Local News RoundUp

The Local News RoundUp is the League's daily news clipping service of articles related to California cities and local government.

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January 13, 2017

CALIFORNIA GOVERNOR
Gov. Brown plans to stop suspending licenses to collect traffic debt (KQED)
Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing to eliminate the suspension of driver’s licenses for Californians who fail to pay traffic tickets and related court fees, according to the $179.5 billion budget plan released Tuesday. The controversial move could benefit motorists who can’t afford to pay hefty traffic fines and lose the ability to legally drive as a result, which advocates say pushes them deeper into poverty. Critics of the plan say it will remove a major incentive for ticketed drivers to pay fines that fund the state’s cash-strapped courts and other programs. At least 600,000 motorists have their licenses currently revoked because of failure to pay traffic fines or to appear in court, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Brown has characterized the system that leads to low-income drivers losing their licenses as a “hellhole of desperation.” Motorists who continue to drive illegally and are stopped by police can get charged with a misdemeanor and lose their vehicles permanently.
Statewide
 
CAP AND TRADE
What’s behind the cap and trade urgency budget proposal (Fox and Hounds)
The governor’s budget calls for $2.2 billion in spending from revenue secured under the Cap and Trade law—but there’s a catch. The money would only be released if the legislature passes an urgency measure, which requires a two-thirds vote, thus confirming the Air Resources Board’s authority to administer the Cap and Trade program beyond its expiration date in 2020. Why is an urgency vote necessary when four years remain before the expiration date? A simple majority vote could eliminate any uncertainty for the immediate future.
Statewide
 
California lawmakers offer a plan to extend the state's cap-and-trade program (Los Angeles Times)
A group of lawmakers, including some who have been skeptical of global warming regulations, introduced legislation on Thursday to ensure that California's cap-and-trade emissions control program remains a permanent part of the state's climate policy. The measure, AB 151, is only one paragraph long right now, but it represents an opening bid in the brewing battle over the future of the state's program for requiring companies to buy pollution permits in order to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Gov. Jerry Brown wants a supermajority vote in both houses of the Legislature to safeguard cap-and-trade from legal uncertainty, stemming in part from a lawsuit over whether the program represents an unconstitutional tax. There also remain questions about whether current law requires the program to expire in 2020.
Statewide
 
WATER/DROUGHT
Call it the Southern California drought. Rain and snow end Northern California water woes (Los Angeles Times)
What was once a statewide drought this week became a Southern California drought. A week of powerful storms has significantly eased the state’s water shortage, pulling nearly all of Northern California out of drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. The  report underscores what experts have been saying for several months. As a series of storms have hit Northern California this winter, the drought picture there is improving, but water supply remains a concern in Southern California and the Central Valley. More than 40% of the state is no longer in a drought, according to the data released Thursday. Perhaps most striking, a giant swath of the state was declared to have no signs of abnormal dryness at all. The percentage of the state that fell into that category nearly doubled from 18% last week to almost 35% after the storm.
Statewide
 
Northern California has escaped the drought. Can it carry the state? (Sacramento Bee)
After five years, is the drought over? The feds seem to think so, at least as far as Sacramento and most of Northern California are concerned. Thanks to an unusually wet winter, the closely watched U.S. Drought Monitor reported Thursday that 42 percent of California now is considered free of drought. That includes Northern California from the Bay Area to the Oregon border. When the “water year” began in October, only 17 percent of the state was drought free, and a year ago the figure was 3 percent. Foggy start to Friday before several days of dry weather in Sacramento Several other experts agreed that considerable progress has been made in alleviating the drought.
Statewide
 
TAX/REVENUE
Faulconer proposes hotel tax hike for convention center expansion, homeless programs (San Diego Union-Tribune)
Mayor Kevin Faulconer proposed a hotel tax hike to pay for a convention center expansion, more homeless programs and increased spending on road repair during his annual State of the City address on Thursday night. Speaking to an overflow crowd at downtown’s Balboa Theatre, Faulconer also promised to spur construction of affordable housing, revitalize Balboa Park and boost the city’s technology industry so it might rival Northern California’s Silicon Valley. The mayor also briefly addressed the Chargers decision on Thursday to leave San Diego for Los Angeles by criticizing the team’s owner.
San Diego
 
