A new report puts a partial price tag on California’s drought. U.C. Davis researchers say the state’s rainfall deficit could force Central Valley farmers to fallow more than 400,000 acres of land, or six percent of the total. That’s projected to cost the state’s the agricultural industry $1.7 billion and result in the loss of more than 14,000 jobs. Growers are facing a 32-percent loss in water deliveries. Much of that will made up by pumping groundwater, at a cost of about $450 million, according to California Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross. The Davis study says the current drought will not threaten California’s overall economy. Agriculture accounts for less than three percent of the state’s annual gross domestic product.
Public transit riders and religious leaders are calling on L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti and the board of the MTA to reject a set of proposed fare hikes. Dozens of protesters gathered on the steps of LA City Hall yesterday to make their point. They’re urging the public to pressure Garcetti and others on the 13-member Metro board to vote against the hikes at their meeting on Thursday. One plan being considered by the Metro board would increase the base fare for buses and trains from $1.50 to $1.75 by September. Then to $2.00 in 2017 and to $2.25 in 2020. Peak-hour fares for disabled and senior riders would double by 2020 under both plans. Metro officials say the hikes are needed to help erase a $36 million projected shortfall in the next couple of years.
The state Senate has signed off on a bill reducing the value of gifts that state lawmakers can accept. The measure would slash the gift limit from $440 dollars to $200. It would also ban lawmakers from accepting any gifts from lobbyists, and from holding lavish fundraising parties at their homes. The bill comes after three Democratic state senators who faced serious legal trouble were suspended. The measure now goes to the state Assembly.
Former Los Angeles County Undersheriff Paul Tanaka and a Sheriff’s Department captain are being investigated for their alleged role in hiding a jail inmate who was working as an FBI informant from federal authorities. The revelations about Tanaka, a candidate for L.A. Sheriff, and Captain William Casey came during the trial of Deputy James Sexton, who’s accused of obstructing the federal investigation into the Sheriff’s Department. Tanaka – the department’s former second in command – and Carey are under investigation for trying to thwart the same investigation. Both Tanaka and Casey testified at Sexton’s trial, and both have denied any wrongdoing. Closing arguments in the trial are scheduled for today. Meanwhile, activists are stepping up their campaign to bring more oversight to the Sheriff’s Department.
Incumbent superintendents rarely lose elections in California. But schools chief Tom Torlakson is in a battle to hold onto his job. Torlakson has been a champion of teachers and their unions during his four years in office. His main opponent, Marshall Tuck, is backed by education reformers who want more limited job security for teachers. Tuck’s views align closely with the educational policies of the Obama Administration, which Torlakson has largely rejected. Both candidates are raising a lot of money, and outside groups are pouring millions more into the race. A third candidate, veteran Long Beach teacher Lydia Gutierrez is a Republican who advocates scrapping the state’s new learning goals, called Common Core. If no candidate gets an outright majority on June 3rd, the top two finishers will face off in November.