May 6, 2015


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Political Briefs

Top stories

California’s budget surplus soars to new heights; schools to benefit — In the clearest sign yet that the Great California Recovery is proceeding on pace, Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins announced Tuesday that the state’s revenue has climbed as much as $8 billion in the last four months. The state’s public schools will receive the bulk of that windfall under Proposition 98, and Assembly Democrats hope it’s used to increase average per-pupil spending and expand access to quality child care and preschool programs, the San Diego Democrat said. Contra Costa Times article; LA Times article; Capitol Alert

John Myers: Bills ‘sponsored’ in Sacramento by outside groups usually become law – There are a lot of reasons why legislation lives or dies at the state Capitol, but one powerful reason may be whether it’s been championed — or in some cases completely written — by influential interest groups. Myers in KQED

State budget

Mary Ignatius and Noreen Farrell: Spend some of California’s budget surplus to help poor families with child care – Ignatius, statewide organizer of Parent Voices, and Farrell, chairwoman of Stronger California, write, “The Stronger California agenda sends a clear message: California has the means and the resources to both tear down the “wall of debt” and the wall of poverty impacting so many of our residents, especially young children without access to care and early education. It is past time for the state, wealthy in so many ways, to prioritize the economic security of our poorest children.”  Ignatius/Farrell op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Valley politics


Council divided in choosing Visalia voting districts — Visalians wondering in which of five election districts they live in will have to wait at least a couple of weeks to find out. Visalia Times-Delta article

Peter Viri: Election changes would benefit Stockton – The member of the Stockton Charter Review Commission writes, “Insistence on larger districts and a general elections for mayor assure that special interest money would continue to play a significant role in controlling our city government. Citywide elections are very costly. I believe that the citizens of Stockton benefit from the elimination of these costly campaigns.” Viri op-ed in Stockton Record


Clinton calls for path to citizenship, countering GOP immigration views — Hillary Rodham Clinton staked an early claim for Latino support Tuesday by calling for a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants living in the country illegally, elevating the debate on an issue likely to play a vital role in the 2016 presidential race.  LA Times article

Other areas

Dan Walters: California tax bonanza becomes a big problem – Every state budget cycle has its own narrative, but this year’s version is in a class by itself. An expanding state economy and a temporary sales and income tax increase are flooding the state treasury with money, at least $4-plus billion more than the current budget assumes, and maybe even $5-plus billion.Walters column in Sacramento Bee

Local representatives react to bill banning Redskins mascot – The Assembly Floor passage of a California bill that calls for banning using “Redskins” as a public school mascot name had local politicians reacting on Tuesday.  Visalia Times-Delta article

California lawmakers stall roadside test for drugged drivers – An Assembly committee has rejected making California one of more than a dozen states that allow police to conduct roadside testing for marijuana and other drugs. AB1356, by Republican Assemblyman Tom Lackey of Palmdale, would have allowed police to use a device similar to Breathalyzers used to chart blood alcohol levels. AP article

Firms could record some phone calls without consent under California bill — Companies would no longer have to tell consumers they are recording some cellphone conversations until 20 seconds into the calls under a bill approved Tuesday by a committee in the California legislature.  Reuters article

More than Calderon, Yee calendars at stake in newspaper lawsuit – What began as a push by two California newspaper groups for the calendars of indicted former Democratic state Sens. Ron Calderon and Leland Yee may ultimately broaden public access to legislative business and change the way lawmakers operate at the Capitol.  Sacramento Bee article

Sacramento Bee: Liquor industry breaks out the hard stuff – Assemblyman Marc Levine is learning hard lessons about the clout of the liquor industry, as are we all. Sacramento Bee editorial

Ami Bera admits Bee op-ed on trade included ‘widely used’ statements – Democratic Rep. Ami Bera is being accused of plagiarizing a business group and the Obama administration for a column about trade that ran under the Elk Grove congressman’s byline in The Sacramento Bee on Sunday.  Sacramento Bee article

