In the News

April 25, 2016

PRESS ENTERPRISE EDITORIAL

The Americans with Disabilities Act was intended to prohibit discrimination against people with physical or mental impairments and to improve access for the disabled to public accommodations. Too often, however, it has been used to shake down businesses for minor violations, such as a door sign affixed an inch too high or too low or a disabled parking logo that is a little too faded or painted in the wrong shade of blue.

California is a particular magnet for extortionary ADA litigation, thanks to state law which mandates a minimum $4,000 penalty for each violation – no matter how small – plus the plaintiff’s attorney fees. It is home to about 12 percent of the country’s disabled population, but accounts for 40 percent of ADA lawsuits. Its disability access lawsuits were one of the main reasons the American Tort Reform Foundation once again named California the nation’s No. 1 “Judicial Hellhole” last year.

April 22, 2016

By Liam Dillon

It has been called the most important climate change agency in the world, with a budget that might soon reach $1 billion, a four-fold increase in the last decade.

The California Air Resources Board's unremarkable name belies its power to influence how much you pay at the gas pump and the car you’ll be driving in 30 years. 

The agency’s growing influence over environmental issues and the economy has increasingly led to tension among state lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown. The governor has counted on the agency and its longtime leader, Mary Nichols, to put into practice his sweeping goals to combat climate change around the world.

But it’s the Air Resources Board’s efforts to deal with pollution closer to home that led to the most recent move by the Legislature to loosen the governor's grip over the agency — a decision that could reshape how the state plans to meet its goals for dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

April 15, 2016

By Rob McMillan

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (KABC) -- Riverside police officer Andrew Tachias is still recovering from the bullet wounds, more than three years after being shot nine times by rogue ex-cop Christopher Dorner.

Under current state law, cities only have to pay the full salary of wounded officers like Tachias for one year. After that, they can go on disability, but might be forced to retire early.

But some officers, like Tachias, want the state to grant them extra time to recover, allowing them to avoid early retirement and eventually get back on the force.

"What I want to say to you guys, is that it would be tough at the time I got injured to be 28 years old and be retired," Tachias told a State Senate committee last week.

The legislation sponsored by state Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, would require cities to pay the full salary of wounded officers for an extra year, before the costs were covered by the disability system.

April 15, 2016

The local Boys & Girls Club in the Casitas del Valle public housing community in Moreno Valley where Adrian Johnson lives gave him a sense of purpose.

The Rancho Verde High senior, who began going to the club three years ago, had struggled in school. He also felt like he had to fight to stay on a positive path amid the negativity in his neighborhood.

“I didn’t want to be trapped by all of the negative influences around me,” said Johnson, 17. “There was a lot of drug activity and gang activity. I wanted to get away from everything happening.”

When he came to the club, he was a previously home-schooled sophomore who was trying to adjust to being on a campus. He struggled to find his way, and coming to the club he changed his outlook and improved his focus.

April 14, 2016

By CASSIE MACDUFF

At last, a remedy appears to be on the horizon for Riverside and San Bernardino counties’ critical – and long-standing – shortage of judges.

A three-pronged attack on the problem is being mounted from the governor’s office, the state Legislature and the Judicial Council, the policymaking body of California’s court system.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed 2016-17 state budget suggests moving five vacant judgeships – and, importantly, their support staffs – to courts in counties that desperately need them. Riverside and San Bernardino counties are at the top of the list.

The state Senate Judiciary Committee introduced a bill that would allocate $5 million to hire 12 new judges, of 50 positions that were approved but never funded. It’s the same legislation Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, successfully passed last year but the governor vetoed.

April 04, 2016

By Ralph Vartabedian

California's plan to pay for construction of the $64-billion bullet train has many unanswered questions and shaky assumptions, senators from across the state told rail officials Monday.

"We want you to beef up your financing package," Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose), a longtime supporter of the high-speed project, said at a hearing of the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, which he chairs.

Republican lawmakers were even tougher. "I think the financing is shaky here," said Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber). "It seems like it is careening down the tracks."

The committee was responding to a draft business plan the California High-Speed Rail Authority released in February. The authority said it could build an initial $20.7-billion operating segment from San Jose to the Central Valley with funding it expects over the next nine years.

But the agency could not identify the source of money to complete the entire Los Angeles-to-San Francisco system. That leaves a $43.5-billion gap in the business plan, scheduled for approval later this month.

April 04, 2016

By Katie Orr 

A California Senate committee got its chance today to take a closer look at the status of the state’s high-speed rail project. The High-Speed Rail Authority recently released a draft business plan.

At the hearing, High-Speed Rail Authority Chair Dan Richard said construction on the first segment was shifted from a southern route between the Central Valley and Los Angeles to a northern route between the Central Valley and San Jose because it was less expensive and could generate significant private investment. But he says the train needs to be running to attract investors.

“They’re looking for that first operating line,” he says.

The Rail Authority estimates it will cost about $20 billion to build the northern route, which Richard says could generate $8 billion to $10 billion in private investment. He said the segment could be operational by 2025.

April 04, 2016

Mike Sweet, 65, of Rail Road Flat, was one of thousands in Calaveras County who evacuated his home in September when the Butte Fire tore through the county.

When Sweet returned to his undamaged home on Independence Road, a mile away from the burn area as the crow flies, he found in his mail a letter from Liberty Mutual informing him that it would not renew his homeowner’s insurance in November.

The reason given by the insurer: Sweet’s home is in a high-risk wildfire area.

April 01, 2016

By S. E. Williams

UCR wins bid for multi-million dollar emissions and research testing facility

A united effort by Riverside officials that could help shape the course of history on the all important issue of global warming and at the same time raise the profile of Riverside moved the California Air Resources Board to relocate its motor vehicle and engine emissions testing and research facility from El Monte to an 18-acre site at the University of California, Riverside.

On Thursday, March 24, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) reached a majority decision (8-3) to bring the $366 million investment into the community of Riverside along with approximately 400 high-paying jobs.

This monumental coup did not come easy. It came as a result of years of concerted and joint effort by the University of California—Riverside (UCR), the City of Riverside, Riverside County, and the Greater Riverside Chambers of Commerce who worked together and successfully demonstrated the advantages of locating the facility in Riverside.

However, these four institutions did not work in isolation. They were joined and supported in their efforts by State Senator Richard Roth of Riverside and his staff who worked equally as hard to ensure that Air Resources Board members understood how eagerly UCR, local government, business and elected officials had embraced the idea and were fully committed to its goals and objectives. Another California State Senator, Kevin De Leon, sent a strong and possibly game changing letter of support to the Board.

April 01, 2016

By Sandra Stokley

Eastvale, Jurupa Valley, Menifee and Wildomar lost millions in state revenue in 2011.

A California senate bill that would restore lost funding to Riverside County’s four newest cities passed the Senate Committee on Governance and Finance on a bipartisan , unanimous vote of 7-0 on Wednesday, March 30.

Eastvale, Jurupa Valley, Menifee and Wildomar have lost millions of dollars since 2011 when Senate Bill 89 eliminated vehicle-license fee revenue allocated to newly incorporated cities and annexed areas. SB 89 was one of the steps the legislature took to close California’s massive budget gap.