AUBURN, Calif. (AP) – A Northern California man has died from the West Nile virus, the state’s fifth death to the mosquito-borne virus this year. The Sacramento Bee says 74-year-old Howard Stolz of Placer County died Saturday after being hospitalized for 10 days with encephalitis, a severe neuroinvasive condition brought on by the virus. Placer County stretches from the suburbs of Sacramento to Lake Tahoe and the Nevada border. Four other Californians have died from West Nile this year. The virus is spread by mosquitoes. One out of every 150 infected people develop severe symptoms, including neck stiffness, disorientation, coma and paralysis.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – State officials say Gov. Jerry Brown’s travel ban has saved California taxpayers at least $85 million since he took office. The governor’s office on Thursday released travel figures showing the state spent $144 million during Brown’s first fiscal year in office, compared to $229 million during former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s final year in office. That’s a 37 percent reduction. Brown, a Democrat, issued an executive order in April 2011 banning discretionary travel for state employees as part of a series of money-saving moves. He also cut state-issued cell phones, vehicles and trinkets. The largest savings came in the Business, Transportation and Housing Agency, which cut $63 million. Spokesman Jim Evans said the agency, which oversees the California Highway Patrol and Department of Motor Vehicles, is focused on “mission critical” travel.
MARTINEZ, Calif. (AP) – A California Highway patrol officer who was shot during a San Francisco Bay area traffic stop has died. CHP officials announced Officer Kenyon Youngstrom’s death Wednesday evening at the Walnut Creek hospital where he had been on life support since being struck in the neck Tuesday morning, Officer Peter van Eckardt said. Youngstrom, a 37-year-old married father of four who lived in Cordelia, had worked for the CHP for seven years. His suspected assailant, 38-year-old computer programmer Christopher Boone Lacy of Corning, was shot and killed by Youngstrom’s partner.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – California would devote the $20 million found hidden in a state Department of Parks and Recreation special fund to keeping all parks open under a bill approved by the state Senate. AB1478 also imposes a two-year moratorium on park closures. The bill passed 25-12 Thursday and returns to the Assembly for a final vote. Auditors found nearly $54 million hidden in two state park special funds, even as budget cuts threatened to close 70 parks. Most parks ultimately stayed open with the help of local governments and community organizations that contributed before the money was discovered. The bill creates a dollar-for-dollar matching fund to encourage communities to continue helping local parks. The Legislature plans to spend the remaining money, which was found in an off-highway vehicle fund, next year.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants could get California driver’s licenses if a bill headed to Gov. Jerry Brown becomes law. The state Assembly Thursday approved a bill that would allow the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue licenses to illegal immigrants eligible for work permits under a new Obama administration policy. The landmark bill would allow immigrants to use documents they received through the federal program as proof of legal residence at the DMV. Democratic Assemblyman Gil Cedillo of Los Angeles said he wrote AB2189 to make roads safer, and allow young immigrants to drive to school and to work. Several Republicans supported the bill, but others in the party spoke against it, saying the state should leave immigration issues to the federal government.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – More than 800,000 Californians who own property in wildfire country will begin receiving bills this week for a new annual fire-protection fee. It’s prompting outrage among rural residents and a likely lawsuit seeking to overturn the surcharge. The fee is projected to raise $84 million for fire-prevention efforts. The annual charge can run as high as $150 for property owners with a single occupied dwelling. However, most will get a $35 discount because they already pay a local fire protection tax. The bills start going out Monday to those who own property within the 31 million rural acres covered by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Soon after the bills go out, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association plans to file a lawsuit to have the fee declared unconstitutional.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Lawmakers are expressing outrage over revelations that state park officials hid money and say greater oversight of state accounts is needed. Assembly members used an oversight hearing Thursday as an opportunity to blast state agencies and the governor’s Department of Finance for accounting practices that led to hundreds of millions of dollars in discrepancies in hundreds of special funds. The hearing is the latest fallout from the attempt by some state parks officials to underreport nearly $54 million in two of those funds. The finance department reviewed the 560 funds last week and found no other instances of hidden money. But during the Legislature’s first formal inquiry into the scandal, both Democrats and Republicans suggested the audit was not enough. Lawmakers called for additional investigations and discussed increased oversight measures.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A hazardous materials official says small amounts of materials are burning in Chevron’s refinery near San Francisco after a fire Monday night sent black smoke over Bay-area cities. Scores of residents went to hospitals complaining of breathing problems early Tuesday. Smoke and flames could be seen for miles. The blaze at Chevron’s plant in Richmond, about 10 miles northeast of San Francisco, was contained late Monday although company spokeswoman Heather Kulp said it was not immediately known when the flames would be extinguished. A shelter-in-place order for Richmond, North Richmond and San Pablo was lifted around 11:15 p.m. Contra Costa County hazardous materials program director Randy Sawyer tells the San Jose Mercury News early Tuesday smoke was not leaving the refinery property. Well over 200 people went to hospitals with breathing problems. Residents said they heard loud blasts around 6:15 p.m., when the fire broke out, although Chevron officials could not confirm those reports.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – The bitter, four-year court fight over California’s same-sex marriage ban could soon be resolved. Backers of Proposition 8 have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overrule a federal appeals court that struck down the measure as unconstitutional. If the high court declines to take the case, it would clear the way for same-sex marriages to resume in California. In Tuesday’s filing, lawyers for the coalition of religious conservative groups that sponsored the voter-approved ban argued that the ruling from the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is “tantamount to a judicial death sentence for traditional marriage laws throughout the Circuit.” Lawyers for two same-sex couples who first challenged Proposition 8 in 2009 said they would urge the Supreme Court to reject the case. The high court is expected to act on the petition this fall.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – A federal appeals court is taking a second look at California’s DNA collection law. Voters overwhelming approved the Proposition 69 law in 2004. The law allows police to collect DNA samples from anyone arrested for a felony, even if they haven’t been convicted. The state has long collected DNA from convicted felons. Prosecutors say it is a vital crime-fighting tool. State Attorney General Kamala Harris says collecting arrestee DNA has solved thousands of crimes. The Los Angeles Times says a majority of judges on the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco voted on Wednesday to reconsider a February decision by a three-judge panel that had upheld the program.