Newsom’s budget would add billions to fight drought, fires and boost California farms

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday will propose spending billions of additional dollars on drought response, wildfire suppression and rural workforce development programs, according to budget documents reviewed by The Sacramento Bee. The governor’s plan includes $750 million in one-time money to help communities affected by the drought, including for water conservation, water efficiency, replenishing groundwater supplies and helping small farmers. That money comes on top of $5.2 billion Newsom and lawmakers approved last year for drought response and will build on clean drinking ...

Gov. Newsom calls for $1.4 billion in emergency COVID-19 spending as omicron variant spreads

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday called for California lawmakers to approve $1.4 billion in emergency COVID-19 money as the omicron variant surges. Most of that money would go to expanding hospital surge capacity and increasing testing, including by expanding the hours at testing sites and sending millions of rapid tests to local health departments, community clinics and schools. Newsom’s call for additional funding comes as testing demand outstrips supply in California, resulting in long lines at testing sites and longer wait times for results. On Friday, the Democratic gove...

Judge halts mega-resort in California wildfire zone, says residents could die trying to flee

Development of a $1 billion resort and housing project in one of the state's most wildfire-prone communities has been placed on hold after a judge ruled developers didn't adequately plan for what might happen when a wildfire erupts and thousands of people have to run for their lives. The Lake County judge's ruling on the Guenoc Valley Resort could have sweeping ramifications for housing and business developments across a state where fires are growing in severity and local officials are under intense pressure to approve new building projects during a housing crisis. The ruling, under California...

California is swimming in money. How will Gavin Newsom spend California's budget surplus?

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — For the second year in a row, California is poised to avoid economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, leaving Gov. Gavin Newsom with a good problem: how to spend a projected $31 billion surplus. By Monday, Newsom must unveil his proposal for the 2022-23 fiscal year, which starts July 1. His proposal will kick off months of negotiations with lawmakers, who face a June 15 deadline to pass a budget. Analysts predict the state's highest earners will continue to prosper and pay high taxes, resulting in another big surplus. The budget Newsom signed last summer included a p...

25,000 PG&E customers in Sierra still without power after storm dumped feet of snow

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. said Monday that a few thousand customers in the utility's Sierra Nevada region had power restored over the weekend, but that roughly 25,000 homes and businesses across the Northern California mountains and foothills remain in outages caused by last week's severe winter storm. That puts PG&E slightly ahead of estimates it gave last week, but it still means tens of thousands of residents and business owners across parts of El Dorado, Placer and Nevada counties have now been without electricity for about a week. PG&E executives during a Friday news conference said th...

California high school students disciplined over swastika photos, superintendent says

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The superintendent of a rural Northern California high school said a group of students seen posing in a photo with swastikas and other Nazi symbols drawn on their bodies have been disciplined, but that specific details cannot be shared for legal reasons. The administrator also said she and her colleagues have faced death threats following the incident. The photo, at what appeared to be a house party, showed eight young people with swastikas and “SS” bolts drawn on their chest or torsos in black marker. One of the teens appeared to be holding up an “OK” symbol – a hand gest...

New California laws for 2022: More duplexes, fewer ketchup packets and all mail-in elections

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A slate of new California laws set to go into effect Jan. 1 touches on everything from police accountability to housing reform, ketchup packets and how veterinarians gather blood donations for sick pets. Some laws Gov. Gavin Newsom signed last year, such as a ban on the sale of gas-powered leaf blowers and lawnmowers and a requirement that large retailers maintain a genderless kids area, don't go into effect until a couple of years from now. Here's a round-up of some of the high-profile laws set to take hold New Year's Day: Affordable housing California's sky-high housing ...

200-mile congressional district would link California's Central Coast to Silicon Valley. Who’d lose out?

WASHINGTON — California’s commission charged with redrawing the state’s legislative boundaries connected rural San Luis Obispo County to Silicon Valley hubs in its recent congressional draft maps. As redistricting — the process by which congressional districts are rejiggered to match new census population data — comes to a close, a new “ribbon of shame” draped across California’s central coast could very well make the cut. The proposed Democrat-heavy congressional district, which experts predict would house incumbent Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-Carmel Valley, covers rural areas in the northern part ...