Bill would let suds flow on California bike buses — The legislation from Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, would allow riders to crack open a cold one if their city permits it, a safety monitor comes along for the ride and the driver gets some alcohol-related training.  Sacramento Bee article

Twitter challenge to U.S. national security probes moves forward – A federal judge on Tuesday weighed the Obama administration’s attempt to sidetrack Twitter’s legal challenge to the government’s tight lid on national security investigations that reach into the tech industry.  San Jose Mercury News article

As Hillary Clinton arrives in Bay Area, a look inside pricey political fundraisers — Hillary Clinton and many of the Bay Area’s deep-pocketed Democratic donors are old buddies, but Wednesday will be the first time she comes with her hand out as a declared candidate for president in 2016. Contra Costa Times article

California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

California water conservation remain lackluster with 3.6 percent cut in March – Californians cut their water consumption by 3.6% in March compared with the same period in 2013, the State Water Resources Control Board reported Tuesday. The cut in water use represented a slight improvement from a dismal 2.8% figure for February, but is still far short of the statewide 25% mandatory water-use reduction required by Gov. Jerry Brown’s April 1 executive order.  LA Times article

Debt bites into Stockton social services funding – The City Council convened Tuesday night to dole out federal grant funds to various organizations that provide social services for some of Stockton’s neediest people. In all, nearly $409,000 was distributed. But a far bigger portion of the Community Development Block Grant funding — more than five times as much, in fact — was to pay Stockton’s debts, including for big-ticket downtown waterfront projects like Stockton Arena and the marina. Stockton Record article

Jobs and the Economy

More cops for Fresno schools, city buses in Mayor Swearengin’s budget plan – Fresno’s public safety system will get a big boost in Mayor Ashley’s Swearengin’s proposed 2016 budget. Swearengin, Police Chief Jerry Dyer, Fire Chief Kerri Donis and other top city officials gathered at City Hall on Tuesday to review exactly what this means.  Fresno Bee article

Report: California tourism spending hits record $117.5 billion – About 251 million people – visitors and residents – traveled in California in 2014, spending an all-time record of $117.5 billion, according to a new report released by Visit California, the nonprofit that helps develop the state’s travel and tourism marketing programs.  Sacramento Bee article

Report: Central Valley tourism a $2.23 billion industry in 2014 – Travel and tourism was a $2.23 billion industry supporting nearly 24,000 jobs in the four-county Central Valley region last year, according to new data from Dean Runyan Associates. The report, conducted on behalf of nonprofit tourism promoter Visit California, reveals that 53 of the state’s 58 counties saw an increase in direct travel spending in 2014 compared to the year prior. The Business Journal article

Merced County employees try to rally support ahead of labor talks – Dozens of employees from the county’s largest labor union demonstrated on Tuesday both outside and inside the Board of Supervisors meeting, urging bigger pay increases than what they’ve been offered. Merced Sun-Star article

Modesto starting its budget hearings – The City Council’s budget hearings begin Wednesday evening for Modesto’s proposed $367 million operating budget for its 2015-16 fiscal year, which starts July 1. Modesto Bee article

See how much residents of each California city give to charity — Californians give about 2.6 percent of their income to charity, but residents in many cities tend to be more generous than others, tax figures show. Sacramento Bee article

CoreLogic: Valley home prices saw March increase – Valley home prices continued to climb in March compared to a year ago, according to new data from real estate analysis firm CoreLogic.  The Business Journal article

Audit: California government not planning for retirements – California state government continues to struggle with plans for replenishing its aging workforce, according to a new report released Monday, chiefly because departments talk a good game but largely fail to follow through.  Sacramento Bee article

Joe Mathews: Repeal Prop 218 — The story of Prop 218 is much bigger than water pricing and drought. It’s the story of a 19-year-old constitutional ballot initiative that undermines local democracy and fiscal accountability. It’s one of the lesser-known of the many California rules that limit local rule – and the accountability that comes with it. Mathews in Fox & Hounds

