UCI reverses restrictions on Republican group’s use of campus spaces pending appeal

As reported by the Orange County Register:

IRVINE – Restrictions on using meeting spaces placed Monday by UCI Student Center and Event Services management on the College Republicans at UCI were lifted Thursday after hundreds of calls and emails were received from concerned members of both political parties.

UCI spokeswoman Cathy Lawhon said under the direction of the vice chancellor for student affairs, the student center lifted the restrictions to give the Republican organization the opportunity to book spaces through the center until an appeal was submitted and reviewed.

But College Republicans at UCI chairman emeritus Robert Petrosyan said the organization had no intention of filing an appeal by the July 1 deadline.

“If we file an appeal, then we end up accepting the charges and the decision that the administration made to ban us in the first place,” he said. “That’s not what we want to do. We want the administration to withdraw the charge entirely, and also declare (the suspension) was wrong and it was an act of bias against our organization for political reasons.”

The club’s use …

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Southern California braces for severe wildfire season

As reported by the Desert Sun:

The thousands of acres burning across Southern California this week foreshadow what’s expected to be a severe wildfire season, the head of the U.S. Forest Service said.

Chief Thomas L. Tidwell predicts certain parts of the country — including Southern California and Arizona, where four large, uncontained fires are burning this week  — will have active fire seasons, like Washington and California did last year.

Last year was one of the worst wildfire years since at least 1960, according to records kept by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho. More than 10.1 million acres were charred in 68,151 incidents. That compares to 3.5 million acres in 2014 and 4.3 million in 2013.

Two wildfires scorched thousands of acres and forced the evacuations of more than 850 homes in the San Gabriel Mountains about 95 miles northwest of the Coachella Valley this week. Several hundred residents were …

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10 Would-Be Initiatives Prep for November Ballot

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

They aren’t yet officially on the November ballot, but 10 would-be fall initiatives are being readied with healthy fundraising efforts.

In the weeks since the May 20 deadline to submit initiative signatures, the campaigns pushing the measures have reported collecting more than $3.2 million. The biggest recipient has been the campaign to increase cigarette taxes by $2 a pack, to $2.87, with Save Lives California raising more than $1.1 million.

Almost all of that came from the California State Council of Services Employees, which donated $1 million on May 31.

Backers of the sentencing reform measure initiated by Gov. Jerry Brown have raised more than $765,000 since May 20. The bulk of that came from the California Democratic Party, which gave $500,000 to Californians for Public Safety and Rehabilitation on Wednesday. …

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California drought bummer: Sierra water runoff coming up short

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:

The El Niño-fueled storms that coated the Sierra with nearly normal snow this winter brought blasts of hope to drought-weary California.

But after the flurries stopped and the seasons changed, the melt-off from the high country has been swift and disappointingly scant, according to new water supply estimates from the state.

The Department of Water Resources now projects that the mountains will produce about three quarters of normal runoff during the months of heaviest snowmelt, shorting the rivers and reservoirs that typically provide a third of California’s water — and cementing a fifth year of historic drought for the Golden State.

The projections arrive alongside forecasts for potentially dry La Niña weather next winter. And they come as cities and towns face a crucial deadline for deciding how much water to ask consumers to save in the coming year as part of the state’s broader conservation effort. …

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Audit: Vets agency wastes $28 million on failed computer system

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

California’s state auditor has labeled yet another California government technology project an expensive failure.

The California Department of Veterans Affairs has spent nearly $28 million on a system that launched years later than planned, wastes staff time and has not been fully implemented, according to an audit released Thursday by state Auditor Elaine Howle.

The audit marks the latest in a long string of California government technology failures. The auditor previously found data security weaknesses and unsatisfactory oversight on technology projects. Additionally, a payroll system update spiraled into chaos, licensing board software was delayed, and a tax and fee system stalled.

