Zika cases continue to climb in California as FDA recommends more tests

As reported by the L.A. Daily News:

Zika continues to affect Californians as another 19 people have tested positive for the virus, though none of them contracted it locally, state health officials announced Friday.

The tally has reached 189 cases of travel related Zika this week, including one person from the City of Long Beach. San Bernardino County began the month with 7 cases. There are now 30 reported.

The new figures were released the same day the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued revised guidelines that recommend all blood donations be tested for Zika.

“There is still much uncertainty regarding the nature and extent of Zika virus transmission,” said Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, in a statement. “At this time, the recommendation for testing the entire blood supply will help ensure that safe blood is available for all individuals who might need transfusion.”

California health officials last week urged travelers returning home from the Olympics, as well as countries where Zika is spreading, to continue to wear insect repellent and to practice safe sex for several more weeks to help prevent the spread of the virus in the Golden State. While Zika is spread primarily through the bite of the black-and-white-striped Aedes mosquito, the virus also can be passed through sex, health officials said, and babies born to mothers who are infected have a greater chance of having birth defects. Two women in California gave birth to two babies with microcephaly, a condition in which a child’s head is significantly smaller than expected. …

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Carbon tax program sputters again

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

When California launched its cap-and-trade program four years ago, the unspoken fear was that the price of carbon emissions credits would soar out of sight and bankrupt manufacturers and other industries forced to buy them.

Now cap and trade, a crucial piece in California’s war on climate change, finds itself with exactly the opposite problem: an excess of credits and insufficient demand. The result is a program that’s stumbling badly and facing an increasingly hazy future in the Legislature.

The cap-and-trade market had another bad day Tuesday, with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of unsold carbon credits left over following the latest state-run auction. Only about 30.8 million credits were sold, each one representing a ton of carbon emissions, out of approximately 96 million credits that went on sale. The auction was held last week, but results weren’t released until Tuesday by the California Air Resources Board.

It was the second straight quarterly auction in which scores of carbon credits failed to attract buyers, although there was higher demand this time around. Last spring’s auction ended with roughly 90 percent of the credits unsold. …

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CA lawmakers advance bill to decriminalize prostitution for minors

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

A controversial bill that would decriminalize prostitution for minors squeezed out of the California Assembly on Thursday and is now headed back to the Senate for a final vote.

SB 1322, authored by Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), would make the crimes of solicitation and loitering with intent to commit prostitution misdemeanors inapplicable to children younger than 18. It also would allow law enforcement to take sexually exploited children into temporary custody if leaving them unattended would pose an immediate threat to their health or safety.

The measure passed Thursday with a 42-29 vote. It was one of two bills heard Thursday seeking to decriminalize prostitution.

SB 1129, authored by Bill Monning (D-Carmel), would repeal mandatory minimum sentences for specified prostitution offenses. It moved out of Assembly with a 42-26 vote and is also headed back to the Senate for a final vote.  …

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Judge Rejects Uber Settlement, Saying It Lowballs California Labor Claims

As reported by Forbes.com:

A federal judge has thrown out a proposed $100 million settlement negotiated by a Boston lawyer on behalf of more than 200,000 Uber drivers in California and Massachusetts, saying it places too low a value on potentially costly claims drivers could bring under California labor laws.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen, who has consistently ruled in favor of attorney Shannon Liss-Riordan over Uber’s fierce objections, rejected the settlement because it allocated only $1 million for claims under California’s Private Attorneys General Act, a law that allows employees to sue for civil penalties on behalf of the state. The California Labor and Workforce Development Agency estimated the value of those claims to be $1 billion if a court determined Uber drivers were employees and not independent contractors, as Uber maintains.

The judge also dismissed as meaningless an unusual provision in the settlement that would increase it from $84 million to $100 million if Uber held a successful initial public offering, saying he couldn’t consider that part of the deal since he had no assurance it would happen. (Uber, which has a private market value of $28-$60 billion based on recent venture capital rounds, told the judge “it would not be proper” to respond to his questions about an IPO.)

The settlement came on the eve of the first trial, and Chen’s rejection puts …

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Gas tax hike of 17 cents per gallon part of new transportation funding plan

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

Two Democratic lawmakers unveiled a $7.4-billion transportation plan late Wednesday, the latest effort to break through a yearlong logjam over the state’s funding woes.

The plan, highlighted by an increase of 17 cents per gallon in the gas tax, comes from Assemblyman Jim Frazier (D-Oakley) and Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) in an attempt to unify the disparate proposals the pair had previously introduced in their respective houses.

The combined plan is more than double Gov. Jerry Brown’s $3.6-billion proposal, which calls for a 6-cent gas tax hike.