James Fallows: Fresno to South Bend to Louisville: The elusive elements of civic success — For anyone who wants more details on the respective (and sometimes complementary) roles of cars and pedestrians in healthy downtown, I offer these.  Fallows in The Atlantic

Michael Fitzgerald: Stockton by the numbers – Today, new Stockton factoids. Fitzgerald column in Stockton Record

LA lawmakers consider unit to crack down on wage theft – As Los Angeles lawmakers considers hiking the citywide minimum wage to $13.25 or $15.25, they are pushing to create a new city office that could crack down on employers who break those wage rules. LA Times article

Big Day of Giving donations race toward $5 million goal in Sacramento – The Sacramento region ran hard against the clock and communities nationwide on Tuesday in an effort to raise more than $5 million for local non-profits during the Big Day of Giving. Sacramento Bee article

San Jose suffers another legal setback in bid to lure Oakland A’s – San Jose’s bid to lure the Oakland A’s to a downtown ballpark continues to take a beating in the courts. A Santa Clara County judge recently handed the city a setback, ruling last month that city officials violated local laws by entering into a land-purchase agreement with the team for a ballpark site without first putting the issue to the voters. San Jose Mercury News article

Court rejects royalties for artists in out-of-state sales – A federal appeals court struck struck down a law Tuesday that required California owners of fine art to pay the artists a royalty for sales that take place out of state. LA Times article

Report: Asian-American tech workers absent from Silicon Valley’s executive suites — As Silicon Valley companies seek to diversify their ranks and address the glaring absence of women, black and Latino engineers, a new report says they are overlooking a problem hidden in plain sight. San Jose Mercury News article


State agriculture board listens to public concerns about drought – There was very little good news at Tuesday’s meeting of the California State Board of Food and Agriculture. And perhaps for good reason. The board gathered at the Fresno Fairgrounds to hear from the public about how the state’s historic drought is affecting them. Fresno Bee article

Despite drought, California almond crop off just 1 percent – The federal government Tuesday projected an almond crop of 1.85 billion pounds in California this year, short of the record but still strong considering the drought. The estimate is down 1 percent from last year and 9 percent from the record harvest of 2.03 billion pounds in 2011. Modesto Bee article; Stockton Record article

New water regulations approved by San Joaquin County Board of Supervisors – San Joaquin County residents will be receiving notices in the mail very soon informing them of new water conservation requirements that will go into effect immediately. The county Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved Stage II emergency water conservation measures for 30 districts they govern. Stockton Record article

Fresno County supervisors seek environmental water cuts – Fresno County supervisors renewed their commitment to getting more water for the Valley by approving a more strongly worded drought resolution they expect other Valley counties will support. The new proclamation wants federal and state agencies to curtail water supplies “currently dedicated to the environment and fisheries.” Fresno Bee article

What’s in the water? Some Kern County farmers are irrigating with oil wastewater — In Kern County the oil industry and the world of farming are working hand in hand, but not everyone is happy about that. As Valley Public Radio’s Ezra David Romero reports there are growing concerns over the use of oil field wastewater used to irrigate prime farmland.  KVPR report

Oakdale Irrigation District meeting erodes into shouting match – Irrigation leaders may reconsider providing water this year to recently annexed customers, including Trinitas Partners, because of strident protests from some established irrigators. Modesto Bee article

Glimmer of hope for Friant water users – Tulare County farmer Tom Barcellos has heard all the talk about farmers not doing their part to save water in California and grimaces. Visalia Times-Delta article

US gives farmers approval to spray crops from drones – A drone large enough to carry tanks of fertilizers and pesticides has won rare approval from federal authorities to spray crops in the United States, officials said Tuesday. AP article

Tom Hothem: Drought might help shape California’s new story – The associate director of the Merritt Writing Program at UC Merced writes, “With our subsistence at stake, the stories we tell about ourselves in this place are faltering. New narratives, spurred by advances in geological science, might help us formulate a bigger picture of what it means to live in California.” Hothem op-ed in Modesto Bee

