Government & Politics

News about government and politics

Courtesy City of Fresno / CalTrans

Fresno’s long planned Veterans Boulevard interchange on Highway 99 between Herndon and Shaw Avenues may be closer to becoming a reality.

The Fresno City Council is scheduled to vote Thursday on a plan to spend $5.4 million on design and engineering plans for the roadway, which will connect Herndon Avenue across Highway 99 with Grantland Avenue.

The project is expected to solve a number of traffic problems in the fast growing area west of Highway 99. Last year, the City Council also approved the first phase of a planned El Paseo regional shopping center near the boulevard.

California High Speed Rail Authority

The California High Speed Rail Authority has released a Revised Draft Environmental Impact Report for the project section between Fresno and Bakersfield. The Authority has provided alternative routes in response to public dissatisfaction with the proposals in the original report released last year.

Frank Oliveira of the group Citizens for California High Speed Rail Accountability, says he's still concerned with the revised draft, as he isn't convinced the Authority has done what they can to understand the effects the high speed rail could have in the Valley.

State budget suspends Brown Act provisions

Jul 16, 2012

Local government boards in California are no longer required to post agendas or disclose decisions made in closed sessions. As Amy Quinton reports from Sacramento, the legislature suspended those provisions of the state’s public meeting law in the budget passed last month.

CalPERS barely earned any money at all during the fiscal year that ended June 30th. The nation’s largest public pension fund announced a one-percent return on investment today.

The California Public Employees Retirement System’s one percent return is nowhere near its projection of seven-and-a-half percent. It’s even below the California State Teachers Retirement System, which earned a one-point-eight percent return.

Ben Adler / Capitol Public Radio

Fire fighters battling wildfires across California this week are getting support from hundreds of state prison inmates. That's been the case for years, but as Ben Adler reports from Sacramento, Governor Jerry Brown's prison realignment is starting to reduce the number of inmates available to help.

Could the City of Fresno follow Stockton, Mammoth Lakes and San Bernadino in declaring bankruptcy? According to Barron's, Wall Street experts remain concerned about Fresno's financial position, thanks to the city's long term labor contracts and limited revenue options. They say the downsides of filing for Chapter 9 protection will likely serve as a deterrent for most cities, but Fresno's case is still a concern.

Joe Moore - Valley Public Radio

California’s budget problems have put a strain on all state departments - including local county courts. Valley Public Radio's Gabriela Ornelas tells us how Fresno County residents may find getting to a courtroom much more difficult in the coming weeks.

It seems that around the country, the most fervent legal debate around modern families revolves around gay parents.

A California lawmaker is adding to that debate by challenging the notion that a child only has two parents. A bill proposed by Sen. Mark Leno would allow a child to have multiple parents, The Sacramento Bee reports.

Currently California law permits no more than two parents per child.

The Bee adds:

California Governor Jerry Brown Signs Budget

Jun 28, 2012

California Governor Jerry Brown has signed a roughly $90 billion spending plan into law for the fiscal year that starts on Sunday. It’s designed to close the state’s $16 billion deficit. The Governor’s signature came just hours before a midnight deadline to sign the main budget bill Democratic lawmakers sent him earlier this month.

It came with little fanfare, and his office did not release any details about his line-item vetoes. The spending plan includes cuts to welfare, social services and more. It also assumes voters will approve Brown’s tax hike on the November ballot.

Stockton, Calif., is on the verge of becoming the largest city in the nation to declare bankruptcy after its city council voted 6-1 Tuesday night to approve a spending plan that's essentially "a day-to-day survival budget," as the Los Angeles Times puts it.

President Obama's announcement today on immigration reform is receiving a warm welcome from local immigrant rights advocates.

Pedro Ramirez, the former student body president of Fresno State who gained national notoriety in 2010 because of his status as an undocumented immigrant, says this is a step in the right direction that will make a profound difference for hispanic students in the valley.

When you look up the origins of word “pension” in the dictionary, you’ll see that it comes from the Latin verb, pendo, which means to pay or value, and to weigh or hang. It’s actually the same root that gives us nouns like pendant. And back here in the 21st century, the costs of providing a defined benefit retirement programs are increasingly weighing down budget across the state.

According to some estimates, California's three largest statewide pension systems, CalPERS, CalSTRS and the UC Retirement System could have a combined shortfall of as much as $500 billion.

Since 2010, the second and third floors the Fresno County Jail in Downtown Fresno have been empty. Budget cuts resulted in the layoffs of around 70 officers who worked in the jail, forcing Sheriff Margaret Mims to close the floors, and begin the early release of prisoners.

"Right now our capacity is at about 2,300 inmates and we run at 100 percent capacity almost all of the time," said Mims.

Prop 28 Would Change Term Limits

May 7, 2012

Currently, California lawmakers can serve a total of fourteen years: six in the Assembly, and eight in the Senate. Nick Schroeder from the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office says Prop 28 would allow a legislator to serve up to twelve years.

“Fundamentally, what this measure does is it allows a person to serve more years in one house, either in the Assembly or Senate but fewer total years in the legislature…”

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

From the days of the gold rush to the state's early agricultural pioneers, California’s history is one of emigration. In more recent years industries from motion pictures to aerospace and computer technology drew hundreds of thousands of people to the state, to search out a new life.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

After years of criticism and skyrocketing cost estimates, California’s plan for high speed rail took a detour earlier this month, with the release of the project’s new business plan. Supporters say the proposal is “better, faster and cheaper” and could save $30 billion when compared to previous cost estimates for the project.

Fresno Veterans Home Hits Roadblock

Jan 17, 2012

There's been a battle going on in Fresno for the last decade. A battle that has both Republicans and Democrats fighting on the same side, all in hopes of opening the doors to a veterans' home in Fresno that is on track to be finished in Spring.

The construction will be completed on time, but in trying to close California's huge budget gap, Governor Brown cut the $14.5 million needed to operate the facility from his proposed budget. Earlier this month, the governor spoke about some of the other proposed cuts.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

At the start of 2012 California had over 5,000 local governments, from counties and cities to school and fire districts. But this February, over 400 of those governments are slated to disappear, almost overnight, as the state officially closes the book on local redevelopment agencies.

It’s the latest move in the effort by Sacramento lawmakers to find a new way to balance the state’s budget, and shift $1.7 billion from community redevelopment agencies (or RDAs as they’re often known) to the state’s general fund.

Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Even before the recent retirement of Justice Oliver Wanger, the Fresno division of the US District Court’s Eastern District of California faced big case backlogs. The district is home to over 6.7 million residents, and 19 of California’s 33 state and federal prisons, but the Fresno division is home to just two judges, and the nation’s heaviest caseloads.

One hundred years ago this month, California’s experiment in direct democracy was born with the introduction of the ballot initiative and referendum process. Now, a century later, Californians are again looking at new ideas to fix what many feel is a broken system in Sacramento. So what might the next 100 years have in store?

Pages