Friday, May 6, 2011

Friday Must Read: California ‘Dream Act’ Headed for Approval; Federal Science Panel Blasts Delta Plan

By Robert Gammon
Fri, May 6, 2011 at 7:04 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The California “Dream Act,” which would provide college financial aid to illegal immigrant students, won approval in the state Assembly yesterday, and is expected to pass the Senate and be signed into law by Governor Brown, the SacBee reports. The bill allows undocumented college students who got their high school degrees in California to be eligible for the first time to apply for private grants and endowments that totaled $72 million last year.

2. A federal panel of scientists strongly criticized California’s plan to fix the ailing Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, saying it includes shoddy science and represents little more than an excuse to build a controversial peripheral canal, the Chron and CoCo Times reports. The conclusions reached by the National Research Council represent a setback for powerful southern Central Valley and Southern California water interests who want more water from the fragile delta and view the canal as the best way to get it.

3. Four hydroelectric dams on the Klamath River in Northern California will be removed to restore a depleted salmon run under a plan approved by the California Public Utilities Commission, the Chron reports. If the historic proposal is approved by federal regulators, the dams will be knocked down beginning in 2020.

4. The CPUC, meanwhile, also denied a request by PG&E that would have paved the way for the utility to try to charge ratepayers for upgrading gas-lines in the wake of the San Bruno disaster, the Chron reports. However, the newspaper reports that the CPUC will allow PG&E to raise its general electricity and gas rates by $1.9 billion over the next three years — although the increase is less than half of what the utility wanted.

5. California taxpayers spend roughly three times as much as private employers do for worker pensions and benefits, AP reports, citing a new study. The gap is much smaller, however, for teachers, and the report found that public employees overall make about the same pay as those who work for large private employers.

6. Unions representing some Oakland public employees say they will not agree to concessions unless the city’s police union begins contributing to its pensions, too, the Trib reports. Mayor Jean Quan wants the police union to pay 9 percent of its retirement plan — as other city employees already do. The mayor also has proposed fifteen mandatory work furlough days for all city employees, including police and fire, if the unions refuse to make concessions.

7. The Oakland City Council plans to weigh-in on the city’s controversial gang injunctions in the next several weeks, the Trib reports. Outgoing City Attorney John Russo decided last year to seek the gang injunctions without council approval. The injunctions have cost the city more than $1 million so far.

8. The state released school rankings yesterday, and the Tribune has posted an easy-to-use search that allows you to see how each public school ranks in California. Among the surprises is Oakland’s Montera Middle School, which has made significant gains in the rankings.

9. And in an unusual and controversial move, UC Berkeley has decided to punish student journalist Josh Wolf for his coverage of a student demonstration on campus in 2009, the Chron reports.

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