May 8, 2015


Political Briefs

Top stories

Union-led coalition launches campaign to change Proposition 13 — A coalition of public employee unions and other liberal groups, including many churches, launched a campaign Thursday to alter Proposition 13, California’s iconic property tax limit, and raise billions of dollars by hiking taxes on commercial property.  Capitol Alert 

Political parties targeting elusive voters – millennials – The issues that matter most to Millennials — student loan debt, jobs, climate change — are forcing Republicans and Democrats alike to push the boundaries of technology to attract America’s youngest voters, a likely key to the 2016 elections. San Francisco Chronicle article


Statewide politics/Ballot Measures

Dan Walters: Finally, war on Prop 13 breaks out – A political war over taxes that’s been brewing for nearly four decades finally erupted Thursday – maybe. A union-led coalition of liberal groups launched a campaign to change Proposition 13, the iconic 1978 property tax limit, seeking billions more in revenue from commercial and industrial property owners. Walters column in Sacramento Bee

2016 Chess Moves: California Politics Podcast – This week’s California Politics Podcast starts off with a look at three potentially explosive topics that could all appear on the November 2016 statewide ballot: A $2 per pack tobacco tax, an increase in the homeowner’s property tax exemption, and a long debated and closely watched effort that could ask voters to tinker with the legendary Proposition 13.  California Politics Podcast in KQED

‘Shoot the gays’ author won’t fight effort to quash initiative — The lawyer behind the proposed “shoot the gays” initiative says he won’t fight Attorney General Kamala Harris’ lawsuit to keep the measure from circulating, but may instead demand that it be placed on the November 2016 state ballot without having to gather any signatures except his own.  San Francisco Chronicle article; AP article



Undocumented students disrupt Janet Napolitano speech at UC summit — The University of California’s national summit on undocumented students started going sideways seconds after UC President Janet Napolitano stepped to the podium to make her opening remarks Thursday morning.  San Jose Mercury News article


Other areas

Bill Whalen: Officials can no longer ignore Oakland riots – Gov. Jerry Brown should appoint a 21st-century version of the McCone Commission to study causes of police-community unrest. If the status quo in California’s Legislature doesn’t change, inner-city communities in Los Angeles and Oakland may see more rioting this year. What’s truly sad about Oakland’s plight is that if California’s leaders care, it seems a closely guarded secret. Whalen column in Sacramento Bee 

Sacramento Bee: Transparency at the Capitol, online at last – Despite being the birthplace of the personal computer industry and home to the Internet’s most successful companies, California government has never been on very good terms with the Web.  Sacramento Bee editorial

Appeals court rules NSA phone dragnet is illegal – The National Security Agency does not have legal authority to collect and store data on all U.S. telephone calls, a federal appeals court has ruled. The decision, the first by an appellate court on the government’s sweeping data-collection program, says the Patriot Act does not give the NSA the authority it claims to collect so-called metadata on calls by people who are not specific targets of investigations. LA Times article

Assembly approves beer and wine at hair salons — The California Assembly has approved legislation that would make it legal for hair salons and barbershops to offer customers free beer and wine. AP article; LA Times article 

Rand Paul steps into tech territory – opening office in San Francisco — Republican Rand Paul said Thursday he will open a campaign office in a South of Market shared incubator work space, making him the first 2016 presidential candidate to stake a claim to the Silicon Valley tech vote. San Francisco Chronicle article


California Government Today:

Senate Daily File

Assembly Daily File

News Briefs

Top Stories

Housing expert: Valley real estate market in upward swing — The central San Joaquin Valley real estate market is on an upward swing thanks to high affordability and job growth, according to a housing expert who spoke via webinar at Fresno State’s Gazarian Real Estate CenterSpeaker Series on Wednesday.  Fresno Bee article

In Fresno, police focus on building relationships, not making arrests — At a time when other cities were aggressively arresting people for minor crimes, a strategy known as “zero tolerance,” officials in Fresno chose a different path. They embraced the softer community-policing ethos popularized under former president Bill Clinton, which relies on partnerships and problem-solving instead of mass arrests.  Washington Post article 

Environmental groups sue state oil and gas regulators — California environmental groups filed a lawsuit Thursday against state oil and gas regulators seeking to halt illegal oil-industry dumping into drinking-water aquifers. AP article; Bakersfield Californian article


Jobs and the Economy

Kern County hit hard by low oil prices – Most drivers in California have cheer the long run of low oil prices and the effect it has in driving down the price at the pump. But for Kern County the low prices are bad news for the county and the industry that thrives there. The low price has created what some call a ‘”fiscal emergency.”  KVPR report

