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Valley Edition
7:21 pm
Mon August 20, 2012

On Valley Edition: HUD Secretary Donovan & Jim Costa; Sikh Community; New Horizons

Credit Charmion N. Kinder / HUD

On this week's Valley Edition, we talk with U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan and Congressman Jim Costa about the nation's on-going housing crisis, and possible solutions. Donovan is visiting Fresno to talk about the Obama administration's Home Affordable Refinancing Program (HARP) and another set of proposals from the President involving housing issues.

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Education
6:57 pm
Mon August 20, 2012

Dinuba Unified, ACLU Settle Suit

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Dinuba Unified School District have settled a lawsuit over a controversial education program for English language learners.

The suit alleged that the district’s Second Language Acquisition Development Instruction program led to some first and second-grade students falling behind their peers.

The program emphasized grammar, spelling and sentence structure. Critics said the program didn’t expose students to literature and vocabulary.

Health
6:30 pm
Mon August 20, 2012

California Voters' 'Strong Support' for Federal Health Law Grows, Field Poll Suggests

California health leaders say they’re ‘heartened’ with a new Field Poll that suggests state voter support for the federal health law is getting stronger.

More than half of California voters polled said they support the health overhaul. More showed ‘strong support’ for the law than in the past two years. Thirty-seven percent of Californians oppose the law.

California Health and Human Services Secretary Diana Dooley says she was struck by the partisan nature of the findings.

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Government & Politics
6:21 pm
Mon August 20, 2012

Cal Fire Burning Through Its Budget

A fire burns in the Sierra - file photo
Credit Sierra National Forest

Fire season in California is about half over, but the state has already spent more than two-thirds of its $93 million firefighting budget.

H.D. Palmer is with the California Department of Finance. He says the state is prepared to pay, whatever the cost.

“If we do spend more for fire suppression than is in the budget, that doesn’t mean that the tankers don’t fly, that doesn’t mean the hand crews aren’t out there, that doesn’t mean the trucks don’t show up, we will have emergency appropriation authority to do that.”

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Government & Politics
6:10 pm
Mon August 20, 2012

Business and Labor Groups Aim to Change California's Environmental Law

With just two weeks left in the legislative session, some business and labor groups are pushing to change California's complex environmental review process for building and construction projects.

Jim Earp is with a coalition of construction unions. He says the law gets abused by being used to stall new development.

“It's not always just about how many end up in lawsuits, its, and this is particularly true in public infrastructure projects, how much the delay adds to the cost of that project.”

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Government & Politics
1:10 pm
Mon August 20, 2012

Fresno's Credit Rating Takes Another Hit

Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The City of Fresno's precarious financial position is leading to more repercussions in the investment community. On Friday, the firm Standard & Poor's downgraded the city's credit rating from "A" to "BBB." Last month, the two other major credit ratings agencies, Fitch and Moody's issued similar downgrades.

The rating of "BBB" is Standard & Poor's next to lowest "investment grade" rating. The firm also gave Fresno's  financial outlook a "negative" rating, meaning future downgrades are possible. 

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Government & Politics
4:16 pm
Fri August 17, 2012

Moody's: More California Cities Could Declare Bankruptcy

Joe Moore Valley Public Radio

More California cities may file for bankruptcy and default on bonds in the coming months, according to a report released today by a major credit rating agency.

In a report titled “Why Some California Cities Are Choosing Bankruptcy” Moody’s Investors Service warned that the risk of more municipal bankruptcies in the state has gone up.

So far this year, three California cities have filed for bankruptcy, Stockton, San Bernadino and Mammoth Lakes.

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Health
2:13 pm
Fri August 17, 2012

Medicare Funding Cuts Would Hit Fresno, Rural Hospitals Hardest

CHCF Center for Health Reporting

Already reeling from big cutbacks in Medicare funding, hospitals in the Fresno area would lose another 5.4 percent of their federal reimbursement under a new analysis ordered by Congress.

Rural areas of California would be hit hardest under the Institute of Medicine study, which would pare Medicare payments to the state’s hospitals by an average 3-4 percent.

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Education
12:16 pm
Fri August 17, 2012

Fresno State President John Welty to Retire Next Summer

Fresno State President Dr. John Welty announced today that he plans to retire at the end of the academic year
California State University Fresno

Fresno State President Dr. John Welty announced his retirement today before an assembly of university faculty and staff. His retirement will take effect in summer of 2013, after the conclusion of the current academic year. He will turn 68 later this month.

Welty began his term as university president in 1991, and oversaw a period marked by both growth and controversy. Welty led the effort to build the Save Mart Center, the new addition to the Henry Madden Library and several other major campus buildings.

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Education
10:40 am
Fri August 17, 2012

California Launches New Grade Level "Transitional Kindergarten"

California now has a new school grade level called “transitional kindergarten”. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the goal is to make sure the youngest children are prepared to enter school.

More than 800 California school districts are offering transitional kindergarten for the first time. The program offers age appropriate curriculum for children who don’t meet the age requirements to attend traditional kindergarten. Senator Joe Simitian wrote the law creating the grade level. He says beginning school at an older age improves a child’s social and academic development.

