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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Health Care Reform
5:50 pm
Tue February 19, 2013

Legislative Analyst Recommends State-Based Medi-Cal Expansion

California's non-partisan Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor. (file photo)
Credit Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

A non-partisan legislative report suggests expanding California’s Medicaid program under the federal health law would make good sense in terms of finance and policy. 

The Legislative Analyst’s Office says the state should move ahead with the Medi-Cal expansion that Governor Jerry Brown recently laid out in his budget. 

It says not only could the coverage mean better health for the newly eligible, but it says the money both the state and counties would save would far outweigh the costs in the short and long term. 

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Government & Politics
5:46 pm
Tue February 19, 2013

Bill Proposes "Zero Tolerance" Policy for Drugged Driving

State Sen. Lou Correa (D-Santa Ana) speaks at a Capitol news conference Tuesday about his bill that would create a "zero tolerance" policy for drugged driving.
Credit Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

A California lawmaker wants to create a “zero tolerance” law for driving under the influence of drugs.

Democratic State Senator Lou Correa says his bill would expand the current law against drunk driving to cover drug use as well. 

“It took us decades to pound into people that you should not drink and drive.  Then, we started talking about texting and talking on the phone and driving.  And today, this is about being drugged and driving.” 

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Government & Politics
11:38 am
Tue February 19, 2013

Visalia's Public Safety Tax Spurs Talk for Similar Proposal in Fresno

The historic Fox Theater anchors a thriving downtown district on Main Street in Visalia
Joe Moore Valley Public Radio

The hustle and bustle of downtown Visalia, a place alive with activity. Local residents point to it with pride. City Manager Steve Salomon says it has a lot to do with the community’s vision for its city.  

“The city council in this city for decades and decades has been able to have a long term view of what they thought this city should be, and done things that were not necessarily going to have an immediate result for them, but a long term result,” says Salomon.

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Agriculture
1:45 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

Honey Bee Shortage Could Sting Almond Growers

Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A honey bee shortage in California could sting almond growers this season. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, there aren’t enough bees to pollinate the crops of California’s largest export.

California gets about 75 percent of its bees from other states. But drought, malnutrition and disease killed many of the bees over the winter. The winter losses are still being counted.

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Education
6:54 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

Visalia's COS Could Lose Accreditation, Closure Possible

COS President Stan Carrizosa speaks to a campus group on Thursday in Visalia.
Credit College of the Sequoias

Visalia’s College of the Sequoias is facing the potential loss of its accreditation. The news comes after a commission from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges found that COS was in “substantial non-compliance” with the organization’s standards.  

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Health
12:16 pm
Thu February 14, 2013

Health Care Exchange Announces Benefit Plan Choices

Low-income Californians without health insurance or who aren’t eligible for Medi-Cal can now see which benefits they can expect under the federal health care overhaul- and how much their coverage will cost.

Californians eligible for federal subsidies can determine out-of-pocket costs for medications and doctor and hospital visits, as well as maximum annual costs.

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Government & Politics
6:46 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

Kern County's Anti-Sewage Sludge Measure E Blocked Again In Court

Kern County Government Center in Downtown Bakersfield
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Efforts by Kern County to stop the City of Los Angeles from spreading treated sewage waste on valley farmland have hit another obstacle  today.

On Wednesday, the 5th District Court of Appeals upheld an earlier Superior Court decision granting a preliminary injunction that prevents Measure E from taking effect.

Kern County voters approved the measure back in 2006, which would have stopped the controversial practice, but the law has been stuck in a lengthy court fight ever since.

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Government & Politics
5:55 pm
Wed February 13, 2013

Petition Campaign Successful, Fresno Trash Privatization Hits Snag

Credit City of Fresno Public Utilities

Opponents of the City of Fresno’s move to privatize residential trash pickup scored major a victory today. And according to Fresno mayor Ashley Swearengin, that means another round of layoffs for city employees could begin soon. 

The issue of privatizing Fresno’s residential trash service may soon be headed to a vote of city residents. Backers of a petition drive to stop the city from selling off the service to a private company learned today that they have gathered enough signatures to at least put a temporary halt to the effort.

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Environment
5:13 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Oil Severance Tax Proposed; Would Fund CA Parks, Higher Ed

An active oil well sits near the Stockdale Tower in Bakersfield
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

  Democratic lawmakers are calling for a new tax on oil removed from the ground in California – with the money going toward state parks and higher education.

Senator Noreen Evans is one of the bill’s co-authors.  She says the revenue would fill two of the state’s most critical funding needs.  And she says California is the only oil-producing state in the nation without an oil severance tax.

“This is not a tax on taxpayers, and studies have shown that an oil extraction tax does not contribute to the cause of gasoline at the pump.” 

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Environment
4:10 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Delta Smelt Deaths Mean Less Water for Central and Southern California

An adult delta smelt
Credit California Department of Water Resources

  Too many fish deaths in the Sacramento- San Joaquin Delta are forcing the California Department of Water Resources to reduce the amount of water pumped to the Central Valley and southern California.

The number of protected Delta Smelt killed this year is nearing the annual limit set by the Endangered Species Act. Pumping stations have killed 232 smelt. Rules allow only 305 over the entire year.

Mark Corwin with the Department says the deaths illustrate the need for a new system, one that would include $14 billion twin tunnels.

