Sacramento County, CA (MPG) - In many cities across California, Sacramento included, the cultivation and sale of recreational cannabis becomes legal Jan. 1, opening the flood gates for an industry widely expected to generate a gold mine for municipalities who have said “yes” to the legitimization of the pot business.
However, Sacramento County, as well as the cities of Citrus Heights, Rancho Cordova and Folsom, among others in Placer County and points across the map, each have stuck to their guns and have banned what they view as the coming of the wild west of commerce.
Anticipating an uptick in violent crime, robberies, homelessness and headaches, coupled with a complicated process for management of the commercial side of the cannabis industry, these areas have echoed a resounding “NOT” to the cultivation of cannabis in their towns. There are also too many questions, they say, about how to affectively assess pot farmers on their profits from what is currently a cash-and-carry industry, not to mention the offense of the smell from burning weed wafting over their neighborhoods.
So pot is legit as of Jan. 1, and yet it isn’t, depending on where you reside and how you intend to consume or even grow it.
If you’re cloudy on the issues, there’s good reason for it. The medicinal marijuana laws passed several years ago that ushered in the growth of the pot dispensary market made it legal for those with a “prescription” from their physicians to purchase limited amounts of pot.
Proposition 64, passed in November 2016, effectively made it possible for weed growers who are lucky enough to obtain licenses from the state to come out of the shadows and begin cashing in on the commercial recreational pot market, which is expected to generate roughly $1 billion for the state annually. Tax proceeds on pot farmers’ bounties will, in part, support enforcement and oversight of the industry, among other programs.
In addition, Prop. 64 allows for the personal cultivation of up to six living pot plants for non-medical purposes, provided they are grown inside a person's private residence or a green house, but not in a field or backyard, as many cultivators have been doing under the radar for years.
So, where and when will it be legal to grow, sell or possess pot? And are pot dispensaries legal or not?
Because marijuana remains categorized as a controlled substance under federal law, the state has left it up to individual counties and cities to determine if they wanted in on the action or not, giving them a Dec. 31 deadline to say so, in order for the approval process for applications from prospective growers to begin Jan. 1.
The City of Sacramento voted this fall to join the party and is currently cultivating its own guidelines for commercial growing and distribution. Licensees will be taxed 4% of their proceeds, for starters. Applications for conditional use permits are required and renewable annually. Depending on the type of business you want to run, city fees for setting up a grow operation will run you anywhere between $9,000 and $15,000, and between $8,000 and $13,000 to renew the license each year.
But, since it’s a cash flow operation, there are many unanswered questions as to how growers will deposit and move earnings, just one of the headaches fueling the Rancho Cordova City Council’s “no” vote.
“We have been watching all the things the city of Sacramento is going through and we see it as just a headache we do not want to deal with,” said Vice Mayor Linda Budge following her council’s 3-2 vote against lifting the ban on commercial operations Dec. 4.
Sacramento currently has roughly three dozen pot dispensaries, again built out primarily after the medicinal pot laws went into effect, but there is a moratorium on approval of new applications for licenses. Pot cultivation beyond the legal limit of six plants inside a residence, delivery services and pot dispensaries all remain illegal in Citrus Heights, Folsom, Rancho Cordova and countywide.
Proponents of Prop. 64 and the decriminalization of the marijuana industry site the stigma of pot and previous felony-level charges for minor offenses that, they say, often stood between offenders’ abilities to find a job or, in some cases, obtain approval for adequate housing.
Opponents of the law, however, including city officials, law enforcement agencies and county prosecutors have repeatedly pointed to what they see as a direct through-line between cannabis cultivation and pot dispensaries and serious crime, including murder, which they expect will continue, despite the changes in the law.
“I’ve been a prosecutor for 30 years, and as long as I’ve been involved with cases involving crimes related to marijuana, it has always been a very high-risk, dangerous activity,” said Robert Gold, assistant chief deputy district attorney. “It is always going to be a dangerous activity whether legal or not, because so many of the growers are less sophisticated. The bad guys are going to believe that they have a lot of product, a lot of money and probably guns. And the other thing is, they won’t often report crimes against themselves, which makes them vulnerable victims.”
Gold also cautioned that it remains illegal, regardless of where you live, to carry more than an ounce of marijuana, but conceded the misdemeanor charges that now accompany most minor pot infractions, make it difficult to justify the costs of prosecuting such cases.
