May 23, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories 

Legislative Democrats propose broad expansion of child care — Legislative Democrats put forward separate approaches this week to significantly increase spending on child care programs, amid wariness by influential school groups and hostility from the Brown administration. Capitol Alert

California lawmakers act to mandate vaccines for day care workers – California lawmakers acted Friday on a measure that would require workers in day care centers to get vaccinated as part of an effort to protect children from preventable diseases, including measles, for which there have been recent outbreaks in the state. LA Times article; AP article


Other areas

State Legislature advances vaccine, carpooling bills, other measures – California lawmakers advanced a measure that would require workers in day-care centers to be vaccinated as part of an effort to protect children from preventable diseases such as measles. Lawmakers also acted on proposals to expand carpooling, ban plastic microbeads and give counties the ability to increase fines for large unpermitted events, a bill sparked by the 2011 wedding of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries. LA Times article 

Carpooling by Uber, Lyft Ok’d by California Assembly – Users of services like Uber and Lyft would be cleared to use the drive-for-pay services to carpool under a bill that cleared the California Assembly on Friday.  Capitol Alert

‘Right to try’ bills would let dying Californians try experimental drugs — Part of a growing movement dubbed “right to try,” the legislation would allow Californians with fatal diseases to petition pharmaceutical companies directly for experimental drugs that have gone through some safety tests but have not yet garnered full approval from the Food and Drug Administration. Sacramento Bee article 

California ban on microbeads in cosmetics advances — The Assembly on Friday passed a bill to bar California retailers from selling products containing tiny plastic beads which currently are embedded in many exfoliating creams and scrubs. Capitol Alert; AP article

Advocates report $48.5 million in state lobbying costs in first quarter – Local governments, businesses, unions and other special interests reported spending more than $48.5 million on direct state lobbying expenses from January through March, according to first-quarter reports filed earlier this month.  Capitol Alert 

California lawmakers OK bill in response to Kardashian wedding snafu — Celebrity Kim Kardashian’s 2011 wedding to Kris Humphries not only produced headlines over their quick divorce, but now is also responsible for legislation that would significantly increase fines against hosts of unpermitted big events that tie up traffic and public resources. LA Times article 

Northern California lawmakers razz LA legislators over Dodgers shutout sweep — California Assemblyman Bill Dodd, a Democrat from Napa, brought an unusual accessory to Friday’s floor session: a kitchen broom, a not-so-subtle nod to the three-shutout series sweep inflicted on the Dodgers by the San Francisco Giants this week.  LA Times article 

Joel Fox: All that analysis of the Glazer victory — Steve Glazer is cut from the same mold as his long time friend and mentor, Gov. Jerry Brown. Glazer is a Democrat but he is attuned to fiscal problems and aware that spending taxpayers’ money irresponsibly is a road to political purgatory. Given Brown’s approval ratings, it appears in present-day California, the voters are satisfied with that positioning. Glazer was in the right place, politically speaking, at the right time.  Fox in Fox & Hounds

Oakland works to keep protests from becoming destructive – Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, roundly criticized after vandals damaged multiple businesses during a May Day protest, has apparently had enough and ordered a change to how the city handles after-hours demonstrations.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Santa Ana mayor to be fined for political misconduct, but not charged –  The Orange County district attorney’s office will not pursue criminal charges against Santa Ana’s longtime mayor, ending months of scrutiny over allegations that Miguel Pulido made tens of thousands of dollars from a property swap with an auto parts businessman and then voted to award the businessman an exclusive city contract. LA Times article

California gambling interests welcome Rod Wright back to Sacramento — He may have left the Capitol amid controversy last fall, but former state Sen. Rod Wright was welcomed back warmly on Thursday at an Internet poker conference hosted by Capitol Weekly.  Sacramento Bee article 

Justice Department issues policy on domestic drone use — The Justice Department is acknowledging that the FBI, DEA and other federal law enforcement agencies are likely to make increasing use of unmanned aerial drones in the United States. AP article

Senate fails to resolve standoff over Patriot Act — Scrambling to prevent a shutdown of a program used to track terrorists, the Senate pulled an all-nighter but failed early Saturday to resolve a standoff over the National Security Agency system of collecting and storing U.S. telephone records. LA Times article; AP article


