California Policy & Politics This Morning   

State senator calls for criminal probe of Bay Bridge construction problems -- State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, is calling for a criminal investigation into construction problems on the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, and said the release this week of a Senate investigative report will show how the California Department of Transportation knowingly accepted substandard work at taxpayer expense. Charles Piller in the Sacramento Bee$ -- 7/27/14

Jerry Brown, avoiding immigration debate, heads to Mexico -- When Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation last year granting driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, he accused Congress of “foot-dragging” on immigration and said Washington needed “a good push.” David Siders in the Sacramento Bee$ -- 7/27/14

Brown hopes to sell Mexico on following California's green path forward -- When California launched its most ambitious effort to combat climate change nearly two years ago, there were fears it would cost workers their jobs and handicap businesses with burdensome regulations. Chris Megerian in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 7/27/14

Gov. Brown to avoid glitz, stick to business on Mexico sojourn -- When it comes to official trips to Mexico, Gov. Jerry Brown will have a hard time competing - in glitz, glamour and bragging rights - with those who came before him. Carla Marinucci in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 7/27/14

Yee, Swearengin start gearing up for November showdown -- Now it's a one-on-one battle for the statewide post. Yee's biggest advantage is that she's a Democrat in a strongly Democratic state. And though Swearengin has been hailed as a rising star in the Republican Party -- telegenic, charismatic, moderate -- her party's registration is still just 28.4%. John Ellis in the Fresno Bee -- 7/27/14

755 drug convicts could get released early -- An estimated 755 convicts in San Diego and Imperial counties could get out of prison earlier because of a proposed change to lower federal drug sentencing guidelines. Kristina Davis UT San Diego$ -- 7/27/14

Borenstein: Don't blame John Pérez for the state's abhorrent recount rules -- As relieved as most are that John Pérez didn't drag the state through a drawn-out recount, the former Assembly speaker deserved a full review of primary election balloting in the race for state controller. Daniel Borenstein in the Contra Costa Times$ -- 7/27/14

Willie Brown: Willie Brown aide too sharp to be caught in FBI sting -- The revelation in the Matier and Ross column that the FBI sting operation made $20,ooo in phony contributions to Ed Lee's 2011 mayoral campaign hit close to home. They did the same thing to me when I was Assembly speaker. Willie Brown in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 7/27/14

Is cellphone driving ban working? -- After taking a look at the number of collisions six months before California’s cellphone ban was implemented in July 2008 and the six months after it went into effect, researchers determined there was no evidence crashes were reduced. Lyndsay Winkley UT San Diego$ -- 7/27/14

Walters: Political activists increasingly turn to courts for their causes -- The passage of Proposition 13 – California’s landmark property tax limit – in 1978 marked a major, even radical, change in how the state makes public policy. Dan Walters in the Sacramento Bee$ -- 7/27/14

Morain: Attorney helps sound the death knell for capital punishment -- Michael Laurence isn’t interested in taking credit for the demise of the death penalty in California. Plenty of other attorneys are helping to bring this state’s version of capital punishment to its knees. Dan Morain in the Sacramento Bee$ -- 7/27/14

Taxes, Fees, Rates   

Supervisors' soda tax vote isn't good omen for backers -- In all seriousness, Tuesday's surprisingly close vote of 6-4 in favor of placing a soda tax on the November ballot does not bode particularly well for supporters of the measure. For starters, it shows what a challenge they'll have persuading the necessary two-thirds of voters to agree to levy a 2-cents-per-ounce surcharge on sugary drinks. Heather Knight in the San Francisco Chronicle -- 7/27/14

Economy, Employers, Jobs   

Use of illicit drugs becomes part of Silicon Valley's work culture -- With a booming startup culture cranked up by fiercely competitive VPs and adrenaline-driven coders, and a tendency for stressed-out managers to look the other way, illicit drugs and black-market painkillers have become part of the landscape here in the world's frothy fountain of tech. Patrick May and Heather Somerville in the San Jose Mercury$ -- 7/27/14