San Joaquin County number 2 in infrastructure jobs – San Joaquin County ranks No. 2 among large U.S. metropolitan areas for its share of infrastructure employment, with 14.1 percent of area jobs involving construction, transportation, warehousing, utilities and more, according to a new analysis from the Brookings Institution. Stockton Record article

U.S. economy adds 223,000 jobs in April; jobless rate dips to 5.4 percent — U.S. employers added 223,000 jobs in April, a solid gain that suggests the economy may be recovering after stumbling at the start of the year. AP article

Valley labor, environmental interests press Costa to oppose fast-track on trade agreement – Representatives of labor unions, the Sierra Club and Central Valley-Sierra Progressives gathered Thursday in front of Rep. Jim Costa’s district office in downtown Fresno to urge the Democratic legislator to oppose a streamlined approval process for a politically divisive trade pact backed by President Obama. Fresno Bee article 

Which California departments are offering leave cash outs? – The Brown administration gave the green light to another round of limited leave buy backs for non-union workers and for some union employees whose contracts allow it, assuming departments can find the extra cash to make it happen. Now California Attorneys, Administrative Law Judges and Hearing Officers in State Employment, the state’s legal officials’ union, has put together a list of departments participating in the leave-for-cash program. CASE called other departments, according to a members-only email obtained by The Bee. Sacramento Bee article 

2 Modesto events focus on connecting people with jobs – There are lots of jobs in Stanislaus County, and lots of people looking for work, Stanislaus Economic Development & Workforce Alliance CEO Dave White told a group of community leaders Thursday morning. The key to reducing the county’s 10.5 percent unemployment, plus its high underemployment, he said, is closing the skills gap and “connecting the dots” to match employers with those job seekers who do have the skills. Modesto Bee article 

Whole Foods’ stock drops after millennial store announcement — Shares of Whole Foods Market Inc. fell more than 9% Thursday after the healthy foods retailer announced plans for a “hip-cool technology-oriented” chain targeting millennials.  LA Times article

Airline contractor workers say they were required to speak English or nothing at all – A year ago, workers for a Delta Airlines contractor at LAX said they were given a strict order: Speak English or don’t speak at all. The employees for Gate Gourmet, which provides janitorial services to Delta Airlines at LAX, are plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed Thursday by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund claiming harassment by management if workers did not abide by the “English only” language policy. LA Times article

Metro poll suggests strong support for 2016 LA transportation tax hike – More than two-thirds of Los Angeles County residents support raising the countywide sales tax by half a cent to bring in about $120 billion for rail and highway projects, according to a new poll paid for by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority. LA Times article

Raiders planning to upgrade facilities, but future in Oakland still murky – The Raiders are planning million-dollar upgrades at their training complex in Alameda, but don’t get too excited — that’s not a surefire sign the team is also committed to a long-term stay in Oakland, experts cautioned.  Contra Costa Times article

Investors to sell off $100 million Sacramento-area office portfolio — A large portfolio of Sacramento-area office properties has been placed on the market, with a likely sales price exceeding $100 million. Real estate executives confirmed Thursday that a subsidiary of Deutsche Bank is unloading seven Class A buildings – in Natomas, Roseville and Rancho Cordova – after holding them for about a decade. Sacramento Bee article



Kern County intent on finding water savings – County officials are starting to size up the task of promoting the state of California’s aggressive new water conservation measures and ground water regulations across such a massive sampling of purveyors. County supervisors have stopped short of restricting days of watering or taking additional steps to impose the new state regulations — at least for now. Bakersfield Californian article 

Water customers in Visalia, Selma must cut use or pay surcharge – Public meetings will be held in Visalia and Selma next week so residents can learn about water-use restrictions and penalties they will face if they exceed drought-related cutbacks. Fresno Bee article

Drought inspires creative suggestions to address water shortage – With the drought threatening every aspect of Californians’ lives — how long they stay in the shower and what food they eat — it’s not surprising that so many have opinions on how to handle the problem. Officials have cataloged more than 170 messages containing suggestions and received untold more in emails, phone calls and public meetings.  LA Times article

Stockton Record: It’s mandatory, not voluntary – It’s time for Californians to really — we mean really — get serious about the drought and the need to conserve water. And we encourage our communities to impose penalties where needed to make sure “mandatory” restrictions don’t morph back into “voluntary.” Stockton Record editorial