News Briefs

Top Stories

State approves farmers’ offer of 25 percent voluntary water cuts — California regulators on Friday accepted a historic offer by farmers to make a 25 percent voluntary water cut to avoid deeper mandatory losses during the drought. Officials with the state Water Resources Control Board made the announcement involving farmers in the delta of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers who hold some of California’s strongest water rights. AP article; LA Times article; Sacramento Bee article; San Francisco Chronicle article; Stockton Record article; Capital Public Radio report; New York Times article

Workers’ comp ruling may reduce Fresno County liability in gas pipeline blast – Fresno County is trying to shield itself from high-cost lawsuits from inmates who worked at the Fresno Sheriff’s Foundation shooting range the day a Pacific Gas & Electric pipeline exploded by saying the inmates fall under the state Workers’ Compensation program. Fresno Bee article


Jobs and the Economy

Unemployment rates down throughout Valley – Unemployment rates fell in all eight San Joaquin Valley counties in April and remain well below April 2014 levels, according to data released by the California Employment Development Department. The rates ranged from a low of 8.8 percent in San Joaquin County to a high of 11.6 percent in Merced County.  Here are the April 2015 rates, followed in parentheses by March 2015 and April 2014 rates:

  • Fresno – 10.2 percent (11.2, 12.0)
  • Kern – 10.3 percent (11.1, 10.9)
  • Kings – 10.8 percent (11.9, 12.5)
  • Madera – 10.4 percent (11.5, 11.4)
  • Merced – 11.6 percent (12.9, 13.5)
  • San Joaquin – 8.8 percent (9.5, 10.7)
  • Stanislaus – 9.6 percent (10.4, 11.6)
  • Tulare – 11.5 percent (13.2, 13.3)


State’s April jobless rate dips slightly to 6.3 percent – California’s unemployment rate dipped slightly in April to 6.3 percent as the economic recovery created nearly 30,000 new jobs. The state Employment Development Department reported Friday that the rate fell from 6.5 percent in March. A year ago the rate was 7.8 percent. AP article; Sacramento Bee article; LA Times article

Agriculture leads a decrease in Fresno County unemployment — An uptick in farm jobs between March and April — the first wave of the central San Joaquin Valley’s busy agricultural season — is helping the area’s jobless rate improve.  Fresno Bee article; The Business Journal article

Kern’s jobless rate slides to 10.3 percent on farm hiring – Kern County’s unemployment rate dropped by almost one full point to a seasonally unadjusted 10.3 percent as local farming added more than 9,000 jobs in April, the state reported Friday. Bakersfield Californian article

Merced County jobless rate dips – again – The unemployment rate in Merced County dipped in April to 11.6 percent, down from March and down from the same time last year, according to numbers released Friday from the state Employment Development Department. Merced Sun-Star article 

San Joaquin County jobless rate at 8-year low – A seasonal surge in farm, construction and related trucking jobs pushed down San Joaquin County’s unemployment rate to 8.8 percent in April, from a revised 9.4 percent in March and sharply lower than the year-ago estimate of 10.7 percent, state employment officials said Friday. It was the lowest jobless rate for the month since April 2007 when unemployment was pegged at 7.9 percent. Stockton Record article

Job reports mixed in Stanislaus and Merced counties – Stanislaus County’s unemployment rate was 9.8 percent in April, down from 10.3 percent in March and 11.6 percent in April 2014. The unemployment rate was 13.5 percent in Merced County in April, down from 12.7 percent in March and 13.5 percent in April 2014. And in San Joaquin County, the joblessness rate was 8.8 percent in April, down from 9.4 percent in March and 10.7 percent in April 2015. Modesto Bee article

Chukchansi casino workers’ unemployment benefits expiring – When Chukchansi Gold Resort & Casino was forcibly closed last October more than 1,000 employees lost jobs. Many are still looking for work. Finding a job has taken on added urgency since their six months of unemployment benefits expired. For most employees, unemployment ran out at the end of April. The benefit paid a maximum of $450 per week. Fresno Bee article 