Howle’s latest audit found the Department of Veterans Affairs started with a plan to implement a comprehensive computer system so veterans who receive rehabilitative, residential and medical services would get “consistent and integrated care” no matter which facility they visited throughout the state. The idea was approved in 2006.

Lawmakers unplug the CA’s electric car program

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

A few months ago, Gabriel Lua purchased a 2013 Chevy Volt to replace his 1987 Honda Civic, which had been giving him exhaust headaches and made him worry about the health of his children, ages 3 and 5.

Even though the old Civic had failed the state’s smog test three times and was costing him hundreds of dollars a month in maintenance, Lua said he couldn’t afford to replace it until he learned about a state incentive that helps low-income residents in California’s most polluted communities replace their dirty cars. The state covered more than half the new car’s price tag.

“It saves me gas. It saves me money. I feel safer. And most important, it’s for my kids,” said Lua, a 31-year-old mail carrier for a San Joaquin Valley school district.

Lua’s experience is exactly what Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers were aiming to achieve when they decided to spend money from the state’s greenhouse gas reduction fund on subsidizing the purchase of low- and zero-emission vehicles. …

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California budget vote dominates agenda

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Working under a midnight deadline to pass a budget, lawmakers face a busy day – though still likely a smoother endeavor than the protracted, head-banging budget battles of yore.

Central pieces of the budget deal announced last week include a hefty deposit into the state’s rainy day fund, $1.3 billion for new state office work (potentially including Capitol renovations) and the repeal of a rule denying welfare payments for new kids that lawmakers have attacked for years as cruel and counterproductive. Some other pieces of note:

▪  Affordable housing has vaulted up the agenda this year. But Gov. Jerry Brown isn’t offering money for nothing: if lawmakers want hundreds of millions for lower-cost accommodations, Brown wants them to agree to controversial language easing barriers to local building.

▪ The politically perilous vehicle registration fee would increase by $10, though a long-sought transportation funding deal still hasn’t coalesced. …

CA’s cap-and-trade program faces daunting hurdles to avoid collapse

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

The linchpin of California’s climate change agenda, a program known as cap and trade, has become mired in legal, financial and political troubles that threaten to derail the state’s plans to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The program has been a symbol of the state’s leadership in the fight against global warming and a key source of funding, most notably for the high-speed rail project connecting San Francisco and Los Angeles.

But the legality of cap and trade is being challenged in court by a business group, and questions are growing about whether state law allows it to operate past 2020. With the end of the legislative session in August, Gov. Jerry Brown, lawmakers and interest groups of all stripes are laying the groundwork for what could become a battle royal over the future of California’s climate change programs. …

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Increase In CA Vehicle Registration Fee

As reported by Capital Public Radio:

The state will charge Californians more to put their cars on the roads next year as part of the state budget deal reached by Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders.

The agreement includes a $10 per year increase in the vehicle registration fee that funds the Department of Motor Vehicles and California Highway Patrol. It’s effective April 1, 2017.

The governor proposed the hike in January (see bottom of pg 7 in the link). His Department of Finance says without the increase, the state would need to make “significant budgetary cuts” such as reducing the number of CHP officers on patrol and closing DMV field offices.

The vehicle fee, currently $43, would increase to $53. It would then continue to rise incrementally based on the California Consumer Price Index. …

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After Stanford case, California lawmakers push to redefine rape

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Building on their response to a Stanford swimmer’s sexual assault conviction, California lawmakers on Monday announced legislation to broaden the state’s definition of rape.

Much of the uproar around the case of Brock Turner, found guilty of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman, has focused on his sentencing after the student received a six-month jail term that was significantly lighter than what prosecutors sought. California legislators have pushed to remove the judge who issued that sentence.

Now those same legislators want to expand California’s definition of rape from the current standard, which requires sexual intercourse, to encompass penetration that occurs without consent. Turner was specifically convicted of sexually penetrating an intoxicated person with a foreign object and sexually penetrating an unconscious person with a foreign object, not of rape. …