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Business & Economy
4:39 pm
Tue August 7, 2012

Suit Filed Against Valley Farm Labor Contractor

California Labor Commissioner Julie Su has filed a lawsuit against a Valley farm labor contractor for unpaid wages. The case filed in Fresno Superior Court on Monday alleges Javier Diaz of Diaz Contracting committed multiple violations, including failure to provide minimum wage and overtime to employees. The lawsuit seeks over $600,000 in unpaid wages, penalties and damages affecting 129 workers.

Sacramento
3:47 pm
Tue August 7, 2012

California's Senate Democratic Leader Responds to Park Scandal and Pay Raises

California’s Senate President Pro Tem is responding to criticisms of legislative pay raises and the hidden assets found at the parks department. The issues are giving ammunition to opponents of Governor Jerry Brown’s tax initiative.

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Valley Edition
12:52 pm
Tue August 7, 2012

On Valley Edition: Incarceration Rate; Bus Rapid Transit; Greek Fest

This week on Valley Edition, we learn more about a new report which shows that on average, Valley counties send more inmates to prison and jail than the rest of the state. What does this mean for county budgets as realignment is moving many of those inmates from state prisons to county jails? We also discuss the merits of public defenders in California, as Fresno County is likely to place a measure before voters this fall which could make it easier to outsource the county’s public defender jobs to private attorneys.

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Government & Politics
12:38 pm
Tue August 7, 2012

Study Highlights High Incarceration Rate in Valley Counties

A map from the California Sentencing Institute details the number of inmates counties sent to state prison in 2010
California Sentencing Institute / Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice

A new report from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice shows that Valley Counties on average send more people to jail and state prison than the rest of the state. Kings County topped the list with the state's highest per capita population in state prison, over 1,500 adults for every 100,000 people. Tulare and Kern counties weren't far behind.

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Health
11:07 am
Mon August 6, 2012

California Lawmakers Decide on Health Bills This Month

California state lawmakers return to the Capitol this week and they’ll deal with a number of health bills.

A handful of bills would incorporate provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act into California law. They deal with everything from Medicaid expansion, to setting rules governing how health premiums are set, to determining minimum benefits. Anthony Wright is from Health Access.

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Agriculture
3:31 pm
Sun August 5, 2012

California Leads Nation in Farmer's Markets

Fruit from Valley farms makes for a colorful scene at a farmer's market in downtown Fresno.
Joe Moore Valley Public Radio

The number of farmer’s markets in California has risen substantially. According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture survey, there are about 830 markets in the state. That’s up almost a hundred from last year.

Kathleen Merrigan with the USDA says the economy and the demand for fresh, healthy food have caused a 10 percent increase in markets nationwide.

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Education
4:19 pm
Fri August 3, 2012

California Bill Would Give Unemployed Teachers Benefits While Training

Out-of-work teachers in California would be able to collect unemployment benefits while training in high demand subject areas under a bill lawmakers are considering. The bill’s author says it’s designed to help the nearly 20-thousand unemployed teachers.

Democratic Senator Noreen Evans authored the bill that she says would help unemployed teachers who want to get credentialed in science, math or special education. Under current law, if out-of-work teachers want that training, they lose their benefits. Evans says that’s not fair.

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Government & Politics
4:10 pm
Fri August 3, 2012

Audit Reveals No Hidden Assets in California's Special Funds

Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

An audit of California’s 560 “special funds” finds no more hidden assets. The audit comes after $54 million in surplus parks funds were discovered in two separate special funds accounts.

The discrepancy results from the difference in data given to the state controller’s office and the finance departments. The audit showed a $415 million difference between the two departments.

But State Finance Director Ana Matosantos says most of those differences arise from different accounting methods and timing of transfers.

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Business & Economy
9:54 am
Fri August 3, 2012

California's "Buy Here Pay Here" Used Car Industry Could Face New Regulations

The controversial “Buy Here, Pay Here” used car industry would face strict new regulations under several bills moving through the California legislature.

Search “Buy Here, Pay Here” on Google and the first website that pops up is “We-Approve-Bad-Credit-dot-com.” Dealers require buyers to make each month’s loan payment in person. If they can’t, their cars are often repossessed on the spot. Democratic State Senator Ted Lieu says his bill would apply similar regulations for typical auto lenders to the Buy Here, Pay Here industry.

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Government & Politics
4:39 pm
Thu August 2, 2012

Fight Over Federal Budget Could Close Airport Towers

The control tower at Fresno Yosemite International Airport.
Joe Moore Valley Public Radio

Airports in Fresno and Bakersfield could be forced to close if lawmakers in Washington D.C. can't reach a deal on deficit reduction in the coming months, according to a new analysis released today by a Washington D.C. think tank. 

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Health
3:04 pm
Thu August 2, 2012

Health Insurance Premium Rebates Headed to Californians

Nearly two million Californians should receive a health insurance premium rebate this week. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the rebates are the result of the federal Affordable Care Act.