Australian almond producers target Asia as drought hits California – Australian almond producers are boosting output to meet growing Asian demand for the nut used for making milk and eaten as a healthy snack, hoping to steal market share from dominant U.S. farmers struggling because of protracted drought in California. Reuters article 

Small communities face water rate cuts – on paper – What about Kings County’s unincorporated communities — Armona, Stratford, Kettleman City and Home Garden, all of which have less than 3,000 water connections? According to a state water board fact sheet, they can either “achieve a 25 percent conservation standard or restrict outdoor irrigation to no more than two days per week.” So it’s either wrestle with complicated math or just tell people they can only soak their lawns two days a week.  Hanford Sentinel article 

Starbucks to find new source for bottled water outside of drought-stricken California — Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX) has decided to find a source for its bottle water outside of California after residents of a small town in Merced, California questioned the company’s right to tap a nearby spring. Puget Sound Business Journal article in LA Biz

Kings County schools ban car wash fundraisers – Kings County school districts are taking further steps in light of the worsening drought situation in the state. This school year, the Hanford Joint Union High School District placed a ban on car-wash fundraising, a form of fundraising that has been lucrative for the schools’ clubs, sports teams and other organizations. Hanford Sentinel article

Merced gardening seminar to focus on green lawns with less water – A class planned this weekend in Merced could help homeowners keep their lawns green while cutting back on their water waste. Merced Sun-Star article

San Diego pumps drinking water into lake – As the drought intensifies, the City of San Diego continues to pump tens of millions of gallons of drinking water into Chollas Lake for recreational fishing. U-T San Diego article

California drought: LADWP vows to waste less water — The agency that provides water to millions of Los Angeles homes and businesses is promising to waste less of it. AP article

Visalia activists joins state Water Commission — Maria Herrera learned from an early age that if you want to right an injustice you need to have your voice heard. She has spent her early career doing just that. Herrera, a 32-year-old Visalia resident, was just named to the California Water Commission by Gov. Jerry Brown. She is known around Tulare County and the state as an advocate for plentiful clean water in mostly poor Latino communities. Visalia Times-Delta article


Criminal Justice/Prisons 

State Senate Oks bill barring grand juries in police deadly force cases – The state Senate on Thursday approved a measure that would prohibit grand juries from weighing in on cases of deadly shootings or excessive force by police.  LA Times article; Sacramento Bee article 

Sheriffs join national drive to divert mentally ill offenders from local jails – Officials from around California announced Thursday that they will join in a national initiative seeking to reduce the number of mentally ill inmates in local jails. LA Times article 

3,000 cases possibly affected by San Francisco police texting, D.A. says — Prosecutors here are expanding an investigation into criminal cases that might have been compromised by revelations of police officers’ racist and homophobic texts, Dist. Atty. George Gascon announced Thursday. Gascon’s probe has identified 3,000 criminal cases that could have been affected by perceived bias by 14 officers. LA Times article 

San Francisco DA convenes three retired judges to probe police department – The head law enforcement official in San Francisco is bringing in three retired judges from outside the city to investigate arrests by 14 current and former police officers implicated in a bigoted text messaging scandalbrought to light two months ago. KQED report; New York Times article

San Diego police change body camera policy – The San Diego Police Department will begin training officers to activate body-worn cameras earlier in the process of responding to calls, Chief Shelley Zimmerman announced Thursday. U-T San Diego article

Two fallen CHP officers honored at Fresno County Peace Officers Memorial — Law enforcement officers from throughout the region and relatives of fallen officers gathered Thursday for the annual ceremony at Fresno County Peace Officers’ Memorial in Courthouse Park. This year’s ceremony formally enrolled California Highway Patrol officers Brian Law and Juan Gonzalez on the memorial. Fresno Bee article 

Celebration of making the right choice — After more than two decades of drug abuse left him homeless, broken and alone, Robert Cartner, a 37-year-old Stockton man, had a choice. “Either go to prison or get clean,” Cartner said. “I decided to get clean.” Dressed in a black cap and gown with a large silver cross hanging around his neck, Cartner proudly marched into the Bob Hope Theatre on Thursday afternoon for the Collaborative Courts Commencement Ceremony. Stockton Record article



Schools ‘big winners’ from surging state revenues – As Gov. Jerry Brown prepares to release his revised state budget for the coming fiscal year next week, educators around the state are looking forward to hearing about the additional funds they will receive, a dramatic departure from the bleak years of the recession, when they braced themselves for further cuts. EdSource article 

