Government & Politics

News about government and politics

North Fork Rancheria

California Governor Jerry Brown announced Friday that he has approved plans by the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians to build a casino along Highway 99 in Madera County. 

The proposed casino would occupy 305 acres on Highway 99 at Avenue 17, near the Madera Municipal Airport. The proposed casino is around 40 miles from the tribe's headquarters in North Fork. 

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

If there’s any last-minute wheeling or dealing on this final day of the California legislative session, Democratic Assembly Speaker John Pérez will surely be involved. The speaker’s top priority is a pair of bills he calls the “Middle Class Scholarship.” They would raise a billion dollars by ending a tax break for out-of-state businesses and put that money towards helping some families pay for college. Pérez spent a few minutes Thursday discussing that and more with Capitol reporter Ben Adler.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

California lawmakers have approved a bill designed to improve the state’s accounting practices in hopes of avoiding the kind of scandal that happened with the parks department.

In July, an unreported surplus of $54 million was discovered in two special funds accounts in the parks department. A later audit found accounting discrepancies in other state special funds.

California lawmakers have sent a ban on openly carrying unloaded shotguns or rifles in public to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown. The measure follows a similar ban approved last year on openly carrying unloaded handguns in public.

Republicans strongly opposed the bill. Assemblyman Tim Donnelly argued many Californians are simply expressing their fundamental right. “They’re not criminals! Do not criminalize more Americans because they believe in the 2nd amendment!

The Kern County Board of Supervisors voted yesterday to accept a $100 million state grant that would help fund construction of a new jail at the existing Lerdo pre-trial facility. As a condition of the grant, the county also committed over $22 million in matching funds to support construction of the facility, which will house around 800 mostly medium security inmates.

The county had previously been awarded a similar grant in 2008, but had to reject the funding because it was unable to allocate the matching funds required the state. 

Brown Announces Pension Deal; Vote Coming Friday

Aug 28, 2012

California Governor Jerry Brown says the pension deal he announced today will save the state billions of dollars. But it’s drawing criticism from unions and Republicans.

Here is some of what’s in the plan: A cap on the salary that a public employee in California could use to calculate a pension. Higher retirement ages, with reduced payments. And a requirement for employees to pay at least half of their pension costs.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Talks between the Central California SPCA and the City and County of Fresno on continuing the organization’s contract for animal control services beyond October 1, 2012 have fallen apart.  County and city leaders had hoped to reach an agreement to extend the current contract on a temporary basis through the end of the year to give more time to find a permanent solution.

The organization's executive director Linda Van Kirk issued the following statement today:

Guns, dog hunting, Election Day voter registration are all issues the California legislature dealt with on Monday. California lawmakers kicked off their busiest week of the year by debating dozens of measures ahead of Friday’s end-of-session deadline.

Some measures still need one more vote to pass the legislature, such as a ban on openly carrying shotguns or rifles in public, and a bill that would require a three-foot buffer zone when a car passes a bicyclist.

Pension Deal Nears; Unions Furious

Aug 27, 2012

A proposed overhaul of California’s pension system is angering public employee unions, as Democrats get set to unveil the details. The specific details are being kept as quiet as can be, but all signs point to a deal emerging by Tuesday at the California State Capitol. 

Democrats are promising “comprehensive pension reform” that will save tens of billions of dollars over the next few decades. Assemblyman Warren Furutani says the deal won’t please everyone.

California disabled workers and their attorneys are angered by a new workers’ compensation bill circulating through the Capitol. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the groups argue it harms severely injured workers the most.

"Trust Act" Heads to California Governor's Desk

Aug 25, 2012

California lawmakers have approved a bill designed to stop undocumented immigrants from being deported unless they’ve been convicted or charged with a serious or violent felony. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the bill passed Friday after heated debate on the Assembly floor.

Bill Would Tack One Dollar on to Many Traffic Fines

Aug 23, 2012
Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

A bill that would increase many traffic fines to pay for spinal cord research has passed the California Senate. It also has an unusual mix of supporters.

The legislation would add a one dollar fee to all moving violations. The estimated $3.5 million a year raised would go to fund spinal cord injury research at the University of California. The floor debate was unusual because some Republicans supported the new fee, while some Democrats opposed it.

Contraception, Vaccine Bills Pass California Senate

Aug 23, 2012
Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics / http://www.flickr.com/photos/modernrelics/4461010654/

Two major health-related bills passed the California Senate Wednesday. One bill would require a doctor’s signature before a parent can opt out of a vaccination for their child. Democratic Senator Lois Wolk says the bill doesn’t take away parental rights, just requires a doctor’s visit.

“If, at the end of that you decide that you want an immunization for your child, fine. If you don’t, you don’t need to get one. You just have to have that conversation with a medical professional.”

Charmion N. Kinder / HUD

The nation's top housing official visited Fresno today to generate support for the Obama administration's efforts to stem the foreclosure crisis. 

Shaun Donovan, Secretary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development met with homeowners and members of the media today, saying that preventing foreclosures is key to stabilizing property values and boosting the economy.

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

California lawmakers chipped away at the more than 500 pieces of legislation they need to vote on before the session ends this month.

California Senators debated one controversial bill for more than an hour. It would give juveniles sentenced to life without parole a second chance at sentencing. The bill, authored by Democratic Senator Leland Yee, squeaked by in the Senate. Yee, a child psychologist, argued teenagers brains aren’t totally developed so they make bad decisions.

Cal Fire Burning Through Its Budget

Aug 20, 2012
Sierra National Forest

Fire season in California is about half over, but the state has already spent more than two-thirds of its $93 million firefighting budget.

H.D. Palmer is with the California Department of Finance. He says the state is prepared to pay, whatever the cost.

“If we do spend more for fire suppression than is in the budget, that doesn’t mean that the tankers don’t fly, that doesn’t mean the hand crews aren’t out there, that doesn’t mean the trucks don’t show up, we will have emergency appropriation authority to do that.”

With just two weeks left in the legislative session, some business and labor groups are pushing to change California's complex environmental review process for building and construction projects.

Jim Earp is with a coalition of construction unions. He says the law gets abused by being used to stall new development.

“It's not always just about how many end up in lawsuits, its, and this is particularly true in public infrastructure projects, how much the delay adds to the cost of that project.”

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

The City of Fresno's precarious financial position is leading to more repercussions in the investment community. On Friday, the firm Standard & Poor's downgraded the city's credit rating from "A" to "BBB." Last month, the two other major credit ratings agencies, Fitch and Moody's issued similar downgrades.

The rating of "BBB" is Standard & Poor's next to lowest "investment grade" rating. The firm also gave Fresno's  financial outlook a "negative" rating, meaning future downgrades are possible. 

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.

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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