Hanford ‘Costco’ puzzle continues to unfold – Despite numerous obstacles and delays, city officials say the proposed Costco store on East Lacey Boulevard is still on the way. But it remains unclear how much longer Kings County residents will have to wait. Hanford Sentinel article 

Lodi woman starts GoFundMe account to make up Stockton mayor’s salary – A Lodi woman is taking up a collection online for Anthony Silva days after Stockton’s mayor received a 30 percent pay cut. The woman, communicating by email, asked to remain anonymous. She wrote that she has “no interest in any type of spotlight or personal PR” and says she does not “personally know” Silva. Stockton Record article 

West Coast dockworkers’ union ratifies 5-year contract – The labor dispute that hobbled international trade through West Coast seaports earlier this year officially ended Friday when the union representing dockworkers announced its members had ratified a five-year contract. AP article; LA Times article 

State analysis supports repealing toothless job-positions law — A state law intended to eliminate chronically-empty state job positions is “clearly broken,” according to the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, and should be repealed as Gov. Jerry Brown has suggestedSacramento Bee article

Fresno’s Highway City center receives $20,000 revitalization grant – A Fresno neighborhood center will receive a $20,000 grant as the winner of the national Parks Build Community campaign, sponsored by the National Recreation and Park Association and The Walt Disney Company. Fresno Bee article 

The Numbers Crunch: Sacramento’s jobs record is in between LA and San Francisco — Sacramento is forever comparing itself to Los Angeles and San Francisco. When it comes to creating good jobs, California’s capital is in the middle – its record not as good as the City by the Bay, but better than the City of Angels.  Sacramento Bee article 

Gentrification spreads an upheaval in San Francisco’s Mission District – While gentrification has been a longstanding issue in the Mission, it now seems to be accelerating in its pace and scope. New York Times article 

Maya Cinemas’ opening marks Campus Pointe debut – After months of delays, the Maya Cinema Fresno 16 held a grand opening Friday that signaled the start of The Square at Campus Pointe shopping center. The center, tucked between Chestnut Avenue and Highway 168 just east of Fresno State’s Save Mart Center, will soon have restaurants and more. Lance-Kashian & Company is the developer. Fresno Bee article 

Carson, Inglewood jockey for position in race to build NFL stadium – The four-page letter to California’s Department of Finance is crammed with enough legal jargon and land-use minutiae to make a second-year law student blanch. Phrases such as “pursuant to the OPA … to the JPA in violation of Section 34177.3(c)…” fill the missive alleging “financial irregularities” connected to Carson’s proposed NFL stadium. LA Times article 

Why Oakland, Alameda County aren’t clamoring to keep the Raiders – Raiders owner Mark Davis and his colleagues at the NFL might have to wait a long time to hear from Oakland and Alameda County on a plan to help finance a new $900 million stadium. That’s because elected officials are in no hurry to help the team close a $400 million funding gap partly because taxpayers in Oakland and Alameda County are still paying millions of dollars a year for the coliseum renovations that lured the team back in the mid-1990s.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Riverbank chamber briefed by city planner on IMAX, other businesses – When the latest “Star Wars” movie opens Dec. 18, a Galaxy not far away at all will be showing it in IMAX. The $3.5 million expansion of the Galaxy Luxury+ theater was among the highlights discussed by John Anderson, contract planner for the city, at a Riverbank Chamber of Commerce luncheon meeting Tuesday. Modesto Bee article 

Merced Bobcat Brewing Co. turns 1 – It’s been a year now, and Bobcat Brewing Co. has become something of a staple in downtown Merced. The one-man brewing company was founded by owner Peter Howell, a 24-year-old who left his native Santa Rosa to attend UC Merced. The university may have brought him to Merced, but it’s beer that’s kept him here.  Merced Sun-Star article

Santa Barbara tourism industry fends off oil spill concerns — The kayaking company and local hotels have been waging a public relations campaign this week to reassure visitors that the oil spill is no reason to cancel reservations. LA Times article

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers looks to fill positions, including in Oakdale – With more than 200 job vacancies to fill in the coming months, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Sacramento District will hold a job fair in Wednesday in downtown Sacramento to help applicants navigate the process. Modesto Bee article