The federal law requires health insurers to spend at least 80 percent of their premium money on actual health costs, rather than marketing and other non-medical expenses. Insurers who don’t meet that percentage are required to issue refunds. California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones says premium rebates total about $74 million, or about $65 per family.

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Health
3:00 pm
Thu August 2, 2012

Federal Health Law Will Improve Health in Black Communities, California Leaders Say

California leaders say the federal health care overhaul will help African Americans get better access to health services. Democratic State Senator Curren Price says over the next few years, the Affordable Care Act could mean more primary and quality care for more than two million black Californians.

“It’s going to help level the playing field, and ultimately eliminate some of the nagging health disparities.”

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Business & Economy
12:31 pm
Wed August 1, 2012

Valley Business Conditions Slump For Second Straight Month

Numbers released today from Fresno State's Craig School of Business show the San Joaquin Valley's economy is slowing. The San Joaquin Valley Business Conditions Index dropped for the second straight month in July, to 51.6, down from 55.4 in June.

The numbers remain above growth neutral, meaning the economy is still expected to grow in the next three to six months, businesses aren't as optimistic about the future as they were in June. The lower July numbers reflect a drop in new export orders and business confidence.

Health Warning
9:06 pm
Tue July 31, 2012

Sewage Spill on Kings River Prompts Health Warning

Public health officials in Tulare County are urging residents to avoid the waters of the Kings River after a sewage spill Monday night in Reedley.

According to officials at around 8:00 p.m. Monday night, a problem at the City of Reedley's Wastewater Treatment Plant on Olsen Avenue resulted in a spill of 63,000 gallons of untreated sewage. At least some of the sewage flowed into the Kings River, which is immediately to the east of the plant. 

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Government & Politics
3:36 pm
Tue July 31, 2012

California Governor's Tax Initiative Campaign Raises $6 Million

California’s Proposition 30 campaign released its fundraising numbers for the first half of the year today. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the campaign for Governor Jerry Brown’s tax initiative has raised more than six million dollars so far.

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Higher Education
12:35 pm
Tue July 31, 2012

Tentative Contract Reached Between CSU And Faculty

California State University and its faculty union have reached a tentative agreement on a four-year contract.

Professors, counselors and other members of the California Faculty Association won’t be getting raises. But if the state-funded university system somehow gets an influx of cash, there’s an option to re-open salary talks. Claudia Keith is with C-S-U:

“Essentially, the tentative agreement calls for no salary increases for the first two years with the opportunities to re-open in the last two years of the contract.”

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Valley Edition
10:06 am
Tue July 31, 2012

On Valley Edition: Colleges, Students Face Challenges; Cal Opera Festival

This week on Valley Edition we look at how new regulations, budget cuts and the economy are all changing the way local colleges operate. Dr. Tony Cantu from Fresno City College joins us to talk about new policies that are intended to keep community college students on track to graduate within two years. We also talk with higher education advocate Jessie Ryan of the Campaign for College Opportunity and Joe Haydock of Institute of Technology, Clovis Campus about new federal regulations that prevent students who don't have a high school diploma or GED from obtaining financial aid.

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Government & Politics
9:44 am
Tue July 31, 2012

California's Budget On Hook For Wildfires

The wildfires blazing across California this fire season aren’t just burning through trees, grasses and homes, they’re burning through the state budget as well.  

Fifteen helicopters. Seven bulldozers. 46 fire engines. And 900 people. It took all that to fight a single California wildfire this summer – the Robbers fire in Placer County. It’s paid for with a special state emergency fund. If that runs out, says H.D. Palmer with the governor’s Department of Finance.

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Education
6:42 pm
Mon July 30, 2012

Menjares Becomes New Fresno Pacific University President

Dr. Merrill Ewert poses with Dr. Pete Menjares at an event in Omaha.
Courtesy Fresno Pacific University

Fresno Pacific University has a new leader for the first time in a decade.

Dr. Pete Menjares officially became the university's new president on Saturday at an event in Omaha.  He replaces the retiring Dr. Merrill Ewert, who led the college for the past 10 years. He is the 11th president at the private, Mennonite affiliated Fresno based university since 1944.

Menjares was hired earlier this year, and has spent the past two months in Fresno working with Ewert on the school's leadership transition.

Government & Politics
6:09 pm
Mon July 30, 2012

California Bill Would Allow More Than Two Parents Per Child

The California law that says a judge can recognize only two legal parents per child would change under a bill working its way through the legislature. The bill’s author says not every family today looks like “Ozzie and Harriet’s.”

Democratic Senator Mark Leno of San Francisco says he wrote the bill to recognize non-traditional families…where there might be biological non-custodial fathers or surrogate mothers. The bill rises from the case of a child who had two legal mothers.

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