“The law certainly has resulted in changing the laws in favor of those who want to make this a business,” said Gold. “Whether you grow 25 plants illegally or 250,000 plants, it’s a misdemeanor and 180 days in the county Jail. So even for a convicted felon, it’s now like a speeding ticket.”
POT OR NOT:
The City of Sacramento: YES
Sacramento County: NO
Citrus Heights NO
Rancho Cordova: NO
Elk Grove: NO
Placer County: NO
Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - Local households throughout the Sacramento region that earned $54,000 or less in 2017 can receive free tax help in person through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) effort led by United Way California Capital Region with support from Citi Community Development. The program will kick off at the first Super Saturday event on Jan. 27 from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. at Grant Union High School in Sacramento, where IRS-certified volunteers will provide free basic tax return preparation with electronic filing. For more Super Saturday events and weekday sites available during tax season, call (916) 498-1000 or visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org/FreeTaxPrep. Sacramento residents can call 2-1-1.
“We want to make sure more Sacramento-area households are financially healthy, and that starts with not spending unnecessary money on tax preparation and making sure they receive all of the refunds to which they are entitled,” said Stephanie Bray, United Way California Capital Region president and CEO.
Through VITA, the national IRS program that offers free help to people who make a limited income and need help preparing their tax returns, local IRS-certified volunteers will help Sacramento-region households claim tax credits, including federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits (EITC and Cal EITC), Child Tax Credit, and Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled. This year, more households are eligible to earn up to $6,500 in federal and state Earned Income Tax Credits, including those who are self-employed. Many Cal EITC-eligible households are not legally required to file taxes due to low income, however if they do file, they can claim the state and federal credits for which they are eligible. Those who file for EITC, Cal EITC or Child Tax Credit should plan for their refund to be delayed until Feb. 27.
“We want to encourage people to plan ahead for this delay instead of using refund advance products that can end up being very costly in the long run,” Bray said. “And don’t pay a preparer if you qualify for free VITA services. You won’t receive your refund sooner.”
Local households that made $66,000 or less in 2017 can file state and federal taxes online for free at MyFreeTaxes.com, sponsored by United Way Worldwide. The site provides households with free tax help they can trust so they can maximize refunds and credits. As with VITA, the site helps people save an average of $200 in preparer fees, guiding users through federal and state filing with software powered by H&R Block. Users need a valid email address, income forms and Adjusted Gross Income from 2017.
Funding support from Citi Community Development will enable United Way California Capital Region to increase capacity and reach of the local VITA program to meet additional need and demand over the next two years. The funding will help expand the number of sites offering free tax preparation and increase the number of volunteer tax preparers.
“Nearly 20 percent of households in the Sacramento region are living on low incomes, and nearly half lack the savings to sustain an unexpected shock to income,” said Vicki Joseph, Northern California market manager for Citi Community Development. “By expanding access to free tax preparation services, United Way is enabling more families in need to benefit from this vital tax credit and help build their financial resiliency.”
Other sponsors of United Way’s 2018 free tax preparation programs include U.S. Internal Revenue Service, SAFE Credit Union and SMUD. For a list of collaborating partners, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org/VITA.
United Way California Capital Region is leading these free tax preparation programs as part of its Square One Project, a 20-year promise to significantly increase the number of local students who graduate from high school ready for success in college and beyond. Household financial well-being is a key factor in student success. Through nine decades of work and research across Amador, El Dorado, Sacramento, Placer and Yolo counties, the local United Way believes ending poverty starts in school and is working to ensure kids meet important milestones for success in college or career. To donate or volunteer, visit YourLocalUnitedWay.org.
Citi Community Development leads Citi’s commitment to financial inclusion and economic empowerment for underserved individuals, families and communities across the U.S. Through innovative collaborations with municipalities, community groups and leading nonprofit organizations, the group harnesses Citi’s expertise, products and services to help expand opportunity for all. For more information: CitiCommunityDevelopment.com, @Citi on Twitter, YouTube.com/Citi, http://Blog.Citi.com, Facebook.com/Citi and LinkedIn.com/company/citi.
State Point Media (MPG) - The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced that California's adolescent birth rate continues to decline. In 2015, there were 17.6 births per 1,000 females aged 15-19: a 10 percent decline from the 2014 rate of 19.6 and a 62 percent decline from the 2000 rate of 46.7.
"By empowering young people with the knowledge, tools and resources to make healthy choices, California is succeeding in reducing births among adolescents," said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith.
