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. 

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Government & Politics
8:29 am
Wed July 31, 2013

Advocates for Hunger Striking Prisoners Petition Governor Jerry Brown

Advocates for prisoners on a hunger strike to protest conditions in California’s gang segregation unit known as the SHU are taking their grievances directly to Governor Jerry Brown.
Credit Max Pringle / Capital Public Radio

Supporters of California prisoners on a weeks-long hunger strike against the prison system’s gang isolation program are urging Governor Jerry Brown to end practices they say are inhumane. Max Pringle reports from Sacramento.

Dozens of family members and supporters of the hunger strikers delivered more than 60,000 signatures to the Capitol. They’re calling for a halt to harsh conditions in the Security Housing Units, or SHU’s. Ronald Ahnen is a Politics Professor at St. Mary’s and member of California Prison Focus. 

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Health Care Reform
11:26 am
Tue July 30, 2013

What Does Obamacare Mean For You? We 'Ask Emily'

Emily Bazar

What does Obamacare mean for you? With the expansion of coverage just months away, we asked Emily Bazar,  senior writer with the California HealthCare Foundation’s Center for Health Reporting at the Annenberg School For Communication and Journalism at USC. She's the author of a regular column called "Ask Emily" which aims to answer questions about the complex and sometimes confusing law, also known as the Affordable Care Act. She joined us on Valley Edition to talk about issues like:

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Environment
10:41 am
Tue July 30, 2013

Aspen Fire Grows to Over 16,000 Acres Near Huntington Lake

U.S. Forest Service fire behavior analyst John Smith captured this image of the Aspen Fire on Sunday morning.
Credit John Smith / Sierra National Forest Official Twitter @Sierra_NF

Update: 9:00 a.m. 8/1/13 - The Aspen Fire has now grown to 16,204 acres and is 40 percent contained.

Update: 9:00 a.m. 7/31/13 - Fire officials say the Aspen Fire has now consumed 14,332 acres and is 35 percent contained.

Update: 5:30 p.m. 7/30/13 - Officials with the Valley Air District have issued a "health cautionary statement" for residents in all valley counties due to smoke from the Aspen Fire.  From a press release issued by the district:

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Ask Emily
6:12 am
Tue July 30, 2013

Help! What Can Obamacare Do For Me Now?

Emily Bazar, CHCF Center for Health Reporting

 Another in a series of Q&A columns answering consumers’ questions about the Affordable Care Act.

Q: I am a married, 62-year-old female unable to obtain health insurance. I am retired and financially comfortable and in general good health. My husband is on Medicare/Anthem Blue Cross supplemental, so he is taken care of.

Who can I contact by phone to walk me through the process correctly? I have had several insurance salesmen contact me, and they each tell me something different.

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Education
6:54 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

New School Funding Formula Mandates Parental Involvement

file photo
Credit Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California’s new education funding formula sends more dollars to disadvantaged students – with new strings attached.  School districts will have to show how they’ll spend the money to improve student achievement – and how they’ll measure success.  And as KPCC’s Julie Small reports, they’ll have to hear from one important group before they adopt their plans.

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Agriculture
6:49 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

Farm Worker Shortage Hits California Ag Industry

file photo
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

For the second year in a row, California farmers are complaining of a worker shortage.  Ben Adler reports from Sacramento on how the state’s $43.5  billion agriculture industry is feeling the squeeze – and how consumers might, too.

Last year, nearly two-thirds of farmers in a California Farm Bureau Federation survey said they didn’t have enough workers to pick their crops.  This year, says the Farm Bureau’s Brian Little, it’s a problem again.  For farmers, that means…

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Government & Politics
6:42 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

CEQA Overhaul Supporters Not Happy with Current Proposal

As negotiations over a potential overhaul of California’s landmark environmental law enter their final weeks, supporters of rewriting the California Environmental Quality Act say the current proposal falls short of reform.  Ben Adler has more from Sacramento.

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Government & Politics
1:28 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

Safety Rules for Limos May Be Tightened

A fatal limo fire in Northern California has brought about new state legislation aimed at improving limousine safety.

The fire occurred last May. It claimed the lives of five women heading to a bridal shower. The women could not escape because the limo did not have emergency exits.

Under one bill all limos would be required to have exit features such as rear doors and pop-out windows. A separate bill would require limos to carry fire extinguishers in both the passenger and driver areas.

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Transportation
12:53 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

Law Would Give Bikes a Buffer Zone

file photo
Credit Flickr user alisdair / Creative Commons License / Flickr.com

For a third time a California lawmaker has proposed legislation that would require cars to maintain a distance of at least three feet when passing a bicycle. The previous two bills were vetoed by Governor Jerry Brown. Katie Orr reports from Sacramento on why this time might be different.

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Transportation
5:47 pm
Sun July 28, 2013

California Prepares for the Future of Driverless Cars

Credit Flickr user ScottSchrantz / Creative Commons License / Flickr.com

What once sounded like the stuff of science fiction is now reality on the drawing board. Rapid advancements are being made in the field of driverless cars. And as Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, California is working to get out ahead of the curve. 

At a Ford Dealership in Northern Sacramento, Fleet Sales Manager Obeth Carlos Davila drives a new Ford Explorer off the lot. It’s this year’s version of the car of the future.

