PG&E's new leader is the nation's highest-paid federal employee
Sacramento Bee's DALE KASLER: "PG&E’s newly-appointed chief executive officer leaves his old job with a mixed record on renewable energy, a potentially costly entanglement from an environmental spill in Tennessee, and a singular distinction: He’s been the highest-paid federal government employee in the country."
"As the head of the government-owned Tennessee Valley Authority, PG&E’s new leader Bill Johnson made $8.1 million in total compensation last year, according to public documents. The Knoxville News Sentinel in Tennessee said that’s more than any other federal employee, anywhere."
"Johnson was named CEO late Wednesday as the utility, struggling in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, faces enormous pressure from California regulators and elected officials to improve its safety record. PG&E estimates that it could have to pay $30 billion to cover liabilities from the October 2017 wildfires and last November’s Camp Fire, the worst fire in California’s history. He is wrapping up his tenure in Tennessee this week and takes over at PG&E in late April."
Use-Of-Force Bill Backed By California Law Enforcement Will Include Reforms Prompted By Stephon Clark Shooting
From Capital Public Radio's BEN ADLER: "Just days before a showdown in the California Legislature over when police can use deadly force, law enforcement groups are embracing reforms recommended by Attorney General Xavier Becerra after the Sacramento police shooting of Stephon Clark."
“We’ve taken best practices from some of the more progressive cities and we’ve put them into our bill,” said Sen. Anna Caballero (D-Salinas), the author of a use-of-force bill backed by law enforcement groups that seeks to improve police training while leaving the state’s current legal standard for lethal force in place."
"Caballero said the best practices seek to reduce not just deadly force, but also any force. They include de-escalation, implementing “distance, time and place restrictions” on when force can be used, a duty to report excessive use of force by a fellow officer, and requiring that agencies investigate any such reports."
A California national park is getting its first cell tower. Not everyone thinks it's a good idea
Sacramento Bee's TIM SHEEHAN: "Verizon Wireless has won approval from the National Park Service to build a 138-foot-tall cellular tower in Sequoia National Park to improve cell phone service in that area of the park."
"The tower will be a “monopine” design intended to disguise it as a pine tree and it will be built near Wuksachi Village, a developed commercial area in the park. The approval follows almost two years of evaluation since Verizon applied for a permit. It also came after a monthlong comment period in late 2018 in which a majority of public comments opposed allowing Verizon to install the tower."
"Verizon’s tower would be the first such installation inside Sequoia National Park, according to data from the Federal Communications Commission. Sequoia’s sister park, neighboring Kings Canyon National Park, has a cellular tower also licensed to Verizon near Wilsonia and Grant Grove. Farther north in Yosemite National Park, there are nine towers that provide cellular service for park employees and visitors, including in Yosemite Valley."
Money, chicanery fuel college admissions uproar
CHUCK MCFADDEN in Capitol Weekly: "It’s pretty much all there: money, celebrity, scandal, more money, cheating, coaches being bribed — advantage layered over advantage."
"In what federal law enforcement officials say is the “largest college admissions scam ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice,” federal prosecutors have accused dozens of wealthy parents of making at least $25 million in illegal payments in one form or another to get their unqualified children into select colleges, including the University of Southern California, UC Berkeley, Stanford and UCLA. Several school officials also have been named in the schemes, which apparently began eight years ago."
"In one case reported by the L.A. Times, an unidentified parent was described as paying $6.5 million to get a child into a prestigious school. The paper also reported that federal investigators were tipped to the scheme by a wealthy suspect in a separate multimillion-dollar fraud case who sought to cut a deal."
CA energy shortage looms amid shift to renewables
OPINION: JOEL KOTKIN in Capitol Weekly: "In much of the country a powerful energy boom is providing a serious stimulus to economic growth. But in California, where fossil fuels are considered about as toxic as tobacco, we are lurching toward an anticipated energy shortage that will further exacerbate the state’s already deep geographic and class divisions."
"California, in a typical feat of “virtue signaling,” has committed the state to getting half of its electrical power from renewables such as wind and solar, up from 16 percent today, within the next decade. This drive has meant the rapid abandonment of electricity generated by nuclear power as well as natural, gas which together comprised nearly 70 percent of all electricity production in 2015."
"This may not end well. California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Picker suggested recently that we could soon return “the kind of crisis we faced in 2000 and 2001.” The rapid abandonment of existing reliable energy sources makes the state, in the estimate of the Institute for Energy Research, “vulnerable to rolling blackouts."
Can Feinstein bridge the gap between NRA allies and gun control advocates? Legislation addressing violence against women is at stake.
Sacramento Bee's EMILY CADEI: "One senator is a longtime foe of the National Rifle Association. The other came to national attention with a campaign ad promising to “unload” on Obamacare while firing a handgun at a shooting range. But a popular law to prevent violence against women now rides on whether California Democrat Dianne Feinstein and Iowa Republican Joni Ernst can find common ground on gun rights and several other thorny social issues."
"The Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, authorizes an array of grants for law enforcement to investigate and prosecute domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking, as well as programs to support victims. First passed in 1994, the most recent version of the law expired in February, although its programs are funded through the end of the fiscal year."
"The Democrat-led House — with the support of 33 Republicans — voted Thursday to pass legislation to extend and update VAWA. But the legislation faces a tenuous path in the Republican-controlled Senate, thanks in large part to the National Rifle Association or NRA, the influential lobbying group for gun rights."
How has the failed high capacity magazine legislation affected their availability?
