

News Briefs

Top Stories

Merced County job growth remains Valley’s leader — For three years, Merced County has led the San Joaquin Valley in employment growth, according to a just-released business forecast. Employment grew in every Valley county expect Madera, which had a slight decline, according to Gökçe Soydemir, a business economics professor at California State University, Stanislaus. Employment in Stanislaus County grew the same rate as the Valley average.  Merced Sun-Star article

Drought-hammered state curtails junior water rights in Delta, Sacramento River — Officials in drought-stricken California on Friday ordered farmers and other junior water rights holders in the Sacramento River and Delta watershed to stop diverting water from rivers and streams. Sacramento Bee article; AP article

Jobs and the Economy

California population grows about 1 percent to 38.7 million – California grew modestly last year to 38.7 million people, with San Diego and San Jose experiencing the largest gains among major cities, state demographers announced Friday. California grew by about 1 percent, adding 358,000 residents, in 2014, according to the state Department of Finance.  AP article; John Myers in KQED

Foon Rhee: A ‘two-tier economy’ shadows California’s future — Even without “Six Californias” or other harebrained schemes to divide the Golden State, it’s already happening before our eyes. Nearly six years into the recovery from the Great Recession, it’s becoming painfully clear that California has two economies – the booming big-city coast, especially Silicon Valley, and vast swaths of inland California.  Rhee column in Sacramento Bee

California charities must disclose major donors, court rules – California may require charities that raise money in the state to disclose the names of major contributors, a federal appeals court decided Friday. LA Times article

ACLU: Traffic-ticket policy by Valley courts unconstitutional – A court policy of making Valley traffic offenders pay fees upfront in order to challenge a ticket in court is unconstitutional and unfairly impacts low-income residents, the associate director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California said Friday. Fresno Bee article

Most striking port truck drivers return to work – Most of the port truck drivers who walked off the job this week went back to work Friday, ending their four-day job action against companies they accuse of wage theft. LA Times article

$9 million Fresno warehouse expansion creating up to 40 jobs – A $9 million expansion is underway at the D&H warehouse and distributing center in southeast Fresno. When completed later this year, the new addition will double the size of the company’s Fresno facility. The Business Journal article

Hanford council to evaluate Costco concerns – Facing an assortment of delays, Costco is unlikely to open its doors in Hanford anytime this year. The Hanford City Council will consider action Tuesday to amend a tax sharing agreement with Pinnacle Point LLC, which owns the proposed shopping center site at Highway 43 and East Lacey Boulevard. Hanford Sentinel article

Michael Hiltzik: Airlines are looking for big tax break in California – Here’s something you may not know: The airliners that carry you into, out of, or within California are subject to state property tax from the moment they cross the state line until they leave.  Hiltzik in LA Times

California Foundation awards nearly $300,000 – The Bakersfield Californian Foundation has awarded almost $300,000 to local nonprofits engaged in improving downtown Bakersfield. The Foundation’s spring grants, announced Friday, went to a total of 10 organizations. Bakersfield Californian article

1 in 4 U.S. renters must use half their pay for housing costs – More than one in four U.S. renters have to use at least half their family income to pay for housing and utilities. That’s the finding of an analysis of Census data by Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit that helps finance affordable housing. The number of such households has jumped 26 percent to 11.25 million since 2007. AP article

Mayor Eric Garcetti disavows appointee’s letter trashing LADPW audit – A spokesman for Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Friday said the mayor “disagrees” with a letter the general manager of the city’s Department of Water and Power co-wrote attacking an audit that uncovered questionable spending by ratepayer-funded trusts associated with the utility.  LA Times article


San Joaquin County supervisors expected to enact stricter water controls – San Joaquin County’s public works department is set to enforce stricter water regulations next week as California’s drought continues. The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday will consider adopting a resolution that will restrict irrigation to two days a week for residents in non-incorporated areas of the county and require restaurants to post conservation notices under Stage II water conservation emergency conditions. Stockton Record article

Sacramento water agencies argue climate should be key factor in conservation edict — As Sacramento-area water agencies have pushed back against the state’s plan for mandatory water cutbacks in recent weeks, a recurrent theme has been climate: The proposed rules, they argue, are inherently unfair because it takes far more water to sustain a similarly sized patch of grass in Sacramento than it does in coastal communities such as San Francisco.  Sacramento Bee article

Lois Henry: New Delta plan more uncertain – Kern County agricultural water agencies are still waiting to see details of Gov. Jerry Brown’s new new plan for the delta. But one agency director said the only new news he saw in the governor’s announcement was more uncertainty in an already uncertain plan.  Henry in Bakersfield Californian

