- Democrats threaten to target cuts in GOP legislators' districts (Sacramento Bee)
With no agreement in sight on how to close the state's remaining $15.4 billion deficit, some Democrats are discussing targeting GOP districts with steeper cuts if legislative Republicans will not vote for a solution that includes taxes. "You don't want to pay for government, well then, you get less of it," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg told reporters Wednesday.
- Schools yes, tax hikes no, statewide poll shows (SF Chronicle)
A large majority of Californians favor the outline of Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to eliminate the state budget deficit, but they strongly oppose key elements of the proposal that would increase the personal income tax and the state sales tax, according to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California. The poll found deep concern among Californians about the state of public schools - and the potential impact of further cuts. Most said they would support increasing taxes for wealthy state residents to stave off further cuts to education.
- Regulator: PG&E pipe 'assumptions' not good enough (SF Chronicle)
A top California gas safety regulator has told Pacific Gas and Electric Co. officials that high-pressure water tests, not "assumptions," are the only acceptable way of vouching for the safety of hundreds of miles of gas pipelines for which the utility has incomplete records. PG&E is hoping to avoid such tests in as many cases as it can. It has warned the state that it would take five years to conduct the inspections on the more than 700 miles of transmission pipe in and around urban areas for which it has been unable to produce complete safety documentation.
...In an interview with The Chronicle after being sworn in at City Hall, Suhr said he has embraced many of Gascón's policies. Those include clearing the backlog of discipline cases to get more officers either back on the streets or off the force; using the CompStat computerized crime-tracking system to evaluate district captains' effectiveness; and moving police inspectors into district stations where they can work more closely with beat officers on serious crimes. "The station investigative idea was long overdue," Suhr said. "I've been an advocate of that for many, many years."
Marin Municipal Water District officials made a case for a fifth consecutive year of rate hikes Wednesday night, but the public who turned out for a hearing wasn't buying it. The district is proposing a 4 percent increase to help balance its budget. Under the plan, the average customer's bill would rise $3.72 per two-month billing period, increasing from $90.72 to $94.44. The district had planned to vote on the increase Wednesday night at a meeting at San Rafael City Hall, but a mailing issue delayed 1,300 customers from receiving notices about the proposal. As a result, a second hearing and likely vote will take place May 23. If approved then, the new rates would go into place June 1.
A union representing 750 registered nurses at Children's Hospital Oakland has announced it plans to strike for five days beginning next week. The hospital will bring in temporary nurses and remain open during the walkout, which is scheduled to start at 7 a.m. Thursday and end at 7 a.m. May 10. "It's unfortunate, but we are resilient, we are preparing, and we will take care of these kids," said Cynthia Chiarappa, vice president of communications for the hospital.
Dave Jones, California's insurance commissioner, can deny rate increases requested by auto and life insurance companies. But his office has never had the authority to say "no" to health insurers when they file for rate increases. That could change this year. On Tuesday, the Assembly's Health Committee passed AB52, a bill that would give the commissioner the authority to deny rate hikes. The bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-LA), faces strong opposition from the health insurance industry and has strong support from consumer advocates.
Federal prosecutors are investigating last year's deadly pipeline explosion in San Bruno. Such an investigation could lead to criminal charges against Pacific Gas and Electric Company and some of its employees, although the U.S. Justice Department has not made any allegations of wrongdoing. In a brief email Wednesday, spokesman Josh Eaton confirmed the department is "looking into" the explosion, but declined to elaborate on the investigation.
Assemblywoman Fiona Ma has revised a bill cracking down on raves after fielding complaints that the original version was too broad. On Wednesday, the Assembly Agriculture Committee found the revision good enough and passed it with a 9-0 vote. The San Francisco Democrat's amended Assembly Bill 74 will now head to the Appropriations Committee. The new bill seeks to establish safety guidelines for electronic music concerts before they are held on publicly owned property, whereas the earlier version aimed at banning such shows altogether because of drug-related troubles. AB 74 now would require the state agency intending to host any rave that is expected to draw more than 1,000 people to assess potential problems, the need for law enforcement and medical personnel, and other related concerns.
San Mateo County has lost 22,000 jobs since 2007, when the recession began, according to a report from Sustainable San Mateo County. The nonprofit released its annual Sustainable Indicators Report on Wednesday at the Millbrae Public Library. Now in its 15th year, the indicators report tracks the county's progress in various areas, such as greenhouse gas emissions, affordable housing and health care.
...Petaluma Farms is a longtime supplier of organic and conventional eggs, all produced “cage free,” that is, without the small wire cages that confine most of the nation’s laying hens. Critics recently filed a federal complaint involving the company, saying the U.S. Department of Agriculture should require Petaluma Farms to give its organic hens access to soil outdoors, rather than limit their outside space to raised, screened porches. Petaluma Farms owner Steve Mahrt, a cage-free farmer for almost three decades, defends his methods as superior, and he notes that his chicken houses have passed muster with both a private organic certifier and a leading organic farm cooperative that sells some of his eggs. Moreover, he suggests the public’s image of organic farms often fails to take into account the reality of large-scale operations that provide the food sold in supermarkets and natural food stores.
San Francisco's new chief federal judge now must decide whether his predecessor can keep the video recordings of the trial over California's ban on same-sex marriage - and whether he should have disqualified himself from presiding over that trial. Sponsors of Proposition 8, the 2008 initiative that outlawed gay and lesbian weddings, had asked the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco to confiscate the videos from former Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker.
An organized opposition group representing three religions will attempt to block a November ballot measure that would ban the circumcision of boys under 18 in San Francisco. On Tuesday, city resident Lloyd Schofield submitted more than the 7,168 signatures needed to put the ban on the ballot, and if the Department of Elections certifies the proposal in 30 days, it will officially be up to voters. The measure would make circumcising a minor a misdemeanor carrying a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
...Ten years after Asians, Latinos and other minorities became the majority in much of Silicon Valley, scholars and other observers say these groups still lack political power, which can't be explained by the natural lag time associated with first-generation immigrants. For example, a recent report by this newspaper based on 2010 U.S. census results revealed that minorities now outnumber whites almost 2-to-1 in Santa Clara County, but whites still hold three-quarters of the seats on town and city councils. The city of Santa Clara, home to Santa Clara University and the conference, has one of the county's four all-white councils.
Solano County earned a passing grade in its year-round pollution levels between 2007 and 2009, but failed every other air quality measure in that same period, according to the latest American Lung Association's air quality report card. Solano County earned F's in both the number of days the ozone level exceeded the federal standard and in its number of 24-hour periods of high particle pollution like ash and smoke, the report shows. Napa County earned a C for its number of high ozone days but didn't compute in any of the other measures, association spokeswoman Jenny Bardan said.