Government & Politics

News about government and politics

High-Speed Rail CEO: No Construction Yet, But Work "Under Way"

Oct 17, 2013
California High Speed Rail Authority

California’s High-Speed Rail Authority is asking contractors that want to build the second stretch of Central Valley track to step forward.  It also says work on the project’s first phase is “under way.”  But as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, actual construction has not yet begun – despite promises that it would by now.

Do California's Security Housing Units Reduce Prison Violence?

Oct 17, 2013
Katie Orr / Capital Public Radio

California’s prison system uses Security Housing Units, or SHUs, as a way to isolate alleged gang members from the general inmate population. But gangs remain a problem in prisons and the outcry over using solitary confinement for long periods of time is growing. Now some lawmakers are asking whether the SHUs are working.

Steven Czifra spent four years locked up in a Security Housing Unit. Isolated from other inmates, alone in his cell for 22 ½ hours a day, he said there wasn’t much too do.

At Pelican Bay, A Look Inside California's Security Housing Units

Oct 16, 2013
Katie Orr / Capital Public Radio

Imagine spending 22 hours a day locked in a small, concrete room. That’s daily life for about four-thousand California prisons inmates. On a recent media tour, journalists got glimpse of that life on a visit to the Security Housing Units at Pelican Bay State Prison.

Nearly 1,200 men are housed in the complex of low, concrete buildings. To get to them you have to go pass through a series of heavy gates and doors.

US Supreme Court Rejects State's Prison Appeal

Oct 15, 2013
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Governor Jerry Brown has been turned down by the US Supreme Court once again. He won’t get a hearing on a federal order to reduce prison overcrowding in the state. Katie Orr reports from Sacramento.

The Supreme Court has declined to hear Brown’s appeal, attempting to overturn a federal court order to reduce prison overcrowding in the state. California has until the end of January to comply with the order, but could be given an extension if it develops a suitable long-term plan to reduce overcrowding.

New Poll Says Voters Support Changes to Initiative process

Oct 9, 2013
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A new report suggests that although Californians strongly support the state’s initiative process, they’d like to see changes to limit the power of special interests and increase the role of the legislature.  

The report comes from the Public Policy Institute of California.  It analyzed its polling data to determine whether several potential initiative process changes would be popular.  Turns out they are, says the PPIC’s Mark Baldassare.  For example:

Lawmakers Take Closer Look at State Prison SHUs

Oct 9, 2013
Katie Orr / Capital Public Radio

Members of the California legislature are focusing their attention on Security Housing Units within state prisons. Katie Orr has details on a hearing held today in Sacramento.

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

About a dozen West Fresno residents and advocates gathered in front of Fresno City Hall today to express their disapproval of a text amendment that would pave the way for Granville Homes to plant a 360-acre almond orchard in their neighborhood.

Among them was Venise Curry, a West Fresno resident and physician. She’s concerned the proposed operation could expose residents to dust and pesticides, and harm their air and water.

New Laws Signal Change in Attitude in California Toward Immigration

Oct 7, 2013
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The passage of some high profile immigration legislation in California appears to signal a shift in the state’s attitude on the issue, particularly with its Governor, Jerry Brown. Max Pringle reports from Sacramento.

In 2010, then-candidate Brown opposed driver licenses for undocumented immigrants. This month he signed a bill allowing licenses for undocumented immigrants. Brown says the law now reflects the outlook of the majority of Californians.

On Recall's 10-Year Anniversary, Schwarzenegger's Legacy Up for Debate

Oct 7, 2013
Capital Public Radio

Ten years ago today, Arnold Schwarzenegger unseated Gray Davis in a unique election in California history.  As Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, the debate over Schwarzenegger’s legacy – and the Recall itself – persists to this day.

Schwarzenegger in 2003 TV Ad: “I want to be the people’s governor.  I will work honestly without fear or favor to do what is right for all Californians.”

Announcer: “Join Arnold and let’s bring California back.”

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California Governor Jerry Brown made a trip to Fresno today (Thursday) to sign a bill that gives undocumented immigrants the right to drive legally.  He signed AB60 into law in front of a crowd of over 300 students, staff and immigration supporters at Fresno City College.

“We’re recognizing millions of people who have been in the shadows. They’ve picked our food, they’ve built our houses, they’ve waited on our tables,” Governor Jerry Brown says. “Well today they become legal drivers in California.”  