House passes water bill, but drought solutions still under debate — The House on Friday passed a big energy and water spending bill that showcases the continuing federal discord over how to handle California’s drought. The $35 billion bill includes money for the California status quo, ranging from Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta restoration to operations of the sprawling Central Valley Project. It also includes drought-related language, with directives to speed completion of water storage project studies. McClatchy Newspapers article

Brown’s water fine proposal questioned — California Gov. Jerry Brown wants to give local water agencies new authority to fine water wasters during the drought. That’s raising some concerns about possible government overreach. Capital Public Radio report

Planting flowers in downtown Modesto draws withering criticism – One business owner questioned why the Modesto Garden Club was planting and watering flowers downtown Friday, a day in which no outdoor watering is allowed. The club works with the Downtown Improvement District on the beautification project, and the city provides the water. The project consists of 247 large pots provided by the DID. The pots also have shrubs in them. Modesto Bee article

Pest’s discovery should change the way Bakersfield handles homegrown citrus – Thanks to the tiny, mothlike insect captured last week near Rosedale Highway and F Street, fruit-handling habits in much of Bakersfield may soon have to change. Anyone who lives within new quarantine boundaries expected to be finalized by the state next week will be asked to keep their backyard citrus mostly to themselves. Bakersfield Californian article

NOR to open spray parks despite drought – Taking a different tack than the city of Bakersfield, the North of the River Recreation and Park District announced Friday it will operate its spray parks this summer even though they don’t operate with recirculated water. Bakersfield Californian article

Officials: Stockton water safe to drink despite water-quality violation – Chalk it up as yet another consequence of the drought. The Stockton East Water District, which sells drinking water to Stockton, experienced a rare water-quality violation at its treatment plant east of town. Stockton Record article

Fresno-area small farmers eager to accept food assistance benefit card — A push by federal officials to encourage farmers and farmers markets to participate in the government’s food assistance program was well received at Thursday’s National Hmong American Farmers conference.  Fresno Bee article

Farm Beat: Foster Farms receives food safety award — An international group has recognized the chief veterinarian at Foster Farms for his efforts against salmonella. Dr. Robert O’Connor received the 2015 Food Safety Innovation Award from NSF International, a global public health organization, at a gathering in Baltimore. Modesto Bee article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Gallup Poll: Valley cities don’t feel safe – A Gallup poll recently released shows that Fresno residents say they are the least likely to feel safe and secure in their neighborhoods. The Stockton-Lodi region and Bakersfield ranked second and third. KVPR report

Bakersfield Police Department opens southside substation to cut response times – The facility was closed eight years ago due to budget cuts, lack of use by the public and a desire to get more officers into the field. Area council members Chris Parlier and Willie Rivera worked with city staff to re-open it as part of an overall BPD re-commitment to “community policing,” a philosophy of teaming up law enforcement, individuals and organizations to prevent and combat crime. Bakersfield Californian article

Guilty pleas entered in Chukchansi office raid case – Five men charged in the Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino office raid case accepted plea deals Friday, while another man had his case dismissed in Madera County Superior Court.  Fresno Bee article

Prison officials say warning shot during brawl was ‘approved’ – The investigation continues into two brawls earlier this week at the federal penitentiary in Atwater involving several inmates that ended after a prison staff member fired what authorities described as “a warning shot.”  Merced Sun-Star article

Baltimore prosecutor faces national history of police acquittals – Brutality cases against police officers are notoriously difficult to win, and much about the case, including the evidence against the officers and their defense, remains unknown.  New York Times article

Lawmakers question LA police ticketing of pedestrians in crosswalk — Two Los Angeles City Council members want more information about where and why pedestrians are ticketed for stepping into a crosswalk after the signal light’s red hand is flashing, saying there are questions about whether the rules truly make people safer.  LA Times article


State, teachers union file briefs in tenure ruling appeal — Defense attorneys for California’s powerful teachers unions say a ruling in a landmark California teacher tenure case was flawed and should be overturned because no evidence was presented showing the disputed statutes are the cause of educational inequalities. AP article

More than 400 Bay Area educators receive pensions over $400,000 — More than 400 retired Bay Area educators received pension payments of $100,000 or more in 2014, according to the nonprofit California Policy Center think tank.  Contra Costa Times article

Educators need to do better — We expect professionals who serve our community to exhibit not only high standards of technical expertise, but also to treat their clientele with respect. Such minimal expectations were contradicted by recent violations of professional behavior in our local schools. In this edition of The Moral Is, Jacques Benninga, professor of Education at Fresno State, decries a low standard of educator ethics in recent headline-making news stories. KVPR report


Charges dropped against man accused of starting Yosemite’s Rim fire — Federal prosecutors have dropped chargesagainst a Tuolumne County man accused of starting a massive 2013 wildfire that burned for more than two months and eventually charred more than 257,000 acres in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park. Fresno Bee article; LA Times article;KVPR report

