Government & Politics

News about government and politics

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 /

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 /

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.

Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics /

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.

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.

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.

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.

California Revenues Fall $475 Million Short

Aug 13, 2012
Photo used under Creative Commons from Andy Patterson / Modern Relics /

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.

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.

The Chair of a California Assembly committee looking into the state’s special funds accounts called the parks department scandal “shameful” today. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, lawmakers asked finance officials for assurances that there are no more hidden assets.

At issue is how $54 million in surplus Parks department funds could remain hidden for 12 years. An audit last week also found discrepancies in other state special funds accounts. Assemblymember Bob Blumenfield chairs the oversight committee.

A bill that would create a retirement plan for California private sector workers who have no pensions or 401-K’s is facing intense opposition from business groups. The bill was heard today by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.