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
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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Government & Politics
10:01 am
Tue August 14, 2012

Legislature Approves Bill Requiring Court Order to Shut Down Cell Phone Service

The California Senate debates the cell phone bill on Monday.
Ben Adley Capital Public Radio

The California legislature has passed a bill that would ban interruptions to cell phone or wireless service without a court order. The measure comes in response to a controversy last year involving transit officials in San Francisco.

Last year, protesters at a Bay Area Rapid Transit subway station in downtown San Francisco discovered they suddenly didn’t have any cell phone service. BART officials concerned about the protest had cut it off. That move sparked wider protests – and it also prompted a bill from Democratic State Senator Alex Padilla.

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Education
6:13 pm
Mon August 13, 2012

Bill to Fund Middle Class Scholarships Passes California Assembly

A California bill that would fund a middle class college scholarship program has squeaked by the Assembly… getting the two-thirds vote it needs to move to the Senate.

The measure is authored by Assembly Speaker John Perez. It would end a tax break in California law, which allows out-of-state corporations to pay less in taxes than businesses based in California.

The bill required Republican support in order to pass, but Assembly member Brian Jones made it clear that would not come from him.

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In Sacramento
6:05 pm
Mon August 13, 2012

California Revenues Fall $475 Million Short

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

California State Controller John Chiang released his monthly revenue report today. Revenues fell way below projections for July, but state finance officials say it’s not so bad.

The controller says July revenues were $475 million short. The State ended the last fiscal year with a cash deficit of $9.6 billion. As of July 31, that cash deficit totaled $18 billion, and is being covered with temporary loans from special funds. State Controller John Chiang called the collections “disappointing.” Republican Senator Tom Harman says he’s concerned the state will run out of cash soon.

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Science
5:28 pm
Mon August 13, 2012

Bakersfield Shines In Shark Week Spotlight

The Discovery Channel's Sharkzilla, a 58 foot model of the Megalodon found at Bakersfield's Shark Tooth Hill sits on the beach at Ventura, CA.
Koral Hancharick Buena Vista Museum of Natural History

Bakersfield's Shark Tooth Hill is known by paleontologists worldwide for its impressive collection of fossilized remains from around 13 million years ago. Earlier this year, one particular fossil, a tooth from a pre-historic shark known as the Megalodon, captured the attention of the producers of the Discovery Channel's Shark Week.

Koral Hancharick of Bakersfield's Buena Vista Museum of Natural History says that the ancient creature would make today's great white shark look quite small in comparison. 

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Government & Politics
10:45 am
Mon August 13, 2012

Judge Rules In Favor of Current Death Penalty Ballot Language

California voters won’t see much change in the language of Proposition 34. A judge sided with those who want to repeal the death penalty that the November ballot language is not misleading.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy Frawley upheld his previous decisions on the death penalty ballot measure. He ruled that the ballot’s title and summary written by the state’s attorney general is not misleading. But he did order one slight change in the ballot’s arguments about savings that would result from eliminating the death penalty.

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Food
9:53 am
Mon August 13, 2012

GMO Food Labeling Initiative Could Affect Natural Foods Too

California’s Proposition 37 would require foods containing genetically modified ingredients to be labeled. But a part of the initiative regarding what foods can be labeled "natural" has sparked controversy.

The fuss is over the language that supporters say aims to ban genetically engineered foods from being labeled "natural."

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