Mike Dunbar: Dangerous cargo shouldn’t be a secret – Oil tank cars are ugly things, long black cylinders perched on wheels. But in the past couple of years, they’ve become scarier than they are ugly. That’s because so many have exploded or caught fire in derailments. When entire communities must be evacuated, when rivers are polluted, when people are killed, then such fears are justified. Dunbar column in Modesto Bee

New oil-train rules leave a lot of questions unanswered – The U.S. and Canadian governments on Friday unveiled a long-awaited new standard for the tank cars used to transport crude oil and ethanol that includes numerous safety improvements. McClatchy Newspapers article

One in 6 species could be wiped out by climate change, study says – About one in six species now alive on the planet could become extinct as a result of climate change, according to a study published in Friday’s edition of the journal Science.  LA Times article

Q&A: Why Tesla is making a power plan into batteries for home, business — Billionaire Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors Inc. unveiled a line of inexpensive residential and commercial energy storage systems at a rock concert-like gala Thursday night at the company’s design studio in Hawthorne. LA Times article

Fresno’s Cargill plant adopt Tesla battery system — Cargill has teamed with Tesla and Pacific Gas & Electric Co. on the installation of a new energy storage system at the company’s Fresno beef processing facility.  Cargill officials said the Tesla system, which has a 1-megawatt capacity, will significantly reduce energy costs at the Fresno plant. The Business Journal article

Trash in Mill Creek Trail concerns citizens — The popular Mill Creek Trail at West Main Street is in need of a clean-up, several people who walk the trail daily said. The trail at West Main Street runs parallel to several buildings including the Pena Planetarium, the Tulare County Board of Supervisors building and the Tulare County Office of Education. Visalia Times-Delta article

Health/Human Services

The doctor will video chat with you now: Insurers cover virtual visits – If you can live stream movies, why not live stream medical care? Insurance company UnitedHealthcare will start covering visits to the doctor’s office — via video chat. Patients and physicians talk live online — on smartphones, tablets or home computer — to get to a clinical diagnosis. This move to cybermedicine could save insurers a ton of money — or have unintended consequences.  KQED report

Dawn Golik: Marjaree Mason Center renews a legacy of triumph against domestic violence – The Fresno resident writes, “Valley women are still dying from domestic violence. And there is an opportunity for all of us to renew Mason’s legacy through contributions to the center named after her. With community support, it is creating a better future for children living in homes where domestic violence is what they see.”  Golik op-ed in Fresno Bee

Foster care: Goal to reunite parent and child — May is Foster Parent Appreciation Month and the Kings County Human Services Agency is always looking for parents such as the Bruners to offer up their home to children in need. Together the Bruner family has already provided nearly 70 foster children with a loving and stable temporary home.  Hanford Sentinel article

Mercy Medical Center Merced turns 5 — Mercy Medical Center Merced is now old enough to enroll in kindergarten. The hospital turns 5 on Saturday, and it is celebrating with its annual Stroke Awareness 5K, Family Festival and Health Fair. Merced Sun-Star article

Son goes to bat for elder parents over ambulance bill — Dan Golden is not the first person to dispute with Medicare over an ambulance bill. No doubt, many people have shared his frustration. The federal program for Americans age 65 and older denied payment for an ambulance transport between Modesto and Oakdale for his father Oct. 10. The ambulance company, Pro Transport-1, has agreed not to collect the $1,800 bill from Golden’s 85-year-old mother of Oakdale while they appeal, he said. Modesto Bee article


Judge halts 24th Street widening project — The City of Bakersfield’s 24th Street widening project was placed on indefinite hold Friday when Judge Kenneth Twisselman, calling the city’s environmental impact report inadequate, ordered a halt to construction. Residents of Bakersfield’s Westchester neighborhood who have been fighting the project for three years were calling it a major victory. Bakersfield Californian article

Other areas

Fresno investigators searching for cause of giant utility pole fire — Fresno fire investigators continue to search for the cause of a multimillion-dollar fire that erupted early Thursday in a yard where power poles are stored near Ashlan Avenue and Golden State Boulevard. Fresno Bee article

San Joaquin County assessor to retire in August – San Joaquin County Assessor, Recorder, County Clerk Kenneth Blakemore on Friday announced he plans to retire on Aug. 10. Stockton Record article

Feds approve LA County emergency system revisions; work can resume — Federal officials on Friday gave a thumbs up to revisions in a Los Angeles County-wide emergency communications project, lifting an earlier suspension of a $154.6-million construction grant and allowing work to resume immediately.  LA Times article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno BeeThumbs up, thumbs down.

Merced Sun-Star Graduation rates are a return on our investments.

Modesto Bee – Finding positives in recent numbers on graduation rates and the Gallo Center.

Sacramento BeeDesigner baby research cries out for rules.