Government & Politics

News about government and politics

Bill Calls For New Courts Dedicated to CEQA Cases

Feb 22, 2013
Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

Lawsuits under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA are often criticized for delaying projects. But as Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, one lawmaker has introduced a bill that he says might speed up the judicial process.

Democratic Assemblymember Roger Dickinson has introduced a bill that would create CEQA courts in Northern and Southern California. The courts would have exclusive jurisdiction over any CEQA litigation.

Office of Anthony Cannella

 

A California lawmaker says the shift of tens of thousands of state prisoners to county supervision has become a strain for some counties.  As Marianne Russ reports from Sacramento, he wants the state to give those counties more money.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

State Senator Michael Rubio, D-Shafter, has resigned, effective immediately, from his position in the California State Senate. He will become the manager of California government affairs for Chevron Corporation.

California State Controller's Office

A new report shows the unfunded liability for state retiree health benefits in California has grown to more than $63 billion.

As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, State Controller John Chiang says some increases in future liability could be prevented.

Chiang says the unfunded obligation for state retiree benefits has grown almost two billion dollars from 2011 to 2012. That’s less than expected because of fewer and less expensive healthcare claims.

Valley Public Radio

As the March 1st deadline for automatic federal budget cuts approaches, their potential effect on California is becoming increasingly clear. 

Ben Adler reports from Sacramento that “sequestration” cuts could slow the state’s economic recovery – and perhaps even create a new budget deficit.

There are two ways sequestration could affect California: direct federal spending cuts of about $4 billion dollars, and the reaction to those cuts from the state’s people and businesses. 

Valley Public Radio

President Obama’s call for increasing the minimum wage in his State of the Union address this month  could face a tough road in Congress.  But a proposal in the California legislature could stand a better chance.  Ben Adler has more from Sacramento.

California’s current minimum wage is eight dollars an hour.  A bill at the State Capitol would bump it up gradually over the next several years to $9.25 an hour … then require annual increases for inflation.  UC Berkeley labor economist Sylvia Allegretto says too many Californians are underpaid:

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.” 

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.

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.

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.

State of the Union: Live Coverage From NPR

Feb 12, 2013

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.

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.

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.

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:

Rebecca Plevin / Valley Public Radio

Pablo Reyes-Morales’ dream to serve in the United States military was stoked when he was in high school.

“Since I was in ninth grade, when I saw the slogan for the Navy, and it said, “a global force for good,” I was instantly interested,” he said.

But that dream shattered when Reyes-Morales attempted to enlist. He says it wasn’t until that moment, that he learned he was undocumented, and therefore unable to serve the country.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

The author of a bill that would exempt 20,000 California union members from last year’s pension overhaul is defending the measure against criticism that it breaks a promise to voters who just approved tax increases. 

Democratic Assemblyman Luis Alejo says he introduced the bill because of a conflict between the new state pension law and U.S. labor law that applies to 20,000 local and regional public transit workers.  As a result, he says, $2 billion in federal transportation funds are at risk.

Capital Public Radio

There appears to be significant bipartisan support in the California legislature for the proposed federal immigration overhaul under discussion in Congress.  But as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, some Republicans still have concerns.

Twenty Democrats and five Republicans stood together to say they want Congress to get something done after years of putting it off.  

California Legislators Push For Short Sale Tax Relief

Jan 30, 2013
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

There’s a push in the California legislature to provide tax relief for struggling homeowners who are forced into short sales.  As Marianne Russ reports from Sacramento, the new legislation has bipartisan support.

A Democratic state Senator introduced the bill, and Republican Senator Joel Anderson has signed on as a co-author.  He says homeowners going through a short sale need help.

"Let’s not kick them when they’re down," says Anderson.

California Lawmakers Hold Hearing on Gun Violence

Jan 30, 2013

California lawmakers say they will seek consensus as they look for ways to reduce gun violence. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, they heard from gun rights advocates, law enforcement, and gun violence prevention experts at a joint legislative hearing.

Lawmakers had a chance to hold the kinds of guns and ammunition used in recent mass shootings. They saw how easy it can be to change a gun magazine.

"He can do it in very rapid succession…that gun today can be purchased in California," said Bureau of Firearms Chief Stephen Lindley.

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