State Senator Looking at Breaking Up Utilities Following Potential Ties to Deadly Fires

VENTURA, CA - DECEMBER 5: A home is destroyed by brush fire as Santa Ana winds help propel the flames to move quickly through the landscape on December 5, 2017 in Ventura, California. (Photo by Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

State Sen. Jerry Hill tells KQED that he is looking into legislation that would break up the state’s investor-owned utilities or make them public following reports that Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison equipment may have been connected to the Camp and Woolsey fires burning at either end of the state.

“I’m very concerned about what we’ve learned so far regarding the fires of this year,” Hill said, referring to reports filed by PG&E and Edison to state regulators about incidents at their facilities that occurred around the same time that these deadly and destructive fires began.

On Thursday, PG&E told the California Public Utilities Commission that there was an outage on its 115-kilovolt Caribou-Palermo line at 6:15 a.m. Thursday. Cal Fire says the blaze started at 6:29 a.m.

It’s not clear from the report whether the damage occurred before or after the fire began, and a company spokesman did not address that question. But the location identified in the report appears to be very close to the spot where firefighters first encountered the blaze. …

Click here to read the full article from KQED

Rouda defeats Rohrabacher in Southern California

FILE - In this July 17, 2007 file photo, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, before the Senate Judiciary hearing on the prosecution of Jose Alonso Compean and Ignacio Ramos, two former Border Patrol agents imprisoned for shooting a drug smuggler in the backside as he sprinted toward Mexico. Rohrabacher's suggestion Friday, June 10, 2011, during a trip to Baghdad, that Iraq repay the United States for the money it has spent in the country has stirred anger, with an Iraqi lawmaker ridiculing the idea as "stupid" and others saying Iraqis should be compensated for the hardships they've endured. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)

Democrat Harley Rouda on Saturday claimed victory in the race for California’s 48th Congressional District, unseating 15-term incumbent Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in one of the most anticipated House contests of the 2018 election cycle.

Rouda’s victory is sure to energize Democrats, who’ve galvanized to flip several House seats in the traditionally heavily Republican enclave of Orange County in Southern California since 2016.

His win adds further padding to Democrats’ majority in the chamber after the party picked up 30 seats on Election Day, and it brings to a close the nearly three-decade tenure of the pro-Russia representative often referred to by critics as “Putin’s favorite congressman.”

Though ballots are still being counted, Saturday’s tally showed Rouda with 52 percent of the vote and about 8,500 more votes than Rohrabacher, according to the Associated Press. …

Click here to read the full article from Politico

Death toll in California wildfires climbs to 25

FireThe remains of 14 more victims were found in the ashes of a massive Northern California wildfire, bringing the total number of deaths from blazes raging across the state to at least 25, officials said Saturday.

Butte County Sheriff Kory L. Honea said the 14 bodies were recovered in the Camp Fire, thought to be the most destructive wildfire in state history. Nine deaths had previously been reported in that fire.

Two bodies also were found in the burn zone of the Woolsey Fire in Southern California, officials said.

“I know that members of our community who are missing loved ones are anxious, and I know that the news of us recovering bodies has to be disconcerting,” Honea said. “I will tell you that we are doing everything that we possibly can to identify those remains and make contact with the next of kin.”

“My heart goes out to those people. I will tell you that this weighs heavy on all of us,” he said. …

Click here to read the full article from NBC News

It Will Be A While Until All Votes Are Counted

vote ballotsWhile some elections offices say all their precincts have reported, workers aren’t close to counting all of the ballots.

That’s because a precinct is counted as reporting after all ballots received are submitted to the county elections office, not after those ballots have been tabulated.

Janna Haynes, spokeswoman for the Sacramento County Voter Registration and Elections Department, said the results that were released at 2 a.m. Wednesday morning make up more than one-third of the ballots that the county has received.

“We have 185,000 and some change that have been tabulated, calculated and results released,” Haynes said. “We have already partially processed another 175,000 ballots. And there’s probably another 150,000 sitting here that haven’t even been counted yet.”

And then there are the ballots that were mailed in. The county will conduct a final pickup of those ballots on Friday and should have the voter turnout numbers by Monday. …

Click here to read the full article from Capital Public Radio

Thousand Oaks shooting leaves 13 people dead, including gunman

thousand oaks shootingA former U.S. Marine machine gunner who may have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder burst into a Thousand Oaks bar packed with college students late Wednesday night, tossed a smoke bomb into the crowd and opened fire, authorities said.

Eleven people were killed, in addition to a sheriff’s sergeant responding to the scene who was gunned down by the assailant minutes later.

The Borderline Bar and Grill was hosting line-dancing lessons for college students as young as 18 on Wednesday night. Crowds of young people, including parties for two women celebrating their 21st birthdays, were drinking and dancing when the crack of gunfire echoed through the cavernous room about 11:20 p.m.

Terrified patrons scrambled for cover as bullets flew. Some crouched behind pool tables and in bathroom stalls, fumbling with phones as they tried to call and text their loved ones. Others used barstools to break second-story windows in an attempt to jump to safety. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times

5 toss-up California races could help determine which party wins House control

There are five critical toss-up House races in California, and as the election results map unfolds through the night, there is every chance that those races could be the ones that finally decide the balance of power in the House.

