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.


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Sutter’s Fort Presents “Hands on History: Catch Gold Fever” 

By Traci Rockefeller Cusack   |  2018-01-10

As an event highlight, Fort visitors are invited to spend the day enjoying hands-on activities such as gold panning. Photo courtesy Sutter

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


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Curling in Sacramento?

By Katie Feldman  |  2018-01-03

Wine Country Curling Club is dedicated to promoting the sport of curling in Northern California. Photos courtesy Wine County Curling Club.

Yes, and The Winter Olympics are almost here!

Sacramento, CA (MPG) - The Winter Olympics are almost here and with that comes the crazy, quirky sport of CURLING. Curling is an ice sport that requires players to slide 42-pound stones over an ice sheet to a target at the other end, known as the house. Considered to be one of the most captivating sports, curling is popularly known as chess on ice and a hybrid of bowling and shuffleboard. Americans flocked to the sport with intrigue and fascination when the Winter Olympics were televised from Torino in 2006, Vancouver in 2010, and Sochi in 2014. The same will be true come February 8th when the Winter Olympics begin in South Korea.
 
Did you know that CURLING is one of the fastest growing sports in the United States?
Did you know that CURLING is one of the few sports that all ages and all abilities can do?
Did you know that CURLING is the only sport that will be shown DAILY during the upcoming Winter Olympics in February?
 
Wine Country Curling Club is dedicated to promoting the sport of curling in Northern California. They curl out of Skatetown Ice in Roseville and offer leagues, learn-to-curl programs, corporate events, tournaments, and adaptive curling (wheelchair curling, blind curling, deaf curling, stick curling, and Special Olympics curling). WCCC curls on Sunday mornings but also offers the occasional Saturday night event and they are one of 4 clubs in California. WCCC is a volunteer-run, 501(c)3 non-profit organization and is a member of USA Curling and the Mountain Pacific Curling Association (MoPac). They hold two tournaments each year which brings over 40 teams (including past Olympians) to the area to compete in a 3-day event.
 
“From hosting watch parties at local bars to holding as many learn-to-curl sessions that we can schedule through Skatetown Ice, we are doing everything in our power to let the Northern California community know that we are here,” said Wine Country Curling Club President Katie Feldman. WCCC has taught approximately 150 people to curl in just this year alone and they anticipate that number to double during the first half of 2018.
 
Wine Country Curling Club is available for live spots (or taped roll) which would be perfect for background video as the newscasters discuss the Winter Olympics results. They are also interested in offering curling demonstrations either on location (at Skatetown Ice or the Downtown Outdoor Ice Rink) as well as in-studio. WCCC can teach TV/radio/print personalities how to curl in less than 20 minutes, so that when they inevitably talk about it in February, they will know the basics of the sport.
 
For more information contact: Katie Feldman, (916) 849-9731 katie@winecountrycurlingclub.com
Check out winecountrycurlingclub.com


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Yep, Pot Goes Legit, Sort of

Story by Jacqueline Fox  |  2018-01-03

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. MPG copyright image.

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:

Sacramento Region:
The City of Sacramento: YES
Sacramento County: NO
Citrus Heights NO
Folsom: NO
Rancho Cordova: NO
Elk Grove: NO
Galt: NO

Placer County: NO
Roseville: NO
Rocklin: NO


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Proposed South County Ag Program Would Reduce Groundwater Pumping

Elk Grove, CA (MPG) - The Sacramento County Farm Bureau (SCFB) testified in support of an ambitious recycled water project before the California Water Commission this week in downtown Sacramento. The Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District's (Regional SAN) plan would provide a safe and reliable supply of tertiary treated water for agricultural irrigation uses, which would reduce groundwater pumping and cause ground water tables to rise in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta region.

Regional SAN is attempting to obtain funding for the project through the Water Storage Investment Program (WSIP) contained in Proposition 1, the water bond that California voters approved in 2014. The WSIP set aside $2.7 billion in funding for water storage projects that improve the operation of the state water system, are cost effective and provide a net improvement in ecosystem and water quality conditions.

"Sacramento County farmers and ranchers smashed crop production records last year by producing a record high $507 million worth of wine grapes, milk, pears, nursery crops and other agricultural commodities," said SCFB Executive Director Bill Bird during testimony before the CWC. "Our members broke that record because they had access to clean and reliable irrigation water supplies. Any project that would increase the reliability and quality of irrigation water supplies for Sacramento County growers has the Farm Bureau's support."

Modeling presented to the CWC showed that the groundwater recharge facilitated by the project would lead to a 20-30-foot increase in the groundwater elevation in the South American Sub-basin, plus increase flows in the Cosumnes River, a tributary to the Delta.