The adolescent birth rate decreased across all racial and ethnic groups between 2000 and 2015. During this time, the adolescent birth rate dropped among Hispanics from 77.3 to 27.0, among African-Americans from 59.1 to 19.7, among Whites from 22.3 to 6.9, and among Asians from 15.0 to 2.9.
Despite declining birth rates, racial disparities persist in adolescent childbearing in California. African-American and Hispanic adolescents were three to four times as likely to give birth as White females. Additionally, the adolescent birth rate varies considerably across counties, from a low of 6.7 in Marin County to a high of 43.1 in Del Norte County.
California has a number of programs aimed at preventing adolescent pregnancy and improving pregnancy outcomes among young women. CDPH funds the Information and Education Program, the Personal Responsibility Education Program authorized through the Affordable Care Act of 2010, and the Adolescent Family Life Program for expectant and parenting adolescents. Also, the state provides no-cost family planning services to eligible men and women, including adolescents, through the Family PACT Program.
As travel demand decreases after a busy holiday travel season, prices at the pump should decrease as well
Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - Californians will kick off 2018 with the most expensive gas to begin a year since 2014, according to AAA, but prices are expected to fall in coming weeks as travel demand subsides after a busy holiday travel season.
At $3.10, California’s average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline today is 33 cents more than drivers paid in January, 2017. At nearly $3.23 per gallon, San Francisco residents are paying the highest prices for gas in Northern California -- 3 cents more than motorists in South Lake Tahoe, which normally tops the charts for the region.
“Last year was a historic travel season, with AAA forecasting record travel numbers for nearly every holiday, but prices historically will drop after the ball drops on New Year’s Eve,” said Michael Blasky, a spokesman for AAA Northern California. “Californians today are paying about 60 cents more than the national average, which AAA attributes to the state’s strong economy, higher taxes on gasoline and stricter environmental regulations."
The last time Californians started a year paying more than $3 for gas was in 2014, when the average price in January of that year was $3.62. Gas prices rose above $4 that summer.
Still, January prices don't always indicate how prices will move throughout a year. Motorists in California paid just $2.55 for regular unleaded gas to begin 2015, but by May were paying above $3.70 per gallon.
Oil prices were more stable in 2017, with prices for a barrel hovering around $50 much of the year. Prices rose late in the year and began 2018 over $60 a barrel, a 2-year high.
“With global oil producers trying to scale back their production, supply could drop while demand for energy remains high,” Blasky said. “If they’re successful in cutting back oil production, gasoline prices will likely rise as well to meet the demand.”
CDPH Offers Free Radon Test Kits
Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - January is National Radon Action Month and the cold winter months are the best time to test for this odorless and colorless gas. CDPH is offering free test kits to households in California throughout the month of January, or until supplies run out.
Radon, a naturally occurring gas, is the second leading cause of lung cancer in the United States, according to the Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Testing for radon in your home is a simple process,” said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith. “Taking steps for remediation, if needed, can be critical for indoor air quality, and improving the safety of your home.”
The kits are provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s State Indoor Radon Grant fund, and are limited to one free test kit per household. The aggregated information from the test results will be used to update statewide Radon Potential Maps, which show the likelihood of radon in a specific region.
Test kits can be ordered through the CDPH Indoor Radon Program webpage or by calling the program toll-free at 1-800-745-7236. Options for remediation of radon in the home are available at the CDPH Indoor Radon Program.
Additional information about National Radon Action Month is available on the EPA National Radon Action Month website at www.epa.gov/radon/national-radon-action-month-information
Average residential customer bill will be reduced by $1.20
Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - SMUD has removed the state-mandated SB-1 solar surcharge from all customer bills. Part of Governor Schwarzenegger’s “Million Solar Roofs Initiative,” the surcharge—currently equal to $0.0016 per kilowatt-hour of electricity usage or about $1.20 on an average SMUD customer monthly bill—was initiated in 2008.
Funds from the surcharge were used to help develop residential and commercial solar capacity throughout SMUD’s territory. Overall, the funds will have helped build approximately 125 megawatts of solar generation over the last ten years. This includes incentives for residential and commercial customer solar installations, Smart Home developments, and SolarShares™ developments. A recent example of how these funds were used is the $1.4 million awarded to the Sacramento International Airport to support their installation of two new solar arrays totaling 6.8 megawatts in capacity. The arrays produce enough electricity to handle approximately one-third of the airport’s power needs, saving the airport approximately $850,000 in energy costs each year.
