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May 21, 2019

State will pay $47M for payroll lawsuits filed in Brown era


Sacramento Bee's WES VENTEICHER: "Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget proposal requests about $47 million to settle two state payroll disputes he inherited from his predecessor."


"The state Supreme Court ruled in October that Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration owed judges about $40 million for raises they should have received during the recession, but Brown’s administration didn’t make the payment before he left office in January."


"The first judge to rule against Brown in the case in 2016 set a 10 percent interest rate on the payments, pushing the bill up by about $4 million per year as the administration went through the appeals process."


Surprise medical bills could prompt rare bipartisan action in Congress


LA Times's JENNIFER HABERKORN: "Even through the pain of a burst appendix just weeks before election day, Katie Porter made sure her campaign manager took her to Hoag Hospital in Irvine — and not to a closer hospital — because she knew the emergency room was in her insurance network."


"An appendectomy followed, plus five days in the hospital on IV antibiotics. About $55,000 worth of services was covered by her Anthem Blue Cross insurance policy with only a $250 co-pay from Porter. But a few weeks later, she said, she was hit with a $3,231 bill from the surgeon who, despite operating in a hospital in the Anthem network, was not in the network himself. That left Porter on the hook for $2,800 out of pocket."


READ MORE on health care: California eyes health care for immigrants in US illegally -- ADAM BEAM, AP.


Path to fracking eased in oil, gas and drilling plans


Capitol Weekly's CHUCK MCFADDEN: "Once again, the stage is being set for a multi-pronged battle in California between environmentalists and the Trump administration."


"On May 9, the federal government announced plans to open 725,500 acres of public lands on California’s Central Coast and the Bay Area to new oil and gas drilling. Specifically, the plan potentially involves drilling in the counties of Alameda, Contra Costa, Fresno, Merced, Monterey, San Benito, San Joaquin, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Stanislaus."


"Earlier, on April 25, the Trump administration had released its draft proposal to reopen more than a million acres of public land to drilling in much the same area — Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura counties."


SF dad to plead guilty in college admissions scam


The Chronicle's MATTHIAS GAFNI: "Agustin Huneeus Jr., a San Francisco wine magnate, is expected to plead guilty Tuesday to paying $50,000 for a test proctor to correct his daughter’s SAT scores and agreeing to bribe a University of Southern California athletic’s department official to secure his daughter’s spot on the water polo team even though she was not a top athlete."


"Huneeus Jr., 53, already stepped down as CEO of Huneeus Vintners, but on Tuesday he is scheduled to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud as part of the nationwide college admissions cheating scandal, according to court records."


"He would join former New York attorney Gordon Caplan in a Boston federal courtroom to plead guilty in what will be a busy week at the courthouse. Six more parents are scheduled to plead guilty this week, including two more Bay Area parents. A total of 33 mothers and fathers have been implicated in the schemealleging wealthy parents paid large sums of money to a bogus nonprofit that would use the money to bribe test proctors, university officials and college coaches. Ringleader William “Rick” Singer already pleaded guilty to multiple charges."


Juul hires consultant linked to Trump as it shells out money for SF ballot fight


The Chronicle's DOMINIC FRACASSA: "E-cigarette maker Juul spent lavishly on lobbyists, opinion researchers and political consultants last month ahead of what could be a bruising fight with city officials over its ability to do business in San Francisco."


"The company spent nearly $465,000 in April, public records show, to hire a stable of both local and national political operatives — including Fabrizio Ward, a Florida firm with ties to President Trump."


"Tony Fabrizio, the firm’s namesake, was a key pollster for Trump’s presidential campaign and was previously a business associate of Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. Fabrizio, who did not respond to a request for comment, was interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigative team in 2018, CNN reported in January."


POTUS threatens to cut millions from fire departments in California after deadly wildfires


Sacramento Bee's EMILY CADEI: "Officials in California are crying foul over a Trump administration plan to slash firefighting assistance payments to the state, which could amount to millions of dollars in lost income for fire departments."


"The U.S. Forest Service, in turn, is accusing the local fire departments in the state of over-billing the federal government as part of a federal-state partnership, the California Fire Assistance Agreement (CFAA), that was inked in 2015 and expires in 2020."


"The disagreement between state and federal fire officials now threatens to upend negotiations to extend that agreement, which state Fire and Rescue Chief Brian Marshall said is essential to combat not just wildfires, but other natural disasters in California."


Bye bye big top? California lawmakers vote to ban the use of circus performing animals


Sacramento Bee's ANDREW SHEELER: "The Big Top’s days in the Golden State could soon be numbered; California lawmakers voted Monday to outlaw the use of circus performing animals."


"The state Senate voted unanimously for the Senate Bill 313, a ban on the commercial use of wild animals which was supported by animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Now the legislation moves on to the State Assembly."


"California’s lawmakers are recognizing that no elephant should be chained in a parking lot, no tiger should be caged in a cramped trailer, and no camel should be whipped into performing tricks,” PETA representative Rachel Mathews said in a statement upon the bill’s passage."


Ghost Ship tenant 'hustled' strangers out of deadly warehouse fire


The Chronicle's MEGAN CASSIDY: "Ghost Ship tenant Adam Kennon was smoking just outside a side door of the Oakland warehouse when he heard someone yell “fire.” In a matter of seconds, he was hustling people out the door and away from a wall of flames that would consume the building and kill 36."