According to testimony provided by Regional SAN during the CWC hearing, the project is consistent with the objectives and intent of Proposition 1, and provides substantial agricultural, ecological, and regional water supply benefits at a low cost, particularly when compared to surface storage projects.

"This project is an example of the type of innovative multi-benefit groundwater projects California needs to implement to ensure our state has a more sustainable and reliable water supply," said Bird. "If Sacramento County growers are not forced to pump ground water for irrigation purposes because they can receive a reliable supply of water from another source at roughly the same price, they won't use those pumps."

The CWC is expected to start allocating grant funding for water storage projects early next year.

 Sacramento County farmers put food on your fork.  Our agricultural operations and products are as diverse as the lands we carefully manage.  We are proud to provide healthy, fresh food for your family and ours.  We invite you to join our efforts to protect Sacramento County's agriculture, rural character, and our ability to produce local, high-quality food for your table.

For more information call the Farm Bureau at 916-685-6958 


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Brundage Returning to Manage River Cats in 2018

By Daniel Emmons  |  2018-01-03

New pitching coach Steve Kline and fundamentals coach Nestor Rojas to join returning hitting coach Damon Minor

WEST SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - The Sacramento River Cats, in conjunction with the San Francisco Giants, are thrilled to welcome back Dave Brundage for his second season as manager of the River Cats for the 2018 season.

Brundage will be joined by a few new faces for the 2018 season at Raley Field. While Damon Minor will return for his third season as the River Cats hitting coach, he will be joined by new pitching coach Steve Kline and fundamentals coach Nestor Rojas. The new training staff will be made up of athletic trainer David Getsoff and strength and conditioning coach Andy King. Travis Higgs will round out the club’s 2018 field staff, and will serve as bullpen catcher and team administrator.

An Oregon native, Brundage joined the River Cats in 2017 and compiled a 64-77 record in his 20th season as a minor league manager. Before coming to Sacramento, the veteran manager spent the previous four seasons with the International League’s Lehigh Valley IronPigs. In 2016, Brundage led the IronPigs to an 85-58 record, the second best mark in all of Triple-A baseball.

Brundage, 53, made his managerial debut in 1995 with the Riverside Pilots (Seattle Mariners Class A-Advanced) but has spent most of his managerial career at either the Double- or Triple-A levels. Prior to his four seasons with Lehigh Valley, Brundage helmed the Richmond/Gwinnett Braves for six seasons from 2007 through 2012. He made his Triple-A debut in 2006 with the Pacific Coast League’s Tacoma Rainiers. Brundage has a career record of 1,435-1,392 (.508) in 20 seasons as a manager including a 857-858 (.499) mark at the Triple-A level.

Drafted in the 4th round of the 1986 Amateur Draft out of Oregon State University, Brundage spent 10 seasons as a player in the Minor Leagues with the Phillies and Mariners organizations.

Minor, 43, returns to the River Cats for his third season as hitting coach. In his second year with the team, Minor worked closely with Triple-A newcomers and top Giants’ prospects Christian Arroyo, Chris Shaw, and Ryder Jones as they prepared for their Major League debuts.

A former Giant, Minor was drafted by San Francisco in 1996 and made his Major League debut in 2000. In 136 games over parts of four seasons, Minor hit .232 with 13 home runs. He set a career-high in 2002 when he played in 83 games and slugged 10 home runs, helping the Giants claim the National League pennant. While in the Giants farm system, he compiled a .277 batting average with 179 home runs and 648 RBI across nine seasons.

Kline, 45, joins the River Cats as pitching coach after serving in the same role for three seasons with the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels and nine seasons overall with the organization. While in Richmond, Kline helped in the development of several River Cats standouts, including Tyler Beede, Andrew Suarez, and Tyler Rogers. Kline led the Giants Double-A affiliate to a top-five pitching staff (in team ERA) in each of his three Eastern League seasons, including a league-leading 3.12 team ERA in 2015.

Kline completed his 11-year Major League career as a lefty reliever with the Giants in 2007. All told, he appeared in 796 MLB games with five different organizations. The Pennsylvania native was an 8th round selection by the Cleveland Indians in the 2003 draft out of the University of West Virginia. He set the single –season record for appearances (89) in 2001 while with St. Louis, and led the National League in games played as a pitcher for three consecutive seasons (1999-2001).