Sacramento Bee's ANDREW SHEELER: "A court order striking down California’s ban on high-capacity magazines drew cheers from gun rights advocates and criticism from gun control supporters. But what did it actually do?"
"The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action laid out an explanation on Wednesday cautioning that gun owners still face some risk if they buy the previously banned magazines from out-of-state dealers."
"The court order could be put on hold or overturned, and that could put the purchaser in violation of California law, the NRA said."
Pelosi: Trump's most important Democrat
LA Times's JENNIFER HABERKORN/NOAH BIERMAN/DON LEE: "President Trump is showing surprising deference to his top political adversary, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as he feels pressure to fulfill a signature election promise — approval of a revised trade deal with Mexico and Canada."
"In many ways, Trump has no choice, as the president and his allies scramble to notch a policy victory before the 2020 election."
"Only Pelosi (D-San Francisco) can decide whether the pact to replace the North American Free Trade Agreement comes up for a vote in the Democratic-controlled House. Advocates hope that will happen before the House goes on recess in August and the 2020 campaign kicks into high gear, all but destroying chances to pass the deal in Congress for the rest of Trump’s term."
Renewal of Violence Against Women Act threatened by gun-rights dispute
LA Times's SARAH D WIRE: "House Democrats on Thursday passed a new, stronger version of the Violence Against Women Act, which expired in mid-February and needs to be reauthorized to ensure vital funding for shelters and police departments."
"But the bill’s prospects in the Senate remain unclear as some Republicans complain the changes go too far, including a provision that would ban gun sales and ownership by a person convicted of stalking."
"The bill passed 263-158, with all but 33 Republicans voting no."
Legislator-only DMV office would be nixed under GOP proposal
Sacramento Bee's BRYAN ANDERSON: "It’s all but impossible to find for those who don’t know what they’re looking for."
"Room 121 rests at the end of an isolated hallway across the street from the Capitol, is locked at all times and has no signage whatsoever. The only indicator of its existence is a peephole outside the front door."
"The special Department of Motor Vehicles office is closed to the public, and if one Republican gets his way, it will be closed to the lawmakers and Capitol staff members using it."
SF supes oppose Weiner's new housing-near-transit bill, but there's wiggle room
The Chronicle's DOMINIC FRACASSA: "San Francisco appears all but certain to oppose a divisive state bill that would allow denser housing to be built around transit hubs and job centers, a measure that has again exposed the volatility of land use politics in a city straining to confront a critical housing shortage."
"A resolution by Supervisor Gordon Mar opposing the bill, SB50, has support from an eight-member supermajority on the board, dealing a symbolic but notable blow to the measure’s author, state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco."
"The Government Audit and Oversight Committee, which Mar chairs, voted 2-1 Thursday to send a resolution opposing SB50 to the full Board of Supervisors next week. The dissenting vote was from Supervisor Vallie Brown, who expressed some reservations about the bill, but said it would be better for the city to be “at the table” with Sacramento legislators, rather than foreclose on the measure altogether."
Dignity Health must pay $3.4M to pharmacist fired amid DEA investigation
Sacramento Bee's DARRELL SMITH: "Dignity Health must pay $3.4 million to a Woodland Memorial Hospital pharmacist who claimed she was fired in 2015 after she refused to fudge the pharmacy’s pill totals while the Woodland hospital was the focus of state and federal probes over thousands of pills missing from its narcotics inventory."
"Jurors handed down the verdict in favor of former outpatient pharmacy manager Mandy Kazminy on Thursday after a two-week trial in Woodland before Yolo Superior Court Judge Stephen Mock."
"Yolo County jurors sent a strong message with the verdict, awarding more than $1 million in compensatory damages and another $2.4 million in punitive damages – a total attorney Lawrance Bohm said was roughly half of the Woodland hospital’s 2017 profit."
LA County sheriff and supervisors are at odds. This could cost Villanueva
LA Times's MATT STILES: "In June 2017, former Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell went before the Board of Supervisors to ask for help. Short on time, he leapfrogged other county agencies to make a case for his proposed $3-billion budget, noting the ballooning costs of paying deputies overtime and of managing mental health services inside the department’s jails."
"I ask you to join me in moving forward, collaboratively, to address the challenges that we face,” McDonnell said."
"And, for the most part, the supervisors agreed."
For Democrats, all paths to the White House run through the House of Sharpton
LA Times's EVAN HALPER: "A glimpse at the guest list for the Rev. Al Sharpton’s confab here this week would surely astonish any New Yorker arriving in a time machine from the 1980s. Every major Democrat who has launched a White House bid has cleared their schedule to get in front of the Reverend."
"Few things once seemed more improbable, save perhaps for the White House being occupied by Donald Trump, who once competed with Sharpton for screaming tabloid headlines and airtime on what was then a nascent medium known as “trash TV."
"But today, Sharpton’s approval is sought by political candidates far and near. The crusades he launched decades ago against police abuse and racist enforcement of drug laws — back when his issues were widely denigrated as fringe and his look ran to velour tracksuits, giant gold medallions and a pompadour the size of Queens — are now central to the speeches of almost every Democratic 2020 hopeful."
Trump backs off border shutdown but threatens auto tariffs
AP's JILL COLVIN: "President Donald Trump is threatening to slap tariffs on cars coming to the U.S. from Mexico unless the Mexicans do more to stop the flow of migrants trying to enter the U.S."
"Trump had threatened to close down the border this week unless Mexico immediately halted "ALL illegal immigration coming into the United States," but he backtracked Thursday. He told reporters he would try the "less drastic measure" before resorting to his standing border-closure threat."
"He will visit the border Friday during a trip to California."
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