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Government & Politics
5:07 pm
Thu August 16, 2012

New Poll Shows Munger's Tax Initiative Gaining Ground

A new poll shows more Californians support tax measures on November’s statewide ballot. The poll by the California Business Roundtable and Pepperdine University finds wealthy education advocate Molly Munger’s tax initiative is gaining ground. 45 percent of voters approve of Proposition 38. That’s up from 35 percent in July.

Poll Research Director Chris Condon says the increase might be attributed to the voter’s looking only at the ballot’s label rather than the ballot’s title and summary which were used in the first poll.

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Government & Politics
5:00 pm
Thu August 16, 2012

Juveniles Could Get Shot at Parole After Key Legislative Vote

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

A controversial bill that’s been stuck for more than a year has squeaked out of the California Assembly. The measure would give juveniles sentenced to life without parole the chance to request a parole hearing.

Six Democrats joined every Republican in opposing the bill, including GOP Assemblyman Donald Wagner. “This is breaking faith with every relative of a murdered victim who was told, don’t worry, the killer will never see the light of day again.

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Health
4:10 pm
Thu August 16, 2012

Hantavirus Sickens 2, Kills 1 in Yosemite

Joe Moore Valley Public Radio

One California resident is dead and another is ill today after contracting a rare disease spread by deer mice while vacationing at Yosemite National Park. Officials with the State Department of Public Health announced today that they believe the individuals contracted the disease while staying at Yosemite's Curry Village.

Hantavirus is rare in the state, but the disease is often deadly. Since 1993 there have been 60 cases of the disease in California, and about one third of those cases have been fatal.

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Health
11:25 am
Thu August 16, 2012

California Lawmakers, Nurses Take a Hard Look at Charity Care at Non-Profit Hospitals

California lawmakers and nurses are taking a hard look at charitable health care provided by hospitals with non-profit tax status.

Different hospitals have different practices when it comes to care for those who have trouble paying. For example, a patient may get free care in one hospital, but be charged at another.

At least, that’s what a recent report from the California State Auditor suggests.

Democratic State Senator Ellen Corbett chaired a committee this week that is looking into creating standards for the tax exempt status.

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Government & Politics
11:07 am
Thu August 16, 2012

California Governor Kicks Off Campaign to Raise Taxes

Amy Quinton Capital Public Radio

Governor Jerry Brown says Californians have two choices; vote yes on Proposition 30 in November, or see schools and higher education lose billions of dollars. The Governor kicked off the campaign for his tax initiative in front of a Sacramento high school.

Governor Brown says his tax initiative is needed to stave off deep budget cuts, which could include shortening the school year by three weeks. The November ballot measure would increase sales taxes by a quarter cent for four years and increase taxes for seven years on those who make more than $250,000 dollars annually.

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Environment
4:08 pm
Wed August 15, 2012

Capitol Rally For Valley Air Tackles Fracking, CEQA Reforms

Around 40 environmental and public health activists from the San Joaquin Valley staged a rally today at the state capitol, pushing for a wide range of regulatory and legislative actions that they claim will improve air quality in the San Joaquin Valley.

The Central Valley Air Quality Coalition traveled to Sacramento to gather public support and to meet with legislators on a number of environmental issues. The group is asking the legislature to fund more air quality monitors in the Valley and in the Sierra, as well as to restore a monitoring site in Arvin that had been moved.

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Health
10:21 am
Wed August 15, 2012

California Bill Would Create New Low Income Health Program

A bill before California lawmakers this week would create a new publicly-funded health plan for low-income residents. Creating a ‘basic health program’ is a state option under the federal health law. It would cover some of the people otherwise eligible for California’s health benefit exchange.

Ken Jacobs of the UC Berkeley Labor Center did an analysis of the plan. He says the program would be more affordable than the health exchange, which could result in more people covered overall. 

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Business & Economy
9:43 am
Wed August 15, 2012

California Lumber Sales Creep Up In Recent Years

file photo
Licensed using Creative Commons from Flickr user CHRISTOPHER MACSURAK http://www.flickr.com/photos/macsurak/6195650749/

Lumber sales are up slightly in California, after hitting a record low in 2009. The 2008 collapse of the housing market devastated California's already faltering lumber industry. The housing market has been slow to recover, but new home construction has risen in the last year.

David Bischel of the California Forestry Association says that's translated into a slight uptick in lumber production. "There's been an increase in sales because there's been a small increase in housing production, our markets are very closely tied to housing markets."

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Environment
4:09 pm
Tue August 14, 2012

Environmental Groups File Suit Over Water Contamination

A map shows water wells in the state that indicated the presence of chromium 6, from 2000-2012.
State Water Resources Control Board

Two major environmental groups have filed suit against the California State Department of Public Health for what they call a failure by the state to set rules for the safe amount of a toxic chemical in drinking water. Hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium-6, gained widespread attention as the chemical that sickened residents in the film Erin Brockovich. 

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Politics
11:41 am
Tue August 14, 2012

Merced's Dennis Cardoza Resigns From Congress

Dennis Cardoza (D - Merced) represents California's 18th Congressional District

Merced Democratic Congressman Dennis Cardoza announced his retirement today, effective Wednesday at midnight. Cardoza told the press that "sensitive family needs" prompted his resignation. Last October, he announced that he did not plan on seeking re-election.  His seat in California's 18th Congressional district includes Merced, as well as portions of Modesto,  Stockton, Madera and Fresno.

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