Valley Public Radio - Live Audio

Valley Public Radio News

Hear local reports on the economy, government, education, health and the environment on Valley Public Radio during All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Valley Edition. 

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.

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. 

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.

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.”

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.

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. 

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.

Tentative Contract Reached Between CSU And Faculty

Jul 31, 2012

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.”

California's Budget On Hook For Wildfires

Jul 31, 2012

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.

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.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The US Department of Justice announced this morning that it has reached an agreement with Merced County that will let election officials there avoid the process of having to clear many voting decisions with the federal government.

Audit of State's Hidden Surplus Money Due Next Week

Jul 27, 2012
Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

We should learn next week whether there’s any more hidden surplus money in California state special funds. The state's Finance Department plans to release its audit of those accounts after $54 million dollars in surplus money was found in two parks funds.

California High Speed Rail Authority

A new study suggests that the proposed high speed rail project could have big environmental benefits for California.

The study, released by UC Berkeley, compared the future sustainability of high speed rail with plane and car travel. It found a mature high speed rail system would use less energy and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

Researchers accounted for more fuel efficient cars and planes in the future. And they looked at different levels of ridership when calculating greenhouse gas emissions.

Governor Jerry Brown and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced plans today to make big changes to the state’s water supply system - and the plan is already being met with both support and criticism from up and down the state.

California Governor Downplays Parks Scandal

Jul 25, 2012

California Governor Jerry Brown is downplaying the state parks scandal in his first public statement on the issue.

Last week, the Brown administration revealed that the Parks department had failed to report 54 million dollars in two funds for the last 12 years. State Parks Director Ruth Coleman resigned as a result.

But the governor says it’s better to find money than to discover money missing.

California Health Leaders Call for "Culture of Coverage"

Jul 25, 2012

Key players in implementing the federal health overhaul in California say the public should be part of building a ‘culture of coverage.’

Kim Belshe is on the board of the California Health Benefit Exchange, an online marketplace where people will soon be able to buy coverage. She says in order for the federal health law to serve its purpose, schools, labor, faith and community organizations need to be on board.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Randy Bolt has a passion for rocks. Well, not just rocks, but gems and minerals too. He's a historic guide at California's Mining and Mineral Museum in Mariposa. 

He can tell you about the state's official gemstone, "which most people have never even heard of, which is actually one of the rarest  gems in the world, it's called Benitoite, named after San Benito Creek."

Or he can tell you about the history of the world-famous nugget from the California Gold Rush that is nearly the size of a basketball.

Children's Hospital Gets New CEO

Jul 20, 2012

The Children's Hospital Central California Board of Trustees have named Todd Suntrapak as the hospital's new President and CEO.

The Board of Trustees said they conducted a national search for the position, and decided on Suntrapak based on his contributions to the hospital's expansion as a regional referral center.

Suntrapak has worked as the hospital's Chief Operating Officer since 2005, during which time trustees say he provided leadership in clinal operations and business development.

Suntrapak will assume the position, effective immediately.

-----

Many of California’s state parks were saved from closing this year thanks to operating agreements with nonprofits and private organizations.  Others are on the rocks – or narrowly avoided closure, like Benicia State Recreation Area, which we heard about yesterday.  But one state park in Nevada County offers quite a different story. As Amy Quinton reports in the second of our two-part series, the entire community pulled together to save South Yuba River State Park.

Governor Brown Signs High Speed Rail Funding Bill

Jul 19, 2012
Amy Quinton / Capitol Public Radio

California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill into law on Wednesday that allows initial construction of a high speed train.

Governor Brown emphasized that California isn’t just funding a bullet train, but making an investment in the state’s economic future. The bill authorizes the state to begin selling $2.6 billion in voter approved bonds.

He celebrated the signing in both Los Angeles and San Francisco. Both cities will serve as major hubs for the eventual 130 miles of track through the Central Valley. But the Governor chose not to sign it there.

Pages