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
9:07 am
Tue January 15, 2013

Valley Counties Move Slowly Toward Health Reform

Dr. Rogelio Fernandez of the United Health Centers clinic in Parlier performs minor surgery on Yesenia Campuzano of Reedley. (file photo)
Credit Shellie Branco / Valley Public Radio

In less than one year, the federal health care law will take effect. When that happens, an estimated 1.4 million low-income, uninsured adults in California will become eligible for Medicaid. That’s a huge number of people who will suddenly be eligible for health benefits and better access to health care.

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Agriculture
6:21 pm
Fri January 11, 2013

Possible Hard Freeze Threatens Citrus Industry, Mandarins At Risk

Citrus groves near Orange Cove will endure as many as 12 hours of below freezing temperatures tonight, according to weather forecasters. (file photo)
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Update: Saturday, 8:45 AM: Unexpected cloud cover late Friday and early Saturday kept temperatures slightly higher than forecast, enough to prevent damage to most commercially grown fruit. Lows in most places were in the upper 20's. Forecasts call for more extreme cold over the weekend.  ORIGINAL REPORT:

Valley citrus growers are in for a long night tonight, as what is expected to be the coldest evening of the year threatens to damage the region's citrus crop, with the most popular new variety, the mandarin orange,  most at risk.

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Government & Politics
10:55 am
Fri January 11, 2013

Brown Budget Proposal Marks New Era at Capitol

California Governor Jerry Brown speaks to reporters as he unveils his proposed budget.
Pauline Bartolone Capital Public Radio Network

Governor Jerry Brown’s new California budget proposal marks an end to the crippling deficits that have plagued California for years.  It’s also an attempt to make major policy changes – without big increases in spending.  But the governor’s message of fiscal restraint could find a warmer reception from Republicans than from his fellow Democrats.  Capital Public Radio's Ben Adler and Amy Quinton bring us this two-part report from Sacramento.

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Government & Politics
7:19 pm
Thu January 10, 2013

New Council Members Take Oath, Mayor Hits Back At Union Critics

New Fresno City Council member Steve Brandau was sworn in today at City Hall
Credit City of Fresno

Today was swearing-in day for a new crop of elected officials at Fresno City Hall. Two new council members, Paul Capgriolio representing District 4 and Steve Brandau representing District 2, were sworn in for the first time, as well as Lee Brand who was reelected to represent District 6.

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Government & Politics
4:52 pm
Thu January 10, 2013

California Lawmakers Respond To Budget With Some Relief

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

Most California lawmakers say they agree with Governor Jerry Brown that now is the time for fiscal discipline in light of a balanced budget.

But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, Democratic lawmakers have not ruled out restoring some cuts.

Legislative Democratic leaders expressed relief at the announcement of a balanced budget. They say the extra $2.7 billion in education funding is also a step in the right direction.

Senate Budget Chair Mark Leno says lawmakers are now in a position to talk about policy rather than cuts.

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Government & Politics
12:30 pm
Thu January 10, 2013

Governor Unveils Budget With No Deficit and Changes To Education Funding

California Governor Jerry Brown (file photo)
Credit Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California Governor Jerry Brown says the state no longer has a budget deficit. He called it a breakthough, but says the state still faces uncertainty in costs from federal health care reform.

Brown’s spending plan calls for small increases in education funding.

And he called for a new funding formula for K-through-12 schools that gives money based on a school’s percentage of low-income students and English-language learners.

“Our future depends not on across the board funding but in disproportionately funding those schools that have disproportionate challenges.”

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Breaking
10:55 am
Thu January 10, 2013

Shooting At Taft Union High School in Kern County

Taft Union High School (file photo)
Credit Kevin Krejci / Flickr / Creative Commons

Less than a month after the devastating shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the Kern County community of Taft was rocked by a school shooting of its own.

This morning, a 16-year-old student at Taft Union High School walked into his first period classroom and shot another student with a 12 gauge shotgun. The victim is in critical but stable condition, according to Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood.

“The student that is in critical condition we believe was an intended target, one intended target, of this suspect,”  Youngblood said.

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Government & Politics
4:39 pm
Wed January 9, 2013

Brown to Propose New Budget, Including Changes to Education Funding System

California Governor Jerry Brown (file photo)
Credit Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

The annual California budget cycle begins anew tomorrow as Governor Jerry Brown unveils his proposed spending plan.

As part of his budget, the governor is expected to propose major changes to the state’s education funding system. 

They include removing state spending requirements so districts have more flexibility, and introducing a weighted funding formula that gives more money to schools in poorer areas.

Republican Assemblyman Jeff Gorell  says he could support that proposal with some adjustments – such as making sure all schools get a minimum amount of money.

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Business & Economy
12:06 pm
Wed January 9, 2013

Fresno's Guarantee Real Estate Acquired By Berkshire Hathaway Company

A company controlled by billionaire investor Warren Buffett announced today it has acquired Fresno-based brokerage firm Guarantee Real Estate. The terms of the deal were not released.

Guarantee will now be a division of Minneapolis-based Home Services of America, Inc., which is affiliated with Buffet's firm Berkshire Hathaway.

Guarantee was one of Central California's largest real estate brokerage firms, with over 400 employees in 13 offices. In 2011, the company handled transactions for over 3,700 units, totaling over $600 million.

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Health Care
10:52 am
Wed January 9, 2013

Insurance Commissioner Says Anthem Rate Increase Unreasonable

Anthem Blue Cross of California is proposing an increase in health insurance rates for small employers. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the state’s Insurance Commissioner says the increase is unreasonable.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones says the rate increase proposed by Anthem Blue Cross would amount to 10.6 percent a year and ultimately affect more than a quarter of a million Californians. But Anthem’s Darrell Ng says it amounts to a 7.5 percent increase and would initially affect 52,000 members.