Housing labor shortage turning more severe, boosting home prices -- If your builder is late delivering your new house, don't be too upset. You are not alone. New home buyers almost everywhere are probably experiencing the same thing. Lew Sichelman in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 7/27/14

Albertsons to buy Vons owner Safeway for $9.2 billion, could mean closure of Southern California stores -- Safeway shareholders on Friday approved the company’s $9.2 billion sale to Albertsons, a deal that comes amid fierce competition for the combined supermarket chains from a host of foes and could mean closures for Southern California stores. George Avalos in the Los Angeles Daily News$ -- 7/27/14

Education

Twin Rivers approves more than $277,000 for departing administrator -- Barely a year into his new contract, Joseph Williams has resigned as Twin Rivers Unified associate superintendent with a severance package worth more than $277,000. Diana Lambert in the Sacramento Bee$ -- 7/27/14

Students grow a bond with nature through environmental internship -- Where the Los Angeles River's concrete channels give way to soft riverbed, hawks, swifts and warblers fly overhead while ibises, owls and larks glide by once in a while. On Friday morning, a different species appeared: students kayaking through the water. Sara Hayden in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 7/27/14

Drought  

California water-use survey incomplete, marred by errors -- When state regulators tried to tally water use across California recently, they didn't exactly get a flood of cooperation. Of the 440 water agencies in the state, only 276 provided water consumption data. Hector Becerra in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 7/27/14

New report warns: No groundwater refills after underground layers collapse -- Farm water pumping in this dramatic drought is causing the west San Joaquin Valley floor to sink, but forget about refilling those underground spaces when wet years return. Mark Grossi in the Fresno Bee -- 7/27/14

In drought, central San Joaquin Valley water cops crack down on waste -- In Fresno, per-capita water use is down more than 20% since 2008, and other cities say water use has gone down. Meanwhile, city workers are writing tickets, imposing fines and educating the public about water regulations and water-saving strategies. Lewis Griswold in the Fresno Bee -- 7/27/14

Immigration / Border

In U.S. custody, migrant kids are flown thousands of miles at taxpayer expense -- Before they sloshed and skidded across the Rio Grande, Greysi and Claudia Paula had never been on a plane. Now the teenage Honduran sisters are frequent fliers, crisscrossing America on government chartered jets and settling into commercial airliner seats at taxpayer expense. Manuel Roig-Franzia in the Washington Post$ -- 7/27/14

Obama prods GOP on border issue, cites progress -- With one week left before Congress' August recess, President Barack Obama is prodding Republicans to help ease the influx of minors and migrant families from Central America, but with chances dimming that border legislation will reach his desk before the break, he also is focusing on other ways to stem the flow. Jim Kuhnhenn and Erica Werner Associated Press -- 7/27/14

Environment

Newport submits charcoal-only bonfire plan to Coastal Commission -- The city’s 60 beach fire rings have been charcoal-only since March in an effort to comply with new rules from the South Coast Air Quality Management District Amy Senk in the Orange County Register$ -- 7/27/14

Health

State fines eight California hospitals for safety violations -- The California Department of Public Health said this week that it has fined eight California hospitals a total of $775,000 after finding serious violations of their licensing requirements. Jean Merl in the Los Angeles Times$ -- 7/27/14

Also . . .

New York Times backs sending federal marijuana ban up in smoke -- The New York Times editorial board on Saturday endorsed a repeal of the federal ban on marijuana, becoming the largest paper in the nation to back the idea as it compared the U.S. government's stance on America's most widely used illicit drug to the prohibition on alcohol from 1920 to 1933. Alex Dobuzinskis Reuters Hadas Gold Politico -- 7/27/14

POTUS 44    

Obama extends long-term trend of fundraising presidents -- Last week it was Hollywood glitterati. The week before it was Wall Street financiers. Regardless of what is going on in America and the world, one thing has become certain about President Obama’s work schedule — there will always be fundraisers. Sebastian Payne in the Washington Post$ -- 7/27/14