Atwater distillery now used for small batch brandy — A Fresno man this week used an Atwater distillery to bottle and label his small batch brandy, which he intends to sell up and down the San Joaquin Valley.  Merced Sun-Star article



As California thirsts, these apps help save water – California’s drought is a powerful reminder of the vulnerability and precious nature of our water resources. To become more responsible with water usage and waste, a few apps can help people learn about and reduce their water consumption. New York Times article

Amid huge demand, Metropolitan Water District considers $350 million for more turf replacement – Citing heavy demand for fake turf and other drought-tolerant landscaping, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is considering a $350-million increase in the money it spends on conservation rebate programs. LA Times article

Modesto water cops seek to fine Davis High – Modesto could fine Grace Davis High School $150 for violating the city’s drought restrictions over the school’s watering of its new football field.  Modesto Bee article 

Despite drought, officials warn Kern River is still deadly – California’s drought has caused many lakes and rivers to drop to low levels; but officials say it hasn’t eliminated the risk of drowning. FM-89’s Jason Scott reports on why one local river is of particular concern. KVPR report 

California producers fear Mexico, Canada retaliation over labeling law – California ranchers and their Capitol Hill allies are scrambling to peel away a country-of-origin labeling law they fear will hurt the state. Facing potentially punishing tariffs on U.S. wine, apples, cherries and more, after a World Trade Organization ruling against the United States’ labeling requirements for beef and pork, the Californians are mobilizing. They face, though, Midwestern resistance as well as a history of past failures to undo the label requirements. McClatchy Newspapers article

San Diego sprays golf courses with tap water — The City of San Diego has continued using drinking water to irrigate two of its three golf courses amid worsening drought, increasing use by millions of gallons each year since 2013, city documents show. San Diego Union-Tribune article 

Vandalism costs Easy Bay district 50 million gallons of water – Fremont police are investigating what they believe is an act of vandalism that destroyed an inflatable rubber dam in the East Bay on Thursday morning, costing the area nearly 50 million gallons of water.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Farm Beat: Hikers, cattle can coexist – Entry signs for the Stanislaus National Forest declare it the Land of Many Uses. Steer wrestling is not among them. A new publication shows how hikers and other visitors can avoid conflicts with cattle that graze on public land. The University of California Cooperative Extension released the five-page brochure last month.  Modesto Bee article

Walmart presses meat suppliers on antibiotics, treatment — Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest food retailer, is urging its thousands of U.S. suppliers to curb the use of antibiotics in farm animals and improve treatment of them. AP article


Criminal Justice/Prisons

Criminal suspects challenge legality of warrantless cellphone tracking – Four men charged in federal court with attempted murder in the shootingof an Oakland, California, police officer in 2013 are seeking to have evidence – including the officer’s gun, which was found at one defendant’s apartment – thrown out because they claim it was obtained through the warrantless use of a StingRay, a controversial cellphone surveillance device.  Center for Investigative Reporting article

Controversial piece of body camera bill could be deleted — Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, said this week she is considering removing a provision that initially called for banning officers involved in a use-of-force incident from viewing camera footage before they write reports.  San Diego Union-Tribune article 

Study shows increase in California auto thefts but not in Modesto – While Modesto for years has ranked high on the list of cities most affected by auto theft and a number of times has topped it, the city has seen a drop in the crime during the past two years. In 2013 there was a seven percent decrease compared with the prior year. The numbers continued to drop in 2014 for an 11.4 percent decrease.  Modesto Bee article

Merced police ‘justified’ in gunfight with suspect, DA says – Two Merced police officers were “justified” when they opened fire in February moments after a man shot a Merced police officer during a traffic stop, the Merced County District Attorney’s Office said Friday. Merced Sun-Star article

Attorneys spar over missing-persons records – A federal judge heard a motion Friday by San Joaquin County to stop the depositions of a state Department of Justice supervisor and an employee, who had advised the Sheriff’s Office against canceling dental and DNA records in cold cases from the national missing persons’ database until the remains are fully recovered.  Stockton Record article