Millions of trees are dying due to California drought – At least 12 millions trees have died in California’s national forests because of four years of extreme drought, scientists say. LA Times article

Grass gives way to bark in drought test at Modesto park – In a test project at Garrison Park, on Carver Road north of Orangeburg Avenue, roughly a third of an acre of grass is being let die and covered with bark. Lawn sprinklers are being replaced with drip irrigation for the trees that dot the long, narrow strip of land. Modesto Bee article

Study: Drought threatens key jobs – California’s drought emergency is not likely to hurt San Diego’s overall economy, but mandatory water cuts do threaten jobs in some key industries. U-T San Diego article

Household water costs fluctuate sharply – People across California pay dramatically different amounts for the same amount of water, with price tags set by individual agencies from Crescent City to El Centro.  Capitol Weekly article

Sacramento Bee: Cash-for-grass might ease new water mandates – We can live without lawns, if we have to, to save our drinking water supply. But the state should also ante up to help provide incentives for homeowners to replace turf with drought resistant plants while replacing sprinklers with drip irrigation. Sacramento Bee editorial

State begin Delta salinity barrier to protect water supplies in drought – The state has begun building an emergency salinity barrier in the Delta to keep seawater from fouling drinking water supplies for 25 million people. Contra Costa Times article

Barry Bedwell: Patterson’s AB 1389 deserves bipartisan support – The president of the Fresno-based California Fresh Fruit Association writes, “The bill that would do three very basic things: 1) allow farm workers who come under the Agricultural Labor Relations Act (ALRA) the right to ratify a mandatory mediated agreement; 2) allow all farmworkers who will be subject to the mandatory mediated agreement the right to attend mediation sessions and 3) in cases where the union abandons the workers for more than three years that union will automatically be decertified as the bargaining representative for those workers.”  Bedwell in Fox & Hounds

My Valley, My Story: Rosa Garaby has lived without running water for five years — Imagine going to your kitchen sink to wash dishes, but when you turn on the tap little or now water flows out. That’s the reality in homes of many people across the Central Valley, especially as the historic drought worsens. As part of FM89’s series My Valley, My Story featuring first person accounts from people throughout the San Joaquin Valley reporter Ezra David Romero visits the Madera County community of Chowchilla, where one family has lived without water for five years.  KVPR report

Ag industry ripe for tech disruption — As California struggles with its fifth consecutive year of drought, technology innovators say the agricultural industry is ripe for disruption. Introducing new technology to the traditional farming process has been a goal of many Silicon Valley companies for years, but only recently have innovators met and worked closely with Central Valley farmers. The Business Journal article

Reservoirs still magical, even in a drought – Spring at Sierra foothill reservoirs is magical, even under drought conditions. Colorful flowers accent the vistas, eagles and osprey soar over the water in search of a tasty meal, wild turkeys gobble among the mixed oak and pine forest, and fish — bass, trout, kokanee and salmon — seem eager to bend anglers’ rods. Stockton Record article

Criminal Justice/Prisons

Lawmakers back away from major changes to Prop 47 criminal justice reforms — In all, nine bills related to Prop. 47 were introduced this year, seven of them direct attempts to change what opponents saw as problems with the ballot measure. But after initial negotiations in Sacramento, most of those bills have been modified to the point that they don’t actually change the law passed by voters. To do that would require another vote by the electorate. KQED report

Marcos Breton: Sacramento Police Department fails racial diversity test, but there is more to the story — Aren’t largely white police departments – and the lack of diversity within them – contributing to a callous mistreatment of dark-skinned people who are more likely to raise suspicion and more likely to face deadly force in confrontations with police? In this debate, Sacramento is being tainted by implication. Breton column in Sacramento Bee


Does Fresno need a new vocational education high school? – Fresno Unified Board Trustee Brooke Ashjian joined us on Valley Edition to talk about the effort to build a new career technical education high school in collaboration with the State Center Community College District.  KVPR report

