Stories you shouldn’t miss:
1. The State Supreme Court ruled in favor of the City of Richmond yesterday, stating that public-employee unions have no say in whether cities can lay off workers, the Chron reports. “A local public entity that is faced with a decline in revenues or other financial adversity may unilaterally decide to lay off some of its employees,” Justice Joyce Kennard said in the unanimous ruling, which upheld lower-court decisions. However, the court also said that cities must negotiate with unions on how to implement layoffs. Still, the ruling is expected to put cash-strapped cities in a better negotiating position when trying to win concessions from unions.
2. State lawmakers are racking up thousands of dollars in gasoline charges on the public’s dime, the Chron reports. However, it’s unclear whether legislators have been fueling their state-financed cars for personal travel in violation of California law — although it looks like some of them may be doing so. Either way, lawmakers are getting a free fuel perk — no limit, state-issued gasoline cards — that their counterparts in other states don’t receive at a time when California continues to slash services for the poor.
3. State Controller John Chiang has launched a probe of eighteen redevelopment agencies around the state, including four in the East Bay, Bay Area News Group reports. The cities are Richmond, Fremont, Hercules, and Pittsburg. The audits come at time when Governor Jerry Brown is proposing to eliminate redevelopment agencies throughout California, alleging that they waste money. The controller’s office also plans to audit San Jose’s redevelopment agency.
4. Alameda County transportation officials are pushing forward on a plan for a new bike trail from Oakland to Hayward that would run underneath the elevated BART tracks, the Trib reports. The 12-mile path also would include a pedestrian walkway and would run from just north of the Fruitvale BART station to just south of the Hayward station.
5. In another sign that the economy is on the rebound, the Dow Jones industrial average is closing in on 12,000 points for the first time since June 2008, AP reports.
6. As President Obama readies for his State of the Union address tonight, nationwide polls show that his approval ratings continue to rise. Even Republican-leaning pollster Rasmussen is showing that 52 percent of Americans approve of how Obama is handling his job versus 47 percent who don’t. CNN has the president up 55 to 44. It’s his highest approval ratings in more than a year.
7. Aren’t you glad that Obama listened to Tea Party-types and decided not to bail out the US auto industry? Just kidding. He ignored them, of course, and now GM is not only on the rebound, but it's closing in on Toyota as the world’s number-one auto company, AP reports.
8. And finally, Apple plans to introduce apps for iPhones and iPads later this year that will allow consumers to use the devices to make purchases, Bloomberg News reports.