Shoplifting ring with 15,000 stolen goods worth $200,000 busted, California cops say

Investigators broke up a San Francisco Bay Area retail theft ring connected to at least $200,000 in stolen merchandise, California Highway Patrol officers said. Investigators recovered 15,000 items stolen from CVS, Victoria's Secret, Target, GAP, TJX, LensCrafters, Nordstrom, Walgreens, Safeway and other stores, a CHP news release said. They also arrested two people, including one who arrived at a San Francisco storage unit while investigators were searching it for stolen goods, the release said. An earlier arrest initially led investigators with a CHP task force on organized retail crime to a...

Man found shot dead at Tesla plant argued with co-worker that day, California police say

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Two workers at a Tesla plant in the San Francisco Bay Area had argued earlier in the day before one was found dead in the parking lot, California police reported. Anthony Solima, 29, of Milpitas, has been arrested on suspicion of homicide following an investigation into the shooting death of his co-worker Monday, a Fremont Police Department news release said. Solima and the other worker, whose name has not been released, argued before Solima abruptly walked off his shift earlier Monday, police said. His co-worker was found dead of a single gunshot wound outside the plant a...

Newsom can't get Californians to cut their water use. His family is doing far better

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom has had a tough time persuading Californians to conserve water during the drought. He's done a lot better with his own family. Compared to a year ago, the Newsoms have reduced water usage on their spacious Fair Oaks home by 33% from late June to early November, according to records released by the governor's office Tuesday. By contrast, urban Californians as a whole have reduced consumption by 5.7% since Newsom issued a call for 15% voluntary conservation, the State Water Resources Control Board said Monday. The board added that conservation numbers for O...

'Catastrophic wildfires shall stop.' Inside PG&E's fire risk command center

SAN RAMON, Calif. — Pacific Gas and Electric Co. was holding its weekly wildfire-safety meeting the other day, and vice president Mark Quinlan opened the session with some big news: The utility's equipment hadn't sparked a fire in more than a month. The three dozen employees in attendance clapped, led by PG&E Corp. Chief Executive Patti Poppe. At PG&E, going a month without a new fire earns a round of applause. California's largest utility continues to labor with wildfire problems. Just a year removed from bankruptcy, PG&E is facing criminal prosecution over two big wildfires from 2019 and 202...

California fines PG&E millions over Kincade fire – the state’s worst wildfire of 2019

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California regulators handed PG&E Corp. a $125 million penalty Thursday over the Kincade fire, which sparked a massive evacuation in Sonoma County at the same time PG&E was blacking out hundreds of thousands of homes to reduce wildfire risks. PG&E — which is also facing criminal prosecution and millions in civil claims from the October 2019 fire — will pay the state a $40 million fine and will swallow $85 million in fire-related costs that otherwise could have been billed to ratepayers. The penalties, implemented through a negotiated settlement with the company, were appro...

Newsom blasts recent California retail thefts, vows to boost funding for police, prosecution

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom called a spate of retail thefts over the weekend “unacceptable” and said he would increase money for cities to address them in next year’s budget. A string of luxury stores were burglarized in San Francisco on Friday night, including Louis Vuitton in Union Square and Burberry in the Westfield mall, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The next night, NBC Bay Area reported about 80 people rushed into the Nordstrom in Walnut Creek’s Broadway Plaza shopping district and made off with bags of merchandise. ‘We are going to be more aggressive still in this spa...

College instructor accused of setting blazes near Northern California wildfire indicted

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A federal grand jury in Sacramento has indicted a college instructor with arson counts in connection with a series of fires set last summer near the massive Dixie Fire. Gary Stephen Maynard, 47, of San Jose originally was charged in the case in August and now faces four counts of arson to federal property and a count of setting timber afire. Each arson count carries a minimum sentence of five years in prison and a maximum sentence of 20 years. Maynard is accused of setting fires July 20 in the Cascade Fire in Siskiyou County, one day later in the Everitt Fire in Siskiyou, ...