Granville and Fresno State to open graduate art studio in downtown Fresno – Granville Homes and Fresno State’s College of Arts and Humanities have collaborated to create a satellite campus in downtown Fresno for graduate art students, faculty and artists to work side-by-side.  Fresno Bee article

UC Merced students ask for more Chicano Studies professors – A group of UC Merced students participated in a demonstration Tuesday to ask for an expansion of the Chicano Studies program. The students, most of them enrolled in the school’s Chicano Studies minor, said they would like to see the school offer more Chicano-based courses and add professors qualified to teach those classes. Merced Sun-Star article

Improving third-grade reading skills is goal of initiative in Stanislaus County – Children need to be proficient readers by the end of third grade because reading is crucial to learning in fourth grade and beyond. More than 60 percent of third-graders in Stanislaus County are not reading at grade level, according to a report presented Tuesday to county supervisors. Modesto Bee article

Behind their charms, single-sex colleges struggle with their nature — Although some single-sex colleges face uncertainties, they are not doomed, according to David L. Warren, president of the National Assn. of Independent College and Universities. LA Times article

Clovis, other Valley schools snag Gold Ribbon awards — Eight Clovis Unified schools, plus several others across the central San Joaquin Valley, were honored this week with California’s new Gold Ribbon Schools Award. The award temporarily replaces the California Distinguished Schools Program, which honored schools that succeeded at narrowing the achievement gap. Fresno Bee article

Two Bakersfield schools get Gold Ribbon awards – West High School and Rosedale Middle School received noteworthy awards Tuesday — the statewide honor previously known as the California Distinguished Schools Program. Bakersfield Californian article

Students get piece of the action after seeking a say in budget — Last fall, high school sophomores Stephanie Perez and Ismael Mauricio joined a contingent of students at a State Board of Education meeting demanding that students get a say in how school districts spend money. EdSource article

LA Unified college prep rule puts nearly 75 percent of 10th graders’ diplomas at risk – As many as three-quarters of Los Angeles 10th-graders are at risk of being denied diplomas by graduation because they are not on track to meet rigorous new college prep class requirements. LA Times article

Visalia student visits nation’s Capitol to advocate for children – Eighteen- year-old Andrea Fernandez-Medina said she could not speak a word of English when she first entered grade school. In the fifth and sixth grades at Goshen Elementary School she was placed in an afterschool program that would help her improve her English vocabulary. Visalia Times-Delta article

Modesto’s Gregori High student dies after run in P.E. class — A Gregori High School student died after falling ill during a physical education class. Andy Vazquez, a 16-year-old sophomore, was pronounced dead at a Modesto hospital after he collapsed following a two-mile run on Monday afternoon. Modesto Bee article


Hot summer, drought may pose fire danger — A hot Valley summer paired with the continuing drought could spell trouble for local fire officials. Lack of rain and statewide water conservation measures have led to drier-than-usual conditions in Kings County cities and rural areas. Hanford Sentinel article

HECA asks for 6-month regulatory time-out — The company behind a $4 billion clean coal plant proposed near Tupman formally asked Tuesday for a six-month time-out on its regulatory review, saying it hasn’t been able to finalize a deal with a company that would take the project’s byproduct carbon dioxide.  Bakersfield Californian article

New California bill aims to prevent pipeline gas leaks, Arvin evacuations — Last year, several Kern County families were forced out of their homes for more than eight months because of a gas leak. Now, a bill in the California legislature would help prevent future cases like the one in Arvin. KVPR report

Health/Human Services

California lawmakers push for new VA clinic — California lawmakers are still trying to breathe life into a French Camp medical clinic designed to serve veterans living in the Northern San Joaquin Valley and Sierra Nevada foothills. Now, the resuscitation effort is up to the Senate. McClatchy Newspapers article