Graduates of closed Heald College Modesto band together to hold own graduation — Heald College graduates who lost out on celebrating the day are putting together their own ceremony, set for June 12. “We’re trying to do the best we can for students who have gone through a lot of work and want to have their graduation,” said Monica Alcala, who finished her business course in April, two weeks before the college abruptly closed April 27. Modesto Bee article

Humphreys to offer some classes to displaced Heald students – Humphreys College has stepped in for students left stranded by Heald College’s closure last week. The Stockton-based nonprofit school is offering a free transfer to Heald students in specific classes in which credits can be transferred. Stockton Record article

Avi Oved: UC is on the brink of disaster for students – The UCLA undergraduate writes, “The political battle being waged between the state government and our university is warping the University of California and corroding its very mission. In times of hardship, speaking truth, even to power, is imperative.” Oved op-ed in Sacramento Bee

On the fast track: UOP commencement features first SECA grad – While many teenagers are gearing up soon to finish high school and launch into the adventures of college, 19-year-old AnaMiguel Rodriguez instead will receive her diploma on Saturday from the University of the Pacific. She will be the first student from the Stockton Early College Academy to earn her bachelor’s degree, and she’s doing it in just the fashion envisioned by the college: fast. Stockton Record article

David Gordon and Michelle Herczog: Civics lessons are on the upswing in California schools – Gordon, the Sacramento County Superintendent of Schools, and Herczog, president of the National Council for the Social Studies, write, “In California we are seeing a civics education movement gain momentum. When state Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye established the Power of Democracy Steering Committee two years ago and called upon concerned educators and leaders in law and business to get involved, we didn’t have a road map, just a common desire to get civics back on course.” Gordon/Herczog op-ed in Sacramento Bee

Manteca trustees accused of fraud appear in court – The two Manteca Unified School Board trustees accused of using false addresses to get elected appeared in court Thursday for the first time on felony fraud charges. Stockton Record article



California power supplies adequate as summer heat nears — With the hot days of summer approaching, state analysts estimated Thursday that California has sufficient power supplies to keep the air conditioners running and the lights on. AP article 

Judge says pipeline restraining order is beyond his jurisdiction — A Fresno County judge refused to intervene Thursday in a legal fight over testing of the damaged pipeline from last month’s natural gas explosion at the Fresno Sheriff’s Foundation shooting range. Judge Mark Snauffer said a restraining order was beyond the jurisdiction of a superior court judge, but “I certainly understand the reasons why the plaintiffs might be seeking it.” Fresno Bee article

Oil companies to pay California $11.5 million for improper use of gas storage tanks — State Attorney General Kamala Harris on Thursday announced an $11.5 million settlement with oil giants Phillips 66 and ConocoPhillips over alleged violations of state laws on proper use of underground gasoline storage tanks. Sacramento Bee article


Health/Human Services 

New legislation would allocate $1 million for valley fever research – The bill introduced by State Senator Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, would allocate $1 million to fund research into a valley fever vaccine. Valley fever- also known as coccidioidomycosis- cases have increased dramatically over the last decade, including in the Central Valley. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says nearly 9,500 cases were reported nationwide in 2013. KVPR report 

Health disparities, assimilation threaten ‘Latino Paradox’ – An emerging body of research suggests that as Mexican immigration slows and generations of Latinos assimilate, the life span advantage will fade. Initiatives are underway in the Central Valley and beyond to figure out how to preserve it. Sacramento Bee article

California Senate votes to expand powers of nurse practitioners – Addressing a doctor shortage that is especially dire in rural parts of California, the state Senate voted Thursday to let nurse practitioners do much more for patients, including diagnosing and ordering treatment and prescribing drugs, without supervision by a physician. LA Times article 

State expands dental coverage for poor – but getting treatment is another matter — Denti-Cal, the state’s program of dental care for low-income Californians, including 5 million children, is in disarray. At a time when millions more have been added into coverage, it’s becoming harder to find dental care. The CDA Foundation estimates that 10 million Californians face barriers to dental care. KQED report

Study points to years-long immune system woes from measles – Scientists have known for decades that having measles suppresses kids’ immune systems for several weeks or months, leaving them ill-equipped to fight off pneumonia, bronchitis, diarrheal diseases and other infections. Now a team of researchers has suggested that the measles virus may also confer a longer-lasting sort of “immune-amnesia” that makes it harder for people to stave off other illnesses for two years or more. LA Times article

Nearly 1 in 4 Californians hit by surprise medical bills – Over the past two years almost one in four Californians with private health insurance received a surprise medical bill — a bill where the insurer paid less than expected — according to a survey from the Consumer Reports National Research Center. KQED report

