Michael Picker, new president of the California Public Utilities Commission told lawmakers at a hearing yesterday that Pacific Gas and Electric officials had diverted funds earmarked for pipeline safety to pay for executive raises shortly before the San Bruno explosion that killed eight. From Marc Lifsher at the Los Angeles Times:
“The issue of the bonuses first was raised in a January 2012 independent audit for the PUC and an accompanying commission staff report.
“But Picker's testimony “was the first time that I ever heard a PUC official admit that or state that as a fact,” said state Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo)….
“Records released a few days after the explosion showed that PG&E received approval in 2007 to spend $5 million of ratepayer money to replace a high-risk section of the 30-inch pipeline north of the San Bruno blast site.
“The work on the 1950s-era pipe was never performed. And in 2010, the utility asked for another $5 million to do the same job, according to PG&E documents submitted to the PUC.”
A proposed aid-in-dying bill passed the Senate Health Commitee 5 to 2 yesterday following hours of emotional testimony from supporters and opponents.
Patrick McGreevy, LAT: “The panel received testimony that included a video of Brittany Maynard, made before her assisted death in Oregon last year, in which she urged California to adopt the proposal.
“Democratic Sen. Richard Pan, a physician, did not vote after the testimony portion at a packed hearing that also included Maynard’s husband and mother.
“Democratic Sens. Lois Wolk of Davis and Bill Monning of Carmel said their SB 128 would allow a mentally competent, terminally ill adult California resident in the final stages of life to request aid-in-dying medication from a physician.”
According to a new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California, the drought has topped jobs and the economy as the number one concern of California voters. John Myers teases the numbers at KQED:
“On this question, it’s interesting to note how the two issues — the economy and water — differ by region. The drought outpaces jobs and the economy among Central Valley residents by 15 percentage points, and among Bay Area residents by 17 percentage points. But travel southward and you find the opposite: Los Angeles residents still think the economy (29 percent) is a bigger worry than the drought (13 percent); and in the Inland Empire, the economy (35 percent) outpaces the drought (15 percent) as the leading problem by a more than 2-to-1 margin.
“(In the Inland Empire region, 23 percent of those surveyed say water isn’t much of a problem. In the Central Valley, only 9 percent agree with that sentiment.)
“If anything, the new poll seems to highlight the political and policy challenges now facing the governor and lawmakers — both when it comes to forging consensus on big ideas and in the event that further water crises may spark discussion of mandatory water restrictions.”
While major restrictions are not part of the prescription yet, emergency funding is, with the Senate approving two drought relief bills over some Republican opposition. From Jeremy White at the Sacramento Bee:
“The legislation includes $24 million in food aid for workers idled by the drought, particularly farm laborers, as well as a $19.9 million for drinking water. The package’s $272.7 million from a just-passed water bond for projects related to drinking water quality, water recycling and desalination could take longer to become reality. Most of the package, some $660 million, would go to flood prevention, with that money stemming from a bond measure approved in 2006.
“One of the two bills also toughens water enforcement, authorizing penalties of up to $8,000 on people who illegally obstruct the ability of fish to move through rivers and streams, such as by building dams or diverting water. It would create a new office within the State Water Resources Control Board tasked with encouraging wastewater treatment projects and finding more potable water.
Republicans objected to those expanded powers.
“’Every time we do one of these emergency bills,’ said Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, ‘what we really do is expand the authority of government.’”
The Blue Ribbon Commission on Marijuana Policy, a nonpartisan group led by Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, will issue a report today on concerns that should be addressed in any proposals to legalize marijuana. From Joe Garifoli at the San Francisco Chronicle:
“According to a copy of the report obtained by The Chronicle, the commission isn’t shying away from some of the thornier questions surrounding legalization: What to do with people who remain incarcerated on marijuana-related charges? If voters legalize pot, should their criminal records be cleaned? Should convicted felons be allowed to work at marijuana-related businesses?..
“The report states that any new law should be able to ferret out people who are driving under the influence of marijuana. The challenge is that detecting stoned drivers is not as clear-cut as nabbing drunk ones.
“It also wrestles with how steeply to tax legal cannabis. Taxing it too high might force people to buy it on the street, where it would be untaxed and likely cheaper. And will a tax apply to medical marijuana — which has been legal in California since voters approved its use in 1996?”
Note to self: if ever arrested, don’t smile like a loonybird when taking a mugshot.
Nancy "Suzanne" Duarte might have benefited from that advice after she was arrested for setting fire to a yoga studio in Dallas.
“’Most people can’t understand the smiling mugshot,’ Duarte said through glass at a visitation room in the Dallas County Jail.
“…Nancy Duarte, who goes by Suzanne, says she smiled in her mugshot because she’s trying to let go of her anger, which is why she went to American Power Yoga Saturday carrying a baseball bat and a can of gasoline.
“’I thought it was going to make me happy… to burn the place that had brought me so much pain and suffering,’ Duarte said…. ‘Just to set it on fire, just destroy it, get rid of the devil’s temple.’”
Maybe she was just channeling George Metesky…