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Prisons
10:11 am
Wed January 9, 2013

Brown Demands Relief from Federal Court Order on Prisons

Gov. Jerry Brown announces an end to the state of emergency in California's prison system at a Capitol news conference Tuesday in Sacramento.
Credit Amy Quinton / Capital Public Radio

A defiant Governor Jerry Brown is proclaiming an end to the state of emergency in California prisons and demanding that the federal courts let the state run its own corrections system again.  But as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, there’s no guarantee the courts will do as he asks.

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Yosemite
6:06 pm
Tue January 8, 2013

Yosemite Releases Draft Merced River Plan

Yosemite Falls (File Photo)
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

It has taken more than a decade, but Yosemite National Park finally released today its draft plans to protect and restore the Merced River corridor for the next 20 years.

The plans, which include six different alternatives, are intended to preserve the river, and provide visitors with opportunities to enjoy the river, according to Kathleen Morse, chief of planning at Yosemite National Park.

“It’s a dual purpose plan: One to protect the resources, and two, to provide access to them,” Morse said.

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Community
5:53 pm
Tue January 8, 2013

Fresno to Explore Possibility of Downtown 'Public Market' in Former Gottschalks Building

The vacant, city owned portion of the former Gottschalks department store building in downtown Fresno could become the home of a new public market.
Joe Moore Valley Public Radio

A national expert on public markets toured Fresno today to explore the potential of creating a year-round indoor market for the valley’s agricultural and prepared food products. 

The bottom two floors of a downtown parking garage, once home to the Gottschalks department store, could become the home of a new indoor public market for produce, baked goods and other food items, according to officials with the city of Fresno.

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Government & Politics
9:05 am
Tue January 8, 2013

Connie Conway: California Republicans Not on the Sidelines

Connie Conway (file photo)

California Republican lawmakers now find themselves in the midst of Democratic supermajorities in both the Assembly and Senate.

But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, Republicans may look to Democratic Governor Jerry Brown for support.

With supermajorities, Democratic lawmakers have historic new powers. They could raise taxes, while Republicans sit on the sidelines.

“Well I used to be on the sidelines, I was a cheerleader,” says Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway, joking.

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Arts & Culture
2:39 pm
Mon January 7, 2013

'California's Gold' Host Huell Howser Dead At 67

Huell Howser, in a promotional image from his California's Gold tv series.

Longtime California public television host Huell Howser has died at age 67. His assistant confirmed to NPR member station KPCC that Howser died on Sunday at his home.

The host of popular programs such as "California's Gold" and "California's Golden Parks" was known for his folksy, unpretentious style, while visiting historic and scenic sites across the state.

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Government & Politics
12:11 pm
Mon January 7, 2013

California Lawmakers Return To State Capitol

Lawmakers take the oath of office at the capitol building in late 2012. (file photo)
Credit Amy Quinton

The start of the New Year brings California lawmakers back to the Capitol. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, Democratic leaders anticipate a heavy work schedule.

Reforming California’s Environmental Quality Act, restoring cuts to education, fixing the state’s ballot initiative process and campaign finance reform, those are just a few of the issues lawmakers will likely contend with this session.

Democrats return with a supermajority in both chambers, even with two Senators recently resigning to serve in Congress.

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Government & Politics
3:27 pm
Fri January 4, 2013

State Parks Investigation Shows Intentional Hiding of Funds

A sign announcing the then pending closure of the California State Mining and Mineral Museum in Mariposa.
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The California Attorney General’s office has released its investigation into the funding surplus at the state Parks Department.

As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, it shows that only part of the $54 million dollars found in two funds were intentionally hidden from the Department of Finance.

The audit shows senior management at the parks department intentionally underreported as much as 20 million dollars beginning in 1996. It found that $34 million concealed in one fund was unintentional. But it’s a different story for the State Parks and Recreation Fund.

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Sacramento
12:30 pm
Wed January 2, 2013

New Year, New Taxes Thanks to Props 30, 39

The California capitol building in Sacramento (file photo)
Credit Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

California taxes are going up in the new year – with higher sales and income tax rates … and a new requirement for out-of-state businesses to calculate their taxes the same way in-state businesses do.  

In November, voters approved two ballot measures that deal with taxes.  Proposition 30 raises the sales tax a quarter of a cent to 7.5 percent, starting in the new year 

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Government & Politics
9:48 am
Wed January 2, 2013

Progressives Want Legislative Democrats to Wield Supermajority Power

file photo
Credit Creative Commons licensed from Flickr user Glenngould / http://www.flickr.com/photos/for_tea_too/1957375742/

Now that Democrats hold a supermajority in both chambers of the California legislature, activists want them to use it to push a more progressive agenda. 

Progressives say they want lawmakers to restore cuts they say hurt the most vulnerable Californians, such as cuts to education, social services, and health care.

Joshua Pechthalt is President of the California Federation of Teachers. He says elected officials shouldn’t worry about a voter backlash similar to what happened in the 2010 elections.

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Government & Politics
9:41 am
Wed December 26, 2012

Free Cell Phone Service Coming for Poor Californians

file photo
Credit Licensed under Creative Commons from Flickr user "edans" / http://www.flickr.com/photos/edans/263107082/

As early as next year, 1.5 million Californians could be eligible for 250 free cell phone minutes, and 250 free text messages a month. Assurance Wireless, an arm of mobile giant Sprint, will provide the service through the federally-funded Lifeline program. 

That program is currently limited to land lines in California. Assurance Wireless spokesman Jack Pflanz says the addition of cell phone service has made a huge difference to people in 36 other states where it’s been adopted.

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