Fresno police dog who bit bystander remains off duty – A Fresno police dog that was taken out of service after he bit a bystander as officers pursued a suspect Tuesday has been cleared by an outside agency. However, it is up to city officials when, or if, the dog returns to duty. Fresno Bee article 

Family of man killed by San Jose State police criticizes decision not to file charges against officers — Prosecutors announced Friday two San Jose State police officers were justified in a fatal shooting just off campus last year, spurring outcry by the family of the man killed and calls for more investigation. San Jose Mercury News article; San Francisco Chronicle article

Female inmates in San Francisco sewing a way out — The straight and narrow is what keeps someone out of San Francisco County Jail. On occasion, it’s also what someone is supposed to do on the inside, with a sewing machine.  San Francisco Chronicle article



Struggling with English, from kindergarten to high school graduation – Deyri is waiting on the results of her last California High School Exit Exam. She’s taken it seven times. Each time before, she’s failed the English-language arts portion. And every year since kindergarten, she’s had to retake the English proficiency test, too, because she still doesn’t meet the standards to be considered fluent.  KQED report

Women in tech: Making computer science more inviting: A look at what works – Some colleges have made significant strides, including the University of Washington, where Ms. Khan is a student. Their methods offer lessons for other colleges and companies hoping to increase the number of women in fields where they remain underrepresented.  New York Times article

Merced College celebrates its graduates – More than 1,000 students celebrated the culmination of their time at Merced College during the commencement ceremony Friday in the college’s stadium. A total of 891 degrees and 247 certificates of achievement were earned this year by Merced College graduates, according to the college. Merced Sun-Star article

Buhach Colony students get closer look at UC Merced’s cancer research – A group of Buhach Colony High students visited UC Merced Thursday for a lecture on a recent melanoma study and a tour of the school’s science labs. Fabian V. Filipp, an assistant professor of systems biology at UC Merced, talked to students about his research project, in which he set out to find the genomic factors that give rise to cancer. Merced Sun-Star article 

UC Davis teams with China to improve food safety worldwide — Officials from UC Davis and the city of Zhuhai, China, have signed an agreement to to establish the World Food Center-China as part of an effort to improve food safety and sustainability.  Sacramento Bee article 

Making it to graduation: Local seniors overcome life-threatening illnesses — Ashlee Neal, a senior at Centennial High School, is graduating in the top 20 percent of her class with a 3.6 GPA next Thursday. But instead of going straight to college — or in her case school to be an esthetician — she’s taking some time to decide if studying cosmetology is something she can commit to. Bakersfield Californian article

Bakersfield College plans to add sand volleyball program – Bakersfield College will add sand volleyball to its intercollegiate athletic offerings next spring, provided the Renegades can find a conference, athletic director Sandi Taylor said. Bakersfield Californian article 

Doug Hoagland: Graduates picture future success – The free-lance journalist writes, “Happy Lee, Bob Cha and Byanca Leyva have earned the honor of being on the wall at McLane High School. They would join David Carson, Marty Martin, Colleen Tudman and 338 other McLane graduates. It’s been a decades-long tradition at McLane to permanently display the senior photos of the school’s highest achieving students on the wall of the main office.”  Hoagland op-ed in Fresno Bee



Obama to issue federal rule on water pollution – The Obama administration is expected in the coming days to announce a major clean water regulation that would restore the federal government’s authority to limit pollution in the nation’s rivers, lakes, streams and wetlands.  New York Times article 

Feds order company involved in California oil spill to test, study pipe – Officials at the company that owns the pipe that ruptured and spilled up to 105,000 gallons of heavy crude in Santa Barbara County said Friday they will not appeal a federal order to take corrective steps. LA Times article; AP article

More than 700 workers to help with California oil spill cleanup — The number of workers cleaning the coastline after the Santa Barbara County oil spill is expected to swell to more than 700 Friday as the response continues to ramp up, officials said.  LA Times article

As oil production soars, so have pipeline leaks – The oil pipeline leak that fouled a stretch of California coastline this week reflects a troubling trend in the nation’s infrastructure: As U.S. oil production has soared, so has the number of pipeline accidents. AP article 

New carbon capture plant commissioned in Tulare County — French firm Air Liquide has started operating a carbon dioxide liquefaction plant in Tulare County that captures carbon emissions and transforms them into products used in the manufacturing and food service industries.  The Business Journal article 