California Public Utilities Commission Authorizes Ride Sharing Networks

Sep 20, 2013
Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

The state of California is putting its stamp of approval on high-tech ride sharing networks. The state Public Utilities Commission voted unanimously Thursday to authorize the increasingly popular peer-to-peer networks, but with some very specific requirements. Max Pringle reports from Sacramento.

More and more people needing rides these days are clicking smart phone apps to arrange them with local networks. John Zimmer, co-founder of San Francisco-based Lyft, says the networks will now have state endorsed vehicles and drivers.

Amended CEQA Bill Passes Legislature

Sep 13, 2013

Democratic Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg says he’s pleased with the California Environmental Quality Act changes he pushed through at the end of this year’s session – and he won’t be carrying a broader CEQA overhaul next year.

“It's always easy to say, oh, it wasn't everything that somebody else thinks it should be.  Well, I thought what was presented last year went way too far.  So I think this is an excellent result and represents real, responsible reform," says Steinberg.

Bill to Increase California's Minimum Wage Passes Legislature

Sep 13, 2013
Valley Public Radio

  A bill that would gradually increase the California minimum wage to $10-an-hour has passed the State legislature and is on its way to the governor. It would be the first increase in the minimum wage in six years.

Democratic Senator Bill Monning says if you’re a Californian subsisting on the current state minimum wage, you’re living a second class existence.

"You are in a second hand economy, second harvest food bank, second-hand clothing, second-hand hand-me-down everything," says Monning.

Driver's License Bill Passes California Legislature

Sep 13, 2013
Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

Undocumented immigrants in California will soon be able to get driver’s licenses after the legislature approved a bill on the final day of session. But, as Katie Orr reports from Sacramento, concerns over what the licenses would look like nearly derailed the effort.

California Lawmakers Adjourn for Year After Busy Final Day

Sep 13, 2013
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

California lawmakers are done for the year.  They adjourned just past midnight Friday after a busy and at times chaotic final day – and night – of action.  Ben Adler has more from Sacramento.

A minimum wage increase, California Environmental Quality Act changes, driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, a state prisons deal – all among the hundreds of bills lawmakers passed in this last week of session.  Democratic Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg says that caps a “great year” – on top of a budget that restored some of the deep cuts from previous years.

Legislature Overwhelmingly Approves Prison Plan

Sep 11, 2013
Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

The California Legislature has overwhelmingly approved a deal between the Governor and leaders of the Senate and Assembly to reduce overcrowding in state prisons. California has been ordered by a federal three-judge-panel to either release or find additional space for more than nine thousand inmates by the end of December.

Under the deal, California will ask the panel for an extension on the December deadline. Any savings would be put toward programs to keep people out of jail.

Minimum Wage Deal at California Capitol

Sep 11, 2013
Valley Public Radio

It looks like California’s minimum wage will go up next year for the first time since 2008.  Ben Adler reports from Sacramento on the deal announced today by Governor Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders.

Under the deal, California’s $8-an-hour minimum wage would rise to $9 in July of next year, and then to $10 in January of 2016.  That’s a faster pace than the original bill that’s been moving through the legislature this year.  But it does not include automatic adjustments for inflation, as was previously proposed.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The Kern County Board of Supervisors has fired two high profile department heads within 24 hour of each other. Both Kern Medical Center CEO Paul Hensler and Animal Control Director Jen Woodard were dismissed over concerns about their performance. 

On Monday night, the board voted to fire Hensler after a lengthy meeting over concerns about financial mismanagement at the county run hospital.

Two big issues stood out – a budget deficit for the current fiscal year that tops $9 million, and the failure to develop a plan to repay the state for prior overpayment for services. 

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Cattle rustling or crop raiding might seem like a relic of the Wild West, but in the San Joaquin Valley and surrounding foothills, cattle theft is on the rise. So much so that it's inspired a new bill that would beef up fines for stealing livestock.

The bill passed through both the Senate and the Assembly Friday with unanimous, bi-partisan support. The bill would establish a $5,000 fine for anyone convicted of livestock theft.

Brown, Legislative Leaders Reach Prisons Deal

Sep 9, 2013
Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

After nearly two weeks of sniping back and forth, California Governor Jerry Brown and Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg have reached a deal on their competing prison plans.  Ben Adler has more from Sacramento on how the state will respond to the federal court order that requires California to reduce overcrowding in its prisons.

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