Per the state mandate, the SB-1 solar surcharge was in effect until SMUD had collected $130 million. SMUD reached that cap in late December and immediately removed the surcharge. SMUD has disbursed approximately $125 million of these funds to date and will disburse the remaining funds by the end of 2020.
Per earlier approval by SMUD’s Board of Directors of the Chief Executive Officer & General Manager’s Report & Recommendation on Rates and Services, a rate increase of 1.5 percent for all residential customers and 1 percent for all business customers took effect on January 1, 2018. With the removal of the SB-1 solar surcharge, the average residential customer using 750 kilowatt-hours per month of electricity will now see an average net increase of about $0.42 per month ($1.62 average increase due to the rate increase less an average $1.20 SB-1 solar surcharge). Removing the surcharge from business customer bills will, on average, offset the entire 1 percent rate increase.
Source: SMUD Media
Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - The ongoing active Sacramento hiring marketplace raises employer concerns in the first quarter of the New Year. In speaking directly with top employers Pacific Staffing discovered hiring, retention and payroll pressure among 2018 employment market concerns. Pressure from increasing competition with higher wage firms based in the Bay Area also causing pay issues in Sacramento.
In telephone contacts between November 23 and December 15th , sixty-five percent (65%) of regional companies report they plan to hire in the first three months of 2018. That projected hiring is lower than the previous quarter, as thirty-five percent (35%) of employers say no hiring is anticipated in January, February and March.
With a robust demand for workers, Pacific Staffing also learned that some regional companies are paying signing bonuses for scarce skillsets and retention of current skilled workers to maintain workforce needs. While eight percent (8%) of hiring in the first quarter is attributed to seasonal needs, not a single company is reporting any layoffs in the new calendar’s first three months. Overall demand is evenly split with 43% of employers attributing hiring to replacements, and for expansion.
A shortage in the Sacramento region of qualified applicants has grown to include entry level/general labor applicants, construction trades, equipment operators and licensed route and delivery drivers. Companies also report strong demands for bookkeeping, accounting/finance, customer service and sales.
Having surveyed Sacramento regional employers since 1992 each new year brings new challenges. In 2017 those changes included Basic work ethics- less loyalty to employers and dedication to doing a job, as noted in our previous trends report. In between August 23 and September 20, regional employers also were asked if people and their expectations of work were making it difficult to manage. This question generated the largest single positive response as seventy-seven percent (77%) said Yes, noting people were ‘unrealistic’, ‘underqualified’, and younger workers less driven to work. This change in ‘work ethic’ as ‘generational’ attitude with an ‘entitlement’ outlook is causing attendance, productivity and retention issues.
More cultural change came to the front as a surprising number of Sacramento HR contacts noted more parental interference in hiring and workplace settings as reported in our previous report for quarter three of 2017. Pacific Staffing learned one quarter, or twenty-five percent (25%) of all companies reported having had this experience recently when asked about it directly. This (parental interference) is an unwelcome new trend and seems to be growing in the workplace, with employers suggesting it was embarrassing ‘meddling’ for both parent and adult children.
For more information, employment blogs and market surveys go to www.pacificstaffing.com.
Sacramento’s electric company committing lineworkers, trucks and equipment to help get the lights back on
Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - SMUD shipped 15 utility trucks to Lake Charles, Louisiana recently where they will be loaded onto a barge for the voyage to Ponce, Puerto Rico, which is expected to take about 10 days.
SMUD, along with the American Public Power Association, is working with other public power utilities to send crews to restore power in Puerto Rico as the island U.S. territory continues to rebuild after Hurricane Maria hit last September. SMUD is a not-for-profit public power electric utility and a member of the APPA.
The trucks will be off-loaded at Ponce’s port and then more than a dozen SMUD lineworkers will fly to Puerto Rico, gather their trucks and tools, and head into the island interior to begin restoration work.
While most of the power outages in the island’s largest city, San Juan, have been restored, SMUD, along with Richmond (Indiana) Power and Light, Norwich (Connecticut) Public Utility and Commonwealth Utilities of the Northern Mariana Islands will be doing power restoration work in the territory’s suburban and rural areas. SMUD and the other utilities’ work is expected to take two months or more. SMUD will rotate its crews after about 30 days and replace them with fresh personnel.