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Community
12:55 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

CartHop: Fresno's Moveable Feast

Dusty Buns, owned by Dustin and Kristen Stewart, serves fresh local fare with a twist at CartHop and their restaurant on North Van Ness Boulevard and East Weldon Avenue in Fresno.
Credit Ezra Romero / Valley Public Radio

The food truck, once known for dreaded boring prepackaged sandwiches or carne asada tacos, has taken a turn for the better. The trucks have gone gourmet.

They no longer do boring. In fact, many food trucks across the nation have created infusions of local produce with a unique and somewhat international flare.

The evolution of the roach coach hit Fresno in 2012 in the form of what locals call CartHop. The traveling band of six local gourmet food vendors meet in three locations for lunch across Fresno and plan to open the door even wider to foodies in 2013.

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Fracking
11:51 am
Tue February 12, 2013

Lawmakers To Hold Hearing on "Fracking" Regulations

file photo
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The controversial drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” will be the subject of a joint legislative hearing at the California state Capitol today.

As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, recently released fracking regulations have some lawmakers concerned.

 The Department of Conservation recently released draft regulations for energy companies that inject chemicals into the ground under pressure to release oil.

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Business & Economy
11:23 am
Tue February 12, 2013

Fresno's Twee Boutique To Close

A downtown Fresno gift store that specializes in handmade and "indie" arts and craft products is set to close.

Store owner Melanie Davis announced that she plans to shut down retail operation on the boutique's Facebook page Tuesday morning. She says the shop will stay open through the end of March:

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Environment
9:58 am
Mon February 11, 2013

Fight Over Key Environmental Law Heats Up In Sacramento

file photo
Credit Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

 What some see as California’s most important environmental law, others see as an economic impediment. The 43-year-old California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, guides almost every development project in the state.

Governor Jerry Brown and many lawmakers say it’s time to modernize it. But As Amy Quinton reports, how to do that is a question with no easy answers.

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Environment
5:32 pm
Thu February 7, 2013

Report: More than Half of Californians Get Contaminated Drinking Water

file photo
Joe Moore Valley Public Radio

More than half of California's population relies on a contaminated drinking water supply – though most communities blend or treat their water to make it safe.  Ben Adler has more from Sacramento on that finding in a new state report out this week.

The report by the State Water Resources Control Board was ordered by the state Legislature.  It says from 2002 to 2010, 680 out of 3,000 community water systems in the state relied on one or more contaminated groundwater wells.  Those contaminated wells served 21 million people.

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Development Watch
4:28 pm
Thu February 7, 2013

10-Story Office Tower Gets Initial OK For Fresno's River Park

An artist's rendering of the planned 10-story tower at Highway 41 and Friant Road
Fresno City Planning Commission

Drivers along Highway 41 may soon see a major new addition to the Fresno skyline, as the city's planning commission last night approved plans for a 10-story tower at Friant Road and Highway 41. 

The 234,000 square foot office tower from Fresno developer DeWayne Zinkin is expected to cover 12 acres, and will rise to a height of 150 feet. It is planned for a site just to the east of Highway 41, and north of Friant Road.

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Gun Control
3:57 pm
Thu February 7, 2013

Senate Dems Seek to Tighten California Gun Laws

Mayors from Los Angeles and San Francisco join Democratic State Senators to call for tighter gun and ammunition laws in California at Thursday's news conference at the State Capitol.
Capital Public Radio Network

The California State Senate’s Democratic leadership is rolling out a package of 10 measures it says will help reduce gun violence.

Lawmakers want to eliminate what they call loopholes in the state’s current laws.  For example, California currently bans the sale or manufacture of ammunition magazines with more than 10 rounds.  A bill by Senator Loni Hancock would ban the possession of them as well.

“The grandfathering-in of weapons is something that our police chiefs have told us and law enforcement has told us makes it very difficult to enforce existing law,” said Hancock.

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Government & Politics
5:57 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

Governor Brown Calls Hidden Funds at CAL FIRE 'Boring Story'

California Governor Jerry Brown
Credit Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California Governor Jerry Brown is calling news that the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection hid funds in a nonprofit account for several years a "boring story."

As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, Republicans are criticizing what they call Brown’s casual dismissal of the news.

The discovery of  $3.5 million of unreported money at CAL FIRE didn’t get much of a response from the Democratic governor.

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Government & Politics
5:25 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

Mayor Renews Call to Add Cars Back to Fresno's Fulton Mall

A computer illustration of what Fresno's Fulton Mall might look like after the re-introduction of vehicle traffic.
Credit City of Fresno

Fresno mayor Ashley Swearengin renewed her call to open the Fulton Mall to automobile traffic at today’s annual State of Downtown Breakfast.

Swearengin told the crowd of business leaders and downtown boosters that her number one job for the next four years is to rally support for her downtown plan, which includes the first major changes to Fresno’s former main street in the last five decades.

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Government & Politics
5:20 pm
Tue February 5, 2013

California High Court Weighs Cities' Rights to Ban Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

The California Supreme Court appears poised to leave intact the right of local governments to ban medical marijuana dispensaries.  Ben Adler has more on the court’s oral arguments today  in a case involving a dispensary and the city of Riverside.

Here’s the core question for the justices in this case: Do state laws that allow the use of medical marijuana trump the long-standing powers of local governments to make their own land use and zoning decisions?  Many justices appeared skeptical.  Here’s Justice Joyce Kennard pressing the attorney representing the dispensary:

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