San Joaquin County won’t advance funds to HERO program – San Joaquin County is not opting out of the Property Assessment Clean Energy program’s Home Energy Renovation Opportunity, as many had feared.  Stockton Record article

Tulare’s recycling efforts improve – Tulare’s solid waste recycling continues to improve, reaching nearly 70 percent in 2014. Tulare City Manager Don Dorman, during the State of the City address, reported last week that recycling in Tulare was at 68.79 percent last year. The 2014 figure was slightly higher than the 2013 numbers — 67.58 percent. Visalia Times-Delta article

Jerrold Jensen: Let’s restore California to – today – The Visalia resident writes, “What should be the “baseline” year for the California environment? What year should we pick as representing the ideal environment that will satisfy activists wishing to impose their vision for allocating our water distribution between fish, farmers and home use?” Jensen op-ed in Fresno Bee 

Saving the songbird — The state’s most abundant colonial songbird is in jeopardy as its natural habitat diminishes throughout California. But a group of conservationists and a farmer from Tipton are hoping their efforts will save the endangered birds. Visalia Times-Delta article


Health/Human Services

UC study urges caution on cancer screenings for women with dense breasts – Women with dense breast tissue may not need the additional cancer screenings often recommended by physicians, according to a new study co-authored by a UC Davis researcher.  Sacramento Bee article 

Sacramento County ER visits jump by 50,000 in 2014 — Sacramento County residents visit emergency rooms at a much higher – and growing – rate than the rest of California, new state figures show.  Sacramento Bee article

Jeff Crowley: When health insurers try to play doctor, California patients suffer – The board certified dermatologist in Bakersfield writes, “As a practicing physician, I urge legislators in Sacramento to stand with patients and health care providers and vote for AB 374 to remove barriers to effective health care. This common-sense legislation is a critical first step in the right direction for all Californians.”  Crowley op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

County Pulse: Senior exercise classes in Stanislaus County saved by donations — It appears that donations have given new life to the Young at Heart senior exercise classes in the outlying communities of Stanislaus County. Some of those classes were in danger of closing in July when the county did not renew grant funding. The exercise program is designed to build strength and prevent life-threatening falls. Modesto Bee article



State funding for Highway 198 widening decades away – Getting tired of the two-lane stretch of Highway 198 on your way to the Bay Area? Be prepared to be tired of it for a good chunk of the rest of your life. Hanford Sentinel article


Other areas 

High court ruling on Internet cafes could be big – A case now being considered by the state Supreme Court could have major implications for legal gambling offered by the California lottery, card houses, tribal casinos and sweepstakes operations. And, oh yes, Internet cafes — the cause of this legal battle, which are popping up again in Bakersfield after shutting down en masse last year.  Bakersfield Californian article 

As courts ponder Internet cafes, authorities say new examples are popping up – Internet cafes, which city and county officials have condemned as outlets for illegal gambling but which their supporters have said offer legal sweepstakes, may be clinging to life in Bakersfield despite being targeted by local law enforcement and state legislation.  Bakersfield Californian article 

Justice Department agrees to new trial for man convicted of killing Chandra Levy – In a stunning legal reversal, federal prosecutors relented on Friday and set the stage for a new trial of the man convicted in 2010 of killing former intern Chandra Levy.  McClatchy Newspapers article; Washington Post article 

Feds return cigarette shipment to Fresno County tribe — The federal government has returned a $610,000 shipment of cigarettes that was intercepted in Southern California en route to the Big Sandy Rancheria in February.  Fresno Bee article

Herb Benham: California Chrome still shining brightly — Steve Coburn’s been there and “there” is good but the backside of “there” isn’t bad either.  Benham column in Bakersfield Californian


Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno BeeThumbs up, thumbs down; Remember those who gave their lives for us.

Merced Sun-Star Our Views: Under Scott Scambray, learning and graduation were top priorities; a dry state of mind; and other issues.

Modesto Bee – Our Views: Drought is big story across the nation, Kristin Olsen’s bill to legalize motorized skateboards is on a roll, and other issues.