Davila takes his foot of the gas and his hands off the wheel and watches the car steer itself into a parallel parking space.

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Immigration
4:35 pm
Fri July 26, 2013

Legislature Considering Bill to Give U.S. Born Kids of Deported Immigrants In-State Tuition Right

Credit Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

The California legislature is considering a bill that would allow U.S.-born children now living abroad with their deported immigrant families to pay in-state tuition to attend a public California college or university. Max Pringle reports from Sacramento.

State senator Lou Correa introduced the bill. He says the children of undocumented immigrants are deported through no fault of their own but they still retain the rights of US citizens.

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Just One Breath
6:41 pm
Wed July 24, 2013

Congressional Task Force to Aid Valley Fever Fight

Credit Designed by ReportingonHealth.org graphic artist, Claudia Delgado

Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy made another move in his crusade against valley fever Wednesday, announcing the new “Congressional Valley Fever Task Force.”

The panel is comprised of 11 Republicans and three Democrats from California, Arizona and Texas. McCarthy said the group grew out of meetings he’s had throughout the year with Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., who will co-chair the task force.

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Health
6:22 pm
Wed July 24, 2013

Employer Mandate Delay Means Working Californians Will Find Own Health Care

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones (file photo)
Credit California Department of Insurance

California’s Insurance Commissioner says the Obama administration’s decision to delay the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act means more people will have to buy their own health insurance in a few months. Health Care Reporter Pauline Bartolone has more from Sacramento.

The Department of Insurance says the vast majority of California’s large companies already offer their employees health coverage. But about one and a half million Californians are in companies with 50 or more workers, and no insurance options.  

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Government & Politics
11:52 am
Wed July 24, 2013

Governor Brown Has Good Support for Reelection Bid

Credit Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Governor Jerry Brown hasn’t officially announced if he’s running for reelection. But a newly released poll shows he’s got support should he choose to.

The Field Poll shows Brown has a 51 percent job approval rating among registered voters in California. But that’s actually a six point drop from last February. Still, 68 percent of rank and file Democrats support Brown’s job performance.

43 percent of registered voters would support his reelection bid if he decides to run.

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Health
7:23 pm
Tue July 23, 2013

Why Does the Central Valley Have A Big Mental Health Problem?

According to a new study of mental health throughout the state, the valley has the highest mental illness rate in California. It also is the region with the fewest mental health professionals.

Statewide around 1 in 20 adults suffer from a serious mental illness. Valley counties score even higher. While 5.1 percent of Fresno adults have a serious mental illness, and 5.7 percent of Kern County residents, that number rises to 6.9 percent in Kings County and 7 percent in Madera County.

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Government & Politics
5:40 pm
Tue July 23, 2013

State Attempts to Track Effect of Realignment

A state board agreed this week to partner with the Public Policy Institute of California to examine the effects of a change to the state’s criminal justice policy called realignment.

California’s two-year old law downgraded certain crimes to jail-only offenses, diverting tens of thousands of lower-level felons from serving time in state prisons. It also put counties in charge of supervising lower level felons once they’re released from prison and parole violators.

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Government & Politics
5:35 pm
Tue July 23, 2013

Today's Special Election to Have Statewide Implications

Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Today's special election in Senate District 16 is expected to have low turnout.  But as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, its results could shape state government for the rest of the decade.

California Democrats loved last November’s legislative results.  Paul Mitchell is a Sacramento-based political data and redistricting expert.

“It seems as though Democrats now have obtained a two-thirds majority that should last them through the decade,” says Mitchell.

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Community
11:39 am
Tue July 23, 2013

Faith Based Group Calls For Cap On Fresno Payday Lenders

Josie De La Fuente successfully paid off a payday loan with assistance from a Fresno based financial literacy instiute at Fresno Pacific Seminary.
Ezra Romero Valley Public Radio

Josie De La Fuente and her 30-year-old son live in a small two bedroom apartment in Southeast Fresno.

Just over a year ago, she joined the ranks of the thousands who turn to short term high interest loans to make ends meet.

She says taking out payday loan ensnared her.

“Imagine me getting a payday loan,” De La Fuente says. “Paying a 300 dollar loan and with all the bills that I have. You know the car payment, the apartment the rent and all that stuff. It’s not gonna help me and I’m not gonna have any money left with all of that.”

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Government & Politics
5:16 pm
Fri July 19, 2013

GOP Governor's Race? What GOP Governor's Race?

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

It’s less than a year until the first votes will be cast in the 2014 California governor’s race, but you wouldn’t know it from watching the campaign.  Ben Adler reports from Sacramento on why the Republican field is shaping up so slowly to challenge Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.

Here’s how the race looks right now:

There’s Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a tea party hero who announced his exploratory campaign on the conservative website Politichicks.tv

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Government & Politics
6:11 pm
Wed July 17, 2013

State to Lose Federal Jobless Benefits Next Month

Credit Valley Public Radio

California’s Employment Development Department says that come mid-August, an improving economy is expected to cost thousands of jobless workers the last 10 weeks of their federal unemployment benefits. Max Pringle reports from Sacramento.

California’s economic rebound means the federal government may soon cut-off assistance to the state’s long-term unemployed.

“We’re now nearing that point where we will no longer qualify for Tier 4 federal extension benefits," says  Loree Levy with the state’s Employment Development Department.

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