“We need to be able to have a big plan to be able to be effective and catch back up,” Frazier said.

Last summer, Brown called a special session of the Legislature to highlight the $130-billion backlog in state and local road repairs, as well as the billions more in other transportation budget deficits. But lawmakers have made little progress, especially with gas tax hikes — which would require a bipartisan supermajority vote — on the table. …

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California water districts: We can handle three more years of drought

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

State officials will not force most California water districts to reduce water use this year, even as they caution that the five-year drought persists and note that drought-fueled wildfires continue to wreak havoc.

The State Water Resources Control Board in May asked California’s 411 urban water districts to evaluate how much water they would need in the next three years if drought continued – and whether their supplies would meet that demand. Districts that certified their supplies are adequate do not face mandatory water-use cuts. Those with inadequate supplies must set conservation goals proportional to their anticipated shortfall.

About 85 percent of the state’s water districts told the water board that they believe they have adequate supplies to handle continued drought and should not be subject to state-mandated conservation targets, according to results released Tuesday by the water board.

In the Sacramento region, no water supplier will face state-mandated conservation targets, though about half of the region’s districts have set voluntary conservation goals and a few local communities, including Sacramento and Davis, will continue to restrict lawn watering days. …

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Pot tax goes down in flames in California Legislature

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

A bill to put an excise tax on medical marijuana in California was killed Thursday by a Senate panel after advocates for cannabis users said it would put a financial burden on patients.

The Senate Appropriations Committee shelved AB 2243 with knowledge that California voters will consider a 15% pot tax on Nov. 8 when they take up Proposition 64, which would also legalize recreational use of cannabis.

The legislation by Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) would have charged up to $9.25 per ounce of marijuana flowers, $2.75 per ounce of pot leaves and $1.25 per ounce of immature pot plants.

Wood said the funding is needed to help cover enforcement and environmental costs under a new system approved last year that will license the growing, transport and sale of medical marijuana. …

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Number of public retirees with pensions over $100,000 skyrockets

As reported by the Orange County Register:

Back in 2005, just 1,841 retirees pulled down more than $100,000 a year in pension checks from the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.

A decade later, membership in the so-called $100K Club had swelled by nearly 20,000 souls.

CalPERS data provided to the conservative-leaning group Transparent California, and analyzed by the Register, found that 21,652 public retirees received annual benefits of more than $100,000 in 2015.

That’s a jump of 28 percent in just two years – which might seem jarring at first blush, but actually represents a slowdown in the club’s explosive growth of late. Between 2005 and 2009, membership in CalPERS’ $100K Club tripled. Then, between 2009 and 2013, it nearly tripled again, largely a function of higher working salaries and more generous retirement formulas.

Orange County landed just one retired worker on the Top 25 statewide: Dave Ream, longtime Santa Ana city manager, at $263,202. Los Angeles-area cities, special districts and universities dominated the Top 25. …

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Gun rights group sues over California lawmakers’ addresses

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

A California gun rights group filed a federal lawsuit in Sacramento on Friday after the Legislature’s lawyer blocked a blog post that listed the addresses of lawmakers who recently supported gun control legislation.

Shortly after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a package of gun control measures July 1, a conservative blog posted what the author said were the home addresses of 40 legislators. The author pledged to keep the names up until lawmakers vote to repeal the laws or die.

The Office of Legislative Counsel demanded that WordPress, which hosted the blog, take down the post. The demand was based on a state law that forbids someone from posting the home address of an elected official with the intention or threat of causing great bodily harm, or if elected officials or their representatives demand that they not be published.

It was subsequently removed from the site and the author was barred from “publishing any similar content,” according to the the Firearms Policy Coalition. …

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Mayor of Stockton arrested for playing strip poker with teens and secretly recording it

As reported by the Washington Post:

Silva mugAnthony Silva, the mayor of Stockton, Calif., has a history of bizarre, outlandish and questionable behavior. His own website states that he is “a little ‘rough around the edges.’”

That may be an understatement.

During a mayoral candidate debate hosted by Stockton’s NAACP and Black Women Organized for Political Action in April, Silva — who is white — said he was the city’s first black mayor.

The next day, he clarified his statement to CBS, “I think I said, I’m not African American, but I’m pretty darn close. Quite frankly, I could be determined to be the first African American mayor of Stockton.”

In 2014, he was handcuffed after a fight broke out in a limousine. The fight caused $7,000 to $10,000 worth of damage to the car. Curtis Mitchell, who was arrested for the fight, said Silva inappropriately touched his fiancée. Silva denied the claim. The mayor was never arrested, but the limousine’s driver filed a civil lawsuit against him and the other passengers in May. …

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