New air pollution scandal: Fiat Chrysler settles with California and U.S. for $800 million
Sacramento Bee's DALE KASLER: "Call it Dieselgate II."
"In a settlement announced Thursday by state and federal officials, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles agreed to pay $800 million over charges that the global carmaker used “defeat device software” in thousands of diesel vehicles to cheat on air pollution tests."
"The case is similar to the multibillion-dollar settlement made by Volkswagen over the use of the rogue software — and was discovered through enhanced testing procedures state and federal officials developed after the Volkswagen scandal was unearthed by California and federal officials in 2015."
Newsom's budget makes big down payment on California pensions
Sacramento Bee's ADAM ASHTON/MADDY ASHMUN: "By making early payments on California’s unfunded pension promises, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first budget aims to free up billions of dollars for schools in coming years."
"His budget calls for $7.8 billion in payments above what is required by law to the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System."
"Public schools would get special help if lawmakers passed Newsom’s budget. School districts have been struggling since 2014 with escalating CalSTRS rates that have more than doubled how much they pay for teacher retirement plans every year."
READ MORE related to State Budget: Newsom's budget: More money for education, navigation centers -- The Chronicle's JOE GAROFOLI/JOHN WILDERMUTH; What does California's budget mean for you? -- KATY MURPHY and JOHN WOOLFOLK, Mercury News; 10 takeaways from Gov. Newsom's $209 billion budget -- Judy Lin , CALmatters; Gov. Gavin Newsom threatens to cut state funding from cities that don't approve enough housing -- LIAM DILLON, LAT; California governor links housing, transportation money -- KATHLEEN RONANYNE, AP
Gavin Newsom issues a warning: He's going to talk a lot more than Jerry Brown
From LAT's PHIL WILLON and TARYN LUNA: "Gov. Gavin Newsom barely paused to catch his breath as he tossed out more than $300 million worth of morsels from his newly crafted budget in a span of less than three minutes."
"Cash to provide immunizations and developmental screening for children; $50 million for family planning; millions for Alzheimer’s research and workforce development; $25 million for early detection of psychosis; and a pot of cash for literacy programs and tattoo removal for prisoners."
"That was just a snippet from Newsom’s marathon news conference on the spending plan Thursday, a one-man political show peppered with jabs at President Trump, a wonky soliloquy on housing policy and ample shout-outs to legislative leaders who’ll be sifting through the governor’s budget proposal in the coming months. Newsom, a microphone pinned to his lapel, left the lectern to get closer to his audience, flicking up graphics on a big screen behind him and fielding questions for a total of nearly two hours."
Government shutdown puts millions of North Bay disaster dollars in limbo
From WILL SCHMITT in the Press Democrat: "Tens of millions of dollars meant to help Sonoma County and Santa Rosa recover from the October 2017 wildfires and prepare for future disasters is in limbo as the federal government shutdown continues with no end in sight."
"Of particular concern to Santa Rosa is the roughly $38.5 million the city expects to receive in federal grants to build apartments after fires wiped out 5 percent of its housing stock. Meanwhile, Sonoma County has submitted at least 20 different requests for roughly $24 million to fund fire-hardening work, seismic retrofitting and other disaster mitigation projects."
Gunned down on her beat: Officer Natalie Corona mourned as suspect found dead in Davis home
From the SacBee's HANNAH DARDEN, BENJY EGEL, AND SAM STANTON: "The call came into Davis police just before 7 p.m. Thursday, a three-car accident near 5th and D streets that by any measure would be considered routine."
"Officer Natalie Corona, 22, who graduated from the Sacramento Police Department’s training academy in July and completed her field training just before Christmas, responded to the scene alone."
"Corona, whose father spent 26 years as a Colusa County Sheriff’s deputy, was an eager rookie officer, a young woman who started with the department in 2016 as a community service officer and who stayed on the job even when funding for her position ran out."
California water projects could be tapped to pay for Trump's border wall
LA Times's SARAH D WIRE: "Officials have given President Trump a plan to divert funds designated for Army Corps of Engineers projects in California and Puerto Rico to help pay for a wall along the southern border, a leading member of Congress said Thursday."
"On his way to the Texas border Thursday, Trump was presented with 13 Army Corps of Engineers projects for which Congress has allocated money, but which have not yet been put under contract, according to Rep. John Garamendi (D-Walnut Grove)."
"Those funds potentially could be tapped for building a border barrier if Trump declares a national emergency, which he said Thursday he is strongly inclined to do."
California heads to court to fight Trump birth control rules
AP's SUDHIN THANAWALA: "A U.S. judge will hear arguments Friday over California's attempt to block new rules by the Trump administration that would allow more employers to opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women."
"Judge Haywood Gilliam previously blocked an interim version of those rules — a decision that was upheld in December by an appeals court. But the case is before him again after the administration finalized the measures in November, prompting a renewed legal challenge by California and other states."
"Gilliam was not expected to rule immediately at the end of hearing."
Another credit rating firm downgrades PG&E over fire fallout
The Chronicle's J.D. MORRIS: "Moody’s Investors Service downgraded the credit ratings of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and its parent company to junk from investment grade on Thursday, the second time in one week the utility has been hit with such an action because of the peril it faces from recent California wildfires."
"Moody’s cited critical comments made by state legislative leaders about the corporate governance of PG&E and regulatory allegations that the utility falsified certain natural gas records for several years as key reasons for the downgrade."
"Shares of PG&E Corp., the utility’s parent company, were trading after hours at $16.61, down 6.48 percent from Thursday’s closing price."
READ MORE related to California Burnin'/Energy & Environment: SoCal's ecosystems evolved to survive fire. But not like this -- LA Times's BETTINA BOXALL
Furloughed govt workers rally in SF to demand end to shutdown
The Chronicle's STEVE RUBENSTEIN: "Four dozen federal workers took to the street in downtown San Francisco on Thursday, demanding an end to the federal shutdown that is forcing them to shop at dollar stores and eat macaroni and cheese for dinner."
"The protest in front of the Environmental Protection Agency headquarters was peaceful and passionate, and coincided with similar demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and other cities."
"Marching in a circle at the building’s front steps were environmental lawyers, a NASA technician and a housing discrimination investigator, along with their colleagues, spouses, babies and dogs."
Teen creates DNA test for food allergies
The Chronicle's ERIN ALLDAY: "For most of his childhood, Ayush Alag lived with the near-constant fear of a life-threatening allergic reaction."
"He had never gone into full anaphylactic shock, but a taste of cashew would make his tongue prickle and his lips swell up. He was convinced that he could die if he accidentally ingested too much."
"It wasn’t until middle school that he finally learned — after days of exhaustive testing in his Stanford allergist’s office — that he did not have a severe allergy to cashews or any other foods. He was just sensitive to them. The results were a huge relief, but they made him think: There had to be a better way to diagnose allergies.."