SMUD’s involvement is part of the utility industry’s ongoing response as several electric companies have signed onto a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to work with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), the electricity provider on the island, as well as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in ongoing efforts to restore power to the people of Puerto Rico. The MOU was developed by the APPA, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA). It serves as a plan that allows electric companies on the mainland (that are members of APPA, EEI, or NRECA) to enter into emergency agreements to provide resources and workers to PREPA on a not-for-profit basis.
SMUD is community-owned and has a long history of providing utilities outside its Sacramento County service territory with mutual-aid assistance. SMUD’s labor, materials and other costs for the effort, which are expected to be about $5 million, will be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, so SMUD customers won’t be impacted financially. SMUD will also have plenty of crews and equipment to respond to any power outage issues locally.
Source: SMUD media
Proposes returning $7.5 billion budget surplus directly to taxpayers
Sacramento, CA (MPG) - Senator Ted Gaines (R-El Dorado) today announced legislation that will give the $7.5 billion budget surplus back to hard-working California families and businesses in the form of a refund check.
“While California taxpayers continue struggling to make ends meet, the Legislative Analyst’s Office reported that the state is sitting on a budget surplus of an additional, unexpected $7.5 billion,” said Senator Gaines. “The reason there is a surplus is because Legislative Democrats have continued to overtax Californians and it’s time to send that money right back to taxpayer pocketbooks.”
The legislation will take the state’s $7.5 billion surplus and return it to the taxpayers. Every Californian who filed taxes for 2016 will get their share of that surplus back in a refund check from the government that could amount to hundred dollars per taxpayer.
“I know the legislature will be tempted to continue the tax-and-spend cycle by sinking every extra dollar into expanding an ever-growing list of government services and projects, like granting more rights to undocumented immigrants and funding the boondoggle that is High-Speed Rail.
“But we cannot continue to price families and small businesses out of the state, sending them to neighboring states where the tax burden is much lower. We can’t keep fixed-income seniors teetering on the edge of poverty. That’s why I’m carrying a bill to get every single tax filer a refund of the money they overpaid to the government. It’s their money and it’s our obligation to return it.”
Senator Ted Gaines represents the 1st Senate District, which includes all or parts of Alpine, El Dorado, Lassen, Modoc, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, Shasta, Sierra and Siskiyou counties.
Sacramento, CA (MPG) - California State Parks, Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park (SHP) and Friends of Sutter’s Fort are proud to present an interactive and fun “Hands on History: Catch Gold Fever” event on Saturday, January 20, 2018, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Fort visitors will have the unique opportunity to step back in time and explore an era that changed California forever. The gold discovery at Coloma echoed around the world and triggered the largest migration in United States history. Thousands of immigrants gambled and came to early California to try to strike it rich. They left family behind, spent life savings, and borrowed money all in the pursuit of gold. Many miners bought one-way passage on ships bound for California, and abandoned ships clogged the port in San Francisco as miners and sailors took off for the hills. Miners stopped at Sutter’s Fort before they headed for the hills in their quest for gold, and the Fort was often the first place to which they returned for supplies and entertainment. Sadly, the dream of riches was not often the reality and many left the hills with only disappointment in their pockets.
As an event highlight, Fort visitors are invited to spend the day enjoying hands-on activities such as gold panning, parlor and card games (and other games of chance) and “Pioneer dress-up Station” activities where families dress as pioneers (perfect for picture-taking). In addition, there will be a display of guns and weapons from the Gold Rush era and demonstrations of black powder weaponry in action including the crowd-favorite firing of Sutter’s cannon.
In addition, Friends of Sutter's Fort will be sampling out popular gold rush nugget chocolates and featuring gold rush-related items for sale in the on-site Store so visitors can bring a bit of gold rush history home with them.
All “Hands on History” activities are included in the cost of admission. Sutter’s Fort SHP admission costs are as follows: $7 per adult (18 and older), $5 per youth (ages 6 to 17) and free for children 5 and under. For more information, call 916-445-4422 or visit www.suttersfort.org
The Friends of Sutter’s Fort is a nonprofit 501 c 3 organization dedicated to the enhancement, preservation and protection of Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park, and educational and interpretive programs at the park. Friends of Sutter’s Fort is a Cooperating Association for California State Parks since 2006. Friends of Sutter’s Fort is the major funder of both restoration work and programs at Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park. Through the generosity of our donors, in the past 3 years alone, we have funded several major projects including the painting of the exterior walls, the restoration of the blacksmith shop and the painting of the interior walls (currently underway). In addition, we are proud to provide funding to support the educational programs at the park. For more information, please visit www.suttersfort.org
Source: T-Rock Communications