Government & Politics

Government & Politics
3:41 pm
Tue January 22, 2013

Fresno, Bus Driver Union At Odds Over Work Rules, Pay Cut

A Fresno Area Express bus at Roeding Park (file photo)
Credit Federal Transit Administration

Drivers who operate the city of Fresno’s bus service, known as Fresno Area Express will tell you that despite that some may thing, theirs is not a cushy job.

"It’s the equipment, it’s riding in a seat. You’re constantly bouncing up and down, you’re constantly turning the steering wheel. There’s a number of knee problems, shoulder problems, hand problems, by repetitive motion,"  says Rick Steitz, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1027.

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Government & Politics
12:42 pm
Tue January 22, 2013

Fresno Home Trash Service Supporters, Opponents Wait For Outsourcing Decision

Marina Magdaleno and other outsourcing opponents rallied in front of Fresno City Hall Friday Jan. 18 to turn in just under 40,000 petitions to put the decision of outsourcing in the hands of voters.
Credit Ezra Romero / Valley Public Radio

The waiting game has just begun for both sides in the battle over the outsourcing of Fresno’s residential trash service.

For the past month opponents of Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin’s plan to outsource the city’s home trash service have hustled to collect signatures in order to meet a January 18 deadline to put the decision in the hands of voters.

More than 50 people escorted around 35,000 signatures in seven sealed white boxes into the City Clerk’s Office on Friday.

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Government & Politics
5:40 pm
Fri January 18, 2013

New Audit Reveals California PUC Misrepresented Funds

California’s Public Utilities Commission has a math problem: Its budget staff has been misreporting the balance in special funds the agency manages.  That’s the finding of a new state audit that blamed the mistakes on “general confusion and lack of knowledge.”  

The Public Utilities Commission manages 14 special funds that use monthly fees from consumers to pay for special programs like the Universal Lifeline telephone service for low-income Californians.   It turns out that in 2011, agency staff miscalculated how much those funds held.

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High Speed Rail
4:12 pm
Thu January 17, 2013

High Speed Rail Systems Team Up to Pursue Trains

A computer rendering of California's planned high speed train system.
Credit California High Speed Rail Authority

The California High Speed Rail Authority will work with Amtrak to seek out manufacturers of high speed trains. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the two systems hope by teaming up they can lower costs.

 Amtrak and the California High Speed Rail Authority say by working together they hope to advance high speed projects on both the east and west coast.

Amtrak is looking to eventually purchase 32 trains for its east coast system, and California is hoping to acquire 27 trains that operate 220 miles per hour. California

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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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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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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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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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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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Gun Control
12:19 pm
Thu December 20, 2012

Steinberg: Focus on Gun Control, Mental Health, 'Culture of Violence'

The California legislature’s response to last Friday’s school shooting in Connecticut is beginning to take shape.  As Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, a top lawmaker is calling for action in several different areas – including gun control.

Democratic Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg is endorsing legislation that would close a loophole dealing with large ammunition clips on assault weapons, and a measure that would require annual permits to buy ammunition.

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Gun Control
3:21 pm
Tue December 18, 2012

California Legislation Would Require Permit for Ammo Purchase

file photo

A California state Senator plans to introduce legislation that would require anyone purchasing gun ammunition to first obtain a permit and pass a background check.

Democratic Senator Kevin de Leon is authoring the bill in response to the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut. He says he has no intention of stopping law abiding citizens from purchasing ammunition.

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Government & Politics
11:48 am
Wed December 12, 2012

Enterprise Zone Tax Credit Could See Changes Next Year

Much of downtown Fresno is in an enterprise zone.
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California Governor Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders say they’re not looking at more tax increases now that voters have approved Proposition 30. 

But as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, tax credits could be on the table, like the controversial Enterprise Zone program.

California offers 700 million dollars a year in tax credits to businesses who add or retain jobs in economically distressed neighborhoods.  

The governor proposed eliminating Enterprise Zones last year but couldn’t win legislative approval. 

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Government & Politics
10:38 am
Tue December 11, 2012

In Fresno, Privatizing Trash Pickup Ignites Controversy

Credit City of Fresno Public Utilities

It is a dirty job, picking up the trash of Fresno’s residents.

But it is also a job that has afforded 58 year old Joe Hill a decent middle income salary. Those at the top of the scale can make $22 an hour.

“I have a good job. I make a decent wage, but I don’t feel I am overpaid. I praise god for the job I have and how much I make. And I know there’s lots of people who make a lot less, but it’s not excessive,” says Hill.

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