Rojas, 34, will join the River Cats as fundamentals coach after managing the Class-A Advanced San Jose Giants in 2017. Since retiring at the end of the 2010 season, Rojas immediately began his coaching career and has been a bright up-and-coming coaching talent in the Giants organization.  Rojas landed his first managerial job in 2013 at age 29 with the Arizona Rookie League Giants, and led them to a 41-14 record. Prospects (and future River Cats) Christian Arroyo and Ryder Jones each began their professional careers as teenagers under Rojas during that 2013 season.

A native of Venezuela, Rojas played for six seasons in the Giants organization, including two stints with Triple-A Fresno in 2009 and 2010.

Rounding out the field staff will be a new athletic training and strength and conditioning duo. David Getsoff will join the River Cats as the athletic trainer in his 10th season with the Giants Organization, while Andy King will be the River Cats strength and conditioning coach in what will be his fifth season with the Giants. Travis Higgs will return as the team’s bullpen catcher in 2018.

The Sacramento River Cats are the Triple-A affiliate of the three-time World Champion San Francisco Giants. The team plays at Raley Field in West Sacramento, consistently voted one of the top ballparks in America. For more information about the River Cats, visit www.rivercats.com. For information on other events at Raley Field, visit www.raleyfield.com.

Source: Sacramento River Cats Media


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Still Too Early To Draw Conclusions from Season’s First Snow Survey

Sacramento Region, CA (MPG) - Department of Water Resources (DWR) manual snow survey, held January 3rd, east of Sacramento in the Sierra Nevada found little snowpack, which was predictable after a dry December throughout California. Measurements at Phillips Station revealed a snow water equivalent (SWE) of 0.4 inches, 3 percent of the average SWE of 11.3 inches in early January at Phillips as measured there since 1964. SWE is the depth of water that theoretically would result if the entire snowpack melted instantaneously.

“As we’re only a third of the way through California’s three wettest months, it’s far too early to draw any conclusions about what kind of season we’ll have this year,” DWR Director Grant Davis said. “California’s great weather variability means we can go straight from a dry year to a wet year and back again to dry. That’s why California is focusing on adopting water conservation as a way of life, investing in above- and below- ground storage, and improving our infrastructure to protect our clean water supplies against disruptions.”

More telling than a survey at a single location, however, are DWR’s electronic readings today from103 stations scattered throughout the Sierra Nevada. Measurements indicate the SWE of the northern Sierra snowpack is 2.3 inches, 21 percent of the multi-decade average for the date. The central and southern Sierra readings are­­ 3.3 inches (­­29 percent of average) and 1.8 inches 20 percent of average) respectively. Statewide, the snowpack’s SWE is 2.6 inches, or 24 percent of the Jan. 3 average.

“The survey is a disappointing start of the year, but it’s far too early to draw conclusions about what kind of a wet season we’ll have this year,” said Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program who conducted today’s survey at Phillips. “There’s plenty of time left in the traditional wet season to reverse the dry trend we’ve been experiencing.”

California traditionally receives about half of its annual precipitation during December, January, and February, with the bulk of this precipitation coming from atmospheric rivers (ARs). So far this winter, an atmospheric high-pressure zone spanning the western United States has persistently blocked ARs from reaching the state. If that zone were to move or break up, storms could deliver considerable rainfall and snow this winter.

Davis noted that forecasting accuracy falls off dramatically after just a week or 10 days into the future. “Current technology and computer modeling can tell us what our weather might be weeks into the future, but we’re essentially blind to what the weather will be beyond the two-week mark,” he said. “That’s why we are putting in so much effort to improving medium- and long-range modeling.”

The Phillips snow course, near the intersection of Highway 50 and Sierra-at-Tahoe Road, is one of hundreds that will be surveyed manually throughout the winter. Manual measurements augment the electronic readings from the snow pillows in the Sierra Nevada that provide a current snapshot of the water content in the snowpack. 

California’s exceptionally high precipitation last winter and spring has resulted in above-average storage in 154 reservoirs tracked by the Department. DWR estimates total storage in those reservoirs at the end of December amounted to 24.1 million acre feet (MAF), or 110 percent of the 21.9 MAF average for the end of the year. One year ago, those reservoirs held 21.2 million acre-feet (MAF), 97 percent of average. End-of-year storage is now the highest since December 2012 (24.3 MAF), which was early in the first of five consecutive water years of drought in California.

DWR conducts five snow surveys each winter near the first of January, February, March, April, and May. On average, the snowpack supplies about 30 percent of California’s water needs as it melts in the spring and early summer. The greater the snowpack water content, the greater the likelihood California’s reservoirs will receive ample runoff as the snowpack melts to meet the state’s water demand in the summer and fall.


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