PENSION
Calpers may move up to $30 billion in-house as pension cuts fees (Bloomberg)
The California Public Employees’ Retirement System, the largest U.S. pension, is developing plans to shift as much as $30 billion from external to internal managers as it seeks to reduce fees. The $306 billion system now oversees about 70 percent of its assets internally, most in stocks and bonds, a share that can increase as Calpers develops capacity to handle private equity, real estate and infrastructure, according to Chief Investment Officer Ted Eliopoulos. The shift would cut fees paid by the system as it reduces the outlook for investing returns amid low interest rates and slow economic growth. The Calpers board voted last month to decrease its assumed long-term annual rate of return to 7 percent from 7.5 percent. Over the next 10 years, it may average gains of 6.2 percent, according to Wilshire Associates, an outside consultant.
Statewide
 
HOUSING
Governor Brown to City Governments: It’s on you to make California affordable again (StreetsBlogCal)
Governor Jerry Brown’s proposed budget, released earlier this week, has some good news and some bad news for housing in California. California remains in the throes of the worst housing shortage in generations and Brown’s proposed budget makes it clear that state funding of affordable housing will not be the way out of this crisis. The budget proposal explicitly notes that money for affordable housing will not come out of the State’s General Fund and no new funding sources will be available without significant reform to local laws that currently stand in the way of housing growth. That has some lawmakers concerned.
Statewide
 
ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY
Obama expands the California Coastal National Monument, fulfilling multiple California lawmakers' wishes (Los Angeles Times)
After years of advocating from California lawmakers, President Obama on Thursday expanded the California Coastal National Monument. The California Coastal National Monument, which runs along the entire California coast, was expanded by 6,230 acres and includes protection of six new sites: Piedras Blancas Outstanding Natural Area in San Luis Obispo County; Cotoni-Coast Dairies in Santa Cruz County; Lost Coast Headlands, Lighthouse Ranch and Trinidad Head in Humboldt County; and Orange County Rocks off the coast of Southern California. Retired Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), retired Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara), Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Menlo Park), Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) and other members of the California congressional delegation have pushed for years to protect the sites. Originally designated by President Clinton in 2000, the site has already been expanded by Obama once, when he added Point Arena-Stornetta in Mendocino County in 2014.
Statewide
 
MARIJUANA
Experts have only a hazy idea of marijuana’s myriad health effects, and federal laws are to blame (Los Angeles Times)
More than 22 million Americans use some form of marijuana each month, and it’s now approved for medicinal or recreational use in 28 states plus the District of Columbia. Nationwide, legal sales of the drug reached an estimated $7.1 billion last year. Yet for all its ubiquity, a comprehensive new report says the precise health effects of marijuana on those who use it remain something of a mystery — and the federal government continues to erect major barriers to research that would provide much-needed answers. If historical patterns are any guide, ballot initiatives that legalized recreational marijuana in California, Maine, Massachusetts and Nevada last year will lead to an increase in cannabis use and drive down public perceptions of the drug’s risks. The result could be a natural experiment on a grand scale, according to the report released Thursday by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
Statewide
 
Landmark study: Marijuana effective medicine, but has drawbacks (San Francisco Chronicle)
During last weeks election five states legalized the recreational use of marijuana. It was almost serendipitous that researchers released a study that suggest marijuana use weakens hear muscles. In the study, researchers studied patients with the heart condition stress cardiomyopathy. Their studies showed that previous cases of stress cardiomyopathy were related to someone use of marijuana. Dr. Amitoj Singh, a lead investigator of the study, stated, “There have been many reports of heart attacks, strokes, and the two cases of stress cardiomyopathy that been linked to marijuana.” Marijuana can be an effective medicine in some cases for treating pain, nausea, muscle spasms and other conditions, but the drug that is wafting into the mainstream is not harmless, and more research is needed, the nation’s top scientists concluded in a landmark report released Thursday.
Statewide

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