California Supreme Court revives generic Cipro lawsuit – The California Supreme Court on Thursday revived a class-action lawsuit that accuses German pharmaceutical giant Bayer of paying another drug company to delay introducing a generic version of a Bayer antibiotic.  LA Times article; AP article

Sutter’s mobile health clinic to provide care services to uninsured – Uninsured residents in Merced County soon will have a new option when seeking medical services. Sutter Health, the parent company of Memorial Hospital Los Banos and Memorial Medical Center in Modesto, will roll out a mobile health clinic come summer. Merced Sun-Star article

New dental clinic opens in Hilmar — Livingston Community Health has opened its first dental clinic in Hilmar, expanding access to dental care in the area.  Merced Sun-Star article

Medical center to close, re-open in August — St. Joseph’s Medical Center will close its Immediate Care clinic at 1801 E. March Lane in north Stockton in several months, but it will reopen as an expanded health clinic operated by Community Medical Centers on or about Aug. 1, the two organizations said in a joint statement Wednesday. Stockton Record article


Land Use/Housing

Fresno Bee: New Fresno zoning rules are long overdue — By any measure, new zoning for our city is long past due. Fresno Bee editorial

Stanislaus County planners approve permit for metal recycler in south Modesto — The Stanislaus County Planning Commission approved a use permit Thursday for a south Modesto recycling business that previously generated numerous complaints from neighbors. Modesto Bee article



Bay Bridge news gets worse: Tower rod fails key test  — One of the steel rods anchoring the tower of the new Bay Bridge eastern span has failed a key integrity test, suggesting it became corroded and broke during years when it was soaking in water, The Chronicle has learned.  San Francisco Chronicle article

Bicycle enthusiasts promote bike commutes in Merced — A chilly Thursday morning didn’t deter cyclists from pedaling their way to work on Bike to Work or School Day, which is part of National Bike Month efforts in Merced. Merced Sun-Star article


Other areas

Modesto looks to turn red-light cameras back on – Drivers running red lights at some of Modesto’s major intersections may soon want to say “Cheese!” The city is considering turning its red-light cameras back on after turning them off a year ago as the city and camera company negotiated a new contract at a lower cost to the city. Modesto Bee article

Limo driver files suit against Stockton mayor, 4 others – The limousine driver who chauffeured Mayor Anthony Silva’s ill-fated December ride has filed a lawsuit against Stockton’s top elected official and four other people. Stockton Record article

Interactive map: Best Stanislaus County area to raise a family – So, what zip code in Stanislaus County offers the best place to raise a family? According to recent data released by FindTheHome, east Modesto’s 95355 is king. Nearby 95356 finished second. What were some of the key factors that went into creating a “Family Score”? Modesto Bee article

Lemoore cuts July 4 event – Amid growing competition for Fourth of July festivities, the Lemoore City Council voted Tuesday to cancel its annual celebration. Parks and Recreation Director Joe Simonson said the event requires several days of work and thousands of dollars of staff time. Dwindling attendance makes it hard to justify the cost. Hanford Sentinel article

American Red Cross Central Valley names Barry Falke executive director – Barry Falke is the new executive director of the American Red Cross Central Valley. Falke was the director of corporate giving and mission-driven business at the United Cerebral Palsy of Central California since October 2012. He is also the former executive director of Rotary Storyland and Playland in Fresno’s Roeding Park. Fresno Bee article 

Brik McDill: Take a moment to applaud all that’s good in Baltimore — What can we learn from their example? That in the midst of chaos cooler heads can prevail and break the cycle of violence. We need to notice something else: in terms of raw numbers, those resorting to violence were vastly outnumbered by those of the same ethnicity actively taking their stand against it.  McDill column in Bakersfield Californian 

LA Times parent to buy San Diego paper, expanding reach in Southern California — The parent company of the Los Angeles Times has agreed to buy the U-T San Diego, uniting the newspapers of California’s two largest cities under common ownership. LA Times article



Valley Editorial Roundup

Fresno Bee – California lawmakers shouldn’t duck open records;  New Fresno zoning rules are long overdue.

Sacramento Bee – We’re awaiting inspiration in the 2016 presidential campaign; Despite being the birthplace of the personal computer industry and home to the Internet’s most successful companies, California government has never been on very good terms with the Web.

Stockton Record – It’s time for Californians to really — we mean really — get serious about the drought and the need to conserve water. And we encourage our communities to impose penalties where needed to make sure “mandatory” restrictions don’t morph back into “voluntary.”