"Kennon testified Monday that he didn’t recognize any of the five to 10 people he helped escape as fellow Ghost Ship residents. But that was nothing unusual, he said. People were always coming in and out of the Fruitvale neighborhood artists’ collective, and there likely were others he didn’t know at the warehouse’s electronic music concert the night of Dec. 2, 2016."


"In the fourth week of the Ghost Ship trial, prosecutor Autrey James attempted to use Kennon’s testimony to poke holes in a defense theory that the deadly inferno was ignited by arsonists."


2020 candidates wrestle with their costly plans


LA Times's EVAN HALPER: "They keep piling up, sometimes trillions of dollars at a time."


"The competition among 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls to be bold in confronting vexing social and economic challenges has created a mountain of policy promises. The rising price tag has implications the contenders prefer to sidestep."


"Candidates’ breezy assurances that everything from four years of college to first-class medical care to cash payments for the middle class can be had for free — unless you are one of those very wealthy Americans targeted to foot the bill — have concerned even liberal economists."


Two Sacramento city council members say Mayor Steinberg's tax spending plan might bankrupt the city


Sacramento Bee's TONY BIZJAK: "The debate over how the city of Sacramento should spend $50 million in annual Measure U sales tax dollars escalated this week as two council members assailed Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s controversial plan to sell bonds backed by a share of city revenue. And several community groups said they will show up at City Hall Tuesday to call for a slice of the new money."


"In written opinion pieces, Council members Jeff Harris and Angelique Ashby accused Steinberg of putting the city at risk of bankruptcy with his bonding plan should the economy go south. Their protests suggest the council is facing its biggest rupture in the two-plus years since Steinberg took the helm. A divided council must come to an agreement on a 2019-2020 city budget by the end of June."


"Steinberg has proposed that the city borrow against its budget to issue bonds and use that money to invest strongly upfront in housing, economic development and other community building programs, with much of it focused on less privileged neighborhoods and residents."


Cops used a sledgehammer to raid reporter's home. SF DA has questions


Sacramento Bee's DARRELL SMITH: "The controversial mid-May raid of a reporter’s home by San Francisco police over a leaked internal report in the sudden death of the county’s public defender continued to draw questions Monday – this time from its district attorney."


"In a series of tweets Monday morning, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon said he couldn’t see a situation where a warrant would be justified and said the police operation risked violating the confidential relationship between journalist and source."


"I can’t imagine a situation in which a search warrant would be appropriate,” Gascon posted Monday on his Twitter account."


READ MORE related to Freedom of the Press: DA Gascon joins criticism of SFPD raid of journalist's home -- The Chronicle's EVAN SERNOFFSKY


Garcetti said he backs US Embassy in Jerusalem. Now religious groups want an apology


LA Times's DAKOTA SMITH: "A year after the Trump administration moved the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti waded into the still simmering political controversy, drawing criticism from L.A. religious groups."


"I support the embassy being here,” Garcetti told The Times during his trip to Israel last week with the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “Israel shouldn’t be the only country in the world that can’t determine where its capital will be, but there is usually a process to these things rather than what seems like an overnight, one-sided, partisan move."


"In response, local offices of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Jewish Voice for Peace and the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Palestine Israel Network, among others on the political left on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, called on Garcetti to retract his statement of support. The groups also sent the mayor a letter on Sunday."


OP-ED: Gas prices are 'pure highway robbery'. Let's get our money back


Consumer Watchdog's JAMIE COURT in the Sacramento Bee: "Californians now pay an extra $1.17 per gallon at the gas pump more than other Americans. Three to four dimes per gallon more may be attributed to higher taxes, carbon credits and environmental issues."


"The extra 75 to 85 cents per gallon is pure highway robbery. Call it The Golden State Gouge."


"The only good reason Californians pay more is because oil companies can charge it. Five oil refiners now control 90 percent of California’s refined gasoline supply, after recent consolidations permitted by the state’s former Attorney General Kamala Harris and Gov. Jerry Brown."


Billionaire's student loan pledge puts pressure on wealthy


The Chronicle's KATHLEEN PENDER: "Billionaire investor Robert Smith’s surprise announcement Sunday that he will pay off student loans for the entire graduating class of Morehouse College is already having an impact, at least on other commencement speakers."


"At Boston College’s graduation ceremony Monday, speaker Isabel Capeloa Gil said she couldn’t pay off the students’ loans but there might be people in attendance who could and encouraged them to do so, said Boston College law professor Ray Madoff, whose daughter was one of those graduating."


California has more troops than any state, but it's too expensive for vets to retire


Sacramento Bee's ANDREW SHEELER: "California’s high cost of living makes it a difficult place for retired military service members to settle down, according to an annual report by financial services website WalletHub."


"California — home to the largest number of active-duty troops in the nation — fares poorly in the survey when it comes to affordable housing, homelessness and the proportion of of businesses in the state that are owned by veterans."


"The study broke down all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., in terms of economic environment (including tax friendliness and job opportunities), quality of life (including share of veterans and number of homeless vets), and health care (including the number of VA hospitals)."


Abandoned Delta hotel once served as WW2 interrogation center


Sacramento Bee's ALEXANDRA YOON-HENDRICKS: "Peeking between yellowing fields in the southern Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, behind barbed-wire fences and “no trespassing” signs, the massive four-story brick building is a shell of its former majesty."


"It was once home to the Byron Hot Springs Hotel, “America’s unequal spa,” as proclaimed by a July 1913 ad in The Byron Times."


"And in 1940s, it was also the site of an important interrogation center for the U.S. Army and Navy, called Camp Tracy."

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