Steve Maviglio: On public health, sodas just aren’t the same as cigarettes – The Democratic strategist and consultant to the American Beverage Association writes, “Proposing to put a label on a can of soda (which already has the amount of sugar listed) isn’t the solution to stopping unhealthy lifestyles. It’s just a feel-good publicity stunt.”  Maviglio op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Land Use/Housing

Fresno Bee: New vacant house ordinance is good for Fresno — If you believe democracy is dying and government is dysfunctional, we offer in refutation this example of community activists, businesses and elected leaders teaming up to address Fresno’s problem with blighted vacant homes. Fresno Bee editorial


Ominous signs of problems with new Bay Bridge foundation — Caltrans tests indicate that salt water from the bay may be seeping into the foundation of the new Bay Bridge eastern span’s tower, an ominous prospect that raises questions about the long-term viability of hundreds of massive steel rods that anchor the landmark structure.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Officials OK $7.4 million rail expansion — Looking to meet rising export demand for raw materials such as coal and iron ore, Stockton port officials Monday approved a $7.4 million rail expansion project. Stockton Record article

Other areas

Stockton commission appointments more important than they seem – Appointments to the city’s numerous citizen commissions often go overlooked amid the higher-profile matters dealt with by Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva and the six City Council members. But every now and then, one of those obscure appointments leads to other equally unsexy selections, and before you know it a decision has been made that captures widespread notice. Stockton Record article

Lois Henry: Kern animal shelter has been exporting diseased dogs – Kern County Animal Services strikes again — exporting diseased animals. Yes, that’s right. More than a dozen dogs from Kern County’s Fruitvale shelter transported to out-of-state rescue operations were sick, and some died. Henry column in Bakersfield Californian

Fresno County will wait to expand dispatch center – Fresno County needs a new Emergency Medical Services center and American Ambulance, which oversees ambulance services for Fresno and surrounding counties, is willing to build it. But the county’s Board of Supervisors decided Tuesday to wait on possibly taking American Ambulance up on its offer. Fresno Bee article

Timing the wheels of county government – Tuesday’s meeting of the Kern County Board of Supervisors can give you a glimpse into how much time basic public governance takes here in Kern County. Bakersfield Californian article

Visalia City Council urged to allow goats as pets – A campaign by a Visalia couple to compel the city of Visalia to lift its ban on having goats as pets picked up momentum Monday night when about 50 supporters showed up to the City Council meeting. Visalia Times-Delta article

$50,000 and growing: Donors give to tiny homes for LA homeless — More than $50,000 has been donated to a South Los Angeles man who is looking to build more tiny homes on wheels like the one he constructed for a 60-year-old homeless woman.  LA Times article

David Collins: Neighborhood brigade persists with cleanup despite ugliness – The executive director of the South Oswell Neighborhood Watch writes, “After vandalism spiked in my neighborhood, a few of us saddled up to tackle the problem. Over time we corralled most of the blight by holding regular cleanups.”  Collins op-ed in Bakersfield Californian

San Francisco supervisors back music venues against noise complaints — Sorry, noise-sensitive San Franciscans: The Board of Supervisors passed legislation Tuesday aimed at protecting music venues from lawsuits.  San Francisco Chronicle article

State controller confirms review of City of Industry finances — California State Controller Betty T. Yee confirmed Tuesday that her agency has begun examining the finances of the City of Industry after news reports revealed that an audit had questioned dealings involving firms controlled by a former mayor and his relatives.  LA Times article

Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – If you believe democracy is dying and government is dysfunctional, we offer in refutation this example of community activists, businesses and elected leaders teaming up to address Fresno’s problem with blighted vacant homes; ‘Designer baby’ research cries out for rules.

Merced Sun-Star – We’ll be glad to sell our grass to city or state.

Sacramento Bee – We can live without lawns, if we have to, to save our drinking water supply. But the state should also ante up to help provide incentives for homeowners to replace turf with drought resistant plants while replacing sprinklers with drip irrigation; Assemblyman Marc Levine is learning hard lessons about the clout of the liquor industry, as are we all.