The five are all currently Republican-held, generally speaking in more conservative parts of California – one in the state’s Central Valley and four either entirely or partly in Orange County. But all of the five districts voted for Hillary Clinton over President Trump in the 2016 election, and that’s giving Democrats hope that they can flip all five.

Among the Republican incumbents most at risk is Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, looking for his 16th term, taking a hardline stance on immigration and getting a strong endorsement Monday from President Trump who tweeted, “Dana Rohrabacher has been a great Congressman for his District and for the people of Cal. He works hard and is respected by all – he produces! Dems are desperate to replace Dana by spending vast sums to elect a super liberal who is weak on Crime and bad for our Military & Vets!”

The Democrat to whom the president was referring is Harley Rouda, a real-estate investor who previously called for President Trump’s impeachment and accuses Rohrabacher of being a Trump ally out of touch with voters, saying, “We don’t need any more extremists in Congress like Dana Rohrabacher. We need moderates like myself.”

Click here to read the full article from Fox News

What Employers Need to Know About Election Day

VotedUnder California law, employers and employees have rights and obligations related to election day. These provisions of law are found in the California Elections Code as set forth below:

If a voter does not have sufficient time outside of working hours to vote at a statewide election, the voter may, without loss of pay, take off enough working time that will enable the voter to vote. (Elections Code Section 14000(a))

No more than two hours of the time taken off for voting shall be without loss of pay. The time off for voting shall be only at the beginning or end of the regular working shift, whichever allows the most free time for voting and the least time off from the regular working shift, unless otherwise mutually agreed between the employer and employee. (Elections Code Section 14000(b))

If the employee on the third working day prior to the day of election, knows or has reason to believe that time off will be necessary to be able to vote on election day, the employee shall give the employer at least two working days’ notice that time off for voting is desired, in accordance with this section. (Elections Code Section 14000(c))

Although this requirement has passed as of this article, not less than 10 days before every statewide election, every employer shall keep posted conspicuously at the place of work, if practicable, or elsewhere where it can be seen as employees come or go to their place of work, a notice setting forth the provisions of Section 14000. (Elections Code Section 14001)

Note that both Sections 14000 and 14001 shall apply to all public agencies and their employees, as well as to employers and employees in private industry. (Elections Code Section 14002)

Chris Micheli is a Principal with the Sacramento governmental relations firm of Aprea & Micheli, Inc.

This article was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

Schools, cities and counties asking for $20 billion in new taxes

voteThe ballot California voters will tackle on election day is a long one, with dozens of candidates and 11 statewide propositions. While a lot of attention has been devoted to those choices, little has been given to scores of local ballot measures asking for permission to borrow or tax in communities — proposals totaling some $20 billion for schools, cities and counties.

How the local measures ended up on the ballot depends on the community, though all were written by local officials. There are other common threads too — many of these governments have limited options when it comes to funding. State income taxes go to Sacramento; property taxes are constrained by the rules under California’s landmark Proposition 13. And the dollars that do flow from the state and federal governments are often earmarked and off-limits for use on general community needs.

Local dollars are hard to raise at the ballot box. While statewide propositions only need a 50%-plus-1 of the votes cast, some municipal measures need more to succeed. Local bonds require a supermajority vote, with most school construction bonds requiring 55% voter approval. The threshold for taxes, meanwhile, is counterintuitive. Taxes aimed for a narrow purpose or program must win two-thirds of ballots cast. But if it’s for broad government operations, a new tax can be imposed with a simple majority. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times

Say it ain’t so: Is Texas turning into California?

Laffer1When economist James Gaines gave a talk recently about the economy and the real estate market, his biggest audience response came from an unexpected topic.

Gaines, chief economist at the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University, told hundreds of local real estate agents what to expect in the years ahead regarding the state’s population growth and demographic changes.

“Do you know what Texas looks like in 30 years?” Gaines asked the audience.

“California,” he offered as the whole ballroom of folks groaned and rolled their eyes.

Nothing gets a bunch of Texans more riled up than to tell them they are turning into California.

“I have used that line a number of times and get the same reaction,” Gaines said. “People are always asking where are we going and what will we look like.

“I’m serious about it,” he said. “The problems, the issues, politically, socially, economically, land use, housing resources — go down and tick off the issues. We are going down the same path.”

Gaines said the rapid growth of jobs, population and wealth that California has seen over the past few decades is similar to what Texas is now experiencing. That means the state faces the same opportunities and increasing challenges. …

Click here to read the full article from the Dallas News

Waymo Can Finally Bring Truly Driverless Cars to California

WaymoTHE DRIVERLESS CARS cometh. Waymo just became the first company allowed to test fully self-driving cars — the kind with no carbon-based beings behind the wheel — in the state of California.

The outfit that started life as Google’s self-driving car project has been running driver-free cars in Arizona for almost a year, where the state testing rules are far more lax than in California, and where it plans to launch a commercial robo-taxi service by the end of the year. But securing the right to do the same in its home state is still a milestone, and evidence it can win over even comparatively wary regulators to the way of the robot.

To begin, the truly driverless cars will test only at up to 65 mph in the southern Bay Area, in Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, and Palo Alto. (Waymo and its parent company Alphabet are headquartered in Mountain View.) The company said it will inform local governments before expanding its tests any further. And though Waymo has clearly stated its intention to run its own driverless taxi service, the company’s first driver-free passengers will only be employees. Waymo did not say when it will open its cars to the wider California public. …

Click here to read the full article from Wired